Ian's Movie Reviews
Short Reviews of Movies, Board Games, and Other Stuff

Revisiting Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

And now we come to what used to be the final film, but really a middle film, but now is somewhere near the front third… or is it back third? You know what I mean, its…
Revenge of the Sith

Highlights

  • The structure of this film is actually quite strong. The first half sets up Anakin as a hero Jedi with strong relationships. Doubts and misgivings creep up throughout and accumulate until his turn to the dark side. The turn (reasons notwithstanding, but I’ll get there) works with a lot of emotional impact because of this structure. People make fun of Padme’s “You’re breaking my heart” line, but I think its actually quite powerful in the moment, and we finally start to see some of Portman’s talent shine through.
  • The opening pan down into the giant space battle wowed me in theaters, so I still always eagerly anticipate it.
  • Ewan McGregor gave his strongest Obi-Wan performance here.  He was fun when he needed to be, dramatic when he needed, and gave the film a stable center.
  • I really like that lizard creature Obi-Wan rides in Utapau.
  • My favourite moment of this film is the shot of Vader’s first breath.  It still works.
  • General Grevious is a pretty cool new villain.  He fits in the world but has a unique sense about him.  He’s established well, though he hasn’t been in the other films, and doesn’t overreach in importance. 
  • John William’s is off the hook here.  His score is certainly able to meet the heights of drama reached during this period of the galaxy’s history. 
  • McDiarmid’s performance can be quite over-the-top in many places, but its actually quite fun.  He really does become the Emperor here, and I think a lot of the over-the-top parts fit that, which McDiarmid understands and isn’t afraid to do.
  • The showdown between Obi-Wan and Anakin is still solid.  High ground notwithstanding.
  • I really like the final montage of the Skywalker family at the end.  A great way to cap the trilogy off.

Downfalls

  • While the romance between Anakin and Padme is improved here, they still have that awful “love is blind” scene on the balcony. Its so bad it rivals the “I hate sand” scene on the balcony in Clones. It fact, these two should probably just stay away from balconies altogether.
  • It can be argued that the entire reason for this trilogy existing is to see the tragedy of Anakin play out. The problem is that the reason for his turning is too nebulous. He sees a vision of Padme dying and wants to save her? I know its likely that Sidious probably forced Anakin to have these visions (and Snoke’s powers in Last Jedi seem to confirm this is something that could happen). But its still a weak reason. Luckily there are other factors, like his growing mistrust of the Jedi, etc. But it still feels like the reason for his turn needs to be much stronger.
  • The Wookie planet battle was pointless to the overall plot, but I will argue it helped to establish the war as a widespread event. But what really gets me is having Chewbacca in the command center with Yoda. I’m okay with seeing Chewie here, but this is a bit serendipitous. Maybe as a short cameo. But to actually be pals with Yoda is a bit much.
  • There’s still some pretty stiffly delivered dialogue.  Hayden Christenson and Sam Jackson seem to be the biggest culprits, but Jimmy Smits too.
  • Okay, I know that we needed to get Vader to a point where he becomes very villainous.  But do we really have to have him killing children (I’m sorry, I mean “younglings”)?  Remember how two movies earlier Lucas defended the goofy Jar Jar and pit droid antics by claiming these are movies for kids?  Hard to hold that argument here. 

Current Re-ranking List

  1. The Empire Strikes Back
  2. Return of the Jedi
  3. The Last Jedi
  4. The Force Awakens
  5. Revenge of the Sith
  6. The Phantom Menace
  7. Attack of the Clones

After watching the entire prequel trilogy again, I think this re-watch has helped me reconcile my relationship with these films. I’ve come back around to being okay with their existence and appreciating them for different reasons than the original trilogy. However there is still one Star Wars film coming up which will be much more difficult to reconcile…

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