Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith is a 2005 American epic space opera film written and directed by George Lucas. It is the sixth entry of the Star Wars film series and stars Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, and Frank Oz. A sequel to The Phantom Menace (1999) and Attack of the Clones (2002), the film is the final installment of the Star Wars prequel trilogy.
|Star Wars: Episode III –
Revenge of the Sith
Theatrical release poster by Drew Struzan
|Directed by||George Lucas|
|Produced by||Rick McCallum|
|Written by||George Lucas|
|Music by||John Williams|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox[Note 1]|
|Box office||$848.8 million|
The film begins three years after the onset of the Clone Wars. The Jedi Knights are spread across the galaxy, leading a massive war against the Separatists. The Jedi Council dispatches Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi to eliminate the notorious General Grievous, leader of the Separatist Army. Meanwhile, Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker grows close to Palpatine, the Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic and, unknown to the public, a Sith Lord. Their deepening friendship threatens the Jedi Order, the Republic, and Anakin himself.
Lucas began writing the script before production of Attack of the Clones ended. Production of Revenge of the Sith started in September 2003, and filming took place in Australia with additional locations in Thailand, Switzerland, China, Italy and the United Kingdom. Revenge of the Sith premiered on May 15, 2005, at the Cannes Film Festival, then released worldwide on May 19, 2005. The film received generally favorable reviews from critics, especially in contrast to the mixed reviews of the previous two prequels: praise was aimed at its storyline, action scenes, musical score, visual effects, and the performances of McGregor, McDiarmid, Oz, and Jimmy Smits; criticism was reserved for Christensen's performance and the film's inconsistent tone. It is the final film in the Star Wars franchise to be distributed by 20th Century Fox before The Walt Disney Company's acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012.
Revenge of the Sith broke several box office records during its opening week and went on to earn over $848 million worldwide, making it, at the time, the third-highest-grossing film in the Star Wars franchise, unadjusted for inflation. It was the highest-grossing film of 2005 in the U.S. and the second-highest-grossing film of 2005 behind Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The film also holds the record for the highest opening day gross on a Thursday, making $50,013,859.00. The Star Wars saga continued with the release of The Force Awakens, the first installment of the sequel trilogy, in 2015.
Three years after Count Dooku's raid on Geonosis, the galaxy is in a state of civil war. During a space battle over Coruscant, Jedi Knights Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker lead a mission to rescue the kidnapped Supreme Chancellor Palpatine from the cyborg Separatist commander, General Grievous. After infiltrating Grievous's flagship, the Jedi battle Dooku, whom Anakin eventually executes at Palpatine's urging. Grievous escapes the battle-torn cruiser, in which the Jedi crash-land on Coruscant. There, Anakin reunites with his wife, Padmé Amidala, who reveals that she is pregnant. While initially excited, Anakin begins to have prophetic visions of Padmé dying in childbirth, and his worry steadily grows.
Palpatine appoints Anakin to the Jedi Council as his representative, but the Council declines to grant Anakin the rank of Jedi Master and orders him to spy on Palpatine, causing Anakin's faith in the Jedi to diminish significantly. Palpatine tempts Anakin with secret knowledge of the dark side of the Force, including the power to save his loved ones from dying. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan travels to Utapau, where he finds and kills Grievous, and Yoda travels to Kashyyyk to defend the planet from invasion. Palpatine eventually reveals that he is the Sith Lord, Darth Sidious, saying that only he has the knowledge to save Padmé from dying. Anakin reports Palpatine's treachery to Mace Windu, who confronts and subdues Palpatine, severely disfiguring him in the process. Fearing that he will lose Padmé, Anakin intervenes on Palpatine's behalf and severs Windu's hand, allowing Palpatine to throw him out of a window to his death. Anakin pledges himself to Palpatine, who dubs him Darth Vader. Palpatine issues Order 66 for the clone troopers to kill the remaining Jedi, and dispatches Vader along with a band of clones to kill everyone in the Jedi Temple. Vader then massacres the remaining Separatist leaders hiding on the volcanic planet Mustafar, while Palpatine addresses the Galactic Senate, transforming the Republic into the Galactic Empire and declaring himself Emperor. Having survived the chaos, Obi-Wan and Yoda return to Coruscant and learn of Anakin's betrayal.
