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George Lucas
Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Smits, Frank Oz, Anthony Daniels, Christopher Lee, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew
Writing Credits:
George Lucas

The Star Wars saga is now complete on DVD with Episode III Revenge of the Sith. Torn between loyalty to his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the seductive powers of the Sith, Anakin Skywalker ultimately turns his back on the Jedi, thus completing his journey to the dark side and his transformation into Darth Vader. Experience the breathtaking scope of the final chapter in spectacular clarity and relive all the epic battles including the final climactic lightsaber duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan.

Box Office:
$115 million.
Opening Weekend
$108.435 million on 3661 screens.
Domestic Gross
$380.209 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital EX 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
Spanish Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 140 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 11/1/2005

Disc One
• Audio Commentary by Writer/Director George Lucas, Producer Rick McCallum, Animation Director Rob Coleman, and ILM Visual Effects Supervisors John Knoll and Roger Guyett
• THX Optimizer
• Easter Eggs
Disc Two
• Deleted Scenes
• “Within a Minute” Documentary
• “The Chosen One” Featurette
• “It’s All For Real: The Stunts of Episode III” Featurette
• 15-Part Web Documentary
• “A Hero Falls” Music Video
• Production Photo Gallery
• Theatrical Posters and Ad Campaign
• Trailers and TV Spots
• Video Game Trailers
• Video Game Demo


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 10, 2005)

Back in 1999, geeks all over the world rejoiced when the Star Wars franchise resumed with The Phantom Menace. Since exactly 12 people over the age of nine – myself included – actually liked the movie, this put more pressure on the two flicks that would follow it. 2002’s Attack of the Clones failed to measure up to those expectations. Most preferred it to Menace but still believed it fell well short of the heights reached by the original trilogy.

That left George Lucas and company with one last shot to regain glory: 2005’s Revenge of the Sith. Lucas promised a darker affair than the often light and goofy Menace and Clones and actually delivered. Sith still garnered complaints, but fans accepted it as a good conclusion to the prequel trilogy.

How well Sith will hold up years down the road remains to be seen, but I agree with the sentiments that like it. Flawed but mostly successful, Sith acts as a nice sendoff for this series.

At the end of Clones, we saw the beginning of the Clone Wars. These took place between films and can be checked out via a very good cartoon series. Sith starts as the Clone Wars end and the combatants pick up the pieces.

We learn that Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) leads a Separatist Army of droids that battles against the Galactic Republic. To that end, droid leader General Grievous (voiced by Matthew Wood) kidnaps Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). Jedi knights Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) head off to rescue him. They succeed, and Dooku ends up dead. However, this doesn’t end the war, as Grievous remains at large.

Palpatine uses the renegade General as a reason to escalate his emergency wartime powers, a factor that concerns many who fear that he takes more control than he needs. Palpatine recruits Anakin as part of his quest, for reasons that become more complicated due to Palpatine’s dual identity as Sith Lord Darth Sidious. He wants to bring Anakin on board as his new apprentice.

Along the way, Anakin learns that his secret wife Padme (Natalie Portman) is pregnant. Due to some premonitions, he fears that something bad may happen to her and tries to protect her as well as he can. Palpatine convinces him that he needs to take extreme measures to do so, and this leads Anakin on a route toward the Dark Side of the Force. The rest of the movie follows Anakin’s choices and their repercussions as well as the fate of the Jedi and the Republic as a whole.

That synopsis simplifies things and omits some elements. I did so for one main reason: the first act of Sith is a mess, at least until you’ve seen the movie a couple of times. I don’t think of myself as an expert on all things Star Wars, but as a fan since the first flick hit in 1977, I believe I know a lot more than the average moviegoer.

That said, when I initially saw Sith, I was pretty lost during the first act. Sith digs such a complex narrative about who fights who and who wants what that it becomes very easy to get confused along the way. I admit that I scratched my head more than a few times as the flick followed its dense tale.

This is a problem since it increases the potential that the movie will lose viewers. After a few minutes of nonsense, one may become tempted to give up on the story and zone out before much happens. That would be a mistake, since Sith takes off after a while, but the confusion will likely distance some folks.

All of this was unnecessary, since the first act machinations don’t matter a whole lot in the greater scheme of things. The movie needs to get into Anakin’s state of mind and his feelings. Some extracurricular material matters, but not as much as we find here.

