Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005) Dir. George Lucas - Review
"So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause."
I feel almost overwhelmed trying to tackle a review on this film. I had not seen the prequels in probably over 10 years save for some replayed scenes on YouTube here and there, so this was essentially a completely fresh re-watch by all accounts. George Lucas suffered greatly at the hands of his patrons following the completion of Episode 1 & 2; and to be completely honest it's lost on me how much of the common criticisms levied against these films have any weight at all. For instance, does anyone find it strange that your common viewer detested Hayden Christiansen and everything he brought to the table and relentlessly bullied Jake Lloyd for ABSOLUTELY no reason following the release of these films? Or how people cried and cried online about how George Lucas was ruining their childhood or how he had ruined the "Franchise" for them (But seriously, what the fuck does that even mean). I've come to realize there's a plausible explanation to the intial bad reception to George's vision nearly 20 years ago, and its rooted in consumerism and entertainment.
I mean think about the original Star Wars trilogy, they're cheesy, have LOTS of 80's influence in them, and they were milked for every dollar possible following their release. George really did create a multi million dollar franchise out of nothing because he believed in it. I would argue however that this was merely a means to an end for George. Star Wars was not directed past episode 4 by George surprisingly, as I think rabid fan syndrome had taken over at this point and you can really see the quality of the autuership decline as the project was undertaken by no-name directors. And this is where my main point comes in: People did not like the prequels because the only "Autuership" they had probably been exposed to at the time was Tarantino, Spielberg, Coen Brothers, Coppola who's career was long gone by the time this was released, and early Christopher Nolan(I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that someone who was a Star Wars fan in the 90s wasn't talking about Robert Altman or John Ford regularly enough to discern why they're different from a commercial release.) Its no wonder people freaked the fuck out when they saw something they didn't make up in their head. "No George!!! The acting is bad, the camera work is bad!! The CGI is bad!!! Whats this plot??? I DONT UNDERSTAND WHERE"S LUKE?" Ad-Nauseum you get the picture. That was their response and I am here to dispel the notion that A. George Lucas is a bumbling idiot and B. These Films are rooted in deep cinematic history and have more value than any commercial release I've ever scene. "So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause." (Adding this quote again, because its probably how George felt when his fans viscously tore him apart for opening his heart to the world"
Something to understand about George Lucas is that he really does have a deep critical understanding of the cinematic language. His form is borderline transcendental, as you forget you're even watching a space movie most the time due to his persistence in focusing on the humanistic aspects of the universe he's created. You're forced to filter out the fictional pieces and through this realization his fictional reality becomes universally relatable much like an Ozu film or a Tarkovsky film. His language flows smoothly, there's no hidden truths to the way he's filming these scenes as its all in absolutes. Something that people tend to forget is that Lucas was and is great great friends with Coppola and Paul Schrader, both revered filmmakers. It is of no suprise that they have all worked with each other on multiple projects, George on Mishima, Coppola directing Apocalypse Now shortly after George worked on it. I really feel like all three are of the same caliber, but people chose to scape goat George. I will however, let George's wonderful tastes in film speak for his form because words will never describe it:
"Lucas has also cited John Ford's The Searchers and David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia as references for the style—if not the story—used in the films."
"Lucas has specifically cited the fact that he became acquainted with the term jidaigeki ("period drama", the Japanese genre of samurai films) while in Japan, and it is widely assumed that he took inspiration for the term Jedi from this"
"Dersu Uzala (1975), just two years before the first Star Wars movie, there are two scenes that bear a striking resemblance to scenes in Star Wars. The first is the Captain and Dersu looking out over the horizon, seeing both the setting sun and the rising moon at the same time. This is much like when Luke Skywalker stares out on the sky with binary suns in A New Hope."
"One of the most memorable scenes in A New Hope is the lightsaber duel between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader. And it’s a scene that is lifted—in a loving way—from Kurosawa’s masterpiece, Seven Samurai. For Kurosawa, violence was often blunt, brief, and brutal. This is where you see Lucas stray from the swashbuckling tendencies of, again, something like Robin Hood, where sword fights were fanciful and oftentimes infused with a touch of levity. Seven Samurai offered a wide-angle portrait of two swordsmen, fighting to the death, as did the Vader and Kenobi duel. What comes to the forefront is the emotional intensity of the moment, balanced alongside the life-or-death stakes of the confrontation."
All things stated above, people will still act like George can't make a film to save his life. Strange how American Graffiti is considered an American Classic but is largely overshadowed by the hate for the 3 films he funded and created himself. It's almost like the blind hatred from the fans consumed them to the point where they couldn't look at his work rationally anymore. This is standard in capitalism however, I do not agree that we can assume the consumer will be rational in its choices. Art and Capitalism have always had a hazy past. Its quite ironic that Lucas is so inspired by post WW2 Japanese cinema which was heavily influenced by the influx of democracy and the capitalisitic system they still use today. In the academic novel Slow Cinema (Editors: Nuno Barradas Jorge, Tiago De Luca) its routinely discussed that post WW2 films in Japan were inherently anti Capitalist, anti-system. Ozus work which are considered to be protest films against the mainstream cinema of his time (Really funny to think that he was making films like An Autumn Afternoon while 7 Samurai and other Kurosawa films swept the audiences in a spectacle.) Were quite popular and inspired many, many generations to come (See: Throw Away Your Books Rally in the Streets) But isn't that the same for George? Early 2000's and Late 90's cinema was dominated by a lack of creative American New-wavers who had all but lost their jobs and were forced to release commercial work heavily monitored and controlled by the studio system we see rampant today. What makes George Lucas's prequel trilogy so special and unique is that he took complete control over the entire process when something like that wasn't at all common. Prequels I can say without a shred of doubt are a true rare case of unfiltered Autuerism. Even the greats I mentioned before were filtered in some shape or way, Tarkovsky with the Soviet Union, Ridley Scott with the studios, Kubrick with the American studios pre UK. At the top of it all stood George and his vision to make something that came from the heart, something unparalleled and unmatched in its scope. I don't think people understand that the lasting technological advances George made with these films influenced the pure evil we see from Disney in their Marvel films, he truly set the system up and it has never been replicated.
Aside from the aforementioned ideas, these films radiate a true love and devotion to classical art. Compare the posters to the sequels and you can immediately tell there is soul missing. That's what set George apart from the others, his unfiltered and unwavering amount of love he poured into these films. As for the actual story in the film, its the ultimate Greek tragedy. We see the absolute collapse of all systems into evil, brothers and sisters turned on each other due to conspiring and ulterior motives. Palpatine is the ultimate Grifter, someone who resembles many of the sitting politicians we see today. Anakin's loss a requirement for the greater good. And Obiwan, who even he fell into feeling attachment and love for his brother. This film really doesn't miss a beat in its brunt force attempts at showing the reality of a crumbing republic and the causality of war. The last 30 minutes extrapolates everything Lucas has worked on in all three of these films, destroying the world he created, killing the good, letting the darkness take over. Its through destruction and death that we are reborn. Lucas knows this. Its everlasting in its ideas, and its images are completely universal. I cannot say enough about this film. It truly is one of the great pieces of American cinema. The ultimate Tragedy.