Unable to convince Padmé about Anakin's turn to the dark side, Obi-Wan stows aboard her ship. Padmé travels to Mustafar and implores Vader to abandon the dark side. He refuses, and upon witnessing Obi-Wan invited to intervene, Vader chokes Padmé into unconsciousness in a fit of rage. Obi-Wan duels and defeats Vader, severing both of his legs, and leaving him at the bank of a lava river where he is horribly burned. On Coruscant, Yoda battles Palpatine until their duel reaches a stalemate. Yoda then flees with Bail Organa while Palpatine, sensing that his apprentice is in danger, travels to Mustafar.
On the asteroid Polis Massa, Obi-Wan regroups with Yoda, and Padmé gives birth to a twin son and daughter, whom she names Luke and Leia before dying shortly thereafter. On Mustafar, Palpatine finds a horribly burnt Vader still alive. After returning to Coruscant, Vader's mutilated body is treated and covered in a black armored suit. Palpatine explains to Vader that he killed Padmé in his rage, devastating him. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan and Yoda conceal the twins from the Sith, as they are the galaxy's only hope for freedom. Yoda exiles himself to the planet Dagobah, while Vader and the Emperor oversee the construction of the Death Star. Bail Organa adopts Leia and takes her to Alderaan, while Obi-Wan delivers Luke to his step-family, Owen and Beru Lars on Tatooine, where Obi-Wan intends to watch over Luke until the time is right to challenge the Empire.
- Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi: a Jedi Master and general for the Galactic Republic.
- Natalie Portman as Padmé Amidala: a senator of Naboo who is secretly Anakin's wife.
- Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader: a Jedi Knight and hero of the Clone Wars who turns to the dark side of the Force and becomes the mighty Sith lord Darth Vader.
- Ian McDiarmid as Chancellor Palpatine / Darth Sidious: the Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic who is secretly a Sith Lord, and the founder, commander and leader of the Galactic Empire.
- Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu: a senior member of the Jedi Council.
- Christopher Lee as Count Dooku / Darth Tyranus: Darth Sidious' Sith apprentice, who was selected by his master to lead the Separatists.
- Anthony Daniels as C-3PO: Padmé's personal protocol droid, created by Anakin.
- Kenny Baker as R2-D2: Anakin's astromech droid.
- Frank Oz voices Yoda: the leader of the Jedi Council.
Jimmy Smits, Peter Mayhew, Oliver Ford Davies, Ahmed Best and Silas Carson reprise their roles as Senator Bail Organa, Chewbacca, Sio Bibble, Jar Jar Binks, Nute Gunray and Ki-Adi-Mundi, respectively from the previous films. Joel Edgerton and Bonnie Piesse also reprise their roles as Owen Lars and Beru Lars, respectively from Attack of the Clones. Matthew Wood provides the voice of General Grievous, the fearsome cyborg commander of the Separatists' droid army; Temuera Morrison portrays the Clone Troopers and Commander Cody, who are clones of the bounty hunter, Jango Fett; Bruce Spence portrays Tion Medon, local administrator of Utapau; Jeremy Bulloch, who played Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, appears as Captain Colton, the pilot of the Rebel Blockade Runner Tantive IV, Wayne Pygram appears as a younger Grand Moff Tarkin; and stunt coordinator Nick Gillard appears as a Jedi named Cin Drallig (his name spelled backward, without the k). Editor Roger Barton's son Aidan Barton portrays Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa as infants. James Earl Jones possibly provides the uncredited voice of Darth Vader; when specifically asked if he had supplied the voice—either newly or from a previous recording—Jones answered, "You'd have to ask Lucas about that. I don't know".
Director George Lucas has a cameo as Baron Papanoida, a blue-faced alien in attendance at the Coruscant Opera House. Lucas' son Jett portrays a young Jedi-in-training named Zett Jukassa. Lucas' daughter Amanda appears as a character called Terr Taneel, seen in the security hologram; while his other daughter Katie plays a blue-skinned Pantoran named Chi Eekway, visible when Palpatine arrives at the Senate after being saved by the Jedi, and talking to Baron Papanoida at the Opera House (she also has a brief speaking role in one of the deleted scenes where Padmé is meeting in secret with other senators). Christian Simpson appeared as a stunt double for Hayden Christensen. When Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Palpatine arrive via shuttle to the Senate docks after crash landing on Coruscant, the Millennium Falcon can be seen landing on one of the lower platforms as the shuttle approaches.
