Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: Mar 25, 2020
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (4K UHD Review)

Director

George Lucas

Release Date(s)

2005 (March 31, 2020)

Studio(s)

Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox (Walt Disney Studios)
  • Film/Program Grade: C+
  • Video Grade: B-
  • Audio Grade: A+
  • Extras Grade: B

Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (4K Ultra HD)

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Review

“War! The Republic is crumbling under attacks by the ruthless Sith Lord, Count Dooku. There are heroes on both sides. Evil is everywhere…”

When the forces of Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) take Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) hostage, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker (Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen) manage to rescue him in a great battle over Coruscant. Palpatine rewards Anakin with a position on the Jedi Council, but Yoda and Mace Windu (Frank Oz and Samuel L. Jackson) deny him the rank of Master. Little do they know, Anakin and Padmé (Natalie Portman) have married in secret and are expecting a child. Suffering from nightmares of Padmé’s death in childbirth, Anakin confides his fears to Palpatine, who reveals a secret that could save her. And with the Jedi spread across the galaxy fighting the Clone Wars, the fate of the Republic will be sealed, friend will turn against friend, and the Sith will reveal themselves at last.

The remarkable thing about Revenge of the Sith is that the film works, regardless of the fact that its basic plot has been known by virtually every Star Wars fan since the 1980s. We know who Anakin must become and where his story will ultimately lead. Despite this—or perhaps because of it—writer/director George Lucas delivers a script with more credible dialogue and a film with greater narrative energy. Episode III falls well short of greatness, and its subject matter is by necessity quite dark, but Lucas and his production team manage to pull out all the stops. This is by far the most visually striking of the prequels and its computer-generated effects seldom falter. The acting is better this time too; McGregor channels the great Alec Guinness almost effortlessly to show us Obi-Wan Kenobi in his prime. McDiarmid is surprisingly good too, full of sinister intensity as the true nature of his character is revealed. Even Christensen seems more comfortable here, finally relaxing a bit into his role. Perhaps best of all, John Williams’ score is nothing short of magnificent, its stirring Battle of the Heroes a fitting accompaniment to the most frenetic, long-anticipated, and well-choreographed lightsaber duel in franchise history.

Like Attack of the Clones before it, Revenge of the Sith was captured entirely digitally, but this time in HDCAM SR (once again at 1080/24p) using Sony’s CineAlta HDC-F950 camera with Fujinon Cine Super spherical lenses. VFX were produced in 2K resolution and the film was finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate at the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. This source was used for both the previous DVD and Blu-ray releases, with mastering by Lowry Digital. Following Disney’s purchase of the Star Wars franchise in 2012, the decision was made to produce new 4K Digital Intermediates of each film. In a process supervised by Reliance MediaWorks (formerly Lowry Digital), the 2K DI was upsampled. For this new Ultra HD release (and for Disney+), a new high dynamic range color grade was completed as well (HDR10 is available on the disc, with Dolby Vision available on the Digital version).

The resulting 4K presentation is actually quite pleasing and uniformly consistent. The upsampling is fairly impressive, with state-of-the-art “film look” processing lending the image a more cinematic and less digital appearance than the previous Blu-ray edition. Detail is a little soft, especially fine texturing—no one would mistake this for native 4K. But the good news is that HDCAM SR actually offers true 10-bit color (with 4:4:4 chroma subsampling), thus allowing the HDR grade to make more of a difference. It deepens the shadows, while giving the highlights a little more pop (with peak brightness set at 1000 nits, per the disc’s metadata). The color does have a bit of added depth and nuance over the previous Blu-ray. It’s actually a pleasing image. And the average datarate of 50-60 Mbps (with peaks into the 90s) means it also bests the Disney+ presentation (of 15-25 Mbps) with noticeably greater dimensionality. I should add, fans will be pleased to know that the 20th Century Fox logo still appears at the start of the film (as it should).

