Few films enjoy hype and build up quite on the scale of a Star Wars movie. The Phantom Menace saw people start to queue up months before release. A New Hope smashed world wide box office records and sat at the top for a long time. But lets face it, as much fun as they were, neither THE PHANTOM MENACE nor ATTACK OF THE CLONES lived up to the hype they created. Can REVENGE OF THE SITH, a film that has arguably got twenty eight years of build up to its name live up to the expectations it has surely created?

ROTS opens energetically, sweeping through a glorious set piece that nicely sums up what the film is all about- hurtling towards a confrontation with evil. The CGI in Lucas’ opening gambit- a massive space battle over the galactic capital, Coruscant, is a brilliant technical achievement that changes tack from other big battles in the series by not taking in the bigger picture but following the antics of two of its participants- Obi Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen). It was jarring at first realising much of the battle was going to be ‘missed’ to concentrate on the pairs mission, but this gives the opening a different flavour that works well in the context of a six film saga. This is one example of SITH twisting what we expected and what we get. Sit down, expecting a massive space war, and minus one or two shots you will be disappointed. The scope is much tighter, the pace a lot faster.

As the film progresses, Anakin begins what fan boys have been salivating over since A New Hope’s theatrical bow in 1977- his descent to the dark side. It is quite jarring to see the mythos of Vader exposed on the screen- this IS how it happened. No more debate, no more conjecture, SITH is the definitive, final comment on how Anakin got deep fried. This is a film that you can’t watch expecting things to happen the way you want- it is important to remember this is Lucas’ vision and not anyone else’s. So watching Anakin turn, seeing Palpatine become the Emperor is strange, because now you actually KNOW how it all went so wrong.

But the whole turn is very carefully done. Anakin does not believe he is evil, or becoming evil- he simply see’s turning to the dark side as the only way to accomplish certain goals- for one, saving his beloved Padme (Nathalie Portman) and their unborn child. It is in these moments that the groundwork of MENACE and CLONES benefit the film, propelling it straight towards A NEW HOPE.

Whilst the all important turn is handled well, the action stakes are catered for more than adequately. Five lightsaber duels, all of them memorable for different reasons supply the majority of adrenaline fuelled moments. The final, ultimate face off between Anakin and Obi-Wan does not disappoint providing it is not tainted by the expectations of what you think will happen. It is truly visceral cinema – the immolation scene where Anakin is burned alive is truly shocking and memorable. It is a spine tingling moment, matched only by the gorgeously shot ‘birth’ of Darth Vader juxtaposed by the birth of Luke and Leia and the sweeping finale.

But REVENGE OF THE SITH is not a perfect film. There is a lot of talking in this movie and seems to sag under the weight of talking heads at times. The dialogue is atrocious at times- Lucas is unable to write Padme and Anakin as lovers of any sort, the actors seem uncomfortable delivering such stilted speeches. Also, things are tightly compacted into the run time- a lot happens, and despite the fact things need to occur to set up Episodes IV, V and VI you do feel ATTACK OF THE CLONES could have taken some of the storytelling weight for itself.

But overall, SITH is a better film than its predecessors and a perfect bridge to the next chapter. A NEW HOPE, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and RETURN OF THE JEDI can now be reconciled with the strange worlds of MENACE and CLONES- like it or loathe it, the two trilogies are now inescapably connected, gone is the STAR WARS TRILOGY, here is the STAR WARS SAGA. The saddest thing is that this really is the end, on the big screen at least. STAR WARS is over, but god wasn’t it fun while it lasted.]]>

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