Ewan McGregor……….Obi-Wan Kenobi
Hayden Christensen……….Anakin Skywalker
Ian McDiarmid……….Supreme Chancellor Palpatine
Samuel L. Jackson……….Mace Windu
Jimmy Smits……….Senator Bail Organa
Frank Oz……….Yoda (voice)
Christopher Lee……….Count Dooku
A Star Wars film may be the hardest type of film to review. So many people are so in love with the series, including critics, that they go into the newest films with incredibly high expectations. People want to love these films. They try so very hard to love these films. Many people experience a Star Wars film drastically different than any other. The original trilogy is a masterpiece to practically everyone who has ever seen it, so when George Lucas came out with Episode I, and it, well, sucked, people faltered a bit. They still had hope, however, and while they trashed the movie, they knew Lucas had two more coming down the pipe. When Episode II hit, and that was another disappointment (though not on the level of I), people really began to question things.
Had Lucas lost his touch? Was this prequel trilogy just a tool for Lucas to make mega bucks, and not something made for the fans? And even after that, while people were angry and frustrated, expectations were still unbelievably high for Episode III. This is where Lucas will do it justice, people said. He’ll make the whole prequel trilogy work here, and masterfully tie in with the original films. Lucas himself said that sixty percent of his prequel story was in this film. So people grew excited, and hype went through the roof. Finally, the last Star Wars movie is upon the world. How is it, in the end? Does Lucas finally get it right? To it sum it up as best as possible:
Episode III goes out with a bang, but it is not without its major flaws. It is far from perfect.
The statement above has plenty of explanation behind it, and it does come from a major fan of the franchise, so those fans should relax before threatening the lynching.
For those who have been living under a rock, the story goes something like this: The film takes place roughly three years after the events in Episode II. After a successful rescue mission and defeat of Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), Anakin (Hayden Christensen) is appointed by Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) to the Jedi Council. The Council, suspicious of the chancellor, accepts him as a member, but refuses to call him a Jedi Master. Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) supports Anakin, but is busy with his own responsibilities. To add even more drama to the mix, there is tension between Anakin and his wife Padma (Natalie Portman), beginning right after she tells him she’s pregnant. Anakin, terribly conflicted inside, seems to only get support and understanding from Palpatine, but even he has his own dark agenda.
The story is fantastic, and lets the viewer know early on that this is Anakin’s film. All of the favorites are there: Mace Windu, Yoda, C-3PO, R2-D2, and the rest, but they really just play their own little roles in Anakin’s story. This movie is all about his fall, and it is one tragic tale. From the first step Anakin takes toward the dark side to the very last shot of him in the film, the story told here grips the audience the entire time.
There are no surprises, but this is not that kind of movie. This is a tale of one young man’s decisions and his ultimate downfall. It is unbelieveably interesting to watch Anakin become twisted and manipulated by the Sith lord. With this story, Darth Sidious is forever elevated into movie evil greatness. Much has been made of Ian McDiarmid’s performance here, and he deserves every accolade to come his way. He is absolutely perfect in this role, doing everything right, from the delivery of his lines to the way he carries himself throughout the film. He steals every scene he’s in, and when he opens his mouth, people pay even more attention to the film, if that’s possible. This might be Anakin’s film, but Palpatine is easily the best character in it.
The film is beautiful – absolutely beautiful. Some scenes in this movie are some of the best looking visuals ever put to film. The opening space battle is easily the biggest, most intense battle ever. It is hard to think of something that even comes close. There’s just so much going on at once, and the CGI is at a level where one can easily forget CGI is being used. It’s that good. The environments and multiple planets are also stunning. This film is very easy on the eyes, and it totally engrosses the audience. The battles also look fantastic. All the lightsabre duels, all the droid fights, everything is just spot on in this film. Easily one of the best, if not the best looking film ever made.
This is an ass-kicking film, with a heavy focus on action. After the beginning space battle, there is a little bit of downtime, but it does not last very long. Once it hits roughly the forty-five minute mark, the film kicks it into high gear and never looks back. The lightsabre duels are, again, awesome to watch on screen, and each one is more intense than the one before it. The culmination of the arch, the fight between Anakin and Obi-wan, which is intercut with another epic fight going on at the same time, is masterfully done. The fight between master and apprentice, their dance of death is absolutely breathtaking to behold.
