(NB: I know it’s long, but please read the whole review before commenting. Additionally, I know this article isn’t really Lego -related so I’ve peppered it with screenshots from Lego Star Wars to justify its existence. The CGI cutscenes are only marginally worse than the special effects in this film anyway)
I’ve been receiving a lot of attention on the site recently and not for my reviews or articles (well, sort of). You may have noticed that in the comments and in passing in my articles I’ve made a few slights against the Prequel Trilogy. I thought I wasn’t alone in thinking that the Prequels are around eight hours of unrelenting cinematic garbage, but it’s clear to me now that I’ve been a little unfair. I can’t expect what’s so obvious to me to be the same for someone else. So I’ve decided to publish my definitive opinion on the last film in the Prequel Trilogy, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
Before I get started I should probably get a couple of disclaimers out of the way. Firstly, I’m aware that the poor quality of George Lucas’ Prequels has been covered all over the internet and then some. However, it seems few people on this site have seen those reviews, so I’ll make things easier for them. Additionally, I’ve chosen to review Episode III because unlike Episodes I and II, people seem to be of the opinion that this one was actually genuinely good. If there’s one thing I hate more than a bad movie, it’s a bad movie that got off scot free. Episode III, in a lot of ways is the worst of the entire Prequel Trilogy and I hope my review goes some way in demonstrating this. That said if I don’t do an adequate job, please go and check out this mega-review of the film, by RedLetterMedia. It’s absolutely hilarious, but not for under-18s or people who might die of laughter: http://redlettermedia.com/plinkett/star-wars/star-wars-episode-iii-revenge-of-the-sith/
Secondly, I have never (and likely will never) take any interest in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. The writing in the Prequels is some of the laziest in American cinema. In order to enjoy the film, Lucas seems to be demanding that you be familiar with all the comics, games, books etc. that were written around the film. To which I say: “Go jump in the river”. If you want to make a film just for people who are familiar with the Expanded Universe, that’s fine, but at least have the decency to post a notice outside the cinema saying: “No entry, unless you’ve read every comic and played every video game that explains the stuff I was too lazy to explain in the film, even though it’s my job to fill you in” so I can tell you to go jump in the river without having to suffer the agony of watching the film. Expecting a broad audience to go in having done all the turgid reading is the height of bad storytelling.
Imagine this, if you will. A student hands in a piece of homework to his teacher. Let’s say the subject is psychology. The homework is half finished so the teacher confronts the student on the matter. The students explains, “Oh, it’s fine, if you go to the library and read some books on the subject, my homework will make perfect sense”.
Or, even worse: “You’re a psychology teacher; you can fill in the blanks yourself”.
By any reasonable logic, the teacher should give the student an F and either stick them straight in detention, or send them up to the headmaster’s office to answer for their behaviour. However, apply this analogy to, say the film we’re looking at today, and the teacher gives the student an A+ and recommends them to Harvard. Are you beginning to see the insanity here? The point I’m trying to make is that it’s the screenwriter’s job to write the film properly and make it accessible. I’m not going to fill in the blanks for them, and if they insist I do, I shall expect a fee for my services.
Now here’s a task for you guys. If you spot an instance where I’ve said something wasn’t explained and you think I’m being unfair, please quote me a line of dialogue that explains it. The only catch is it has to be from the films. No comics, no books, no video games, just the film. If you can do this, I might revise my opinions on some things. If not, then what I say still stands.
Anyway, I’ve been delaying long enough. Let’s jump right in to my review of Revenge of the Sith. And right off the bat we have a problem. What the hell is a Sith? Seriously, in none of the Prequels do they ever explain what the Sith is, and it’s never brought up anywhere in the Original Trilogy. If I had to make a wild guess based on what I’ve seen from the films, I’d say they were Dark Jedi, but if that’s the case, why can’t they just call them Dark Jedi? Also, what do the Sith want revenge for? There was a throwaway line in The Phantom Menace which mentioned the Sith had been “extinct for a millennia” as if we’re supposed to know exactly how they came to be extinct, even though we’ve never been told. Also, if they came to be “extinct” does that mean they’re a race? And if they’re a race how can Palpatine (a human) be a member of them? So many questions, and we’re only discussing the freaking title.