Lucas stated that he conceived the Star Wars saga's story in the form of a plot outline in 1973. However, he later clarified that, at the time of the saga's conception, he had not fully realized the details—only major plot points. He began working on Episode III even before the previous film, Attack of the Clones, was released, proposing to concept artists that the film would open with a montage of seven battles on seven planets. Michael Kaminski, in The Secret History of Star Wars, surmises that Lucas found flaws with Anakin's fall to the dark side and radically re-organized the plot. For instance, instead of opening the film with various Clone Wars battles, Lucas decided instead to focus on Anakin, ending the film's first act with his killing of Count Dooku, an action that signals his descent to the dark side.
A significant number of fans speculated online about the film's subtitle; rumored titles included Rise of the Empire, The Creeping Fear (which was also named as the film's title on the official website on April Fool's 2004), and Birth of the Empire. Eventually, Revenge of the Sith also became a "guessed title" that George Lucas would later announce to be true. The title is a reference to Revenge of the Jedi, the original title of Return of the Jedi; Lucas changed the title scant weeks before the premiere of Return of the Jedi, declaring that Jedi do not seek revenge.
Since Lucas refocused the film on Anakin, he had to sacrifice certain extraneous plot points relating to Attack of the Clones. Lucas had previously promised fans that he would explain the mystery behind the erasure of the planet Kamino from the Jedi Archives. However, Lucas abandoned this plot thread in order to devote more time to Anakin's story, leaving the matter unresolved on film. As a compromise, Lucas permitted author James Luceno to explain the mystery of Kamino's erasure and the origins of the Clone army in his expanded universe novel Labyrinth of Evil.
Lucas had originally planned to include even more ties to the original trilogy, and wrote early drafts of the script in which a 10-year-old Han Solo appeared on Kashyyyk, but the role was not cast or shot. He also wrote a scene in which Palpatine reveals to Anakin that he created him from midichlorians, and is thus his "father", a clear parallel to Vader's revelation to Luke in The Empire Strikes Back, but Lucas ejected this scene as well. Another planned scene by Lucas that was written during the early development of the film was a conversation between Master Yoda and the ghostly Qui Gon-Jinn, with Liam Neeson reprising his role as Jinn (he also hinted his possible appearance in the film). However, the scene was never filmed and Neeson was never recorded, although the scene was present in the film's novelization. Also, Neeson finally reprised the role in an episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars in 2011.
After principal photography was complete in 2003, Lucas made even more changes in Anakin's character, sharpening Anakin's motivations for turning to the dark side. Lucas accomplished this "rewrite" through editing the principal footage and filming new scenes during pick-ups in London in 2004. In the previous versions, Anakin had myriad reasons for turning to the dark side, one of which was his sincere belief that the Jedi were plotting to take over the Republic. Although this is still intact in the finished film, by revising and refilming many scenes, Lucas emphasized Anakin's desire to save Padmé from death. Thus, in the version that made it to theatres, Anakin falls to the dark side primarily to save Padmé.
After the screenplay's earliest draft was submitted, the art department began designing the various ways that each element could appear on screen.
For the Kashyyyk environment, the art department turned to the much derided Star Wars Holiday Special for inspiration. Over a period of months, Lucas would approve hundreds of designs that would eventually appear in the film. He would later rewrite entire scenes and action sequences to correspond to certain designs he had chosen. The designs were then shipped to "pre-visualization" to create moving CGI versions known as "animatics". Ben Burtt would edit these scenes with Lucas in order to previsualize what the film would look like before the scenes were even filmed. The pre-visualization footage featured a basic raw CGI environment with equally unprocessed CGI characters performing a scene (typically an action sequence). Steven Spielberg was also allowed to assist both the art and pre-visualization department's designs for several action sequences in Revenge of the Sith. Later, the pre-visualization and art department designs were sent to the production department to begin "bringing the film out of the concept phase" by building the various sets, props and costumes. To determine the required sets, Lucas analyzed each scene with the staff to see which moments the actors would come in most contact with the set, warranting the set to be constructed.
Although the first scene filmed was the final scene to appear in the film (shot during the filming of Attack of the Clones in 2000), principal photography on the film occurred from June 30, 2003 to September 17, 2003, with additional photography occurring at Shepperton Studios and Elstree Studios in London from August 2004 to January 31, 2005. The initial filming took place on sound stages at Fox Studios Australia in Sydney, although practical environments were shot as background footage later to be composited into the film. These included the limestone mountains depicting Kashyyyk, which were filmed in Phuket, Thailand (they were later damaged by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami). The production company was also fortunate enough to be shooting at the same time that Mount Etna erupted in Italy. Camera crews were sent to the location to shoot several angles of the volcano that were later spliced into the background of the animatics and the final film version of the planet Mustafar.
