Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Revenge of the Sith

  I may not have been privy to much of the hype for episodes I and II, but the hype for Episode III was everywhere in such a massive way that not even I, only in 5th grade at the time, could escape it. This was to be the last time we would ever get to see the opening crawl on the big screen, hear the rousing theme music, or see iconic characters clash lightsabers ever again. It was the last movie of the prequel trilogy... the one that was supposed to bring balance to the force. Or well, not really. It was however supposed to tie both trilogies together and show us the rise of one of the greatest on screen villains cinema has ever known...
Darth Vader.

  When you put it like that, Episode III could never have had the grandeur nor scale needed to pull a momentous thing like that off successfully. Not with the groundwork it had laid for it in I and II. Yet Episode III is surprisingly the best movie of the prequel trilogy, and depending on your love for Return of the Jedi, the best Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back. I am not one who could place this movie above anything in the original trilogy, yet it's actually really good on it's own merits. Right off the bat, the special effects have finally grown into what was necessary to bring this world to life, fully and properly. Hayden Christensen's acting is better, not extremely so, but enough. Him and McGregor have a fully realized dynamic here, complete with natural humor, organic wit, and some classic exchanged not seen since Han and Luke dominated the big screen.

  It's a welcome sight for sure and one that wastes no time getting under way in the most thrilling opening sequence Star Wars has ever scene. The opening space battle is nothing short of virtuoso, and it doesn't stop there- it spills onto a ship, leading into plenty of lightsaber action, and then ultimately crashing onto a planet. It's a thrilling sequence and sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Thankfully, the politics take a backseat to the interpersonal conflict between Anakin, Obi Wan, and Padme. Which in this movie is alot tighter and more refined than in the last two. Unfortunately the dialog is still a major weakness for Mr.Lucas. Some of it, facepalm worthy. However, he's given us a good movie here. I'll cut him some slack and not harp on the dialog.

  Some issues persist however. There are some scenes that feel forced and unnatural between Padme and Anakin, and the dialog doesn't help matters either. Some scenes feel awkward or misplaced, and ultimately Anakin's motivations are undercut by the lack of emotion in scenes with him and Padme. Granted, again, it's better here than it's ever been. But it's not airtight, and it's far from bulletproof. The rise of Darth Vader is sad and truly emotional, but it's unceremonious. Padme stands around looking worried and doing nothing for 90% of the movie. Anakin is pigheaded and misguided, but often seems simply stupid. If he only listened to anybody who's not a creepy old politician who always sounds as sinister as Satan himself... than maybe he wouldn't turn on the Jedi order and kill a bunch of kids.

  I mean his turning to the dark side is predicated on a big choice he must make to save Padme's life... yet... the only indication he has that she'll die is a bad dream. This is where I've been put in my place. He dreamed his mom died, and she did. In his arms no less. Yet this is only mentioned in a couple lines of dialog, and in passing. It should've been a main focus. Instead we see Anakin losing his cool over a bad dream, so much so that he becomes a murderous traitor. Thankfully, Hayden's acting sells it in this crucial series of scenes. THIS is the tortured young man I expected. Conflicted to the core, and devastated over his actions. Truly moving. Yet, on the flip side... he doesn't pull off true evil as well as he should. It's not a major gripe, but he just doesn't sell it. It still feels like a tantrum. Granted, a tantrum with a body count- but still. He feels like a wayward kid who's rebelling against his family.

  It just so happens his rebellion brought an era of darkness to the galaxy. Gee, thanks man. Thus my biggest problem with this movie- Anakin doesn't feel like Darth Vader. Not even in full regalia. He just doesn't. Yet, I don't know if that's just me, or his acting, or something else that's largely intangible.  Otherwise, this movie is really good. The action scenes are the best of the franchise, the lightsaber duel at the end between Obi Wan and Anakin is both terribly emotional and insanely intense. The space battles are awesome, Kenobi vs. Grievous is cool, seeing Chewbacca was also cool. Yoda has a fight scene in this one too, and it's pretty epic as well. Overall, Episode III has the right combination of elements that make a fun Star Wars movie. It's a solid entry and a dark one. At times reminiscent of Empire Strikes Back itself. That's a major compliment, and Revenge of the Sith earns it. It's solid entertainment that hits the mark more often than not. It's not great, but it's not bad, and overall I can safely say it's good.

  The prequel trilogy isn't even a mixed bag. It's two disappointments and one good movie, yet I think it's worth it on the whole. It's certainly one big experience, for better or worse. Sadly, it's often -worse-, but Revenge of the Sith did enough right for me to enjoy it without having to make excuses or tear it apart. I like it, and it ties in nicely to the original trilogy which I will be revisiting tomorrow... on Christmas day. Until then! Cue theme music, roll end credits.

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