Saturday, May 21, 2005

Review of Star Wars Episode III

This review needs a bit of context. I went into this movie with thoughts of Ep 1, 2, and Return of the Jedi in my mind.

I came away giving Ep 3 the benefit of the doubt in two aspects. One, Episode 2 should have been Episode 1. And this movie - Revenge of the Sith - should have been split in two. There was simply too much ground for one movie to cover. I don't believe this should be held against Episode 3 as a movie as such. Sins of the father and all that.

Second, I had watched Return of the Jedi the night before, my personal favourite of the originals. I haven't seen any of them in quite some time, and watching it now it hit me just how pulpy those movies were. I don't mean that as an attack, of course. RotJ has plenty of bizarre plot points and the Ewoks were obviously the spiritual predecessors of the Gungans. In a word, the original trilogy was not infallible, and it is unfair to compare the prequels to them as if they were. This doesn't redeem Eps 1 or 2 in any way, but it gives some leeway to Ep 3.

I think that takes care of two of the main criticisms that could be levelled at Ep 3. Too much happened, and there was an awful lot of pulpiness.

One thing the originals always had that the prequels don't, of course, is humanity. Watching RotJ, it's easy to be reminded how cool Han Solo was. There is no one truly likable in the prequels. All three are much more sterile.

Now, Ep 3 itself. Specific annoyance: A2D2. The first half hour of the movie, he was a smug little toy that could have been blown out of an airlock and the audience would have cheered. Then he went away. Enough said.

The dialogue, for the most part, was very workhorse. Very little that was clever or interesting. Same with the acting; though Hayden Christensan managed to upgrade from whiny bitch to angsty teenager. Same species, just a little less grating.

This changed in the last half hour. When Kenobie confronts the newly minted Vader and Yoda goes after Palpatine, I thought the acting and dialogue finally found their footing. Ewen McGregor in particular did a fantastic job with some genuinely sad dialogue, half mourning, half pleading. And Yoda had the best line of the movie, in response to Palpatine's "The Jedi are no more!" --- "Not if anything I have to say about it."

This was probably the best looking movie ever. The battle scenes were spectacular; I promise, these are the best fantasy-sci-fi battle scenes ever filmed. I can't imagine them being topped anytime soon.

When the climax was arriving, I was riveted. As Samuel L. Jackson's character went to confront Palpatine, I was into it. I even had a sense of dread, something the other prequels never generated.

So. Keeping in mind that this movie gets a free pass on the many silly plotpoints and the overstuffed narrative, I'm going to just say it: Episode III can stand with the original trilogy. My first instinct was to call it better than Return of the Jedi; maybe I was hasty. But it certainly is a contender. Maybe the best I can say is this: the sins of Jar Jar have been erased. That might be enough.

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