Synopsis: Torn between loyalty to his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the seductive powers of the Sith, Anakin Skywalker ultimately turns his back on the Jedi, thus completing his journey to the dark side and his transformation into Darth Vader.
Revenge of the Sith 7.75
eyelights: its darker tone. the pace.
eyesores: Anakin’s transition to the dark side. Palpatine’s transformation. Code 66. the third act.
“You were to bring balance to the force, not leave it in darkness.”
By the time ‘Revenge of the Sith’ came out in 2005, I had lost a lot of interest in the series. Between the lackluster new films and George Lucas’ insistence that the original theatrical versions of the first trilogy never be seen again, despite the very real fact that the series’ fanhood was built on them, I just couldn’t muster up much enthusiasm in my disillusioned heart.
But a close friend of mine, who is a die-hard fan of the franchise, was looking for someone to go see the movie with her and asked me if I’d join her. Of course I did. It’s not like I wasn’t going to see it; I just wasn’t in any hurry to, is all. Now I had motivation. And so it was that we went to line-up for a matinée at the local multiplex, hoping for a satisfying closure to the saga.
It was, without a doubt, the best of the new batch: it had far less slapstick, the tone was more sombre (and appropriately so), the CGI didn’t sting the eyes, Hayden Christensen didn’t stink, and there was a better balance of action and exposition. In short, it fine-tuned a flawed formula. So it was hardly perfect, and there were aspects that were deeply disappointing, but it was better.
(Nota bene: Since the ‘Star Wars’ movies have been already talked about to death, we decided to simply pick apart their strengths and weaknesses as we watched them – in list format and -mostly- in chronological order.)
Light Side of the Film
- Opening space combat: Say what you will, but that combat with Anakin and Obi-Wan looks phenomenal and it’s well-choreographed. I’m no great fan of spaceship battles but I felt that it started the film really well.
- Spaceship designs: I honestly can’t explain it, but I was taken by the designs of the spacecrafts in this opening volley. They are probably the same as elsewhere in the series, but somehow they really caught my eye here.
- Improved CGI: Somehow the actors blend into their CGI environment far better here. And thank goodness for that: this plagued the previous installments. It doesn’t replace real sets and locations, but at least it’s not an eyesore anymore.
- Obi-Wan and Anakin vs. Count Dooku: This lightsaber battle totally makes up for the limp one at the end of ‘Attack of the Clones‘. It was exciting and the moves were well-choreographed and delivered.
- Anakin refuses to leave Obi-Wan behind: Even though he is prompted by the Chancellor to leave him behind, Anakin refuses. It doesn’t raise any alarms, however, which it very well should. Still, at least showed some honour; he actually has some redeeming values buried in all that mess.
- Hayden Christensen’s acting is better: Look, he’s not great, and he probably remains the film’s weak link, but he’s MUCH improved over the last time. He’s tolerable, if not okay, here.
- Yoda’s message about loss: “Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not. Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed that is.” I think it’s an important message for Lucas to convey, and it’s well-articulated given the allotted time. And, contextually, it’s essential, as fear of loss is Anakin’s undoing.
- The pace: I felt that the pace of ‘Attack of the Clones’ was already a significant improvement ‘The Phantom Menace‘, but that has been tweaked even further here, with an excellent balance being struck between development and pulse-pounding action.
- The amount of development: There’s far more plot development here than in either previous films (if not both combined), and I quite like that. There’s only so much action you can cram into a film before it gets redundant (ex: ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars‘). It’s about the story, after all. Yes, much of it is sketchy, but at least there’s an effort being made here. Or maybe Lucas was making up for lost time, since this was the wrap-up and he’d wasted so much time so far.
- The tone: This one’s more atmospheric, if not grim. I like the tone, which is more akin to the one in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, arguably the best of the series. And it’s contextually appropriate anyway; it’s not just a backlash over the outrageously slapsticky tone of the first one.
- The Droid Army vs. the Wookies: Oh, sure, it’s annoying that Lucas once again had to return to the same well and show us wookies instead of a new race, but you have to admit that if there’s a race that you want to see in full-fledged combat, it’s the wookies. And they are quite the sight, like a bunch of fur-covered Vikings. And they rendered their home planet, Kashyyyk, quite nicely. Better than in the ‘Star Wars Holiday Special‘, anyway. I know: hard to beat.
- Tion Medon: I simply adore the look of the creepy grey alien who greets Obi-Wan when he comes for General Grievous; he’s something out of a Guillermo del Toro film, or something like that. I like it.
- Obi-Wan vs General Grievous: I have mixed feelings about the villain, but the sequence is memorable.
- Mace Windu vs Palpatine (first part): Lucas finally taps into Sammy J’s bad @$$ persona. He did it at the end of ‘Attack of the Clones’, but he seals the deal here. Forget the ending of this encounter, however (more on that later).