While shooting key dramatic scenes, Lucas would often use an "A camera" and "B camera", or the "V technique", a process that involves shooting with two or more cameras at the same time in order to gain several angles of the same performance. Using the HD technology developed for the film, the filmmakers were able to send footage to the editors the same day it was shot, a process that would require a full 24 hours had it been shot on film. Footage featuring the planet Mustafar was given to editor Roger Barton, who was on location in Sydney, Australia cutting the climactic duel. All other footage was forwarded to lead editor Ben Burtt at Skywalker Ranch in California.
Hayden Christensen says Lucas asked him "to bulk up and physically show the maturity that had taken place between the two films". The actor says he worked out with a trainer in Sydney for three months and ate "six meals a day and on every protein, weight gain supplement that man has created" to go from 160 pounds to 185 pounds.
Christensen and Ewan McGregor began rehearsing their climactic lightsaber duel long before Lucas would shoot it. They trained extensively with stunt coordinator Nick Gillard to memorize and perform their duel together. As in the previous two prequel films, McGregor and Christensen performed their own lightsaber fighting scenes without the use of stunt doubles. The speed at which Vader and Obi-Wan engage in their duel is mostly the speed at which it was filmed, although there are instances where single frames were removed to increase the velocity of particular strikes. An example of this occurs as Obi-Wan strikes down on Vader after applying an armlock in the duel's first half.
Revenge of the Sith eventually became the first Star Wars film in which Anakin Skywalker and the suited Darth Vader were played by the same actor in the same film. As Christensen recounted, it was originally intended to simply have a "tall guy" in the Darth Vader costume, but after "begging and pleading" Christensen persuaded Lucas to have the Vader costume used in the film created specifically to fit him. The new costume featured shoe lifts and a muscle suit. It also required Christensen (who is 6 feet 1 inch or 1.85 metres tall) to look through the helmet's mouthpiece.
In 2004, Gary Oldman was originally approached to provide the voice of General Grievous; however, complications arose during contract negotiations after Oldman learned the film was to be made outside of the Screen Actors Guild, of which he is a member. He backed out of the role rather than violate the union's rules. Matthew Wood, who voiced Grievous, disputed this story at Celebration III, held in Indianapolis. According to him, Oldman is a friend of producer Rick McCallum, and thus recorded an audition as a favor to him, but was not chosen. Wood, who was also the supervising sound editor, was in charge of the auditions and submitted his audition anonymously in the midst of 30 others, under the initials "A.S." for Alan Smithee. Days later, he received a phone call asking for the full name to the initials "A.S."
The post-production department began work during filming and continued until weeks before the film was released in 2005. Special effects were created using almost all formats, including model work, CGI and practical effects. The same department later composited all such work into the filmed scenes—both processes taking nearly two years to complete. Revenge of the Sith has 2,151 shots that use special effects, a world record.
As the DVD featurette Within a Minute illustrates, the film required 910 artists and 70,441 man-hours to create 49 seconds of footage for the Mustafar duel alone. Members of Hyperspace, the Official Star Wars Fan Club, received a special look into the production. Benefits included not only special articles, but they also received access to a webcam that transmitted a new image every 20 seconds during the time it was operating in Fox Studios Australia. Many times the stars, and Lucas himself, were spotted on the webcam.
During the process of shaping the film for its theatrical release, Lucas and his editors dropped many scenes, and even an entire subplot, from the completed film.
Lucas excised all the scenes of a group of Senators, including Padmé, Bail Organa, and Mon Mothma (Genevieve O'Reilly), organising an alliance to prevent the Chancellor from receiving any more emergency powers. Though this is essentially the Rebel Alliance's birth, the scenes were discarded to achieve more focus on Anakin's story. The scene where Yoda arrives on Dagobah to begin his self-imposed exile was also cut, but is featured in a deleted scene in the DVD release, although McCallum stated he hopes Lucas may add it to the release if Lucas releases a six-episode DVD box set.
Bai Ling filmed minor scenes for the film playing a senator, but her role was cut during editing. She claimed this was because she posed for the June 2005 issue of Playboy, whose appearance on newsstands coincided with the film's May release. Lucas denied this, stating that the cut had been made more than a year earlier, and that he had cut his own daughter's scenes as well.
