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Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005) – Movie Review

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Written & Directed by George Lucas
Starring Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson

My Advice: To hell with it.

War! Huh. Good God, y’all. That’s right, it’s war. General Grievous (voiced by Matthew Wood), a supposedly fiendish badass villain who’s really just a level boss from Doom in need of an inhaler, and Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) have kidnapped Senator Palpatine (McDiarmid). Obi-Wan and Anakin (McGregor and Christensen), those whacky fun-loving Jedis, have hauled ass to go and save him. But little do they know that this is all part of Palpatine’s fiendish plot, which is finally going to come to fruition thanks to the stupidity of the Jedis, the selfish brat-nature of Anakin, and his and Padme’s (Portman) desire to play house.

Wow. Wow. This was really, really bad. And let’s leave aside for the moment how this sullies the original trilogy–because it does. Let’s just concentrate on what we have here. Acting-wise, I’ve pretty much decided to give everyone a pass here, because let’s face it: they didn’t know what they were signing onto. They, like all of us, thought the prequel trilogy would rock ass. So I can’t blame anybody in the cast. McGregor’s about the best thing going, despite his brand new accent for the film, because I figure he’s just about given up and decided to roll with it. Portman and Christensen are still terrible, but that’s because they’re younger actors who need direction. See any other movie outside of the franchise with them in it and you’ll see: with a real director at the helm, they can do wonders. But for this, you could have picked two random high school age actors from anywhere in the country and probably would have been better off. Jackson seems kind of bored, but considering how stupid a character he’s given to play, I don’t necessarily blame him. And McDiarmid isn’t bad either, he’s just, again, this side of moustache-twirling. The rest of the bit parts are just that: bit parts.

And here’s the really killer thing: the film doesn’t make sense. Jedi powers, we learn, only work when it’s convenient for the plot to do so. Example: Kenobi is on a spaceship and can sense Dooku’s presence, but not a single Jedi can sense anything about the betrayals that are coming? Even though this conspiracy has been twelve years (three movies) in the making? I’m not surprised: they can’t even use their powers to knock away things like “buzz droids” attacking their fighter ships. Actually a lot of things happen when it’s convenient for the plot: fire ships can sense that the folks piloting Grievous’ ship are good guys now, so everything’s fine.

And to make matters worse, the film is just plain silly. Apart from the Frankenstein-ripoff towards the end and Yoda trying to talk like a badass in his broken syntax (“On we will bring it” or something), there’s goofy chipmunk-sounding droids, Wookies with their Tarzan-ripoff yells, and Lucas‘ utter inability to have anything like tension. For one thing, don’t make a big deal about a character in jeopardy who’s in the episode after this one. It’s not like we don’t already know they’re going to survive. But even when you do manage to get some good blood pumping, it’s deflated. The Wookies’ hauling ass to fight is met with droids chirping “Charge!” A light saber duel among some magma (it’s in the trailer, not a spoiler) is interrupted by a droid flying into frame randomly.

Now let’s talk where this film fits into the series. Because films like this are different in that they stand alone, yes, but they also are a piece of a larger puzzle. The ultimate reasons why the original trilogy happens at all are so ludicrious and pointless that what this film really accomplishes is it gives us insight into these characters that lessens their effectiveness in the later episodes. And the fact that (again, no spoiler here, this is common knowledge), it’s obvious that Anakin is Vader completely negates the coolest cinematic reveal that most of us ever experienced: “I am your father, Luke.” Now, if you watch the series in order, you find that out up front. So your grandkids aren’t going to understand what all the fuss was about. And all of this, all of it, could have been avoided if somebody had just performed some major surgery on Lucas’ work. I’m not talking about Tom Stoppard working dialogue, I mean the thing needed a complete overhaul.

