Opening 19 May 2005
The Force is finally with George Lucas in Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, the last film of the second Star Wars trilogy. Though I found Episode I and II disappointing, Episode III gets the series back on track. The action starts from the get-go with a hair-raising chase scene between Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), both piloting small jet fighters, and hundreds of ships belonging to the Separatists, led by Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) and (new computer-generated character) General Grievous. The Separatists have captured the Republic’s Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), and the Jedi are sent to free him. But once they succeed, things start to go wrong. The Chancellor’s power continues to grow, which worries the Jedi Council, especially when the Chancellor asks that Anakin be his personal liaison to the Council. Anakin also has other things weighing on his mind: his secret wife, Senator Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman), and her pregnancy. In his struggle to bury his worries for Padmé and his feelings that the Council doesn’t trust him, Anakin begins to find the Dark Side appealing . . .
Amazingly, the fact that most viewers will already know the outcome of the story of Episode III doesn’t hurt the film. In fact, it heightens the tension. Most of us fans have sat through hours of Star Wars films wanting to know one thing: why does Anakin turn to the Dark Side? Thankfully, Episode III provides both a plausible and thought-provoking explanation. Lucas not only weaves some interesting bits of philosophy (and a couple of jibes at U.S. politics, believe it or not) into his screenplay, but he also does a wonderful job tying up all the loose ends heading into Episode IV (the original Star Wars film). Sets, costumes, cinematography, music, and even acting all provide a smooth transition between the two films.
That being said, Episode III does have its downsides. As in all of the Star Wars films, the emphasis is less on acting and more on special effects (though the acting is far better in this film than in Episode I and II). While the effects are amazing, I thought there were too many of them, and it got confusing trying to keep track of which planet the action was happening on at any given time. There are over 2,200 visual effects shots in Episode III, and while that is a truly amazing feat, it does make one wonder if all those shots were really necessary. Still, Episode III is a fitting end to the series. As The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson has said, “Star Wars smashed open the possibilities of what film could actually do.” I’m happy to report that Lucas has ended his saga in a way that will satisfy fans and inspire filmmakers for years to come. (Kirsten Greco)