programming note: I plan to do all six of these star warses, but I had to leave on a one week spiritual quest and cue these up to post… I’ll catch up on the second half of the series after I get back. thanks everybody
It looks like some time has passed since part 2. This time Hayden Christensen has been replaced by the much older Marc Singer as Anakin. That’s not true although it’s a good idea they probly considered. Actually it’s the same actor as last time but aging is implied because his hair got long, and he has a scar across his eye. He has that robot arm from the end of part 2 so he seems like a serious veteran of star war. Those clone soldiers that were fresh out of the oven in the Battle of Bug Planet are now the Jedis’s trusted allies and co-workers. The clone war, which is a type of star war, has spread out so far that alot of the Jedi Council have to holo-commute to their meetings.
Also, uh, Anakin’s secret wife Padme is knocked up. Shit is getting real.
Watching this right after the other two is cool because even though it’s the same director (George Lucas, AMERICAN GRAFFITI) it’s a huge leap forward in almost all respects. The pacing is much better, moving at a clip, hurtling through the best space battle and action setpieces of the series so far, pedal to the metal but with a solid grip on the wheel. Kenobi and Skywalker have a much better chemistry, their expert teamwork/bickering combo much more entertaining. Christensen’s acting is much more natural, his character more charismatic, even though he (spoiler) turns evil and murders a bunch of little kids. His romance rap is still a weak point, but goes by quicker and easier than in part 2, and by the time he’s using the Force (a magic thing that Jedis use, hard to explain but just roll with it) to do a Chris Brown on his pregnant wife you figure it’s dipshit passion more than genuine love anyway, no wonder it came off so dumb.
And there is the spectacle. They finally got all these effects they’ve been working on just right. These are the most detailed star wars I’ve seen in a movie, including STARSHIP TROOPERS. Beautifully rendered scenes like this bird’s eye view of a battle over the city planet:
or this view, from latere in the same shot I believe:
And you can’t necessarily tell from those stills, but the action clarity is perfect, long shots moving through the mayhem with visual cues to tell your eye exactly which ships you’re supposed to be looking at. Like floating up and through a giant star war. It’s awe inspiring.
The first 23 minutes of this are all time classic summer blockbuster material, starting with a long tracking shot of the Jedi boys’s little ships navigating through an enormous battle and ending with their faces wincing through a windshield as they crashland the front half of a giant, burning space cruiser. In between they chop up armies of droids like it ain’t no thang, cut off Dooku’s head, fall through a sideways spacecraft, confront a four-armed alien cyborg with a bad cough,
get captured, rescue Anakin’s weird old man friend Chancellor Palpatine and have some legitimately funny comic relief from Anakin’s robot bro R2D2. In part 2 Anakin laughed dickishly at the idea of R2 protecting him and his girl, so it’s nice that this time he gets in Kenobi’s face for talking shit about him. Hey man, that’s my best friend your talking about. They also really show the advantage of having a robot co-pilot when swarms of parasitic droids crawl onto their ships and R2 has to actually fight them.
In this one the magic Jedi leaps are more natural and lead to some badass shit. I love this part where my man Obi W.K. crash lands his little ship inside the big ship and as it skids and spins across the floor the top pops open and in one motion like Lee Marvin killing the bed in POINT BLANK he flies out, does a flip and halves three robots within a second or two of his feet touching the ground. He later has long, brutal duels with the aforementioned four-armed General Grievious and (spoiler) Anakin. He’s working overtime in this one.
He also has a good sense of humor. I like the part when he’s followed General Grievious to a secret base, he drops from the ceiling behind him and jovially says “Hello there!” This General character is kind of a nitwit, and I know he’s an animated cartoon, but I like that he kinda looks like a Muppet. Kind of cool to see a live action human tear a muppet’s rib cage open with his bare hands and then shoot his heart with a laser gun. You might say Grievous gets clwned.
Visually and technically I think they really got it right on this one, I love the way it looks. The thumbnail at the top of this review to me looks like a concept painting, but in fact it’s an untouched screen grab straight from the DVD.
Great uses of lighting in this one. Aside from a couple major flubs, Lucas has a strong control of the tone. Like the scenes with Yoda sitting in the shadows in his meditation chamber (office?), knowing something is going horribly wrong. Or trying to give Anakin some wisdom that he must sense isn’t gonna stick. Very foreboding.
