By: Samar Khan
The common perception seems to be that there are two types of Star Wars films: The Originals and the Prequels. The former are generally excellent while the latter are comparatively poor. There is an inherent issue with this problem and that concerns the quality of the final prequel, Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. You see, unlike the mediocre The Phantom Menace and the admittedly solid Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith (hereby referred to as just Revenge) is actually a very good film that is unfairly judged due to its association to its predecessors within the Prequel trilogy.
A quick plot synopsis for those –very- few people that may have missed out on the Star Wars films over the years or just have not kept up with The Film Lawyers coverage (if that is the case, rectify that and get cracking on reading our material, yo!). The Prequel trilogy came out after the Originals (don’t ask me why George Lucas opted for such an odd method of releasing his films) and attempted to explain what led into the events of the Original trilogy. This included explaining who Emperor Palpatine was, the role of the Jedi Council and probably most importantly, how Darth Vader came to be. Revenge was the culmination of all of that buildup and -despite some notable flaws-, proved to be an excellent film that serves as the lead up to the iconic A New Hope.
Anyways, on to the film itself. After Muneeb’s criticism of the original film’s “dated” visuals, it was refreshing to see that Lucas took that to heart and attempted to up the quality of the CGI employed in his films. It goes without saying that the visuals in Revenge are for the most part absolutely breathtaking; from the get-go, you’re introduced to Anakin and Obi-Wan (played by Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor, respectively) who are engaged in witty banter whilst navigating between enemy ships and fighting against a gorgeous backdrop of exploding enemy vehicles. That sets the stage for the rest of the film to captivate the viewer from a visual level, with the Battle of Utapau between General Grievous’ forces and Obi-Wan’s men and the climactic Duel on Mustafar serving as stunning set pieces. Sure, the CG doesn’t entirely hold up to the Avengers of the world but for the series as a whole and for a 2005 film, it was exceptionally well done. There are definitely hiccups regarding the quality of the CG in certain situations, however, with the Palpatine vs. Yoda battle containing some painfully obvious CG that detracts from the fight between the iconic Jedi master and the Sith Emperor. However, such instances are rare and considering the relatively miniscule amount of spotty CG in comparison to quality CG, the visuals can’t be considered anything but a marvel.
In terms of the actual story, it more than holds its own and surprises viewers with the lack of painfully obnoxious characters such as the dreaded Jar-Jar Brinks. Hoo boy, the cameos of the dreaded series laughingstock are enough to fill viewers with fear that Lucas would shoehorn the character into some crucial scenes but thankfully, he manages to restrain himself.
Without wading too much into spoiler territory (is that really possible considering the film itself is 10 years old and it is a prequel to a film nearing its 40th birthday?), the film has some fantastic plot advancement that helps the viewer understand why the events of the original trilogy occurred as they did. The manner in which Anakin turned to the Dark Side and his motivations were something that the average viewer would have been able to potentially empathize with. A subsequent scene involving the murder of younglings by our “protagonist” (I use this term very loosely here) firmly shifts audience perception of the character into the exact opposite direction; Anakin’s behaviour in the Original trilogy makes more sense and evoke real emotion out of the audience.
One of the best segments of the entire film consisted of the assassination of the Jedi Council upon orders from the now-disfigured Emperor Palpatine; executing the entire council in back-to-back-to-back scenes with the majestic John Williams score accentuating the betrayals is a glorious experience. Capping it all off is that it makes sense within the context of the story and the quality is further amplified by the unique manners of execution of the Jedi Council masters in wholly separate environments. Truly magnificent segment, one that does not nearly get the amount of praise that it deserves.
The aforementioned Duel of Mustafar, the final battle between Obi-Wan and his former best friend, Anakin, was glorious to watch for the fact that IT TOOK PLACE WITHIN A VOLCANO WHILE THE MAN-MADE STRUCTURES AROUND THEM WERE FALLING. Despite some questionable CG in parts of the duel, the duel itself is amazing to witness because it perfectly encapsulates the Good vs. Dark battle. Anakin has literally transformed into an evil figure in front of our eyes, as is illustrated with a remarkable lack of subtlety with his glowing yellow eyes. Obi-Wan’s pain when exclaiming that Anakin was “The Chosen One” and turning to the Dark Side is expertly portrayed by the ever-underrated McGregor; After witnessing their bond break after being built over the last few films, boy did I get emotional witnessing that scene. The scene would not be perfect had Christensen, much maligned throughout the series, not been almost equally as impressive during the battle and ensuing exclamation from McGregor’s Obi-Wan; the way he portrayed his character’s pain and suffering after having his limbs chopped off and realizing his old buddy would not save him was the kind of work that one would expect of an Oscar winner and not someone that took the majority of flak from critics that was not targeted at Jar-Jar.
Of course, the film wasn’t just about John Williams soundtrack, the visuals and the epic scenes mentioned above. Being a film, the acting needs to be covered in greater detail. The aforementioned McGregor, who received his fair share of criticism for the previous 2 films, showcased why he is an excellent actor with his performance here. He lends a certain gravitas to the character of Obi-Wan yet simultaneously is able to deliver the pained heart of a dejected friend, which he delivers perfectly in the aforementioned Duel of Mustafar. The pain emanating from his character seems genuine and well worthy of praise. Christensen is mostly solid, rebounding from a couple of poor performances in the other films and delivering his strongest performance in what would be his final take on the iconic Anakin character. It’s kind of telling that he outshines Natalie Portman (yeah, Oscar winner Natalie Portman!) in the scenes they share; it’s not that Portman was that bad but Christensen elevated his acting a few levels higher and it culminates with the fantastic expression of pain in the aftermath of his duel with Obi-Wan. One could be forgiven for assuming that the film’s acting prowess would be taking a step back after the death of Christopher Lee’s Count Dooku; rather, it’s a testament to the film’s remaining cast and crew that the absence of the legendary actor is not felt throughout. The remaining side actors were perfectly serviceable in their roles with no notable standouts; it was odd to see a relative star by modern standards, Joel Edgerton, have screen time totalling less than 5 seconds. The acting can be summed as follows: Exceptional when McGregor is on screen, nearly as excellent in Christensen and Ian McDiarmid’s (Emperor Palpatine’s actor) scenes and decidedly average when the rest of the cast has to express themselves via their acting chops.
Overall, the film can be viewed by newcomers to the series and still be mostly understood; Star Wars’ ridiculously large pop culture appeal almost ensures that every person in North America at the very least knows something about the series. As can be said about 4 of the 5 previously reviewed films of the Star Wars series, Revenge was a good film. Nay, Revenge was a great film that receives far too much negative press just for being a part of the Prequel trilogy. Do I wish that Lucas had an editor and that a competent writer scripted the dialogue? Of course. For what the film provided viewers with and compared to the rest of the series, there is no doubting the quality of Revenge of the Sith. If you have any reservations about watching the Prequel trilogy before watching The Force Awakens, rest assured that you will still be watching 5 solid films out of the 6 released. Plus, you know, John Williams score immediately vaults the grade of the film up a notch.
After careful deliberation, the Film Lawyers have decided to grant Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith with a grade of B- (7/10).