The film proper begins with the usual Star Wars text crawl info dump, but I have to admit that unlike with the previous two movies for once I don’t have a billion questions about what I’m being told. Okay I do have a few. For one thing, we’re reminded about the Clone Wars which was something I never got. What are the combatants in the Clone Wars fighting over? We were informed in Attack of the Clones that star systems were leaving the Republic, but from what I understood, they were just leaving. There’d been no threats, no declaration of war, nothing. I think we were told the Separatists had some demands or something, but it was never explained what those demands actually were, and when you’re not sure what everyone’s fighting so passionately over, why should you care about it?
Urgh, we’re not even past the title crawl, this is gonna be a long one.
Having said all that, at least I sort of understand what’s at stake in the opening twenty minutes. The Chancellor’s been kidnapped, so Anakin and Obi Wan have to save him. Okay, great. I know who all of these characters are, and I know the Chancellor’s kind of important to the Republic so if he gets killed it’s kind of a big deal. I’m not saying this is particularly good. Hell, a coherent plot is one of the basics of moviemaking, but for once we actually get a half-decent explanation of what’s going on as opposed to vague nonsense about space taxes and defecting star systems.
Sadly, while the plot is fairly clear at this point, the opening scene is a visual mess. It’s designed to look impressive rather than make sense or be necessary to the plot. The problem with Revenge of the Sith, and the Prequel movies in general is that the special effects they employ look atrocious. The visuals are just too crisp and clean, and as a result everything looks fake. I find it astounding that I can happily sit through the Original Trilogy and still be impressed by visual effects that are now well over thirty years old, yet I find myself cringing every time one of ILM’s cartoonish blobs from nigh on seven years ago rolls into frame. Bad special effects aren’t the only problem, however. I don’t know which ships belong to who in the space battle and the whole thing’s just so chaotic that even if I did know or care which ship belonged to which side I’d still find it hard to tell what was going on.
So after a long, pointless, drawn out action scene, the Jedi land their fighters in the hangar of the ship the Chancellor’s on so that they can… engage in more long, pointless, drawn out action scenes. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be any action scenes in this film, the problem is, I never get the impression that either Anakin or Obi Wan ever think they’re in danger. I can’t say I blame them, after all they are fighting Battle Droids, who make Stormtroopers look like marksmen on the level of Deadshot from the Batman franchise, but if they don’t care why should I care?
Finally they reach the room where the Chancellor’s being held and they’re confronted by Dracula, I mean Saruman, I mean Count Dooku. The Chancellor then says possibly the strangest line in any of the Star Wars movies: “Get help, you’re not match for him, he’s a Sith lord”. I’ll forgo repeating the question of what a Sith is, and instead ask where on earth they’re going to get help from in the middle of space battle?! Obi Wan ignores this and replies: “Chancellor Palpatine”… okay I’m going to stop here and say that if you had to give the Emperor a name, why did it have to be something as stupid sounding as “Palpatine”? Sounds more like a species of orange than a feared and powerful soon-to-be-ruler-of-the-known-Universe. Sorry, I went off on a tangent there. Obi Wan continues: “Sith lords are our specialty”. Um… really? Because I seem to remember this same guy (who apparently is a Sith Lord) kicking both of your arses at the end of the last film. I guess Sith Lords are your specialty like pizza is for a sushi restaurant.
A boring lightsaber battle ensues, and after Dooku knocks out Obi Wan, only he and Anakin are left standing. Anakin manages to disarm him (quite literally) and holds him at lightsaber-point. The Chancellor urges Anakin to kill Dooku. For some reason Anakin doesn’t find this at all suspicious, and after only a moment’s consideration, cuts Dooku’s head off. So long Count Dooku! You’re another nothing character who I don’t care about, but I’ll miss the fact that um… your lightsaber looks like you accidentally sat on it.
