movie film review | chris tookey

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

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  Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith  Review
Tookey's Rating
3 /10
Average Rating
6.11 /10
Obi-Wan Kenobi: Ewan McGregor , Padme: Natalie Portman
Full Cast >

Directed by: George Lucas
Written by: George Lucas

Released: 2005
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 140

(From the sayings of Yoda) If to the cinema you must go, a tiresome movie find you will.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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The advance word has been that this sixth and final episode of Star Wars – which is, of course, chronologically the third – is better than its two most recent predecessors. In some ways, it is. It’s even fuller of spectacular planetscapes and sophisticated special effects, including more wookies than you could shake a light sabre at.

Further good news is that there is a lot more human dramatic conflict on display, there are no long, boring senatorial meetings, and the dreaded Jar Jar Binks has been reduced to virtually a non-speaking role.

But the new characters are an uninteresting lot. Even the four-armed Android leader General Grievous is a bore. He is given little to do before Obi-Wan Kenobi causes him Grievous Bodily Harm. except laugh fiendishly and breathe with enormous difficulty
(what is it with George Lucas and heavy breathing? Was he once mugged by an asthmatic?)

Episode III has precisely the same faults as Episodes I and II - terrible dialogue and worse acting – to which it adds a couple of brand new defects, a confusing lack of geographical sense and a tendency to leave gaping plot holes (at one point, Obi-Wan Kenobi starts riding a gigantic dinosaur, and I still have no idea where it came from).

The main job of this episode is to explain how and why Obi-Wan Kenobi’s apprentice Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) betrays his fellow Jedi knights, moves to the dark side, and embraces the identity of the Sith Lord Darth Vader.

The one well-acted sequence is when the villain of the piece is trying to win him over. Ian MacDiarmid actually manages to impart some subtlety to the role of the Emperor Palpatine, and his Iago-like shiftiness dominates not only that scene, but the entire episode.

The only other character to make an impact is Yoda who one great moment has, when two imperial guards with not much more than a contemptuous shrug of his shoulders he slaughters; but this bit of physical comedy also gets the biggest laugh in the film, which will tell you how painfully lacking in wit and fun the rest of it is.

One major credibility problem is that Anakin supposedly turns evil in order to protect his wife Padme (Natalie Portman) from death; and Christensen simply doesn’t have the acting chops to suggest a young man who’s that head-over-heels in love. He looks more like an awkward high-school kid who’s got his girl-friend into trouble after a prom date that went too far.

I’m not sure any actors could have triumphed over would-be heart-tugging dialogue like (Anakin to Padme):“You’re so beautiful”; (Padme to Anakin): “That’s only because I’m in love.”

But the piece demands a young actor who could make a reasonable stab at playing Macbeth. Christensen simply never suggests the deep mental corruption necessary to turn him from wimpy romantic lead into a mass-murderer of children..

If Christensen is poor, Ewan McGregor is abysmal. So flat are his line-readings that at one point it crossed my mind that he had fallen out with George Lucas and was deliberately trying to show how terrible his lines are.

Even when threatening others (“You won’t get away with this, Dookus!”) he sounds as uninterested as it is possible to be. And his timing when delivering Han Solo-style wisecracks is way, way off. Much of his dialogue sounds as if it’s been revoiced by Keanu Reeves. And in a climactic sequence taking place on molten lava, McGregor forgets even to look slightly warm.

Lucas has one mildly interesting political point to make, of how would-be dictators use wars to gain themselves more and more power. (Remind you of anybody?) But any parallels with the modern world are purposely left vague and get lost amid all the light-sabre duels, which are terribly repetitive and go on forever.

Revenge of the Sith is the darkest and least child-friendly of the six episodes, which – given its subject-matter, was probably inevitable – but it’s also not much fun. There’s practically no light relief, which makes it seem a very long two and a quarter hours. Not even R2D2 and C3PO get a decent gag between them.

I found the whole thing a colossal disappointment. George Lucas has always been a wretchedly incompetent writer of dialogue, but he’s just about got by through being a master of narrative structure. Here, his dialogue is more banal than ever (why on earth didn’t he get a co-writer?) and even his sense of structure has largely deserted him. Since I always knew where the story was heading and guessed all too accurately how it would get there, I found it deeply unimaginative.

It’s also a little illogical. Although there’s a long – much too long - climactic fight between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader, ending in the wounds that cause Vader’s startling transformation to a man at least six inches taller and breathing with difficulty through a black mask, there’s no real explanation of why Obi-Wan doesn’t just finish off Vader while he has him at his mercy.

For all the hype, I fear this is a film that only the most uncritical fans of Star Wars will truly enjoy. If Lucas had made this series in chronological order, I suspect we never would have seen Episodes IV, V and VI – which would have been a pity, for I am an admirer of the series as a whole, especially the episodes which have Harrison Ford to give them a welcome edge of cynicism and sex appeal.

As Yoda might say: “At your own risk, advise you to go, I do - but to be disappointed, prepare you should.”

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