Expectations confounded: Revenge of the Sith
That’s not to say it doesn’t suffer from the same old Lucas troubles. The opening space battle is overly frenetic and polished, ending up looking more like sterile videogame footage than the original trilogy’s sparse and grungy dogfights. There’s the usual throwaway bad guy, present merely as lightsaber-fodder; this time it’s the droid leader, General Grievous. R2D2 continues to get recast as a mini action hero, complete with weapons and the ability to fly: this is, remember, the bumbling little droid who falls into a swamp in The Empire Strikes Back. And all the dialogue between Anakin and Padmé is, as usual, flat and featureless. Lucas simply cannot write love scenes. Or indeed any sort of scenes for strong women; Padmé spends the entire movie either looking worried or crying, and the few female Jedi promptly get struck down from behind.
But there’s a lot to like. The story of Anakin’s gradual but inevitable seduction to, and poisoning by, the Dark Side is strong and compelling: the first of the prequels which actually made me care about the outcome. Ian McDiarmid’s performance as the snaky Palpatine is excellent. And much to my surprise, Hayden Christensen has grown into the Anakin role. His performance is convincing here, and a long way from the pouty teenager of Epsiode 2. And the action rocks: we finally see Yoda at full force fighting Darth Sidious, and the final lightsaber showdown between Anakin and Obi-Wan is epic.
More than anything, it has a direction. The previous two episodes wallowed in directionless slapstick and windbag politics. This episode is confident of the story it’s telling: it’s all about Vader, all about the creation of a monster.