The music was composed and conducted by John Williams (who has composed and conducted the score for the other films in the Star Wars saga except for Rogue One), and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and London Voices. The film's soundtrack was released by Sony Classical on May 3, 2005, more than two weeks before the film's release. A music video titled A Hero Falls was created for the film's theme, "Battle of the Heroes", featuring footage from the film and was also available on the DVD.
The soundtrack also came with a collectors' DVD, Star Wars: A Musical Journey, at no additional cost. The DVD, hosted by McDiarmid, features 16 music videos set to remastered selections of music from all six film scores, set chronologically through the saga. This album was chosen as one of Amazon.com's Top 100 Editors' Picks of 2005 (#83).
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith charity premieres took place in Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C., Boston, Denver, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Miami on Thursday, May 12, 2005; and on May 13, 2005, there were two additional charity premiere screenings in George Lucas's hometown of Modesto.The official premiere was at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival (out of competition) on May 16. Its theatrical release in most other countries took place on May 19 to coincide with the 1999 release of The Phantom Menace (the 1977 release of A New Hope and the 1983 release of Return of the Jedi were also released on the same day and month, six years apart). The global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas claimed one week before the premiere that it may have cost the U.S. economy approximately US$627 million in lost productivity because of employees who took a day off or reported in sick. Grauman's Chinese Theatre, a traditional venue for the Star Wars films, did not show it. However, a line of people stood there for more than a month hoping to convince someone to change this. Most of them took advantage of an offer to see the film at a nearby cinema, ArcLight Cinemas (formerly the "Cinerama Dome"). On May 16, the Empire Cinema in London's Leicester Square hosted a day-long Star Wars marathon showing of all six films; an army of Imperial stormtroopers "guarded" the area, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra gave a free concert of Star Wars music.
A copy of the film leaked onto peer-to-peer file sharing networks just hours after opening in theaters. The film was a time-stamped workprint, suggesting it may have come from within the industry rather than from someone who videotaped an advance screening. Eight people were later charged with copyright infringement and distributing material illegally. Documents filed by the Los Angeles District Attorney allege that a copy of the film was taken from an unnamed Californian post-production office by an employee, who later pleaded guilty to his charges. The illegal copy was passed among seven people until reaching an eighth party, who also pleaded guilty to uploading to an unnamed P2P network.
Shortly after the above-mentioned print was leaked, it was released in Shanghai as a bootleg DVD with Chinese subtitles. The unknown producer of this DVD also chose to include English subtitles, which were in fact translated back into English from the Chinese translation, rather than using the original English script. This causes the subtitles to become heavily mis-translated, often causing unintentional humor. For example, in the opening crawl the title is mis-translated as Star War: The Third Gathers - Backstroke of the West. One error that recurs several times in the subtitles is that the phrase "it seems" (好象) was rendered as "good elephant". "Jedi Council" is rendered as "Presbyterian Church", and the mis-translation also caused the word "fuck" to replace "work" four times in the subtitles. Darth Vader's cry of "Noooooooo!" (不要) is rendered as "Do not want". This last translation error would later be popularized as an internet meme. In 2016, YouTube user GratefulDeadpool uploaded a fan edit of Revenge of the Sith in which the cast's voices were dubbed to match the bootleg subtitles.
Revenge of the Sith is the first Star Wars film to receive a PG-13 rating from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), officially for "sci-fi violence and some intense images", namely for the scene in which Darth Vader is set aflame by lava and molten rock. Lucas had stated months before the MPAA's decision that he felt the film should receive a PG-13 rating, because of Anakin's final moments and the film's content being the darkest and most intense of all six films. Some critics, including Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper, later responded that children would be able to handle the film as long as they had parental guidance, hence a "PG rating". All previously released films in the series were rated PG. The PG-13 rating had not existed when the films in the original trilogy were released; however, the original trilogy's films were later re-submitted to the MPAA due to changes in the re-released versions and once again received PG ratings. When Revenge of the Sith was released in Canada, it was given a PG rating in most provinces, excluding Quebec, where it was rated G. In the United Kingdom it received a 12A rating by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). In Australia, the film was rated M for mature audiences by the Australian Classification Board (ACB).
The film was released on DVD and VHS on October 31, 2005 (Halloween), in the UK and Ireland, on November 1, 2005 in the United States and Canada on DVD and on November 3, 2005, in Australia. It was also released in most major territories on or near the same day. The DVD was a two-disc set, with picture and sound mastered from the original digital source material.