- “So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause.”: As Senator Amidala watches Palpatine form the Empire, she comments on the end of liberty. In the aftermath of 9/11 and George W Bush’s affronts to justice, democracy and freedom, this needed to be said. Kudos to Lucas for that, even if it was delivered with a lack of subtlety.
- The look in Anakin’s eye: As he hunts down Nute Gunray and his group, in the service of Palpatine, Anakin (now dubbed Lord Vader by his new master), has a terribly sinister gaze. I know it’s all lighting and trickery, but it looked amazing. Brrr…
- Mustafar: Yes, it’s another simplification like having a sand planet, an ice planet, a swamp planet and a city planet, but a lava planet looks really stunning.
- “If you’re not with me, you’re my enemy.”: Anakin lays down the law to Obi-Wan, echoing the fateful words of George W Bush after 9/11. It’s as direct a criticism as Lucas could make and I give him props for that too.
- Obi-Wan vs Anakin (first part): Before it gets stupid with lava surfing and so forth, the duel was exciting to watch.
- Darth Vader and the Emperor watch on as the Death Star is being built: It’s a cool sight for sure. I was just surprised to find that it had already begun and was already so far along (albeit in such a random, nonsensical fashion). Could it possibly take another 15 years to finish? I mean they already have a second one going by ‘Return of the Jedi’…
- Lars and Beru looking at the Tatooine sunset: It’s such a fitting end to the film, inspiring hope and tying back to that iconic moment with Luke back in ‘Star Wars’. Combined with the afore-mentioned Death Star moment, it’s an excellent contrast and one-two punch. Nicely done, George.
Dark Side of the Film
- General Grievous’ name: When that critic said the series had become such a joke that soon there would be a General Bad (or was that Darth Bad?) I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at the truth of it. What kind of credibility can these guys expect to muster with such stupid names?
- Buzz droids: I like what they do, but they look brittle, awkward, what with their circular shells expanded. I wasn’t convinced one bit.
- R2 can propel out of the craft’s wing: Since when he self-eject like that? I swear, our beloved Swiss Army Droid, just like the Jedi, is becoming more of a cartoon superhero as time goes on. He can’t do it in the originals (which take place later in time), and neither can other droids! But these are just discrepancies, right? Fuhgedaboutit.
- Grievous is an all-CGI villain: I can’t say it enough: CGI characters don’t interact well with real ones, and don’t look fully realistic anyway. Making the main villain all-CGI weakens his scenes. They should have used a combination of practical effects and CGI to make it work.
- Grievous coughs: What? Are breathing issues a Sith thing? Couldn’t Lucas come up with something new? You know, give him a limp, a lazy eye, flatulence…?
- R2 uses a communicator: Why does the Swiss Army Droid need a walkie-talkie/cel phone? Doesn’t he have an internal radio? I mean, he’s got just about everything else. Well, maybe not a blender function. Not yet. But I’m sure it’s coming. Makes great fries, though.
- R2 has an oil slick function: When the attack droids hold R2 up, for whatever reason, he spews oil all over them. Was he built by Q, ultimately? We never did find out who built him – the one mystery that Lucas left unrevealed, untarnished. I think R2’s a great contender for James Bond’s next ride. He just needs a changing license plate function and we’re set.
- Dooku’s CGI flip over the banister: Just get an acrobat to do it, for goodness’ sake, George. You can so tell that it wasn’t real and that it wasn’t really Dooku. Just chuck Christopher Lee over the banister and see how he lands. It couldn’t possibly look worse. And it might be funnier.
- Obi-Wan gets tossed by Dooku: The sight of a CGI Ben getting thrown against a railing, which then awkwardly falls on him and crushes him. It looks like crap, plus which he doesn’t even break a thing (cue Aerosmith).
- Anakin beheads Dooku: Although he fights against it at first, saying it’s not the Jedi way, he eventually gives in to Palpatine’s suggestion. It doesn’t ring alarm bells about the Chancellor’s morality or motives, and no one questions it afterwards either. Seriously, amongst dumb asses, Anakin is one of the biggest asses around. Second maybe only to Jar-Jar. A true hero and role model.
- R2 drops headfirst: When the ships careens downward, R2 slips downward across the whole damned ship. He doesn’t fall, bounce off or anything. And he suffers no damage. What’s with those ships anyway? Is their internal gravity dictated by the nearest planet? ‘Cause, really, there is no up or down in space, and when the ship started careening, everything inside should have remained right side up.
- Obi-Wan, Anakin and Palpatine fall down an elevator shaft: That’s silly enough, but the fact that the trio then flip out of it through an open door is cartoon fodder at best. No one was hurt, not even Palpatine. Yes, we know he’s a Sith Lord – but the others don’t know that, so technically he should be playing it like a normal human being. And no normal human being would walk out of this unscathed.
