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review added: 10/7/05
updated: 11/1/05




Star Wars: Episode III
Revenge of the Sith

2005 (2005) - Lucasfilm, Ltd./20th Century Fox (Fox)

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVsTHX-certified

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

Buy this DVD now at Amazon!

Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A+/A+/B

Specs and Features

Disc One: The Film
140 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, THX-certified, single-sided, dual-layered (layer switch at ??), dual-disc Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary (with writer/director George Lucas, producer Rick McCallum, animation director Rob Coleman and visual effects supervisors John Knoll and Roger Guyett), THX Optimizer, DVD-ROM weblink (to exclusive Star Wars DVD website), Easter egg, animated film-themed menu screens with sound effects and music, scene access (50 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 EX), French and Spanish (DD 2.0 Surround), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

Disc Two: Supplemental Material
Within a Minute: The Making of Episode III documentary (79 mins, 33 chapters, 16x9 enhanced, languages: English DD 2.0, subtitles: English), It's All for Real: The Stunts of Episode III featurette (11 mins, 16x9 enhanced, languages: English DD 2.0, subtitles: English), The Chosen One featurette (15 mins, 16x9 enhanced, languages: English DD 2.0, subtitles: English), 6 deleted scenes (with introduction by George Lucas and Rick McCallum - approx 10 mins total, 16x9 enhanced, languages: English DD 5.1 EX - Grievous Slaughters a Jedi: Escape from the General (Animatic), A Stirring in the Senate (Bail's Office), Seeds of Rebellion (Padmé's Apartment), Confronting the Chancellor (Palpatine's Office), A Plot to Destroy the Jedi? and Exiled to Dagobah), 15 web documentaries (approx 5 mins each, 16x9 enhanced, languages: English DD 2.0 - Two Worlds, One Movie, One World, Two Movies, We Still Do a Little Bit, Creating General Grievous, This Weapon is Your Life, Video Village, Epic Designs for an Expanding Universe, C-3P0: His Moment to Shine, Pick-Ups & Re-Shoots, Becoming Obi-Wan, The Wookies Are Back, B-107: The Life of an HD Tape, The Creatures of Episode III, Endlessly Compelling: The Music of Episode III and Becoming Sidious), 2 theatrical trailers (16x9, DD 2.0), 15 TV spots (4x3, DD 2.0), A Hero Falls music video (16x9, DD 2.0), promo trailers for Star Wars: Battlefront II and Star Wars: Empire at War videogames, Star Wars: Battlefront II Xbox game demo (2 playable levels), production photo gallery, poster art gallery, outdoor print campaign gallery, DVD-ROM weblink (to exclusive Star Wars DVD website), animated film-themed menu screens with sound effects and music

Editor's Note: If you purchase the Revenge of the Sith DVD at Wal-Mart stores, you'll receive an exclusive bonus DVD (while supplies last) called The Story of Star Wars. It includes the The Story of Anakin Skywalker and The Story of Luke Skywalker "recap" documentaries (30 mins each - 4x3, DD 2.0).


"A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..."

It's been three years since the events of Episode II, and the Clone Wars have ravaged the galaxy. Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi have become legendary heroes of the conflict, having led the Republic's clone legions in many successful campaigns against the vast droid armies of the Separatists.

After a particularly fierce battle over Coruscant in which the cunning commander of the enemy forces, General Grievous, narrowly escapes, Anakin and Obi-Wan return to the capitol and learn that while the Jedi are spread precariously thin across the galaxy, the war seems to be turning in their favor. Despite this, however, the Senate continues to vote Chancellor Palpatine ever greater emergency powers, raising serious concerns among the Jedi Council.

Meanwhile, Anakin reveals to his secret wife, Padmé, that he's struggling to remain on the Jedi path. Despite the guidance of his friend and mentor, Obi-Wan, Anakin is having difficulty containing his ambitions. Soon after learning that Padmé is pregnant, he's plagued by nightmares of her death. Afraid of losing his love as he once lost his mother, Anakin becomes desperate... and vulnerable. Little does he know, the Dark Lord of the Sith is about to emerge from the shadows to complete a diabolical plan a thousand years in the making - a plan that will pit friend against friend, transform Republic into Empire... and forge Anakin's ultimate destiny.

