Revenge of the Sith is the Worst Star Wars Film
I discussed how wrong people are about The Phantom Menace, I proclaimed Attack of the Clones to be my favorite of the Star Wars Prequels, and now I’m declaring that the one film haters seem to actually be able to tolerate is the worst movie of the bunch. By now people either think I’m trolling, or that I belong in an institution. I’m definitely not doing the former, but the latter is possibly true, though not for those reasons. So, the question is “why?”
There’s certainly plenty to like in the film; the opening space battle is beautiful (especially if you tune out the dialogue), the fall of Anakin and the Jedi is maybe even more tragic than we thought it would be, and that final duel might only be second best to the Duel of the Fates in all of Star Wars cinema. So, what do I have against it?
Well, for starters, Jar Jar has one line of dialogue.
Okay, I’m kidding about that. Even as a defender of the Binks I recognize how little he belongs in a film trying to achieve what this one is. The movie does have moments of brevity, but slapstick would have made for the worst bedfellow considering the overall tone.
Let’s start with the aforementioned dialogue. It’s pretty common knowledge that Harrison Ford had a go (or three) at George Lucas during filming of the original films about the discourse, but I’m amazed similar stories haven’t become legend for the filming of the Prequels, ESPECIALLY this one. Lucas himself will probably admit to not being the strongest script writer, that he’s more about the idea and the technology, and in no film is that more evident than Revenge of the Sith.
Most of what the characters say in this film can be summed up with “[insert character] says what’s happening on screen.” Or, even worse, “states the obvious.” There’s absolutely no subtlety in any of it, and while that works out in the Obi-Wan/Anakin duel, it makes for painful Anakin/Padme moments, an Emperor that’s more like Mumm-Ra from Thundercats and Jimmy Smits looking perpetually confused. It’s grating beyond belief. So much so that during a recent commentary track I recorded with our EiC, not only was the sound muted, but I turned off the subtitles as well. Even reading it makes me want to grind my teeth.
Now, let’s focus on Ian McDiarmid for a moment. Up until his first scene in Sith, he was maybe giving the most restrained performance of the Prequels. Longtime fans knew his turn was evident, but it was fun to see him play coy and manipulative, and I have to believe newcomers were at least a little surprised when things went down like they did. But, from his first appearance in this film, until his final scene with the newly polished Vader, he’s a complete cartoon, and in the worst way possible. His final battle with Yoda is ridiculous, and takes away from time better spent examining Anakin’s fall, and his scenes with Mace Windu are just painful to watch. See:
Oh Mace…what happened? You already suspected that the Jedi’s powers were waning, that the Dark Side was gaining steam, and that maybe the Jedi were being manipulated, but you go to apprehend the person responsible in the most lackadaisical manner we’ve ever seen in a Star Wars film. 3PO moves faster than Windu in this movie, and he can barely pick his feet up off the ground!
Okay, so Mace is just a systemic representation of the Jedi Order as a whole here, but it’s something I just can’t wrap my brain around. Everyone who discovers what is happening seems far too accepting of their fates. And why? Because the story HAS to play out a certain way to get everyone in place for where we find them in A New Hope.
And there’s one of the biggest problem with Revenge of the Sith; the unwillingness to further alter our perception of the Original Trilogy. I’m not sure if the blame for this one can fall directly on George Lucas. He certainly wanted to appease the fans after the constant backlash from TPM and AotC, and that’s understandable, but given that he had full creative control I’d have loved to see him take giant chances, leave us with more questions than answers and do things no one expected. The closest we get to that is Anakin’s assassinations in the Jedi temple.
The original cut of the film is about four hours, something I’d love to see. As it stands the movie is supposed to take place over several months (given Padme’s pregnancy), but feels like it happens during an extended weekend in Vegas. Character motivations feel rushed and completely unexplored, and seem to only happen because the plot of future films demand it. It’s an inherent problem when making a prequel film, but I do think it’s one that you can get around. There was no reason we had to see the birth of the children at all, or know how they both wound up where they did. We didn’t need to see Obi-Wan and Yoda head off into exile. It just isn’t necessary.
So much of it feels like fan service, which is something Lucas seemed dead set against in the first two films of this trilogy. Quite possibly that’s the reason I like both of them far more than this installment, and actually appreciate them more than most fans do. I love to see creators take chances, and even as dark as Revenge of the Sith is, it only ever-so-slightly touches that line, when what we really needed it to do was obliterate it.
Don’t miss our previous Star Wars discussions:
- Star Wars: Rebels Season 2 Premiere (spoiler and non-spoiler reviews)
- Rebellious Scum, our Star Wars Rebels podcast
- Our full-length commentary for Attack of the Clones
- A discussion about the official canon of the Star Wars Saga
- The kick-off podcast for our year of The Wars
- Our favorite Star Wars moments
- What Star Wars Means to Me, from Adam
- And so much more!