Better yet, Revenge of the Sith is a sonic marvel. Primary audio on the 4K disc is included in English Dolby Atmos. Additional options include English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, Japanese 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, and French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, with subtitles available in English for the Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish, and Japanese. The opening space battle over Coruscant delivers a dizzying array of effects panning and movement that lights up all channels, with sound cues that swirl around the soundstage—even above it into the height channels. Surprisingly effective in terms of atmospherics—not to mention its unsettling guttural choral performance—is the scene with Palpatine and Anakin at the opera house. The battles on Kashyyyk and Utapau are impressive too. But nothing can match the furious final lightsaber duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan on Mustafar, as lava sizzles, saber blades buzz and clash, and sirens and tortured metal ring out all around. The dialogue remains clear and natural sounding at all times. And Williams’ score delivers an emotional wallop in fine fidelity. Again, it’s hands-down a reference surround sound experience. Note that the included movie Blu-ray offers 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, and French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, with optional subtitles in English for the Hearing Impaired, French, and Spanish.

Disney’s Ultra HD package is a 3-disc set that includes the film in both 4K on UHD and 1080p HD on Blu-ray (the latter is mastered from the new 4K source, as the grading is less candy-colored than the previous BD). The package also includes a separate Blu-ray Disc of bonus material, but there’s nothing new here—all of it is curated from previously-available content. (Both Blu-rays are coded for Regions A, B & C.) Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:

DISC ONE – 4K MOVIE

There are no extras on the 4K disc.

DISC TWO – BLU-RAY MOVIE

  • Audio Commentary (with George Lucas, Rick McCallum, Rob Coleman, John Knoll, and Roger Guyett) – from the 2005 DVD
  • Audio Commentary from Archival Interviews with the Cast and Crew (including Trisha Biggar, Gavin Bocquet, Ben Burtt, Silas Carson, Hayden Christensen, Rob Coleman, Anthony Daniels, Nick Gillard, Roger Guyett, Samuel L. Jackson, John Knoll, Christopher Lee, George Lucas, Rick McCallum, Ian McDiarmid, Ewan McGregor, Temura Morrison, Natalie Portman, and Jimmy Smits) – from the 2011 Blu-ray

DISC THREE – BLU-RAY EXTRAS

  • Conversations: The Star Wars That Almost Was (HD – 5:04)
  • Discoveries from Inside: Hologram & Bloopers (HD – 3:21)
  • Within a Minute: The Making of Episode III (SD – 78:30)
  • The Journey: Part 1 (SD – 7:01) – 2005 Star Wars.com exclusive
  • The Journey: Part 2 (SD – 5:32) – 2005 Star Wars.com exclusive
  • ILM Episode III Siggraph Reel (SD – 4:05)
  • Star Warriors (SD – 83:59)
  • Star Wars Tech (HD – 45:36)
  • Coruscant Overview (HD – 5:19)
  • Samuel L. Jackson Interview (HD – 2:34)
  • Utapau Overview (HD – 4:52)
  • Mustafar Overview (HD – 4:29)
  • Natalie Portman Interview (HD – 2:11)
  • Kashyyyk & Order 66 Overview (HD – 5:43)
  • Deleted Scene: Grievous Slaughters a Jedi/Escape from the General (SD – 2:45)
  • Deleted Scene: Elevator Antics (SD – 1:31)
  • Deleted Scene: Escape Through the Hangar (SD – 2:31)
  • Deleted Scene: Changes to the Constitution (SD – 1:56)
  • Deleted Scene: A Plot to Destory the Jedi? (SD – :56)
  • Deleted Scene: Seeds of Rebellion (Padmé’s Apartment) (SD – :57)
  • Deleted Scene: Utapau Chase Animatics (SD – 8:26)
  • Deleted Scene: Kashyyyk Attack and Order 66 Animatic (SD – 6:38)
  • Deleted Scene: Anakin Kills Shaak Ti (SD – :29)
  • Deleted Scene: Jedi Imposters at the Temple (SD – :39)
  • Deleted Scene: Senate Duel Animatic (SD – 5:26)
  • Deleted Scene: Mustafar Duel Animatics (SD – 3:29)
  • Deleted Scene: Mustafar Duel/Lava River Animatics (SD – 3:42)
  • Deleted Scene: Yoda Communes with Qui-Gon (SD – :52)
  • Deleted Scene: Exiled to Dagobah (SD – :36)
  • The Collection: Separatist Cruiser Concept Model (360° Turnaround – HD – 2:41)
  • The Collection: Arc-170 Starfighter Concept Model (360° Turnaround – HD – 2:08)
  • The Collection: Jedi Starfighter Concept Model (360° Turnaround – HD – 2:33)
  • The Collection: Count Dooku Lightsaber (360° Turnaround – HD – :43)
  • The Collection: Palpatine Gray Trade Federation Costume (360° Turnaround – HD – :30)
  • The Collection: Anakin Costume and Headset (360° Turnaround – HD – :39)
  • The Collection: Boga with Obi-Wan Maquette (360° Turnaround – HD – 2:34)
  • The Collection: Utapau Sinkhole Maquette (360° Turnaround – HD – 2:31)
  • The Collection: Utapau Landing Platform Maquette (360° Turnaround – HD – 2:05)
  • The Collection: General Grievous Maquette (360° Turnaround – HD – 2:15)
  • The Collection: Tion Medon Costume (360° Turnaround – HD – 2:15)
  • The Collection: Obi-Wan Lightsaber (360° Turnaround – HD – :35)
  • The Collection: Anakin Lightsaber (360° Turnaround – HD – :35)
  • The Collection: Mustafar Landscape Maquette (360° Turnaround – HD – 1:46)
  • The Collection: Burnt Anakin Head (360° Turnaround – HD – 3:25)
  • The Collection: Wookiee Tree Maquette (360° Turnaround – HD – 3:19)
  • The Collection: Felucia Maquettes (360° Turnaround – HD – 2:51)
  • The Collection: Chewbacca Costume (360° Turnaround – HD – 4:01)
  • The Collection: Darth Vader Costume (360° Turnaround – HD – 6:34)
  • The Collection: Imperial Officer Costume (with Coat) (360° Turnaround – HD – 1:56)
  • The Collection: Imperial Officer Costume (without Coat) (360° Turnaround – HD – 1:50)