The DVD included a number of documentaries including a new full-length documentary as well as two featurettes, one which explores the prophecy of Anakin Skywalker as the Chosen One, the other looking at the film's stunts and a Rob Coleman, and ILM visual effects supervisors John Knoll and Roger Guyett. were included with introductions from Lucas and McCallum. An Xbox game demo for Star Wars: Battlefront II along with a trailer for the Star Wars: Empire at War PC game was featured on the second disc.of web-documentaries from the official web site. Like the other DVD releases, included is an audio commentary track featuring Lucas, producer Rick McCallum, animation director
This release is notable because, due to marketing issues, it was the first Star Wars film never to be released on VHS in the United States. However, the film was released on VHS in Australia, the U.K. and other countries in the world.
The DVD was re-released in a prequel trilogy box set on November 4, 2008.
On April 7, 2015, Walt Disney Studios, 20th Century Fox, and Lucasfilm jointly announced the digital releases of the six released Star Wars films. Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment released Revenge of the Sith through the iTunes Store, Amazon Video, Vudu, Google Play, and Disney Movies Anywhere on April 10, 2015.
On September 28, 2010, it was announced that all six films in the series were to be stereo-converted to 3D. The films would be re-released in chronological order beginning with The Phantom Menace on February 10, 2012. Revenge of the Sith was originally scheduled to be re-released in 3D on October 11, 2013 (later pushed up to October 4, 2013). However, on January 28, 2013, Lucasfilm announced that it was postponing the 3D release of episodes II and III in order to "focus 100 percent of our efforts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens" and that further information about 3D release plans would be issued at a later date. The premiere of the 3D version was shown on April 17, 2015, at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 79% based on 284 reviews, with an average rating of 7.3/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "With Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, George Lucas brings his second Star Wars trilogy to a suitably thrilling and often poignant – if still a bit uneven – conclusion."  On Metacritic the film has a score of 68 out of 100, based on 40 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.
Most critics have considered the film to be the best of the prequel trilogy, with a few even calling it the best of the entire Star Wars saga. A. O. Scott of The New York Times concluded that it was "the best of the four episodes Mr. Lucas has directed", and equal to The Empire Strikes Back as "the richest and most challenging movie in the cycle". In a 2007 summary of the 100 Best Science-Fiction Films on Rotten Tomatoes, Revenge of the Sith was placed 51 out of 100, making it the only prequel film in the Star Wars series to earn a ranking. Jonathan Rosenbaum, a critic who disliked A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, gave the film a positive review saying that it had a "relatively thoughtful story". Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four, writing "If [Lucas] got bogged down in solemnity and theory in Episode II: Attack of the Clones, the Force is in a jollier mood this time, and Revenge of the Sith is a great entertainment."
In 2012, art critic Camille Paglia praised the film in Glittering Images, comparing some of its scenes to works by modern painters and calling it "the greatest work of art in recent memory". Paglia explained that the film's finale, "has more inherent artistic value, emotional power, and global impact than anything by the artists you name. It's because the art world has flat-lined and become an echo chamber of received opinion and toxic over-praise. It's like the emperor's new clothes -- people are too intimidated to admit what they secretly think or what they might think with their blinders off. Episode III epitomizes the modern digital art movement, more so than other piece from the last 30 years. I had considered using Japanese anime for the digital art chapter of the book, but it lacked the overwhelming operatic power and yes, seriousness of Lucas's Revenge of the Sith."
Though many critics and fans saw Revenge of the Sith as the strongest of the three prequels, some saw it as more or less on par with The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. Much of the criticism for the film was directed towards the dialogue, particularly the film's romantic scenes, and for Hayden Christensen's performance (which won him his second Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor). Critics and fans alike were quick to jump on such lines as "Hold me, Ani. Hold me, like you did by the lake on Naboo...where there was nothing but our love..." Critics have claimed this demonstrated Lucas's weakness as a writer of dialogue, a subject with which Lucas openly agreed when receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute.
Some American conservatives criticized the film, claiming it has a liberal bias and is a commentary on the George W. Bush administration and the Iraq War. Some websites went so far as to propose a boycott of the film. Lucas defended the film, stating that the film's storyline was written during the Vietnam War and was influenced by that conflict rather than the war in Iraq. Lucas did say, however, that "The parallels between Vietnam and what we're doing in Iraq now are unbelievable".