Once the flick settles in, however, it becomes quite powerful. The turning point comes when Anakin performs an action so heinous that he clearly can’t turn back from the Dark Side. To avoid spoilers, I don’t want to specify what he does, but suffice it to say that his actions are terrifically evil.

To his credit, Lucas doesn’t wimp out and tame this sequence. The film goes all the way in its attempts to have Anakin turn toward the Dark Side. When I saw the movie theatrically, I marveled at the intensity of this section. For all Lucas’s promises that Sith would be a dark film, I never really believed him – until I saw this scene. It lives up to expectations.

The rest of Sith follows that trend. The occasional misfire still occurs, and the series continues to be hamstrung by Lucas’s awkward dialogue and some stiff performances. However, these don’t do nearly as much damage as in the prior flicks. The drama and intensity of Sith makes up for the flaws to present a passionate, moving narrative.

We feel Anakin’s torment as he descends – mostly. One problem comes from the series’ portrayal of that character. He always seemed kind of squirrelly and devious, so one wonders why the others seem surprised when he goes all nasty. The series never did a good job of establishing his positives; we hear about them but never feel them.

Nonetheless, Sith does a good job of conveying Anakin’s intentions and his dilemmas. We can see him as well-intentioned but misguided and impressionable. He neatly displays his conflict as he battles between ambition and responsibility. It’d have been nice to get a better feeling for his pleasant, engaging side, but I still think the movie depicts his path fairly well.

Does Revenge of the Sith live up to the levels reached by the original trilogy? I don’t think so. Some folks place it above Return of the Jedi, but I wouldn’t give it that much credit. Just because Sith is darker than Jedi and lacks fuzzy-wuzzy Ewoks doesn’t make it a better movie. Jedi delivers a more coherent narrative and a slightly more satisfying emotional punch, mainly because we cared so much more about the Original Trilogy’s characters.

A few hardy souls have placed Sith above Star Wars, and I suppose at least a couple prefer it to The Empire Strikes Back. On both accounts, that’s crazy talk. Though Sith is very good, it doesn’t merit a place on the same level as those two classics.

But it definitely outdoes its two immediate predecessors, and who knows? Maybe some day I’ll prefer it to Jedi. As it stands, Sith exists as a flawed but mostly satisfying conclusion to the prequel trilogy. For all its faults, it delivers the goods in the end. For the first time since 1983, I left a Star Wars movie with a feeling of satisfaction.

The DVD Grades: Picture A/ Audio A+/ Bonus A

Revenge of the Sith appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. As with Clones, Sith came from a digital transfer that never saw a frame of film. That meant another terrific visual presentation.

Sharpness seemed very strong, with only a few minor exceptions. Some wider shots of live-action elements betrayed a smidgen of softness. Those were infrequent, though, and all the computer-generated pieces displayed amazing detail. Since so much of the movie consisted of artificial components, that meant the majority of the film looked terrifically crisp and distinctive. I saw no jagged edges or edge enhancement, and only a couple small shots with shimmering occurred. No source defects appeared either, a fact that made sense since the transfer came straight from the computer.

Since Sith took place in many different settings, it offered a great deal of visual variety. That meant a broad palette that encompassed lots of vivid hues. From the searing rears of Mustafar to the lush jungle of Kashyyyk to all points in between, Sith boasted dynamic hues that popped off the screen. The colors consistently looked great, as did blacks. Dark shots demonstrated excellent depth, while shadows were clear. Low-light shots depicted solid delineation of the elements and never came across as too thick or dense. So much of Sith looked stunning that I almost went with an “A+” for the image. The occasional soft shot meant I couldn’t do that, but I nonetheless thought this was an excellent presentation.

I awarded “A+” grades to the audio of both The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. I hate giving “A+” grades but couldn’t see anyway around it in regard to those excellent mixes. Did the Dolby Digital 5.1 EX soundtrack of Revenge of the Sith match up with its predecessors? In a word – yup.

Sith featured the same audio production team as its predecessors, and that consistency showed with its smooth and seamless soundfield. From start to finish, the movie demonstrated a broad affair that utilized all the available channels. That didn’t mean it was stupidly active, though; it backed off appropriately during the film’s quieter dialogue sequences.

When it needed to kick into higher gear, though, the soundtrack was more than up to it requirements. The mix contributed a strong sense of place at all times and made the various settings come to life. Occasional examples of directional dialogue occurred, and the score offered a dynamic presence with good stereo imaging as well as support from the surrounds.

