Film (2005). A Lucasfilm Ltd Production, a Twentieth Century Fox release. Directed by George Lucas. Written by Lucas. Cast includes Hayden Christensen, Samuel L Jackson, Ian McDiarmid, Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman. 140 minutes. Colour.
In Revenge of the Sith, the (apparently) final film in the Star Wars cycle, George Lucas finally packs away the cute sidekicks to dramatize the darkest moment in his Space Opera mythology: the corruption of Anakin Skywalker (Christensen) from Jedi Knight to the menacing Darth Vader. More focused than the sprawling Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999) and Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002), Revenge of the Sith is the tightest and most thrilling Star Wars film since Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980). However, it still suffers from many of the traditional Lucas deficiencies in scripting that have plagued the series since its inception, and the grimness of the subject matter is undercut by the numerous absurdities of the plot.
While concerned for the health of his pregnant wife Padmé (Portman), Anakin Skywalker is commanded by his knightly order, the Jedi, to spy on Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (McDiarmid). The charismatic politician, secretly an evil "Sith Lord", seduces Anakin to his side with promises that his teachings can save Anakin's family from death. When the Jedi take up arms against the Chancellor, Anakin embraces the Dark Side completely and is rechristened Darth Vader by his new master, who then effectively exterminates the Jedi order and seizes control of the Republic as emperor. In the process, Vader is encased in black armour after being mutilated in a duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi (McGregor) and Padmé dies of a broken heart. The surviving characters take up their positions around the galaxy to await the events of Star Wars (1977).
A flawed protagonist's fall from grace used to be seen as a prerequisite for tragedy. But while it is perhaps a necessary condition, it is not a sufficient one. Lucas' execution of it in the film is simplistic and unconvincing, not helped by his widely recognized tin ear for dialogue. The whole affair remains entertaining though, helped by some spirited if melodramatic performances; notably that of McDiarmid, who cackles and purrs his way through the movie with the same gleeful malice he showed in Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983). Visually, the film is another triumph for Lucas; both on its own terms and as a cleverly designed bridge between the styles of the prequel trilogy and the original films.
The novelization is Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005) by Matthew Stover. [JN]
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