Sunday, November 22, 2015

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith Review

We're finishing up the prequels with this review of Revenge of the Sith. If you haven't already, feel free to check out my reviews of The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. I've always been one to say that I am a defender of the prequels, although if you have read those two reviews you'll think that I am a hypocrite and a liar because I was pretty mean to The Phantom Menace and I totally ripped into Attack of the Clones. I've always held the opinion that Revenge of the Sith is actually the best movie of the prequels, so if you are one who loves all the prequels and are tired of me ripping apart your beloved movies, you might be able to breath a sigh of relief. Or you may be disappointed if you hate this movie and you were looking forward to me tearing it apart like I did to Attack of the Clones. However, going into this movie, I kept my mind completely open and I'm not going to give this one a total pass either. It has many flaws. I'm not going to destroy it either. It does have many things going for it. So perhaps I'll appease both parties to a certain extent. We'll see.

First and foremost, George Lucas recently did an interview with Vanity Fair where he explained why he gave up on Star Wars and sold everything to Disney. Said he, "You go to make a movie and all you do is get criticized and people try to make decision about what you're going to do before you do it. It's not much fun and you and you can't experiment." He also said that he'll be directing movies still, but movies that generally won't be shown anywhere. On top of that, when they asked him what character he would be, his answer was Jar Jar Binks. Basically I interpreted that as him being a bitter old man who was angry that the world kept criticizing his work and so he just plain out gave up. Here's the thing George. We all love you because of this amazing universe you created with these great characters and deep stories. But then you went and you screwed things up. You kept experimenting and experimenting and experimenting. Changes were made to the original trilogy. Multiple times. New movies were made that didn't live up to their potential. People got mad at all this experimenting. The worst of this is the departure from practical effects and the decision to make movies that were almost entirely done on a computer.

Why do I bring all this up? Because before I say anything good or bad about Revenge of the Sith, I need to address the huge elephant in the room. THIS MOVIE LOOKS FAKE!!!! There is SO much CGI in this movie and almost none of it holds up. I don't know a ton of details about the making of Revenge of the Sith, but I'd be willing to be that there's very few actual sets built and very few practical effects. It's all done on a computer. I bet most of it was done with actors acting in front of green screens. Quite honestly it's distracting because I don't feel like I'm in a universe. I feel like I'm in a computer. An old computer with bad graphics. It feels like I'm watching real actors play in a video game. In fact they might as well have just made this an animated movie like the Clone Wars TV show. It would've made for a higher quality movie. I'm serious. You see, CGI is a great tool. It can help you build worlds that weren't possible before. You can tell stories and create characters in a live action movie that you couldn't do before. But it needs to be used as a supplement to your actual sets and practical effects, not the other way around. When practical effects are the supplement to the movie, that has the potential to be a huge disaster visually speaking. Revenge of the Sith is a prime example of this. In fact, because George Lucas got so carried away with his experimenting, the original trilogy holds up better than the prequels when it comes to visuals. And they're coming up on their 40th birthday here soon.

Now that I got that off my chest, lets talk about this actual movie, because there is actually plenty of good things to talk about, which is a relief after these last two movies. In terms of story, this is the only movie in the prequels that's actually interesting. The point of the first one is for them to find Anakin. That's it. The point of the second one is for Anakin to fall in love. That's it. What else happens? It doesn't matter. No one cares. Except there's an epic battle with Darth Maul at the end of the first one and an emotional scene in the middle of the second with Anakin and his mother. This third one is all about Anakin's turn to the dark side. It dives into his relationship with Obi-Wan. It adds an interesting dimension to his relationship with Padme. It tells the story of how Anakin comes to distrust the Jedi Council and trust Palpatine. We witness the fall of the Jedi and the creation of the first Galactic Empire. We see the emotional fight between Anakin and Obi-Wan in which Obi-Wan owns, making it so Anakin is transformed into the machine of a man that is Darth Vader. Luke and Leia are born and are placed with their adopted families. Obi-Wan and Yoda go into hiding. Everything important in the prequels happens in this third movie.

