Saturday, June 04, 2005

Revenge of the Sith a.k.a. Revenge of the George

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. 2005. Dir. George Lucas. Perf. Ewan MacGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christiansen, Ian MacDiarmid, Samuel Jackson, Jimmy Smits, and Frank Oz.

Fortunately for all concerned, Revenge of Sith fell short of the legacy of shoddy acting, stilted dialogue, and an absolutely horrific script that Lucas established for his viewers with the other two prequels. While Episode III did contain various hints of these foundational elements, it also managed to convey something beyond repetitive CGI carefully linked by a semblance of a plot; surprisingly, too, one or two of the actors finally managed to make their characters seem more than one-dimensional. Hopefully Lucas was not too appalled by this shocking and unexpected displays of humanity and plausibility sugggested for the first time within this trilogy.

Revenge of the Sith is unlike most films in that the general viewer knows exactly how it must end before even watching a prequel. Surprisingly enough, however, the film took two plot twists I didn't expect and was able, by virtue of the enforced ending, to spend more time fleshing out various scenes without having to worry about whether the audience understood the plot. Unfortunately, most of the scenes thus enhanced would have been better cut; Episode III tended to present long streams of action spotted painfully by Lucas' miseable attempts to create romantic or even meaningful dialogue. The script is rife with cliches, contradictions (Obi-Wan announces to Vader that "Only the Sith use absolutes"), and filler; some effort is taken to portray Skywalker's turn to the Dark Side, yet even this comes across as trite, superficial, and perhaps even a little foolish.

Easily, the best performance of the film belonged to Samuel L. Jackson (Mace Windu). This is a relatively unbiased comment because I generally loathe Jackson, but in all fairness, he gave a tremendous performance, particularly considering the script. Jackson actually managed to endow Windu with emotion and (dare I say it) humanity without overdoing it, although it could be argued that by turning in such a powerful performance, he failed to comply with the general sub-par acting presented by the rest of the cast. I also must acknowledge that Yoda, not unlike Smeagol from the Lord of the Rings films, is remarkably easy to understand and appreciate, not the least because his programmed actions and acting often seem more natural than those of his cohorts.

Chances are, if you liked the most recent Star Wars films, you'll find Return of the Sith fascinating; if you were distracted from Lucas' ideas by the many flaws of Episodes I and II, you'll see the intensity of these abate, although if you watch the film you will still notice parallel flaws. Those who have watched the other five should obviously see this one as well, if only to complete the series; however, older fans who haven't witnessed the misery of the other prequels could easily give this a miss, as well.

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