Cinema Psycho

"You know what? You have a losing personality." – Manhattan

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Posted by CinemaPsycho on May 20, 2005

Directed and written by George Lucas/starring Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christiansen, Samuel L. Jackson, Ian McDiarmid, Christopher Lee/20th Century Fox- Lucasfilm Ltd.

A dickhead is manipulated into betraying his friends and gets stuck in a suit of armor.

What, you were expecting a serious discussion? Come on, that’s not going to happen. We all know what this is about. Everyone’s going to go see it. Some people are gonna love it because it’s Star Wars. Some people are gonna hate it because it’s Star Wars. It’s gonna make about $600 million and piss off every “serious critic” on the planet. And most of us will have forgotten about it by the time War of the Worlds comes out.

That’s about as serious as I get when it comes to Star Wars. At this point, I think I have enough perspective that I’m just kind of amused by the whole thing. The mountains of hype, the insane and unnecessary marketing deals, the bizarre passion of the die-hard fans (standing in line at the wrong theater, for god’s sake, and refusing to move) – it’s all funny to me. It makes me laugh. But not at all in a cynical, mocking way. I just think it’s hilarious. It’s weird and wonderful. You don’t see people getting this worked up over crap like Monster-in-Law, that’s for damn sure.

It’s virtually impossible to discuss a Star Wars movie without commenting on the series’ overall impact on pop culture. Yes, we all know that Star Wars changed Hollywood permanently. Many critics would say for the worse, and when you look at how loud, stupid and ridiculous Hollywood blockbuster have become, it’s difficult to disagree. But it’s also important to remember that Lucas helped save Hollywood from a period of financial disaster that could have virtually destroyed the industry. Maybe mainstream movies were better before 1977. But the truly great films are always the exception to the rule, no matter what period they come from. Have you seen Freebie and the Bean lately? How about Myra Breckenridge or The Other Side of Midnight or, god help you, Exorcist II: The Heretic? It wasn’t all wine and roses back then, kids.

Besides, if anyone’s still concerned about Star Wars’ negative effect on filmmaking, here’s what they should do: support independent and foreign films. See them at the nearest art house. Rent them at the local video store. And when Hollywood actually makes something great (which they still do, every now and then), go see it in a theater! If you don’t do these things, then you have no right to bitch and complain. There are lots of excellent movies out there that most people haven’t seen. If you’re not willing to make a little effort, then shut the hell up. Bad news: George Lucas didn’t destroy movies – Michael Cimino did. Deal with it.

Some people are actually offended – offended, I say! – by the shameless hucksterism on display with the prequels. I guess they don’t remember when they were kids, how they had to have all the action figures of Boba Fett and Bossk and all the little freaky creatures who were on screen for all of 5 seconds. Maybe they never put together a Millenium Falcon or X-Wing Fighter model. They certainly never listened to the soundtrack, read the comic books or novelizations or even had lightsaber battles with their friends. Nooooo, their 8-year-old selves were just too pure for such crass commercialization.

Give me a fucking break. Kids are eating this stuff up with a lightsaber spoon. I’m constantly amazed at how much kids today love Star Wars, and not just the prequels either. One of my nephew’s favorite games is to re-enact the Luke/Vader duel at the end of Empire. He may not have the attention span to sit through the entire movie, but the words “Luke, I am your father” are practically sacred text to him. He’s grown up with R2D2 and C3P0 and Lando Calrissian and Jabba the Hut. I’m not the one pushing this stuff on him, believe me. It’s just as iconic now as it was then. Star Trek? He doesn’t know from any Star Trek. Maybe that will come later. Maybe not.

I don’t even know how it happened, really. I remember going for quite a long time – somewhere between 1984 and 1996 – without even thinking about Star Wars. It was all just a vague memory. If anyone even brought up the subject, it was like, “oh yeah, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Darth Vader. I sorta remember that.” But somehow it endured. So it really doesn’t bother me how many ridiculous tie-ins there are. It doesn’t affect the content of the movies, so who cares? It’s not like Lucas has the entire Jedi Council sitting around at the breakfast table eating Star Wars cereal with those goofy lightsaber spoons.

Besides, it’s all just a silly space opera – isn’t it?