Anakin, Obi Wan and the Chancellor attempt to escape, but they’re captured and taken to the bridge. God knows why the droids don’t just execute them. I know Grievous wanted to add their lightsabers to his collection, but couldn’t he just have taken them from the dead bodies after they were gunned down? In all honesty, this is so we can meet one of the film’s villains, General Grievous. Who is he? I don’t know. Where did he come from? I don’t know. What’s his motivation to be villainous? All together now. Grievous starts monolgueing at the Jedi until they’re able to escape at which point they start destroying the bridge. At around this time, Grievous’ ship has taken some serious damage and is beginning to crash, but Grievous manages to escape, leaving the Jedi and Chancellor to crash-land the ship on Coruscant. The opening sequence wasn’t all that great, but at least I sort of know what’s going on this time.
We’re informed that with Count Dooku dead, Grievous is now at the forefront of the Separatist movement and that killing him will bring an end to the war. Wow, we actually have some kind of plot this time! Not a good one, but at least we have one, which is more than could be said for the previous films. Then Anakin and Padme share a scene. Enough has been said about the “romance” in these Prequel movies, so I’ll simply paraphrase Zero Punctuation by saying that Anakin and Padme have as much chemistry as two chairs stacked on top of each other. I don’t what Padme sees in Anakin that makes her love him. Maybe it was when he murdered women and children, or when he said the Republic should become a dictatorship. I guess chicks dig that kind of thing these days. Padme informs Anakin that she’s pregnant and we get the wonderful fusion of George Lucas’s writing and Hayden Christensen’s acting to let us know that he thinks this is: “Wond.er.ful”. There are a few more scenes where this kind of thing happens, but they’re so irrelevant and vomit-inducing that I’m not even going to cover them. I have enough crap to get through as it is.
Next things we know, Anakin is having a dream that most members of the audience have probably had as well: Padme dying. Finally these Prequels are starting to pick up! He tells Padme about his dream and after she goes off on a complete tangent about how their lives will change after the baby is born, she suggests he talks to Obi Wan about it. Anakin says something to the effect of: “No! I don’t need his help!” What was it you said in Episode IV Obi Wan? “Annie was good friend”. Really? So he speaks to Yoda about his problems instead and Yoda completely fails to pick up on the fact that there’s something seriously wrong with the guy. Just look at him. I doubt your mystic ramblings are going to solve this one.
Anakin is then summoned by the Chancellor who tells him he wants Anakin to be his official representative on the Jedi council. The Jedi don’t like this and inform Anakin that while he’s on the council, he will not be made a Jedi master. Anakin proceeds to throw a two year old tantrum about this before he’s rightfully told to shut up and sit down. Later on, Obi Wan informs him that the Jedi want him to become something of a double agent and spy on the Chancellor. The fact the Jedi haven’t worked out that the Chancellor is the evil Sith Lord they’ve been searching for all this time astounds me. The Clone army was authorised under suspicious circumstances around the same time Palpatine became Chancellor. I don’t understand much about these Prequels, but even if I hadn’t seen the Original Trilogy and knew nothing about Star Wars I would’ve worked out it was Palpatine by now.
The Chancellor asks Anakin to meet him at an opera house where he begins telling him ancient Sith legends. Naturally, Anakin isn’t the least bit suspicious about the fact that a political figure knows all this stuff. I’m afraid I’m going to have to steal a quote again, this time from RedLetterMedia. This scene is like being in a casual conversation with someone and they suddenly mention they’re currently reading Mein Kampf. Are you trying to tell me you wouldn’t even stop and think about that for a minute? At this point, the Chancellor is flat out telling Anakin “I’m the bad guy” and Anakin just sits there with a blank look on his face. You can argue that Padme’s impending death has him preoccupied, but when Palpatine actually says to him “I’m the bad guy” later on, he pulls a lightsaber on him and runs to tell the Jedi. The Chancellor says that a Sith Lord (whatever that is) had the ability to save people from death and it’s possible to learn this power, but not from a Jedi.
