Revenge of the Sith was already the best of the prequel trilogy, so when I was going through my rewatches of the Star Wars series, I knew I’d still like it. However I ended up loving it even more, to the point where it’s one of my favourite movies in the series, flaws and all. After the past two disappointing prequels, George Lucas handled the final film in the trilogy greatly, delivering on a satisfying conclusion and one of the highlights of the series.
Revenge of the Sith at 2 hours and 20 minutes had my attention all the way through. The dialogue is better, with some occasionally bad lines that go through, however they don’t detract too much from the movie. It’s a much darker story, and it really needed to be that, with it being the chapter of Anakin Skywalker becoming Darth Vader. This movie was the first Star Wars movie to be given a PG-13/M rating, and it uses it to great effect. Revenge of the Sith starts out on a high note, with an entertaining action sequence as Anakin and Obi Wan are in fighters as they try to rescue a ‘captured’ Chancellor Palpatine. The CGI and action are good, and it gets you really into what’s going on. The rest of the rescue was great, as they encounter droids, Count Dooku, and General Grievous, and manage to land half a ship. It’s pretty much classic Star Wars.
If there was a weakest section of the movie, it would be the one where Obi Wan is hunting Grievous, not that it’s bad or anything. It’s entertaining and all, but that’s all it really is. It doesn’t really help that Grievous wasn’t that great as an antagonist. While they really only got to shine in the third acts of their respective movies, Darth Maul and Count Dooku still got to show off. As unique as an antagonist as Grievous is physically, he ends up being a mostly normal physical threat. His lightsabre fight with Obi Wan was the most disappointing part of it, with it only lasting 30 seconds and with Kenobi seemingly easily cutting off two of his hands. Nothing bad about this section necessarily, just pales in comparison to the rest of the movie.
Surprisingly I was more interested in Anakin’s story, but that needed to be the case, with this whole trilogy being about him becoming Darth Vader after all. There had been much criticisms about the portrayal of The Jedi Council, and how unheroic and sometimes unlikable they are seen in the prequels. The portrayal is deliberate, and that’s even more so the case with Revenge of the Sith. The part where Palpatine tells Anakin about how the Jedi and the Sith are quite similar in the opera house scene, he really didn’t have to lie all that much. Much of the Jedi don’t exactly stick by their code, a chief example being Mace Windu trying to kill Palpatine even when he pretty much had him already beaten. Also remember back to after Anakin and Obi Wan’s conversation after the mission, where Kenobi lists the killing of Dooku among some of the successful things he did on that mission, whereas Skywalker didn’t feel like it was right and wasn’t the Jedi way, and only did it because Palpatine pushed him to do it. Anakin’s questionings of some of their dealings aren’t unfounded. The Jedi were also very paranoid and distrustful, especially when it came to Anakin. Mace making the point directly by himself that although Anakin was on the Jedi Council, he wouldn’t be a master (which turns out has never been done before), just solidified their distrust for him, aside from Obi Wan of course. A mix of these, along with fearing about Padme dying, would all lead to him on the path to the dark side.
This would all build up until Palpatine is revealed as the Sith lord behind everything, and there’s a direct confrontation. The scene where Palpatine and Windu fight is rather disappointing considering the skill and power of both, but the way Palpatine just kills the other 3 Jedi within like 5 seconds is so silly. It’s not that he’s shown to be quite powerful (that’s what we’d expect) but 2 of them practically let themselves get killed. I noticed that some people really had issues with how quickly Anakin makes the decision to join Palpatine, especially as it’s done right after he says “What have I done?”. Personally I saw this as Anakin reluctantly joining since there was no turning back after being involved with killing Mace Windu and helping Palpatine, mixed with his genuine disillusion with the Jedi Council, and of course still his desire to save Padme. I do remember when George Lucas once said that in this movie you’ll get to learn why he was given the name of Darth Vader. He must’ve forgotten to do that because it’s not explained anywhere here (unless you know that Vader in German means father), not that it really matters though, it’s a small detail.
The third act showing the fall of the Jedi order was really great. The Order 66 is indeed a fantastically handled sequence and one of the highlights of the entire series, as it cuts around to the Jedi being killed by the clones that they were fighting alongside minutes ago. You really feel the weight of everything going on in this last act. The final fights are also really good, with Obi Wan against Anakin and Yoda against the Emperor. With the former you get a bunch of large scale fight scenes in the volcanic planet of Mustafar, and the latter you get both parties using the force plenty as well as using the lightsabres. I do think they went a little overboard with the Anakin and Obi Wan fight, where the fight is so long and they two of them seem to be keep being placed in every ridiculous scenario possible, but the movie seemed to be leaning into the whole space opera thing, and on that end it mostly worked. Outside of that, the only slight problem I had with the Anakin and Obi Wan fight was that I was hoping to see was at least some attempt from the latter to bring Anakin back from the dark side at the beginning of it, given that just before he told Yoda that he can’t do it. I would’ve liked that instead of Kenobi just pretty much going in knowing that he’s already gone at this point. The moment of Padme giving birth being paralleled with Anakin’s turn into Darth Vader was pretty much perfect, and I was even fine with Vader’s freakout over hearing that Padme is dead, it would make sense. But I’m with everyone as not being such a fan of his giant “NOOOOOOOO” at the end of the scene, it was a little too much and rather silly. The rest of the ending is great and set things up well for the next movie. Side note but I never picked up till my most recent rewatch that C-3PO and R2-D2 had their memories wiped at the end of the movie, that made so much sense as to why they don’t recognise some of the other characters in the original trilogy.
