With the release of the seventh Star Wars film this Friday, this week is more appropriate than ever to look back at the iconic film series that brought us here. From the memorable highs of The Empire Strikes Back to the laughable lows of Attack of the Clones, join us as we recap the Star Wars saga in preparation for The Force Awakens.
Given the quality of the previous two films, Revenge of the Sith did not have a high standard to beat. Nevertheless, it stands as the most riveting prequel film of the Star Wars saga, and one of the darkest entries in the series to date.
Set sometime after Episode II, the Clone War rages on with the Galactic Republic on the edge of victory. The separatist movement is at the verge of surrender, although it tries to stand firm with its devious droid leader, General Grievous. Regardless, with the conflict nearing its end, our Jedi heroes rear their heads toward issues plaguing their own jurisdiction.
Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Padme (Natalie Portman) are now expecting their first child. This becomes a problem given their relationship as Jedi and senator is extremely taboo. However, this issue becomes secondary to Anakin as he experiences recurrent premonitions of Padme dying in child birth. It is a fate he greatly fears, having already suffered a similar failure with his mother.
Meanwhile, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and the rest of Jedi Council, struggle in returning the Republic to its pre-war democratic state. Their main concern: Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) — the leader of the Republic who came into power at the end of Episode I, but has gripped it way past his valid term. To make matters trickier, Palpatine is also a longtime parental figure of sorts to Anakin. Knowing this relationship, the Jedi Council orders Anakin to spy on Palpatine and report back his dealings. Combined with other gripes Anakin has had with the council, it is a decision that disillusions his faith in the Jedi and his friendship with Obi-Wan.
General Grievous is eventually defeated by Kenobi in a skirmish, but it is too late. The perilous truth is revealed: Chancellor Palpatine is Darth Sidious, the Sith Lord responsible for all the treachery of the past three films. Worse yet, Anakin becomes seduced to Sidious’s power in a desperate effort to prevent Padme from dying. What follows is a destructive hostile takeover led by Skywalker — now known as Darth Vader — and the entire Clone Army under Sidious’s command. This results in the wipe-out of the Jedi Order, the rise of the Galactic Empire, and a spectacular confrontation between Anakin and Kenobi that gives birth to the most iconic villain of the series.
Revenge of the Sith still shares some problems consistent with the other two prequel films. Though somewhat improved and somewhat tamer, the screenwriting is still as clunky as ever. Again, we endure the hammiest of lines, most of it coming from Anakin and Padme as usual. Lapses in logic are still problematic, such as Anakin arguing that the Jedi are evil: this coming from a man who murdered a handful of children 30 minutes earlier. More importantly, it feels as though Anakin’s turn to the dark side deserved more motivation than just saving his wife. This is especially with the ruthlessness he’s known for in later films.
There is still an over-reliance on computer generated effects that emit strong vibes of artificiality. To its credit, however, they are drastically improved from the previous films. No longer is there a plastic, video game-y feel — everything has been refurbished to achieve a sufficient amount of immersion into the universe. The only problem now is the overkill usage, like the fully CGI General Grievous who wields four lightsabers or the overly loud and chaotic SFX battles throughout the film. This is genuinely entertaining half the time, but feels excessive for the rest.
What Revenge firmly excels at is executing its hopeless tone and effectively keeping our interests. Moments like Anakin silently pondering the atrocities he’s about to commit, or the montage of Jedi being executed, are emotionally investing and stylistically refreshing for a series that “tells” more than it “shows.” The climactic duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin also stands as one of the more spectacular lightsaber fights in the series, translating the rage of both characters into stunning fight choreography. This is all well complimented by the more improved performances of the cast, especially Ian McDiarmid who clearly has fun reprising the role of Darth Sidious. All of these elements are still negatively affected by significant script issues, but the fact that the movie at least makes an effort is appreciated.
One final aspect that needs recognition is the soundtrack composed by John Williams, not just for this film, but the entire prequel trilogy over all. Having already composed the iconic music of the original trilogy, the legendary composer gives us more great pieces like Duel of Fates, Anakin’s Theme, Across the Stars, and Battle of the Heroes. In a trilogy greatly weighed down by its faults, John Williams never fails in bringing his A-game.
Revenge of the Sith is a solid book-closer to the prequel trilogy, even if it is still plagued by the same problems as its predecessors. As a result, it makes for a pleasant transition into the iconic phenomena that is the original Star Wars trilogy.