George Lucas finally ended his Star Wars movie series in 2005 with “Revenge of the Sith”. For many fans it was a mixed blessing. We finally got to see just how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader, but we had suffered through disappointment to get to this stage of the story.
I’ve seen this film around five times now and it does not improve with age. Many of the issues I had with the previous prequel films are in full bloom here. You’ve got horrible dialogue, poor pacing, questionable character development and spectacle over storytelling.
The biggest problem with this movie is the fact that it doesn’t really perform as a grand finale. Compare this movie with “Return of the King” or hell, even “Return of the Jedi”. “King” ties up all the loose ends, delivers it’s climax of good triumphing over evil because of a sacrifice, and then gives us downtime with all the characters to resolve their stories in a meaningful way. “Jedi” brings about the destruction of the Empire, the final confrontation between Luke and his father, and the confirmation of the romantic love between Han and Leia. Sure the Ewoks show up and make everything furry, but the emotional impact of “Jedi” somehow manages to triumph over the hairballs.
“Sith” has to give us the end of the Jedi, the rise of the Emperor, the creation of Darth Vader, and set in motion events of “A New Hope”. On the surface it succeeds, but the emotional impact of these events is pretty feeble. For me the only thing that really works is the last third of the film, where the betrayal of Anakin is in full swing. After Samuel Jackson makes his exit, the movie kicks into high gear and we watch as Anakin makes the decisions that will change him and his world forever. It’s effective because he is trying to do the right thing (in his twisted way). It also works because McGreggor’s performance as Obi Wan. The betrayal actually looks like it is affecting him (even if he goes over the top in a few moments).
However the end of the Jedi is no where near as sad as I anticipated it would be. I suspect that this Is because of the way the Jedi have been handled in the previous episodes. Their dialogue and their performances (for the most part) have been too stiff and formal. In addition we haven’t really seen them doing what we are told they do. The guardians of peace and justice just never seem much more then a bunch of robed guys who’ve been duped and manipulated since the first movie. When things go badly for them, we feel bad because they put trust in Anakin and because the music is sad – not because they will be missed. Did anyone feel bad when Mace Windu was killed? If you did, was it anything close to the way you felt when Han Solo was frozen? The connection isn’t ever built.
When half the movie resolves the conflict of the Jedi against the Sith, and it isn’t effective it makes the movie that much weaker. Anakin’s struggle has to carry the movie, and while it ends up being a success – it is really only a success in comparison to the storytelling failures of the first two films. “Sith” is the best of the three, but it could have been so much more. There should have been a serious emotional connection for something that was supposed to be devastating. In the end, we are only interested in seeing how this movie leads into the next three – the better trilogy.
What is your opinion of “Revenge of the Sith” or the new trilogy in general? Am I too hard on these movies and just need to sit back enjoy the eye candy they provide? Are you like me and secretly hoping that George doesn’t revisit “Star Wars” in an official way again?