Directed by George Lucas, starring Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Ian McDiarmid, Frank Oz, Samuel L Jackson, Anthony Daniels, Jimmy Smits and Christopher Lee.
If cinema attendances have often been described as a recession-proof business, then '...Revenge of the Sith' is a review-proof film. Good, bad or indifferent, the final instalment in George Lucas' second trilogy has so little to fear from the critics that any review is akin to an Ewok arm-wrestling Darth Vader. Still, you've got to take heart from the fact that one of the gutsy little furballs would at least show up and stick a paw on the table...
Lucas promised a far darker film than either of its predecessors and, on that score, he delivers - but not as much as he should. Showing Anakin Skywalker's (Christensen) descent from the moral high ground of the Jedi to the depths of Darth Vader's soul, '...Revenge of the Sith' packs more of an emotional punch than either the 'Phantom Menace' or 'Attack of the Clones' but is still too hung up on special effects to go all the way and make a generation of thirtysomething men leave cinemas roaring inconsolably. They might weep because it's over, but not because of the ending.
With the Clone Wars coming to an end, Chancellor Palpatine's/Darth Sidious' (McDiarmid) plan to turn the Republic into a dictatorship is almost complete. The only ones standing in his way are the Jedi, and what better way to dispense of them than from within? In Anakin he has the perfect agent of destruction - young, impetuous and three hooded capes to the wind on that bad cocktail of fear and pride. Terrified that his pregnant wife Padmé's (Portman) life is in danger, while at the same time convinced he's not getting enough respect from his Jedi superiors, Anakin allows himself to be consumed by the dark side.
While the jump in quality between 'The Phantom Menace' and 'Attack of the Clones' was a big one, it's not as dramatic here. Sure, there are plenty of light sabre fights, space battles involving so many ships you have to squint and enough shots of cityscapes to make anyone wonder if there's a magazine called Futuristic Architect Monthly, but the problem is they've all been done before. The key to making this film more memorable was to make it smaller and more intimate, not bigger and louder. From drama to dioramas, stack the three most recent 'Star Wars' movies up against Peter Jackson's 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy and ask yourself: history and heart aside, which will stand the test of time?
What the previous two films had to compensate for their shortcomings were great villains in the form of Darth Maul, Jango Fett and Count Dooku (Lee, all too briefly in this one). Here we get Christensen who hasn't fully copped there's a difference between brooding and sulky. Had he got his helmet and leathers on for longer here, '...Revenge of the Sith' would've been a better film. Instead, Anakin's final battle with master Obi-Wan (McGregor) is an anti-climax, with the descent-into-hell backdrop so overlaboured that you wonder why Lucas didn't factor in the cost of sticking Primus stoves under every cinema seat across the world into the budget.
Yoda and R2-D2, of course, remain great value for money (now if only Lucas could see his way to making an intergalactic buddy movie...) but they deserved a better send-off than the one they got here. As blockbusters go, '...Revenge of the Sith' has some good throwaway entertainment, but there have been better blockbusters with better throwaway entertainment. And, after waiting 28 years, it wasn't unreasonable to expect a little more.