Here's the problem, though. Too much happens in one movie. It's as if they realized after making the first two movies that they had a long way to go to connect the prequels to the original trilogy due to the fact that they barely progressed the plot forward in those movies and thus were forced to stuff everything into this third movie. Revenge of the Sith had the story. They just didn't have enough time to tell the story. I'm not saying that they should've cut things out of this movie. That might make it as lame as the first two. I'm not saying the sequels should've been four or five movies. That would've been overkill. What I'm saying is the third one should've been the prequels. This is an idea that actually came to me recently. In my review of The Phantom Menace, one of my good friends left a comment in the actual comment section of the review (this is actually a rare thing -- most people just comment on facebook or twitter). In this comment, he shared a YouTube video that you may have seen where a dude shares his opinion of what he thinks needed to happen in order for the prequels to actually be good movies. So I thought about this and realized that everything is in place for the prequels to be good. It's just all in the third one.

Bear with me for a second as I explain this. My point isn't to write the rough draft of a script for a remake of the prequels, but is to rather point out the good elements of this movie that, if stretched out over the course of three movies, could've made for an excellent trilogy. First off, we start off with a scene that is one of the best scenes of the entire trilogy. Anakin and Obi-Wan are flying around in space because Count Dooku and General Grevious have kidnapped Palpatine and our Jedi knights are out to save him. Or something like that. Point is Palpatine is in trouble and the issue lies with Dooku and Grevious. Of course this is a trap because Palpatine is our Sith Lord that the Jedi have been searching for. But they don't know that yet. Overall point is that for the first time in the prequels, something is done right that the first two movies completely missed out on and the rest of the third misses out on as well, for that matter. Star. Wars. Think of that title. I'll dive into this more next week with my review of Star Wars, but in any Star Wars movie, there should be wars in the stars. This is actually the main focus in the original trilogy. Most of those movies take place in space. The prequels are just Land Wars and politics on different planets where they fly through space occasionally. But here for several minutes we have a battle that takes place in the stars and it's pretty epic.

The other thing about this opening scene is that is starts out with Anakin and Obi-Wan. And they appear to actually be good friends who fight with great chemistry. Why is this significant? Because this is how the prequels should've started. We don't need to have a whole movie where the only real point is them discovering boy Anakin. Introduce him in the very first scene as an adult Anakin who is already the apprentice of Obi-Wan. As much as I like Qui-Gon, we can cut his character. The important relationship in this trilogy needed to be Anakin and Obi-Wan, not Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon. If we wanted, we could cast Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon and have him play some other role similar to that of Mace Windu. But Qui-Gon shouldn't be labeled as Obi-Wan's master. That's Yoda. But back to Anakin and Obi-Wan, imagine how great it would've been if we started the prequels with them as our two main Jedi with the relationship they have at the start of the third one and build that over the course of three movies. We can cut all the crap in the second one with Anakin being angry at Obi-Wan. Have Obi-Wan be his good friend and have the reason for him turning to the dark side have nothing to do with Obi-Wan, but rather be because of things the Jedi Council decide on as a whole. At some point in this new trilogy, Anakin ends up on the opposite side of Obi-Wan and is forced to fight him, but it's nothing that Obi-Wan does directly to him. This would make for a very emotional duel after three movies of being great friends.

After this opening scene, we start to build a few great story lines. Anakin has this fear of losing the ones he loves. In the second movie, the one good scene is the scene where Anakin tries to save his mother and fails. Now he is having dreams of losing this girl who he has secretly married. First off, we can drop the "secret" part of this. Let it be okay for Jedi to love. Then of course we can cast two people who actually have good chemistry and write good dialogue for them. Make the romance believable. And don't spend a whole movie setting up this romance. Let it be a side-arc. But keep this new story because it's good. If we start with the third one, we can obviously postpone it to the second movie, whenever that is, and implement the mother/son story first. But eventually these nightmares happen and Anakin panics because he doesn't want to lose Padme like he lost his mother and he decides that he will do anything the save her. Getting this story arc right should be on the same level of importance as the relationship between Anakin and Obi-Wan and the substance for that is here. It's made interesting when Palpatine tells him the story of his master learning to be able to stop someone from dying. Anakin asks if this is possible, but Palpatine lies as says not from a Jedi. This is believable to Anakin because the Jedi Council has already pissed him off and thus his trust in the Jedi is waning.

