Reviewed by Janine Booth
Tips for enjoying this film:
- Remember it is part of the prequel trilogy, not the original trilogy, and you are less likely to be disappointed.
- Appreciate the excellent acting of Ian McDiarmid, and tolerate Ewan McGregor by remembering that he is not Alec Guinness and never will be.
- Go along with the (thinnish) plot rather than trying to pick holes in it.
- Sit back and enjoy the spectacular action.
The central story is Anakin Skywalker’s transformation into Darth Vader. It is done pretty well – gradual, painful, and even though you know the ending, still gripping.
The Clone Wars rage. The Jedi fight for the Republic. It has still not, apparently, crossed their minds to doubt whether this is right. Clouded by the Dark Side, their judgement no doubt is. In fact, the war is doing nobody any good, but is empowering the Sith Lord who is secretly controlling both sides.
Episodes 1 and 2 told us that Anakin Skywalker was the Chosen One, who would “bring balance to the Force”. As his journey to the Dark Side unfolds, Yoda comments that “Perhaps misread the prophecy was”. Well indeed. More to the point – stopped for a minute to think about what it meant perhaps you should have done.
And therein lies a big problem – a film that wants to appear philosophical, but substitutes soundbites for insight.
Padme and Anakin married at the end of Attack of the Clones, and now Padme is pregnant. Anakin dreams of her death in childbirth. Despite premonitions, he had been unable to save his mother from death in Episode 2, and is now gripped by fear of a repeat. His panic propels him towards Chancellor Palpatine and the Dark Side.
I don’t like that. It should not be love that leads to the Dark Side. It is some consolation that there are other factors too – ego, thwarted ambition, desperation to end the war, doubts about the Jedi, and successful manipulation by Supreme Chancellor Palpatine.
I also don’t like what has happened to Padme. OK, so she was boring and ridiculously decorated in The Phantom Menace, but by Attack of the Clones she was an independent, active, confident, intelligent, political young woman. Now she is reduced to being Anakin’s wifey. He used to trail after her like a puppy; now she stands around on a Coruscant balcony waiting for him.
Some time in the last two decades, George Lucas lost his ability to write decent dialogue and, more importantly, to create likeable, believable, multi-dimensional characters. Perhaps he thinks that big budgets and fantastic special effects are an adequate substitute.
Luke, Han and Leia bantered, bickered and bonded. Although they lived a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, you could imagine them in your local boozer as well as in the Mos Eisley Cantina.
The characters of Episodes 1, 2 and 3, though, are locked into their roles – Jedi Master, Padawan, Senator – forever playing out their destinies rather than developing personalities or relationships. Obi-Wan says that Anakin is like his brother, but you don’t see it in the vibe between them.
In The Phantom Menace, the Senate had begun to suffocate itself with bureaucracy, allowing Palpatine to move in and speed up its decline – and his control – in Attack of the Clones. In Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine kills off the old Republic, most of whose Senators cheer his declaration of Empire.
The climax sees two lightsabre duels on two different planets. Obi-Wan and Anakin exchange spectacular blows and anguish hopping around a lava river on Mustafar. And in an excellent choice of setting, Yoda and Palpatine battle in the empty Senate Chamber, ripping apart the furniture, illustrating the destruction of the Republic’s democracy.
For the long-term Star Wars fan (like me), Episode 3 brings satisfaction – the story is completed, the two halves joined up. In the last fifiteen mintures or so, we get an emotional connection to the original trilogy that has been missing for nearly three whole films. We find out how all the main characters end up where we will find them nearly twenty years later – even the droids depart with Captain Antilles.
And some of those action sequences are fantastic. And Palpatine is a great character. And … Oh sod it, I’m off to watch it again.
Read our review of Episode 2: Attack of the Clones here.