'Revenge Of The Sith' @ 15
Updated: Oct 15, 2020
Looking back at how 'Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith' stands strong after 15 years...
May 19th 1999
Almost 16 years after Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi, the world was taken back to a galaxy far, far away for Episode I: The Phantom Menace. It was the beginning of a new prequel trilogy that would focus on the journey of Anakin Skywalker and events that shaped this galaxy 32 years before Episode IV: A New Hope.
There had been no cinematic event quite like it, and the expectations were through the roof.
November 4th 2004
The teaser trailer for the final prequel, and then quite possibly the last ever Star Wars film, Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith, made its global debut to a world that, on the whole, was banking on this to salvage the trilogy. After the hype died down following The Phantom Menace, cracks began to appear in both fan and critics’ appreciation of CGI heavy, badly written and complex political space drama that lacked the initial magic and stardom of the originals. With 2002s Episode II: Attack Of The Clones receiving even more backlash – regardless of a solid box-office – director George Lucas and team had one last chance to win over audiences and critics. The pressure was monumental, having to make sure all prequel questions were answered and the events teased 28 years previously would finally be seen on screen.
With a heavy dose of nostalgia and a darker tone to this teaser and TV spots that hinted at a more horrific, action-packed story than seen in the franchise’s history, the world’s appetite was more than whetted for the cinematic revenge of the Sith...
May 19th 2005
Following the international premieres earning impressive reviews and appreciation for Lucas’s wider vision, Revenge Of The Sith launched with midnight showings across the UK from 00.01am on Thursday, May 19th 2005. Within days, box-office logs proved that Star Wars still had pulling power. Breaking records including the biggest opening on a Thursday (which it still holds) and fastest film to reach $100m. And in UK cinemas, tickets were selling so fast that sales eclipsed the combined totals of the next twenty films to be released.
It seemed that Revenge Of The Sith had become the prequel that audiences had wanted to see 6 years earlier. Long before LucasFilm was a twinkle in Disney’s eye, this would be lapped up and appreciated as the then final cinematic Star Wars film for fans around the world.
May 16th 2020
Revenge Of The Sith turns 15 years young today, regarded the best of the prequel films and a defining overall chapter. It’s time to blast into hyperspace to look at how George Lucas and LucasFilm redeemed the prequels and paved the way for so much more in the Star Wars universe.
As with each trilogy, be it the prequels, originals or sequels, there is a huge demand on each film. The Phantom Menace, A New Hope and The Force Awakens helped set the tone for what was to come, and introduce the core content. Attack Of The Clones, The Empire Strikes Back and The Last Jedi continued established themes and setting up what will be. Revenge Of The Sith, Return Of The Jedi and The Rise Of Skywalker carried the biggest burden in tying up the stories that had come before, ending their respective trilogy and, in the likes of TROS, wrapping up a franchise. Revenge Of The Sith has stood the test of time as an acclaimed film that is as strong today as it was on release, setting out to do nothing but entertain and tell a story. Before Disney and the sequels, it delivered the last true vision from the mind of creator / director George Lucas. It resolved the stories and character arcs introduced in Episodes I and II and added new mythology and meanings to moments in Episode IV that previously were just spoken dialogue.
It was noted by many that key factors in the prequels divided audiences, and led he negative reactions. These included the CGI, acting, script and overly complicated plots. Coming after an original trilogy that was full of practical effects, rising Hollywood stars and a simple good vs evil story, the prequels were a very different style of Star Wars. It was down to Revenge Of The Sith to improve on these factors and simply deliver. Deliver a visually exciting, emotionally powerful and engrossing sci-fi adventure that harkened back to what made Star Wars great before the taxation of trade routes came into play.
Industrial Light & Magic, the visual effects group responsible for many ground-breaking visual effects in the industry and founded by Lucas in 1975, worked on Episode III under the supervision of John Knoll and Roger Guyett. The team created over 2000+ CG shots including a visually striking eight-minute opening space battle, 385 digitally created characters and fully rendered planets, weather and fire. The visual effects were leaps ahead of The Phantom Menace, with more texture, photo-realism and attention to detail. While excessive, the effects helped create a more immersive experience from the opening Battle of Coruscant, the rollercoaster Clone Wars across various worlds and, of course, the final duel on Mustafar.
The wars were back in Star Wars! Gone were the politics and cloning who-haa. Now, it was pure and simple war waging across the galaxy, and something ripped from our favourite video games and books we have loved for years. Lucas gave us everything audiences wanted to see in this new modern era where the only limit was one’s imagination. Action sequences were relentless and planet hopping was rife, pausing only for the increasing tension in the main narrative charting Anakin Skywalker’s decent to the Dark Side. It was also a treat to see the clone army of the Republic acting as a single dangerous unit, making the Stormtroopers look even more inept. The CGI clones looked even better since their 2002 debut, and gave us action akin to that of ‘Apocalypse Now’ or ‘Saving Private Ryan’, with shaky cam and military manoeuvres all present across various exotic worlds.
It’s also due to these glimpses of a war scenario Revenge Of The Sith gave us, that in 2008 Dave Filoni directed The Clone Wars animated film, launching the TV series of the same name that, ironically, ended its popular series run on May 4th (Star Wars Day) 2020. The animated show introduced new planets, characters and lore that became so popular among critics and fans that many were referenced in the films, especially The Rise Of Skywalker.
The lightsabre duels were thick and fast involving heroes and villains like the cyborg General Grievous, Count Dooku, Mace Windu, Kit Fisto and even Sheev Palpatine himself in a barrage of colour, light and style that didn’t hold back. It was thanks to choreographer Nick Gillard who gave us as much substance and style as possible, with each duel sending shockwaves across the franchise. It was also down to Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor and their passion for the duel to end all duels, and the one that had been brewing since 1999 – Anakin Skywalker vs Obi-Wan Kenobi.
This intense battle, cut between an equally important duel between Jedi Master Yoda and Ian McDiarmid’s Emperor Palpatine, is the most brutal, raw and emotionally charged confrontation across the whole franchise. Ever since Sir Alec Guinness teased the fate of Anakin during the original trilogy, Lucas brought the duel to life with energy, and a swelling soundtrack by John Williams. Kudos to Christensen and McGregor – their ability to work with real emotive and hard-hitting content were franchise highs for them both and stick in the memory of many a fan. A friendship forged by war, by fate and by love is destroyed as Anakin finally succumbs to the Dark Side of the Force, siding with the Sith as Lord Darth Vader and betraying his former Jedi, something we all were waiting to see on screen.
It was this duel and confrontation that pushed Revenge Of The Sith into refreshing mature territory. The grizzly, violent fate of Anakin on Mustafar proved Lucas was putting it all out there – to shock, surprise and to awe all ages with the birth of Darth Vader, tying up all loose ends ready for A New Hope. His brave direction and dedication in fulfilling his vision gave us the most action-packed, emotional and visually stunning entry in the saga.
Revenge Of The Sith saved the prequel trilogy and created imagery and characters that will stay with fans forever in an otherwise tragic conclusion to the story of Anakin Skywalker. It still provides wow moments, still amuses with its grounded humour and thrills with its visual storytelling.
As the last true Star Wars cinematic entry from LucasFilm, Revenge Of The Sith stands strong today as it did 15 years ago, and will be remembered for all the right reasons and with not one sand meme in sight.