"I have the high ground." -- Star Wars Episode III
Star Wars Episode III sadly sucked. I know I'm in the minority of critics, but my theory is that there's a groupthink going on wherein everyone has reached the conclusion that the third one must be good since it doesn't suck quite as much as the other two prequels. Well, wrong that groupthink is, and because of it, I went in expecting something at the very least "ok." I was sorely disappointed.
Perhaps I should elaborate. You see, I didn't originally want to see this movie until it came out on DVD. My plan was to wait for a friend to rent or buy it and then mooch; I'd been burned badly by the first two prequels and didn't want it to happen again. However, after it came out, all the critics gave it a pretty good rating, and my friends recommended it. Therefore, I went in thinking I was in for a treat. So the movie started, and my phantom mustache started drooping. I said to myself, "Well, Blaine, I'm sure it gets better later on. No one's talked much about the beginning anyway, so its probably not the good part." So I waited, and waited, and kept waiting until the credits rolled. It never really got good, with one or two enclosed exceptions.
I'm not going to bother with a plot summary. If you don't already know what basically happens, you need to get that plate in your head replaced with something not made out of lead, because it's leaking into your cranium.
Let's start with the things I liked, although many of these bleed over into the (many) things I didn't. I liked the opening shot of the space battle. It was amusing and surprising in a way similar to how the beginning of episode IV must have been way back in the '70s. I liked Yoda's lightsaber fights. They seemed to have lost a lot of the absurdity they had in Episode II (in large part because Episode II had helped to desensitize people to Yoda with a lightsaber). I LOVED virtually everything having to do with Obi Wan. At one point, he infiltrates the enemy's army and flips out and kills everyone. So totally cool. The special effects were well done, as always. And finally, I thought there was a certain pleasure to be gained from watching the movies finally connect.
Now on to the lengthier list: here are some of the things I disliked.
First, let's go back to the connection value of this movie. Although I admit it has a certain appeal, I feel that the very existence of this movie absolutely destroys the stupendous way the original three were in medias res. Now, it's a natural progression instead of a beautiful confusion. Blech.
Second, I will speak of the single most egregious flaw of the movie: Anakin's vision that "Padme will die in childbirth." This basically leads him down the dark path, turning him into Vadar. And, it's completly, totally, and utterly BULLSHIT (pardon my Hungarian). At the tech level Star Wars has, this simply cannot happen. Even today, death of the mother during childbirth in the US is virtually unknown. For example, this site gives the % as 0.00003 (on the high end). In a galaxy with light speed, fully articulate droids, and the ability to give a person with third degree burns and only stumps for limbs a brand new body of basically normal human dexterity (Vader), there is no plausible way for a very rich and healthy young woman with easy access to sophisticated medical systems could die due to childbirth. If this was a smaller thing, it might be forgivable, but since the entire movie basically hinges on it, its terrible quality strongly negatively impacts the whole film. Corollary to this, Padme dies at the end because she "lost the will to live." They specifically state that she has no medical problems whatsoever; she dies only because Anakin turned evil and she couldn't take it. Another big BULLSHIT stamp right across that; if you could die just by wanting too, the suicide rate would be much much higher than it is. Both of these problems are the result of extremely lazy and unimaginative writing.
Third, red shirt jedi. "Red shirt" alludes to the original Star Trek series; whenever the command crew went on an Away mission, they would take some unnamed crewman with them, and these crewmen would always wear red shirts. They were there to die so that the audience would know when the situation had gotten serious (for a detailed description of what playing a red shirt will do to an actor, go watch Galaxy Quest. In fact, see that movie instead of this, as it's a lot better). So, a red shirt is someone who has no purpose but to die. Like all jedi in this movie (excluding Obi Wan and Yoda, of course). Let's start with the jedi that accompany Mace Windu to arrest Palpatine. All I will say is this: I, one who is not a Star Wars fanboy, one who almost never resorts to violence, one who would probably sooner slice myself with a lightsaber than my enemy, could have survived longer than those jedi. One gets the impression that they were in fact bums off the street to whom Mace had picked yup as an impromptu entourage. As I said, I know very little about swordfighting, but I do know that ou do not raise your sword over your head just as your enemy thrusts, thus giving him a completelly clear shot to your torso. Next, let's talk about the jedi the clones killed . Now, many of these we have seen on the Jedi Master's Council, so they are all at least as awesome as Obi Wan, if not awesomer. They die ... wait for it ... from regular blaster blasts while they have all their uber jedi senses active and their lightsabers out and at the ready. I repeat my mantra from earlier: BULLSHIT. The whole point of being a jedi is that stuff like that can't happen to you. Jedi don't get shot by blasters, period. There weren't even that many blasts, for goodness sake!
Third, during the opening scene, Anakin and Obi Wan pretty much destroy a big 'ol ship in orbit over what appears to be Corruscant, causing it to immediately crash into the planet. Let me repeat that so it's perfectly clear: a ship in outer-space orbit lost its engines and promptly fell into the planet. Mantra time: BULLSHIT. At the very least, they would have a couple hours before it crashed in, and in all likelyhood they would have much more time than that.
