Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (12A)
The best has been saved until last. After two lacklustre adventures George Lucas has drawn together the fraying threads of his sci-fi behemoth to wrap up the Star Wars story as tidily as possible.
This, the end of the first trilogy and the segue into the second, sees romance turn to recrimination, honour replaced by betrayal and democracy give way to dictatorial horror.
Revenge of the Sith is about evil, pure and simple. In many ways it is an allegory for Hitler and Nazi Germany, as one individual foments a mighty interstellar war in search of the ultimate power.
The tale begins with a massive interstellar dogfight – the Battle of Britain in space – as two Jedi warriors (Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen) are tasked with rescuing Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) from the hands of a ruthless android mercenary, General Grievous.
But in accomplishing the mission the two men reveal the growing powers of Anakin Skywalker (Christensen) to Palpatine – the leader soon to be revealed as the all-powerful, wizard-like Darth Sidious.
And as Sidious manipulates young Skywalker, so the order and peace of the Galactic Republic begins to crumble, replaced by murderous violence and genocide.
Revenge of the Sith is a far more complex and multi-layered offering than Lucas has ever delivered before. From the beginning established characters – both good and evil – are dispatched with speed, efficiency and brutality, often via a series of protracted lightsabre duels.
The story is powerfully told, and Lucas, as writer and director, seems to have opted for adult themes rather than the distractions of cartoon-like characterisations. Thus McDiarmid delivers stentorian speeches in Churchillian style, major players are executed like mad dogs and Anakin, a burned and smouldering amputee, is transformed into towering übervillian Darth Vader.
This is terrific stuff – a space opera turned Greek tragedy in which the forces of good are shattered and scattered. Action-packed throughout, it builds irrevocably towards the events of the very first Star Wars film, A New Hope, by setting up (and cementing in place) the building blocks of the remainder of the story. In doing so Lucas has completed a 28-year cycle that began way back in 1977.
High points in this delicious, pulse-pounding, non-stop thriller include Anakin’s schizophrenic struggle for sanity and identity, the demonic General Grievous, the return, albeit fleetingly, of wookie Chewbacca and the final confrontation between Anakin and McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi on a lava planet that is Lucas’s vision of Hell.
In a film in which acting is an afterthought, the best performance comes courtesy of McDiarmid, relishing every line as the chief villain, but there is solid support from the likes of Samuel L. Jackson and the great Christopher Lee, still effortlessly swinging a blade at the age of 83.
Parents will appreciate the mature themes that abound in this closing chapter of Lucas’s brilliant vision, but should be aware that the dark tone that overwhelms this corpse-littered, quasi-Jacobean tragedy may affect younger children.