The most consequential moments in “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” for those already familiar with how the movie will end is its final 10 minutes, when the film deftly bridges the three prequels with the three originals. Before that, however, “Sith” is two hours plus of non-stop CGI, stilted acting, atrocious dialogue, and good actors doing bad work. How bad? It’s the kind of bad that had Samuel L. Jackson, Natalie Portman, and Jimmy Smits been nobodies, they would never, ever voluntarily put “Star Wars” on their resume. Yeah, it’s that bad.
Taking place sometime after the end of “Attack of the Clones”, “Revenge of the Sith” opens with the robot army of hulking rebel droid General Grievous (who, curiously, seems to be coughing when we first see him; a first for a robot?) in possession of Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), the villainous Sith Lord who no one in the movie knows is a Sith Lord, although everyone in the audience already knows ever since the events of “The Phantom Menace”. It’s up to Jedi Knights Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) to save the day.
The opening battle is just one battle of many, because “Sith” is filled with the same types of high-flying, CGI-filled scenes of ships and soldiers shooting at each other for what seems like an eternity. All this action easily makes “Sith” the most action-packed installment of the three prequels. Soon Palpatine has convinced an anxious Anakin to betray the Jedi on the young man’s inevitable road to becoming Darth Vader, and it’s up to Obi-Wan to end his former apprentice’s murderous rampage.
Truthfully, there really isn’t any more of “Sith” other than those simple plot points. Despite its unnecessarily long running time (well over two hours), the film has little plot to justify such a length, and as such the bulk of the film is padded up with pointless CGI battles between Jedi knights and droids, droids and Wookies, Jedis versus Jedis, and Jedis versus Sith Lords, etc. Although it wouldn’t be entirely correct to call “Sith” one long battle scene, it really does seem to have little meat to its story. Perhaps realizing just how little actual plot he has created for himself, Lucas resorts to repeating plot exposition, not to mention same lines of dialogue, over multiple times.
In-between bright color lasers firing endlessly at CGI objects, or Jedi knights whirling different color lightsabers against bright color lasers (George Lucas loves bright color things, if you haven’t noticed), we bear witness to some of the most wince-inducing dialogue since, well, the last two prequels. Amusingly, it seems as if Lucas has decided to turn the series into a state of pure cheese with each subsequent prequel. This wouldn’t be so bad had Lucas not believed we needed to understand what lengths Anakin would go to to save his beloved Padme (a clearly embarrassed Natalie Portman). It’s all very nice pathos, to be sure, except the acting is borderline atrocious. How bad is it? Yoda, who is all CGI, shows greater range than Portman and Samuel L. Jackson combined.
Of the dumbfounded cast (dumbfounded by Lucas’ idea of dialogue, no doubt), only a few actors survive “Revenge of the Sith” unscathed. Of those, Ian McDiarmid, as the evil Palpatine, has perhaps the best role in the entire movie. With his snarling, guttural voice and sly, reptilian glances, McDiarmid dominates the movie with pure talent. Ewan McGregor is also forgivable, since it’s obvious the British actor has stopped bothering to act ever since “Attack of the Clones”, and has shifted easily into Han Solo mode via “Return of the Jedi” — that is, he’s simply there to crack wise and be charming, knowing full well no acting is required of him.
Not surprisingly, “Sith” is technically accomplished, but that’s to be expected from a movie created with a budget that could feed an entire continent for years. Although one suspects that the reason Lucas has crammed every single scene with layers and layers of CGI ships, color lasers, and CGI creatures, soldiers, and droids is from a false reasoning that the more he puts in, the more people will think there is to a given scene. The sad fact is that there isn’t. What’s there is there, and everything else, brightly colored or not, are just distractions. You could watch “Sith” three or four more times, and there wouldn’t be anything more substantive than what you gleaned in the first viewing.
Other nitpicks involve those rebel droids. Not only does their rebellion seem rather poorly thought out, but also the actions of Grievous et al just isn’t very interesting. The droids also prove to be stupid. In the first 10 minutes alone, the droids get the drop on the Jedis more than once, but never bothers to pull the trigger. This is silly, as all the Jedis have to do to extricate themselves is to spin, buzz their lightsabers, and slaughter the droids. Stupid robots. And let me get this straight: everyone is flying around in groovy little spaceships, but apparently medical science is still in the Dark Ages, because no one knows Padme is carrying twins until she gives birth? Speaking of which, the Jedis can sense the presence of friends who are in trouble a galaxy away, but can’t sense that the pregnant girl standing next to them is carrying twins?
Faithfuls of the Temple of Jedi will no doubt consider “Sith” to be the best of the prequels, and perhaps it is, if just by a little bit, but considering the quality of the previous two, that’s not saying very much. While it does convincingly bridge the two trilogies in the series, one does wish that there were more to “Sith” than the pedestrian movement of Anakin from Point A (good Jedi) to Point B (Darth Vader). As it stands, converted followers of all things Lucas will love “Revenge of the Sith”; the rest of us will continue to wonder what all the fuss is about.
George Lucas (director) / George Lucas (screenplay)
CAST: Ewan McGregor …. Obi-Wan Kenobi
Natalie Portman …. Padm’
Hayden Christensen …. Anakin Skywalker
Ian McDiarmid …. Supreme Chancellor Palpatine
Samuel L. Jackson …. Mace Windu
Jimmy Smits …. Senator Bail Organa
Frank Oz …. Yoda (voice)
Anthony Daniels …. C-3PO
Christopher Lee …. Count Dooku