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Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith Review

Warning! Spoilers!

By Shawn McKenzie 05/25/2005

I will admit…I am a big Star Wars geek.  I’m not a stay-in-line-for-weeks hardcore geek (I don’t have the time or money to do that), but I can wax poetic my love for George Lucas’ creation with anyone.  In fact…I had a Star Wars checkbook cover for years before it finally fell apart (yeah, I know…the hardcores have all kinds of merchandise all over…I guess I try to keep my outer physical geekdom to a minimum.)  I can fully admit my disappointment of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (Jar Jar Binks and Jake Lloyd were my biggest problems), but despite what other critics (and fans) said about Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, I loved it.  I have noticed that the tables have turned for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith though, and despite being obviously predictable, it did exactly what it set out to do…it brought the story around full circle.

The Republic remains in a state of unrest (isn’t it always?)  General Grievous (voice of Matthew Wood), the leader of the droid army, who has a cough for some reason (do droids get sick?), has kidnapped Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) and taken him to Utapau.  Jedi knights Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his apprentice, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), along with their droid R2-D2 (Kenny Baker), have come to rescue Palpatine.  While R2-D2 stays close to the ship in the hangar bay and controls the elevators (and fights off some droid soldiers…did you know that R2 could kick butt?), Obi-Wan and Anakin fight Grievous and Count Dooku, a.k.a. Darth Tyranus (Christopher Lee.)  Grievous gets away, but Obi-Wan is knocked unconscious.  Palpatine senses Anakin’s dark side tendencies…plus he is impressed by the apprentice’s powerful Jedi skills…so he decides to replace his original apprentice, Dooku, with Anakin.  This means that he has to get rid of Dooku, so he convinces Anakin to decapitate Dooku, which Anakin does with little hesitation (Obi-Wan doesn’t witness this because he is still unconscious.)  When they get back to Coruscant, Palpatine puts Anakin on the Jedi Council, but none of its members…which includes Obi-Wan, Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson), Yoda (Frank Oz), Ki-Adi-Mundi (Silas Carson), and the others…will make him a Master, because of his close ties with Palpatine.  They don’t trust Palpatine, since he seems unwilling to step down now that the Clone Wars are almost over, and they actually have the stones to ask Anakin to spy on him, which ticks off Anakin.  Why do the Jedis’ dirty work if they aren’t going to make him a Master?  Anakin does it nevertheless.  He has other concerns anyway, like his secret marriage to former Queen of Naboo/current Senator Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman) and her recent pregnant status (of which she had just told him after coming back from Utapau.)  He’s also bothered by nightmares of Padmé dying in childbirth…nightmares that are similar to the ones he had when his mother Shmi was murdered.  Palpatine is a smart cookie though, because he knows that the Jedi Council has sent Anakin to spy on him, and he uses Anakin’s fear to sway him over to the dark side.  He tells Anakin a story about a Sith Lord named Darth Plagueis who had the power to manipulate midi-clorians to create life and prevent death (he also noted that his apprentice ironically killed Plagueis.)  Palpatine then tells Anakin that he can find Grievous on the sinkhole planet of Utapu, of which he then tells the Jedi Council.  They decide to send Ob-Wan to deal with Grievous instead of Anakin, which ticks off Anakin even further.  They hadn’t sent Yoda to fight Grievous, because he had already been sent to the Wookiee home planet of Kashyyyk to help defend against the robot armies of the Separatists, where he fights along side Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and General Tarfful (Michael Kingma.)  Anakin whines and moans to Palpatine, who reveals to him that he is the Dark Sith Lord Sidious whom the Jedi Council had been trying to find.  He is also the apprentice who had killed Plagueis.  At first, he considers killing Palpatine with his lightsaber, but he takes this news to Mace Windu instead.  Mace confronts Palpatine…bringing along Agen Kolar (Tux Akindoyeni), Kit Fisto (Ben Cooke), and Saesee Tiin (Kenji Oates) with him…with the intention of arresting the Chancellor.  After killing all but Mace, Palpatine fights Mace in a lightsaber battle, ultimately killing Mace with his Sith lightning powers (which disfigures him and makes him look like he does in Return of the Jedi.)  Now Anakin’s conversion to the dark side of the Force is complete, so he dubs him Darth Vader.  Since he is now Sidious’s apprentice, Sidious orders Vader to kill every Jedi around, including the children.  Sidious then calls Commander Cody (Temuera Morrison), a commanding officer in the Army of the Republic, to enact Order 66, which causes all clone troops to turn against the Jedi.  What happens then is an all out Jedi holocaust, with several Jedis and Jedi sympathizers being taken out, including Ki-Adi-Mundi.  Sidious then orders Vader to go the lava planet of Mustafar and kill the remaining leaders of the Separatists, including one of the last remaining leaders of the Confederacy, Viceroy Nute Gunray (Carson again), as part of an enemy housecleaning.  Yoda survives, mainly because he senses the oncoming slaughter.  Senator Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) manages to escape with Yoda and Obi-Wan (who had already come back from killing Grievous), with the help of young Jedi Knight Bene (Mousy McCallum), who is unfortunately killed himself.  Palpatine/Sidious goes before the Galactic Senate and declares that all Jedi are bad, which is why he is now disfigured.  In order to keep the peace, he creates the Galactic Empire and appoints himself Emperor.  Meanwhile, Yoda and Obi-Wan find surveillance tapes of Anakin/Vader killing Jedis, and they both split up to confront Sidious and Vader.  Obi-Wan is off to find Vader, but he needs Padmé’s help in finding him.  He senses that she is pregnant, and he feels bad, but he tells her that he has to kill Vader.  She is shocked by this, but she doesn’t help him.  Later, Obi-Wan stows away on Padmé’s ship.  When Padmé lands on Mustafar, she confronts Vader about his dirty dealings.  That is when Obi-Wan comes out and fights with Vader.  After getting the best of Vader, Obi-Wan slices off all of Vader’s extremities (both of his legs at the knee and his left arm), and the lava riverbank does the rest, burning up what was left of him.  Obi-Wan and Padmé leave to attend to her pregnancy, while Sidious arrives shortly thereafter and takes Vader back to Coruscant where he is fitted with black armor to prolong his life (Vader’s voice is now that of James Earl Jones.)  Yoda confronts Sidious (this is before he rescues Vader), but after an intense battle, Yoda escapes and goes into exile on the swamp planet of Dagobah.  Padmé ultimately dies in childbirth, but not before delivering twins, Luke and Leia.  They decide to send Luke to live on Tatooine with his step-uncle and aunt, Owen (Joel Edgerton) and Beru Lars (Bonnie Piesse.)  Bail adopts Leia with his wife, the Queen of Alderaan (Rebecca Jackson Mendoza.)  He also orders that all protocol droids have their memories erased…including C-3PO (Anthony Daniels)…so that they will have no memory of the existence of the children.  The movie ends on a down note, with Sidious, Vader, and a young Governor Tarkin (Wayne Pygram) watching the first Death Star being built.