Revenge of the Sith is far darker and more intense than either of the two films that preceded it. It starts out with a bang, with an amazing sequence of action and CG effects, then slows down for a time as the story's various levels of character and political intrigue begin evolving to their inevitable resolution. Thankfully, about halfway in, things start to really hit the fan and the tension builds almost exponentially until the film's final moments. What really makes Episode III work is its strong emotional thru-line. This is not a happy story, but Lucas has finally managed to make you connect with, and feel for, his characters in a visceral way. As one tragic set of events after another unfolds, it's very easy as a viewer to get caught up in the drama.

It also certainly helps that the second half of this film is NOTHING but the stuff we've all been waiting years to see. Lucas has hinted in past interviews at just how it was that Anakin came to be transformed into the formidable Darth Vader that we're all familiar with. Now you finally get to see that happen. Phantom and Clones were mere appetizers to this film (and they're actually diminished, I think, by comparison). Sith gives us, at long last, the main course of the prequel trilogy's backstory.

The acting is better in Episode III almost across the board. Gone is Hayden Christensen's occasional awkwardness as Anakin in the last film. Here he only has to brood and glower, but he does it well indeed. Natalie Portman (Padmé) and Ian McDiarmid (Palpatine) finally get to emote rather than just standing around in Kabuki apparel delivering flat dialogue about trade sanctions and executive orders. But once again, the real stand-out is Ewan McGregor, who absolutely nails the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi, perfectly capturing Alec Guinness' subtle nuances of performance in the original films. A real treat to watch here, McGregor too finally gets to express some genuine emotion for a change.

The CG animation, while still imparting a somewhat artificial beauty to the imagery, has never been more intricate and gorgeous to look at. The action, particularly the lightsaber battles, is easily the saga's best (and by a WIDE margin). Jar Jar Binks, though he appears briefly twice, barely utters a word (as 3P0 might say, "Thank the Maker!"). Better still, Revenge of the Sith is absolutely rife with hallmark, connective moments that firmly tie the prequel trilogy to A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. And there are two new bits of particularly interesting information that we're given in Sith - things that I have to say came as a bit of a surprise to me. The first is given almost in passing in the middle of the film (and involves how Anakin's creation by the midichlorians happened), while the second comes very near the end (and explains how Ben is able to speak with Luke after death in Empire and Jedi). Both will force you to reconsider the complete saga in something of a new light.

All of this is not to say that Revenge of the Sith doesn't have its flaws. Several moments of juvenile humor early in the film seem very out of place given the dark and unsettling intensity of the last act. Trust me, this film is rated PG-13 for a reason. There's disturbing imagery here that is definitely not appropriate for younger children (although I applaud Lucas for having the wherewithal to give this film the more adult edge the story demands). The dialogue, while somewhat better than in the previous two films, still occasionally sounds flat. The Jedi continue to appear, for all their powers, to be a surprisingly clueless bunch (and they pay dearly for it). In addition, after the opening sequence, and before the film really takes off in the second half, there's a bit too much... well, padding is the best word for it. And while most of the various plot threads between the two trilogies are tied up nicely by the time the words 'Directed by George Lucas' appear on screen, there are a couple of minor inconsistencies that remain unresolved. You can reasonably expect that entire books will be written in the years to come attempting to resolve these outstanding issues. Hey... Lucas has gotta give his fans SOME reason to buy all that future Star Wars swag, right?

Revenge of the Sith is Lucasfilm's second full-length, live action film shot on high-definition video. As a result, like Attack of the Clones before it, Sith arrives on DVD with a straight-digital transfer. No actual film was involved - the anamorphic widescreen DVD image was created directly from the final digital master files for the film. So how does it look? In a word... jaw-dropping. Some others that apply: mind-blowing, ridiculous, stupefying (but in a good way). The quality here is spectacular. There's excellent contrast and shadow delineation, and an almost shockingly rich color pallet with stunningly vibrant shadings. The image clarity is so good that it conveys tremendous depth-of-field. The 24p HD video process used to shoot Sith renders a surprisingly film-like image on DVD (although as I noted above, the CG imagery is so over the top that its beauty is still a bit artificial looking). Given that there's so much complex motion and action going on in almost every frame, there IS some light compression artifacting visible from time to time. But it's definitely minor, and you're likely only to notice it on a very large projection screen. In any rate, there's just no doubt that this transfer is right at the cutting edge of what the current DVD format can do with 480p video. It's an extraordinary visual experience. To call it reference quality would almost be an insult. I pitty the fool who buys this disc and DOESN'T watch it on at least a 50" anamorphic display. Note that Sith on DVD is the exact same cut that was shown in theaters - no additional footage or scenes have been added for this release.

