Film review: Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

12 June 2005


Why do you suppose he never did that again? Many Bothans died to bring us this eye-shadow Didn't I play this in UT2k4?

It's out, and the chances of my review having any effect on your decision as to whether or not you should see it are minimal to zero. So while the rest of the world raves about the quality and cut, I can and will point out that the Emperor is, at best, dancing around in his underwear.

The film reminds me a great deal of the latter seasons of Enterprise, as there's that same feeling of a desperate cramming-in of references to earlier, better shows: the names, the spaceship and costume designs, and so on, all hark back (or "forward") to the original trilogy.

(The new spacecraft designs, on the other hand, very explicitly reference the 1940s and 1950s; clearly Lucas' designers have been reading the same books on Luftwaffe secret projects that I have.)

Hayden Christiansen has apparently taken some acting lessons since the last film, but this only means he has improved from a whining adolescent to a half-decent imitation of Joaquin Phoenix playing a whining adolescent in Gladiator. I'm told he can actually act, but I wouldn't believe it based on his performance here. Natalie Portman has if anything regressed; her character's sense and dignity have apparently vanished in favour of imitating her boyfriend's whines, and her few "serious" scenes are even less convincing than they were in the last film. Fortunately she's not on screen for very long. Meanwhile, Ewan McGregor continues to refine and improve his impersonation of Alec Guinness, which to be fair is really a very good one.

As for the plotting, of course it's all about Anakin's betrayal... which is conveniently accomplished in about twenty minutes because someone who's confessed to being a Bad Guy says something that resonates with his dreams. Ooh, I'm convinced.

The fights, which seem to take up a great part of the film, are all very kinetic - everybody dances around, doing fancy bouncing moves all over the place. It's pretty, if you like that sort of thing, but it does rather give the lie to the idea of the "more elegant age", and it's thoroughly inconsistent with the more formalised styles seen in the original films. I'm sure Lucas will claim that this was always his vision, but it's funny how this didn't become apparent until wirework films and a watered-down version of the wuxia style had started to be popular in the USA. Lucas further indulges his taste for massively animated backgrounds, to my mind rather to excess. Does it really make a sword-fight more exciting if you have have computer-generated lava bursts going off behind the principals?

The space combat at the start of the film is hugely detailed, but curiously uninvolving. Both here and in the land battles seen later on, I keep thinking this is a trailer for a video game (which of course in many ways it is); I suppose that if I don't have any suspense or interesting characters to get hold of, I'm going to concentrate on the mechanics of the scene, and I'm used to playing those rather than watching them.

Dramatic tension is thoroughly reduced by our knowing how it's all going to end. It's not just knowing that one side or the other is going to win; it's that we _know_ that everyone we didn't see in the original films is going to die, because every other named character will be seen again. I can only think of a single exception to this rule, and Jar-Jar doesn't speak in this one (thank goodness).

Ultimately, it's a film without heroes (one of the "good guys" gives an order for murder as a casual afterthought), without any sympathetic characters, and without a point.

So, any bets on how long will it be before Lucas goes back to the well again?