I’m going to go on record here and say that Revenge of the Sith is the second best Star Wars movie, right behind Empire Strikes Back which, as I’ll explore in a post tomorrow, is one of the best films of all time. But to those who would immediately protest, I’ll get this out of the way early: yes, Hayden Christensen is still pretty rough as Anakin Skywalker.
Everything else in the film is a vast improvement over the previous prequels and much of it is more exciting and more impactful than what is found in the original trilogy.
The beginning – a space battle – gets us into the action quickly. There’s a new villain, Grievous, and we don’t waste any time on his origin story. Instead, we just know he’s another big bad guy and our heroes need to stop him. There’s a lightsaber battle and some explosions and the mission is a success! Okay, so the film’s plotting is basically what I used to imagine in my bathtub with my action figures. Boom, boom and all that. But it works in this film because of the excellent fight choreography and very good special effects, which are light years ahead of those in Attack of the Clones. Even more, the film is drawing to an inevitable close, and George Lucas and Co. work to hit every beat while still giving us a few surprises (Yoda vs Palpatine, Wookiees, Order 66). The film is just excellently breathless in its execution.
By the time Anakin chooses to join the Emperor, we also begin to see evil portrayed every bit as bad as we can imagine. Anakin’s journey into the Jedi Temple is shiver inducing when he encounters the children. His aggression towards Padme and insane ranting at Obi-Wan is paranoid and Christensen at his best in the role. George Lucas finally fills his scenes with the kind of emotion we had wanted for two-and-a-half films before. By the time Obi-Wan says, “You were my brother. I loved you,” I was in Star Wars heaven.
Evil even looked grotesque. The contorted face of the Emperor is a haunting look. Anakin, by film’s end, struggling to fight on even as his body was failing him, turned my stomach. These all were actual, impactful, riveting moments. And they gave us what we were looking for.
George Lucas may be taking the tact nowadays that he didn’t want to make films for the fans anymore, but he certainly did in Revenge of the Sith, and the prequel trilogy is much, much better for it.
What It Got Right: Real emotion. Hits all the beats we waited a couple decades to see. Ewan McGregor is great as usual, but the rest of the cast is very good as well. Sound and special effects are the best of all six Star Wars films and have held up after ten years.
Where It Went Wrong: Hayden Christensen still bumbles a bit in his delivery of the character, but mostly just at the beginning and this improves. The ending is rushed in some parts.
Our Score: A-
Rotten Tomatoes: 79% | IMDB: 7.7 | Metacritic: 68