Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith review

Revenge of the Sith masterfully concludes prequels

With a willingness to take the Star Wars saga to its necessary darkest direction, Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith delivers an epic, masterful payoff to the prequels.

Even without grading on the curve of saying this is the best of the prequels, Sith is the third best film in the Star Wars franchise.  Considering Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back are undeniably two of the greatest movies of all time, coming in at a close third isn’t bad at all.

revenge-of-the-sith-obi-wan-vs-general-greiviousSith captures that magical, free-wheeling fun side of Star Wars mixed with the gut-wrenching darker thematic elements of Empire that have you anxious for a happier resolution for our heroes.

Director/Writer George Lucas handles the fall of Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and the rise of the Empire like a Shakespearean tragedy. Order Star Wars Shakespeare’s Tragedy of the Sith Revenge Book from Entertainment Earth!

For all the buildup with the prequels in detailing Anakin’s past and the troubling elements around him, Sith was clearly the story in this latest trilogy Lucas was most interested in telling.

Sith was a direct contrast to the Lucas fans thought was forever lost to an out-of-touch creator content to drum up goofy cute characters for kids like the Ewoks and Jar Jar Binks. With a well-deserved PG-13 rating, Sith isn’t the full-fledged family adventure of the rest of the saga, but essential in firmly setting the stage for the final act.

From a spectacular opening act featuring the film’s only space firefight to a chase through a rocky catacomb to several inspired lightsaber duels, Sith constantly provides major action thrills.

revenge-of-the-sith-yoda-mace-windu-obi-wan-kenobiWhile it’d only been three years since the still under refinement visuals on display in AOTC, the CGI is vastly improved and easily still holds up a decade later. This is a gorgeous looking film as technology was now at a place where Lucas could fully bring his ideas to the big screen without a plastic, fake video game visual.

Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) rip through the skies to rescue the kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) from the Separatist Army. My biggest gripe of the film remains the far too brief screen time for Christopher Lee’s Count Dooku. Fortunately, Dooku was given ample time to shine in Star Wars Clone Wars – Season 1-5 [Blu-ray].

revenge-of-the-sith-c3p0-r2d2-anakin-padmeUpon rescuing Palpatine, Anakin is greeted with far more important news as his wife, Padme (Natalie Portman) reveals she’s pregnant. While welcome news, this further complicating things for Anakin as this revelation could lead to his expulsion from the Jedi Order. Worse, Anakin is having visions about Padme’s potential death similar to the premonitions he received before his mother’s death.

Christensen takes a lot of flak for his performance in the prequels, but he’s engaging here as a frustrated hero desperate to protect his family. Christensen has a better control of the nuances needed for his character allowing him to hold his own with his co-stars. With Portman, Christensen conveys strength and reassurance, alongside McGregor he’s matured into a peer and brother-in-arms compared to the deferential take he provides playing against McDiarmid.

revenge-of-the-sith-jedi-mace-windu-Duel_on_CoruscantWith the Jedi Masters Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) and Yoda increasingly suspicious of Palpatine, they make the disastrous mistake of agreeing to Palpatine appointing Anakin to the Jedi Council, forcing the young Jedi to choose his allegiance.

McDiarmid had been the unsung hero of the prequels constantly providing some of the best performances in the trilogy. The opera scene is McDiarmid’s shining moment as Palpatine slyly mentions to Anakin of a Sith Lord who learned how to prevent loved ones from dying. John Williams’ score is again outstanding, but the haunting, ominous tones used here and other Anakin/Palpatine scenes make these sequences standout.

revenge-of-the-sith-palpatine-anakinSith marks Palpatine’s victory lap as all of his plans have neatly resulted in him gaining unrivaled, unlimited power. It’s scary seeing how seductive McDiarmid makes Palpatine’s pitches both to Anakin and the Senate. Palpatine is like a modern day politician playing his constituents and the media who buy into everything he says without question. Equally troublesome is how it’s the one aspect of the prequels that seems most likely to play out in the real world. I’d prefer working lightsabers.

Lucas raises some intriguing questions about the blind obedience people place in their leaders made all the more compelling due to the tragedy that follows it.

The film doesn’t get bogged down into political debates though as the Clone Wars reaches its conclusion with Obi-Wan defeating the new Separatist Army leader General Grievous. As much as I liked the sniveling, mustache-twirling take of Grievous in the film, the version in the Genndy Tartakovsky Clone Wars cartoon [Star Wars: Clone Wars – Volume One] is far more sinister and compelling.

revenge-of-the-sith-gree-yoda-chewbaccaLucas also finally delivers a massive battle featuring Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and his fellow Wookies on the dense forest Kashyyyk. But it’s in the second half where the film reaches another level.

Beginning with Anakin’s fateful decision to the cold, emotion-stirring Clone betrayal with Order 66 to The Godfather-influenced proclamation of The Empire intercut with Anakin’s slaughter of the Separtists, Sith takes a heavy, emotional turn.

Portman hadn’t always gotten the strongest scenes, but in Sith’s second half, she gets a chance to flex her acting prowess. First when Obi-Wan tells Padme of Anakin’s actions before confronting him herself leading to the penultimate lightsaber duels of the series.

revenge-of-the-sith-darth-sidious-vs-yodaYoda battles Palpatine in the heart of the now fully corrupted Senate in an impressive spectacle while Anakin fights his former mentor in a fiery lava-drenched backdrop of the volcanic Mustafar.