Box office performance
The film was released in 115 countries. Its worldwide gross eventually reached $849 million—making it the second most financially successful film of 2005, behind Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The film earned an estimated $16.91 million from 2,900 midnight screenings in North America upon its release. In total, it earned a record $50 million on its opening day. It was surpassed the following year by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, which earned $55.5 million on its opening day.
With only the May 19 earnings, the film broke four box office records: midnight screenings gross (previously held by The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, $8 million), opening day gross (Spider-Man 2, with $40.4 million), single day gross (Shrek 2 with $44.8 million) and Thursday gross (The Matrix Reloaded with $37.5 million). Its single day and opening day gross records were later surpassed by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest on July 7, 2006, when that movie grossed $55.5 million on its opening day, and its midnight screening gross was broken by The Dark Knight on July 18, 2008 with $18.5 million. It still retains its record for Thursday gross, however.
According to box office analysis sites, the film set American records for highest gross in a given number of days for each of its first 12 days of release except for the seventh and eighth, where the record is narrowly held by Spider-Man 2. On its fifth day, it became the highest-grossing film of 2005, surpassing Hitch ($177.6 million). The film earned $158.5 million in its first four-day period, surpassing the previous four-day record held by The Matrix Reloaded ($134.3 million), and joining Spider-Man, The Matrix Reloaded and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as one the only films to make $100 million in three days. In eight days, it reached the $200 million mark (a record tied with Spider-Man 2) and by its 17th day, the film had passed $300 million (surpassing the record of 18 days of Shrek 2). It was eventually the third-fastest film (after Shrek 2 and Spider-Man) to reach $350 million.
The film ended its run in American theaters on October 20, 2005, finishing with a total gross of $380,270,577. It ranks 29th in all-time domestic grosses and is the highest-grossing U.S. of 2005, outgrossing second-place The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by nearly $90 million. The film sold an estimated 59,324,600 tickets in the US.
International grosses that exceeded $460 million include those Australia ($27.2 million), France and Algeria ($56.9 million), Germany ($47.3 million), Italy ($11.3 million), Japan ($82.7 million), Mexico ($15.3 million), South Korea ($10.3 million), Spain ($23.8 million), and the United Kingdom and Ireland ($72.8 million).
Following the release of Revenge of the Sith—the completion of the original and prequel Star Wars series—on June 9, 2005, George Lucas was presented with the 33rd American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award. The institute honored his "astonishing contributions to the art and technology of filmmaking, as well as the impact of the epic Star Wars series".
Despite being the prequel trilogy's best reviewed and received film, it received fewer award nominations than the previous films. It became the only Star Wars film not to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects; however, it was nominated for Best Makeup (Dave Elsey and Nikki Gooley), losing to The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It also won "Favorite Motion Picture" and "Favorite Dramatic Motion Picture" awards at the People's Choice Awards, "Hollywood Movie of the Year" award at the Hollywood Film Festival, Empire Awards (Sci-Fi/Fantasy Film), and the Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie - Action. It also was nominated for Best Score Soundtrack Album at the 48th Grammy Awards in 2006.
As did every film of the original trilogy, the film won the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film. Williams also won Best Music. The film was nominated for ten Saturn Awards overall, including Best Director and Best Writing for Lucas, Best Actor for Christensen, Best Actress for Natalie Portman and Best Supporting Actor for Ian McDiarmid.
The film did, however, receive the fewest Golden Raspberry Awards nominations: only one, for Christensen as Worst Supporting Actor, which he won. (The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones received seven nominations each, with one and two wins, respectively.) It is the only Star Wars prequel not to receive a Razzie nomination for "Worst Picture". Christensen further won the "Best Villain" award at the MTV Movie Awards.
Throughout Revenge of the Sith, Lucas refers to a wide range of films and other sources, drawing on political, military, and mythological motifs to enhance his story's impact. Perhaps the most media coverage was given to a particular exchange between Anakin and Obi-Wan, which led to the aforementioned controversy: "If you're not with me, then you're my enemy", Anakin declares. Despite Lucas' insistence to the contrary, The Seattle Times concluded, "Without naming Bush or the Patriot Act, it's all unmistakable no matter what your own politics may be."
McDiarmid, Lucas, and others have also called Anakin's journey to the dark side Faustian in the sense of making a "pact with the devil" for short-term gain, with the fiery volcano planet Mustafar representing hell. Midway through the film, Lucas intercuts between Anakin and Padmé by themselves, thinking about one another in the Jedi Temple and their apartment, respectively, during sunset. The sequence is without dialogue and complemented by a moody, synthesized soundtrack. Lucas' coverage of the exterior cityscapes, skylines and interior isolation in the so-called "Ruminations" sequence is similar to the cinematography and mise-en-scène of Rosemary's Baby, a film in which a husband makes a literal pact with the devil.