Of course, the effects created the best parts of the track, and they worked exceptionally well. All the many action sequences offered great definition and scope. They also blended smoothly and came together quite nicely. If forced to pick my favorite sequence, I think I’d go with Obi-Wan’s battle against General Grievous. Both their saber fight and their chase opened up the spectrum very well and turned into a demo-worthy scene.

No problems with audio occurred. Speech was crisp and natural, and I noticed no intelligibility problems or edginess. Music was bright and bold throughout the movie, as the track replicated John Williams’ score well. Effects depicted the expected levels of detail and aggression. They were lively and accurate as they presented strong definition. Highs sounded concise and tight, while lows were rich and firm. There was virtually nothing about which I could complain, as Sith ended the Star Wars saga with yet another standout soundtrack.

Folks who watched the other DVDs will feel at home with the supplements of Sith, as it follows the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" philosophy. Most of these elements appear on DVD Two, but the first platter includes a few bits, starting with an audio commentary. This track features director/writer George Lucas, producer Rick McCallum, animation director Rob Coleman, and ILM visual effects supervisors Roger Guyett and John Knoll. Although the commentary remains fairly screen-specific - the speakers clearly watched the movie as they spoke - most of the participants appear to have been recorded separately. I get the impression McCallum and Guyett sat together but the rest remain on their own, though I could be mistaken.

Two subjects dominate: story/characters and visuals. That breakdown makes sense given the work done by the participants as well as the nature of the film itself. Lucas provides quite a lot of good notes about the plot, the roles, and connected elements. He gets into a nice discussion of how the whole six-part saga fits together as well as character concerns, story points, homages, allusions to other flicks, and general production notes. He even offers a humorous explanation of why it took so long to build the first Death Star. Lucas provides the strongest material in this track.

Not that the others were chopped liver. They offered good notes about technical challenges and the movie’s design choices. Some good trivia appears along with the nuts and bolts of creating the effects and issues connected to the visual decisions. Another very good commentary, this one ends the series well.

Although there was no text version of the commentary, the track offered subtitles to identify the onscreen speakers. This was a nice touch. It worked better than spoken introductions, because it didn’t interfere with the flow of the program, and the text popped up whenever the speaker changed.

Also on DVD One was the THX Optimizer program. It purports to help you set up your home theater to best present the movie on the disc in question. Apparently the Optimizer is unique for each DVD on which it’s included; unlike programs such as Video Essentials, the Optimizer should tweak your set-up differently every time. Frankly, I’ve been very happy with my already-established calibration and I’m afraid to muck with it, so I’ve never tried the Optimizer. If you lack calibration from Video Essentials or a similar program, or if you’re just more adventurous than I, the Optimizer could be a helpful addition.

Some Easter Eggs appeared on DVD One. You can choose to vary the main menu screen and select any of the three choices via selections made during the FBI warning screen when the DVD starts. For Coruscant, hit “1” on your remote, while you should punch “2” for Utapau and “3” for Mustafar.

More interesting is DVD One’s other egg, a goofy Yoda animation. This 64-second piece shows the Jedi master as he raps and dances. It’s silly but mildly entertaining. DVD credits follow it. To get this, go to the “Options” screen and hit “10+” and “1” to make “11”, then punch “3” and “8” and you’ll go to this feature.

As we move to DVD Two, we find the bulk of the supplements, and these appear within different domains. I started with the six Deleted Scenes. Presented anamorphic 2.35:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, these last a total of nine minutes, 36 seconds via the “Play All” option. While the cut sequences from Clones were fun but insubstantial, these offer greater depth. In addition to a good action sequence and the much-anticipated shot of Yoda’s exile on Dagobah, we find a lot of exposition that shows the stirrings of the Rebel Alliance. I like these because they help flesh out that side of things, and they also add to Padme’s character. She’s much more of an active participant with these scenes restored. I don’t know how well they would have flowed if they’d stayed in the movie, but they add a lot.

The deleted scenes can be viewed with or without introductions. Those include comments from George Lucas and Rick McCallum. We get some notes about the scenes and find out why they didn’t make the final cut. These intros offer nice remarks that help flesh out our understanding of the shots.

