Movie Review: STAR WARS: REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005)

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REVENGE OF THE SITH MOVIE POSTER
REVENGE OF THE SITH, 2005
Movie Reviews

Directed by George Lucas
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Samuel L. Jackson, Ian McDiarmid, Frank Oz
Review by Andrew Kosarko

SYNOPSIS:

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…. Sometime during Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith, Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker will make a fateful decision. Faced with a choice between losing the one he loves or giving up his soul to gain the power to save her, Anakin will fall prey to the seductive temptations of the dark side of the Force. Just what Anakin’s decision is, why he makes it and how it leads him to don a frightening suit of black armor have been the stuff of Star Wars legend.

One word: Finally. And even that is pushing it.

REVIEW:

The Story:

Finally, Lucas pushes the “Go” button that he’s been afraid to hit for the past 2 movies. And even so, he waits until halfway through this movie to hit it. The story is so much more focused than the other two prequels and really provides a dynomite character piece that overpowers the CGI and the action. This here, is the good stuff. We finally will get to see how it all goes down, and here folks, is where the mystery truly lies. We finally see the Jedi annihilated, but sadly, mostly from the hand of the Emperor and not Darth Vader. But don’t let that phase you, Darth Vader does murder children in this film. Yeah…as sick and depraved, this is what I have been waiting for. For once in the prequel trilogy I was emotionally captured throughout everything happening in the film. I recall seeing the film for the first time at midnight, watching the death of Mace Windu and thinking to myself “Oh man…this sucks.” Anakin finally embraces his selfish wants to save the galaxy and his woman by his own hands and we understand why and we can justify everything he does through his eyes. We needed not the filler of yester-film, just to know the man was in love and that he would do anything to save it. We also get a great story of a teacher who feels immense regret for his actions and his own selfish promises that have come to a great cost to his world. We see an evil dictator rise to power and the groups who realize they unknowingly helping it come to fruition. Basically, the story works great for mystery, betrayal and epic action.

Acting:

Alright, here’s where I get defensive mode. It’s not Hayden’s fault for his performance. At first, I was like most and thought Lucas had hired the wrong man for the job. But once I got my hand on the DVD for this puppy, my view point changed. Watch some of the bonus features and see some alternate takes of Hayden performing. The man blows the roof off the house. And then watch as Lucas interrupts the take and asks him to change the performance to what we get in the final film. Sadly for Christensen, when George Lucas tells you to do something, you do it. Veteran actors like McGregor, Jackson, McDiarmid must have picked up on this way back in Episode 1 and figured out they were really on their own in terms of their performance. Even Portman steps it up in this film and impressed me. But of all the players, Christensen was the only one on his second outing. I don’t blame him for the faults in his portrayal of Anakin and even at it’s worse, it’s still somewhat tolerable.

Ewan rocks the house. I mean it. This is the Obi-wan we were all waiting for. It’s almost like he mixed a little of Harrison Ford’s Han Solo into his Obi-wan. But the detail is in the subtleties that really shows his ability. Watch the following shot after the end of the lightsaber duel between Anakin and Obi-wan. Anakin lays on the bank in pain and the first instinct of Obi-wan is to go and help his fallen brother. But he can’t. He stops himself. THAT, to me is absolutely phenomenal. I love it. Obi wan is a man driven in this film, which is what makes him most interesting. Just as Anakin becomes Darth Vader in this film, Obi-wan becomes the Obi-wan we’ve all been waiting for. He’s wise and understanding of the mistakes he’s made and out to fix them. Meanwhile, all trying to save his best friend. I mean come on, it just doesn’t get any more interesting than that if you ask me.

Lastly, I’d like to mention Ian McDiarmid. The dude steals every scene that he’s in. It’s not so subtle that he’s the one pulling the strings behind everything so they just run with it. It’s not revealed to us the audience until it’s revealed to the characters and that’s what makes it fun. We know it, but we’re not completely assured there’s a twist coming on it or not. Which is what makes it so rewarding that we can say “Yes! I knew it was him.” Even though most of us knew it from Episode 1 haha. But in all seriousness, the man goes from vile and mysterious to straight up evil and intimidating. A great arc is clearly seen in this film as he takes over the galaxy. So much, that this is more his movie than anyone else’s.

