Jan 20, 2012

[Movies] Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Continuing my efforts to review all of the Star Wars movies in time for the re-release of The Phantom Menace in 3D this February, we're now on the final prequel movie and one that really had the task of capping off our return to the Star Wars universe in 2005. The whole prequel trilogy was quite the mixed bag, to be certain, but one can't really argue against how it was still a geek milestone that brought the Star Wars franchise back into public awareness after so many years of not being in theaters.

But did we really want things to end the way that they did? Was this the key bridge piece that we envisioned when the opening scrawl of the first movie started and revealed that we were actually watching the fourth episode of a larger franchise and not precisely the first? I figure geeks like myself will continue to debate this question well past the shelf life of these movies given how much the prequels both excited and yet also polarized audiences.

But still, it was interesting to get a glimpse of George Lucas' original vision for the story, even if it turned into a bit of a misshapen mutant thing that screams "Nooooo" a lot. It is a bit of a geek dream - to be able to revisit something you created so many years ago and revitalize the franchise with new material that still fits in the overall theme of things. And whether we thought the story was good or not becomes somewhat beside the point - the movies were made and now they are part of the overall history of the franchise. And that may not be a bad thing in itself.

Revenge of the Sith is chronologically the third episode in the Star Wars movie franchise. It was written and directed by George Lucas and marks the end of the prequel trilogy of movies.

About three years since the events of Attack of the Clones, the Jedi Order now act as the generals of the massive Clone Army of the Galactic Republic in their efforts to contain the Confederacy of Independent Systems, more popularly known as the Separatists. The movie jumps right into the action given Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Ian Mcdiarmid) has been kidnapped by General Grievous (Matthew Wood), who is a feared cyborg warrior who has bested many Jedi. As the Separatists try to escape with their prize, Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and now Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) mount a daring rescue mission despite the Separatist armada in orbit around Coruscant.

Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker in Reve...
Image via Wikipedia
Outside of the war, Anakin continues to be plagued by dreams of his secret wife Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman) dying in the act of childbirth and thus begins to obsess about her safety and finding ways of protecting her. This opens a window of opportunity for Palpatine, whom we all know to be the Sith Lord Darth Sidious, as he now tries to get closer to Anakin in order to open him up to the Dark Side of the Force. Thus Anakin must deal with slowly being turned by Palpatine while the rest of the Jedi are scattered across the galaxy trying to fight the way on different planetary fronts.

Now as early as the release of the original Star Wars, references to the legendary Clone Wars had been seeded in the movies, thus something that the Expanded Universe clearly wanted to take advantage of. But it feel into that weird period of Star Wars that was not allowed to be explored too much by various writers prior to the release of the prequel movies. And as much as a lot of Star Wars fans were looking forward to seeing how the actual Clone Wars would be like, it was rather disappointing to find out that the movie starts after the bulk of the fighting.

Although with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, we now know that the actual Clone Wars era is constantly exploited by the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated TV series, thus giving the franchise a way to reach younger generations even with no new movies on the horizon.

Now as you map the story from The Phantom Menace to Revenge of the Sith, it does end up feeling like Palpatine / Darth Sidious really went to rather extreme lengths to plunge the entire galaxy into a protracted civil war, splinter the Jedi and kill countless lives. While I don't claim to fully understand the ways of the Sith, this big plan seemed a bit too excessive in terms of property damage for someone who wanted to take control of the galaxy. There probably could have been a better way to arrange things, but I suppose we'll just have to leave things as they ended up for now.

In terms of new characters introduced in this movie, I really hated how General Grievous ended up. In the Genndy Tartakovsky created Star Wars: Clone Wars series, General Grievous was a pretty cool villain who did seem like a logical match for even some of the most seasoned Jedi. However in the movie, he's turned into this horrible caricature of a character who spends more time on screen coughing that being a serious threat to anyone. Did we really need a big new villain with major asthma issues?

As for the overall motivation for Anakin to turn to the Dark Side, which we all knew to be coming given the original movie trilogy, was generally plausible but not the most amazing reason in the world. In the end one can't help but feel like Anakin had the emotional maturity of a love struck teenage boy and thus his impulsive nature led to his downfall. And so much hinged on him being an idiot, so it becomes a bit weird to imagine how he transitions from impulsive dunce to the Dark Lord of the Sith we know Darth Vader to be in the later movies. Go figure.

The action in the movie was pretty decent, especially the big opening scene. Not sure about some of the other fights though and how fluid they felt - and don't get me started on how the inevitable Darth Sidious vs Yoda battle ended. I mean come on, what was that, right? Oh well.

In the end, Revenge of the Sith was a decent enough way to end the odd plot progression started in the first prequel movie. It may not be a world-changing plot on its own, but it does stand somewhat apart from the other prequel movies and still logically connected the two trilogies together. And that's not an easy accomplishment for anyone, to be certain, and that deserves credit. Thus the movie still manages to get 4 annoying ways for characters to shout "Nooooo!" in the movie out of a possible 5.

Enhanced by Zemanta