Retro Review | Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

Retro Review | Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

Anakin Skywalker will turn to the Dark Side and become Darth Vader, but is it worth waiting over two hours for?

My Star Wars prequel journey has come to its end.  I haven’t watched this trilogy of films in over a decade, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and finally Revenge of the Sith.

Revenge of the Sith, released in 2005, was the big one for us dedicated Star Wars fans. Ever since the original films, we knew that Obi Wan was going to face off with Anakin. Anakin’s failure would lead him to become the Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader.

The film opens with a strong start, some excellent literal Star Wars. Flying in the space above Coruscant, Anakin and Obi Wan Kenobi are in their star fighters making their way to General Grievous’s ship to rescue Senator Palpatine.

They have to fight off star fighters and the devious little Buzz Droids. The battle is so large that you really have to watch several times to really appreciate everything that is occurring in frame during this sequence.

General Grievous does have a backstory as he was introduced in the animated Clone Wars series around a year prior to the film’s release. I had never watched that series, so it was another character to take on board who had just been introduced via the opening crawl.

Our two Jedi heroes make their way on board to rescue Palpatine. Kenobi is knocked unconscious, and it is up to Count Dooku to try and stop Anakin.

When you’ve got the great Christopher Lee playing as a Sith Lord, I’d expect to see him a lot. However, Anakin takes him down with relative ease by beheading him. Anakin knows this is wrong but as Palpatine says, he took your arm and so you got your justice. Is Anakin so powerful that Sith Lords are nothing to him now?

General Grievous makes his escape and the two Jedi have to try and crash-land a huge starship on the Coruscant planet surface.

After this exciting opening, the film then gets stuck into the story. Anakin, as recommended by Palpatine, is placed upon the Jedi Council. However, he is not granted the title of Jedi Master, which usually comes with this position.

This angers Anakin and the stroppy teenager from Attack of the Clones is back!

Obi Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) prepares to battle General Grievous

It doesn’t help that the council see Anakin as effectively a mole for Palpatine. To make matters worse, the Jedi want Anakin to report back to them about what Palpatine is up to.

Whilst this is all transpiring, Anakin is also having a new set of nightmares about the death of his wife, Amidala, whilst she is in childbirth.

He vows to never let this happen and when Palpatine reveals that he knows how to use the Force to bring people back from the dead, Anakin knows which way his allegiances lie.

This Jedi / Palpatine conflict will result in the death of most of the Jedi. Palpatine will gain his Emperor like appearance that we are more used to from the original trilogy. Finally, Palpatine will turn Anakin to the Dark Side so that he then has to face off with Kenobi, his former master.

Ever since I watched Revenge of the Sith all those years ago on DVD, it has remained in my head that this was easily the best of the three prequel films. Having watched it again, I’m not really sure if this rings true. In a lot of respects, this feels very similar to Episode II: Attack of the Clones with similar problems.

When the CGI is used to create whole scenes, it looks great and still does today. But insert a real element into the scene, such as the Wookies, and they don’t look like there really there.

The worst offender of this effect are the Clone Troopers. I’m under the impression that not a single piece of clone trooper amour was physically built, they are entirely computer-generated characters. In both Episode II and III, they look terrific.

As we have learnt from the previous film, this entire army has been produced by cloning the bounty hunter Jango Fett. So, several times we see Clone Troopers without their helmet revealing the face of Jango Fett, once again played by Temuera Morrison. But he was never in costume on set because they never built any, so his head has been placed on a digital body, and it never looks quite right as the head has a floaty unconnected feeling.

Yoda (Frank Oz), Obi Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Senator Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) aboard the Tantive IV, the first ship to appear in the original trilogy.

Don’t get me wrong, once again the design elements and aesthetic are amazing and when it all comes together, it can work really well. The volcanic planet of Mustofar for example brings to life what we fans had been imagining for years.

In fact, the final duel of Mustafar between Anakin and Kenobi is really the highlight of the film. The lightsaber duel is fast and kinetic and has a surprisingly gruesome ending for a Star Wars film, but it does this in order to set up the character of Darth Vader.

And that is the icing on the cake. After two hours and the lightsaber duel we’ve been waiting for, the birth of Darth Vader in his iconic black suit.

That moment when the mask is clipped into place, the entire soundtrack has become noiseless, and you hear that famous mechanical breathing.  Gives me goosebumps.

This film is primarily Anakin’s and Obi Wan’s, played by Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor respectively. Hayden is marginally better in this than he was in Attack of the Clones with Ewan remaining as likeable as ever. This is of course the film that spawned the famous, “Hello there!” meme.

Natalie Portman, as Amidala, I feel is underused in this final chapter. She seems to only appear to ask Anakin why he is so sad and to proclaim her love for him and enunciate plot points.

As I’ve already said, Christopher Lee is barely used and the same could be said for General Grievous. A visually interesting computer-generated character who is part animal and part machine.

He is introduced, escapes and comes back for a fight with Kenobi where he will meet his demise. Again, I would’ve liked to have seen more.

The duel we had been waiting for. Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and Obi Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) fight on the volcanic planet of Mustafar.

Ian McDiarmid returns once again as Senator Palpatine who will become the emperor we all know and hate, and he’s great as both characters, except for one sequence.

Palpatine has a battle with Mace Windu, played by the ever-dependable Samuel L. Jackson, but this scene is almost comical by its end.

Windu being attacked by Force Lightening just looked funny to me this time around. The words coming out of Palpatine using his Dark Lord of the Sith voice, at one point, I thought he was doing a Mr Bean impersonation.

Also, speaking of voices, George Lucas’s script work hadn’t really improved between films and the quality of dialogue on this film can be a little clunky at times.

Looking back, this review seems to have taken a disappointing turn and I suppose that is the way I feel about this film after all this time. The film is only redeemed by its final moments which neatly connect the film to the original trilogy.

3 out 5

Revenge of the Sith suffers many of the same problems as Attack of the Clones but does fair sightly better, just.

In 2005, as far as we knew, this was the end for live action Star Wars films.


John Abbitt

About the author | John Abbitt

@UKFilmNerd | John loves film, and he used to write for his own website, The Tydirium Hangar Bay, in the late 1990s. Whilst that website became lost in the passages of time, John's love of film did not. He's back, writing for The Unheard Nerd.