Star Wars countdown: “Revenge of the Sith”




By Matt Maielli / Staff Writer

Welcome to the “Star Wars” countdown and may the Force be with you. Each week leading up to the release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” The Pitt News will retroactively review the “Star Wars” movies chronologically. The countdown continues this week with Episode III: “Revenge of the Sith.”

It may have taken three whole movies and a PG-13 rating, but the patient Sith get their revenge.

2005’s “Revenge of the Sith” is the third “Star Wars” episode, and as the latest installment, it is the freshest in our minds. It also balances both the good and the bad within the entire saga.

The Republic is witnessing the close of the Clone Wars, marked by the death of Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) and the hunt for General Grievous (voiced by Matthew Wood), a cyborg with a penchant for killing Jedi. Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) leads the search, while Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, aka the Sith Lord Darth Sidious (Ian McDiarmid), lures Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) to the dark side.

“Revenge of the Sith” opens with everything that made “Star Wars” cool — space ships, lightsabers, blasters, droids, bigger space ships and pure sci-fi action.

Then it ends and we get intergalactic C-SPAN. Galactic Senate this, Jedi Council that. Gross.

But “Star Wars” has always been a space soap opera, so for every epic duel, there’s at least one scene dedicated to battle plans and boring meetings — and that goes double for the prequels.

At least “Revenge of the Sith” has half-decent choreography and finally gave us the Wookiee battle we should have seen in “Return of the Jedi.” Baddie General Grievous is also pretty cool as a four-armed CGI beast, with effects that will hold up at least until “The Force Awakens” arrives.

This film is the “final” entry in the six-part saga and the longest, most expensive episode — which means it sometimes explains too much, like why the Emperor looks so old in “Return of the Jedi” or how the Republic made the fateful change into the Empire, all rather quickly, it turns out.

To review, Palpatine forms a separatist droid rebellion in response to a trade deal so that he could make a secret clone army to pit against his own droids to advance his own secret agenda of becoming Supreme Chancellor — creating a unilateral political power.

He then uses the clones to kill all the Jedi and take over the Republic as the emperor, which only he can do after the galaxy has elected him Supreme Chancellor.

It’s fair to say that most people who went to see “Revenge of the Sith” in theaters already knew more about the story than the characters — that Anakin would fulfill the prophecy and become Darth Vader and that Palpatine is actually Darth Sidious — but these “duh” moments feel unnecessarily dramatic.

Fans remember McDiarmid from when he played Sidious 22 years earlier in “Return of the Jedi,” so it’s not much of a reveal after all. Yet, he does give a deservedly chilling performance. “Execute Order 66,” the line that signals the clones to murder their Jedi commanders, is possibly the darkest line of the whole saga — though obviously not as weighty or imitated as “Luke, I am your father.”

This rare example of applause-worthy dialogue is undermined by another phrase that will live in “Star Wars” infamy, but for the wrong reasons. As he electrocutes Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) with Force lightning, Sidious yells a nasally, “Unlimited power,” while flashing a senile, toothy smile, just to remind you that this is still a hammy space adventure.

Largely considered the prequels’ best installment, “Revenge of the Sith” still has a lot of problems, most of which stem from a flimsy script. When the dialogue isn’t ruining individual characters or scenes, it contradicts sacred ideas from the original trilogy.

Let’s just assume Obi-Wan had a mental lapse when he said, “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.” Just ask Yoda, who famously tells Luke Skywalker, “Do or do not, there is no try,” many years later. There’s also the wipe transitions. Sometimes “Revenge Of the Sith” feels like sitting through a 10th grader’s PowerPoint presentation on the solar system.

On a positive note, it wouldn’t be a “Star Wars” film without a final showdown, and thankfully, “Revenge of the Sith” gives us two.

The first is a duel between two masters of the Force: Sidious, a pile of wrinkles in a fancy bathrobe, and the wise green house-elf Yoda, battle on the spinning hover floors of the Senate. That’s like if Dick Cheney and the Dalai Lama fought each other in Congress. It’s paralleled with the saga’s pivotal scene — Obi-Wan and his moody former apprentice, now Darth Vader, duking it out on a molten lava planet.

Of course, fans know the rest — Anakin barely escapes a firey fate, solidifying himself as the Darth Vader we know today, and Obi-Wan barely escapes Hayden Christensen’s abysmal acting, fleeing to live in isolation on Tatooine.

It may very well be the best of the prequels, if only because it sets up the original trilogy — but the bar couldn’t have been much lower.