A few words about . . . Star Wars: Episode III

The film: Since it’s practically impossible for me to add anything new to all that has been written and said about the latest (and last) film in the Star Wars saga, I’ll skip the plot recap and move right into the things I did and didn’t like about the movie. If you’re one of the few people on earth who hasn’t seen Episode III yet but plans to, get thee to a video store and come back after you’re done watching it.

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith is easily the best of the prequel trilogy, and offers a few sequences of such power and emotion that it almost makes you forget its weaknesses and (for a moment) consider it on par with A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Don’t be lured into that trap. Comparing the prequel trilogy and the original trilogy is like comparing apples and oranges – strengths and weaknesses abound in both, even though they’re bound by an identical headline. Personally, I’ve grown a bit weary from countless viewings of the OT (ANH especially), so I naturally watch the PT a little more often these days. But jeez, I just about cringe every time Anakin, Padme and the gang open their mouths. George Lucas is an incredible visualist, perhaps even a genius in that regard, but he has difficulty writing dialogue that sounds believable instead of eye-rollingly hokey. I wonder if part of the problem is a lack of scenery to give context to the actors’ performances: pretending that your surroundings exist while you’re being filmed on a soundstage against a blue screen must be pretty hard. Thank goodness the actors are, for the most part, game for it.Speaking of the dialogue, it’s not quite as atrocious in this film as in its predecessors (Anakin’s creepy “stalker” lines to Padme in Attack of the Clones being the worst example), a huge relief to this viewer. And while the CGI in this film looks better than ever, it still comes across at times like a two-hour video game, which is unfortunate. But one thing has always been true about Star Wars: it isn’t about Oscar-caliber writing, acting, or directing; it’s about giving us really cool stuff to look at, along with the best sound mixes to ever rock your home theater. And on that level, ROTS delivers in spades.

For me though, the best scenes in the movie are the quiet ones. Paradoxical, huh? Anakin’s scenes with Palpatine (pre-Emperor), both in the opera house balcony and later outside his office, are terrific in how they feature Palpatine subtlely twisting the screws, gently manipulating the interpretation of events and people’s intentions in Anakin’s mind until he can see no reality but the one Palpatine dictates to him. Check out the deleted scenes on Disc Two for a great moment where Palpatine even influences Anakin to question Padme’s true motives. Great stuff. Also of mention is a terrific sequence with Anakin and Padme looking out toward one other from across the city. No dialogue is spoken, but the images and the music(!) convey so much. Just perfect.

Given what I see as the film’s many strengths, I can more easily forgive some of the sillier elements, as I have done with the previous prequel movies. ROTS supplies great connective tissue to the events in the OT, and it sends the Star Wars series out on a high note.

Image quality: Nothing short of perfection. Shot entirely with digital cameras, the visual quality of ROTS is easily reference standard and among the best transfers the standard DVD format has ever seen. I could go on and on about how amazing, breathtakingly beautiful, and richly detailed this transfer is, but I’ll sum it up in these words: no other DVD I’ve seen has made me want to upgrade to a large HD set more than this one. There’s just so much on display here that smaller sets simply cannot do justice to it all.

Sound quality: Better make nice with the neighbors again. This Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track is stellar, although subtly different from the previous two films’ mixes. There’s still plenty of surround activity, with crystal-clear dialogue and wall-shaking bass, although the latter is somewhat less prominent than in the previous films (particularly when compared to AOTC, which sounded pretty overcooked). I know that the lack of continually thunderous bass will disappoint a few fans, but I think the mix more than makes up for the loss (if you care to call it that) by emphasizing John Williams’ outstanding score, which has tended to get lost in all the sound effects of the DVD sound mixes. But for all you bass-heads out there, check out the opening spaceship battle and the final duel on Mustafar for some great rumbles.

Overall: Recommended for older Star Wars fans, Revenge of the Sith features some pretty dark moments which may be too intense for the younger set. However, the movie provides great closure to the epic saga and is definitely worth adding to your collection.

Rated: PG-13 for sci-fi violence and some intense images. A man is decapitated (mostly off-screen), another is depicted burned alive, several others lose arms and legs from lightsaber swipes, strong violence against children is implied but not seen, and many innocent people die. It’s important to remember that this dark chapter is not the end of the series, just a lead-in to A New Hope. If you doubt that this saga has a happy ending, go back and watch Return of the Jedi again.

Leave a Reply