George Lucas comes full circle in his final installment of the prequel trilogy. After the technological exercise that was “Attack of the Clones,” “Revenge of the Sith” is a return to the classic space opera style, with an emphasis on story rather than special effects. Lucas’ Star Wars movies are among the most influential and ambitious, both technically and commercially. They are also among the most entertaining.
The film opens with an epic space battle over Coruscant. Already, we see the scope of Lucas’ imagination, as each space battle in the series has increased in complexity, and the CGI has become more visually impressive. “Episode III” succeeds in not necessarily how well the special effects are utilized, but in how amazingly they are imagined. Unlike with “Episode II,” I can really appreciate the images displayed on the screen in “Episode III.” Lucas uses them to create incredible backgrounds and settings that could not hold the same scope with practical effects and budget constraints. And regarding the characters, Yoda is just as, if not more lifelike as an animation than he was as a puppet.
After the space battle and the introduction of General Grievous, Anakin has a secret rendezvous with Padme where she informs him that she is pregnant. It is here that the ties to the Original Trilogy begin, as we have known since her introduction that Padme would be carrying Luke and Leia. Like the other two prequels, the dialogue is the movie’s weakest point, as many of the actors continue to deliver flat and witless lines in wooden fashion. The scenes that really stand out are those that involve Palpatine insidiously swaying Anakin towards the Dark Side. McDiarmid, aside from Yoda and sometimes McGregor, is the only one who really delivers his lines with passion and personality, and his performance is a highlight of the film.
Some of the writing here is quite brilliant. Anakin is required to wrestle with an intriguing conflict – one which involves his choice of loyalty. Palpatine recommends Anakin to be on the Jedi Council, and though the Council agrees to let him sit on it, he is not promoted to the rank of master. Skeptical of the Chancellor’s agenda, the Council asks Anakin to spy on him. Palpatine, a father-like figure for Anakin, has all the pieces in motion. He plays on Anakin’s wounded ego. He tells a story of his former master’s ability to save others from dying, hinging upon two of Anakin’s greatest weaknesses. The opera scene provides, by far, the greatest dialogue we have seen in the trilogy, and McDiarmid’s delivery is outstanding.
Anakin soon figures out that Palpatine is the Sith Lord that the Jedi have been looking for. He reports this to Master Windu, who leads an attempt to arrest the Chancellor. The Jedi with him fall like clowns before it is just Palpatine and Windu sparring off. Just as Windu is about to kill the Sith Lord and end the onslaught of darkness, Anakin’s fear takes over, and he decides to side with the Chancellor over his Jedi friend. Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side does not feel quite as poignant as it should, since he seems to crumble like a weak and hopeless puppy. Nevertheless, it is the moment we have been waiting for. The disfigured Palpatine bestows upon Anakin the title of Darth Vader, and alas begins the Great Jedi Purge and the formation of the Galactic Empire.
“Revenge of the Sith” is by far the darkest and most emotional of all the Star Wars movies. We see Anakin killing younglings, slaughtering Separatists, and turning against his own wife. Hayden’s performance grows better as the film goes on, though he can never quite escape the cringeworthy nature of some of the dialogue. Natalie tries to bring more color to her role, and generally succeeds, but is similarly limited by the poor dialogue. Their best scene together is one in which they are in separate areas of Coruscant and not needing to speak any words. Their facial expressions, for once, are enough.
“Revenge of the Sith” has the most action out of all six episodes. There are a total of five duels, all of which are choreographed brilliantly and delivered with equal intensity. John Williams provides his most fantastic and brooding score of all the Star Wars films. It is impossible to pick out a single highlight from the soundtrack, as each piece blends itself beautifully into every scene. Without Williams’ score, many scenes would not have half the gravitas they possess. Williams tells as great a story as Lucas, just through different means.
“Revenge of the Sith” finally gives us the story we have all been waiting for, and the story that Lucas was wanting to tell. It is the discovery of how and why Anakin lost his way and turned to the Dark Side; how a pleasant (albeit immature) and talented young man would turn into the most feared face of the Galactic Empire. The climactic duel on the blazing volcanic planet of Mustafar is as impressive as anything in rival franchises, and carries more significance than any other sequence in the Star Wars saga. “Revenge of the Sith” delivers in just about every way, in both tying up loose ends and entertaining our imaginations.