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Sunday Classics Matinee: Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

by Robb Reel

For those of you playing our Home Game, Movie Night at the Reel Estate has been focused on the Star Wars universe.  Housemate Chris, a much younger man than I, had never seen any of the films in the saga.  In exposing them to him, we have decided on two things: watch all six films in consecutive weeks and to follow the Roman numerals rather than the release dates.

Thus we arrive at:

As is with this series, the "victory" in the big battle that finished the previous installment seems to have only made things worse.  The Galactic Republic is on the brink, with tensions much as one might imagine in Congress circa 1860.  Civil war appears unavoidable.

We saw the trigger in Attack of the Clones; now we watch Anakin [Hayden Christensen] spiral out of control.  His emotions and his growing thirst for power accelerate him down the path to the Dark Side.  One particular devil continues whispering in his ear and we learn just how much that devil his been part of Anakin's life from, literally, the very beginning.

The two most stable forces in his life are Obi-wan and Padme Amidala, now secretly his wife.  As his drifts further into madness, they try teaming up.  This will only propel Anakin to his inevitable conclusion.  By now, Ewan McGregor has taken his character almost to the steady sage of Sir Alec Guinness, though he will encounter a truth -- the one element that likely garnered the unprecedented PG-13 rating for a Star Wars film -- that will shake his core.  Natalie Portman, in contrast to McGregor's sense of nuance, continues to be two-dimensional, acting well below her talents.

The star of this chapter, for me at least, is Ian McDiarmid.  Perhaps it's his academic training in psychology, but McDiarmid deliciously unveils the Emperor we all know is coming.  As the Scotsman has actually played Satan, the parallels between the characters is palpable.  Though he was retroactively inserted into The Empire Strikes Back for one of the seemingly endless Lucas updates, McDiarmid came to the role to replace New Zealand's Clive Revill for Return of the Jedi.  Though now 22 years older than when he played the older version, McDiarmid makes Palpatine look young, charming and, most importantly, seductive.

We get some nice touches along the way.  The visually mismatched pairing of Yoda and Chewbacca is delightfully unexpected.  The painstaking care in making the transition from clone troopers to stormtroopers is evident but subtle, as is with all the starships and whatnot.  This one succeeds in tying loose ends yet still doing more.

We knew we'd get our revelation of Darth Vader, although actually having the voice of James Earl Jones appear is a nice touch.  We get our twin suns on Tatooine.  Fans already knew how this trilogy had to end.   Revenge of the Sith, however, does a marvelous job of getting there, far better than the previous two films.  This is as dark as Empire and is just as good.  It is my favorite, by far, of Episodes I-III and barely second to Empire in the overall canon.

May the Force continue to be with us as we go backward to go forward.