After the first film in the prequel trilogy blundered catastrophically, and the second film just barely passed muster, this was the film that did the prequel trilogy justice. Personally, I think this is the only prequel film Star Wars ever needed. I still find it baffling how George Lucas thought to make a whole trilogy of lavishly budgeted yet painfully unnecessary films, when only this final prequel was worth the price.
This film sees a more focused, yet somewhat more complex story take place. It sees Anakin Skywalker grappling with his doubts towards the Jedi Order, and even his trusted mentor as he is guided to the allure of the dark side of the force. Meanwhile, as the Separatists continue to wage war on the Jedi and the Republic, Chancellor Palpatine continues to orchestrate the political disintegration of the republic (a plot that was hinted at in the previous films, but now George Lucas has decided to bring it to the centre of attention), while training Anakin to accept the dark side, leading him to a grim fate.
With this film, the events of the classic trilogy are set into motion, and there are certainly a lot of subtle homages to the first Star Wars films, perhaps because George Lucas thought the link between the two wasn’t clear enough. Understandably, this film had a much darker tone than the two previous films in the trilogy, with an element of tragedy hanging over the later part of the film. However, the film seems to go around presenting Anakin as the evil Luke Skywalker (or Luke’s evil dad if you prefer), and it’s not exactly subtle about it. Anakin went from a semi-obnoxious side character, to a whiny teenage apprentice, and from there to a child-killing nut job who’s a complete slave to his emotions, or rather, the desires instilled in him by Palpatine.
The story was certainly well-told, but the butchered characterization and bad dialogue from the previous film still linger in this film. In fact, I’d say the characterization has gotten worse. I already mentioned in the review for Attack of the Clones that Hayden Christensen was a bad choice for the lead role, and in this film, he’s not much better, though in the last film he gave a rather clinical performance. In this film, he’s trying to be passionate, and often overdoes it. Meanwhile, Padmé’s characterization takes a royal beating as the film focuses on the wifely side of her character. In the previous film, you saw her as a strong-willed, independent woman who could capably take charge while the two Jedi knights bickered. I guess she lost that quality after she married Anakin. Either that, or George Lucas was really bad as writing female characters. In this film, Padmé is portrayed as a loyal, yet pessimistic wife bearing Anakin’s children, and that’s pretty much it. The other characters seem to do far better than them, to the point that, towards the end, it’s the film’s villain that steals the entire show.
While the film struggled in terms of characterization and acting, it still stands tall as a visual spectacle, perhaps the greatest Star Wars spectacle until The Force Awakens arrived. The visuals have definitely improved, with the set-pieces demonstrating great digital craftsmanship. Of course, it does seem as though it’s more CGI than movie, but the CGI was done well. Right from the beginning, the film pursues a more action-oriented direction than its predecessor. The fight scenes here are certainly more energetic than in the previous film, and of course there’s the film’s centrepiece – the climactic final showdown between Anakin and Obi-Wan.
Overall, I’d say that this was definitely the finale that the prequel trilogy deserved, but I still think the whole idea of a prequel trilogy was painfully unnecessary. As good as this film was, the whole trilogy could have been far better if it were a trilogy of totally new films unrelated to Star Wars. Even if a prequel were necessary for the mythology of Star Wars, George Lucas could easily have just made one prequel instead of three. For all the problems of the trilogy as the whole, at least this one well-directed film went out in a blazing spectacle.
- Score: 78%
- Grade: B