Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith (7/10)

by Tony Medley

Well, we finally get to learn how Darth Vader got to be Darth Vader in this, the final theatrical Star Wars movie. Even though the movie includes a delicious turn as a bad guy by Ian McDiarmid, who plays Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, and competent performances by Hayden Christensen, as Anakin Skywalker, Luke’s father, Natalie Portman as Padmé, Anakin’s wife and Luke’s mother, Ewan McGregor, trying to be a young Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi, and incredible special effects, it’s best part is the music score by Academy Award winner John Williams. The music is constant and keeps the tension mounting throughout the slightly over two hour running time.

The special effects are simply overwhelming. Every scene utilizes visual effects by Industrial Light & Magic. In fact, “Revenge of the Sith” has more than 2,200 visual effects shots, far more than in any previous Star Wars movie. According to producer Rick McCallum, “There are some shots with 50 or 60 different elements, most of which most people will never even realize are effects.”

The opening scene is unique because it’s a massive battle taking place in an atmosphere of a planet, rather than in space, where most previous Star Wars battles occurred. Visual effects supervisor John Knoll says, “Setting it there gave us the opportunity to create smoke trails, fires and other pyrotechnics that would not exist in the vacuum of outer space.”

Near the end of the film is a battle taking place during the eruption of a volcano. The CGI were composited with real footage of an erupting Mt. Etna with digital matte paintings and elaborate miniatures, some of which measured more than 30 feet long. One criticism I had is that the actors never show any of the effects one would feel when so close to molten lava. They never look lukewarm, much less hot.

Lucas couldn’t resist the temptation to impose his political views on the audience, especially since they are so Hollywood. During the climactic battle between Darth and Obi, Darth says, “If you are not with me…you are my enemy.” Obi responds, “Only a Sith would deal in absolutes.” While Lucas apparently stacked the screening audience with his employees (cheers went up for the opening titles, as well as for these lines!), hard as it may be for someone as rich and powerful as Lucas to believe, nobody cares how George Lucas feels about George Bush and Iraq.  How dimwitted do you have to be to gratuitously offend half of your audience? Louis B. Mayer recognized this when he was the most successful producer in the history of Hollywood, during the Great Depression no less. When someone would submit a script to him that had some political bent, he would bounce it. “No messages,” was Mayer’s rule and people like Lucas and the others in Hollywood who keep inserting their political philosophy in films would do well to heed it.

I generally detest movies full of special effects, animation (90 minutes of the film contains animation), movies where people can fly, where they can fall from incredible heights but jump up to continue fighting, where death is an arbitrary call, and horrible injuries are virtually painless. Even though “Sith” contains all of the above, in spades, I found this to be entertaining despite a weak script and flimsy plot that barely accomplished its purpose of holding my interest. But Producer George Lucas owes a big debt to John Williams, whose music is what sets this apart from other mundane films that survive on special effects.


May 6, 2005