You are viewing an archived version of Don’t forget to go back to the future.

Revenge of the Sith

19 May 2005
Thursday, 6:43 AM

In light of the fact that—especially when it comes to Star Wars—opinions truly are like assholes, I’ll keep this relatively brief, but since my filmgoing has been shamefully infrequent so far this year, I thought I’d be remiss not to weigh in on what certainly must be, for better or worse, the cinematic event of the year.

My experiences with Star Wars have been, I’m sure, unremarkably similar to those of most Westerners in my age group. Snow days transformed the neighborhood into Hoth, my friends and I arguing over who got to be Han Solo; the icing on my seventh birthday cake was fashioned after the Return of the Jedi logotype; and the Millennium Falcon—complete with secret compartment for hiding action figures from storm troopers—was the pride and joy of my toy collection. The original Star Wars trilogy so impactfully ignited the imagination of my generation that no other films even came close.

Episodes I and II lacked that impact, at least for a generation so enamored of Episodes IV, V, and VI. Whether it was the fact that we were different people occupying a different time and place, or that these new films really were the dehumanized, technology-driven machinations of George Lucas’s own Darth Vader allegory (“He’s more machine than man now…”), the magic simply wasn’t there, even at a midnight screening on opening day.

Episode III was therefore to be the prequel trilogy’s (some would say the entire saga’s) final hope for redemption. And while its quality is miles beyond that of its two predecessors, and it comes closest to that old-time Star Wars religion, it still falls short of its mark.

Lucas’s usual suspects—however improved-upon—are to blame, most notably a spate of maddeningly wooden performances from a cast whose collective talent is well-established. More fundamentally troubling, though, is the structure of the story itself, which often feels like a self-conscious patch job between Episodes II and IV, putting the narrative on a scavenger hunt with a checklist of loose ends. Luke and Leia? Check. Jedi wiped out? Check. Palpatine’s rapid, grotesque aging? Check. Accordingly, the film’s timekeeping is murky, making it very unclear exactly how much time has passed between the beginning and the end. Anakin Skywalker’s transformation from Jedi Knight to Sith Lord, for example, seems to happen with remarkable speed, punctuating his apparent naïveté and retiring the character with conclusive indignity. Also, the democratic republic’s conversion to a galactic empire appears to have taken, like, a day.

For all its shortcomings, I actually enjoyed the movie. The dreadful Hayden Christensen finally surrenders Anakin to James Earl Jones, the tragedy of which is stingingly evoked with some knockout performances from Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor. The overall production quality was (of course) astonishing, and both its heart and its chronology were closing in on what I loved about the original trilogy, even if it did ultimately fail to get there.

Does it redeem Episodes I and II? No. Does it even justify their existence or its own existence? Not really. I’m still of the opinion that the Star Wars universe would have been better off left alone. However, charged as Revenge of the Sith is with the daunting task of bridging the new school clunk and the old school charm, it succeeds respectably. And I think that’s the best we could have asked for.

Filed under: Film

Comments Closed (26)

1. monooso says…  |  19 May 2005 / 9:45 AM

Having not seen the film I can't offer my own arsehole, sorry opinion, but I would contest whether it's the "cinematic event of the year".

My introduction to Star Wars was unremarkably similar to yours, but thanks to the appalling EP1 I lost all interest, perhaps preferring to stick to happy memories, rather than depressing reality.

The glut of merchandised this and Happy Meal that accompanying the launch of EP3 has only served to reinforce my opinion that it's more the cinematic non-event of the year.

I've got my fingers crossed for "War of the Worlds"... please be good, please...

2. Daniel says…  |  19 May 2005 / 10:57 AM

When anything Lucas produces gets a 4 out of 4—which III has—, there's something wrong with the world. The first three installments were notoriously flawed, and none of them was a triumph of cinema; and they shouldn't have been expected to be. They were meant to be fun, and that was the facet on which they shone. That anyone, most surprisingly Lucas himself, expected anything more of the recent installments is something approaching profane.

3. Rob Weychert says…  |  19 May 2005 / 2:09 PM

monooso, I understand what you mean, but when I say “cinematic event of the year,” I refer specifically to the fact that nearly everyone in the country had a local theater selling out five midnight screenings on opening day. I can’t think of any other filmmaker that is received with that kind of fanfare, and if that wouldn’t qualify as the cinematic event of the year, I don’t know what would.