I know the faithful aren’t going to believe this, but I went into this movie expecting the same thing I expect from every movie: that it be good. And it wasn’t. I was as fair as I ever am to films, though that won’t save me from the inevitable hate mail. I actually didn’t give terrible ratings to the first two films, but yet I got lamblasted because I didn’t declare them the second coming. But this isn’t even close. It moves like a tragedy and thanks to John Williams it even sounds like a tragedy, but it’s too lightweight (and its chief character is too much of a whiny bitch) to be taken seriously and give it that tragic heft. This film deserved a better director and writer than Lucas.

If you’re somebody who loved the series and thinks a franchise is best served by its fans by ignoring the bad, then…well, you’ve already seen this and nothing I can say will affect your good time. In fact, I’m glad you had a good time. More power to you. Just please, please, please, don’t fall for the line about this being the end: it’s the 3-D versions, a couple DVD sets, maybe Indy 4 and then Episode VII. My prediction: announcement within five years.

My full notes taken while watching the film.


  • Whoa. Your review sounds harsh…but it is the truth, sadly.

    I agree with ya, man. At first I thought I was alone, but I’m glad that I’m not.

  • I just saw SW3. Prior to going, I read every review on, and yours I wholeheartedly agree with, unfortunately. The Wookie war had potential to be one of the great SW battles, but its cut short and sprinkled with goofiness. Ditto the opening 20 minutes. The battle droids, buzz droids, Grievous, Obi-wan’s lizard, et al are horrible creations. When I first heard that Lucas was going to make another trilogy (I think I heard this around the time of Empire Strikes Back), it was rumored that it would be about the Clone Wars. So, WHERE are the Clone Wars? One short battle in Attack of the Clones, then one short dogfight in space, and that’s IT? I think a revamped version of Ep. 3 should have been the first, or perhaps second, of the prequels. If Lucas could have skipped Ep. 1 completely, and instead made Anakin’s childhood a prologue, then dwelled more on the Clone Wars, AND elaborated on the building of the Empire and gave some time to Darth Vader’s rise to power, THAT would be a great set of movies that could have been better than the originals. That’s my overall disappointment of the whole second trilogy. But, I’m not sure I’m saying anything original here. I think most hard-care SW fans probably think the same thing. I have the original trilogy on DVD now. I will watch those 3 over and over again, from beginning to end, because the story, characters, acting and dialogue are all great. I will watch the last 3 by skipping over most of it to just watch the great action scenes only.

  • Todd, thanks for reading. I have a sneaking suspicion that Anakin’s iguana steed was Lucas’ whacked out homage to Harryhausen, just because I kept thinking the whole time of “giant” stop motion lizards. But yeah, I think the thing that’s so sad is all the potential wasted. This and Trek. Just a waste.

  • I suspect that of the fans that enjoyed SW3 (and it seems there are plenty), most will have the same sort of delayed reaction (i.e. vomitting) many had after each of first two prequels. Everyone gets excited about these films, and catching one at a midnight show with hundreds of equally eager fans can be a fun experience. Give it a few days/weeks, let everyone watch the original triliogy, and all those good feelings about the prequels (if any) will be gone.

    I didn’t really get anything I wanted out of SW3, and I wasn’t expecting much. I didn’t get any sense of closure to the saga. The puzzle of the Star Wars saga wasn’t completed with pieces that I wasn’t already aware of. I didn’t even enjoy the lightsaber battles (though John Williams made Anakin vs. Obi-wan more dramatic).

    About the only thing I’ve enjoyed about the prequel madness in general has been the Clone Wars animated series…with the exception of Anakin’s tribal quest in the Lucas-ized final chapters of course.

    I’d like to be done with Star Wars, but Widge is right. It’s only a matter of time before the TV series is released and/or a sequel trilogy begins…

  • I take it back. The the best thing to come out of the prequel madness was Widge’s page of notes taken while viewing SW3.

    And yes, Grievous should have been a badass (reference: Clone Wars).

  • Suni: Howdy! We can only hope that the fan’s delayed reaction is as you say it will be. But I don’t know. A lot of fans have been very much in denial about this, giving it a free pass because A) it’s Star Wars, B) the bar has been set so low based on the previous two, and III) it’s the “last one.” Reviewers list off grievances that would have killed any other SF flick and then blow it off with, “But beyond that, I thought it was perfect!” or the like. And yeah, the saber battles, while impressive, really needed Ray Park to come in and kick some ass with them. This wuxia-style leaping around and shit can only go so far.

