View Full Version : Revenge of the Sith: The Reviews

05-16-2005, 03:02 PM
Here they come... the official critical reviews from people who do this for a living. Ever notice how people agree with critics when they support something they like but try to discredit them whenever they are against it? Funny, huh? :rolleyes:

Anyway, post the reviews here. Enjoy!

05-16-2005, 03:03 PM
'Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith'
The "Star Wars" master fails to produce compelling dialogue or charismatic acting, but the strong visual effects make "Revenge of the Sith" the best of the three "Star Wars" prequels.

By Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Never but never underestimate the power of the dark side of the Force. It has made "Episode III Revenge of the Sith" into easily the best of the trio of "Star Wars" prequels and has even attempted the tougher assignment of saving writer-director George Lucas from himself.

It's a tribute to the power and durability of the universe Lucas and company created in the first three "Star Wars" movies that we want to see this episode despite the tedium of the previous two and despite knowing exactly what will happen in it. Or maybe, as with a familiar story told around a campfire, it is precisely our knowledge of how things will work out that makes us interested in the first place.

As anyone who was part of the estimated $3.4-billion worldwide theatrical gross of the previous five "Star Wars" films can tell you, "Revenge of the Sith" is where the beloved Republic turns into the dreaded Empire, and Anakin Skywalker, once thought to be the Chosen One, goes over to the dark side and ends up Darth Vader, he of the heavy breathing and black-on-black ensemble.

Because it contains the creation myth of one of the most durably popular films of our time, and because seeing a potential hero torn between good and evil before succumbing to iniquity is always involving, "Revenge of the Sith" is the most energetic of the prequels, the only one at all worth watching. But that doesn't mean it is without the weaknesses that scuttled its pair of predecessors. Quite the contrary.

"Revenge of the Sith" begins with one of its areas of strength, combat on screen. An elaborate, multi-part action sequence which starts with a cataclysmic air battle featuring fast jets swooping between huge air ships and ends focused on individual lightsaber duels lasts for close to half an hour and shows that the droids at Industrial Light & Magic have made excellent use of the film's more than 2,200 visual effects shots.

The fight has Jedi knights Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin (Hayden Christensen) trying to rescue Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) from the clutches of the evil brotherhood of the Sith. Their opponents include Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) and the computer-generated rebel leader General Grievous, a rasping villain who resembles nothing so much as a syphilitic grasshopper.

It's not just in warfare that "Revenge's" visuals excel. The film is frankly overwhelming in its ability to create a spectacular variety of alternate worlds. Starting with footage from a range of countries, Lucas and his cohorts create everything from the Wookiee homeland of Kashyyyk (Thailand was the backdrop) to the burning world of Mustafar, which began with electrifying footage Lucas had shot during the eruption of Sicily's Mt. Etna.

Given how strong "Revenge's" purely visual element is, we leave it with reluctance when the film turns to dialogue to explain a plot that involves not only the Republic's war with the Sith but a power struggle between the Chancellor and the Jedi Council, which includes old pals Yoda (computer generated and voiced by Frank Oz) and Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson).

That reluctance does nothing but intensify because, as veterans of the last two films can testify, whatever gift Lucas had for dialogue has deserted him. The language in "Revenge" is banal and stilted, with sentiments of the "Let's get a move on, we have a battle to win here" variety predominating. Given that one of Lucas' original inspirations was Saturday afternoon serials (hence his insistence on numbering all six parts), it makes one wonder if the language is intentionally bad, the better to echo the spirit of those long-gone matinees of the golden past.

Lucas' weakness with words is matched by a marked lack of facility for working with actors, especially where emotional scenes are concerned. That limitation tends to flatten out everyone's performance (has Jackson ever been this bland, McGregor this uncharismatic?) but it completely cripples the work of poor Natalie Portman as Anakin's pregnant but still hairdo-challenged wife, Padme.

When the film's ILM animation director Rob Coleman told Premiere Magazine that "George enjoys the postproduction process the most, I get so much more of his time than the actors do," he was unknowingly putting his finger on the flaw that keeps these films dramatically leaden and earthbound, however much their visuals soar to the heavens and beyond.

Finally, however, George Lucas does not seem to care. He owns the "Star Wars" concept outright and clearly feels that this is his world to do with as he pleases. If he wants to put in a big close-up of Jar Jar Binks to metaphorically thumb his nose at the creature's detractors, he does so. If he wants to put in lines that sound as if they reflect as much on the current political situation as the one in the future as when Padme listens to the Senate cheer and says, "This is how democracy dies, to thunderous applause" he does. Lucas must feel he's earned the right to be this way, and from one point of view he has.

Although the "Star Wars" universe wouldn't exist if Lucas hadn't fought for it and taken it more seriously than anyone else, he seems to be taking it so seriously today that the raffish energy and wised-up sense of humor that marked the very first "Star Wars" is completely gone from the scene.

Though the return of Darth Vader provides "Revenge of the Sith" with a classic film moment that lives up to expectations, the people we'd really like to see make a comeback are Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and, most of all, Harrison Ford. It is not to be, of course, but that only makes us miss them even more.

05-16-2005, 03:05 PM
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

BY ROGER EBERT / May 16, 2005

George Lucas comes full circle in more ways than one in "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith," which is the sixth -- and allegedly but not necessarily the last -- of the "Star Wars" movies. After "Episode II" got so bogged down in politics that it played like the Republic covered by C-Span, "Episode III" is a return to the classic space opera style that launched the series. Because the story leads up to where the original "Star Wars" began, we get to use the immemorial movie phrase, "This is where we came in."

