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

Directed by George Lucas

I'm one of the few people I know who actually likes The Phantom Menace, and who absolutely loves Attack of the Clones. As such, I guess I really can't call myself a real Star Wars fan. Star Wars has never had quite as much meaning to me as it does to real Star Wars fans. I just thought they were fun, entertaining movies.

Well, Revenge of the Sith is another extremely fun, extraordinarily entertaining movie. There are spoilers in this review, so read on at your own risk (although I persoanlly think that's kind of ridiculous, because anyone who has seen both Episode II and Episode IV already knows what happens in Episode III).

I liked Revenge of the Sith even more than I thought I was going to. It was full of action and drama and tragedy, and a surprising amount of humor (especially in the first half). And the acting has much improved over Attack of the Clones, especially the performances Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen. There are still some awkward dialogue moments (several, surprisingly, from Sam Jackson), but only about as awkward as when Luke whines about going and getting power converters in A New Hope.

The real star of this movie is Supreme Chancelor Palpatine, aka Darth Sidious. He is on screen for a surprising amount of the the two hours and twenty minutes of runtime. Every scene between him and Anakin crackles with excellent writing and flawless delivery. His dialogue is so insidious—he knows exactly what buttons to push and just exactly how much. Ian McDairmond's performance here is easily one of the best performances of any of the Star Wars films.

Also excellent are the scenes between Anakin and Obi-Wan. Ewan MacGregor's performance has some excellent subtlety in it, especially in a couple of moments when he looks at Anakin and you can just see the fatherly/brotherly affection that he has for him. It makes the scenes towards the end much more poignant, when he begs Yoda to not have to be the one to face Vader, and towards the end of the climactic duel when Obi-Wan is despairing over the fate of his former friend.

Surprisingly effective are some of the scenes between Anakin and Padme. In Attack of the Clones their scenes together never really clicked. Okay, they were pretty horrible. You believed that Anakin was absolutely smitten with Padme, but at the end of Clones when Padme confesses that she, too, loves Anakin, I never really believed her (in large part because Portman's performance in Clones is just awful). In Revenge, even though their dialogue is often clunky and unrealistic, for the first time when Padme looks at Anakin it actually looked like she was actually in love with him. In fact, Portman's performance is so improved that when Padme has her tragic confrontation with Vader and cries out, "You're breaking my heart," I could tell from her face that that was the case; the line wasn't necessary.

So the film obviously isn't flawless. Even at two hours and twenty minutes, there were parts of this film that seemed... well, rushed. Especially the denoument, in which it seemed almost as though Lucas had a checklist of threads that hadn't been resolved yet, and he works his way down the checklist as quickly as possible. At other times it seems as though small bits were edited out. Example: Yoda is getting his ass handed to him by Palpatine. Yoda falls to the floor of the senate. Cut away to something else. When we cut back Yoda is crawling through some sorta duct or something. How did he get in there? Woulda been nice to see him actually enter the duct.

Most disappointing for me was the way the Jedi Immortality Trick is introduced as kind of an "Oh, by the way" exposition. I really wanted to see Qui-Gon actually appear as a blue ghost to Obi-Wan, not just have Yoda say—completely out of the blue—that Qui-Gon was a ghost now. Did Liam Neeson not want to appear? Heck, that shouldn't have stopped Lucas—he coulda just taken footage of Neeson and used special effects to make him appear as a ghost to Obi-Wan.

But a rushed feeling also means that at no point does the film ever drag. It zips and pops through its whole running length, with probably a higher percentage of action than any other Star Wars film. And it is all excellent action. Even R2D2 gets to significantly contribute in the opening action sequence (oddly enough, C3PO doesn't have nearly as important a role in this film as he does in most of the other films). There are no fewer than five separate lightsaber duels, and they all have a distinctive feel to them and are all important to the story. But most of all Revenge has throughout it a great sense of swashbuckling adventure and grandiose space operatics. Even though it is a rather dark film, it is still a damned lot of fun, and simply a great time had at the cinema.

And I personally can't think of any real loose ends. By the time the credits rolled I really got a sense of completion, that this was it. Lucas seems to have done a good job of covering his ass and linking Episode III and Episode IV with no noticeable holes. Of course, I'm not a real Star Wars fan, so I'm in no way motivated to spend vast amounts of energy and resources to try to find holes in the film.

As the movie ended, I realized something about the Star Wars Saga. It's not about Luke Skywalker. Luke is a relatively minor character (he's only in half the story, after all). Star Wars is really the biography of Darth Vader. The Saga begins with him as a kid, follows him through his descent into the Dark Side, and it ends with his redemption and death. I hope to all that is holy and unholy that Lucas makes no effort to extend the series past Return of the Jedi, because what would be the point? It would be like writing a 500 page biography of George Burns, but he dies on page 300 and the last 200 pages are about his kids, Sandra and Ronnie. That's not why I bought a biography of George Burns!

With Revenge of the Sith the Star Wars Saga, like Darth Vader himself, is complete.

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