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Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
2005 - PG-13 - 140 Mins.
Director: George Lucas
Producer: George Lucas, Rick McCallum
Written By: George Lucas
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Jimmy Smits
Review by: Greg Ursic
Official Site: www.starwars.com/episode-iii/
   

It's a dark side thing
In the waning days of the Clone Wars, Anakin Skywalker and General Obi-wan Kenobi are called upon to rescue Chancellor Palpatine from General Grievous, the leader of the Separatists and Sith Lord Count Dooku, who have launched an all out attack on the planet Coruscant. The dangerous mission is of secondary concern for young Anakin, who, wracked with terrible visions, is losing his focus. Feeling alienated by the Jedi council, and looking for answers, Anakin seeks the counsel of Palpatine, who offers to tutor him in the ways of the Dark Side. And thus begins the fateful metamorphosis that will threaten a galaxy.

I’ll start with some of my gripes about ROTS. First, I am still flabbergasted that in spite of Lucas’ amazing success and creativity, that he is such an appalling scribe. I offer for your disdain some of the “gems” that pervade ROTS like stinking offal:

Padme to Anakin,
“Anakin, you’re breaking my heart!”

Mace Windu to no one in particular,
“I sense there’s a plot against the Jedi!”

The line is intoned with gravity before he nonchalantly wanders off to polish his light saber or whatever Jedi Masters do with their downtime. Then there are the repeated references to children as "younglings” - it doesn’t sound spacey or cool, just stupid. Call them kids and be done with it.

And what’s with General Grievous and his cold?!? It’s hard to find someone menacing when they’re constantly hacking and wheezing like a 70-year-old nicotine junkie. The only thing missing was an oxygen tank and some plaid pants.

I also found Anakin’s decision to play for the other team (evil that is), just a little too quick for my liking. One minute it’s “We have to save everyone” to “Okay, I’ll follow you and destroy everything I’ve ever held dear.” Vader also heals faster than anyone in the known universe does – I’ve had hangnails that took longer to recover from. Finally, without revealing anything, I will say that were it not for Obi-wan’s lack of patience and squeamishness, this whole unfortunate turning-to-the-dark-side mess could have been avoided (well, in theory that is, what with this being a prequel it was pretty much predestined). Now that we’ve dispensed with the necessary unpleasantries, let’s get to the good stuff.

Surprisingly I actually took a shine to Hayden Christensen this time around as he has abandoned his interminable whining in favor of unbalanced moodiness. It definitely helped to alleviate the desire I felt for him to die horribly throughout the last film (that desire should only arise when he’s become really evil, like, say, an auditor…). I was also impressed with Ewan McGregor, who behaves more like a Jedi Master than the wayward hippie he embodied in the first two films. McGregror also seems to be more emotionally invested in the role, which in turn lends perceptible heft to the dramatic scenes between Obi-Wan and Anakin in ROTS. But wait, there’s more.

Viewers will find themselves simultaneously enthralled and repulsed by Ian McDiarmid as Chancellor Palpatine, aka Darth Sidious as he vacillates between creepy and campy (he has some of the cheesiest dialogue and scenes in the piece). We also learn how Palpatine became facially challenged (if you recall 'Return of the Jedi' he could give 'The Elephant Man' a run for his money). Classic villain Christopher Lee returns as the nefarious Count Dooku, the former Jedi master turned Sith lord. Lee’s combination of staid delivery and the regal way that he carries himself, make him a worthy watchable foe, it’s only a shame that he didn’t have more screen time. Finally, there is the Big Kahuna of The Force, the master of Jedi masters, the little green guy himself, Yoda. Many 'Star Wars' purists complained that the CGI Yoda of 'The Clone Wars' was a shadow of his former muppet self. They will be happy to know that the ROTS Yoda, while still CGI is more faithful to their memory. Yoda’s fluid interaction with the other characters make him look like he is a flesh and blood creature (if only Lucas limited his dialogue – the whole “Evil there is afoot” gets to be a bit much). Okay, at this point you’re probably thinking “Shut up and get to the fighting already.”

In terms of kick ass action, ROTS far, far outshines its predecessors (well, in the prequel trilogy anyways.) Consider if you will: the house lights have gone down and the familiar trailing text has faded from the screen when you’re abruptly vaulted into the seat of a fighter in the midst of an interstellar blitz. You’re assaulted with a relentless cacophony of battle sounds, bursts of color and an vast array of vehicles flitting about both in the background and foreground, and you’re verging on motion sickness (well, at least I was…). This is merely the setup for the first of five (yes you read that right) light saber duels, and we aren’t talking your simple fight-to-stalemate battles, we’re talking flashy, extended good-guys-and-bad-guys-biting-the-dust donnybrooks.

The many different worlds that Lucas has created in ROTS are visually stunning, but none more so than Mustafar, the hellish volcano planet, a glowing landscape covered with ferociously bubbling fields of lava. The definitive hostile environment, it’s the perfect the stage for the ultimate showdown between Anakin and Obi-Wan. I also found it somewhat ironic that this blazing planet should come to epitomize the aforementioned darkness of the piece. Lucas also got the darkness factor down pat.

We expect our villains to be bad and the execution of one’s foes, and the betrayal and mass murder of one’s friends isn’t exactly light cinema. These types of activities definitely qualifies you for as a card carrying member of evil incorporated. But in Anakin’s case, he definitely pays for his actions - I expected major retribution, but the circumstances that lead to Darth Vader being encased in a walking iron lung move from cringe inducing to over the edge disturbing. We’re talking major owies here -- definitely not for the kiddies -- and was the highlight of the film for me (I’m not saying I’d do this or anything, but if you’re trying to make an example of someone, point well taken…)

In spite of its flaws, 'Return of the Sith' eclipses both 'Phantom Menace' and 'Attack of the Clones' on every level: it has a decent storyline, dazzling action sequences, fleshed out characters, even pacing, and is far less annoying (just say no to Jar Jar). I predict that it will also hold up better to multiple viewings. Most importantly it provides a seamless segue into 'The New Hope' and ties up the 'Star Wars' mythos in a neat little package. Give yourself a pat George, the third time’s the charm.
 
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

 
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