The first film in the series to be rated higher than PG, this is a dark, brutal, and incredible farewell to the series that couldn't avoid being criticized simply based on expectations. Episode III is unrelenting in special effects, flawlessly creating worlds we've never been to, making this a fresh sequel that still meshes with the rest of the series. The dialogue is brutal to sit through though.
Beginning with a fantastic space battle, Episode III doesn't waste anytime in moving to its conclusion. Information is provided quickly to clear up any loose ends left leading into Episode IV, and there's an obvious focus on Anakin's slow shift to Darth Vader. It's never boring, Lucas's special effects team making sure every frame is magnificent to look at.
It can be argued that it's just a special effects film, and that's missing the point. This is exactly what the Star Wars films are about, taking the audience somewhere they'll never go, and providing a classic good and evil conflict to get us there. It's about the fantastic, and Episode III does that better than any of the films in this series.
More evidence of that is in the dialogue, the easiest portion of the film to criticize. There are lines included here that couldn't have destroyed the impact any more. They're film stoppers, the type that just make you shake your head. The acting, especially from Hayden Christensen at certain points, is abysmal. Sadly, it's actually a step up from Episode II.
These conversations end up being forgettable in the onslaught of explosions, laser blasts, and CG sets. They exist solely to give a purpose for the fighting, and that's what fans have waited for. The final struggle of Mustafar was worth the wait. That's the payoff and anything before it is almost irrelevant. (***** out of *****)
Up until that climax, this is another stunning digital transfer. Detail comes through unlike it does on any other DVD, and the aliasing problems that generally plague this series (caused by the immense detail in the ships) are brief. It's almost become pointless to discuss the video on these discs. That's the case here too, at least until the Mustafar lightsaber brawl. The reds and oranges just kill the entire segment, showcasing the compression artifacts. They're brutal, bleeding through and giving the entire sequence a blocky, jagged appearance. It's one of the few scenes where there are any issues, and they're bad enough to nearly ruin the finale. (****)
Not surprisingly, the audio here makes the disc worth owning. The brief fight between Yoda and Palpatine is arguably the best from an audio standpoint. The bass blaring as senate chairs go flying is unmatched. The same goes for the surround work, creating a rich, lively sound field through the entire film. Movement is captured in a realistic, flowing fashion. Any conversation is mixed so you'll hear each line without being overpowered by other things in the environment. (*****)
As is the norm, the special features set doesn't look like a lot, but there's enough content here to satisfy any fan of the series. The usual commentary from Lucas and his crew is included. It's active, and there's nothing they don't discuss about the making of this epic. It's a nice roundtable discussion.
Within a Minute is the long, extensive documentary this time, showing audiences what it took to create the less-than-a-minute battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan. This is a nearly hour and a half look at a minute of film. It's a great insight into what it takes to create these films.
It's All for Real is 11 minutes, focusing on the stunts. It looks at both the training Christensen and McGregor underwent for the final battle and the stunt doubles that took over at certain points. The Chosen One delves into Darth Vader lore, how he came to be, and who he really is. There's some great behind-the-scenes footage of Lucas coaching Christensen on set, and some nice personal thoughts on who Vader is.
There's an extensive amount of deleted scenes, some finished and some not. Each comes with an introduction on where it would have gone and why it's no longer there. Fifteen web documentaries are standard fare now for the prequel DVDs, each premiering on the internet and focusing on a specific portion of the process. They vary in length, and offer a better look at other sequences not shown in the main documentary.
Finally, it's down to a Battlefront II Xbox demo, a slew of trailers, and still shots. The stills gallery is well worth going through, the captions offering some needed humor and glimpses of deleted scenes. The entire presentation is par for prequel discs, but easily above a standard special edition. (****)
There's something funny about Star Wars fans. It will show through when sales numbers are released for this final chapter, just as if it did for the previous two. They complain, they whine, and they claim to hate these new entries, yet these always end up being the hottest selling discs for a solid month after release. Who are these people that claim to disown this prequel trilogy? Closest fans.