Initial Review - 5/19/2005:Before I start this review, I'd like to say that I won't preface it with a boring diatribe that overly-inflates the importance of Star Wars in my life. Nor will I discuss any overwhelming feelings I experienced the first time I saw Star Wars nearly 30 years ago, and I will refrain from making any overly-grandiose claims about me "waiting nearly 30 years" to see this movie. (In fact, no one has waited 30 years, since Star Wars was off the radars of everyone, even the most die-hard fan, for about 10 years between the OT and prequels.) I'll also not waste everyone's time writing a scene-by-scene movie synopsis, giving my opinion about every little aspect about the movie. If you're looking for any of these things in this movie review, please go to one of the many fanboy Star Wars sites.
With that out of the way, let's begin. This is the first Star Wars prequel to get good press, and there's a reason: this is the first prequel that doesn't drown in its own pretentious vomit. The acting is much improved and the plot moves quickly and purposefully. The special effects are friggin' amazing and the action scenes, for the most part, are interesting and exciting. But don't mistake this praise as a revelation that ROTS is flawless. For specifics, I'd like to use a format that pays "homage" (which is George Lucas lingo for "blatantly unoriginal rip-off") to Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns:
The GoodObi-Wan McGregor
Finally, Obi-Wan is a likeable character! Ewan delivers his lines with a bit of a tongue-in-cheek attitude, and is able to eke out some interesting interactions with the characters despite the bad dialogue (for more on that, see below). Obi-Wan is less of a bore as he is in AOTC, and he and Anakin develop a believable brotherly relationship in the first half of the movie.
I was concerned that the Emperor would be too boring (given his ultra-drawn-out lines in the trailers) but Ian played the character perfectly. He's calm and slimey in some scenes, and over-the-top villianous in others. His gurgling voice as he appoints Anakin as Darth Vader is especially chilling, in a zombie sort of way.
Kentucky Fried Anakin
These scenes were better than I believe George is capable of making. From Anakin's legs getting chopped off, to his bursting into flames, to his surgery (complete with disgustingly-moist burn wounds), to his helmet being put on his face, the Anakin burn/surgery scenes were perfectly harsh and gruesome.
This dudette was the star of the movie! Not only was she a cool-looking creature, but she also added an interesting action element to the movie. Also, despite the horrible dialogue of the other characters, Boga had some great lines like "Rawr! Swawk, eeek!" (soon-to-be quoted by Star Wars fans everywhere). And fortunately, despite the novel's graphic description of Boga's heroic death saving Obi-Wan, she does, in fact, escape death in the movie. She would make the perfect star for the upcoming Star Wars television show!
The BadThe Dialogue
After all of his movies, you'd think George would be able to write good dialogue. I admit it's better than the other 2 prequels, but it's still awkward and dull. With lines like "Anakin... you're breaking my heart! *choke*" and "What have I done?", you'll wonder if certain lines are just random selections from a database of clichés. Some Lucas apologists say that the dialogue is intentionally bad. That idea is delusional to the point of severe terminal stupidity.
I waited through two and a half movies for Mace to get interesting, but ultimately, he was just another boring, tight-lipped Jedi fuddy-duddy. Mace had the potential to be awesome (hell, he's played by the ultra-cool Samuel L. Jackson) and he had a few good moments in this movie (basically, he made some cool, intense faces during the Palpatine duel) but ultimately Mace was just a dud.
Ugh. Padme was terrible in ROTS. She had the worst lines and, consequently, the worst performance of anyone. Why couldn't George cast Boga as Padmé? The character would be more interesting, at least.
After Vader is told that he killed Padme, he starts to tear apart the room. So far, so cool. But then he rears back and holds his fists up in a goofy over-exaggerated pose, exclaiming "NOOOOOOO!!" Holy hippo spit, what a cheesy way to end the movie.
The UglyAnakin's Hair
Hayden says that he wore a wig for this movie. If so, who decided to put that disgusting rat on that boy's head? Throughout the entire movie, Anakin's hair looks like a janitor's mop after it's been cleaning the men's room at Walmart. If you didn't notice it, pay attention next time to his hair during the scene where he talks with Obi-Wan about spying on Palpatine. Puke. All Palpatine needed to do to lure Anakin to the dark side was to offer him some Head and Shoulders.
Strangely, the character of Anakin doesn't fit into any of the categories above. Anakin is more likeable than in AOTC and has some great scenes, but despite the character's status as "main character", Hayden doesn't seem to take it anywhere. Fortunately, this feeling is one of indifference and not the active hatred that many maintain for the AOTC Anakin.