This is good stuff. This is deep. This is something I can actually follow. This is Star Wars. But once again, imagine if all this was developed over the course of three movies. As is, it's all rushed. But what if it wasn't? What if the relationship between Anakin and Palpatine slowly starts to build? What if the relationship between Anakin and the Jedi Council slowly starts to deteriorate? We can add some other interesting story lines to supplement this that DON'T involve endless politics or endless council meetings where we do nothing but stand and talk. But this could be our over-arcing story throughout the whole trilogy. That would make this a really interesting trilogy where Anakin is slowly brought over to the dark side. If we did it this way, we wouldn't even have to have a scene where Anakin officially devotes himself to Palpatine. This would just happen naturally. Not in a way where Anakin is still good one moment and in the very next moment is completely evil and willing to go kill a temple full of children. You know what I'm talking about. It's the scene that I would argue is one of the worst scenes of the entire prequels. Mace Windu starts a duel with Palpatine and is totally owning when Anakin realizes Windu is about to kill Palpatine and in turn helps kill Windu because he needs Palpatine. After this Anakin feels awful. Palpatine says it was necessary and makes Anakin devote himself to him. Bam. Anakin is suddenly the most evil person in the galaxy.

Ouch. This 180 degree flip to the dark side has always bothered me. Way too fast. The movie before this scene is just fine. The movie after this scene is also just fine. Kinda. I'll get to my problems with the ending in a second. But the transition from good to evil for Anakin is just plain awful. And this isn't a realization that I came up with just recently. These were the thoughts that I had the second I left the theater as a sophomore in high school. I've never liked this scene, just like I've never really liked the whole second movie. But now let's talk about the ending of this movie because this is actually a really emotional ending that leads quite well into the original Star Wars movie. However, once again the problem is that it is rushed. Apparently the Jedi are really close to winning this war, but then Anakin starts his killing spree, Palpatine issues Order 66, and just like that all the Jedi are dead. I don't know how much time this actually takes in the movie, but it feels like it's not more than five minutes. If I'm continuing the theme of this movie being the prequels, this five minutes should be the majority of the final movie. End things off with the epic battle between Obi-Wan and Anakin and we're good. I do like that fight, even though the location looks way too fake and the battle feels slightly like a choreographed dance instead of a light-saber duel. The best part is definitely the Battle of the Heroes song by John Williams. At least his music remains consistently awesome throughout.

One final issue I have to address before ending this review. The death of Padme. This is an event that needed to happen. Anakin spends all this time finding a way to keep Padme alive. Despite all his efforts, she dies anyways. And it's all his fault. Had he ignored these nightmares in the first place, she would've been fine. I think this is a great ending to the prequels. However, there are major problems with how she dies. First off, Leia states later on that she remembers her mother. Yet in this, she dies in childbirth. Some have tried to explain this inconsistency, but I don't buy it. I feel it's simply a mistake made by George Lucas. The other terrible thing about Padme's death is how she dies. Apparently she was perfectly healthy, but the robot doctors state that for some unknown reason, they are losing her and it seems that she's just lost the will to live. In other words, she died of a broken heart after learning Anakin is evil. I've heard other theories explaining it. I don't buy them. Padme dies of a broken heart. That's what I believe. And it's stupid. Even if there is a better explanation, why didn't they give it to us? Why would you leave the death of a main character as an unexplainable mystery? Give her a believable death. Make your ending emotional instead of stupid.

In wrapping up all the prequels, are they horrible, unwatchable movies? No. There is entertainment to be had. Are they great movies? That's also a no. The biggest problem is that they had a whole lot to live up to because of how amazing the original three movies are and they don't live up to them. The backstory to the original trilogy is a great backstory. The path was paved for these movies to be another great trilogy, but they don't live up to this potential at all and thus it really stings to see such wasted potential. The best thing that probably came from the prequels were that fans and critics hated them so much that George Lucas became an angry old man and sold the rights to Disney. Now it seems like J.J. Abrams and company have learned from George Lucas' huge mistakes and are giving us the follow-up to the original trilogy that we deserved. As concerning Revenge of the Sith, this is the best of the three, although that's not saying much. It has a great story. It has some great action sequences. It's super emotional. However, it's also super rushed. As I've shown, if they had taken the ideas from this movie and stretched them out throughout three movies, they might have had something. But I'm not here to give a grade to what could've been. I'm here to give a grade to what is. As is, Revenge of the Sith still isn't great. It's just average. This is disappointing because Star Wars movies shouldn't just be average. They should be great. My grade for Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith is a 7/10.

1 comment:

  1. That is a great idea to spread the third movie out as the original prequel. I like the way you would refocus the relationships as well. Awesome insight. Good review.