Meanwhile Obi Wan is sent by the Jedi council to some planet covered in sinkholes the name of which I can’t remember, while Yoda is sent to planet of the Wookies so Chewbacca can have a pointless cameo. Obi Wan is informed that Grievous has taken control and he will need to climb up to the top level of the uh… city… to reach him. This needs to be accomplished stealthily so Obi Wan picks out the biggest, loudest, most ridiculous creature he can find to ride up there. How nobody heard it is a mystery to me. Somehow Obi Wan manages to sneak up to the top level and drops down behind Grievous. Grievous has his back to him, so Obi Wan could just sneak up behind him and chop his head off, but instead he says: “Hello there” which causes every battle droid in the city to converge on him. I guess he forgot that killing this guy would end the war. The battle droids could just shoot him at this point and be done with it, but that would deprive us of another stupid, boring, tensionless action scene where he fights another pointless, uninteresting villain in the most ridiculous way possible. The outcome of the fight is that Grievous dies; we didn’t need another overly-choreographed lightsaber battle to reach that conclusion. Again, I find it sad that I get more invested in lightsaber fights in the Original Trilogy which don’t have the luxury of taking place in an environment filled with colour and explosions simply because I actually care about the characters that are fighting.
Back on Coruscant, Mace Windu (the most boring character ever) sends Anakin to gauge the Chancellor’s reaction to Obi Wan’s engagement of Grievous, mentioning that he senses a plot to destroy the Jedi after Anakin leaves. You don’t say. The Jedi decide that if the Chancellor does not surrender his emergency powers after the destruction of Grievous, they will remove him from office. Windu says this will necessitate the Jedi taking control, because it’s not like a Chancellor was removed in The Phantom Menace and they just elected another one. As I said earlier, when Anakin goes to see the Chancellor, the Chancellor admits that he’s a Sith Lord so Anakin tells Windu. With all the urgency of a sundial, Windu gathers up three other Jedi to go and confront the Chancellor. Um… shouldn’t this be a big deal. Why is everyone acting so sedately to the news the Chancellor is the Sith Lord they’ve been looking for? I mean, it took them long enough to figure it out, but even so, some concern on their part might actually get me invested. I know I’ve been repeating this a lot throughout the review, but if they don’t care, I don’t care.
Windu and the three Jedi redshirts confront the Chancellor who pulls out a lightsaber… urgh. Why did they have to give the Chancellor a lightsaber? Not every character in these films needs a lightsaber. Giving characters like Yoda and the Chancellor lightsabers is like giving pogo sticks to Kangaroos. To me it’s far scarier that the Chancellor can simply snap your neck with the force and instantly kill you than have a long, boring, overly-choreographed lightsaber fight with you. The Chancellor proceeds to make light work of the Jedi redshirts until only Windu is left. Of course, the Jedi didn’t bother telling the Senate the Chancellor was a Sith Lord in case they got killed trying to take him down, meaning that when they get taken down, no one will know about it. Windu disarms the Chancellor, and informs him he is under arrest at which point Anakin arrives. The Chancellor begins firing lightning at Windu, who deflects it back at the Chancellor scarring his face. I should probably mention that said scarring takes a very long time, yet the Chancellor doesn’t bother to stop shooting his own lightning which is being deflected back at him. Windu tells Anakin he must kill the Chancellor as he’s too dangerous to be left alive. Anakin protests as he needs the Chancellor to help him save Padme’s life. Windu ignores him and is about to kill the Chancellor when Anakin cuts off his hand, because it’s not like he could just parry the blow. The Chancellor shoots some lightning at Windu and throws him out of the window killing him. So long Mace Windu! You’re another nothing character who I don’t care about, but I’ll miss the fact that um… your lightsaber was purple.
