THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS
We are now under a month away from The Force Awakens. A MONTH! And what perfect timing. I've already reviewed the three Star Wars films we shouldn't speak of. The three unbearable ones are out of the way. It's about time that we looked past those failures and looked towards the light. With just a month left before we return to my favourite galaxy, it's time we think positively, and it's time to review the 4 Star Wars movies I actually like. So..... let's begin.
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith begins, like all Star Wars films do, with a shot in space. We pan down to a battle raging on, Anakin (Haydn "Can't Act If His Life Depended On It" Christensen) and Obi-Wan (Ewen McGregor) amongst some of the republic members. They're here to rescue Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) from the evil clutches of General Grievous (Matthew Wood). Upon their return, Palpatine closes in with Anakin, attempting to turn him against his master and the rest of the Jedi council. He attempts to bring young Anakin towards the dark side, bribing him with ever-lasting life and the opportunity to save his now pregnant wife, Padmé (Natalie Portman) from death. It's an offer that's hard to resist, and so begins his transformation into the character we know and love; Darth Vader.
The opening sequence of Revenge of the Sith is one of my favourite moments in this entire prequel trilogy. The spectacle and the visual effects are jaw dropping. Seeing a battle of this scale is quite exciting, especially after being forced to witness the poor excuses for battles in the previous two films. We open with a two minute tracking shot through space, Anakin and Obi-Wan making their way through the chaos. Unlike the other CGI battles from the previous prequels, in Revenge of the Sith, the battle looks phenomenal. The special effects are on point, the visuals capable of blowing my mind every time I watch the film. It's quite the sequence.
Revenge of the Sith certainly does have the most impressive visuals effects of the lot, although they're not perfect. The big, epic space sequences and the final battle on Mustafa are without flaw, but a lot of the character designs and smaller moments are, much like most of the first two films, cringe worthy. There's a moment in which R2D2 takes on two Super Battle Droids and it looks like a b-grade cartoon. The effects are on par with the movie Free Birds, and we all know that film wasn't very good. Like, at all.
None of the Star Wars movies ever seem to have a very in-depth plot and with Revenge of the Sith, the same goes. It's a two and a half hour film about Anakin's turn to the dark side. That's it. And it works. It's the Sith coming to power, bringing down the last of the Jedi. There's a few subplots here and there, all involving a battle of some sorts, but nothing too important. The General Grievous plot, while entertaining, can pretty much be cut out of the film entirely. It won't change the final outcome in the slightest. After all, he does get killed off about halfway through.
Thankfully, the plot of Anakin's turn is an engaging one. It's what we would've seen had Luke caved in to his father's wishes in the original trilogy, and it's thoroughly entertaining. Despite some bad acting, over the course of this trilogy we've slowly seen Anakin's transformation. It's been an ongoing thing, starting with his temper and eventually evolving into the murder of younglings, fellow Jedi and then the attempted murder of his wife and Obi-Wan. Hayden Christensen still can't act, but he's given the opportunity to look angry, and it appears that he's better at doing that than he was with everything else he was made to do in these movies.
Amongst the many battles in this movie, one involves Yoda travelling off to Kashyyyk, the home of the wookies. It's here he runs into a young Chewbacca, before he met Han Solo, obviously. Now, Chewbacca is one of my favourite characters in this entire franchise and so I don't know why, but his appearance in this movie really annoys me. It's forced and pointless, the battle only in the movie to have yet another throwback to the original trilogy. If it had just been another random wookie, that probably would've been a bit better. It still would've been pointless, but it wouldn't feel as forced as Chewbacca was.
In the original trilogy, all we ever saw of Yoda was a sassy, wise cracking old Jedi isolated on an empty planet. In Revenge of the Sith, we finally get to see the Jedi in action. Sure, he's not as sassy or hilarious as he was in the original trilogy, but he was pretty freaking awesome. Towards the end of the film, Yoda takes on Palpatine, who has now transformed himself into the Emperor of old. The battle is fast and exciting, Yoda showing off just how powerful of a Jedi he really is. We got a brief glimpse of this at the end of Attack of the Clones, but the battle hardly lasted. Here, Yoda proves us to he is worthy of all his perviously mentioned glory.
The first half of Revenge of the Sith is really 50/50 for me. There are some great sequences, like that opening rescue, and then there are some painfully dull sequences, like the whole Padmé romance and visions of the future. Then the whole "execute order 66" montage happens and everything from here on out is wonderful. The Jedi are killed off one by one, Anakin finally turns to the dark side and we get one of the best lightsaber battles in the entire franchise. Not just the prequels, but the franchise. It's dark, it's upsetting and it's hard to turn away from.
