Thank the movie gods this one is better than the two previous Star Wars films. It would have been sad and pathetic to have the franchise end not with a bang but with a whimper. The first two prequels earned a lot of ill-will with hardcore fans and even dampened the enthusiasm casual fans had for Episodes 4, 5, and 6. Lucas went off on bizarre tangents with the first two prequels, and neither film will go down in history as Lucas best efforts. The pod race, Jar Jar Binks, and the whole silly sullenness of the young Anakin Revenge of the Sith had a lot to atone for.
With Revenge of the Sith, we know the story, were all ready for the big events destined to occur in this edition, and Lucas understands that and placates his audience by putting our heroes immediately into action. Lucas plops us directly into battle with Anakin showing off his flying skills and Obi-Wan alternating between pride and terror over his students abilities. Their relationship is more developed and defined this time around, with the two on a mission to free kidnapped Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, necessitating a show-down with Count Dooku and General Grievous, a bizarre-looking mechanical creature who coughs and wheezes. Palpatine gets Anakin to take his first step toward the dark side, Grievous escapes, and all is not well with the Force.
Revenge of the Sith has grand scale battles but theyre more in the background, with Anakins personal struggle taking the forefront. This is a much more textured story than the two other prequels and though most of the story is told at a frenetic pace, the narrative gets where it needs to go in a satisfying, if hurried, manner. An epic struggle of good versus evil, darkness prevails in Revenge of the Sith though the film does throw in a few lighter moments and more than a couple of nudge, nudge, wink, wink inside jokes for Star Wars fanatics (I had to have a couple explained to me so casual observers may not catch all of Lucas nuances).
What Works/What Doesnt
The Effects: The CGI effects are 90% terrific and even the ones that dont work like Ewan McGregors wild ride aboard a bird/beastie thing are still fun to watch. Lucas is like a kid in a candy store, cramming every scene with as much action and background movement as possible. At times its distracting, but overall it makes the world of Star Wars come alive. The colors are more vibrant and the feel is more interactive in this final film of the saga.
Auxiliary Characters: The introduction of Chewbacca and his fellow Wookies brought a smile to my face. It wasnt necessary and it didnt do much to add to the story that we couldnt have gotten half a dozen other ways, but it did give audiences a glimpse at life on the planet of walking carpets.
The Jedi: Yoda fights again and kicks some serious butt proving hes still one cool little green guy. The rest of the Jedi are dispatched without much fanfare, with seemingly no regard for the fact these are supposed to be the best of the best and awesome fighters who are highly sensitive to their environments.
One-on-One Fight Sequences: Obi-Wan vs. Anakin riding the lava on a planet full of volcanoes is the best fight sequence of the movie, as it should be. On the other hand, the showdown between Mace Windu and Darth Sidious is a definite disappointment. Laughable dialogue and a wimpy conclusion to the fight make it the worst scene of this prequel.
The Acting: Ewan McGregor finally seems to be comfortable wearing the robes of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Its a real kick to watch him take off and do battle on his own, and McGregor finally appears to have figured out who Obi-Wan is in the grand scheme of the Star Wars world.
On the other hand, Im still disappointed in Hayden Christensen as Anakin/Darth Vader. As with Attack of the Clones, Christensens only able to bring to Anakin/Darth Vader whats on the page and he didnt really sell me on turning evil. Hes still a little wimpy for my taste. However his limited screen time with Natalie Portman as Padme Amidala is much more convincing this time around, and his interactions with Palpatine as hes being led toward the dark side of the Force do show Christensen can carry a scene.
Portmans Padme is marginalized to the point of almost not being included in this film. No more the strong fighter, shes a pregnant wife who worries about her husband and leaves everything in his big, strong hands. She looks great but doesnt have anything to really do other than pop out the twins.