Friday 8 January 2010

Movie Review: Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)

By far the darkest and strongest film in the prequel trilogy of the Star Wars saga, Revenge of the Sith plunges Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) into an impossible conflict: as the war rages between the Separatists and the Republic, the evil Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid as Darth Sidious) recruits Anakin to be a spy on the Jedi Council. The Council are equally suspicious of the Chancellor and want Anakin to report on him.

Meanwhile, Anakin is plagued by nightmares of Padme (Natalie Portman) dying during childbirth. The Chancellor exploits Anakin's fear of losing Padme (as he lost his mother in Episode II) by promising that the Dark Side of the force can defy death.

Darth Sidious, exposed and about to be killed by Master Jedi Mace Windu (Samuel Jackson), finally turns Anakin to his side, disposes of Windu and activates his plot to destroy all the Jedi and take full control of the galaxy.

A final epic confrontation between Anakin and his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), set against an impressive backdrop of an entire planet being destroyed by a volcanic eruption, ends with Anakin functionally destroyed but alive enough for Darth Sidious to reconstitute him as Darth Vader.

Padme anyway dies giving birth to twins, Luke and Leia, who are spirited away to different destinations. Obi-Wan and Yoda, the two surviving Jedi, go into hiding, and the stage is set for Episode IV - a New Hope, to pick up the story once Luke becomes an 18 year old.

The transformation of the prequel trilogy from the child-friendly Phantom Menace to Revenge of the Sith, where children are massacred and limbs are severed with wild abandon, is both remarkable and welcome. Revenge of the Sith is an admirable achievement, weaving together all the threads of a story told over six films and almost two decades from 1977 to 2005.

Episode III benefits from a marginally improved performance by Hayden Christensen, who, while still one dimensional in his acting, at least finds his feet and some flow as a conflicted Anakin. Natalie Portman is unfortunately boring as the pregnant Padme, all the spunk from Episode II knocked out of her. Ewan McGregor shines as Obi-Wan, now able to supply some weight to the role as an experienced Jedi.

George Lucas' writing still cannot get past obvious and stiff dialogue, with very little wit or sparkle. But the film looks gorgeous, and moves quickly through its 140 minute length without getting bogged down in any over-elaborate set-pieces. Episode III also introduces the colourful and fearsome cyborg General Grievous, who takes over as the leader of the Separatists after Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) is disposed of early; just watch the menacing Grievous go with four light sabres!

It remains to be seen whether or not any more Star Wars films will ever be made. Either way, Revenge of the Sith is a satisfying farewell to the most influential of space sagas.

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