The “Documentary and Featurettes” section includes three different programs. The main piece offers an intriguing focus. Instead of looking at the broad scope of the flick, Within a Minute: The Making of Episode III concentrates on what it takes to create one minute of the film. It looks at the Mustafar duel. The one-hour, 18-minute and 26-second show offers shots from the production, movie snippets, and comments. We get notes from Lucas, McCallum, Knoll, Guyett, Coleman, concept design supervisors Ryan Church and Erik Tiemens, concept artist Iain McGaig, pre-visualization/effects supervisor Daniel D. Gregoire, editor Roger Barton, editor/sound designer Ben Burtt, previsualization/effects artist Chris Edwards, production coordinator Virginia Murray, assistant Kevin Plummer, first assistant accountant Patrick Plummer, catering manager Kerry Fetzer, production designer Gavin Bocquet, construction manager Greg Hajdu, property master Ty Teiger, light saber technician Thomas Van Koeverden, makeup artist Shane Thomas, costume administrator Gillian Libbert, costume designer Trisha Biggar, actors Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor, swordmaster/stunt coordinator Nick Gillard, first assistant director Colin Fletcher, third AD Samantha Smith, script supervisor Jayne-Ann Tenggren, director of photography David Tattersall, “B” camera operator Simon Harding, “A” camera operator Calum McFarlane, high definition supervisor Fred Meyers, video split operator Michael Taylor, boom operator Rod Conder, sound recordist Paul “Salty” Brincat, location assistant editor Jason Ballantine, location apprentice editor John Briggs, assistant editor Jett Sally, technical supervisor Michael Blanchard, visual effects executive producer Denise Ream, production coordinator Nina Fallon, visual effects producer Janet Lewin, production assistant Brian Barlettani, layout artist Brian Cantwell, matchmove supervisor Jason Snell, animator Charles Alleneck, digital matte supervisor Jonathan Harb, digital matte artist Brett Northcutt, digital effects artist Philippe Rebours, CG supervisor John Helms, sequence supervisor Willi Geiger, digital model artist Kelvin Lau, practical model supervisor Brian Gernand, model maker Lorne Peterson, effects director of photography Patrick Sweeney, rotoscope supervisor Beth D’Amato, compositor Conny Fauser, supervising sound editor Matthew Wood, foley artist Jana Vance, sound editor/re-recording mixer Tom Myers, and composer John Williams.

“Minute” discusses what the producer does, the script, concept art, Steven Spielberg’s involvement, and pre-visualization. From there it gets into the work of the Sydney production office, catering, production design and construction of sets and props, hair, makeup and wardrobe, performances, stunts, levels of directing and script supervision, cinematography, audio, editing and reshoots. The show concludes with a look at all sides of visual effects, practical models and motion-control photography, rotoscoping, compositing and music. We also check out the final screening and some valedictory notes.

“Minute” truly gives us a look at every facet of the production. With information about elements such as catering and production offices, it’s hard to imagine any topic upon which the documentary doesn’t alight. To be certain, I’d bet this program’s list of onscreen interview subjects is longer than any other DVD documentary’s.

The depth of the information becomes a different matter, though. At its best, “Minute” can really dig into the subjects with nice detail and depth. These allow us to gain a real appreciation for the enormous scope of the production and just how many folks it takes to create a movie as complex as Sith.

However, this diversity can be a negative at times. Occasionally “Minute” feels more like an annotated credit reel than an actual documentary. Parts of it offer little more than names of participants and images of them.

Take that as a minor criticism, though. I like the concept of “Minute”, and I think it offers more than enough detail to make it worthwhile. It’s definitely a nice variation on the standard “making of” documentary, and it provides an unusual and informative look at the production.

Two featurettes follow. It’s All For Real: The Stunts of Episode III runs 11 minutes and four seconds and presents comments from Gillard, McGregor, Burtt, Lucas, McCallum, Christensen, and actor Ian McDiarmid. We learn about choreography and test shooting, fighting styles, doubles and use of the principal performers, and shooting the segments. Lightsaber material dominates the show, as we get a nice look at considerations in place for those segments. “Real” offers a solid examination of the issues involved with the physical action. I especially like the parts that look at how plans for the fight between Mace Windu and Palpatine was changed to more actively involve the real actors.

Lastly, The Chosen One fills 14 minutes and 37 seconds as it offers information from Lucas, Christensen, and creatures supervisor Dave Elsey. “One” covers the Anakin/Vader story as Lucas intended it, Christensen’s take on the role and what he attempted to do, facets of the part, Vader’s fighting style, and the physical transformation into Vader. Some of this presents basic character notes we already know, but there’s more depth than usual to the interpretation of Vader. It’s also great fun to see the physical elements and hear Christensen’s thoughts on being put in the iconic suit.

