I've been waiting about 23 years to see this movie. Ever since I saw "Return of the Jedi" back in 1983 I've wanted to know about how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader, how the Empire came into being, etc.
Now I know. Sorta.
Please note that I will also not be looking up the spelling of any of these characters or places, and may refer to things by what they look like rather than by their character names (many of which aren't even mentioned in the films anyway). Anyway, with that disclaimer, on with my notes on the film (I'm not going to write a "review" because I don't think anything I could say will change anyone's mind about seeing it or not - but I'd like to get a bit of discussion rolling about it).
First of all, I'll start off by saying that I liked Revenge of the Sith (RotS) very much, and that I think it's not only a fitting end to the prequel trilogy, and a very good film in its own right, but it also deepens my appreciation for the original trilogy. It makes the old films I've seen a hundred times new again.
Things I liked
- The calm before the storm
Just before Palpatine is arrested, there's a great "magic hour" scene with Anakin waiting in the Jedi Council chamber, Padme looking out over their balcony (great apartment, btw), and a few beauty shots of the Republic before everything falls apart and the shroud of the Dark Side falls over everything. Lucas gets knocked for being a shitty director (because he is) but this was a masterful scene, full of tension and dread, like a breath before the battle plunge.
- The pacing.
If you're going to hear any complaints about RotS, it's going to be that each scene was too short. Indeed, you could hardly linger on anything before another scene began. This film had to lay a lot of pipe to get us up to the events that we're already aware of in A New Hope, so the pace had to be brisk to make up all of that ground lost by the entertaining but useless Episodes I and II (when I say "useless" it's because the plot lines they set up could have been summed up in the opening crawl of Episode III - this new film essentially makes the first two unnecessary - and I think if Lucas started with this story but made it into the three films it should have been, audiences would have reacted more kindly to the project).
- Yoda Wants His Sabre Back
I loved the little mini-battle in front of the Jedi Temple when Yoda and Obi were fighting off the republic commandos/stormtroopers and Yoda throws his lightsabre into a commando, leaps onto him, and pulls his sabre back out.
- Yoda's dispatching the royal guards
They always looked so cool back in Return of the Jedi, but Yoda's quick dispatch of the two guards in RotS was great. People cheered.
- The Dialogue
Lucas gets a bad rap for dialogue because... well, because he sucks at writing dialogue. This time around, however, there's some wonderfully insidious dialogue from Darth Sidious (gee, I wonder how he got his name) and some of the dialogue near the end of the film is just heartbreaking. Obi-Wan's "You were the chosen one!" (which was featured in the trailer too) just leaves a little lump in my throat.
- Palpy's backstory
Okay, we don't get that much of it, and it's only from his perspective, and heck, he never even really says that he's talking about himself, but we get the picture.
- Ian McDiarmid
Completely steals the show. It's an Oscar-worthy performance (although he likely won't even get nominated). I especially loved the little smile he could barely suppress when telling Anakin about how Darth... Plagueus (Plague us?) was killed by his own apprentice - it's obvious that he is that very apprentice, but if we were in doubt that subtle shift of lip from McDiarmid was enough to convince us.
- Evil Inside™
The look inside Vader's helmet, from Vader's POV.
- The closing shot of Owen and Beru looking out at the same kind of sunset that Luke gazed out over in the beginning of A New Hope. It really tied the new film into the first one for me.
Things I didn't like
- Obi-Wan's Amnesia
In "The Empire Strikes Back" Obi and Yoda look up at Luke's ship leaving Degobah, Obi says "That boy is our only hope" and Yoda replies "No, there is another." Did Obi-Wan forget about Leia? I mean, he was standing right there when she was born. Big continuity error there.
- Anakin's transformation
From "OMG what have I done?" to "You'll be my master and I'll do whatever you tell me" after dispatching Mace Windu (and what is it with people losing their hands in the Star Wars films? Is Lucas a fan of Muslim justice or something?) just seemed too fast, too simple. Of course, Sidious has been manipulating Anakin since he was 10 years old, so it may just be a matter of making him make the choice, which in his heart he'd already made when he was told that the Sith could save Padme.
- Natalie Portman's "Acting"
I know that her job in this film was to give birth and die (and look beautiful while she did it), but emote a LITTLE? I've read that Portman is thinking of leaving acting to pursue psychology as a career. This is a good impulse.
- Not even Tom Stoppard could save the dialogue from being clunky
Okay, having said that, most of the dialogue was actually pretty good, especially the parts involving Palpatine and Anakin, but anything involving the bizarro love story* was just cringe-worthy.
- The Anti-Climactic Dual of the Fates
With the glut of lightsabre battles in RotS (cool as they may be) by the time we get to the BIG dual between Anakin and Obi-Wan we're already a little tired of lightsabre battles. For what it's worth, though, this one was the most downright savage sword fight I've seen on film since Rob Roy.
- Speaking of Rob Roy...
Where was Liam Neeson? Couldn't he have had a cameo in Episode III? His presence was felt by his absence. It would've been nice to see him appear in Jedi Spookyvision, though (you know, blue glow, looking how they did before they died, unless their name is Darth Vader in which case they'll look like they did when they were young, at some indeterminate time between Episode II and III, since he doesn't have the scar at the end of the DVD version of Episode VI).
- Sad Endings
As the Star Wars logo flashed up onscreen I thought for a moment that this would be the last new Star Wars film I'd see. It's a little bittersweet. I'm happy to have seen the film, but I'm sad that it's all over now, even though I know that the first two films should have been better than they were.
The first film was awkward - a return to movie-making from a man who hadn't directed a film in 20 years. The Phantom Menace was too in love with the technology, and there were more than a few scenes that existed just to show off the hardware.
Episode II, Attack of the Clones, was also a bit awkward as Lucas and Co. switched to purely digital cameras, sets, characters, etc. Some of this digital wizardry looked like a cartoon (the droid factory on Geonosis, for instance) and overall the colour palate was too vivid, too false.
Finally with Episode III Lucas takes the technology for granted, and to good effect. He just tells his story. The effects are there, sure, and they're plentiful and well-done, but the focus is the story so the effects take a backseat. Just as he's starting to get good at making Star Wars movies again, he calls it quits. The end. No more Episodes.
With Episode III, Revenge of the Sith, Lucas comes back from the Dark Side and gives us a film with startling emotional depth, answering some of our questions and opening up a thousand more. There is still some good in him.
- I'll take a moment to reflect on the Padme/Anakin love story for a moment. Let's see, in Episode I he was a cute little boy, then she meets him again in Episode II (nine years later) and he's a petulent teenager, whining about how he never gets his way, then later murders Sand People (Arabs?) and instead of recoiling in horror she's turned on by it. Now in Episode III she acts as a Sith enabler, attributing his bad behaviour (murdering Jedi children, single-handedly thrusting the entire galaxy into a dark age under the rule of an oppressive regime, etc.) as him just being under a lot of "stress." If that's all it takes to turn to the dark side, then I should be shooting lightening bolts out of my fingers by now.