We finally finished semi-binge watch of The Clone Wars
, and then re-watched Revenge of the Sith
as the finale and bookend to the series.
In general, Clone Wars
(CW) was much better than Revenge of the Sith
(RotS). The contrast between the quality of acting in the one vs the other was shocking and dramatic--the CW voice actors were quite good; with the exception of Palpatine's film actor (Ian McDiarmid), the RotS acting was terrible!
Matt Lanter, Anakin Skywalker's CW voice actor, did a much better job of sounding resentful, rebellious and dangerously angry than Hayden Christiansen did. Christiansen's performance made Anakin sound like a whiny, emo, entitled brat instead of a powerful young Jedi sliding inexorably towards the Dark Side. He simply did not sell Anakin as Sith Apprentice Darth Vader. Most of the time he sounded like he was stoned and phoning his performance in.
I blame inexperienced actors in the hands of a lousy director. Natalie Portman is supposed to be a decent actress, but her performance as Padmé was lackluster, to say the least. She also came across as phoning it in. Ewan MacGregor's performance as Obi-Wan Kenobi was better, but he still had a lot of scenes that should have been redone to actually show emotion. James Arnold Taylor, the CW VA, delivered a much better and more consistent performance as Obi-Wan. Samuel L. Jackson's performance was hampered by terrible dialogue (don't let Lucas write dialogue. Just don't!), but he delivered his lines well enough. Even so, Jackson's performance in RotS wasn't anywhere near the quality of his performance as Jules in Pulp Fiction
or Nick Fury in the MCU movies. I wonder how much better RotS would have been if Tarantino were directing it?
The one stand-out was Ian McDiarmid's performance as Chancellor Palpatine. I thought his performance was better than Ian Abercrombie's in Clone Wars
. I suspect he was an experienced enough actor that he could deliver a good performance even without a good director. He did a very good job of portraying Darth Sidious being, well, insidious and manipulative: showing Chancellor Palpatine acting like Anakin's apparent good friend and mentor, all the while slyly planting seeds of discontent and mistrust.
I can't say much about Chris Lee as Dooku in this movie, as his part was so short and a lot of his screen time was taken up by his stunt double. Corey Burton, Dooku's CW VA, did a damn good Chris Lee impression as Count Dooku, and was delightfully menancing. Of course he was--this is the guy who played TFA Megatron! (He's also Cad Bane, another convincingly scary character. Looking at his credits at IMDB, it's somehow appropriate that Burton plays Dracula in a lot of cartoons--a part that Chris Lee was famous for in his younger days).
Another thought I had is that the RotS actors are film actors, and had to do a lot of green-screen work in this movie, where they wouldn't have seen the special effects that are going on around them in the movie. The worst performances seemed to be in scenes where the actor would have just been sitting in a chair in front of a green-screen, imagining they were reading those lines in a ship that was on fire, crashing and exploding. A good director could still have coaxed a good performance out of them. Conversely, in Clone Wars
, the actors were mostly experienced voice actors, used to bringing characters to life when they can't see anything but a microphone and maybe some of the other actors reading their parts. Note that Ian McDiarmid was lucky enough that almost all of his lines were delivered in a more traditional film acting situation: to other actors on the same stage with him. That probably helped. Also, Clone Wars
was NOT directed by George Lucas, unlike RotS. That probably helped Clone Wars
The fight choreography also seemed a bit lacking compared to either Clone Wars
or any MCU movie. Only the final fight scene between Obi-Wan and Anakin, and Palpatine's massacre of the Jedi sent to arrest him conveyed the sheer viciousness of Sith vs. Jedi lightsaber battles that I saw all through Clone Wars
. The rest of lightsaber battles looked like a couple guys sparring (badly), to the point where Dooku suddenly losing both hands was almost Pythonesque in its absurdity. There was no energy
to those battles. I would chalk it up to the limitations of film vs. CGI, except that (a) the lightsabers are CGI, and (b) any fight in the MCU movies involving Captain America was done ten times better. Or, for examples with sword, any sword fight in an Errol Flynn movie, or the incredible fight choreography in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
. Tellingly, I cannot find credits for a choreographer for RotS.
However, I found this interesting tidbit on IMDB:
George Lucas allowed his friend Steven Spielberg to help design some sequences during pre-production. This was partly because Spielberg wanted the experience of using the 'pre-visualisation' techniques pioneered by ILM as he was going to use them for War of the Worlds (2005). It was also because Lucas felt that his roles as Writer, Director, Executive Producer and Financier were taking up too much of his time and he needed another director to bounce ideas off. Spielberg's main contribution was in the climactic lightsaber duel between Obi-wan and Anakin.
I want Obi-Wan's varactyl as a mount in WoW.