The reason that I gave you spoilers is that I wanted to show you that there isn’t anything new in the story that you didn’t already know.  Unless this is your first Star Wars movie, then some of this might be surprising…and if it is…I’d love to find out how and why you paid to see this movie when you didn’t see any of the others (you never saw the others in the theater, on DVD/video, or on regular TV?)  For the Star Wars novice, starting out with this movie might be confusing.  The only other explanation I could think of that might make you feel like it was unpredictable is if you saw Episodes I and II, but haven’t seen Episodes IV, V, and VI (i.e. the original trilogy) yet.  When this movie is released on DVD (Lucas said that it should be out by Christmas) and I pick it up, I plan to watch Episodes I through VI in order.  I bet some of you are planning to do that as well (for the record, it will take over 13 and a half hours to watch them all back-to-back.)

I’m not saying that the predictable nature of the movie is a bad thing…it’s just a given.  Actually, I think that it is the best of the three prequels.  There is more story in the story than the first two.  There isn’t a single annoying character, and it answers all of the questions that the fans have wanted to ask.  The only thing left that they could have addressed was Han Solo.  His back-story is referred to in the original trilogy, but they didn’t show any of it in the prequels.  I’m guessing that the stories of Luke and Leia seemed rather mundane until Episode IV began.  I heard that there was a rumor that Lucas wanted to have a scene of a young Han fighting with the Wookiees, but it was deleted.  Maybe they will get into the story of Han in either an episode of Lucas’ proposed live action TV series or his proposed animated series, both to appear sometime before 2007.

The action and special effects, of course, were excellent.  I’ve already told you about my love for the kick-butt Yoda in Episode II (and Yoda does some more butt-kicking in this one as well), but the real surprise was R2-D2.  R2 has always been brave and scrappy…but who knew that he could single-handedly take out an entire droid troop?  He used every resource he had available to defend himself against bigger, more heavily armed droids that were trying to attack him.  The fight between Obi-Wan and Grievous was sweet too, with Grievous going after the Jedi Master with four lightsabers at one time.

As far as the acting goes, the performances are again a little wooden, but once again, I’m going to blame that on Lucas.  As I said before in my Episode II review, Lucas is just not an actors’ director.  He is more about the special effects.  Most other critics especially blamed Christensen and Portman.  Christensen actually did a decent job, in my opinion, portraying the man who was to become Darth Vader.  He had the right amount of intense anger in his eyes (of course the makeup most likely helped with that.)  As for Portman…she really didn’t do much, other than deliver the future Luke and Leia.  She appears briefly in the beginning to set up the whole “we’re secretly married and pregnant” thing, and then she disappears until right before the whole “confront Anakin and sadly die in childbirth” thing.  Does that mean that I think that these minor little acting complaints should affect my rating for this movie?  Not at all.

I have to address the PG-13 rating.  This movie is the only one out of the series to get above a PG rating.  Why did it get that rating?  If I had to guess, I think it had something to do with the darker tone of the film.  There is no bad language or sex in the movie (despite Padmé being pregnant), and the violence is no more graphic than it was in Episode II.  Sure…there are slayings and beheadings, but they are all done off camera and aren’t gory at all.  I bet it has something to do with Vader going psycho nuts once he goes to the dark side, including the disturbing scene of him killing the Younglings (the Jedi children.)  That’s the only part that might bother some kids under the age of 13.

I still say that Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is the best of the three sequels.  Unless the rumors are true that he might do a third trilogy, this movie is Lucas’ swan song.  It actually makes me a little sad in a way.  I’m just slightly older than the franchise itself (I was born in 1974), so I have had Star Wars with me my whole life.  The thought that there won’t be any more movies coming out makes me depressed.  Oh well…there is always the upcoming Die Hard 4.0 (supposedly coming out in 2006) and Indiana Jones 4 (also supposedly coming out in 2006.)  Even if disappointed with the first two prequels you were, I highly recommend that you check this one out.  If you do, remember to let the Force be with you…always.

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