Ewan McGregor is once again pitch perfect as Obi-Wan Kenobi, and he gets better with every subsequent Star Wars movie he appears in. He resembles Alec Guinness even more and is completely believable in the role, he’s particularly great towards the third act. Hayden Christensen gets a bad rap for his performances as Anakin Skywalker in these prequels. Indeed, I had some problems with him in Attack of the Clones. In Revenge of the Sith there are a few lines of dialogue that aren’t all that great. However most of the writing for him works, and I don’t actually have any problems with his performance here. The dynamic between him and Obi-Wan for instance was what I wanted more of from the two of them in Attack of the Clones. You just get the first act of them during the rescue, as well as some other scenes involving the council before Kenobi leaves to go after Grievous, but they work so well. It feels so natural, none of these forced “You’re like a father to me” lines from Attack of the Clones which you don’t believe. You can also really see the conflict in Anakin, and that’s something that Christensen nailed as well. Sure, Anakin is moody again, but unlike Attack of the Clones, it doesn’t come across like some whiny teenager. Christensen’s visual acting is fantastic, while I struggled to see him as Anakin in the previous movie, here I buy it. And of course when it came to him as Vader, I really bought it. Of course he does have some pretty lame lines at times that most actors would struggle with (“If you’re not with me, then you’re my enemy”, “From my point of view the Jedi are evil”), but he also delivers them as best as possible.
Natalie Portman gets to do more acting-wise here in this movie, it’s a shame though that her character of Padme is just relegated to being pregnant, being worried, crying, giving birth and then dying, especially considering that she actually did some things in the plot of the other two prequels. It’s really annoying hearing that originally in the script, Padme was involved with forming the rebellion, and that would’ve been perfect for her. Given some of the things she says in the movie, it would’ve made sense, like in one scene where she seems to be doubting the war. Surprisingly the romance between Padme and Anakin actually works here. Sure you get a few bad lines between the two (“You’re so beautiful”, “Only because I’m so in love”), but you are able to stomach it, not to mention the soap opera lines seem a little deliberate, with Star Wars being a space opera after all. You can actually buy their relationship, even with the scenes with less lines. The rest of the supporting cast also do well. Ian McDiarmid is always fantastic as Emperor Palpatine, The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones gradually showed Palpatine’s rise to power, but in Revenge of the Sith he’s at the centre of the story. His scenes with Anakin are great as he’s slowly bringing him towards the dark side, the highlight being the opera house scene, where he tells him the story about Darth Plagueis the wise. Now McDiarmid does go incredibly over the top at points (even more than in Return of the Jedi) and maybe he’s a little silly, but even those moments are just glorious to watch too. McDiarmid and McGregor are the MVPs of these Star Wars prequels, they’re fantastic in their roles. General Grievous was a character that was introduced in the animated Clone Wars series. He was quite a unique villain, a cyborg who had 4 arms, each wielding lightsabres more often than not. So he was known even before Revenge of the Sith came out. It’s unfortunate then that he’s rather underwhelming in the movie. Sure he can pose a bit of a threat, but his fight with Obi Wan was rather disappointing, and there’s not much to him as a character.
I think George Lucas did a great job at directing this movie. While the movie has its fair share of exposition, Lucas seemed to allow the movie to breathe and told the story visually at points. One of the biggest examples is when Anakin and Padme are seemingly looking at each other across buildings, which takes place right after Mace Windu and a few other Jedi go out to arrest Palpatine. Along with the great facial acting from both Christensen and Portman, it’s such an eerie and powerful moment, and manages to convey so much about both characters at that moment without needing a single line of dialogue. There definitely is a lot of reliance on CGI, but the visuals themselves are definitely better than Attack of the Clones. There are so many spectacular sequences that work really well, from the lightsabre fights, to the space battles, and so on. There are plenty of moments that are really over the top, especially some fight scenes, but again, this is a full on space opera, and seeing the movie as that certainly made it make sense. The worlds are also greatly designed and thought out, same with the robots, costumes, etc. John Williams has always been good at scoring Star Wars, but I’m pretty confident in saying that Revenge of the Sith is his best score for a Star Wars movie. It’s large, epic, emotional, tragic, and just fit perfectly with the whole movie.
I always liked Revenge of the Sith, but the more recent viewing of it made me love it even more, and solidified it as one of my favourite Star Wars movies. Its issues are noticeable and hurt the movie a lot, but it’s only because the rest of the movie works so well. It generally accomplished what the movie needed to do, and although the prequels were mostly disappointing, it’s a relief that the final film at least managed to stick the landing.