    Glad you liked the notes. I didn’t expect so many people to appreciate what’s in essence a transcript of my own descent into howling, laughing madness.

  • i know for a fact there isn’t going to be any more star wars…but i do know that he is going to replay them all in theatres again. why does it matter what order people watch it? it will be thrilling either way. and yeah, portman and christensen were pretty bad, but you have to admit they were so much better than the last one. plus, all the tragic-ness of it covered up the bad script-writing and acting. i never even noticed that the droids voices were stupid sounding or it was stupid to make the wookies sound like tarzan in some parts until you mentioned it. thanks alot for almost ruining it for me. well. that’s just my oppinion.

  • Louise: I’m sorry I almost ruined the movie for you. Next time I’ll try a lot harder. Thanks for reading.

  • We were kinda hoping maybe “Ani” was making “Paddle-me” love her using his Jedi mind tricks to explain away the complete lack of chemistry between the actors; no such luck (or plot). The film notes were hilarious; how do you have time to watch the film and write all that up at the same time?

  • Ladies and Gentlemen, Crystal Lich is in the house this evening. Movie Crypt, site of much assrocking. Yeah, considering the Jedi’s powers work about as well as William Katt’s did in Greatest American Hero, I don’t think he’d be up for that kind of mind control action. As for how I pulled off the notes, I used a combination of typing with my thumbs fast as hell and a shorthand I developed in college. The real trick was not to stare stunned at the screen like a rabbit gone tharn: “Did that–I didn’t just SEE that, did I?” That was where my critic fu had to be strong. Thanks for stopping by, amigo.

  • You nailed it. Wow, give any two people who liked Satr Wars and Empire two minutes to muse and they could have come up with better movies for all three prequels. One of many: how about showing a wonderful world in order and happiness when the Jedi ruled so a tragedy could unfold? Instead the force is an infection and the Jedi are clueless mopes in a bad urban bureaucracy. A trilogy focusing on Vader and the rise of the Empire is good too.

    George Lucas reminds me of Michael Jackson. Lost on neverland ranch, descending into incompetent myopic megalomania (Lucas’ fettish seems to be soul-less CGI and trashing his original achievement).

  • Josh: I agree with everything you’ve said and I can only add this: “THE FORCE IS AN INFECTION” is an awesome name for an album. Thanks for reading.

  • Thanks Widge, your review and notes have been cathartic for someone who’s been desperate for another good Star Wars movie ever since 1984 … but knows he’ll never get one. Yours may even top Rolling Stones’ as the best review I’ve read to date.

    Yes, I’m a Star Wars fan, one who drinks coffee (and tea) but NOT Kool-Aid.

    The REAL tragedy of RotS (love that acronym!) is that after 20+ years THIS prequel trilogy is the best GL could come up with. Movie Making 101 should begin with the statement: “Before you begin to tell a story, you need to begin with a STORY … or else it’s all just flashing lights.”

    The ‘hardcore fans’ (read: pathetic geeks with no chance at anything resembling a life) will mindlessly adore this wretched bling-bling fest. They are sheeple. No wonder they identify so strongly with the Jedi who go foolishly to their doom.

    Even sadder are the many movie critics who shamelessly pander to these same fans. I like a little more ‘critic’ in my critics, and not simply more mindless hype.

    Thanks for calling ‘em like you see ‘em.

  • Bror: Wow, better than Rolling Stone? Thanks! I’d like to say thank you as well for making the Star Wars fan/Jonestown connection, since that was worth more than a few chuckles around here. I guess that means Lucas was up in the director’s chair telling people stories about his mom during the making of the film.

