Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is imperfect and silly at times, but it still captures most of the magic in the original three Star Wars movies. What is more, with the lowered expectations that the abysmal other two prequels set up and the absolute shock of seeing a pop movie that takes on morally difficult material, Episode III makes a better impression than any Lucas movie since Empire Strikes Back—also released during a time of fluff movies and political crisis.
What Star Wars Episode III doesn’t do is the following: it won’t tell you what the hell George Lucas was doing when he tarnished one of the most loved movie series in history. With Episode III, all the earlier material is, for the most part, forgotten. If Lucas can’t pretend he never made Jar Jar Binks or raced jet pods around in canyons, then he at least gives only the briefest of nods to his mistakes and moves on. Beyond that, this movie takes on all the ideas that kids and adults have been asking since 1980, “How can an evil person have a good son?” And, to paraphrase Luke Skywalker speaking to Obi Wan, “How can a good person become a hurtful murderer?”
Unfortunately, the answer Star Wars fans were provided with in 1983 was “Forget the moral dilemma. We’ve got muppets!”
The first hour of Episode III is dedicated to Star Wars toy and video game fans, I think. There are enormous star ship battles and fights with druids. As with the other prequels, the CGI looks like animation. However, in this movie, during battle scenes, the camera at least focuses on live action heroes, and dialogue, while stilted, is at least delivered with a certain amount of style. It isn’t just that the script improved, it’s that all actors in this movie seem to have been studying Harrison Ford, and they’ve learned to get some life out of dead lines.
As the plot develops, we discover that one actor, a classically trained Scot named Ian McDiarmid, can deliver Lucas lines like they were Shakespeare. As McDiarmid also happens to be playing a pivotal character, and as he vaguely resembles members of the Bush cabinet, the movie genuinely begins to take off. Even George Lucas, the director, seems interested. Suddenly dialogues get crisp, fight scenes make sense, and we begin to care about other characters… also, all the stupid CGI crap starts to disappear. It is nice to see that the director of a movie where going to the Dark Side involves turning to machines, is only able to rescue his movie when he gets rid of computer effects and lets his actors do the job.
Much has been made about how closely the logic of Anakin turning into Darth Vader resembles the logic George W Bush has been accused of using. Conservatives in America have even talked of banning the movie. To Lucas’s credit, when he shows Darth Vader turn to evil out of fear, he does a better job of humanizing a villain than most of Europe has done in their summary judgements of Bush and America.
The film also has something for the film buffs out there. Lucas is close to his 1977 film student form, and you can see quotes from German expressionist film, an enormous amount of Kurosawa, and a handy little bit of Francis Ford Coppola.
Looking over the last two decades of blockbusters, including the overwrought Lord of the Rings series, Star Wars Episode III stands out as a return to old form, and it reminds the viewer how bad things have gotten.