Yes, everyone kniws how it will end, but that really doesn’t take away from it at all. In fact, it may actually enhance the battle, and its tragic end. Anakin’s ‘end’ is heart-wrenchingly tragic, and Ewan McGregor deserves major accolades for really making the battle, and its emotional end, something special. Christensen is no slouch, but the emotion from Obi-wan, and his delivery, is heart-wrenching. Obi-Wan can easily bring a tear to someone’s eye by the end of the fight.
Yes, the film is badass. Yes, it’s beautiful. But it’s flawed, and unfortunately the flaws do not allow this to be a perfect film. Far from it. First of all, the acting is being touted by many as ‘greatly improved’ and yes, that’s true. However, there was absolutely awful acting and dialogue in the proceeding films, greatly improved over awful does not equal greatness. And, reviewing this film on it’s own, the acting and dialogue are just bad. Not every scene is bad, of course, but they do stand out, and they hurt the overall mood and pace of the film.
Unfortunately, most of these scenes again occur between Portman and Christensen. To elaborate a bit, it actually boggles the mind to watch Portman, an Oscar nominee, turn in such an awful performance, but there it is. Everyone in the film is improved from previous episodes, but she just seems so laughably bad. Of course, the dialogue is awful, so that may have something to do with it, but she really comes across as a sort of black hole in this film, sucking in any talent that comes in contact with her. Some may call this an over-exaggeration, but to many it really seemed like she ruined most of the scenes she was in. And it’s hard to understand how this film can be called perfect with such awful dialogue. Even if you don’t notice, or look past, some of the acting, the dialogue is so bad it’s laughable. Why Lucas has such a problem in this department is unknown, but again, a jump up from Episode II does not make it good in Episode III.
Warning: Light spoilers within these final several paragraphs
Anakin’s turn to the dark side also falls short of being as great as it should be. Some will claim, if they agree, that the root of this problem exsists in the previous episode, but really it’s in the plot and actions of this film. The most powerful Jedi in existence, who has been trained for almost 15 years in nothing but the light side of the Force, who has been told by everyone, inside and out of the Jedi Order, that he is the Chosen One, so easily falling for such an under-developed reason is disappointing. How the most powerful Jedi could be manipulated into such massive distrust of the Jedi is eyebrow rasing. His conflicted turn from light to dark rests on the manipulation of his feelings for his wife, yet this manipulation goes against everything he has been taught his entire life. And then, when he finally makes his choice, the audience is supposed to believe it’s a choice made out of desperation, going against everything that he stands for. Yet, the actions he takes so quickly after his turn easily erase any idea of conflict in this boy.
This also brings up another point of contention. The Emperor, finally gaining control of the Republic, issues Order 66 to the clone troopers, effectively turning them on the Jedi. This is never explained, only witnessed. Yes, this adds to the darkness of the film, and it is truly depressing to watch the Jedi be gunned down by these troopers who have fought and died with them for three years. But that brings up a point: How could they just turn? Is there something implanted in their heads, some subtle coding in their brains that switched on with the mention of Order 66? It’s never explained; the audience is just supposed to take this as a normal course of action. It’s a bit farfetched and nothing that thirty more seconds of exposition could not solve.
One final complaint: Star Wars is known for it’s characters as much as its story. Some characters in this film, like Dooku and Grevious, don’t contribute anything major to the situation. In fact, they really come across as minor troubles for the Jedi to have some cool battles with but ultimately, and easily, destroy. Some may argue that there are novels, and comics, and television shows that explain their purpose better, but that is a weak argument. Characters in a film need to need to be more fleshed out, and there needs to be a reason for the audience to cheer for or against them. Grevious and Dooku are both failures in this regard, and Dooku was given all of five minutes of screen time. The viewer is told a thing or two about them, but it’s mostly in passing and like a desperate attempt to justify their existence. Same with the action taking place on the Wookie planet. It’s great to see. The action is just as intense and beautiful as the rest of the film, but really, is it necessary? It comes off as feeling forced, and it makes what should be an epic universe feel that much smaller and contained.