Revenge of the Sith
Directed By: Eli Drinkwitz
Starring: Nick Bolton, Connor Bazelak, Jarvis Ware, Dan Mullen
Synopsis: After a period of tenuous peace, Mizzou Football is upended by the Florida Gators, led by the moody, volatile Dan Mullen.
Sometimes you go into a movie knowing that the bad guys are going to come out on top.
It’s not the end of the world, of course — the good guys can’t win all the time. And it’s not always the worst thing in the world, either! Refer back to Contagion, Eli Drinkwitz’s first production at Mizzou Studios. You knew the protagonists were going to struggle, and it still managed to be somewhat entertaining.
Drinkwitz can’t capture that same magic in his fifth feature, Revenge of the Sith. It’s a production inherently designed for the bad guys to come out on top. But instead of doing so in a manner that’s charismatic or suave, the bad guys just manage to come off as moody, volatile, and honestly, a little petulant.
After a seemingly long period of tenuous peace in the galaxy — the Tigers’ adversaries were laid up by an interstellar sickness that somehow manages to infect those who do little-to-nothing to prevent it — the two sides finally come to a head. At the front lines is Dan Mullen, a universally recognized talent who manages to galvanize the forces at his control while possessing a tangible grasp of the mysterious ways of football coaching. As the battle wages on, it becomes clear that Mullen and his army will prevail, sending the Tigers scampering into hiding, hoping to fight another day.
A good movie villain can inspire any number of feelings in viewers. Righteous anger and rage is a good one — One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest isn’t as good without a visceral hatred of Nurse Ratched. Villains can also inspire fear — think any good horror movie. Even on some occasions, the right villain can create a sort of confused unease — Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight lives true to his stated “agent of chaos” persona.
However, Revenge of the Sith is overrun by a villainous performance that inspires none of the above feelings. Rather, Dan Mullen’s turn as the rising Darth Vader gives off an aura of bemused digust. It’s a difference of frighteningly whispering, “OH MY GOD, WHAT IS HE DOING,” versus uttering flatly, “oh god, what is he doing,” with a sort of confused laugh. This is especially true in a key moment, when the Tigers seem to have struck a powerful, potentially dangerous blow. While both sides retreat gracefully, the worst parts of Mullen’s performance come to the surface. Where the best villains have an unnerving repose, Mullen comes off as out-of-control and unhinged, resulting in another battle that’s more befitting a direct-to-streaming release than the type of blockbuster it was supposed to be.
More importantly, this disappointing performance overshadows everything that’s supposed to make Mullen — and his army of Sith Gators — inspired and intimidating villains. Field General Kyle Trask is genuinely frightening, as are his array of weapons on the battlefield. Kyle Pitts is a fast, seemingly bulletproof tank, while Kadarius Toney is a quick, vicious saber that cleanly slices up everything in his path. Like the best villains, you have to admire the “UNLIMITED POWER” that fuels them.
None of this is to say the production’s failures lie squarely on the antagonists. Drinkwitz fails to inspire his heroes to put up much of a fight, and the whole feature falls flat early as a result. Connor Bazelak and Larry Rountree — both of whom have carried their own blockbusters recently — both lack energy in this feature, setting a tone for their co-stars. It’s not that they’re atrocious by any means, but they’re missing lack the crisp, attention-grabbing details that have made them such reliable stars as of late. Missing a sturdy lead performance, the film is forced to turn to role players, many of whom can’t put the entirety of the production on their shoulders. Devin Nicholson has his moments... but he’s uneven. Ennis Rakestraw flashes top-line potential, but isn’t seasoned enough to be a game-saver. And character actors like Damon Hazelton and Keke Chism — who were both tabbed as star performers early on — still haven’t shown the sort of pop you look for in a surefire A-lister.
And so, after two consecutive winners at the box office, Drinkwitz comes back down to earth in disappointing fashion. Revenge of the Sith has all the materials to be a real winner, including an intimidating villain, promising heroes and set pieces that seem to be in the director’s wheelhouse. However, it comes off feeling messy at best and uninspired at worst. This will be one to forget for Drinkwitz, who should be able to put it behind him with more coming attractions in his near future.