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20th Century Fox presents
Star Wars: Episode IIIóRevenge of the Sith (2005)

"Twisted by the Dark Side, young Skywalker has become. The boy you trained, gone he is. Consumed by Darth Vader."
- Yoda (Frank Oz)

Review By: Joel Cunningham  
Published: October 10, 2005

Stars: Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor, Ian McDiarmid
Other Stars: Natalie Portman, Samuel L. Jackson, Frank Oz, Christopher Lee, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Jimmy Smits, Temuera Morrison
Director: George Lucas

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi violence and some intense images
Run Time: 02h:19m:58s
Release Date: November 01, 2005
UPC: 024543203094
Genre: sci-fi


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A BA+A+ B+

DVD Review

Many Star Wars fans have turned grousing about the prequel trilogy into a full-time pursuit (and god knows there's enough wrong with The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones to keep them busy), but by and large, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith seems to have brought most back into the fold of the faithful Lucas Army. But why? Doesn't Sith exhibit the same glaring flaws as its predecessors (chief among them: flat dialogue, wooden actors, robotic characters, a total lack of genuine heart and humor)? The answer is, sadly, yes. But it also includes all the good parts that fans have been waiting over 20 years to see: the Clone Wars, the destruction of the Jedi, and the emergence of a guy who looks really good in black.

Speaking strictly in terms of the plot, it would have been pretty hard for Lucas to screw up Sith. He's admitted that the majority of the backstory he created for the original trilogy is contained in this, the third film in the six-film series, bridging the gap between the forbidden marriage of Senator Amidala (Natalie Portman) and impetuous Jedi knight Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) that ended Attack of the Clones and the dark specter of Darth Vader that emerges in A New Hope. Because the conclusion is never in doubt, the story takes on overtones of epic tragedy. The audience knows that Anakin will eventually fall to the Dark Side of the Force, seduced by the silver-tongued Lord of the Sith, Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), nee Darth Sidious, the future Emperor, and that he'll be strapped into a fashionable iron lung after a climactic battle with his mentor, Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor).

In theory, anyway. Despite its operatic tone, Revenge of the Sith is rarely more emotionally engaging than either of the previous prequels, pointing to the chief problem with Lucas' rendering of the Star Wars backstory. Though the two trilogies are linked in terms of story, they are separated by a great divide—character. Simply put, I cared about the characters in the original films. I wanted the rebels to defeat the evil Empire. I wanted Luke to become a Jedi and resist the Dark Side. I wanted Han and Leia to get together. But the recent movies haven't focused on characters at all, but the plot mechanics that drive them. With a clear endpoint in sight, Lucas put more effort into moving the pieces around on the board to get everything set for the final battle than he did actually making sure his audience cared about the outcome. Without the emotional investment of the iconic films and characters, would anyone care about the fate of whiney, weak-willed Anakin or the simpering Amidala? (Especially considering their dull romance is the cause for the suffering of untold millions, and I'm not talking about those of us who cringed as they rolled around in the grass and made elaborate sand metaphors about one another in Attack of the Clones.)

Maybe not, but the answer is inconsequential anyway, as Revenge of the Sith is what it is, and does its job as well as could be expected, given the limitations of the previous two films. This isn't a great movie by any means, and it still lacks the spark and strong characters that drove the original trilogy, but it is an entertaining illustration of a story most fans probably already knew by heart, and it happily eschews the pandering kid-friendly side characters and moments of bodily humor that plagued the previous prequels. The battles are suitably epic—the story opens with a stunning firefight over the capital world of Coruscant as Anakin and Obi-Wan race to rescue Palpatine from an apparent kidnapping attempt by the vicious General Grievous, this film's Darth Maul stand-in. And there are plenty of great lightsaber battles (more, in fact, than the other five movies combined), including the expected, lava planet blowout between Anakin and Obi-Wan that's been a long time coming.

The special effects are the real star, and Lucas' team of digital wizards has done wonders, creating entire worlds with the click of a mouse and breathing life into Yoda (Frank Oz), who gives the best performance in the film, despite the pesky fact that he doesn't exist. And though Palpatine's attempts to turn Anakin, destroy the Jedi, and manipulate the galaxy into his grasp are interesting enough (if nothing else, Lucas proves he understands that any good politician motivates through fear, and McDiarmid plays the wise leader as well as he does the maniacal, lightning-spewing demon), those plot points pale in comparison to, say, Yoda's saber duel with the Sith Lord, or Obi-Wan's struggle against the six-limbed Grievous.

In the end, Revenge of the Sith is an entertaining, action-packed film and the first of the prequel trilogy to really live up to its forebears. I don't really believe it when Anakin turns abruptly to the Dark Side, but watching the fall of the Jedi and the rise of the Empire in undeniably compelling (and occasionally a little graphic—there's a reason this, the darkest of the series, earned a PG-13 rating), and his character arc sheds new light on the chief villain of episodes four through six. I just wish there were a few more characters I cared about in the midst of all the drama.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Episode III was filmed digitally, and this direct digital transfer looks about as good as a DVD can. The picture is sharp and clear, with gorgeous colors and wonderful detail. The picture is entirely free of edge enhancement and artifacting, and I noted no digital noise at all. It's hard to imagine this movie could look any better save in high definition.

