Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith – Movie Review – 2015 – Film Dispenser

Film September 15, 2015 Scott Phillips
Scott serves as the Content Programmer for the Way Down Film Festival held in Columbus, Georgia every Fall.

[I have gone on record numerous times in my Film Dispenser columns and podcasts saying that there are only three Star Wars films.  My dislike (maybe even disdain) of the prequel trilogy is well-known among my film-blogging colleagues. So, it was surprising to say the least when I was asked to review each of the six Star Wars films leading up to the release of J.J. Abrams’ addition to this hallowed canon when The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18, 2015 and likely shatters every box office record ever established. My reviews will appear once a month, taking the films in episode order, meaning that my thoughts on Return of the Jedi will post a few weeks before the eagerly-anticipated seventh installment. Has time changed my opinion on these films? Are the prequels better than I originally gave them credit for? Will the original trilogy hold up to scrutiny 38 years after I first felt The Force? Follow along and find out.]


Each of the previous installments of the prequel trilogy has suffered from its own built-in limitations. From poor performances by human actors to annoying CG characters to Lucas’ stilted wooden dialogue, the first two films left the starting blocks ten seconds after the pistol fired, laboring under the weight of their faulty construction. As we round the turn, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith limps toward the finish line burdened by its own unique set of flaws.

How do you generate suspense in a prequel? That’s the fundamental question that George Lucas failed to solve when it comes to all three of the prequel films. You can put Obi-Wan Kenobi in jeopardy every twenty minutes, but I’m pretty sure everything turns out okay since I’ve seen him as a 60-year-old in A New Hope. Every lightsaber battle and every space cruiser dogfight becomes nothing more than video game eye candy because Obi-Wan, Anakin and Yoda have to live to fight another day.

The converse of this “prequel syndrome” is also a problem. Since Count Dooku, Mace Windu and Qui-Gon Jinn aren’t so much as name-dropped in the original trilogy, I’m pretty certain going in that they are cannon fodder for the prequels. Qui-Gon Jinn goes down in Phantom Menace, and the other two meet their makers in this final installment. [Note to the screenwriter and casting director: If Christopher Lee is playing Count Dooku, you don’t kill him off in the first twenty minutes of the final film. He’s the only villain with a personality thanks to Lee’s immense acting presence.]

As with the previous two films, Sith suffers from complete tonal imbalance. The military droids talk like Alvin and the Chipmunks. Slapstick humor abounds in the action sequences. But then Anakin slaughters (off camera) an entire room of children as he comes unhinged. If you want to get bleak with your mythology, you might want to avoid outright silliness in the opening moments of the film. The main villain, General Grievous, is an android … with tuberculosis? Grievous may be the first CG character to suffer from distracting method-acting affectations. Robert DeNiro wanted to wear vintage underwear in The Untouchables to get in touch with his performance as Al Capone. Evidently, General Grievous needed a cough. As with most tone deaf notes in a film, it’s no individual moment that ruins the experience. It’s all of the mistakes and missteps combined that bring down Sith right along with the other two prequels.

Theoretically, human characters should have more personality than CG creations. Unfortunately, that’s not the case in Revenge of the Sith. Ewan McGregor injects some humanity into Obi-Wan Kenobi as he did in the previous two films. Natalie Portman is much more natural on screen than she was in the first two films, making the case for her Oscar nominations to come. But, everyone else has had the life sucked out of them. Who knew that Sam Jackson could be boring? That’s the last adjective in the dictionary that applies to him. You may not agree with all of his acting choices in a given film, but he’s always interesting. Just not here. His character’s death barely merits a mention. Just one more bland bureaucrat on the Jedi Counsel who gets eliminated during the coup.

There is an inevitability in Revenge of the Sith that didn’t affect the other two prequels. Menace and Clones are the adventure before the endgame that everyone already knows. Anakin’s transformation is hinted at in Clones, but when it takes center stage in Sith, it’s a total snooze. How could it not be? We heard the legend in 1977 in A New Hope. So, seeing it on the big screen 28 years later offers no thrills. We know that Obi-Wan’s pleas will go unheeded. We know that the love of Amidala is not enough to save Anakin from the Dark Side. So, the final 45 minutes of Sith is little more than overwrought melodrama with the spotlight on the weakest member of the cast, Hayden Christensen.

Oddly, the prequel trilogy as a whole doesn’t offer many moments that make me think of “what could have been”. They’re an object lesson in what not to do. Director J.J. Abrams has a nice advantage going into Episode VII. He can study the trilogy that worked, and then he can study the trilogy that doesn’t work at all. Some films make a statement and put an exclamation point on the conclusion of a trilogy or series. Revenge of the Sith ends the prequel trilogy with a meek question mark, instead.





Scott Phillips

The Movie Isle

Scott Phillips holds a degree in print journalism from the University of Georgia and is currently a member of the Georgia Film Critics Association (GAFCA). In addition to his role as a correspondent for Timed Edition, Scott serves as the Executive Editor and Senior Writer for From 2013 through 2017, he reviewed films for Along with his duties as a critic, Scott serves as the Content Programmer for the Way Down Film Festival held in Columbus, Georgia every fall.

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