Saturday, 26 September 2015

Journal of Whills: Part 16 - Revenge of the Sith Review

‘Revenge of the Sith’, the final ‘Star Wars’ prequel (for now) and… well I think there are a number of things in this instalment that sum up the prequel trilogy pretty well, a good concept and some very impressive filming here and there, but mostly executed in completely the wrong way to make it stand on par with the original trilogy. So with that being said it’s time to finish the prequels and move on to the far more interesting content. Here it goes.
I say that but to be fair this one is regarded as the best prequel, in fact it’s mostly watchable. But there are still one or two flaws that hold it back from greatness, but I’ll get to those later. For now I want to talk about the opening, and it’s pretty damn good. I mean it, for me this scene is actually the closest single piece of filmmaking to the original trilogy in all three prequels. It’s action packed, well-paced and even humorous at times. There’s still a bit too much of an overreliance on CGI but for the most part it actually holds up and that’s probably because by now the technology had moved on enough so that not only do these scenes look better they are quicker to make and therefore the creative team could actually start to focus on the real core of the movie.
Now when I describe the opening scene as being humorous I mean flying towards the Separatist Cruiser, not as much on board. The dialogue is still quite wooden and forced and it’s not helped by Hayden Christianson’s less than stellar performance. Again though it’s an improvement over conversations about sand (no one has romantic conversations about sand) but still it can be infuriating. However the next twenty minutes are still better than the entirety of ‘Attack of the Clones’ featuring lightsabre duels, lasers and space battles.
Once again there’s a new villain called General Grievous and once again I have no idea who he is nor do I fear his presence. By swapping out villains for each film we couldn’t build a dread and association with any one character, especially one that by this point we know for definite will not survive the course of this movie. Of course we were hoping that ‘Revenge of the Sith’ would introduce us to the best cinematic villain of all time, Darth Vader. While Anakin’s motivation for searching for paths of power other than the Jedi are inventive, switching sides for conservation of his loved ones rather than destruction of enemies and Palpatines catalysing Anakin’s vulnerabilities to manipulate him , the execution of it is really lacking. The total transformation is not a gradual process but one of torn morals and then child murdering in the space of ten minutes, not to mention the fact that we as an audience are supposed to believe that the name Vader came from mere seconds of contemplation. ‘You will be known as Darth…. Vader.’
Sadly the effects aren’t as impressive for the whole film, at times it is painfully obvious that the sets and designs are fake, green screened, CGI every trick apart from genuine practical sets. The other problem is that without a great performance to draw your attention from it you notice it even more. Speaking of performances you’ve got Natalie Portman being equally as uninterested as in the previous instalments and I already mentioned Christianson. But I do think that there are moments without dialogue, where his facial expression is doing the acting, where he’s pretty impressive. Ewan McGregor gives what has to be the best performance of the movie, a sort of youthful energy that is slowly ripped away by betrayal (albeit not in nearly as much detail as a truly great character development would be) until he becomes more of an aged warrior.
But going back to scenes without dialogue, they are perhaps the most powerful in the entire film. The scene where Anakin and Padme are on different sides of the city staring towards each other is quite a compelling scene, as is the one in which Order 66 is carried out, with the John Williams music (that is as always, spectacular) and Yoda’s expression and the sight of seeing these proud warriors torn down, it’s enthralling. Then there’s the moment that Anakin massacres the Separatist leaders only to look back with his glowing yellow eyes. The birth of Darth Vader being intercut with the birth of Luke Skywalker is also clever.
The final lightsabre duel in ‘Revenge of the Sith’ still looks choreographed, not to the same extent that it does so in ‘The Phantom Menace’, but it lacks the intensity, emotional involvement or dialogue for us to ignore this. Then Padme loses the will to live…. Yeah okay its… its dumb right, we all know it so… let’s just move on okay, we’re nearly finished.
‘Revenge of the Sith’ still has many issues and could have been executed in such a better way, but at the end of the day there’s still a lot to like, especially if you’re willing to overlook other imperfect details.
Result: 6/10   

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