Righty ho then…..
One line review? It’s the best of the first three by a long, long way, may be the darkest of all 6 movies and, in particular, the last half hour ranks up there with the best of my memories from the original trilogy.
The rest of this detail is for the real geeks The cinema was jammers on Saturday morning (as it always is for these things) but I still managed to get my son’s piccie taken with two stormtroopers (he’ll either totally love me or totally pity me for this when he grows up!) The lights go down, a trailer for Fantastic Four beforehand which, against my better judgement and my previous experience of most comic book adaptations, I got really excited over. We’ll wait and see…
For the last time the Fox searchlights hit the sky, the orchestra plays the Fox fanfare, the logo bursts up there with the first notes of John Williams finest hour and then…. The scroll….
“Episode III – Revenge Of The Sith
War! Blah blah blah something something blah…..”
(He had me at “War!”)
Really good bits? Pretty much all of the action stuff (yes, we get to see Yoda and Mace Windu in serious action again, huge impossibly choreographed space battles, lots of battle droids getting a good old fashioned sabering). The effects and design are staggering in places as usual and then…
The last half hour – breathtaking in scope, tying up the loose ends we knew had to be tied before A New Hope begins and strangely satisfying for an ending we knew was coming since the opening credits of The Phantom Menace.
Hayden Christiansen is actually quite good this time round (I thought he was a bit reedy and moany in Ep II) and really rides the story arc all the way like a pro. A huge surprise too was Ian McDiarmid who actually gets a hugely expanded role to get his teeth into. His Chancellor Palpatine/Emperor/Darth Sidious actually gets the chance to become the memorable SW villian he should have been in the past and becomes again in ROTJ. Even Ewan McGregor looks a bit more at home this time round (finally!)
You get all of this and Vader finally makes his long awaited appearance in a suitably powerful and strangely touching scene that allows us to witness the dark heart of the whole Star Wars universe.
And in a final cherry on top Jar Jar Binks appears briefly but HALLELUJAH!!!! he doesn’t speak
Unfortunately this Saturday night out on the town has its hangovers too… The brilliant Natalie Portman has a character in Padme that’s so thinly written this time as to be non-existent. She was one of the few shining virtues of the first two movies and it sells the whole enterprise short to relegate her so badly to the sidelines here. 3PO too disappears with her and remains away from R2 for almost all of the movie. For characters that were one of the focal points (and most popular elements) of the first 3 movies it’s disappointing to have them flit in and out here.
As in the first two prequels as well Lucas drops the script’s swift pace to the trot of an asthmatic ant far too often and for far too long in rambling discussions about the state of the war, appointment procedure to the Jedi Council, the nature of midichlorians and such. A 7 year old mind wanders in these trying circumstances. And in my thinking of the 7 year old mind lies my one major problem with the whole enterprise….
For the first time ever in a Star Wars movie there were moments here I felt uncomfortable letting my 7 year old watch. I’m not going to spoil anything but near the end there’s a decisive lightsaber duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin on a volcano world (yes, I could look up its name but that would be too geeky even for me!) and at the end there’s a moment that I genuinely believe is too graphic for a PG movie (you’ll know it when you see it – trust me). Even before that there are some things that Anakin does in his descent to the dark side that (while implied off screen) are pretty hardcore for the kiddies. As a fanboy they give the movie a really dark edge it needs – as a parent I question their inclusion and the film’s certification…
My lingering afterthought about the movie is one you should mull when you get to see it – I have a sneaking suspicion that this is the movie George Lucas wrote first at the beginning of the whole prequel process. In fact I think he had the last half hour nailed and then wrote backwards from there because the further away you get from it the weaker it all becomes. Don’t get me wrong – there are segments of the first two that I love (the first sequence of TPM with Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon, the pod race on Tattoine, Yoda finally showing us his moves in AOTC!) but there are about as many moments I love in the first 2 as moments I dislike in 4, 5 and 6.
Should you go see it? Yes. Lucas has finally made something worthy of touching the hem of the garment of the original trilogy.
And about bloody time too….