FRANCHISE REWIND: Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, 2005 (Ewan McGregor) 20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm

“Only a Sith deals in absolutes.”

Does it change your estimation of a movie’s story to know the outcome before it begins? Like knowing the ending of Titanic; the ship must sink regardless of Jack’s love for Rose. Was there a point to the prequels, or was it that George Lucas thought the initial trilogy was so interesting (including Return of the Jedi) that people would want to see how it all began? If that was the case, why focus on Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader and not … say Ben Kenobi, or Yoda, or the Emperor?

Why is Darth Vader so intriguing a prospect for storytelling? Does it come down to the cute little boy soon to grow into Hayden Christensen? Anakin and Obi-Wan have some unfinished business with Count Dooku, who has (with the aid of multi-armed asthmatic cyborg General Grievous) abducted Chancellor Palpatine. The two Jedi engage in a brief firefight before drawing their lightsabers. Dooku is dispatched and Grievous is thrown out of the ship, but the incident seems staged, as though it were to provoke a response from the Senate and the Jedi Council (and the council doesn’t trust Palpatine any farther than they can throw him), as well as test whether or not Anakin can kill from vengeance and anger.

He proves he can and this pleases Palpatine. At least that’s how I read it. These scenes are where the movie is strongest. The romance between Anakin and Padme (Natalie Portman) is where the movie goes off the rails, and Lucas doesn’t have the chops of a John Hughes in creating dialogue for young people. The both of them speak to each other in flowery, idiotic prose best suited to Hallmark greeting cards and Precious Moments figurines. They’re required to hide their marriage from the Jedi Council because the Jedi take a vow of chastity.

This doesn’t stop Anakin from impregnating his wife, thus breaking another “cardinal” rule among the Jedi. He becomes more and more difficult to handle, even for Obi-Wan. He’s stubborn and willful, controlled by his emotions. He doesn’t talk to Kenobi anymore, instead confiding in Palpatine, who gets more and more evil every day. I have to admit to knowing who Palpatine was in The Phantom Menace and what he would eventually become. You need only to hear the actor, Ian McDiarmid, say the words, “Young Skywalker” to know who he is. I stuck around for the end credits just to confirm it.

Anakin has nightmares about Padme dying. He takes his worries to Palpatine, who plays him like a cheap fiddle. He tells him of THE TRAGEDY OF DARTH PLAGUEIS THE WISE! It is said he could reverse death itself. Oooh! The Jedi Council has a bad feeling about Palpatine, but I dont understand why they don’t act on it. They ask Anakin to get close to Palpatine, feel him out as it were. He discovers Palpatine is indeed the Sith Lord they suspected as well as the master to Darth Maul from The Phantom Menace.

Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) arrives to either kill or arrest Palpatine, I’m not sure which. Windu cripples Palpatine, turning him into the Emperor we all know and love. Anakin betrays Windu and pledges his loyalty to Palpatine, who “knights” him Sir Darth of Vader. Well, it would’ve been more fun that way. For his first duty, Vader must help slaughter all Jedi everywhere, including the “younglings” (not the younglings!). Palpatine issues “Order 66,” which sends a message to all Clone Troopers to wipe out the Jedi.

While all of this is going on, Obi-Wan finds General Grievous and vanquishes him. Palpatine creates the fiction of an unwarranted attack on him by the Jedi, effectively labeling them traitors (though the Jedi are known to have no political affiliation). The Republic is then restructured into the First Galactic Empire, and Palpatine (like Napoleon) crowns himself Emperor (4-Life!). Anakin goes to Mustafar to slaughter any remaining Separatists. Padme follows him (with Obi-Wan stowing away on her ship) convinced he’s gone full-blown nuts.

It gets worse when Obi-Wan reveals himself. Anakin, seeming more jealous than psychotic, strangles Padme. Obi-Wan and Anakin fight with their sabers against the backdrop of hot, nasty lava. This is where Lucas finally rights his ship. Anakin, being angry and impulsive, loses his arm and legs to Kenobi’s lightsaber. Unfortunately, Hayden sounds like a petulant, whiny, incorrigible teenager, particularly as he screams, “I hate you!” What does Obi-Wan do? He just leaves him for dead. I would’ve stayed and finished the job. In due course, the Emperor arrives and rescues Vader. Just as the ship is righted, it begins to founder once again with the juxtaposed birth of Padme’s twins—Luke and Leia—and the “birth” of Darth Vader.

It reminds me of the famous “baptism” scene in The Godfather when all the enemies of the Corleone family are killed as Connie’s baby is baptized. Death and life, get it? Padme conveniently dies—after giving birth—of a broken heart. If only there was some believable passion between these two kids, I might’ve believed it were possible. Unfortunately the Lucas of 2002 cast these kids for their looks rather than their talent. So everything is set up for the first Star Wars movie, but not quite. When Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, they made it their mission to make as much money as they possibly could off of Star Wars, so we got two additional Star Wars stories, Rogue One and Solo, that fill in some more blanks. We’ll get into those another time.

For more Franchise Rewind, visit Second Union!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: