Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

Starring: Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor, Ian McDiarmid, Frank Oz, Samuel L Jackson, Christopher Lee, Natalie Portman, Anthony Daniels, Jimmy Smits

Directed by: George Lucas

Rating: 1 2 3 4

Hayden Christensen in 'not nearly as rubbish as last time and looking a lot better' shocker

'What is this nonsense?' declaims Anakin Skywalker angrily, flouncing down a futuristic corridor in his long brown hooded cloak. And yes, there is a fair bit of nonsense on offer here (the dialogue, for starters, not to mention Natalie Portman's dodgy faux mediaeval outfits and elaborate wiggy hair don'ts). But believe it or not, after the dreary, yawn-inducing disappointments that were The Phantom Mince and Attack of the Drones, Revenge of the Sith actually rocks.

The ever fantastic Christopher Lee as Count Dooku

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, the Republic, led by the rather obviously evil and power hungry Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), is still at war with the droid army, controlled by the really rather cool General Grievous and the evil Sith lord Count Dooku (the ever fantastic Christopher Lee). When the Chancellor is kidnapped by the droid army, the Jedi council despatches its top troubleshooters on a rescue mission. Step up Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor plus a truly terrible beard that practically deserves a part of its own) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen in 'not actually that rubbish and looking a lot nicer' shocker - it's the scar, I guess, does it for me every time.).

Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi. A bit rubbish, but I guess he has his moments...

Yes, this is definitely Star Wars: a sky ablaze with intergalactic spaceship tracery, flashy light-sabre battles between levitating Jedi and comedy robots for a bit of light relief. Oh, and a complicated plot that leaves us all a bit bemused but matters not one jot, as all we're really interested in is how Anakin Skywalker (young, idealistic and a bit confused but basically good at heart) becomes Darth Vader (deformed, asthmatic, covered in black shiny metal and evil to the core). For once, I really don't want to give anything away, but suffice it to say that the transformation is not as ham fisted and simplistic as you might think. Dark, moving and almost heart wrenchingly inevitable, Anakin's slow and subtle descent into madness is charted with a subtle drama that's been entirely missing from the previous prequels, but which echoes perfectly Luke Skywalker's difficult passage from impulsive youth to saviour of the galaxy in the next three films.

The beauty but also the downfall of the Star Wars universe is that it is so starkly black and white in its view of good and evil, but in Revenge of the Sith, Lucas finally lets a bit of grey into the mix. And so, just as Skywalker's motives for turning to the Dark Side are rooted in love, so Chancellor Palpatine (aka the Sith Lord Sidious, but that's hardly a spoiler, you knew that already) cloaks his megalomaniac take over of the galaxy as a peace mission. And is it my imagination, or is Lucas also taking a neat sideswipe at matters somewhat closer to home? The citizens of the Republic cheer wholeheartedly as the Chancellor establishes 'peace' by destroying everyone who stands in his way. 'Anyone who isn't with me is my enemy!' declares Skywalker, before attempting to slice in half his old friend and mentor Obi-Wan. Sound familiar? Hmm.

Darth Vader as we know and love him

Setting aside some fairly appalling school play acting (stand up Ewan, you know who you are, and you still don't sound like Sir Alec Guinness), the teeth-grindingly stilted scenes between Anakin and Padmé and the fact that surely even Jedi would sweat when fighting for hours on end in the midst of burning lava whilst wearing several layers of heavy woollen robes, Revenge of the Sith really is pretty damn fine. The CGI cityscapes are truly breathtaking, especially the night time scenes, the fights are fast paced and exciting without dragging on too long, and there are some wonderfully inventive moments on offer. I particularly like General Grievous, the shrivelled carcass of something perhaps once human stuffed inside the metal carapace of an inhuman droid, Obi-Wan's attack dinosaur and the heart stopping moment when Darth Vader assumes his famous mask and takes his first rattling breath. Brilliant.

Yoda - cute, he is!

Plus we get Samuel L Jackson (always a treat), a superby score from John Williams, lots of fabby Yoda action and a whole planet of tooled up wookies spoiling for a fight. And whilst there is one teeny tiny Jar Jar Binks moment, if it doesn't bring a tear to your eye, you must be made of stone.

So, my verdict on Star Wars III? Good, it is. Succeeded, George Lucas has, in creating great film. And about bloody time too.

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