Conversations: The Star Wars That Almost Was, Discoveries from Inside: Hologram & Bloopers, the ILM Episode III Siggraph Reel, and some of the deleted scenes are from the 2015 Digital Collection. The Journey: Parts 1 and 2 was a 2005 exclusive on the Star Wars.com website. The rest is a mix of content found on the original 2005 DVD release and the 2011 Prequel Trilogy Blu-ray Bonus Disc. Note that the overall presentation is HD, but the actual featurettes are a mix of HD and upsampled SD (as most of them were originally produced in SD). The deleted scenes are missing the brief text introductions they had on Blu-ray, but that’s all. The Interviews, Overviews, and Collection 360° Turnarounds all still have stylized windowbox framing. The Turnarounds include some of the enhanced video material too (comments and interview clips). The Bonus Disc also has optional subtitles available in English for the Hearing Impaired, French, French (Québécois), Castilian Spanish, Spanish, German, Italian, Dutch, and Japanese. As you would expect, there is a code for a Movies Anywhere Digital copy on a paper insert in the package.

As was the case with The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones 4K extras, this is a nice collection of bonus content that represents everything from the 2015 Digital Collection, nearly everything from 2011 Original Trilogy Blu-ray Bonus Disc, and some of the 2005 DVD extras. So… what’s missing? None of the Concept Art Galleries from the 2011 Blu-ray release are here. I don’t believe any of the Blu-ray or DVD Easter eggs are included. Nor are the DVD Web Documentaries, the other DVD featurette (The Chosen One), the trailers, TV spots, the A Hero Falls music video, etc. A couple of the DVD deleted scenes appear to be missing as well. It’s therefore important to keep your previous disc editions if you want to retain all of the available bonus content.

If George Lucas’ prequel trilogy ultimately disappoints, at least it can be said to have ended on a high note. Revenge of the Sith is not only the best of the three prequels, it’s also the best looking of them, and it’s the most improved by its debut on Ultra HD. Though the image isn’t up to modern 4K standards, it’s hard to imagine this film ever looking or sounding better than it does here… and even harder to imagine it being released on physical disc again. So get it while you can. Recommended for fans.

- Bill Hunt

(You can follow Bill on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook)

 

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