Star Wars has come a long way. It started out as an unpretentious action movie inspired by cheesy old serials, Dune, and Kurosawa. With Revenge of the Sith, Star Wars has lost all the humble straight forward fun that made the films a success in the first place.

Special effects were always a big part of the Star Wars experience, but like the two movies that preceded it, Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, the special effects in Revenge of the Sith are out of control. the special effects didn’t slow in the old Star Wars movies and the Indiana Jones films didn’t slow them down.

They kept them moving. Speed is the greatest strength of films like these. Without it, the thin plot and poorly developed characters start showing through. Unfortunately, a generally brisk pace is broken up by a few unexciting and totally unnecessary effects sequences, (Kashyyyk, I’m looking at you), and some absolutely excruciating love scenes.

I always have a problem with the disconnect between CG creatures and real actors, and it’s just as bad here as in the other prequels. I’ve no doubt many talented computer artists and animators poured countless hours into the film. While the CG is done very well, it is never even remotely convincing.

Good prosthetic make-up and some light CG effects would be a fraction of the cost and a hundred times more real. The question is… why? “Because we can” is not a good answer and I don’t believe that this is an elaborate way to pad out the resumes of a bunch of CG artists.

I think Lucas has lost sight of what makes Star Wars work. There is a reason movies like this are compared to roller coasters. Who likes a roller coaster that stops in the middle of a loop so that you can marvel at a goofy cartoon animal?

Yeah, no one. I saw this film at a matinee showing with a theatre packed full of kids. Kids who promptly lost interest after the opening sequence and spent the rest of the movie running up and down the aisles giggling while their parents called after them impotently. This indicates a problem!

This is a little harsh, but don’t see this movie for the acting. Part of the problem is clearly the actors themselves. Natalie Portman is unconvincing and has all the emotional range of a chunk of rock, Hayden Christensen is good at scowling and little else, and Ian McDiarmid hams it up as Julius Caesar on stimulants.

revenge of the sith screenshot

Ewan McGregor gamely tries to act enough to make up for the rest of the cast, but everyone else, including Samuel L. Jackson, just seems lost. Another part of the problem has to be that basically the entire movie was shot in front of a green screen, and really, the dialogue is laughable.

I doubt I could even keep a straight face while saying, “Wait a minute. How did this happen? We’re smarter than this!” And look to any of Amidala’s lines for a text book example of how not to write dialogue.

I think that Lucas was upset that critics attacked the past two movies for being shallow, so he tried to resolve that with Revenge of the Sith.

Maybe that’s a noble goal, but Revenge of the Sith only achieves marginal success. Lucas tries to gussy up Star Wars into some kind of tragedy, which is fine, but it borrows its cues from Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather movies.

It’s easy enough to draw parallels between the slow corruption of Michael Corleone and Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side. The way they both alienate their wives in the process is another similarity.

The mass Jedi purge also echoes the climatic orgy of murders in the Godfather, where Michael eliminates all of the rival dons. However, there are important differences in execution here. Lucas’ colleague Coppola masterfully intercuts the murders with a family baptism, both highlighting the Corleone emphasis on big family events and their ruthlessness. This level of subtlety seems lost on Lucas.

Furthermore, Michael is a more interesting character because he chose to become the Mafia don even though he swore not to, out of a sense of duty and the seduction of power.

Anakin, on the other hand, is a weakling bullied into becoming a murderer by Palpatine. Anakin doesn’t really decide for himself and he doesn’t get addicted to power (despite what the advertisements would have you believe).

All he wants is for his wife to survive childbirth, so he accepts Palpatine’s offer in exchange for a nebulous, probably mythical power to keep her alive. Stop and think about that for a second. He destroys everything she spent her whole life building to save her? Yeah, why wouldn’t she be grateful? Anakin is a dumb kid.

This is the culmination of the revamping of Darth Vader begun in Return of the Jedi. He is not an interstellar badass who kills people because they forgot to bring him his coffee IV. He’s just your average whiney teen with self-esteem problems lured into a stranger’s van with promises of unconditional love.

While the acting was definitely below par, I did enjoy the Palpatine/Anakin/Obi-Wan love triangle, and Lucas even managed to build up some tension in the process. This is a bonifide improvement over the rest of the Star Wars movies.

But there’s one more attempt at depth in Revenge of the Sith that is worth mentioning. This film is absolutely dripping with Freudian undertones. Any film student worth his salt is familiar with Freudian theory, and it sure looks like Lucas put it into Revenge of the Sith intentionally.

Obviously you can call light sabers phallic symbols, but it goes beyond that to castration anxiety. Many a light saber duelist has his hands chopped off, rendering him unable to wield a light saber and symbolically emasculating him.

It doesn’t even stop there as the film barrels along into the Oedipus Complex. The films present a series of “fathers” and “sons”. There’s Palpatine and his former master Darth Plagueis, Anakin and Obi-Wan, Darth Tyrannus and his former master Yoda (in Attack of the Clones), and ultimately Darth Vader and Palpatine in Return of the Jedi. In every case, the “son” tries to kill the “father”.

It’s worth noting that there are no “mother” figures to possess due to Star Wars’ testosterone fueled lack of women, but the Oedipal undertones are undeniable.

Does the added depth of Freudian connotations, Machiavellian politics, allusions to the Godfather series, and a doomed romance make Revenge of the Sith a better movie?

Kind of. Yes, there’s more meat to it than any of the other Star Wars films, but there are so many hitches in execution that it’s hard to keep interested. Furthermore, the marriage of such high ideas and a dumb, speedy action movie is bumpy at best. More realistically, it’s grounds for divorce.

Revenge of the Sith is marginally interesting beyond its elaborate CG visuals and fast-paced fights, but the very things that make it more interesting than your average action movie hurt the pacing, draw attention to the weak plotting and ridiculous dialogue, and ultimately serve to undermine what makes Star Wars entertaining in the first place.


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