The cunning dexterity and gravitas with which George Lucas snaps into place every remaining puzzle piece in his epic 30-year storyarc is remarkable. The talent of Hayden Christensen will surprise his detractors as he portrays a complex, compounding crisis of conflicting loyalties thattear Anakin Skywalker apart, leading him to slip ever more rapidly toward the Dark Side of the Force. The potent sensations of betrayal and inevitabilitythat fuel the climactic duel between the young Jedi knight and his former master Obi-Wan Kenobi are positively goosepimpling, even though every "StarWars" fan knows the outcome and has been waiting for this moment for years.
These elements, coupled with much improved dialogue, far fewer scenes transparently designed to foster inevitable tie-in video games,and genuinely compelling emotions make up for the myriad of shortcomings that plagued the previoustwo"Star Wars" prequels.
Opening in the midst the Clone Wars between the crumbling galactic republic and an alliance of separatists that is really a frontfor the evil Sith Lords (all those villains called "Darth This" and "Darth That"), "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge ofthe Sith" is surprisingly character-driven. The plot revolves around the volatile, brash young Anakin being appointed by the increasingly powerfulChancellor Palpatine (soon to be revealed as Darth Sidious) to be his personal representative on the Jedi Council, which has for centuries tried to maintainpeace in this galaxy far, far away.
Having become something of an apprentice to Palpatine, he's also soon asked by Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) to report back to the councilon the chancellor's activities, a request Anakin sees as duplicitous, especially since the Jedi are becoming embroiled in their own discord over compromisingvalues.
Genuinely trying to do the right thing, he seeks advice from Yoda, but this wisest of the Jedi Masters unknowingly makes Anakin'sconfusion worse, as do the disturbing visions he's been having of Padme (Natalie Portman), his secret wife (Jedi are sworn to celibacy), dyingin childbirth. When Palpatine promises that Anakin can learn to save her with powers from the Dark Side of The Force -- the energy that binds theuniverse together in "Star Wars" mythology -- actor Ian McDiarmid is so brilliantly convincing in his iniquitous manipulations that Anakin'sfateful choice actually seems to make a good bit of sense at the time."Episode III" is built upon dangerous choices with dangerous consequences.
Although riddled with a handful of minor problems (Yoda's goofy backwards diction has become distractingly acute), a few larger ones(once smart and self-reliant, the now-pregnant Padme has been reduced to fretting endlessly about Anakin's ever more ominous behavior), and a couple"what was George thinking?" moments (Obi-Wan rides a giant lizard),this movie delivers on the promise of "Star Wars" with more than just incredible special effects and spectacular light-saber duels.
Lucas magnificently sets the stage for the original "Star Wars" (which takes place 25 years later)by creating hauntingly iconic moments (a montage of Jedi knights beinghunted down and killed), answering long-held questions (like how the Emperor's face became so hollowed and twisted), and actually plumbing his characters'souls for once.
The showdown between the Anakin and Obi-Wan on the banks of a river of lava rends both their hearts as they trade pained accusationsof betrayal and treachery, along with the saber blows that we all know will leave Anakin so disfigured he spends the rest of his life in DarthVader's menacing black helmet and suit. But the finale of parallel tragedies that follows is the most heart-stopping moment in the entire "StarWars" franchise.
Lucas doesn't forget to have a little fun in "Revenge of the Sith," with, for instance, several callbacks to famous linesof dialogue from the original trilogy and a cool new cyborg baddie called General Grievous. He also draws striking parallels to current world politics(although Lucas can't help that the rise of the evil Empire he plotted out 30 years ago seems eerily familiar).
But the heart of this film -- even more so than its sci-fi action and its complete immersion in Lucas's visionary universe -- is thetribulation of Anakin Skywalker's descent into darkness. It redefines the entire "Star Wars" saga to such a degree that even if "Sith"isn't universally considered the finest of the bunch, it is unquestionably the most pivotal.
Genre: Sci fi/Fantasy
Run time: 140 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 19th May 2005
Box Office USA: $380.2M
Box Office Worldwide: $850M
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Production compaines: Lucasfilm
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Fresh: 202 Rotten: 51
IMDB: 7.7 / 10
Director: George Lucas
Starring: Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker, Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Natalie Portman as Padmé Amidala, Ian McDiarmid as Chancellor Palpatine, Frank Oz as Yoda (Voice), Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, Christopher Lee as Count Dooku, Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu, Jimmy Smits as Senator Bail Organa, Jay Laga'aia as Captain Typho, Temuera Morrison as Commander Cody, Rohan Nichol as Captain Antilles, Jeremy Bulloch as Captain Colton, Kenny Baker as R2-D2, Silas Carson as Ki-Adi-Mundi / Nute Gunray, David Bowers as Mas Amedda, Keisha Castle-Hughes as Queen of Naboo, Wayne Pygram as Governor Tarkin, Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca