05 May 2005 :: 'Revenge of the Sith' Review

Freakin' beautiful. That's what I was thinking as I sat, mildly stunned, watching an advance screening of Star Wars: Episode 3, earlier today. Hard to imagine, after all this time - the bridge between the prequels and the original trilogy. And it is the keystone episode - very plausible in both content and execution.

It's been described as dark, emotive - you'd better believe it. Episode 3 is unrestrained in comparison to its predecessors, and the returning actors have matured and developed their characters to adequately elucidate the fall of Vader. My vote for Most Valuable Actor? Ian McDiarmid has gone comparatively under-appreciated for his contributions to the 6 episode saga. In 'Revenge', he extends the duplicity of Palpatine to new heights in order to fulfill a role equal in importance that of Anakin/Vader. Most recognisable Actor? Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christiansen open the action, but the first character seen after their on-screen introduction is Temuera Morrison. Or more correctly, the first characters seen are Temuera Morrison, as he plays the clones of the Grand Army of the Republic. New Zealanders will be entertained to see multiple versions of this well-known local actor replying to the Jedi in succession. Other New Zealand actors take the screen in less obvious roles, but are worth keeping an eye out for: Bodie Taylor, Jay Laga'aia, Rena Owen, and Keisha Castle-Hughes.

Episode 3 opens with a variation on the memorable and majestic Star Destroyer flyover of 'A New Hope'. A pair of starfighters enter the composition, and the camera floats amongst the convincing CG vehicles, in a ballet impossible with physical models and recording devices. Then the action explodes. The 'Pearl Harbour' battle, in space. The tempo only remits when it is necessary to heighten or deepen the emotion - this occurs far less frequently than we observed in Episode 2, and is critical to explain Anakin's progressive dissonance and darkening. If lightsaber battles are your preferred flavour of skirmish, EP3 will give you your share, including new tactics employed by computer-generated opponents that'll be sure to impress. And, unlike earlier installments where it was possible to differentiate the some of the actors (e.g., Christopher Lee) from their stunt doubles, technology has allowed the visage of principal players to be digitally applied to the stand-ins. Even Yoda has benefited from the march of computer-processing power, with close-up shots that'll leave you swearing he's adorned with real cloth robes. The little green guy takes an emotional beating throughout 'Revenge', and by the end of the film, you can see the pain in his bloodshot eyes.

Scenery, pace, emotion. Lucas has learnt from the two preceding prequels, and concludes his epic in a manner that measures its success in the despair of the audience at the close of this movie. If Episode 3 existed independent of the original trilogy, we'd be left perturbed by the scope of the tragedy it conveys. We are fortunate that that is not the case - instead, we can rest satisfied. The multi-decade thread that is Star Wars has wrapped back on itself, and the weave is complete. Vader falls, but is redeemed. The prophecy of the Chosen One is hard fought and tortuous...the Galaxy sacrifices much to reattain balance in the Force, but ultimately, at great cost, we know that peace will reign.

The only negative thought I had coming out of the theatre today?...now I have to wait until the Monday 16th Charity Premiere to repeat the experience!

:: Spoiler section

If you're trying to steer clear of plot spoilers, stay away from this section of the review!

When Obi-Wan takes out Anakin...the best. Anakin's expression when the mask comes down on his face, and then it seals...even more the best. Vader's rage when it is revealed to him that Padme is dead...well, you get the picture.

I find it difficult to narrow my favourite scene down to but one. I think, despite plenty of eye candy and entertainment along the way, that Episode 3's highlight action is saved until its latter moments. Everything from Anakin lying limbless on the lava lake shoreline, through his surgical transformation to the semi-mechanical Vader we all know, to his appearance as the Dark Lord on the bridge of the Imperial flagship - that is the span of my favourite scenes.

Also worthy: it's just right to see C-3PO in his full aurulent lustre again, particularly in the iconic white corridors of the Tantive IV. But the nods and connections to the original trilogy are occasionally more plenary in impact: Owen Lars inspecting the Tatooine binary-sunset an unmistakable echo of Luke Skywalker's classic pose; Vader on the bridge of a Star Destroyer, Palpatine and Tarkin at his side, and original trilogy-style uniformed Imperial Officers at the sunken control consoles below...and what's that moon-like space station they're inspecting out the bridge windows? But most of all, I love the return of McDiarmid's ROTJ-esque Emperor. And indeed, he is Emperor proper, for his goals throughout the prequel movies were three-fold: exterminate the Jedi in entirity, manipulate Anakin into his servitude (at the expense of the pawn-apprentice, Dooku), and transform the Republic into a Galactic Empire. The depths of his malificence are unparalleled - he conducts his most baneful of deeds with maniacal laughter, and switches to feigned helplessness as it suits his needs.

Nasty.

I cannot wait to see this film again!

Matt G

Last updated: 05 May 2005 (NZT)

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