Let me start off this review by saying that the release of Episode III, the final Star Wars movie to be released by creator George Lucas, is undeniably a major part of my life. Ever since I was a kid the Star Wars series has always been there to take me out of this world and into a galaxy far, far away. It's impacted me like no other form of entertainment before or since. So it is with sadness but also joy that the series comes to an end. While it is sad that the series is coming to an end, we should all feel glad in what it is and what it has accomplished.
On a personal level, it seems like no accident that the movies is released within a week of my graduation from college. A graduation that ended the education of my earlier years is follwed by the end of the saga that entertained me throughout my childhood. Some timing.
But enough with the philosphizing- how is the movie itself? Having gone to the midnight screening, I can sum Episode III up in one word- intense. From the beginning, which features perhaps the best action section I've yet seen, the movie grabs hold and doesn't let go until the credits. Perhaps it is the sense of impending doom that pervades the film, or the never-ending barrage of lightsaber battles. Or in seeing how all the pieces of the plot finally fall into place. Either way, the film is just one incredible sequence after another and I can guarantee that all of the action will keep your heart pounding throughout. (Can I mention how incredible the opening sequence is again? For once, it seems as if Lucas' use and abuse of CGI has finally paid off.)
As the movie is essentially a payoff for the prequel trilogy, as well as a bridge to the originals, bombshell plot developments are scattered throughout. Some of these will be already be known by fans, others will be less expected. With so many plot elements going on, This makes the movie essential repeated viewing material and truly the key to the rest of the saga. It seems that every scence has several layers of significance- especially for the original trilogy. I guarantee that you will want to schedule time for a viewing of A New Hope immediately after getting out of the theater.
Now, for the negatives. Again, much of the acting is suspect, and some dialog is downright cringe-worthy. Christensen and Portman again have zero rapport, and fail to convey the necessary gravity in their emotions. One incredibly key scene in Anakin's transformation is weakly handled, and it was sad to see Padme's character get reduced to almost nothing- save for a sure to be often-repeated phrase about the end of democracy.
On the plus side, both Ewan McGregor as Obi Wan and Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine deliver standout performances. Where Christensen's acting seems to be limited to a good mood or a bad mood, Macgregor is in control throughout and expertly communicates the the successes, failures, and torment of Kenobi. McDiarmid steals the show, changing between fatherly Palpatine and the cackling Darth Sidious with ease. Yoda, in full CGI form, isn't half bad either.
In many ways, the real star of this movie is the way it is tied into the original trilogy. We know many of the events that must occur, the only question is how? Even if we know what the outcome is, that does not detract from the drama at all. Take for example the Kenobi/Anakin showdown- even if we know the end result, it still remains a shocking event and a true climax to the Star Wars story.
In the end, I feel that this movie can stand on its own as one of the best in the series. Episode III has gradually recovered from the first two prequels to stand on its own and add to, rather than detract from, the Star Wars legend. From the first batte to the last screen wipe it is impossible to take your eyes away, and the anguishing themes of evil and betrayal provide an unexpected emotional depth that will keep you glued to your seat. Combine these elements together, I feel confident in saying that Episode III provided a fitting ending to the biggest movie saga of them all.