Anakin then pledges himself to the dark side… I thought he was supposed to be joining the Sith… and says he will do the Chancellor’s bidding if he helps him save Padme. Basically, this whole thing has come about because the Chancellor told him a vague story about how he once knew a guy who knew a guy who could cheat death. The Chancellor tells Anakin that they need to work together to discover “the secret” of how to stop death. If I was Anakin at this point, I’d say: “Wait, I thought you knew how to do it already. So I just turned to the dark side and betrayed everyone to save my wife and yet you’re absolutely no help to me at all? Wow, I sure screwed up”, but we’ve established that everyone in these films is an idiot, so never mind. The Chancellor (who I shall call the Emperor from now on) tells Anakin to go to the Jedi temple and deal with the Jedi there. Anakin proceeds to murder everyone, including the children, which many people found quite shocking. I guess they forgot he massacred a village of them in the last movie. Meanwhile, the Emperor tells the Clones to “execute Order 66” which means they will execute the Jedi. The scenes of all the Jedi being gunned down by the Clones could’ve been really moving there’s just one problem: I don’t know or care about any of the Jedi we see die. I don’t even know their names. And before anyone mouths off about the Clone Wars series let me remind you that series was made three years after this film. After murdering everyone in the temple, Anakin goes to Padme and tells her that the Jedi are trying to take over and that he is going to the Mustafar system to deal with the Separatist leaders.
Only Obi Wan and Yoda have survived the Jedi massacre and they decide to go the Jedi temple. They send out a message warning all other Jedi to stay away and find security recordings of Anakin’s deeds. Yoda agrees to take on the Emperor, while Obi Wan goes to kill Anakin. He finds Padme and asks for information about where Anakin is. On a side note, in this scene, you can see Ewan McGregor trying really hard not to laugh while delivering a line: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SqTR0DorSw. I can’t say I blame him with all the terrible dialogue he has to read. Padme takes her ship to the Mustafar system to meet Anakin, and Obi Wan stows away on board.
On Mustafar, Anakin kills all the Separatist leaders, and then meets Padme as her ships lands. Brace yourselves everyone. We’re about to get into one of the worst endings not just to a Star Wars film, but to any film in general.
Padme tells Anakin she can’t believe he killed younglings… even though he killed a village full of children in the last movie. She says Anakin’s a good person, because a good person kills women and children, advocates a dictatorship, insults his friends and throws temper tantrums when he doesn’t get his own way. Anakin then goes on a stupid rant about how he’s “more powerful than the Chancellor” and can overthrow him. Um… what? Anakin’s been saying this whole time he’s been doing all the terrible things he’s done to save Padme. Where did this unlimited power thing come from? You can argue this shows Anakin’s continued corruption to the dark side, but he said not two seconds before that he was only doing this to save Padme. Padme says that Anakin’s changed… really? He’s been an arsehole since Attack of the Clones, how has he changed? Why do you care all of a sudden, you pathetic excuse for a… I’m not going to call her a character because that’s an insult to every one dimensional cipher ever written, so… why do you care all of a sudden you pathetic excuse for a plot device?
Obi Wan reveals himself to Anakin which leads Anakin to conclude that the two of them are in league with each other. So let me get this straight. Anakin has gone to the trouble of killing all the Jedi just to save Padme, yet just because he sees Obi Wan walk out of her ship, he doesn’t conclude that Obi Wan stowed away on there? So Anakin force chokes Padme, even though his motivation for doing everything he’s done in this film was to save her life. He doesn’t actually kill her, but he gives it a damn good try. But wait, things get worse. He then turns to Obi Wan and says: “You turned her against me! […] You won’t take her away from me”. Wait, so you’re telling him he won’t take Padme away from you… EVEN THOUGH YOU JUST TRIED TO KILL HER????!!!! Anakin then goes on a cliché villain monologue about his new empire. Obi Wan asks: “Your new Empire?” to which Anakin replies: “Don’t make me kill you”. Wow, this conversation escalated quickly. And it proceeds to escalate even quicker as yet another lightsaber fight begins.