A few notes on specific action scenes: The opening space battle was awesome, with a neat behind-the-ship view (reminiscent of video games) that really made you feel like part of the action. I loved the wookiee battle, although I wish more screen time was devoted to it. And the much-hyped duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin used its environment well (although the swordplay was a bit over-rated). Anakin's blatant disregard of Obi-Wan's warning at the end ("I have the high ground") was very telling of his recklessness and pompous pride.
But then again, I'm glad the prequel trilogy is over simply for the fact that we don't have to watch lightsaber duels anymore. Those in ROTS are cool, but it was a refreshing change when Obi-Wan lost his lightsaber so that he had to fight Grievous without it. Lightsabers are nifty, but there's so much lightsaber action in the prequels that it just isn't all that interesting anymore.
Overall, the bad certainly does not outweigh the good, and the movie finally captures some of the "magic" (to use another stupid overly-pretentious SW-geek phrase) of the original trilogy. I wouldn't say it's as good as the OT, but it's close (at least to ROTJ).
One final, cynical note about the prequels as a whole: despite claims from many SW die-hards, ROTS does not validate the other prequels. George said that 60% of his original plot synopsis for the prequels went into ROTS, while 20% went into the other two... and it shows. Basically, George had enough good ideas for one or two movies, but since every movie series must be a trilogy, he diluted his ideas into three movies. In fact, the other prequels are not even necessary in the Star Wars storyline. All that character development for Jar Jar and Qui-Gon, and all that "political intrigue" (which was never particularly intriguing anyway) could be tossed out the window.
So... yes, we have a good prequel movie. I can finally feel good about myself again when I'm buying SW action figures. Overall, I'd give it 3.5 Clonetroopers out of 5. It's a good movie, but there are too many B-movie aspects about it to warrant a higher grade.
Update - 5/26/2005:My friend Matt had this response to my review:
What?! You thought it was better than TPM and AOTC? Huh?! That thing was on par with the first two. It had it's moments (Mace vs. Palpy, Anakin in flames) but I don't understand why this movie is getting such great reviews from the press and the fans.
1) The pregnancy. When Anakin returns from rescuing Palpy, not only can you not visibly tell that she's pregnant (with twins, mind you), Anakin nor any of the other Jedi can't tell until the very last moment that she's expecting. Then, we're supposed to believe that by the end of the movie (which is maybe a 2-3 week timespan) that she's given birth to full-term, healthy, twins?!
2) The death of Padmé. You call that Force choking? If that's the best Force choke "the Chosen One" can administer, then Obi-Wan should have dispatched his weakling *** in about 10 seconds. Anakin had a little baby grip around her throat for about a grand total of 5 seconds before Obi-Wan entered the scene and then she just collapses? This is the woman who was blasting droids and Neimodians in Ep1, dodging deadly mechanical apparatuses on a conveyor belt and evading multiple man-eating vicious monsters in Ep2? And now all of the sudden she's not strong enough to pick her butt up off the floor after getting a minimal amount of whoop ***? Let's not mention she was running her mouth while being Force choked, so she obviously wasn't getting it that bad.
3) "She's lost the will to live". When I heard that line I felt like a ****** for standing in line for nearly two hours to see this movie. If GL had any desire to make a respectful movie, he would have had "Annie" toss her *** across the room, hit her head, and at least give a plausible reason for her death.
4) The costume. Not only should Vader not have done his best Ultimate Warrior pose at the end of this movie, the Vader costume had no place in this movie at all. It's only in the last 5 minutes for marketing. Anakin floating in a bacta tank probably doesn't generate the same amount of interest as a Vader costume. How do you put a leather suit on somebody that's just had 3 extremities removed and his torso been chargroiled crispier than my Double Whopper with Bacon? Meesa thinkin that oughta be hurtin. Also, we're supposed to believe that Anakin needs to wear the Vader costume to assist with his breathing? How is it he's able to make it from the shuttle to the OR and make it through the entire surgery with no breathing apparatus? Where did the Vader costume come from, I suppose Palpy just had a spare Vader outfit in his closet? Something like that should take awhile to make. And how is it that it's no problem keeping Anakin (who's been charred beyond recognition and had 3 extremities violently removed) alive, meanwhile, they can't even keep Padme in a veggie state simply because she's "lost the will to live"? It makes no sense.
5) Eternal Life. If I hadn't read the EP3 novelization and listened to the audio commentary on EP2, I'd have had no idea what the hell was going on there. There was no indication whatsoever that Yoda had been talking Qui-Gon all this time. Why not pay Liam Neeson to do one line of dialog for this movie to tie things together?
Good points! I agree on his Padmé point, and especially the disaster that is Qui-Gon's supposed role in this movie.
