There’s something fascinating at how divisive a franchise like Star Wars has become, and not just within the past few years. It’s a controversy that has boiled and frothed since even the original trilogy, spanning multiple decades from the original 1977 classic to the upcoming Christmas release The Rise of Skywalker. Simply put, the franchise has topped the charts for its timeless quality, inspiring dozens upon dozens of spin-offs and hundreds upon hundreds of merchandising. How this all plays into Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith may be confusing at first. It’s undoubtedly the best-received entry in the George Lucas prequel trilogy, nabbing the “Certified Fresh” seal from critics on Rotten Tomatoes and even becoming some fans’ favorite film in the entire saga. From the surface, Revenge of the Sith is the very peak of the prequel trilogy, melding the boisterous set pieces with a long-awaited arc that rewards audiences with countless satisfying moments.
However, like any Star Wars film, there are certainly detractors of Revenge of the Sith, frequently citing its corny dialogue and Anakin’s brisk turn to the Dark Side as their evidence. George Lucas’ conclusion to his prequel trilogy certainly has holes, countless if we were to be critical, but there’s an underlying spirit that has kept its presence in pop culture so sustainable. It is a spirit of heart and darkness, compassion and dread, and love and hatred, and it is everything that Star Wars as cinema has stood for over the decades.
What gives Revenge of the Sith such a leg up from its 1999 and 2002 predecessors is apparent from almost the very first frame; it’s such an entertaining joyride. As much as Lucas and his descending company Lucasfilm may argue otherwise, Star Wars has gained traction with modern society simply because of its gorgeous visuals and explosive set pieces. While it is the characters and narratives that may persuade audiences to stick around, these epic moments of sci-fi eye-candy are what draws audiences in the first place. Lucas by 2005 seemed to have realized this too, making diligent work on crafting magnificent spectacle. However, for Star Wars and cinema purists alike who may have turned their noses at Lucas’ admittedly bloated opening setting, there is certainly content left to savor.
While nothing in Revenge of the Sith quite tops its stylistic, CGI-heavy battles entertainment-wise, Lucas has wisely inserted some much over-due moments of sheer serenity and harmony. The third episode of the Star Wars franchise, filmed sixth to its counterparts, takes moments to silence the unbearable dialogue, pocket the blasters, and sheath the light-sabers; these are the moments that have perhaps the greatest longevity amidst all the space spectacle. From Anakin and Padme sharing a tender moment from across the city without a single word being spoken to Anakin’s twisted conversation with Chancellor Palpatine, Revenge of the Sith is sprinkled with these delightful sequences, scenes that add such gravitas to the preceding events. The film’s plot doesn’t quite do these scenes justice, instead of battering them into a thinly veiled mess by the time the credits roll, but as Revenge of the Sith matures over its 140-minute run time, their delicate grasp of subtlety and ingenuity leave a strange warmth on the audiences’ tongue.
By this point in the feature, some may be questioning how loud action scenes and a few tender moments make for a Star Wars film that ranks as one of the best. However, Revenge of the Sith isn’t one of the best Star Wars films, nor does it rank close. What it does have to its name however is a distinctly textured spirit that’s difficult to put into words. The boiling excitement as the studio logos flash by. The momentous boom as John Williams’ theme bursts in. The broad scope as the opening credits pans up. It all lends itself for a cinematic experience unlike any other, and this experience has been tagged on every main installment in the entire franchise, from the original trilogy to the modern Disney one, concluding with The Rise of Skywalker this December. Revenge of the Sith is just as exciting, momentous, broad, and powerful as fans in 2005 could have ever hoped for, and it’s far better than today’s audiences recall.