No duel has been as personal as Obi-Wan and Anakin. It’s like watching two mirror images fight and Lucas reinforced the notion that Obi-Wan taught Anakin all of his best tricks as they continually counter each other and attempt similar moves.

Like McDiarmid, McGregor had been stellar throughout the prequels, but in this final act, he delivers the most heartbreaking performance strongly conveying the pain and conflict Obi-Wan has in battling his best friend to the death. It’s still the one scene in the saga that puts the biggest lump in my throat.revenge-of-the-sith-obi-wan-you-were-the-chosen-one

Lucas finds a very creative contrast of life and death as Anakin Skywalker’s ‘death’ leads to the birth of Darth Vader in a blackened, shadowy operating table compared to Padme’s dying moments leading to the birth of a new hope.

Throughout the darkness of the second half, Sith leaves us on a promising note that Palpatine’s reign of terror is possibly, finally coming to an end.

Sith may not satisfy prequel critics convinced Lucas ruined their childhood for not telling his story in the way they wanted, but it’s a spectacular outing in the traditional Star Wars fashion. This one definitely doesn’t disappoint.


Rating: 10 out of 10


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and catch the entire Star Wars saga Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Episodes I-VI) [Blu-ray]


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  • Matthew Harris

    ROTS is undoubtedly the best of the prequels. However, I ultimately found it unsatisfying because ROTS never provides sufficient justification for Anakin’s decision to embrace the Dark Side. I understand why his visions of Padme’s death are profoundly disturbing and I also understand the appeal of Palpatine’s (apparently false) claim that the Dark Side is powerful enough to create life.

    Nevertheless, I found those justifications woefully insufficient, and ultimately incredulous. ROTS left me thinking, “Anakin turned to the Dark Side for THAT???” I think the reasons for his betrayal would have to be a lot more compelling to give us a genuine understanding of and sufficient explanation for Anakin’s embracing evil.

    On a much smaller note, the outcomes of some of the lightsaber battles raise a few of my eyebrows. In AOTC, Yoda and Dooku essentially fight to a draw. In ROTS, Anakin easily defeats Dooku, giving us a glimpse of how much Anakin’s power has increased since AOTC, where Dooku overpowered him.

    We learn in Phantom Menace that Anakin has the highest midichlorian count anyone has ever seen. We might ultimately expect Anakin to become the most powerful Jedi as a result. The fact that he dispatched Dooku after Dooku fought Yoda to a draw certainly suggests Anakin’s power is now immense. Shouldn’t Anakin have been able to defeat Obi-Wan on Mustafar, then?

    When Palpatine attacks Mace Windu with force lightning, Windu is able to redirect it with his lightsaber, seriously injuring Palpatine. This might suggest Windu is even more powerful than Palpatine. However, Palpatine and Yoda fight to a draw in the Senate chambers.

    Some of these battles make the relative power of various Jedi difficult to compare.

  • Hey Matthew,
    I always looked at it like the Jedi took a major risk letting a child who had a loving attachment to his mother into the Jedi order. Then failing to realize he’d seek out a similar attachment/relationship was also foolish 0n their part. From that perspective, Anakin’s motive always made sense to me.

    As far as the duels, I saw it like Dooku and Yoda’s powers were waning while Obi-Wan and Anakin were at their peak in the years between AOTC and Sith. Even in AOTC, Dooku was nearly spent from fighting Anakin, which is why he used those delaying tactics when Yoda initially arrived.

    The Dark Side was putting Anakin into the same chaotic, emotional angry mindset we saw from Darth Maul. Dooku didn’t give into that when he fought, which is why he was able to hold off Anakin and Obi-Wan off in the first fight in AOTC. I viewed that scene that Anakin’s anger was the difference and he would have defeated Obi-Wan if he kept his emotions in check.

    Regarding Mace/Palpatine, I always thought that was a show both for Anakin and to have physical evidence to take before the Senate to sell the idea the Jedi betrayed the Republic.

    I LOVE talking Jedi/Sith skills. That was fun! 🙂

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  • Jason Rabin

    Yoda’s duel with Dooku was only a draw because Yoda was pre-occupied protecting Obi Wan and Anakin from falling debris while Dooku fled. It’s very much in the same vein as the duel between Dumbledore and Voldemort in the Harry Potter novels – it’s clear that Yoda is the greater power, but being a Jedi he does not use his powers aggressively like a Sith. He mostly just neutralizes Dooku and tries to protect his friends. I think it’s clear that if Dooku had stuck around, Yoda would have eventually beaten him handily.

    As for how Mace held off Palpatine, there’s a couple ways you can look at it. Partly it was a show for Anakin, so we can assume Palpatine was pulling his punches a bit. Also Windu was just an immensely powerful Jedi, so he may have been capable of matching Palpatine at least on some level. We did see from AOTC that a lightsaber, even wielded by a lesser Jedi, could always stop Sith force lightning.

    As to the final question, namely how Obi Wan defeated Anakin? I think the story pretty well tells us it’s because of Anakin’s arrogance. There is no question that he had the potential to become the greatest Jedi or Sith ever (Sidius even mentions this, stating to Yoda that he Vader would soon become more powerful than either of them) but Anakin had not fulfilled that potential yet. He may very well have been a greater power than Obi Wan by that point, but his arrogance did him in. His reach exceeded his grasp.

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