Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
Thank God that's that finished. For now...
Well, for those of you who gave a hoot in the first place the wait is finally over. Episode III has finally landed in cinemas with all the hype and hoo-ha that usually arises when people with selective amnesia are paid to promote mega-budget sequels. If you've been paying attention to the progress of the Star Wars prequels you'll be aware of saga guru George Lucas' recent furious back-peddling in an attempt to circumvent the negative press generated by the first two installments. We always knew nobody would like the first film because it's about an annoying little boy! he wails. We always knew nobody would like the second film because it's about an annoying, loved-up teenager! he protests. So George, you're openly admitting you spent several hundred million dollars making films you didn't expect anyone to like? Riiiiiiiiiiiiight. Well guess what; George is saying you'll love this one because it's the only one that was meant to count anyway, and it's so fantastic it'll make you forget everything that came before and oh, the world will be just be better because of it and...George? George? George! Stop that man! He's got my fiver!.
Hey, if you're stupid enough to trust a strange man with a beard who ripped you off twice before then you deserve all the financial brutality you get. By the time the lights of the auditorium dip Mr. Lucas is hurtling out of the car park with all the takings in a car that cost more than you'll make in your entire life, and trust me when I say he doesn't give two hoots about the fact his paying public are enduring some majorly soul-free toss in order to make his coffers swell. Such as it even matters, Episode III picks up ther plot three years after the events of Episode II with Anakin (Hayden Christensen) having spent the time honing his Jedi powers in the Clone Wars. The film opens with Anakin and his Jedi master Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) attempting to rescue Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) from the clutches of evil CG droid leader General Grievous which, of course, they do but not before said naughty robot makes a daring getaway. From here on in the movie alternates between Obi-Wan attempting to kick Grievous' arse across the vast void of space and Palpatine lecherously endeavouring to harness Anakin's powers for his own insidious gain.
To this end the Chancellor gradually turns Anakin against his Jedi masters, using as leverage the young lad's fear of lover Padme's (Natalie Portman) foreseen death during child birth. Convincing young Skywalker that the only way to save Padme from certain death is to harness the awesome power of the Dark Side, Palpatine manipulates the headstrong young oaf until eventually he's willing to start attempting to actually act and, perhaps more importantly, massacre rooms full of children for his own personal gain. The rest you already know and, in all likelihood, have known for somewhere in the region of the past six years. Palpatine = Emperor, Anakin = Darth Vader, Jedi = dead. And that's about it to be honest. Having proven positively lethargic in his pacing over the last two films, Lucas has been left cornered by the need to cram enough exposition to fill a trilogy in it's own right into slightly over two hours of one movie, with predictably turgid results.
I for one am incredibly sceptical about Lucas' claim that all this was planned and written along with the original trilogy and also the last three movies in the saga back in the seventies, for everything here reeks of a rush job. Were it the case that Lucas is in fact telling the truth the end result would have been far better paced because we know from the first movies that, if not the best dialogue conjourer, Lucas can at least tell a decent story. Here we have a plot that veers all over the place, and in recognition of the fact he cannot make it work through storytelling skill alone, Lucas takes his usual escape route and assails us with dazzling effects in the hope of pulling the wool over our eyes. This might be fine if the action were in the least bit involving, but having now been de-sensitised to the fully CG virtual set environment it's hard for an audience to feel engaged when only the actors, and sometimes even only their faces, are real. The soul-free anaesthetic that is the cleansing power of the pixel has never been demonstrated better, and the net result is that this reviewer left having felt like he'd been watching a two hour cartoon rather than a "dark adult movie" like we'd been promised.
Even the basics of Lucas' skills as a director seem to have been forgotten, with the promised "epic 20 minute space battle" that opens the film proving a lame, excitement-free troll through a boring attempt by some annoying little robots to duff up Anakin and Obi-Wan's spacecraft. How the hell do you cock up a space battle, George? The light sabre battles are similarly lifeless affairs and even Yoda's bust-up with Palpatine proves pale compared to the little green one's sprightly jostle with Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) in the previous installment. In all fairness there are some nice little touches designed to tie this installment up with Episode IV, my particular favourite being a brief CG cameo by an artificially young Peter Cushing in the final few moments. While raising Lucas' grade through some effort in continuity, one or two of these touches make no sense when you consider a couple of decades are supposed to fill the gap between episodes III and IV, but at least the cuddly little chap's made a vague attempt so we won't be too harsh on him.
So then, a Star Wars film with crap light sabre fights and crap space battles. What was the point exactly? Viewing the movie impartially and utterly objectively it's still an entertaining slice of hokum and for that reason it still musters some semblance of a score. Ultimately though the most impressive feat Lucas has managed is to convince millions of people to part with their hard-earned money for something they knew in their hearts was going to be shit anyway. Word to the die-hard Star Wars fans; if for some reason you haven't seen this film yet then DON'T. Just because you feel some allegiance doesn't mean you should let this man rape you for your wallet. Have some sense, stop being so pathetic and realise that Lucas certainly doesn't give a shit about you or anything else except selling a continent-sized consignment of merchandise, and this is your last chance to make a stand. Until episodes VII, VIII and IX that is which absolutely, irrefutably, undeniably will not be made. Ever. Honest. Until Lucas wants to screw you over again, which he will. Mark my words. Just imagine the exciting things he'll be able to do with the toys in another 20 years time...
I award this movie 2 out of 5 "Units We Use"
Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader)
Natalie Portman (Padme)
Ian McDiarmid (Chancellor Palpatine)