“The saga is complete.”
That movie tagline says very little, yet it does its job very well. George Lucas chose wisely when he decided to make the “middle trilogy” of his saga first. If he had started with Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, it seems unlikely that the Star Wars saga would have become the iconic “space opera” of our era. If he had attempted to make them in numeric order, he may not have gotten past number one. With Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, Lucas completes the back story of Anakin Skywalker, his children, Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda. Although this film has plenty of insight of its own, its largest attraction may be to those who wish to see the history behind the world and characters of the central Star Wars movies.
After the opening logos and credits, followed by the traditional Star Wars receding text giving a summary of what has gone before, the movie opens with two space fighters flying among a huge fleet of battle cruisers. After an enormous spread of CGI eye candy, eventually the camera focuses on R2-D2, one of the 'droids whose exploits feature in all the movies of the saga. R2-D2 co-pilots the fighter flown by Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen). Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) lead a group of fighters attacking troops led by Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) and General Grievous (a seemingly unhealthy but android CGI character) who hold Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) prisoner. “Buzz 'droids” attack both Obi Wan's and Anakin's fighters, but Anakin, with R2-D2's help, saves Obi Wan and himself, landing in the cruiser which carries the Chancellor.
Through a series of minor battles, they make their way to where the captive is held by Count Dooku. There the undisciplined but talented Anakin defeats Dooku. With the urging of Palpatine, Anakin dispatches Dooku in a manner that hints at events to come. While a huge space battle transpires and Gen. Grievous escapes, Palpatine, Anakin, Obi Wan and R2-D2 survive by making a planetary landing of the disabled battle cruiser.
Later on Coruscant, the seat of the Old Republic, R2-D2 tells C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) of the events. Palpatine meets with Jedi leader Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) relating to him what has occurred, while Anakin tells a similar tale to Senator Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits). Anakin sees Padmé (Natalie Portman), excuses himself from his conversation with the Senator and goes to her. They embrace and she tells him her latest news. That night Anakin has a dream which he believes shows Padmé dying. He discusses the premonition with Yoda (muppet voiced by Frank Oz), who gives him sage advice that Anakin does not heed.
Palpatine names Anakin as his representative to the Jedi Council, but the council maintains its own independence in part by not prematurely promoting Anakin to the rank of Jedi Master. The Jedi Council suspects Palpatine of lusting after power. Palpatine exploits Anakin's impatience and lack of discipline, along with his fear of losing Padmé, to drive a wedge between Anakin and the Jedi masters, even his mentor: Obi Wan. I've relayed enough to introduce the players and set the scene for the story which unfolds: a story that finishes the tale of how the Jedi lose their influence, how Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader and how the Old Republic becomes the Galactic Empire.
George Lucas' saga tells a story very relevant for our times. Many of the lines said in dialog may sound extremely familiar to someone who follows events in our world today. One might think that Lucas comments specifically about the topics in the news, and he may. Who can know that but him? However, patterns in human history hint at another reason Lucas tells this story that way. Lucas studies myths. Star Wars owes a great deal to mythic thinking which reflects human history in its stories. Many other countries give precedents for a fall from relative liberty into empire. The USA breaks no new ground in that respect. The ingredients for empire seem stable: military conquest and rising executive power. They provide good mythic material for this piece of the Star Wars saga.
I recommend viewing the Star Wars saga episodes in the order in which they were made. Seeing liberty regained and the triumph of good over evil first, makes for an easier appreciation of this great story. However, if you've already seen the central Star Wars stories, then you may want to know how the world of those stories came to be. That story is told by the second trilogy (episodes 1-3). This movie has the greatest part of that story. If you consider yourself an individualist and like science fiction / ”space opera,” then I recommend Star Wars highly. It shows how a small band of rebels can defeat a great empire. However, Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith can aid in understanding how empires come to be. If more people have that knowledge, perhaps the cycle can be stopped.