Star Wars: Episode 3 – Revenge of the Sith (2005)

“Twisted by the dark side, young Skywalker has become. The boy you trained, gone, he is, consumed by Darth Vader.”

With Star Wars: Episode 3 – Revenge of the Sith, creator, writer, director George Lucas brings the second trilogy in his widely beloved Star Wars saga to a close. A saga in which the return in 2001 brought in a whole new generation of fans to grow up with these prequels to the original trilogy first released in 1977. But with Revenge of the Sith, Lucas course corrects from the previous two installments, going “back to formula” as Norman Osborn said in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. Episodes 1 & 2 broadened the horizon slightly – establishing the larger part of its efforts on the political landscape for which the galaxy is run.

Whereas Revenge of the Sith takes the franchise back to its roots – placing emphasis on the “War” aspect of the space opera. Politics still remain, but compared to the first two installments, Lucas waters it down to progress the story and catch the viewer up to speed to the beginning of A New Hope seamlessly.

Out of the prequel trilogy Revenge of the Sith is the clear front runner for the die-hard fans and casual alike to collectively all agree on. From a quality standpoint alone, Lucas gives Revenge of the Sith a much-needed facelift, ending the trilogy on a high note to where the potential the franchise can succeed.

Getting all caught up to where it all began opens in space, as every film in the franchise has right after the famed “crawl” outlines the basic premise that this new film will follow. The Republic is in ruin, the “Clone Wars” are coming to a close with a few more advantages going the way of the Republic. In charge of said Republic is Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), who was captured by the leader of the separatists Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) and general of the droid army, Grievous (voiced by Matthew Wood).

Leading the rescue mission are a pair of Jedi, one master, one knight, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen). No longer a padawan, Anakin’s path shifts into the iconic villain the rebellion sets out to destroy in the original trilogy. His transformation, like many others in the galaxy are sold on a misaligned manipulative lie from the Empire and Palpatine himself. Anakin, now slightly older and still very much married in secrecy with Padmé (Natalie Portman) is at his most corruptible. After all, he killed that village of Tusken Raiders in a blind rage after what they did to his mother.

Looking at the quality comparatively, its unanimous the difference is between the episodes in this trilogy. Lucas brings the galaxy back to its former glory, crafting the best possible story to fit his vision. The result takes a more grounded, mature approach focusing on characters, their relationships and complexities to duties and ideologies. From one perspective, the Jedi are keepers of the peace, everything they set out to do is for the betterment of the galaxy and from the other perspective, Jedi are a plague to the galaxy, forcing their close-minded ideas on others. Having the ability to have full access to knowledge and power is a tantalizing offer. How many of us would seriously pass up the ability to learn how to save loved ones from death.? Granted, it’s based on manipulation, but Lucas plays both sides in a detailed account.

Knowing where certain characters end up in Episodes 4, 5 & 6, Lucas’s script has a lot of room for expansion for those select few. There’s stakes added that Attack of the Clones and The Phantom Menace couldn’t achieve. Lucas’s screenplay nails the commitment to his characters, for the first time in this trilogy, their stories matter to the overall grand scheme of the survival of normal everyday life.

In keeping with the previous 2 installments, Revenge of the Sith is visually breathtaking. Space sequences whether it be a battle or cruisers flying by in Lightspeed dazzle the eyes, pleasing the retina’s and dilating the pupils to take in every detail. Featuring a plethora of lightsaber duels, the action is fast and skillful to capture anyone’s full attention. The final duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin scratches the itch that started in Episode 1 but will leave the viewer craving more of the highly choreographed fighting.

Returning to score Episode 3 like he did the previous 5 installments is John Williams who takes his preexisting legendary masterpieces and somehow elevates the fantasy and tension even further, setting a higher bar that only he can beat. And of course, bringing back the best piece of music in the galaxy beside the crawl, “Duel of the Fates” and injecting a heavy dose of it in the film’s final hour.

Looking at the performances, all involved fully commit, giving exceptional performances in the finale of the prequels. However, not all characters are treated equally. Hayden Christensen’s Anakin once again draws the short end of the stick and his chemistry with Natalie Portman once again suffers from mismanaged direction. Anakin and Padmé’s love story continues to be the weakest link in the chain when put handed the keys to the spacecraft. Characters like Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz) and Mace Windu (Samul L. Jackson) are underutilized when the caliber of the respective actors playing those roles.

At 140 minutes, Lucas’ screenplay can feel overstuffed and convoluted with so much to essentially conclude and serve as a launching point for whats to come chronologically. For the galaxy, there is some real potential for more adult themed stories to be told during this highly volatile era of Star Wars and the imperialistic side of the Empire that hasn’t been explored on screen.

Overall, Revenge of the Sith brings the conclusion of the prequel trilogy to a satisfying end bringing a balance back to the force using nuance in theme and tone with some fan service in the film’s final moments. Because of the technological advances at Lucas’s ILM, the dependence on CGI over practical effects doesn’t take away from the spectacle at hand. The trilogy has been visually pleasing featuring impossible looking shots and sequences.

Screenplay By: George Lucas

Directed By: George Lucas

Music By: John Williams

Cinematography: David Tattersall

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Frank Oz, Jimmy Smits, Temuera Morrison

Where to Watch: Disney Plus

Release Date: May 19, 2005

Running Time: 2 Hours 20 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79%

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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