“It’s sad, dark, and basically a tearjerker.”

Is that really George Lucas talking? The creator of Ewoks and Jar Jar Binks? After seeing the film, allegedly the last in the series, it’s a less befuddling thing to hear. In fact, it perfectly describes “Revenge of the Sith”, which is in many ways the most dramatic of all six episodes.

While still lacking the Original Trilogy’s more grounded and organic feel (the prequels are almost cartoons) or any character as fun as Han Solo, Episode III is also free of the dull and stupid stretches that weighed down The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. What’s left is a non-stop FX ride that doubles as a surprisingly moving tragedy.

While the dialogue is occasionally stilted and usually charismatic actors like Ewan McGregor and Samuel L. Jackson are reduced to being little more than action figures, apparently having a hard time emoting against blue screens, the performances of Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman do work emotionally. Anakin Skywalker’s descent into the Dark Side is convincing and Padmé’s response to her husband’s fall is genuinely heartbreaking.

Full of anger, pride and fear, the Chosen One finds himself pulling away from Obi-Wan Kenobi and the Jedi Council, who don’t seem to trust him, and becoming ever closer to Chancellor Palpatine. Anakin believes that working to turn the Republic into an Empire will benefit everyone, including his beloved Padmé, but we all know how that will turn out…

As mentioned, the movie is as action-packed as it gets, but quantity doesn’t necessarily mean quality. The opening space battle, the endless droid-smashing and the five (yes, five!) lightsaber duels are all exciting enough, but there is nothing here quite as memorable as, say, the AT-AT attack on the ice planet in The Empire Strikes Back or the Endor speeder chase in Return of the Jedi. Lucas has a great imagination, but he’s not that great at actually crafting an action sequence. For Episode V and VI, he had the good sense to let other filmmakers take over. Can you imagine how much cooler these prequels would be if they had been directed by Tarantino, Yimou or Gans?

Still, the third act of “Revenge of the Sith”, from the execution of Order 66 until Anakin’s hardcore demise and the rise of Darth Vader, is absolutely riveting. And on a more frivolous level, there are also plenty of geeky thrills to enjoy: Anakin’s fancy new Barry Gibb hairdo, Padmé with two buns on her head to match those she has in the oven, Chewbacca giving Yoda a piggyback ride (!), C-3P0 going “Oh dear.” at every occasion, R2-D2 proving to be quite the resourceful little buzzing trashcan, etc.

“Star Wars – Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” should satisfy all the fans and breed new ones. The Force is strong in this one.