In the Web Documentaries domain, we got an additional 15 featurettes. These originally appeared on the official website. Each of these runs between four minutes, 54 seconds and eight minutes, 43 seconds for a total of 95 minutes and 58 seconds of footage. That’s significantly longer than the collections of web materials on the prior two releases.

The programs don’t connect as a coherent documentary, but they add good insight into many aspects of the production. Through them we get remarks from Lucas, Bocquet, Tiemens, Teiger, McCallum, Gillard, McCaig, Van Koeverden, Coleman, Tenggren, Taylor, Tattersall, Biggar, Barton, McDiarmid, McGregor, D’Amato, Knoll, Elsey, Harding, Blanchard, Sally, Burtt, Williams, set decorator Richard Roberts, key hairdresser Annette Miles, makeup supervisor Nikki Gooley, costume props supervisor Ivo Coveney, assistant Jacqui Louez, special effects supervisor Dave Young, concept artist Warren Fu, model shop supervisor Peter Wyborn, actors Christopher Lee, Rena Owen, Anthony Daniels, Genevieve O’Reilly, Silas Carson, Bruce Spence, Peter Mayhew, Samuel L. Jackson and Jimmy Smits, droid supervisor Dave Bies, dialogue coach Chris Neil, video operator Demitri Jagger, director of pick-up photography Giles Nuttgens, creature shop supervisor Rebecca Hunt, fabrication supervisor Lou Elsey, and logger John Briggs.

The featurettes cover running the production simultaneously from California and Australia in the early days, linking Sith to Star Wars and prep work, “old-fashioned” special effects, creating General Grievous, weapon design and construction, “Video Village” and the benefits of digital photography on the set, costumes, C-3PO’s role in Sith and related subjects, pick-ups and re-shoots, McGregor’s take on Obi-Wan, the use of Wookiees in Sith, how a digital tape gets from the camera to the screen, the film’s creatures, the score, and McDiarmid’s performance.

Since these featurettes originally appeared on the official web site, one might expect them to offer bland promotional material. Such an interpretation would be badly incorrect. The pieces inform and educate but don’t patronize or waste our time. They dig into their topics well and provide plenty of nice notes.

My favorite parts show attempts to make McGregor more closely resemble the older Alec Guinness, brainstorming the appearance of General Grievous, a comparison of original and re-shot sequences, and the Wookiee costumes. Some of the material and snippets repeat from the other elements on this disc, but not too much of that occurs. Instead, these clips supplement the prior documentaries and add plenty of terrific material in their own right. You get a little of the usual praise and happy talk, but not enough to detract from all the fine information.

Next we encounter a domain called “Video Games and Still Galleries”. For Star Wars; Battlefront II, we get a trailer for this game as well as an XBox Demo. Since I don’t own an XBox, I can’t check out that feature. We also find a trailer for the Star Wars: Empire at War game.

Next we go to some “Exclusive Production Photos”. These provide 105 stills from the set. They’re all candid images with none of the usual bland promotional shots, and they all feature helpful and informative captions. One nice touch stems from the viewer’s ability to zoom in on the photos and eliminate the captions if desired; this helps allow us to maximize the onscreen real estate. One-Sheet Posters offers 21 frames, though almost all of those showed the same image; the collection displayed the main poster with the title and credits translated into 20 different languages. The Outdoor Print Campaign includes seven pieces used to promote the movie.

“Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots” presents the clever ”Nostalgia” Teaser - an ad that highlights shots from prior movies to lead into Sith - plus the full ”Epic” Trailer. Both work well, but the teaser is particularly strong. In addition, a music video for “A Hero Falls” appears. It is pretty unspectacular, as it combines musical themes, movie clips and behind the scenes shots for a lackluster presentation. Possibly most annoying is the fact that lots of dialogue and other intrusive auditory elements detract from the music. The TV Spots area adds 15 more promos.

How history will view the Star Wars “prequel trilogy” remains to be seen. However, it seems likely that Revenge of the Sith will go down as the strongest of the three. While it suffers from some of the same flaws that marred its two predecessors, it packs much more of an emotional wallop and ends the series well. The DVD provides the usual excellent picture and quality as well as many fine supplements. This release falls into the “must buy” category and definitely gets my recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.419 Stars Number of Votes: 105
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