Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

George Lucas follows Attack of the Clones with a three year gap and presents us with the "reportedly" final chapter in the Star Wars saga - Revenge of the Sith. Initial response to the title was strong - noting that original title for Episode VI was Revenge of the Jedi but was changed at the last minute - now the title gets to be used in a more appropriate manner.

The Clone Wars, begun as Attack of the Clones was winding down has now been raging for three years. Obi-Wan Kenobi and his Jedi in training, Anakin Skywalker have been fighting with the clones against the trade federation. Palpatine's power in the senate continues to grow - as do the powers of the young Jedi Anakin. As this episode opens, Palatine has been kidnapped and Master Kenobi and Anakin have been assigned to rescue him from General Grievous. The resulting rescue and "crash" of the space ship opens the first of a plethora of plot holes this film is riddled with. In this instance, the ship is coming back through the atmosphere, having pieces ripped off by the uncontrolled reentry. The ship is turning into a molten missile. It's interesting that the bridge - which sticks out of the ship on a raised arm - is completely in tact and has not even begun to show the heat of reentry.

After the successful rescue of Palpatine, Anakin is reunited with his wife in secret, Padmé Amidala. She is happy to see him and promptly announces that she is carrying his child. I'm sure that by now everyone knows that she is actually pregnant with fraternal twins, Luke and Leia (yes - they are brother and sister). Almost immediately, Anakin begins to have those nightmares again, this time that Padmé will die in child birth. Obsessed with the knowledge he couldn't save his mother from these nightmares (see the previous film), he vows he will do anything to prevent Padmé's death. To the Dark Side he is going.

As the film unfolds, Palpatine appoints Anakin to be his official emissary to the Jedi council, but they refuse to grant him "Master Jedi" status. They want him to spy on the chancellor and of course, the chancellor wants him to spy on the Jedi. Palpatine confides to Anakin that he is a Dark Lord of the Sith and that he alone can provide Anakin with the power to save Padmé. Anakin warns Mace Windu of Palpatine's true identity and all are convinced he is trying to take more power than he should have. Needless to say the arrest of Palpatine does not go as planned and results in Mace Windu's death and Anakin swearing allegiance to Lord Sidious. Given the new name Darth Vader, Sidious orders the execution of all Jedi and Anakin (Darth Vader) goes to the Jedi temple to complete his conversion to the dark side.

Mass hysteria ensues. All the Jedi are killed. Only Obi-Wan and Yoda survive. At this point, one has to wonder how in tune with the Force are these Jedi anyway? With the exception of a very young warrior, all of them are caught completely unaware. Only Yoda seems to feel the disturbance in the force as each is killed. Most are essentially shot in the back by Clone Warrior troops. One would think this shortcut was done to save screen time. It certainly flies in the face of what Obi-Wan Kenobi decrees to Luke in Episode IV: "A young Jedi named Darth Vader - who was a pupil of mine until he turned to evil - helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi Knights." While we already know that old Obi-Wan was somewhat liberal with the brush-strokes he used to paint the past for Luke - I would have expected a somewhat more involved "hunting" than what we have here.

Part of the push behind Revenge of the Sith is to tie up several loose ends and bring the two trilogies together. Some of this is accomplished - we see how and why Anakin became encased within the Darth Vader suit. How and why the Skywalker twins are separated and end up on Tatoonie and Alderaan is also explained. We even get a very brief glimpse of how Obi-Wan has been able to communicate with Luke, transcending death itself. What still remains a mystery is why old Obi-Wan has no memory of the droids in Episode IV. We know how they come to be in Leia's possession - as does Obi-Wan.

And while we're on the subject of continuity errors, Episode III opens a huge hole up in Return of the Jedi which now has to be patched. In the Ewok village, Luke asks Leia if she remembers her mother - her real mother. Leia responds "Just a little bit. She died when I was very young." If you've not seen Episode III, I'm going to spoil something for you - Padmé brings Anakin's darkest fears to pass, and with no will to live for herself, dies in childbirth after naming the twins. Clearly with these events, Leia could in no way have any knowledge of her "real" mother - except perhaps by use of the Force. The film also short-circuits the final turn of Anakin to the Dark Side - it is much more defined in the book.

Lucas also returns to the nonsense of the midi-chlorians - only briefly - to explain the ability of using the Dark Side of the Force to create life. This give additional support to the theory I've held for several years that Palpatine is actually Anakin's father. Mull this over in your minds: Father kills father to save son. Isn't that ripe with the fibers that Lucas has been weaving these past 30+ years?

Revenge of the Sith had an estimated budget of $115 million - which is actually less than Attack of the Clones. Reviews have been generally good, but Lucas isn't going to win any awards for the writing and directing. The interaction between Anakin and Padmé is so wooden, Natalie Portman could have phoned in the dialog and had her character digitally acted. In fact, all of the acting here is truly dreadful with the exception of Ewan McGregor, who's portrayal of Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi has evolved as much over the three films as any other character. The film opened on May 19, 2005 on 3661 screens. It's opening 4-day totals (including opening day Thursday) was $158.5 million. By the time the last print left the screens in October 2005, the film managed a respectible $794.5 million worldwide.

Updated: May 3, 2006
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