Update - 7/12/2005:After seeing the movie 4 times, I must admit that my lasting impression is not as glowingly positive as above. Although I was entertained and there are things about this movie that I enjoyed, these aspects are all subjective, and I'm forced to admit that from any quantifiable metric of quality, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith cannot be defended. Other summer movies are measureably far superior to ROTS: Batman Begins has the character development that ROTS lacks; War of the Worlds has amazing and innovative special effects collected into an impressive directing performance (while the supposed "visual poetry" of ROTS seems but a joke in comparison).
Perhaps this reaction is a reflection of my repugnance towards Star Wars in general. I've been a steady fan for 10 years, and I suppose you can only be fanatical about 6 movies for so long. But also, maybe I've been blinded by my general need to feel fanatical about something, regardless of its merits. Although I enjoy most of the Star Wars movies, it's difficult to say that any of them are "good" movies from a quality standpoint (besides ANH and ESB) and I find that defending them is not only difficult, but more and more repulsive to me. Why should I defend the incompetancy of George Lucas? Perhaps Star Wars should have been euthanized 20 years ago after ESB.
In summary: it's all over, thank God. Now, let's concentrate on giving credit to movies that deserve it.
Update - 11/2/2005:Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith was released yesterday on DVD and I decided to present my thoughts. Those looking for a "George Lucas is a master storyteller" review expounding the "visual poetry" of ROTS should probably go to one of the many fandom-blinded Star Wars sites, as I'm feeling a bit punchy today.
Truthfully, I'm not quite sure why I bought this DVD. I have plenty of DVDs that I watch more than once and therefore justify their purchase (Bubba Hotep, Godzilla 2000, Return of the Living Dead, etc), but none of those include the Star Wars prequels. The prequels are so crapalicious that I really never want to waste my time watching them again. ROTS isn't as bad as the others, but I knew I would probably only watch it once and then never again because there isn't enough "coolness" in the movie for multiple viewings (not to mention the questionable quality of virtually every aspect the film). A rental would certainly suffice, but I bought it anyway. I suppose this is so that I would have a complete collection of SW movies... including those that I'll never watch again. Hm.
Regardless of my nonsensical reasons for buying it, the DVD is moderately sweet. The movie is what you saw in the theaters (take it for what you may), and there doesn't appear to be any significant changes. Also included is a separate disc of extras. All the trailers are included, including TV commercials, so in this requirement I have no complaints. The deleted scenes are nifty too, but only in that most of them are actually finished shots. Many of the deleted scenes suck (which is why they're deleted scenes). This includes the much-lauded Dagobah landing, which is iffy at best and poorly done at worst; a perfect example of how ILM screwed up the prequel trilogy by over-doing the CGI, with a bunch of little critters (not seen in the OT, by the way) scurrying around and thereby distracting the viewer from the most important aspect of the scene, i.e. Yoda's pod. But the Shaak-Ti scene is pretty cool, with some great character development between Obi-Wan and Anakin which was sorely missed in the movie.
ROTS is like the other Star Wars DVDs in that you get plenty of "making-of" documentaries... and also in that some of them are super-cool and some of them are entirely unnecessary. "Creating General Grievous" was great, as was "The Wookiees are Back". But many of the web documentaries present no interesting or useful information and seem more concerned with promoting ROTS hyperbole. The main documentary, "Within a Minute" is interesting in that it shows the complexity of building a scene, but since most of these steps are boring, the documentary put me to sleep (quite literally). Who gives a flaming bag of crap about ROTS catering? But there is some interesting material in the "making-of" documentaries, it's just that you have to sit through a lot of crap to get to the good corn.
I bought ROTS from Walmart and as such was treated to an extra DVD entitled, "The Story of Star Wars", which is simply a summary of all the Star Wars movies narrated by C-3PO and R2-D2. As you may imagine, it's really not worth watching and the production quality is quite low. You may be better off checking out Target's ROTS exclusive, a Star Wars coin that would fit well with a POTF85 coin collection.
One last note: in a few of the documentaries, there are some broad allusions to a future "Special Edition" release of the prequels. Oy. George, the "saga" has been completed... it's time to move on with your life.
Update - 12/30/2005:It's kind of funny to read through my comments and watch how my "love" for this film totally degenerated in the span of only a few months. With the release of King Kong (which is easily the best movie of the year), we can see a type of special effects movie absolutely foreign to the Star Wars universe: a movie with a compelling story, fascinating characters, and amazing special effects, all of which is evidence of the competentcy of its director. Revenge of the Sith is but a cartoon in comparison.
I'll conclude this diatribe with the following interesting tidbit showing my ever-growing hatred of the movie: in the almost two months that I have had the DVD, I have not watched ROTS in its entirety once. I've fast-forwarded to a few moderately interesting scenes (Boga is still pretty cool to watch), but the movie now represents nothing more than a colossal waste of my time and money.