Star Wars Revisited Part V – ‘Episode III: Revenge of the Sith’
Welcome back to Star Wars Revisited! We’re going to continue with Anakin’s decent into the dark side in this edition with Revenge of the Sith. Honestly, my biggest problem with the movie might be the title. What are they getting revenge for? That surely would have made a better movie than Attack of the Clones, right?
The movie opens amidst a battle over Coruscant during the Clone Wars. Chancellor Palpatine has been kidnapped by General Grievous, and Obi-wan and Anakin are on the case. Once aboard the ship, they engage in a battle with Count Dooku. Obi-wan is knocked unconscious and Grievous escapes, but Anakin is able to defeat Dooku and kills him upon Palpatine’s orders.
This was actually a very compelling way to start the movie. The audience is pulled in by the action, then immediately witness Anakin’s struggle with the dark side. Definitely the best start to any of the prequels.
As a reward, Palpatine appoints Anakin to the Jedi Council as his personal representative, but the council questions his motives and asks Anakin to spy on Palpatine. Padme tells Anakin that she’s pregnant, and he begins having force visions of her dying in childbirth. While being pulled between his allegiance to both the Jedi and Palpatine, the Chancellor reveals to him that he is the Sith lord the Jedi have been searching for and offers him a path to saving Padme from her fate.
Anakin informs Jedi Master Mace Windu that Palpatine is the Sith lord, but he steps in during their confrontation so that Palpatine will live and help him save Padme. Windu is killed and Anakin pledges his allegiance to the dark side, rising as the newly dubbed Darth Vader.
Meanwhile, Yoda has traveled to Kashyyyk to aid the wookies (including Chewbacca) with their battles against the Separatists, and Obi-wan has been sent to Utapau to find General Grievous. Obi-wan is able to defeat Grievous, but soon after Palpatine contacts the clone troopers and activates Order 66. This forces the clones to kill the Jedi they are accompanying. Most of the Jedi are slain immediately, but at least Yoda and Obi-wan are able to survive their attacks.
Back on Coruscant, Darth Vader has gone to the Jedi temple and killed all of the younglings. He tells Padme of everything that has happened, but she’s starting to see the anger and fear in him. He leaves on a mission to Mustafar to kill the Separatist leaders and end the Clone Wars once and for all.
Obi-wan and Yoda return to the temple and send a message to any surviving Jedi to go into hiding while Palpatine is busy in the senate declaring himself Emperor of the Galaxy. Padme is disgusted and frightened by the death of democracy, but finds Obi-wan waiting for her at her home. He tries to convince her to tell him where Anakin has gone, but she refuses for fear that he will kill him. She soon rushes to Mustafar to confront Anakin, but Obi-wan sneaks aboard her ship.
Yoda confronts Palpatine and they get into a huge fight in the senate hall. Meanwhile, Padme lands on Mustafar and Anakin immediately meets her. She tries to talk some sense into him and to convince him to leave the dark side and run away to Naboo where they can raise their child in peace. Now that Vader has had a taste of the power of the dark side, he submits a counter offer of killing Palpatine and ruling the galaxy themselves. She is heartbroken, but when Obi-wan appears Vader loses his grip and force chokes Padme until she is unconscious. Obi-wan and Vader have an epic light saber duel over the volcanic terrain. Eventually, Vader is left limbless and bursts into flames at the edge of the lava. Obi-wan cannot bring himself to kill his padawan, his brother, and his friend, so he leaves him to die. Big mistake. After he leaves, Palpatine is able to recover Vader in time to save his life and puts him in the iconic Darth Vader suit to keep him alive.
Yoda and Obi-wan convene on an asteroid outpost. Padme has not one child, but two, and she immediately dies of a broken heart. Yoda flees to Dagobah to go into hiding, Bail Organa takes Leia to live with him and his wife on Alderaan, and Obi-wan takes Luke to Anakin’s half-brother on Tatooine and stays there himself to watch over him from a far while training with the force ghost of his former master Qui-Gon Jinn.
There is clearly a lot going on in this movie, and the story really helps to make it the best of the prequels. That may not be saying a lot, but it is actually very compelling and I enjoyed watching it. I think it could have used another pass in the editing bay. There are a few shots that linger too long and some takes that were chosen that couldn’t have been the best version of the actor’s performance. The movie probably could have been slimmed down about 10 minutes and been more effective.
The acting still isn’t great. Ewan McGregor continues to be the highlight of the series, and Ian McDiarmid did a great job essentially playing two characters throughout the series as both Palpatine and the Emperor. This was the first time he’s really been able to go completely crazy with the role. Natalie Portman was unusually weak, and Hayden Christiansen had some good moments but was too over the top most of the time.
The effects are much better in this one, particularly on Kashyyyk and Mustafar. They still aren’t all great, and you can see where they spent the most time and energy, but the technology has definitely come a long way from where it was in a short 6 years since The Phantom Menace was produced.
There are really three things that the fans wanted to see from this movie: the Clone Wars that we didn’t get in the last movie, the completion of Anakin’s transition into Darth Vader, and the epic light saber battle on Mustafar. This was the first time that Lucas really came through for the fans. While we didn’t see as much of the Clone Wars as we would have liked, it did leave the door open for it to be portrayed in various other media, such as cartoons, books, and comics. It also made for one of the best Star Wars related video games that I’ve played.
All in all, this was a great effort and a big step up from Attack of the Clones. It actually makes that movie feel even weaker because it’s so obvious that Lucas was preoccupied with this story when making the last one. I really feel like his whole plan for the prequels was just this one movie, and he made the rest of it up as he went along to build to this entry. I might personally prefer it over A New Hope, which kind of drags for me. They’re close.
Now that we’ve seen how Darth Vader came to be and have some context for the Skywalker family, we’ll return to Luke and Leia as young adults as they try to rescue Han and topple the Empire in Return of the Jedi.
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