- Ian McDiarmid’s performance: One of the few stand outs of the series up until then, why was McDiarmid suddenly chewing the scenery like he was in ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show‘? Did he stop caring by then? Or did he give in to Lucas’ infamous direction of “Faster, more intense”.
- Anakin crashlands a HUGE ship: But no one gets hurt. And they don’t even have air bags!
- “Something wonderful has happened”: Yeah, just like magic. I think that Padmé is too old to believe in storks. Maybe no one’s explained the birds and the bees to her? Who knows. Anyway, Anakin’s been gone so long, one has to wonder whose kid it is. Can you say “war bride”?
- “So love has blinded you?”: Yeah… residue of the romantic grime that sullied the previous installment has made its way in this one too. Ick.
- Palpatine’s appointment: Why would Anakin and the Jedi Council allow Palpatine to appoint him? Aren’t they independent? Can’t they make their own decisions? The argument is that they need Anakin to spy on Palpatine, but he’s not being appointed in Palpatine’s office – he’s being appointed to the Jedi Council. How does THAT serve their purpose, exactly? Doesn’t make sense to me and it further puts the Jedi’s wisdom in question for me.
- Anakin isn’t a letdown to Obi-Wan: Ben tells Yoda and Mace that Anakin has never let him down before. And yet Anakin constantly ignores his directives and causes problems. So either Obi-Wan’s expectations are REALLY low, he’s utterly oblivious, or he’s lying. Either way, he has the worst judgement of any Jedi since Qui-Gon. Jedi wisdom… Pffft!
- Anakin’s faith: It’s hilarious that Anakin’s faith in the Council has been shaken. But not in Palpatine’s. What does it take, stupid head?
- Darth Plagueis the Wise: Darth Plagueis? Really? I’m just waiting for Darth Gingivitis, Darth Cancer and Darth Cirrhosis of the Liver.
- Palpatine’s knowledge of Jedi and Sith powers: That Palpatine would tell the story of Darth Plagueis (i.e. a Sith) should ring alarm bells. It’s bad enough that he would be well-versed in Sith legend, but to call him wise as well should make anyone wonder. And he sure seems to know an awful lot about Jedi and Sith powers for a mere mortal. Anyway, I’d be curious. But Anakin is an idiot, so I guess not.
- Anakin’s wisdom: Obi-Wan thinks Anakin is wise? What has he been smoking? He’s either lying to Anakin again, or he’s totally on crack. Neither would surprise me at this point.
- Obi-Wan uses a large lizard to get around: It looks cool, but it’s noisy. It’s certainly not great for sneaking up on his adversaries and I wonder why he wasn’t caught.
- General Grievous has four sabers: Of course he does. How do you beat Darth Maul’s double-lightsaber? By doubling that! It’s not JUST a mere three-bladed attack, it’s a four-bladed one! How cool is that? Le sigh… the only way to get more gimmicky would be to have Doctor Octopus cross over. Or… give the villain a thoroughly impractical laser crossguard.
- Mace deflects Palpatine’s attack: You can deflect blue lightning with a lightsaber? Really? For starters, lightning is NOT a precision attack, so blocking it with a saber should be impossible. Deflecting it? That’s even less likely.
- The lightning deforms Palpatine: I always assumed that the dark side had corrupted Palpatine from the inside out over time, hence his appearance. That it was just a question of blue lightning melting his face is disappointing to say the least, and feels like a cop out.
- Palpatine doesn’t stop even after his attack is turned on him: I’m sorry, but the moment the lightning is deflected, you’d think he would stop generating the stuff. Nope. Here he is, zapping the !@#$ out of himself and he doesn’t stop. Just like in ‘Return of the Jedi’ (he never learns!). Like, once the Dark Force valve has been released you just can’t close it. It’s such a lame scene on so many counts.
- “I can’t live without her!”: Shut your whiny trap. So… this justifies betraying everyone else around you and even hunting them down? Exactly how stupid are you, exactly? Oh yeah, you also thought she was an angel – literally. You’re pretty damned dumb.
- Anakin turns easily: It really doesn’t take much for Anakin to turn to the Dark Side, does it? He just switches camps, gets drafted by the Dark Team. I always imagined that we would see him slowly turn and one day realize he’d fallen into the wrong path, and that he was caught – not just make a conscious decision, and then not even bat at eye at killing rest of Jedi.
- Order 66: Which leads us to George MOTHER of a cop out. Since he couldn’t explain the Jedi’s downfall in one movie, he took a shortcut and had the clones programmed to betray and kill the Jedi in surprise attacks!!! But don’t the Jedi feel a disturbance in the Force? I mean, they’re so easily tagged! And does it make sense that Palpatine has to tell each clone leader individually? Wouldn’t this mean that word of their betrayal would get around to the other Jedi, given how long this would take?