They say that audio is fully half of the cinema experience... so I'm sure you know what I'm going to say next. The Dolby Digital 5.1 EX Surround track offered on this DVD is every bit as good as you'd expect from the likes of sound designer Ben Burtt, AND more. It's an incredibly aggressive mix, with an expansive front soundstage, deep and precise imaging, and smooth, enveloping use of the surrounds. The rear channels - especially that center back - expand the soundscape around the listener, wrapping you completely in the film's sonic environment. The panning and directional effects here will keep you right on the edge of your seat, as swarms of spacecraft, laser blasts and the electric hum of clashing sabers doppler-shift all around you. Dialogue is clear and John Williams' climactic score is wonderfully laced through the mix. And the bass! You'll feel the low-frequency rumble of cannon fire and explosions right in your guts. Just watch the opening space battle over Coruscant, or the final saber duel on Mustafar, and you will be amazed. Episode III is THE new reference DVD by a wide margin... as it damn well should be.

The special features on this 2-disc set aren't quite as good as those on the previous Episode I and II DVDs... but they're still well worth checking out. For my money, one of the best extras is another full-length audio commentary track with creator/director George Lucas on Disc One, edited together with several other members of the production team (see the full list above). It's my favorite thing on the disc because you get to hear Lucas finally explain a bit of the character motivations and political double-dealings we've all known were happening, but which have only been alluded to prior to this film. Lucas at last gets to speak about the saga as a whole, and how all the pieces fit together. The track is packed with information from George and his various production lieutenants. As with the previous DVDs, subtitle text appears at the top of your screen to identify each speaker in turn.

A couple of additional notes about Disc One: the menus are once again available in three distinctive themes, each representing a major planetary location in the film - Utapau, Coruscant and Mustafar. They appear randomly (unless specifically selected using the instructions below) and offer both film images and much new animation. The disc includes another THX Optimizer to properly calibrate your home theater - a must to enjoy the best experience of this DVD. There's also a good Easter egg on Disc One. It's... well, let's just say that Yoda really knows how to break it down and bust a move. It's pretty funny and is well worth a look. It's also the only Easter egg on this DVD release (there are no Easter eggs on Disc Two).

The extras on Disc Two are formatted in the same fashion as those on the Episode II DVD. This time around, you get 6 deleted scenes in full anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 EX audio. These include a trio of scenes involving Padmé and the birth of the Rebel Alliance, a deleted sequence in which we see Grievous kill the Jedi Shaak Ti and Anakin and Obi-Wan escaping from his trap (some of which is in animatic format), a scene with Obi-Wan, Yoda and Mace Windu discussing the plot to destroy the Jedi... and one that's going to be a BIG hit with fans: Yoda's arrival in exile on Dagobah (that would have been part of the end of the film). For those wondering about the brief Qui-Gon scene that was in the original script, McCallum said at the press event for the DVD release that it was only ever completed in animatic format and was later dropped - Liam Neeson's voice was never recorded.

The documentary material on Disc Two begins with Within a Minute: The Making of Episode III, which runs nearly 80 minutes. I like the way Lucasfilm has tried to keep these documentaries fresh and different on each disc, and the idea behind THIS piece is really great. McCallum acts as a sort of narrator or host, taking you behind-the-scenes on the making of a 49-second piece of footage from the film's climactic lightsaber duel on Mustafar. Rick introduces each production department and explains its role (we see a flow chart-like representation of each department and its staff), then we're shown a few minutes of behind-the-scenes footage of those people at work and explaining what's involved in their jobs. At the end of each little sequence (there are 33 in all), there's a quick credit roll with the names of everyone in the department. Within a Minute is pretty good and is certainly interesting. It accomplishes a few things very well. First, it really gives you a sense of just how many hundreds of people and man hours are required to make a film like Episode III (in this case, 910 artists and 70,441 hours just for this 49-second clip alone). It also gives you a very accurate idea of what it's like to work on a film of this complex nature, and it's a nice way to give each of the many artists involved a nod of thanks. The drawback of the documentary's format, however, is that it gets very repetitive after a while. In addition, it almost accomplishes its task of showing you what it's like to work on a film TOO well. What I mean by that is, anyone who has ever actually worked on a film will tell you that it's generally an exceedingly dull, lengthy and arduous process. On the effects side of things, it usually involves long days and nights sitting in a dark room in front of video monitors. So while Within a Minute is fascinating, it's also hard to watch the whole thing in one sitting.