Anakin actually comes to two creepy old men for advice about his problems. Yoda tells him that death is natural and to be rejoiced, that he should not mourn or miss the dead, that “the fear of loss is a path to the Dark Side.” Chancellor Palpatine, on the other hand, tells him that the Dark Side is a path to not having to suffer loss. I mean, who’s he gonna listen to about his wife’s impending death, the guy who tells him “tough shit,” or the guy who tells him you know what, you’d have to not be a Jedi, but technically it is possible to get so powerful you could save her?
It’s like YOUNG ADULT, it’s easier for him to accept the bad advice. So he does.
I want to say this about Palpatine though. I fuckin knew (SPOILER) there was something up with that guy. I figured he was a molester, which if so is not ever mentioned in these movies. But he’s the space equivalent of a Nazi war criminal secretly living in your neighborhood. “What, Ted Palpatine? There’s no way. Ted’s a sweetheart! He used to babysit my kids!”
And when he reveals himself to Anakin, the poor guy looks like he’s gonna throw up in his mouth, he’s so shocked. He’s like a kid that grew up on the D.A.R.E. program finding his cool uncle’s secret grow closet. The carpet is pulled out right from under him. But he’s a confused kid, and he decides to experiment with the Dark Side.
I’ll tell you this, too. Even if he wasn’t a fuckin Sith I don’t like how he made his posse leave the balcony at the space opera thing so he could talk to Anakin about secret evil stuff. Those guys – the blue guy with the horns and the weird bald lady – they work hard standing behind you lookin creepy. Not just anybody could stay so still balancing on those flying platforms. They deserve a treat every now and then. And plus they’ve already seen the beginning, what, are they gonna come catch the rest later? Realistically, no. You’ve prevented them from ever seeing this one. That was just rude. And you shouldn’t even be talking at the space opera anyway. Come on Palpatine. Don’t be a menace.
The climax is Obi v. Ani in the Battle of the Lava Planet, but in the background is Yoda vs. Palpatine, the war of the old creeps. Take note of the symbolism, they fight in an empty senate chamber. Democracy is gone for the day, the voices of the people are no longer involved in this star war. The white man wins and sends “my little green friend” packing.
Obi fairs better in his duel, but it’s nothing to celebrate. He had fun killing that alien cyborg star war criminal before (plus that guy had a cough, obviously that means he was gonna die anyway from space cancer). But Anakin is his student, his friend, his “brother,” the little race car boy he helped raise. After all the awkwardness in the other movies I’m surprised to actually find the raw emotions in this scene very effective. Obi is trying to express just how disappointed he is that his friend turned murderer, Ani is letting out all his bitterness about Obi supposedly holding him back and being jealous of him, screaming “I HATE YOU!” And the guy just cut off his last three limbs. It’s gotta be embarrassing.
I also like the earlier scene where Obi has to tell Padme that her beloved Ani just went Columbine on a bunch of kids. She thinks she’s kept her marriage and her pregnancy secret, but he looks at her and says “Anakin is the father, isn’t he?” When she doesn’t answer he says, “I’m so sorry.” None of that judgment they were worried about, just sympathy.
There is a less effective scene where he wakes up as a cyborg and they tell him he killed his wife (not exactly true) and he expresses his frustration in what would have to be considered a melodramatic manner, to put it lightly.
Think about that. Despite throwing in with Palapatine and the Dark Side crew Anakin never does get that lesson about magic life saving or whatever, so his wife dies in childbirth exactly like he predicted in the first place. In fact, her death may have been related to him getting mad and strangling her. He killed younglings for nothing! I mean sure, the Dark Side does seem to have a better health insurance plan because that “Darth Vader” burn victim suit has gotta be expensive, but if he would’ve stuck with the program he wouldn’t’ve been on the lava planet in the first place, let alone have his legs and arm chopped off.
As much fun as there was in the first section of the movie there’s an equal amount of bummer in the last part. There’s the whole montage of clone troopers turning and committing Jedicide. Geez, if that’s Order 66 I’d hate to see Order 67! So of the main characters of this series, Anakin turns into a cyborg child murderer, Padme dies, and both Kenobi and Yoda run away to go into hiding. The end. Pretty different from other space sagas, but interesting.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.