As with the previous film and its allusions to The Empire Strikes Back, some deliberately placed references have been made to draw allusions with Return of the Jedi. The title is similar in style to the original planned "Revenge of the Jedi". Some dialog is mirrored in both films especially the line "I can feel your anger!" spoken by Palpatine, who also orders his personal entourage/bodyguards to "Leave us" at important moments in both films. Darth Vader attempts to play on Luke's fear of loss by taunting him with threats against Leia. His own fear of the loss of Padmé is what draws him to the dark side. Prior to settling on the Ewoks as the main helpers, the Wookiee race was originally planned to be in Return of the Jedi. Anakin's decision to save Palpatine over Master Windu parallels the decision he would eventually make as Darth Vader to save Luke from Palpatine in Return of the Jedi.
The film's novelization was written by Matthew Stover. It includes much more dialogue than the film, including: a conversation between Count Dooku and Darth Sidious, where the reader learns Palpatine lied to Dooku about what the Empire would truly be; a conversation between Mace Windu and Obi-Wan Kenobi where Obi-Wan expresses self-doubt about whether he is the right Jedi to battle General Grievous; and a conversation between Anakin and Palpatine in which Palpatine promises to give Anakin anything he wants—whether it be a new speeder or the star system Corellia. The novel includes many minor details. For example, during the Battle of Coruscant, Anakin's callsign is Red 5, a reference to Luke's callsign in the climactic battle of A New Hope, and one of the Republic capital ships is commanded by Lieutenant Commander Lorth Needa, who becomes Captain Needa in The Empire Strikes Back. There are also references to the Star Wars: Republic comic book series, such as the Battle of Jabiim (Volume 3). In addition to this, the siege of the Jedi Temple is much more violent and far more graphically explained than the cinematic version.
Some unseen or unheard-of elements of the story were fleshed out in the course of the novel. Such examples include more discussions between Anakin and Palpatine, in which Palpatine explicitly says that Darth Plagueis was his master; in the film, it is merely hinted at. Additionally, it is revealed that the primary reason for Anakin's outrage over not becoming a Jedi Master is that only Masters have access to the holocrons in the Temple Archives, which is where Anakin had hoped to find information about how to prevent Padmé's death. Not only is Saesee Tiin revealed to be a telepath, but his horn, lost in the Clone Wars, is revealed to have grown back. The book explains that Palpatine purposely manipulated the Council into sending Obi-Wan to fight General Grievous, because he knew he needed to get Obi-Wan off Coruscant before he could turn Anakin to the dark side. The novel also reveals Mace Windu's rationale for not bringing Anakin along to the fight with Palpatine: he can sense Anakin's fear and distress, and does not believe the young Jedi is in any mental state to fight a Sith Lord. These are a few examples of many descriptions of characters' feelings and inner narrative. There are even some humorous lines added in, including extra dialogue in the battle between Grievous and Obi Wan - Grievous says, "I was trained by Count Dooku," and Obi-Wan replies, "What a coincidence; I trained the man who killed him."
An official prequel novel, Labyrinth of Evil (ISBN 0345475720) by James Luceno, was published in 2005. It is set near the end of the Clone Wars and directly before the events of Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith.
A video game based on the film was released on May 5, 2005, two weeks before the film. The game followed the film's storyline for the most part, integrating scenes from the film. However, many sections of the game featured scenes cut from the film, or entirely new scenes for the game. The style of the game was mostly lightsaber combat and fighting as Obi-Wan or Anakin. It also has a form of multiplayer mode, which includes both "VS" and "Cooperative" mode. In the first mode, two players fight with characters of their choice against each other in a lightsaber duel to the death. In the latter mode, two players team up to combat increasingly difficult waves of enemies.
- Although the theatrical and home video distribution rights to all other Star Wars films were to be transferred to Walt Disney Studios by May 2020, 20th Century Fox was to continue to own theatrical, home video, digital, and broadcast distribution rights to A New Hope for the foreseeable future. On December 14, 2017, the Walt Disney Company announced it is acquiring most of Fox's parent company, 21st Century Fox, including the film studio and all distribution rights to A New Hope.
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