What would you do to save the life of the one you love most? How far would you go? Would you sacriﬁce everything you hold dear: your friends, your teachings, your soul?
This is the premise of the ﬁnal installment of the Star Wars series, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, which ﬁnds Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) caught between saving the galaxy or the love of his life (Padme Amidala, reprised by Natalie Portman).
After three weaker outings since 1983, writer/director George Lucas has served up a cinematic explosion which begins and ends in all-out war. Characters die, limbs are lost and hearts are broken, but best of all, the story holds up so that viewers truly care for the tragedies that unfold before them. Star Wars has, at last, returned to its darker roots from the days of The Empire Strikes Back, only teased upon in Attack of the Clones.
Indeed, Sith is not for the younger target audience of The Phantom Menace. The darker ﬁlm earns its PG-13 rating through sadistic displays of graphic violence in addition to scenes that depict the murdering of children and the defeat of primary heroes.
However, older viewers capable of stomaching the violence will ﬁnd that genuinely important themes are explored as the democracy is ripped apart voluntarily by its people and replaced with a tyrannical dictatorship. The people of the once grand Republic hand over their liberties to the rising emperor in exchange for security during the war that he started; a premise not unfamiliar to those even loosely versed in world history… or current events.
Deeper into the script are questions of fate and morality that pull at the deﬁnitions of good and evil within a man. Skywalker ﬁnds himself in numerous ethical dilemmas that test his very soul as he puts his passions ahead of his teachings and consequently ﬁnds, through his hubris, that the road to Hell truly was paved with the best of intentions. His relationship with mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor of Moulin Rouge) deteriorates culminating in the most passionate battle of the franchise as best friends collide and destinies are forged.
Aiding in the ﬁlm’s darker feeling is returning composer John Williams, who contributes perhaps the most emotional score the series has presented in decades. Selections such as “Battle of the Heroes,” “Anakin’s Betrayal” and “Anakin vs. Obi-Wan” build on the powerful style of “Duel of the Fates” from the ﬁrst prequel, but utilize much darker melodies that put the viewer right into the desired mind-set that this is the Star Wars universe they have come to love and cherish on the brink of destruction.
Fans will be pleased to see tie-ins with other ﬁlms in the series (particularly the prequels) where mysteries of the franchise are unveiled for the ﬁrst time including the origins of Skywalker’s virgin birth, explanations of Yoda and Obi-Wan’s ability to become one with the Force and, most anticipated of all, the details surrounding the rise of Darth Vader.
On the other hand, some sequences, such as the ﬁnale, slow down the pace of the ﬁlm as they exist exclusively to explain plot points from the other episodes. In addition, die-hards may ﬁnd that some pieces of the newly completed puzzle contradict or raise questions about previously established continuity (see Luke and Leia’s conversation on Endor in Return of the Jedi, for example).
Such petty grievances aside, Revenge of the Sith is an emotionally enveloping tragedy—a rarity in theaters these days—a triumph that truly lives up to its own monumental hype.