In a nutshell – ROTS is the best of the three prequel trilogy films. But then again Plan 9 From Outer Space is better than any of the prequel films. Two things stood out to me about this movie. The first is that Lucas seemed to be very rushed in his storytelling. The second was that the movie really had no emotional depth. Now many will say that this would be impossible since we all already knew that Anakin Skywalker would become Darth Vader. To those who say that let me point you to Peter Jackson’s treatment of The Lord Of The Rings, a story which the majority of viewers already knew what was going to occur, yet Jackson still managed to create an exciting and fresh experience. Here Lucas had the benefit that no one knew what the causes were that lead Anakin to his fall from grace. All we knew is that he fell. He had a lot more room to maneuver story-wise, yet he threw it all away in favor of visually showing us what new technological gizmo’s he could come up with.
Addressing the first point – a rushed story – it seemed that Lucas was moving at breakneck speed to hit a list of things fans wanted. Space Battle – check, Emperor revealing himself – check. Character development? Who needs that! More Wookies! It was if Lucas was handed a set of Cliff Notes on the story of ROTS and worked from that instead of an actual script that would have told the story well. Another issue of the film was how some of these characters were introduced. Why even mention Chewbacca or Tarfuel? What did they actually do in the movie? I think the only reason they were mentioned at all was purely to sell toys. It is well known that Lucas prefers to tell his stories in a movie not more than 150 minutes in length. In all honesty if he had taken his time in telling what really should be one of the most important stories in the Star Wars Saga and made a movie of say an additional hour in length, many people would be happier with him right now.
The second issue is directly related to the first. No time was spent on developing these characters in the film. The reason’s for Anakin’s turn seems ludicrous. What is his real motivation? Sure Lucas says it is because he wishes to save Padme, but honestly what I saw on screen was unrealistic. Now there are those who say it is because Hayden Christensen is an actor incapable of the task. For all those who say that let me point you to a fantastic film with an Oscar Worthy performance by Mr. Christensen called Shattered Glass. Then of course is the issue of Count Dooku and General Grevious. Both characters seemed like throwaways in this film. Who really cared about these characters? While they seemed interesting in a cursory way, in the end they mattered not to the story being told. Especially the character of Grevious. To me he seemed to be there only to sell a few more toys at the mall. The same goes for the pointless fight on the home world of the Wookies. What reason truly was that there?
Finally my biggest complaint of this film is that as far as a piece of storytelling it really fails the entire story of the Star Wars Saga. A skilled storyteller would never had Palpatine name Anakin. A skilled storyteller would never have shown the creation of Vader. In truth this movie robs what I consider one of the most amazing scenes in cinema history it’s power and punch. The scene in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back where Vader tells Luke he is his father now loses all of it’s strength and power. If we were left with the belief that Anakin had died, then that scene would have so much more impact than it will for future generations who see this film as Lucas intended, from Episode I to Episode VI. This where Lucas really has hurt himself with his departure from the various Guilds. Sure now he is fully independent, but so was Kubrick. Yet with his departure from the guilds he lost access to the valuable resources of the guilds. Imagine this film if a highly skilled director and script doctor had worked on it? This film would be the highlight of the Saga, the crown jewel. Instead it is a nothing more than a set of Notes on what seems like an amazing story that will never be told (much as Underworld was IMHO).
Now granted there are some great scenes in this movie that really make you hunger to see the whole story told. The scene where Order 66 is executed and Palpatine’s discussion of Darth Plaeguis come to mind. But these are merely allusions to a greater story, one that has been hidden from us by a director’s maniacal ego and desire to stay at a certain length. A director to busy trying to dazzle us with visual brilliance (BTW I though the special effects for the trailer for The Chronicles Or Narnia were better than anything I saw in ROTS) instead of grand storytelling.
To conclude, all I can say about Star Wars Episode III : Revenge Of The Sith, is that it brings to mind the last line of TS Elliot’s famed poem The Hollow Men – The World Ends Not With A Bang, But With A Whimper.