No. It’s terrible. And for so many, many reasons. Surprisingly, I’ve never committed my thoughts on this film to the web, so here goes. (Spoilers.)
Rather than try to go chronologically through the film, I’m going to break this up into sections.
Truth be told, there’s some pretty fun action is this movie. But at almost every turn, that action is undone by bad physics or bad design.
For example, I liked watching the big ship falling out of the sky and our heroes having to save themselves after General Grievous escaped. But then they screwed up the concept of gravity. (A ship in free fall wouldn’t have gravity just shifted by ninety degrees, it would be gone. That’s why they call it free fall.) And the landing itself is not reasonable. They’d be dead, Force-schmorce.
Then we get Obi-Wan fighting Grievous, which is pretty cool. OTOH, how does a robot with four light sabers not just win? Come at Obi-Wan from four different directions. He can’t block them all. Worse still, this battle hardened cyborg general is stupid enough to have his heart out in the open where it can be blasted. Annoying.
The finale has two light saber duels. The one between Yoda and Palpatine is very satisfying. I loved it. I even accept that Yoda would bow out of the fight. (Though I have more to say about that later.) The bigger, splashier, more important fight is between Obi-Wan and Anakin. And it’s certainly big, but so crazy I started to check out. They were in too much danger, and, still, in no danger at all. It’s just spectacle for spectacle’s sake. The whole “winner is the one with the high ground” was dumb, too.
So, there’s plenty of fun eye candy, but it’s slipshod in places.
This is where Lucas really dropped the ball. There are so many things that just don’t make sense. Here’s a list:
- How are Padme and Anakin kissing in the pavilion without giving away their relationship? Also, she’s obviously pregnant through much of the film. Also, they appear to be living together? Dumb.
- I loved the scene at the dance performance where Palpatine tells the story of how he achieved his powers (couching it as a legend). I liked Anakin confronting Palpatine and confiding in Windu. I even liked how Palpatine engineered the confrontation to get Anakin to kill Windu. What I don’t like is that Anakin’s very next action is to kill children. That was too much of a leap. His next action should have been to knock out the separatists, then work his way up to child murder.
- I really didn’t like the confrontation between Anakin and Obi-Wan. Anakin didn’t reveal his basic desire: to save Padme. Lucas could have made that conversation more believable, without killing the conflict. “I need Palpatine to save Padme!” “That’s why Jedi aren’t supposed to have attachments!” “Yelling about love!” “Yelling about duty!” That would have been much, much better.
- I’m annoyed that Yoda decides, after one failed encounter, to go into exile. No description of how the future’s path requires it. Just “exile”. Don’t be such a wuss, Yoda!
- And perhaps the most annoying story problem: Padme, having just given birth to two children, is so heartbroken over her husband’s fall from grace that she loses the will to live! Padme, Worst Mother in Cinema History.
- Here’s a small thing, but I think, a huge missed opportunity. Jar-Jar was reviled by everyone after the first film, so he was sidelined for much of the second, though still instrumental to the plot. After having hurt the fans and his fellow characters, in this film he’s an afterthought. Lucas should have used Jar-Jar. When the Jedi are under attack, the only representative of the government to come to their aide is Bail Organa. They should have had Jar-Jar help as well. They should have had him do something brave and foolish to save Yoda. And they should have killed him in the process. Character rehabilitated forever.
There is one other moment in the film that I really love, partly because it feels completely out of sync with the rest of the series, but it sets a mood so beautifully. It’s the cuts between Padme and Anakin, looking pensively across the skyline of Coruscant. The music and the camera moves are so strange and lovely. It tells you something about this series that the most resonant moment in this love story comes when the characters are apart and not speaking.
Since I’m trying to review this film in the context of the previous two, and not with respect to Episodes IV, V and VI, I can’t mention how heavy-handed and pointless the final few minutes is, as we piece together every single thread leading to A New Hope. Nothing is left to the imagination, nothing is left to interpretation. It makes me sad.
It’s funny to imagine what it would have been like if these three films really were released first. Anyone want to be that there would still have been an Episode IV? If so, I will take that bet.