That being said, there is one scene in the second half of this movie that I completely despise. Mace Windu (Samuel L Jackson) and a group of unnamed Jedi approach Palpatine, hoping to arrest him. However, Palpatine takes out a lightsaber (because fuck it) and takes down the supporting Jedi. Nobody fights back. They just all watch as Palpatine approaches and slaughters them. Why does he even have a lightsaber? Who the hell knows? But that's not his only power. Once down on the ground, Anakin comes to the rescue, slicing off Mace Windu's hand. This gives Palpatine an opportunity to strike, and he does so by shooting his famous lightning from his hands, killing Mace Windu and transforming his figure into what we saw in the original trilogy. He doesn't seem the least bit phased by the fact that he just aged fifty-seven years. And to top it all off? He just randomly appoints Anakin the name of Darth Vader, because fuck you, that's why. It's one of the worst scenes in this entire trilogy, and there are a lot of terrible scenes.
From here, Anakin travels to the lava-planet, Mustafar. Padmé attempts to bring him back to the Jedi, but it's no use. He tries to murder her, Obi-Wan stepping in and putting a stop to it. They then proceed to have a 15-or-so minute fight that's violent, brutal and features edge of your seat thrills. Sure, like every fight in this trilogy, it's overly choreographed, but combined with the terrific visuals, not much can compare to it. It's lengthy and exciting, the battle just going and going and going. When we get to its eventual conclusion, you can really feel the emotional bond these two characters had. Anakin is lying on the ground, limbless and burning away, screaming about how he hates Obi-Wan, and Obi-Wan is trying to convince Anakin that he loved him like a brother. It's a scene that really plays with your emotions, and it's unexpectedly grizzly for a Star Wars movie.
But good old Anakin can't die yet. No, Palpatine comes to his rescue, transforming him into Darth Vader once and for all. Why is Palpatine just conveniently on Mustafar at the same time as Anakin and Obi-Wan? Nobody knows. But he is, okay. It's stupid, but it happened, and there's no going back. Anakin is fixed, donning the iconic black suit. Upon hearing of his wife's death (who died from a broken heart.... are you fucking kidding me? A broken heart? Fuck off), Vader lets off a loud "NOOOOOOOO," and it's unintentionally hilarious. In case his legacy wasn't already tarnished by the prequels, it sure as hell was now.
This isn't the only poor wrap up to the story arc of original trilogy characters, either. C3P0 and R2D2 get their memories wiped and are placed on the ship we see them on at the start of Episode IV. There really isn't a lot of ways you could've gotten around the whole R2D2-and-C3P0-stupidly-in-the-prequels thing and so I guess I wouldn't have been happy with any conclusion, but it's just not good. They dug themselves into a hole that they couldn't get out of, and it's really felt. But that's this whole trilogy. Nothing really follows the continuity of the original trilogy.
To sum up, Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith is easily the best of the prequels. It's dark, action packed and (surprisingly) visually stunning. That being said, it's also a poorly paced, forced and occasionally dull installment, ruining the arcs of multiple characters.
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS
Continuing on with my series of Star Wars reviews is Episode II - Attack of the Clones. While a lot of people aren't fans of The Phantom Menace, I'd argue that people like Attack of the Clones even less, and that is something I simply do not understand. It's not a good movie, but it's miles ahead of Phantom Menace. Although maybe I'm just saying that because I have a love-hate relationship with this movie. Well, technically it's more of a don't hate-kinda hate relationship, but it does change every viewing. I guess this time around it was the don't hate's turn.
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones picks up ten years after the events of the last movie. Anakin (Hayden Christiensen) is now a young adult, well versed in the power of the force, returning to meet Padmé (Natalie Portman) for the first time in years. Joining him is his master, Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor). But when a bounty hunter is sent to kill Padmé, Anakin is assigned to protect her, and the two of them venture off to a safe planet not too far away, and it's here that their forbidden love blossoms. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan is sent to investigate Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison), a bounty hunter they believe may be behind the attack. It's here that Obi-Wan discovers that Jango has been manufacturing an army of potentially dangerous clones who are waiting around for orders to attack.
In my opinion, Attack of the Clones is a set up from The Phantom Menace. It's not a big step up, but it's certainly an improvement. It's still got a lot of problems and I will delve into those problems shortly, but it's a lot more entertaining than Phantom Menace was, and there's a whole lot less of Jar Jar, thank god. There's actually some action, and the scenes involving Obi-Wan are a blast. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Ewan McGregor is the perfect Obi-Wan. He absolutely nails the character, giving it his all in his scenes. He's the sole reason that this movie is mildly watchable.
While The Phantom Menace had the acting capabilities of Liam Neeson, Attack of the Clones does not. Aside from McGregor, one of the only two actors who comes close to being decent is Samuel L. Jackson, yet he doesn't do a damn thing in this movie. He's a walking plot device, merely inserted into the film to allow other characters to mention important aspects of the plot, particularly that of Yoda (Frank Oz) and Obi-Wan. And while the story of how Samuel L. Jackson got a purple lightsaber is quite hilarious in interviews, in the film it just makes no sense, completely contradicting the lore set up in the original trilogy.
