So, after my The Force Awakens review a couple of people picked up on my assertion that Revenge of the Sith is an awful, awful film that is worse than getting your gentleman parts stuck in a zip. Indeed, it currently only sits 1% lower than Return of the Jedi on Rotten Tomatoes, and for a long time was actually above it. The challenge was put out that I had actually got it wrong.
Well, I haven’t.
I think Revenge of the Sith gets the slightly heightened reputation it has due to the context of where it came in the series. Having followed The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, two of the worst major films of all time, it probably did look pretty good. For a start, stuff actually happens, and there is a very basic level of competence. It doesn’t look quite as hokey and awful as the others. Jar Jar Binks is barely in it. With that context, it’s not a bad film.
On the other hand, Return of the Jedi followed the best film of the series, The Empire Strikes Back. Comparatively, it’s just not on the same level as that film, and therefore probably felt like a disappointment. It’s like how The Godfather: Part III has such an awful reputation despite being an okay film. It just sinks in comparison to what has gone before it.
But it goes beyond this. Let me ask you how much of Sith you actually remember. What scenes stand out to you now? What dialogue has even remotely stood the test of time? The only one I can think of is Darth Vader’s “NOOOOO!” exclamation, and that can’t be a good thing. Compare this to any number of scenes in Jedi, from Jabba’s Palace, to Luke meeting the Emperor, to Vader’s redemption, and consider the only memorable scene from Sith is only remembered for how hilariously terrible it is.
One of the things praised about Sith is the quality of the special effects, but even those just aren’t that great. There’s nothing all that impressive about computer generated effects for the sake of it. Oh wow, they’re fighting with lava in the background. How exciting. The Force Awakens actually looks far, far superior because it uses CGI well, adding scope and scale to practical sets. Making everything apart from the actors completely animated looks awful.
“Hang on a minute, Larnerholt. This was a film that came out 10 years ago. Of course the effects don’t look great anymore, and don’t compare to a film that is a couple of weeks old”.
To that, I say “tough sh*t”.
The problem with this argument is if literally anything else was going on apart from the effects then I could look past it. The problem with making a film almost exclusively about special effects, rather than absolutely anything else, is that you will always be judged by the quality of the animation. There’s nothing going on in these scenes but effects – there’s no tension, no drama, no doubt about the outcome, no fun, no intensity. Nothing. It’s just what was a neat looking visual at the time that now looks a bit rubbish. It’s this same reason for why Avatar will eventually be looked back on as a pretty boring, subpar film. When all you have is effects, you can’t be annoyed when they look out of date.
Besides, there are plenty of examples over the years where CGI has looked a little dated, but you overlook it because there is something else to care about.
Even Return of the Jedi is a pretty decent example. While the best looking of the original trilogy, some bits can look a little off. The obvious stand out here is Luke’s fight with the rancor in Jabba’s palace. While the effects are slightly iffy, the scene of him trying to fight his way out has enough going on that you can out this to one side and enjoy it for what it is.
To anyone who disagrees with me, I’d like to turn the challenge back around on you. Watch Revenge of the Sith again, and tell me why it’s good. No, I’ll go one further. Tell me why it isn’t awful. I expect that outside of the context of the prequels and considered on its own individual merits, you too will see it for the flaming turd that it is.
Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith Rating: Please don’t make me watch this film again.
- The totally spoiler-free review of The Force Awakens can be found here.
- The spoiler-heavy version of my Force Awaens review can be found here.
- The review of Star Wars/Episode IV/A New Hope can be found here.
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