Revenge of the Sith carries a heavy burden as the pivotal film in the new trilogy, in much the same way as The Empire Strikes Back carried the central conflict of the original. It is under this weight that Lucas produces his best work of the original trilogy, but one still plagued by many of his shortcomings.
Essentially Sith is a vast improvement on the previous two films featuring far better dialogue, more character moments, and better action. It is unique amongst Star Wars films for its lack of humour, presence of complicated issues, and the minor yet graphic violence. Lucas has crafted a reasonable end to what has so far been a mediocre saga, in that sense the film is an enjoyable popcorn flick.
The tragedy of it is however the dire political sub-plots that consume a story starving for air, hacking the film into a stilted series of poorly linked exposition and meaningless battle sequences that disappointingly drive the film to its dark conclusion. Ultimately highlighting the many design flaws present since The Phantom Menace such as the lack of a consistent bad guy, or dramatic drive for our main characters.
But even if the characters had clearer motivation, there is little time devoted in Sith for any character to build a rapport with the audience. Much of the film is spent on elaborate effects, shifting many of the more personal confrontations into the realm of visual ecstasy where the prevalent theory is the more amazing the better. Amongst the computer generated optical bombardment the story and drama of the event is simply lost. I yearn for more of the spectacular yet believable theatrical moments such as the speeder chase in Return of the Jedi, something last seen in any form in the Pod race from Menace.
The film does have its moments with much improved performances from Hayden Christiansen and Natalie Portman, who actually manage to conjure some real romantic spark in their limited time together. Its clear Hayden is much more comfortable dabbling in the fear and anger of the darker side of Anakin. Ewen McGregor and Ian McDiarmid still remain the stand-outs of the trilogy, seemingly the only two actors who had some real fun with their roles. While the casting of Samuel L. Jackson, and the host of computer generated characters like the films bad guy General Grievous, will always seem poorly planned if not a little random.
Which brings us to the moment of truth; did Lucas nail the purpose of this trilogy? Was the descent of Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader all that we had hoped? In the end, it is really a question of perception, but for this reviewer, the cause of Anakin’s betrayal was weak and feebly constructed. It seems disturbingly lame for Anakin to literally one moment realise the folly in his way, and then surrender to the will of the Emperor in the same breath, without even an irrational reasoning. To then march off and willingly slaughter the innocent, while still believing he is defending the Republic, is probably the most disappointing part of the film.
There is some redemption for the much anticipated turn to the dark side, when Anakin and Obi-wan face off in the inevitable duel reprised in A New Hope. It’s in these last moments of the film that the new trilogy finds itself closest to capturing some of the feeling of the original. It is admirable to note that Lucas has improved as a Director in all facets, particularly in his ability to capture more genuine acting. Were he to re-attempt the prequels now he would probably be far more effective, however given his recent quotes in the press, one wonders if he really cared too much in the first place.
Revenge of the Sith still fails to answer some of the questions the saga has posed thus far, and seems to make a mockery of Lucas’ own mythology, while at the same time bringing a conclusion to many things and establishing a logical link to the original trilogy. It’s in that analysis that this film will probably forever remain stationary, a film that achieves quite a lot, but leaves too much under done and even absent.