The other decent actor in this movie is Christopher Lee, who plays Count Dooku, a Jedi gone rogue. His screen time is limited, but it's worthwhile. Like all of the baddies in this trilogy, he doesn't have an awful lot to do, but at least he makes it to the end of the movie. *cough Darth Maul cough* His character is two dimensional and rather pointless, but it does lead to a somewhat interesting four way battle between him, Yoda, Obi-Wan and Anakin. It's not the most exciting lightsaber fight ever put on screen, but it's the only lightsaber fight in this movie so I'll take it.
Much like The Phantom Menace, the plot in Attack of the Clones is not a very intricate one, nor a very good one. The film is a big set up for it's CGI finale, which I will get into in just a moment. Throughout the original trilogy, we hear of the clone wars. Obi-Wan mentions that he fought in it, alongside the man who will eventually become Darth Vader, which we all know to be Anakin Skywalker. Attack of the Clones is two hours of build up, ending with the start of the actual war. It's George Lucas slowly telling the origin of Vader over the course of three movies, and once the war starts, you know shit's going to hit the fan pretty soon. You can sense that Vader is just around the corner.
While I admire Lucas' attempt to slowly build up the story of Anakin's turn to the dark side, the journey we get to witness in Attack of the Clones is tiresome. It's a real drag, mostly focussing in on the love between Anakin and Padmé. Neither of there performances are any good, Hayden Christensen putting the legacy of Darth Vader to absolute shame. He portrays a creepy stalker, staring awkwardly at Padmé even after she asks him to stop. At times, his performance can be unbearable, in particular his infamous speech about his hatred for sand. It's just..... it's just not good.
Their love story feels forced, their love never really being felt. You can never see the connection that they have. They just look uncomfortable for the entirety of the film, their dialogue even more cringe worthy than it was in the first film. The Han and Leia love story worked well in the original trilogy, but that's because it felt natural and wasn't the main plot of that trilogy. In Attack of the Clones, it's pretty much the central plot. There's a stupid "Jedi shall not know love" rule that is for some reason implemented and it's just dumb. Jedi could love in the original films, but in the prequels? Cock blocked.
Also in Attack of the Clones is the origin story of young Bobba Fett, played by Daniel Logan. In the original trilogy, Bobba Fett was a man of no words, and for one reason or another, he became a fan favourite. He was a relentless bounty hunter with a legacy. He came to get the job done and he got the job done, and then he went and got killed just thirty minutes into Return of the Jedi, but it's too soon to talk about that. I'm 4 reviews away, so stay tuned for those.
In Attack of the Clones, Bobba Fett is the son of Jango Fett, the previously mentioned bounty hunter who Obi-Wan is investigating. It's here that we get to meet the young Bobba for the first time, and he doesn't make the best first impression. We really didn't need to see the origins of Bobba Fett in this movie, yet George Lucas for some reason wanted everything in the prequels to tie into the original films. I didn't really need to know where this iconic character came from. The fact that we knew so little about him just made him a much cooler character, and now we know his beginnings. Now we know he's doing this for vengeance, and for me, it just took away from the character a little bit. That being said, the shot of Bobba Fett picking up his dad's severed head is still a really cool shot and I love George Lucas for crafting that.
For a movie titled 'Star Wars,' there really isn't a whole lot of stars..... or wars. The majoring of Attack of the Clones is spent on a variety of different planets, featuring a whole lot of politics and space chatter. It's a film scarce on action and heavy on dialogue, and it's not very often that you'll find a well written line. A New Hope really was a miracle because every other George Lucas-written Star Wars film since then just isn't interesting in the least bit. It's slow, mumbled dialogue for two and a half hours, delivered by actors who clearly look bored. Yay?
As for the subtitle, Attack of the Clones, surely this means we're in for some attacking of clones, correct? NOPE. Both 'Star Wars' and 'Attack of the Clones' are misleading because this film lacks all of that. It's not until the final fifteen or so minutes that any attacking takes place, and the battle doesn't make that much of an impact. Padmé, Anakin and Obi-Wan have all got themselves captured and are forced to battle it out against a trio of blood thirsty creatures. This scene, I'll admit, is quite a bit of fun. The dialogue is awful, but the situation is just what you'd want in a Star Wars movie. It's adventurous and thrilling. If only the rest of the trilogy was as well.
The fun then continues as a group of ships, commanded by Yoda, come flying down into the arena, starting a ginormous droid vs jedi battle. It's fun while it lasts, but it doesn't last long. The battle is over within a matter of minutes, the three of them hopping up into a ship and flying away, leaving C3P0 and R2D2 behind. I guess someone came back to collect them, right? RIGHT?!?!?! But once they've flown off, the film returns to mediocracy, featuring a bunch of average performances in completely CGI environments, delivering poor lines of dialogue. It had its moments of fun, but the fun failed to last.
To sum up, Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones is a small step up over The Phantom Menace, but that being said, the film itself is still mediocre, the dialogue unbearable and the performances mostly atrocious. It's a Star Wars film that lacks both stars and wars.
2 1/2 Stars