Daniel, on the same note, I would argue that the original trilogy was a triumph of cinema. Not in the snooty arthouse sense, but merely by virtue of its massive cultural impact and undeniable influence on so many of the films that came after it.

4. Stu Schaff says…  |  19 May 2005 / 5:46 PM

Though I wasn't around for the original trilogy's original release, I can very easily say that I've grown up on Star Wars. I've read virtually all of the books that make up the "Star Wars Universe" and have seen each movie too many times to count.

That being said, I walked out of the theater last night very satisfied. I agree with most of film critic Roger Ebert's review of "Revenge of the Sith". I think Lucas ended his story well.

5. monooso says…  |  19 May 2005 / 6:46 PM

Rob : I hadn't realised it was quite such a big deal in the States to be honest. Having said that, maybe the same thing is going on here and it's just passing me by.

Hmm, it's 23:44, should I pop down the cinema just to have a look for some crowds...? Nah, ignorance is bliss :)

6. Ian says…  |  20 May 2005 / 12:51 AM

Your film-going has been pretty pathetic this year. I'd hate to think you're losing your touch, brah. We'll have to round out the upcoming weekend o' fun with a trip to the theatre.

7. Daniel says…  |  20 May 2005 / 8:59 AM

Rob, you've definitely got a point, regarding the net affect on popular culture (I suppose it's condescending, and not a little memetically unchallenging, to refer only to the “popular culture”), to of the Star Wars franchise. And I suppose it's difficult to argue against the sheer enormity of the eager audience braving crowds of baited geeks.

Still, if we include some measure of the inherent quality of a media production in the assessment of whether or not it was a triumph of whichever medium within which it exists, I stand by my point. On the dimension of the affect of a work on subsequent works, you might say that Star Wars was the The Lord of the Rings of celluloid (nevermind that Star Wars derived from the mythos of The Lord of the Rings, as The Lord of the Rings itself was derivative—that's an entirely different conversation). Controlling to the dynamics of each medium, I don't think you can say that these two are equivalent in their intrinsic quality. So, while Star Wars was entertaining, I wouldn't consider it a triumph of cinema, whereas I would consider The Lord of the Rings a triumph of literature. I'll probably get flamed for that, some day.

Further (and I know this is becoming quite ponderous and longwinded), I'd say that, to whatever extent Star Wars affected the popular culture for all of these ~30 years, it owes a large debt thereby to the archetype of cultural storytelling to which it appeals, and it may simply be that which subsequent movies appealed concurrently, rather than to Star Wars.

I seem to be going out of my way to rail against Star Wars, and I don't want to, so I'm stopping. I'm glad it was enjoyable, and all my comments/posts notwithstanding, I'll see it, in the theater if logistics permit. It is, though, perhaps not worth the hype no matter how good it can have been made.

8. Stu Schaff says…  |  20 May 2005 / 10:18 PM

Boom! Kottke says it exactly as I meant to.

9. Tom Woolley says…  |  21 May 2005 / 9:24 AM

Saw it last night and enjoyed it immensely. A great cinematic spectacle that ties all the loose ends together. It's a bit cheesy in parts and the acting of Hayden Christensen has a lot of room for improvement. I think a lot of it is down to Lucas' outdated dialogue - what the **** are 'younglings'?! Why not just use the well-known term 'children'?

10. Peter Gifford says…  |  22 May 2005 / 7:30 PM

I'm sorry folks, but how anyone could think this was a satisfying film leaves me speechless. I thought it was an atrocious, badly acted, badly scripted mish-mash, even worse than the last two (and that's saying something). What frightens me is how low expectations have become if this film gets good reviews. If you're at all interested, my review is at

11. Paul Redmond says…  |  23 May 2005 / 11:52 AM

I am not on the same page as you guys are. As I see it, your reviews are not authoritative. I understand it is from an audience perspective, but you guys as far as I know have never been involved in this type of production.

I think its very common for outsiders to act authoritively on a subject they know little to nothing about.

12. Rob Weychert says…  |  23 May 2005 / 4:59 PM

Wow, Paul, if that’s how you feel, the blogosphere at large must be really unbearable for you…

13. Scott Dye says…  |  23 May 2005 / 6:34 PM

I know this is nitpicking, so please forgive me, but notice that what we saw at the end of Ep 3 was the "announcement" of the new Empire. In Episode Four, there is a line that mentions that they were just then removing all traces of the "Old Republic" - so it actually took almost two decades for the Republic to convert into an Empire.

