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. Star Wars: 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' 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. (*****)