Image Transfer Grade: A+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Franch, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
English EXyes


Audio Transfer Review: All the Star Wars movies benefit from strong audio tracks, but Episode III has the best of the bunch. The 5.1 EX mix makes constant use of all the channels in both subtle and dynamic ways. In quieter scenes, the surrounds carry the score and add background atmosphere. In more bombastic moments, ships and explosions fly past from every direction. Through it all, of course, dialogue comes through clearly and naturally. The opening battle over Coruscant is sure to be an oft-played scene for audiophiles looking to show off their gear.

Audio Transfer Grade: A+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 50 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
15 TV Spots/Teasers
6 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
17 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director George Lucas, producer Rick McCallum, animation director Rob Coleman, visual effects supervisors John Knoll and Roger Guyett
Packaging: Amaray Double
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. A Hero Falls music video
  2. Poster, print, and production galleries
Extras Review: This is the final Star Wars film to come to DVD, and to be honest, I'm getting a little bored with bonus features examining the now-familiar galaxy far, far away. The extras on this set are similarly assembled but less entertaining than those on the Episode I and Episode II DVDs, let alone the original trilogy boxed set. Still, Star Wars fans aren't generally known for being discriminating, and the faithful will find some interesting stuff here.

The only extra on Disc 1 is a commentary track featuring director George Lucas, producer Rick McCallum, animation director Rob Coleman, and special effects gurus John Knoll and Roger Guyett. As with the tracks on the other five films in the series, this is a pretty dry, slow-going affair, with Lucas focusing on story and the tech geeks talking about their own work. Lucas' comments in particular are fairly maddening, as he points out the obvious intricacies of the plot and touches on character motivation and emotional journies—all elements that are handled somewhat clumsily (or worse) in the final film.

Documentaries and Featurettes houses the crown jewel of Disc 2, Within a Minute, a 78-minute exploration into the hundreds of people and thousands of man-hours that went into creating a portion of the final lightsaber duel that lasts less than a minute in its final form. Actors, directors, producers, the art department, sets and props, digital artists... this piece puts a face on all those names that flash by during the end credits. While this is a worthwhile and unique documentary, it goes so in-depth it becomes a little monotonous after a while. I would have preferred a more sweeping conclusion to the making-of saga (akin to the fly-on-the-wall doc from the Episode I DVD), but it's nevertheless a strong piece.

The Chosen One (14m:37s) traces Darth Vader's path through Revenge of the Sith, featuring interviews with Christensen and Lucas and a good amount of behind-the-scenes footage (most of it in front of a blue screen, of course). It's interesting enough, if a little inconsequential, but viewers will want to keep an eye out for a brief clip of Yoda speaking perhaps the only memorable line of dialogue from Episode I—the odd, drugged-out puppet is gone, replaced by the now-familiar all-digital creature. The next home video release of Episode I will likely include this much-improved version of the character.

It's All for Real (11m:04s) focuses on the stunts, choreographed as always by swordsman Nick Gillard, who talks about how the fighting was intensified for Episode III without resorting too much to digital actors.

Six deleted scenes are included, most of them in what appears to be final form. The best of the bunch—three short sequences that show Padme starting what would later become the Rebel Alliance—should probably have been left in (if only to give Natalie Portman something to do besides weep in her apartment), and fans are finally given a chance to see Yoda arrive on Dagobah for his self-imposed exile. All scenes include an introduction from Lucas and McCallum explaining why they were ultimately deleted.

The trailers and TV spots gallery collects the teaser and theatrical trailer and 15 television ads along with the A Hero Falls music video. Web Documentaries preserves the 15-part making-of series that was posted to the Star Wars website in the year leading up to the film's release. Finally, Video Games and Still Galleries houses a collection of production photos, one-sheet designs from different countries (though really, only the text changes), and images from the outdoor print campaign. There are also trailers for the forthcoming games Star Wars Battlefront II (coming out the same day as the Episode III DVD) and . X-Box users can also demo two levels of the former.

Once again, the discs are very well produced, with fancy 3-D menus that recall three different planets and a number of buried easter eggs (the only one I was able to access, which features Yoda break-dancing, can be located by using the remote to enter "1138" from the main menu of Disc 1).

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

The wait is over—the Star Wars saga is finally complete on DVD, and Revenge of the Sith is nothing short of stunning. With each release in the series, Lucasfilm has set the visual and audio quality standard against which all other DVDs are judged, and this time is no different. The picture and sound are likely better than you experienced in the theater and all of the bonus features are actually worth watching (an achievement in and of itself).

 


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