STAR WARS: EPISODE III - REVENGE OF THE SITH
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and his Jedi mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobe (Ewan McGregor), rescue Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) during the epic war between their Republic and the Separatist Alliance. Secretly married to the pregnant Padme (Natalie Portman) and restless in his ambition to be accepted as a full Jedi Knight, Anakin is seduced by the dark side governing good and evil. When Palpatine reveals himself as a secret practitioner of the dark side and takes Anakin into his confidence, the young Jedi faces a decision that will alter the balance of power in the galaxy and the fate of all those around him.
Review by Richard Kuipers:
In the pressbook accompanying this film, George Lucas states “the pieces will fall together, the connections will be made”. Fortunately he makes good on the promise and brings the Star Wars saga to rousing and satisfying conclusion following the disappointment of The Phantom Menace (1999) and the debacle of Attack Of The Clones (2002). When it all boils down, there’s only one question and connection that matters here: how does Anakin Skywalker become Darth Vader? Lucas slips up on a few fronts en route, but doesn’t disappoint when it counts.
His resolution of the burning issue is exciting, dramatic and above all, more emotionally engaging than most of what’s passed before the cameras since he took up directing chores again in The Phantom Menace. His limitations in both writing and directing intimate drama are exposed again, particularly in the clunky dialogue between Anakin and Padme, but he’s mustered up his very best efforts in dealing with the axis about which this whole series revolves. The best way I can describe the power of Anakin Skywalker’s final seduction by the dark side is to say it made me want to watch the very first film again – and this reviewer is by no means a member of the Star Wars fan club.
Filmed on high definition digital video that vastly improves on the flat visual quality of its immediate predecessor, Revenge Of The Sith opens with a 20 minute action sequence that pulls out all the stops even by the Star Wars benchmark. This sense of occasion inhabits the entire film, with all technical departments surpassing the standard of Episodes 1 and 2, and John Williams adding extra zing to his final Star Wars score.
Performances are on an unexpectedly high level as well, with Ian McDiarmid the standout as enigmatic politician Palpatine and Ewan McGregor playing Obi-Wan with a captivating mixture Alec Guiness’-inspired gravity and Rudyard Kipling-like pukka. He’s so tally-ho in the actions scenes one almost expects to see a set of WW1flying goggles produced, followed by cigars and brandy back at the officer’s mess. Christensen and Portman also invest their characters with more than appears on the page and are at least credible.
There is no need to say much about the special effects, other than to note the climactic duel in volcanic surroundings truly gives this serial the show-stopping finale it demands. Beyond the big story (which many outside the Star Wars inner circle will find rather confusing at times) there are some nice incidental touches to enjoy. Temuera Morrison pops up as a character called Commander Cody, Yoda shows his light sabre skills for the first time, Chewbacca scores a couple of scenes and I liked Anakin’s statement “if you’re not with me, you’re my enemy” as a potential reference to the current American President’s consensus building technique in his own “coalition of the willing”. It’s also amusing to see some of Australia’s best known performers in tiny roles. Blink ye not or you’ll miss Joel Edgerton, Claudia Karvan, Bruce Spence and Graeme Blundell.
While it falls a little short with patchy dialogue and creaky direction during some of the quieter moments, Revenge Of The Sith is a huge improvement on its most recently filmed stablemates and will doubtless restore the faith among its legion of supporters. It’s been a bumpy ride here and there, but thanks George for signing off in style.
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STAR WARS: EPISODE III - REVENGE OF THE SITH (M)
CAST: Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker
PRODUCER: Rick McCallum
DIRECTOR: George Lucas
SCRIPT: George Lucas
CINEMATOGRAPHER: David Tattersall
EDITOR: Roger Barton, Ben Burtt
MUSIC: John Williams
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Gavin Bocquet
RUNNING TIME: 146 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 19, 2005