Matthew Boulter’s review published on Letterboxd:
A deeply frustrating yet impressively focused final instalment, singlehandedly responsible for people having even the vaguest positivity toward the prequel trilogy.
The last time I saw this having far preceded me even giving a thought to abstract and experimental cinema, now rewatching it I can confirm this is still of the strangest movies I’ve ever seen. For all this film’s achievements and vast improvements it makes over its awful predecessors, those very films still exist as not only inseparable entities from what we see here, but as literally responsible for laying the emotional, thematic, and narrative groundwork for practically everything here. As a result, as truly epic and moving and haunting and unforgettable many of the moments that make up this film are, placed after almost every single one of them is an asterisk saying, “this was contextualized by a couple stool samples of which George Lucas released as words on paper, and directions to cast and crew, which he then demanded us, his audience, to chew and swallow, à la Salo, in order to comprehend why we should care about this thing we are witnessing right now.” Thankfully there is enough subtext built into the characters and performances around Christensen’s Anakin here that gave me the ability to just entirely rewrite the character relationships that came before in my head, just so I could feel even a fraction of what I was supposed to feel.
I do want to say, that as harsh as I sound right now, I am simply voicing how bittersweet this film feels to me. A backhanded compliment, maybe, but equally as telling of how remarkable the film’s narrative choreography is in making so much out of so little.
This is John Williams at one of many career peaks, but I do think this is Williams at his most narratively contingent. And by that I mean, eliminate his score, and of all the films he’s scored, Revenge of the Sith would by far feel the most different. Where Episode I and II feel like their production and post-production creative styles feel at odds with one another—the latter trying to save the former—it feels like Lucas took valuable time to actually think about how to make his movies feel like singular visions again. The result is a newfound consistency across tone, theme, visual aesthetic, performance, and characterization. Although there are still a handful of ironically hilarious moments that pop up once in a while, like the speckles of shit still lodged in the grooves under your shoe after you’ve thoroughly washed it as best as you thought you could, and I’m sure everyone knows what I’m talking about lol.
But yeah, no, the way this was able to fulfill the fascism vs. insurgency allegory for which the saga was built upon, and then bring in a thoughtful, well-researched and plotted historical context is masterclass craftsmanship. It makes me so happy as a leftist Star Wars nerd to know that the rise of the Empire in built upon the people’s apathy toward longstanding political institutions and structures of power, a process that was accelerated by the power hungry opposition under the facade of populism, and then taken advantage of by those same individuals already with immense capital, now promising meaningful change but rather ends up being the other side of the same coin, now even more obtuse in its illicit activity. If Attack of the Clones wasn’t trying to make me feel like the creepy incel stuff was sincere, and that part of Anakin was purely a result of his shift to the dark side, making Darth Vader an incel could honestly have been a brilliant creative move on Lucas’ part. Too bad, as with a great many other choices in this film, nothing amazing happens without it also reminding you of how much better it could have been.