It’s Friday night! That means it’s time for the reviews of the Star Wars movies in episodic order. As I did with The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, I’m reviewing the entire saga as we lead up to The Force Awakens, and today, I’ll be reviewing RotS. By far, Revenge of the Sith is my favorite prequel. It’s witty, it moves fast, the visual effects are nearly impeccable. In my mind, a lot of the flak that the prequels got was because they wanted RotS all along. Ever since Vader says “When we last met, I was but a learner, now I am the master” in ANH, we’ve been yearning to see that last time. It’s said that Tom Stoppard gave the script a “polish”, and I think it worked because to me the script is tight, compact, and funny without being cheesy. I think it has more wittily structured lines than any of the prequels. Compare:
Greivous: It is a volcanic planet. You will be safe there.
Nute Gunray: Safe?!
from RotS to
C3P0: Oh! This is such a drag.
from AotC. I mean both are funny, but RotS just lacks the cheeseball factor. Appropriate too, given the dark nature of the film. There are moments like this that really bump this movie up and up in the saga for me.
I think Ian McDiarmid is one of my favorite Star Wars actors, and he shines in this film. I think his delivery is amazing for the vast majority of the film. In a way, McDiarmid is sort of Lucas’ “ace in the hole” for the prequels. An amazing actor that he uses sparingly until the third act. Although his performances in TPM and AotC were downright brilliant, his performance in RotS brings him to the forefront where he can really “bring it”. I actually think he is better in the first half of the film. Some of his most amazing lines in my mind: all the scenes when he is manipulating Anakin, “Do it”, “And we shall have peace” and “Execute order 66” when we see him say it in person the first time, are all so brilliantly executed.
That scene. That moment half way through the film when Anakin sits the the Jedi Council chambers watching the sunset over Coruscant. In my opinion, this scene is meant to mirror the famous sunset scene over Tatooine with Luke looking to the horizon. Whereas Luke longs for a more meaningful life off that planet, and for a more meaningful future; Anakin contemplates his own future and Padme’s. Right after Luke’s sunset moment, he starts on a path that would ultimately make him a hero. Right after Anakin’s moment he starts on a path, past the point of no return, to become an anti-hero. This scene in RotS has amazing lighting, great music, and one of Hayden’s best non-verbal performances. Speaking of Hayden, upon this viewing I feel that his performances in RotS, on the whole, are actually pretty darn good. I think his performance in this film, except for maybe one or two lines, are right on the money. He is certainly the main character of this film as the story follows him very closely. As I said in my last review, I liked Hayden in AotC except for a few scenes. In RotS there are just a couple of spots where the emotion doesn’t come through (when he says “No, it’s because I’m so in love with you” doesn’t do it for me), but he more than makes up for it in other scenes. Some other Hayden high points are “I’m doing for you…to protect you”, and the furious disdain he shows for Obi Wan after the fight.
I still think the CGI version of Yoda in the blue ray version of TPM is the best animation of Yoda in the whole prequels. Admittedly, the technology had improved because it was the most recent, but still. I wouldn’t be opposed to refreshed CGI to touch up a few spots of the whole prequels in a new 4K version of them. I mean, most of the CGI is great, but you know there are just a couple of shots here and there. The truth is though, it actually isn’t always clear which parts of the prequels are CGI and which are practical, but there’s a couple of CGI effects that could be better. In RotS, for example, the face of Dooku and Sidious on their respective stuntmen during lightsaber duels look fake at times. Certainly, those scenes were a major achievement for their time, but just imagine if, say in 2020, they took the old raw digital footage from RotS, and improved the digital model of Palpatine and Dooku, and beefed up those scenes. For example, if you took the original 3D scans used to make those models, performed some sort of 2020 3D anti-aliasing technology on them and rebuilt those models. With Yoda, some of the scenes are amazing, and no doubt better than AotC, but there are just a couple of shots that I could see improving. Probably not this one though:
OK, so at the end, when Yoda says that the twins need to be split up and protected from the Emperor, the logic baffles me. I know Luke and Leia have to end up in a particular location with particular people, but why send Leia with a high profile Senator when the Emperor is still in power? Why send Luke with the only family Anakin has left? Sure, Vader assumes that Luke and Leia died with Padme, but what if he ever had a clairvoyant image of his children alive? If he had one of his vivid dreams, and he recognized something in the dream, he would go looking for them. Why not send them to a completely obscure planet that no one would ever visit? At any rate, we know how the ending needs to end up to match with ANH, so we let this one slide.
The other thing that has always bothered me was Anakin’s motivations for killing the Jedi could have been beefed up just a bit. It isn’t made crystal clear why he needs to wipe out the Jedi, and he must “show no mercy in order to be strong enough with the darkside in order to save Padme”. I mean, I understand it. I understand that the darkside flows stronger when there is no mercy. I just think Anakin takes a huge leap here, and some more dialogue to motivate why he would go from “trying to save Padme” to blindly committing heinous acts wouldn’t hurt here. Maybe they left it simple because trying to explain only made things even less believable.
Upon re-watching the prequels, it has become more apparent of the idea of emerging characters, and also, for lack of a better term, vanishing characters. For example, although Padme plays a key role in the film, her scenes feel fewer compared to TPM and AotC. She gives some of her strongest acting of the prequels in these scenes, but it does seem like less screen time. Jar Jar has just a brief glimpse. As far as I can tell, Jar Jar just says “Excuse me” when he bumps into another major senator, possibly Orn Free Taa. In contrast to the much maligned “Exqueeze me” of TPM, in this one brief moment we see that Jar Jar is still a little clumsy, but has assimilated as a senator. Palpatine seems to keeps Jar Jar close, because he is easily manipulated, and other senators love him. He’s a lovable yokel-turned-Senator that is well liked and easy to control.
The high points of the film are numerous. The opening shot space battle. The moment when Palpatine tells Anakin the story of Plagueis. Many of the exchanges between Anakin and Padme are quite good, and a welcome change to some of the dud scenes in AotC. The lightsaber battles are pretty excellent all around. I love the way the prequel style is morphed into the OT style smoothly in this film, until the end, we have a style very similar to the OT. I like the encounter between Mace and Palpatine.
The number of great scenes outnumber the scenes that are not so great by a large margin. In fact, my minor criticisms are a real stretch, I know. That’s because, I think it’s a great film. This is the film that people somehow thought the prequels would begin with. As a whole the prequels have been fun to watch again. RotS was certainly the best for me as it has always been, followed by TPM, then AotC. We’re now like 27 days from TFA, and if anything the only thing holding me back from enjoying the prequels more was the anticipation for new Star Wars in less than a month.