  • I enjoyed your review. Every time I think of the Star War Saga (or maybe Hexology….Sexology) I’m upset by lost potential. I enjoyed RotS a lot, but only because I chose to ignore several of the badly written and acted scenes as well as the plot holes.
    Some Exceptions:

    1) I couldn’t ignore Samuel L. Jackson’s horrible acting unfortunately. My God! Talk about phoning it in; I’ve never heard a less convincing scream of pain.
    2) I couldn’t ignore Anakin’s unusually quick pledge of allegiance to Palpatine.
    3) I couldn’t ignore the fact that Leia somehow remembered her mother even though they were separated right after her birth.

    It saddened me that I also had to ignore my previous viewing of the awesome Clone Wars miniseries since it was, in many ways, better than the movie. In the miniseries, General Grievous is truly skilled with his lightsabers, whereas his CG counterpart is sort of a joke. I don’t see how Lucas dropped the ball on that one since Gendy Tartakovsky had already shown him how to make Grievous look perfect. Even Grievous’ voice actor from the miniseries was superior. When someone else takes your creative work and outdoes you with it (while using fewer resources), it’s time to seriously examine your own abilities.

    Your comment about how the prequel trilogy alters the overall Saga is dead on. No other review that I have read has mentioned how this trilogy fits in with old one when viewed in the appropriate order. “The Empire Strikes Back” drew you in since the audience and Luke are discovering his heritage at the same time; you wish it wasn’t true almost as bad as Luke does. That’s powerful. Now that power has been lost because Mr. Lucas made the “first” trilogy for an audience that he knew had already seen the “second.” I just hope that 80 years from now, people still view the movies out of order.

  • Also, your comment about Grievous’ breathing mirrors several comments I’ve read. You would have to have seen the end of The Clone War 2nd season to understand his breathing problems. Lucas probably should’ve explained it in the opening scroll.

  • Richard: Yeah, the whole thing about Grievous’ breathing being explained in the series (which they assumed everyone watched) is another example of lazy filmmaking. That’s like all the stuff they didn’t explain in the third Harry Potter movie because they assumed everyone read the book. All I saw was an android (or cyborg or whatever) that coughed. Which is silly as hell. If you had that much of a problem with your lungs, why wouldn’t you have replaced the lungs when you became a cyborg? And when Obi-Wan pulled open his chest, I sure didn’t see any flesh and blood lungs in there. I just can’t take what appears to be a coughing robot seriously. Thanks for reading, amigo.

  • They should have abandoned all this self-important melodrama and gone for balls-out pandering cheese. . .”Yes Sidious deserves to die, and I hope he burns in hell!!!” They even succeeded in making “real” Darth Vader say more inane, whiny shit, which is utterly unforgivable. shame, shame. . .

  • Widge, you have written the worst movie review I have ever had the pleasure of reading; I couldn’t disagree with you more, check out the new york times review to see my thoughts

  • Dude, if you’re telling the truth, then you’re pretty calm for a guy whose thoughts were ripped off by A.O. Scott and published as his own. In fact, it’s pretty goddamn scary that the New York Times has that kind of telepathic power to use for plagiarism. I strongly recommend wearing a hat of tin foil in your future cinema-going experiences. Or in some sci-fi, a metal plate in the skull works too. YMMV, please see a doctor before attempting metal plate placement in your skull. Anyway, thanks for reading. Best of luck with that.

  • A proud Star Wars geek friend of mine explained the thing with Grievous’s lungs, which begs certain questions of those of us who don’t unquestioningly love the saga in a blind leap of faith: Why did the coughing sound robotic, and Why did he not die of decompression when he jumped into space through the window he broke with the Q-tip?

  • Siege: Wow, I had no idea the rapper even made a cameo in the film. I must have been typing down another snarky note at the time. Good catch.

  • first off, good review
    secondly.. that grant guy is shameless “see my new york times review” in other words… aint i the prodigal son of all humans, only thing i can gather from that comment is you guys are either friends and hes just playin…. or he is an even bigger tosser than annakin skywalker.. so hats off to him lol
    but yeah… this movie sux
    end of story