Next up on the disc are a pair of behind-the-scenes featurettes. It's All for Real focuses on the stunt work involved in the making of the film (particularly the lightsaber fights), while The Chosen One examines Anakin's final transformation into Vader, and how that fits in with the rest of the films as a whole. Together, these run about a half hour. I wish they were a little longer and more in-depth, but they're good and worth checking out. I should note that all of the documentaries and featurettes listed here are in anamorphic widescreen - a nice touch.

Disc Two also acts as an archive for material most of you will already have seen before. This includes the "web documentary" series on the making of the film that's available on the official Star Wars website (although only 15 of the complete 18 parts are included here, likely for disc space reasons - missing are Going to the Dark Side, Behind the Curtain and Ten Gallons of Buildings), the film's teaser and theatrical trailers, 15 TV spots, the A Hero Falls music video that was seen on MTV, and galleries of production photos, one-sheet poster art and the film's outdoor print campaign. There are also previews for the forthcoming Lucasarts video games Star Wars: Battlefront II and Star Wars: Empire at War. Those of you with Xbox systems will be thrilled to learn that you can insert this DVD in game console and play two complete demo levels of Battlefront II, including the opening space battle over Coruscant (the full game streets on the same day as this DVD). Finally, as with the previous Star Wars DVDs, Episode III includes PC DVD-ROM weblinks that will take you to a special online site featuring additional exclusive material.

FYI, if you purchase the Revenge of the Sith DVD at Wal-Mart stores, you'll receive an exclusive bonus DVD (while supplies last) called The Story of Star Wars. It includes two 30-minute documentaries (4x3, DD 2.0), each hosted/narrated by C3P0 and R2D2. The first, The Story of Anakin Skywalker recaps the events of Episodes I & II. The second, The Story of Luke Skywalker, summarizes the events of Episodes IV, V & VI. They're pretty cheesy, consisting almost entirely of excerpts from the other films. They seem to be targeted at kids, and those adults who need to be Cliff Noted prior to viewing Episode III as a reminder of what's happened so far and what comes next. Die-hard fans and completists will probably want the bonus DVD, but otherwise it's not worth going out of your way for.

Ultimately, and despite its share of problems, I think it's fair to say that Lucas has crafted the best climax we could reasonably expect given the realities of The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. While Revenge of the Sith is not a truly great film, it is EASILY the strongest of the three prequels, as well as the most thrilling and emotionally engaging. Much more importantly, it is undeniably the most satisfying film of Lucas' newest trilogy. By my thinking, Sith rightly takes its place as the third best entry in the Star Wars saga, behind Empire and A New Hope. And while its extras aren't going to really blow you away, this new 2-disc DVD delivers the film in the kind of picture and sound quality home theater-philes would gladly turn to the Dark Side for.

Like many of you out there, Star Wars was the film that first ignited my imagination back in 1977, and awakened in me a life-long interest in the cinema. And like many of you, I've been waiting 28 years for the Star Wars experience to come full circle.

That wait is over. The Saga is finally complete on DVD... for now.

After all, you just KNOW there's a super-über, high-definition Blu-ray Disc box set coming in a few years...

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com


Be sure to read all our Star Wars DVD reviews here at The Bits:

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones
Star Wars: Clone Wars - Volume One
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
The Star Wars Trilogy - A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi


Buy this DVD now at Amazon!



Easter egg Instructions

Disc One

To access the Coruscant menu scheme, press "1" during the FBI warning screen.

To access the Utapau menu scheme, press "2" during the FBI warning screen.

To access the Mustafar menu scheme, press "3" during the FBI warning screen.

To access the Hip Hop Yoda music video (featuring Don't Say Nuthin' by The Roots) and DVD credits, go to the Options menu page. Press "11" and wait for the pause as the player accepts the input (it may be "10+" and "1" depending on your player model). Then press "3" and wait for the pause. Finally, press "8".

Disc Two

There are no Easter eggs on Disc Two
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