That Anakin Skywalker abandoned the Jedi and went over to the dark side is known to all students of "Star Wars." That his twins Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia would redeem the family name is also known. What we discover in "Episode III" is how and why Anakin lost his way -- how a pleasant and brave young man was transformed into a dark, cloaked figure with a fearsome black metal face. As Yoda sadly puts it in his inimitable word order: "The boy who dreamed, gone he is, consumed by Darth Vader."

As "Episode III" opens, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and his friend Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) are piloting fighter craft, staging a daring two-man raid to rescue Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). He has been captured by the rebel Gen. Grievous (whose voice, by Matthew Woods, sounds curiously wheezy considering the general seems to use replacement parts). In the spirit of all the "Star Wars" movies, this rescue sequence flies in the face of logic, since the two pilots are able to board Grievous' command ship and proceed without much trouble to the ship's observation tower, where the chancellor is being held. There is a close call in an elevator shaft, but where are the guards and the security systems? And why, for that matter, does a deep space cruiser need an observation tower, when every porthole opens on to the universe? But never mind.

Back within the sphere of the Jedi Council, Anakin finds that despite his heroism, he will not yet be named a Jedi Master. The council distrusts Palpatine and wants Anakin to spy on him; Palpatine wants Anakin to spy on the council. Who to choose? McDiarmid has the most complex role in the movie as he plays on Anakin's wounded ego. Anakin is tempted to go over to what is not yet clearly the dark side; in a movie not distinguished for its dialogue, Palpatine is insidiously snaky in his persuasiveness.

The way Anakin approaches his choice, however, has a certain poignancy. Anakin has a rendezvous with Padme (Natalie Portman); they were secretly married in the previous film, and now she reveals she is pregnant. His reaction is that of a nice kid in a teenage comedy, trying to seem pleased while wondering how this will affect the other neat stuff he gets to do. To say that George Lucas cannot write a love scene is an understatement; greeting cards have expressed more passion.

The dialogue throughout the movie is once again its weakest point: The characters talk in what sounds like Basic English, without color, wit or verbal delight, as if they were channeling Berlitz. The exceptions are Palpatine and of course Yoda, whose speech (voiced by Frank Oz) reminds me of Wolcott Gibbs' famous line about the early style of Time magazine: "Backward ran sentences until reeled the mind."

In many cases the actors are being filmed in front of blue screens, with effects to be added later, and sometimes their readings are so flat, they don't seem to believe they're really in the middle of amazing events. How can you stand in front of exploding star fleets and sound as if you're talking on a cell phone at Starbucks?

"He's worried about you," Anakin is told at one point. "You've been under a lot of stress." Sometimes the emphasis in sentences is misplaced. During the elevator adventure in the opening rescue, we hear "Did I miss something?" when it should be "Did I miss something?"

The dialogue is not the point, however; Lucas' characters engage in sturdy oratorical pronunciamentos and then leap into adventure. "Episode III" has more action per square minute, I'd guess, than any of the previous five movies, and it is spectacular. The special effects are more sophisticated than in the earlier movies, of course, but not necessarily more effective.

The dogfight between fighters in the original "Star Wars" and the dogfight that opens this one differ in their complexity (many more ships this time, more planes of action, more detailed backgrounds) but not in their excitement. And although Lucas has his characters attend a futuristic opera that looks like a cross between Cirque de Soleil and an ultrasound scan of an unborn baby, if you regard the opera hall simply as a place, it's not as engaging as the saloon on Tatooine in the first movie.

The lesson, I think, is that special effects should be judged not by their complexity but by the degree that they stimulate the imagination, and "Episode III" is distinguished not by how well the effects are done, but by how amazingly they are imagined. A climactic duel on a blazing volcanic planet is as impressive, in its line, as anything in "Lord of the Rings." And Yoda, who began life as a Muppet but is now completely animated (like about 70 percent of what we see onscreen), was to begin with and still is the most lifelike of the non-humanoid "Star Wars" characters.

A word, however, about the duels fought with lightsabers. When they flashed into life with a mighty whizzing thunk in the first "Star Wars" and whooshed through their deadly parabolas, that was exciting. But the thrill is gone.

The duelists are so well-matched that saber fights go on forever before anyone is wounded, and I am still not sure how the sabers seem able to shield their bearers from attack. When it comes to great movie sword fights, Liam Neeson and Tim Roth took home the gold medal in "Rob Roy" (1995), and the lightsaber battles in "Episode III" are more like isometrics.

These are all, however, more observations than criticisms. George Lucas has achieved what few artists do; he has created and populated a world of his own. His "Star Wars" movies are among the most influential, both technically and commercially, ever made. And they are fun. If he got bogged down in solemnity and theory in "Episode II: Attack of the Clones," the Force is in a jollier mood this time, and "Revenge of the Sith" is a great entertainment.

Note: I said this is not necessarily the last of the "Star Wars" movies. Although Lucas has absolutely said he is finished with the series, it is inconceivable to me that 20th Century-Fox will willingly abandon the franchise, especially as Lucas has hinted that parts VII, VIII and IX exist at least in his mind. There will be enormous pressure for them to be made, if not by him, then by his deputies.