Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
2005. Directed by George Lucas.
The final entry into the often maligned prequel trilogy, Revenge of the Sith is a Shakespearian tragedy interwoven with a sly exploration of the cultural phenomenon of the Star Wars universe. Featuring one of the greatest duels in cinematic history, refreshingly dark subject matter, and evocative visual compositions, this is Lucas’ swan song.
The final episode chronicles the downfall of the Jedi at the hands of The Emperor and a pre-Vader Anakin Skywalker. On the surface, Lucas’s script features everything you would expect. Corny romantic dialogue and puzzling character decisions abound, however, Revenge of the Sith is an epic story that aims to overcome the space opera camp of its origins through exploration of seemingly just actions and their unforeseeable consequences. Lucas conceived the story during the Vietnam War and the inner turmoil of a nation undone is everywhere; from the dying Republic to the stagnant Jedi temple. Lucas weaves threads of political domination throughout the final chapter of the Jedi, creating a noose of self-destruction out of their carefully constructed mantras. At its core, Star Wars is a story about extremes, both the presence of extreme passion with the Sith and the extremities of stoic servitude of the Jedi. More so than any other film in the franchise, Sith dissects this concept, never shying away from the ultimate results of good natured hubris and the power of personal tragedy.
These concepts are given finality in a thrilling confrontation between Anakin and Obi-Wan. The saga has always been about families, fathers and sons and how these relationships color the search to find ones place in the universe. Revenge of the Sith comes full circle, meeting Luke’s loss of Obi-Wan with Obi-wan’s loss of Anakin, forcing the viewer to confront not only the deaths of their favorite characters but also the myths that pervade the innocence of childhood that are conjured with every reference to the trilogy to come. Revenge of the Sith darkens the lightsaber parable, presenting Lucas’s magnum opus as a digital fury of kinetic action and near hopeless defeat. David Tattersall’s unbelievable cinematography harnesses the film’s impossible scope with intense close ups and breathtaking shots of the aftermath of the fall, scenes whose ramifications would not be fully appreciated until years after their inception, with the highlight being a funeral procession in the final act.
Peter Russell’s art direction houses the events in a plush mixture of digital voodoo and sublime practical effects. Trisha Biggar’s costume design returns to the glory of The Phantom Menace, while Nikki Gooley’s makeup design continues the franchise’s gold standard of extraterrestrial presentation. Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen work well within the confines of Lucas’ often derided dialogue, dancing around one another’s secrets until the blade becomes the only option. The original trilogy is a fixture of the American subconscious because it created a world of approachable wonder. Dinged and dirty, broken and forgotten, Star Wars is a universe populated by dusty rogues and second hand samurais that grabs the imagination with its deceptive candor and larger than life personalities; all of which made by possible by the downfall of the republic. Lucas recreates the end with a focused, almost cathartic presentation that ultimately is a love letter to the legions of fans and the dreams of a new generation that will inevitably find these films and treasure them in a way both familiar and alien to those of us who lived through their creation, the ultimate legacy for one of the most iconic generational stories ever conceived.
Available now for digital rental, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is George Lucas’s finest film. While it does not eclipse the sentimental hold of A New Hope, it is a film that displays an artist who has honed his craft, lovingly ending on the highest notes of a storied career. Unparalleled sci-fi visuals blend with a classic story of the student versus the teacher amidst a backdrop of galactic oppression to remind the fan (both old and new) that movies are made not with big budgets, sound, or fury; but with magic.