This lightsaber fight between Anakin and Obi Wan is frequently cited as one of the greatest battles in the franchise, but personally, I think the duel between these same two characters in Episode IV was actually more exciting. Yes, I know that fight was just two old guys hitting each other with sticks in some corridor, but I actually cared about what was going on in that fight. In this fight, they’re just… well… fighting. You can argue that it’s sad because they’re two old friends who’ve turned against each other… but they were never really friends. Anakin was just an arsehole towards Obi Wan the whole time. But even if I did care about what was at stake, even though these two characters are flipping through a vibrant environment, they look so bored the whole time that they may as well be fighting in some corridor. I’ll say it again for what seems like the millionth time: if they don’t care, I don’t care. The whole fight is just an elaborate distraction from the fact that this film has been terrible up until now and there’s really nothing to care about here.
The fight finally reaches a climax with Obi Wan standing on a rocky outcrop and Anakin on some floaty platform. Obi Wan informs Anakin that he has the high ground. Anakin jumps at him and Obi Wan cuts off all his arms and legs. He then begins telling Anakin how he was his “brother” and he “loved him”… while Anakin is lying in agony on the slope burning to death. If nothing else, there’s no way this matches up with the Original Trilogy. When Darth Vader meets Obi Wan again after however many years, he says: “When I left you, I was but the learner, now I am the master”, not “You left me a quadriplegic burning to death on the side of a volcano”.
While this is happening, Yoda and the Emperor have been having a lightsaber fight… y’know what I’m so tired at this point, I’m not even going to say anything about how these two shouldn’t have lightsabers… which Yoda loses… meaning he has to go into exile? Eh? The Emperor finds Anakin burning and takes him to be put in the Darth Vader suit so they can slap Anakin’s masked mug on every product for this film even though Darth Vader is in the film for maybe five minutes.
Padme is about to give birth on an asteroid (just go with it) watched over by Obi Wan and Yoda. They are informed that she has lost the will to live because of Anakin’s defection to the dark side. I guess the twins she’s about to give birth to won’t fill the void left by a murdering nutcase. You know your mum loves you when she doesn’t think it’s worth living to take care of you. So Padme dies after giving birth to Leia and Luke. Everyone in the cinema was crying at this point, I was just trying to hold in a fart… I’m kidding. I let the fart out the second Padme died and boy was it loud. Obi Wan and Yoda decide that the children must be kept separate to stop Vader finding them. The guy on Tantive IV agrees to take Leia while Obi Wan takes Luke to his relative on Tatooine. Also, Yoda tells him Qui Gon can still communicate with him and… you know what, the film’s over now. I’m done.
I know I’m going to get hated on in the comments section for this review, but I’ve tried to judge this movie as fairly and objectively as possible. Even when I first saw this movie at the age of twelve I was disappointed in it. I’m not deliberately trying to hate on the Prequel trilogy. You can’t always praise something just because it’s part of the same franchise you loved. If you judge everything this way, it’s just an invitation to get served more bad stuff. The Original Trilogy is one of my favourite film trilogies of all time and the Prequel trilogy could have and should have been amazing. As it stands, the Prequels rank with Transformers as probably the worst film trilogy ever made.
Now the franchise has finally been wrested from George Lucas’s grubby mitts we’ll be getting more films. You may be surprised by this, but I’m actually kind of excited. I know Star Wars fans across the web are already hating on this idea and saying it will “ruin Star Wars”… to which I respond: “Hey guys! Where were you during the last three films?” Revenge of the Sith is the low point of the entire Star Wars franchise for me, and that includes that godawful Clone Wars movie. From here, things can only get better. You’d have to really be trying to make a film worse than Revenge of the Sith.
I at least ask you take everything I’ve said her into full account before voicing your opinion. I’m not out to change anyone’s mind with this review, just trying to explain mine as clearly as possible. And standing at over 5,000 words, I think this review makes up for all the contributing I haven’t been doing to the site for the last few months (sorry Nathan!).