The biggest difference I see between the classic trilogy and the prequels is that the classic story was about a small number of individuals that were a part of a larger world, and the experiences (and planets) along the way. The Prequels are about the "Larger World" itself (or the past version of it), and happened to have a few key individuals along the way. One is almost the reversal of the other storyline-wise.

FWIW - I enjoyed them. No, not high cinema, but gobs of fun, just like the old Saturday Morning serials they were patterned after (not that I'm old enough to remember those, however).

14. Pete F. says…  |  24 May 2005 / 10:58 AM

For what it's worth I've seen the film twice now, and at both viewings the poor dialogue rang out. I enjoyed the spectacle, but I didn't like the acting -- save for Ewan McGregor, who holds things together (but just barely).

In my opinion, Natalie Portman was hamming it up big time. Given the net effect that others — like Samuel L. Jackson — seemed unusually poor, I can only guess at the causes; Lucas's direction.

I think the childish dialogue and simplistic traversement of the plot in Revenge of The Sith detail more about Lucas's own parenting worries than anything else.

One guy at the midnight premiere was openly laughing at much of the dialogue, which kind of summed up that aspect of the film for me. Most scene's with Palpatine in full flow were simply awful.

15. Kim says…  |  24 May 2005 / 4:52 PM

I was actually suprised that I didn't hear more laughter from the audience at the cheesier lines, but maybe it was because they were too busy applauding at everything else.

16. praetorian says…  |  24 May 2005 / 6:01 PM

I wonder how many people spotted the Millennium Falcon in this episode...

17. Rob Weychert says…  |  24 May 2005 / 6:41 PM

praetorian, apparently there wasn’t much to see, and most of geekdom seems to have dismissed it as “just another generic YT-1300 freighter.” I’m not sure why it matters.

Of course, I won’t deny that I went scrambling for Google as soon as I heard about it. :D

18. bandelin says…  |  27 May 2005 / 12:36 AM

this movie was fuckin gay.

i dont think i really need a more in depth response than that.

19. jon says…  |  31 May 2005 / 4:57 PM, I largely agree with your comments, particularly the "checklist of loose ends" analogy. Shit finally happened in this one during a few sweet scenes, but ultimately the whole was weaker than these parts.

However, I find myself nonplussed by your decision to write about "Sith" instead of Tom Cruise's proclamation of heterosexuality on Oprah last week. :-/

20. Fyl says…  |  01 June 2005 / 6:51 AM

Ok, I can clear this up right now.

As far as I'm aware this can't be the Millenium Falcon.

I just checked and it hasn't escaped from the closet behind my T.V. and grown back the landing gear that my sister broke off (the bloody cow).

21. Paul says…  |  01 June 2005 / 1:33 PM

Didnt mean to come down so harshley. Your right, blogs are for unauthoritive Rant, Rave, and feelings.

I've just gotten so used to authoritive blogs, that dont fall too far from the tree of thier creation.

22. Tony says…  |  03 June 2005 / 2:39 PM

I agree that it wasn't perfect, but "Sith" was a fun ending nonetheless. I just wish that Episode I had never happened, and Sith was actually Episode II. I would like to see the Empire gaining power, Vader earning his reputation, and the rise of the rebellion.

More thoughts on the subject here:

23. scott says…  |  26 June 2005 / 7:04 PM

Well I finally took the two "younglings" to see the last installment of Star Wars. I agree with some of the postings about the average dialogue and the awkward embarrassing silinces. Hayden Christensen was robotic in parts, no pun intended, but Ewen McGregor acted his guts out. I was expecting the "younglings" aged 4 and 7 to be scared but they tended to laugh instead as there was quite a bit of comedy, especially with the droid army. Having said all that the film featured some great action sequences and mind blowing special effects. Unfortunately when I see any Star Wars movie I immediately compare how I feel after it to how I felt as a 13 year old leaving the cinema after ANH in '77. Maybe it's just me but nothing has come close.

24. Creford says…  |  29 June 2005 / 6:04 AM

There were extremely excellent and the best scenes in the movie "Revenge of the Sith".
Good originality and great imagination, great story in this movie!
Here's Photo gallery for Hayden Christensen(Anakin) of this movie.
I love Star Wars series the most!

25. psssshhhh haydens my man says…  |  15 July 2005 / 3:01 PM


26. Rob Weychert says…  |  16 July 2005 / 11:40 AM

Well, if that doesn’t say it all, then what does?

Copyright © 2002–2008 Rob Weychert  |  Hosted by DreamHost  |  Syndication