That’s what struck me the most while watching Revenge of the Sith – how goofy and ridiculous it all is, even in the “serious” moments. It’s a cartoon, for christ’s sake, a Saturday-afternoon serial, an overblown comic-book fantasy filtered through the mind of a very good salesman. There’s nothing “adult” about it – not the content, not the tone, and certainly not the dialogue. It’s play time. It’s made up. It’s pulp sci-fi action/adventure. At its very heart and soul, it’s just a big goof. It’s supposed to be fun, goddammit! Why does everybody take it so freakin’ seriously?

I’ve had my issues with the prequels, like just about everyone else on Earth. I think there are some serious lapses in judgment in the first two, especially Phantom Menace. I actually don’t mind things like Jake Lloyd’s performance or even Jar Jar (though he’s still completely unnecessary) – it’s just that most of the movie’s so freaking boring. Who cares about all that political nonsense? Just get to the good stuff already! Attack of the Clones was an improvement, but I almost felt like Lucas was trying a little too hard to please the fanboys. You can feel the desperation even as you sort of appreciate the effort. There were things I liked about both movies, but I haven’t felt it necessary to sit through either one of them again.

Revenge of the Sith is easily the most dramatically satisfying of the trilogy. That’s damning it with faint praise, I realize, but even so it has to be said. It finally feels like he’s telling the story that we want to see. Of course all three movies are about Anakin’s rise, downfall and eventual transformation into Darth Vader. I get that. I just wish the rise and downfall had been more interesting to watch.

Beyond that, Revenge of the Sith actually feels like a Star Wars movie, not an unreasonable facsimile. The pacing finally feels right. The exposition scenes don’t feel like they drag on forever. The space battles and lightsaber duels (of which there are many) are actually kinda thrilling in that old-school way. Believe me, no one had lower expectations going in than I did, but I walked out thinking, “wow, I actually enjoyed watching that.” I wouldn’t say it gave me an orgasm or anything, but it wasn’t a chore to sit through either. That’s a considerable improvement.

So does this mean Lucas nailed it? Well…yes and no. He made a pretty good Star Wars movie, but certainly not the be-all, end-all Star Wars movie that many people are going to demand. I don’t think it’s going to make people forgive the mistakes made in the previous prequels – “oh, so that’s why Jar Jar farted!” – that would take a miracle. And I think it suffers a bit from the fact that we all pretty much know what’s going to happen, which is inevitable. It couldn’t end any other way, or there would be a fanboy riot. But there aren’t a lot of genuine surprises.

And we’re still stuck with Anakin as our focal point, which is maybe an unavoidable weak spot of the entire trilogy. Frankly, I never understood what the Jedi saw in this guy in the first place. Really, the guy’s kind of a douchebag, isn’t he? He’s an insufferably obnoxious child in Phantom Menace, and a petulant teenager with a penchant for genocide in Clones. Is anyone really shocked that he turns to the Dark Side? Anakin’s got everything handed to him on a silver platter, and all he can do is bitch and moan. I understand that he has to choose between his love for foxy Padme and the rules of the Jedi, but still…nice problem to have, am I right? Beats pod racing for pocket change. Here, he supposedly betrays the Jedi to save Padme, but you get the feeling he was just looking for an excuse. Some guys will take any opportunity they can get to act like a dick. You wish Padme would just give up on his dumb ass already – what does she see in this homicidal prick?

Lucas’ direction of the actors is still considerably lacking as well. It’s a little painful to watch Portman struggle through her clumsy dialogue here after seeing her tear up the screen in Closer (I kept imagining her saying things like, “Anakin, fuck me all night long”…maybe that’s just me). Sam Jackson still seems like he’s been directed to just stand there and speak his lines in a robotic monotone. Come on, we know these actors have more personality than this! Even the roundly criticized Christiansen put in decent performances in Life as a House and Shattered Glass. The lovey-dovey dialogue between Anakin and Padme is still absolutely cringe-worthy. It didn’t necessarily have to be realistic, but it should have at least sounded natural.

Overall though, I have to say that Revenge of the Sith is a pretty satisfying experience. It may not blow you away, but it gets the job done. Just go, have fun, get some closure and get it all out of your system. Just don’t expect it to change your life or anything. It’s only a movie, people. Relax and enjoy the ride.

And if you hate Star Wars, well, you can celebrate the fact that it’s over. Everybody wins!

*** 5/20/05

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