To tell you the truth I’m a little nervous.
This is the first time I’ve been called upon to actually write about a Star Wars film, and I’m concerned that I’m going to upset people. I’ve always stated that the Star Wars prequels exist outside the normal movie world, that they can’t be compared with ‘proper’ films because of the enormous mythology that each feature is tapping into. They are part of an undying phenomena, rather than simply movies. That being said, now is the time to look at Episode III critically – there’s no escaping for me now…
So how does Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith stand up against the standard quality movie release? Not too well…
Let’s face it – the script is atrocious. The words that tumble out of these (usually fantastic) actors mouths are often embarrassingly silly. And it doesn’t seem to matter how good the actor is, they all seem to have the same stilted delivery as they fumble with these unnatural sentences. Ian McDiarmid did the best job coping with the dialogue. Throughout the last three films Palpatine has staid fast as one of the best realised characters. The rest of the actors – justifiably – can’t deal with the substandard script. It’s hard to believe that we saw Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman deliver fantastic performances in Shattered Glass and Closer respectively – here they are reduced to stunted caricatures. If you thought that the love story of Episode II was pissweak, well, it’s worse here. Scene after scene between Anakin and Padmé fails, and every now and again Lucas gives us a random shot of the latter crying, possibly in the hopes that we get the point.
Of particular disappointment is Anakin Skywalker’s induction to evil. Sure, the bare bone motivations are there, but it ends up being like a switch flicked on (think The Simpsons with the killer Krusty doll ‘here’s your trouble, you had the thing set to evil!’). The film is thankfully as dark and evil as promised, and there are a couple of chilling scenes. There is very little humour here and the fatalistic sense of foreboding is undeniable.
With such a bad script, the best parts of the film are when no one actually speaks. Here is where we see the true genius at work – John Williams. He is in top form in Episode III, and essentially a retroactive director. There are a couple of quiet moments where even the action calms down and Lucas simply lets the music do the work, and these instances of retrospection tell the story much better than any of the words do. The most powerful moments in this film are effective only thanks to the work of Williams.
The action scenes are also masterfully handled. Lucas certainly knows how to shoot these moments. Interestingly enough, the lightsabre fights aren’t as exciting as in the previous two films. This is because, first of all, we know the outcome in most cases, but in Episode III the fights are more about spectacle than physical and acrobatic prowess. These are BIG action set pieces, and often the lightsabres are little more than flashing lights in the distance. In terms of actual sword fighting technique, they never come close to the battles at the end of episodes I and II.
It must be said that the special effects are great (although the green screen still sucks – watch Enduring Love for the perfect green screen). Since the release of The Phantom Menace we have gradually become more accustomed to entirely digital worlds – and ILM is surely the leader of the pack when it comes to CG creatures. The opening shot of the film is incredible, and I imagine comes close to the ‘wow’ factor when audiences first saw that blockade runner fly over in 1977.
There are very few dull moments in The Revenge of the Sith, and the 140 minute running time actually whizzed by. This is, without a doubt, the best of the prequels, although I wish it hadn’t taken Lucas so long to get only so far. Surely if he’d passed the script writing or even directing duties onto others we would have seen a film that was spectacular and a stunning piece of cinema…
So… is it exciting? Yes. Is it a stunning fantasy, full of beautifully realised worlds and exotic creatures? Yes. Is it everything the fans had hoped for? Yes. But is it a great film? Probably not…Rating: