(In theaters, May 2005) Good? Bad? Does it really matter when it’s a film labouring under such expectations? A bridge between the much-maligned Episodes II and the classic Episode IV, Revenge Of The Sith just needs to be satisfactory. Which it is, but just. George Lucas’ shortcomings in matters of dialogue have been obvious before, but they’re even more glaring here, with wince-inducing romantic material and lines that don’t end up meaning what the writer intended (“Good relations with the Wookies, I have”: Thanks for an instant fan punchline, George!) He doesn’t fare much better with the overarching elements of his script either: the grandiose “fall of the republic” is too simplistic to be believable, and so is Anakin’s conversion to the dark side. The most tragic part of the story, though, is the shabby way it disposes of Padme (the luscious Nathalie Portman, now with added curls) as a porcelain doll who can’t live without her man. As a director, Lucas is doing better than ever with the way he moves the camera around (though one may wonder about the positive influence of his special-effects people or the rumoured involvement of Steven Spielberg), even though his grasp of actors remains as shaky as ever: Ian McDermid and Ewan McGregor do well, but Hayden Christiansen looks and sounds like a petulant brat who mumbles a lot. (“Darth Vader: The Sullen Teenage Years”). Fortunately, Lucas doesn’t come up with everything in the film, and so the design work and special effects remain as deeply impressive as ever: ILM truly brought their A-game to this film, with particular praise heaped upon the first twenty minutes of the film, the epitome of what a “Star Wars!” film should feel like. I have my doubts about other elements of the film (such as the inconsistent use of Force powers), but bitching about “Episode III” is no better than beating a dead horse. Revenge Of The Sith manages to satisfy what we expected from a film whose ending we already knew, but no more.
(On DVD, December 2005) You know, this film is a whole lot better with the commentary track turned on. I may still not think too highly of the dialogue or the pedestrian fashion with which George Lucas capped off his wholly unnecessary trilogy, but the special effects are nice and there’s interesting design touches here and there. With the multi-source audio commentary, you can at least give points for effort and technical prowess as the filmmakers explain what they intended to do with even the silliest sequences. Fittingly, the best thing on the DVD may be “Within a minute”, an exhaustive making-of documentary covering what goes into making only one minute of the finished film. Neat concept: there doesn’t appear to be a single production team left untouched by the end of it. A fair number of other targeted featurettes complete the portrait. Star Wars fans already know that the DVD is the essential missing part of their collection going in between volume II and IV; others may want to wait until the inevitable cash-in box set.