Directing:

Lucas gets everything right this go around. Yes the CGI is still heavily there, but there’s so much great story going on and great character development that we don’t mind it. It only adds to the story the way we hope. That’s what we needed in the other films. My only complaint is that he was so influential on Christensen’s performance that it hurts the film overall from most of everyone else’s opinions. That and making the cyborg Vader scream out like a little punk bitch at the reveal of his wife’s death. There, I said it.

Cinematography:

Stunning and original. This is when the HD 24p cameras were really working at full capacity. The film looks flawless. It really does capture a great crisp look that almost makes all of the CGI work better along with it so that it helps to suspend disbelief. Sad only because it’s the last film that will have it for Star Wars….at least until Star wars 7,8 and 9 come out.

Production Design:

Was there any? Aside from a few sets, everything is CGI. Most of the production design goes into costuming and set design, and even those are CGI influenced. As much as I praised the work above, I still favor actual objects when they can be there. But that’s just me.

Editing:

Great, there’s never a side step the entire film. I’m captured in every moment and never find myself bored. The pacing is on and while it takes a little while for the story to reach the point we’re all waiting for, we still aren’t looking at our watches. It gets there like clockwork and flows nicely. Again, shame it only took them 3 movies to figure it out.

Score:

John Williams jumps back to the level of great scores that he had in A New Hope. This film has it all. A perfect 50/50 blend of the old and new films to bridge the gap. There’s exciting new music that still channels the spirit of the original trilogy and gives us an emotional backbone to support some of the great battle scenes – most notably “Battle of the Heroes” between Obi-wan and Anakin. Simply powerful.

Special Effects:

The movie is 75% CGI. Literally. While still, in my opinion, over stylized, the film’s story keeps the CGI from overpowering the image and removing our attention from the events at hand. Some of the work is very impressive, while other parts are very obvious CGI that got less attention and is needing heavy work. Massive props have to be given to the work on Yoda however. While it’s not perfect, it’s damn close to it. I was very impressed with how close to life like it looked.

In closing:

Revenge of the Sith delivers. It’s not how any of us would have done it, but it is indeed George Lucas’ baby. It’s not perfect, but it works greatly. It’s one of those darts that get’s so close to the bulls eye that your friends are like “alright, I’ll give you that one.”

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Movie Review: Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones (2002)

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ATTACK OF THE CLONES MOVIE POSTER
ATTACK OF THE CLONES, 2002
Movie Reviews

Directed by George Lucas
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Samuel L. Jackson, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels
Review by Andrew Kosarko

SYNOPSIS:

In the second installment of the Star Wars series, EPISODE II–ATTACK OF THE CLONES, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) is now a teenage Jedi apprentice to Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). Together they must protect Senator Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) from a militant group of political activists that is trying to assassinate her. This group is led by the evil Count Dooku (Christopher Lee). Among other troubles, Anakin faces some hard choices as he begins to fall for Padme, knowing this love is forbidden by the Jedi knights’ creed. In addition, Anakin begins to show his rebellious attraction to the dark side–which will eventually conquer him, when he becomes the future Darth Vader. The story is set 10 years after STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE, and there are appearances by some of PHANTOM’s characters, including Jar Jar Binks. CLONES also brings back familiar faces from the original STAR WARS: the lovable droids R2D2 and C3PO, and Yoda, who plays a key role in this film.

 

REVIEW:

For a title that includes the term “attack” there seems to be a repeat of the problems of Phantom Menace in this film. The lack of action and the continued overstylized CGI that possesses every frame. This was supposed to be, in a fans mind, where things got good. And when I say “good” I mean, “bad” for just about everyone in the story. We got the setup in Phantom Menace, everybody knows everybody and things are set in motion. The sad part about this film, is that instead of trying to follow through on those setups, the film attempts to vicariously channel the romance aspect of Empire Strikes Back without including the darker elements. Sure, there’s a slaughtering of the sand people and the not so subtle of Count Dooku, but I mean, the rest of the time it’s just Hayden and Portman giggling in the gardens and using the force to pass the dinner salt. Meanwhile Obi-wan takes a space vacation and runs into the Boba-fett wannabe dad while Yoda and Windu sit around the temple watching Palpatine run amok constantly saying “this is gonna be bad” and not doing anything to stop it. There ya have it. There’s the movie. The problem, again, is basically Lucas’ mindset of “we have to save all the good stuff for the next one.” And that’s basically explains the reason for this movie. Filler.