Fourth, the acting was almost universally terrible and wooden (Obi Wan was pretty good though). Hayden Christensen was a bit better in this movie than in the last one, but not by much. Even Christopher Lee in his short role as Count Dooku had pretty poor acting, which surprised the heck outta me since he had a darned good turn as Sauruman.
Fifth, the dialogue in some parts was unbearably bad, specifically the scenes between Padme and Anakin. Now, I'm told by a friend that he has a credible source that claims that Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen despise each other in real life, which would explain (but by no means excuse) why the acting during those parts was so particularly terrible, but no pair of actors in the world could have pulled off those lines convincingly. I found Yoda's dialogue to sound like a broken record; yes, Yoda's supposed to have semilatinate grammar, but that doesn't preclude at least some variation, not does it mean he has to speak everything with the verb at the end.
Sixth, the lightsaber battles. They were ... boring. I mean, they didn't totally suck or anything, and despite what some say I don't think they went on for too long, but by and large, these battles offered nothing at all new, nothing at all interesting, and nothing at all worth paying $10 for. The duels in the original series were all either heavily intersperced with conversation or short; here, they were obviously trying to make the lightsaber fights selling points for those in search of a good action movie, but in comparison to the fights from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon or Hero, they were superrepetetive pointless drivel.
Seventh, run time. This movie ddddrrrrraaaaaggggggsssssss. At 2 hours and 16 minutes, it's not much longer than Episode IV, but it should have been much shorter. The last twenty minutes, for example, were completely and utterly unnecessary. The audience learns almost nothing new, and what was learned was either unimportant, stupid, or patantly obvious. For example, they waste our time by showing us Senator Organa taking baby Leia home to his wife. We've already been told this will happen; if you watch Episode IV, you know for certain. Showing us this accomplishes nothing whatsover, and I find it rather insulting. I don't need my hand held every single step of the way. This film also has a sordid love affair with long monotonous shots of ships landing, people getting out of the ships, people walking across the landing pad, people walking back to their ships, people closing the canopy, people checking their harneses, people checking the gauges, people powering up the engines, people slowly taking off, people slowly flying out into space, people slowing jumping to light speed..... I think you get the picture.
Eight, travel time, namely lack thereof. If someone wants to be somewhere, they jump on a ship and whhhuuup! they are there without even a moment lost. Laughably quick travel time is a Star Wars staple (light speed, even if it were possible, would not be able to get you from an outer rim planet to a more center planet in anything less than many decades), but at least the original three had some transit time; the trip from Tatooine to Alderan gave R2 and Chewy enough time play a board game and Luke enough time to learn the basics of blaster fire blocking. Here, none of that. BULLSHIT, says I!
Ninth, the whole shades thing. You know how Obi Wan and Yoda come back as shades after their deaths? This movie decided to "explain" this. Apparently, Qui Gon Jin discovered a way in his afterlife for Jedi to become shades, and apparently Yoda and Obi Wan spend the next 25 years mastering this technique. Ignoring how stupid and unnecessary it is (who questioned it in the original three?), it flat out doesn't make sense because at the end of Episode VI, Anakin can do it too! Yes, he's teh uber, but so is Yoda and he still had to study. It's an inconsistency, and when cut up into letters and rearranged, it spells out BULLSHIT.
Tenth, all the little things. At the beginning when those bugbots cover his ship, why wouldn't Obi Wan just use his jedi telekinesis to get rid of them? R2-D2 of course makes his appearance, but he feels very very gimicky. Everyone seems to have this remarkable ability to pull names from the ether (ie Padme randomly barks "Luke" and "Leia," Darth Sidious just happens to have "Darth Vader" lying about his mind, etc etc). General Grevious spent a lot of the movie walking around hunched over and coughing, which was extremely stupid and contrived; althought it was kindasorta explained later on, it could have easily been omitted with nothing lost. And finally, jedi repeatedly reference Anakin's great power and Obi Wan even remarks that he can never match Anakin's prowess, but it is not once shown; yes, he does better than Obi Wan vs. Count Dooku, but Palpatine didn't need or want Obi Wan to live, so he just had Dooku go a little easier on Anakin and a little harder on Obi Wan.
Ok, that's it. Here are the final ratings.
Action: 2.6/5 scrapped ships (Decent, but boring. Rating bumped higher because of Obi Wan).
Acting: 1/5 brown robes (If not for Ewan McGregor, this would have been a 0/5).
Story: 2.5/5 space fighters (Star Wars is usually quite good with at least the story, but certain problems, namely "Padme dying in childbirth," dragged it down a lot).
Sound: 3/5 droids (I didn't notice it once).
Dialogue: -1/5 buckets of lava (Most of the movie just has mediocre dialogue, but it has far more dialogue which causes physical pain in anyone who hears it).
Visuals: 3.5/5 exposed shield generators (Good, as always. Just seemed kinda pointless, as nothing that hasn't been done before is done).
Overall (not necessarily determined by the above categories): 2/5 lightsabers (Not as bad as Episodes I or II, but objectively speaking a very crappy movie).