Of the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy, “Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith” is the best movie.  Is this a glowing recommendation from yours truly?  Surely, you jest; and yes, I am calling you Surely.  “Episode III” is, after all, written and directed by George Lucas.  I could end my review with that previous sentence; but since I gave another two hours and twenty minutes of my life to another Lucas movie that did not live up to my expectations — or to anybody’s, as far as I know — I will give more details as to what I think of this movie.

“Revenge Of The Sith” focuses on the fall of Anakin Skywalker (played by Hayden Christensen) from being a Jedi knight to becoming the Sith Lord, Darth Vader.  Christensen’s fear of losing his wife (played by Natalie Portman), his ever growing ambitions, and his anger at the Jedi Council for the perceived slights against him make Christensen an easy target to be taken over by the Dark Side of The Force.

It is indeed a dark time for the Republic: total war has spread throughout most of the solar systems; Jedi Knights struggle to bring order to the galaxy; and the Republic’s Chancellor is at the heart of this turmoil, fueling the war so that he would be given more emergency powers that would eventually make him Emperor — and not one Jedi foresaw this until the end.  This giant flaw in the story is something I wrote about in “Episode II.”  Here we go again.

How can one Sith Lord turn every Jedi into a blind idiot?  Yes, the would-be Emperor is very powerful, but Yoda almost beat this guy in a fight!  And Yoda would’ve finished the job if Yoda hadn’t fallen a great distance and the Emperor’s reinforcements didn’t show up.  And Samuel L. Jackson (playing Jedi Mace Windu) actually beat the Chancellor in a fight!  Obviously the Chancellor wasn’t that powerful.  Remember in “Empire Strikes Back” when Mark Hamill (playing Luke Skywalker) asked Yoda if the Dark Side was more powerful?  Yoda quickly said no; but the Dark Side was more seductive.  So tell me exactly how the Chancellor was able to keep secret from every Jedi Knight all his plots and schemes for several decades?  Bottom line, that’s what George Lucas wanted, and instead of giving us a plausible reason as to how things played out, he got lazy with his screenwriting and gave us flimsy explanations.

Enough of my rants…for now.  There are many bright spots to “Revenge Of The Sith.”  We get to see Chewbacca for the first time in this trilogy!  And yes, he is once again played by Peter Mayhew.  We see the birth of Luke and Leia; we are treated to the early versions of the X-Wing fighter, Imperial Shuttle, TIE fighter, and the All Terrain Scout Transport (“chicken Walker”); Princess Leia’s Blockade Runner ship makes several appearances late into the movie; and we get glimpses of a younger Grand Moff Tarkin and Captain Antilles.

Lucas’ third part of his “Star Wars” saga has many flaws, but the good more than outweighs the bad.  And here are my top three memorable, movie moments of “Revenge Of The Sith”: #1) the last two minutes of Christensen’s duel against Ewan McGregor (playing Ben Kenobi), where Christensen forces a move based on his bravado and anger, and suffers greatly for it; #2) the first 30 seconds of the movie — we get a flash of storytelling genius from George Lucas here; and #3) the montage of Portman sitting quietly in her home and Christensen in the Jedi Council chamber, his mind racing and soul struggling to decide whether he should save the Chancellor — and thereby save his chance to possibly learn how to cheat death and save Portman — or let him be arrested by the Jedi.  #3 deserves to be watched multiple times by any filmmaker or writer, because it shows how much emotion and information can be conveyed without dialogue.

What we have here is Ferrari with a body that is perfect and immaculate; but the owner never spent the money to change the fouled spark plugs or change the rusted exhaust system or replace the brake pads that have worn down to their last millimeter.  The result is a car that looks like a million bucks but runs like a $1500 beater.

— M