The Story:

Granted, it takes a step in the right direction after Menace and there’s no repeat fish chase scenes, but overall, this is a Star Wars movie for teen girls. And there’s nothing wrong with that….well, except the core audience of this film don’t talk to members of that gender unless they’re members of the 501st. I do enjoy seeing Anakin and Padme falling in love, but I don’t need it dragged out for 2 hours. The romance aspect is just “there.” It doesn’t ever “build.” That’s my problem with it. The mystery aspects involving the clones and Obi-wan isn’t so much a mystery given what we know from the original films so maybe this movie will play different to my kids one day if I decide to have them watch them in order for Lucas and not release. Speaking of which, I think one day I’ll hold an experiment and have one son watch them in Lucas order and the other son watch them in release order and then watch them duke it out. Who knows how that could end haha.

Acting:

Now, here’s where people are going to raise an eyebrow. I don’t think Hayden Christianson is a bad actor. I honestly don’t. Go see Shattered Glass if you have a chance. The dude can act. I don’t know what happened to him in these movies.Wait, on second thought. Yes I do. But I’ll explain his acting problems when you read the Revenge of the Sith review. Because until I saw something with that I thought he sucked just like the rest of the world.

The rest of the returning cast do the same old song and dance. Jackson is more characterized in this film as being the strict badass so he works a lot better in this film and if Ewan McGregor was channeling Alec Guiness every night, I wouldn’t be surprised. He works very well, even down to the subtleties of Guiness’ acting and speech. Very impeccable work. The only weak link, in my honest opinion is Christopher Lee. Yes, I know he’s a famous cult actor and one that fits this genre….well…kinda. Nevertheless, I never felt any life in his character. Never despised him like I do all of the Star Wars villains. I still think if Darth Maul had survived Menace and carried on until the third film in the same spot as Lee that it would have been a hell of a lot more interesting. Not only for us as an audience who see Maul as a mysterious and intriguing character, but also as a personal emotional arc on seeing how Obi-wan dealt with the theme of revenge as opposed to Anakin. But that’s just me.

Directing:

Here ya go Mr. Lucas, let’s try this for a second time…don’t drop the ……..ball. Damn it George what did I tell you? As with the past of George Lucas famous directing shouts (“Faster and more intense.”) I have came up with his new ones all my own. For Menace it was “slower and more subdued.” For Clones? I’m going to make a guess and say it was “not too much, save it for the next one.”

Cinematography:

Again – beautiful when not dealing with the CGI explosion love fest taking place.

Production Design:

Same as Phantom Menace, the problem here being that Lucas now using a digital high def 24p camera has a lot more ability to manipulate things with a computer so there’s a whole heck of a lot less production design and more CGI. And this, as a loyal student to the old school, makes me sad.

Editing:

Much better off this time around. While I felt Phantom Menace moved too slow, this film still carries a nice pace. Like I said, most of this film just comes off as filler in the end, but it still keeps you hooked for the majority of the film.

Score:

John Williams makes moves. More movements towards the original score so the audience “gets it”. Granted, I’m pretty sure it was easy to tell the Clone Troopers would become storm troopers, but the music really gets you excited about it all, even if it’s just for the last 30 seconds of the film.

Special Effects:

Too much of the same old song and dance. Sorry, the film comes off being a little too altruistic in the CGI sense. It’s almost as if the aesthetic is the only selling point of the film, and even at that, it chokes the story most of the time. Massively hinders the suspension of disbelief. There in lies one of the problems. Yes, we’ve made massive strides in CGI realism, but it’s not there yet. I can still tell when something’s fake, even in something these days like District 9.

In closing:

Filler. I honestly think you could skip this movie, go straight to the third one and really only miss a beat or two. Nothing that a friend couldn’t explain in a sentence. The filler doesn’t really do much to justify or explain the details, oddly enough something we got too much of in Menace, to make it worthy of repeat viewing. The film is a let down mainly because this is the one we expected to see the rise of Darth Vader and then the next film to be full force Vader badassery. Hunting Jedi, taking over the galaxy. But no.

Flowers. Giggles. Clones and Wannabe’s. And a lot of “I have a bad feeling about this.”

Next…..the bad guys come a callin in Revenge of the Sith….

 

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