Anyway, wasn’t Vader supposed to hunt down the Jedi? Before this new trilogy was established, I assumed that the second film would show Anakin turn into Vader, in a tonally similar story as the one in ‘Empire’ – except that his journey would be the opposite of Luke’s. Then, in the third film, we would watch Vader hunt down and kill the Jedi, paving the way for the Empire. Alas, that was all tossed into one movie, and not especially well, at that! Order 66, my @$$! That sucks the big one so hard!!!
- Chewbacca: Yes, of course, another coincidence. Huge universe, but such a small world…
- Anakin seems young to become Vader: I always assumed, based on the way he looked in the original, that Anakin would be man when he became Vader – not a whiny bitch barely out of his short pants. Frankly, I would have loved a third, older actor to play Anakin in this one. I would have brought symmetry to the trilogy, and perhaps a much-needed good performance.
- Padmé has nothing to do: Like Leia, she starts off being an important figure in the series, and a powerful one at that, and she gradually becomes powerless and meaningless. What was Lucas trying to say? Was he even aware that the only two women in the whole galaxy are usurped of their power?
Essentially, ‘Star Wars’ is misogynistic.
A friend (hopefully jokingly) said that Padmé’s role in this film is giving birth to Luke and Leia. Just like any good woman, right? A woman’s role in life is to be a breeder, to pump out children; a woman is incomplete without motherhood. Whether it’s intentional or not, that’s what this trilogy does to Padmé.
To me, it’s offensive.
- R2 ejects of the craft’s wing again: No comment.
- Mustafar: See comments under ‘Light Side’.
- C-3PO flies Padmé out: WTF. She used to be able to pilot. And since when can C-3PO fly a ship, anyway? Has Padmé become absolutely. totally useless? Or is it just that being pregnant makes you an invalid, like some people choose to believe? Urgh…
- Padmé insists that Anakin is still a good person: Based on what, exactly? He WAS NEVER a good person. He was always a selfish, entitled bitch. And he’s said and done far too many things that prove that he’s a dickweed. Why is everyone in this series blind to this reality?
- Anakin tells Padmé he’s doing it for her: Yeah, okay: blame the victim – it’s a fun game played across the universe. And it’s a great way for an immature little prick like Anakin to not take responsibility for his actions. Again.
- Hayden Christensen’s “rage” at the end: lol
- Yoda vs the Emperor: It’s a hyperactive CGI nightmare filled with overacting. What happened to McDiarmid in between movies? He used to be SO good.
- Emperor tosses Senate pods about: I guess they needed a visually remarkable ending, and this is what they came up with. But it looks silly, and the blatant disregard characters have for infrastructure in the movies its jaw-droppingly stupid. Just destroy everything without thought or consequence. Go right ahead. Who cares who has to clean up the mess and how much it’ll cost.
- Yoda falls something like six stories: …and doesn’t get hurt. My, how Jedi bones are indestructible in the ‘Star Wars’ universe!
- Obi-Wan and Anakin’s lava surfing: It looks like a video game, and it was probably designed for one. To make matters worse, the pair is poorly CGI-ed in. It looks horrible. Plus which they don’t even break a sweat. They’re fighting on lava, and yet they don’t feel the heat. The Force must be strong with these ones. *snort*
- The platforms: Um… who’s controlling the little platforms while they’re fighting? And why are they going so damned fast?
- Anakin’s defeat: So… out of nowhere, Obi-Wan chopped Anakin’s legs and left arm in one swoop? Um… how? And anyway, it’s such a lazy way to finish him off. I always assumed that Anakin gradually lost parts of himself, and not necessarily whole limbs – that he became more mechanized the more he did the Dark Side’s work. This is just a facile way for Lucas to wrap it up.
- Luke and Leia: Why did Padmé choose those names, exactly? Seems a bit random to me, especially since she’s on the verge of death and shouldn’t be clear-headed enough to come up with that. Was it planned ahead of time? Did she even know she was having twins?
- The birth: It seems a bit effortless to me, don’t you think? I mean, it looks like a game show, with the hostess (that sissy Obi-Wan!) (joke) showing the contestant the potential prizes. Behind door number one we have… Luke. And behind door number two we have… Leia (of course the girl comes second… !@#$). Obviously Lucas has never witnessed a real birth: it’s messy, sweaty, noisy. It isn’t this, whatever this is.
And before anyone says it’s a family film, and that we shouldn’t subject children to a birth, let me remind you that we were subjected to a mass infanticide! Which is more traumatic? The murder of children? Or the “miracle of birth”? But, I guess in Hollywood, subjecting children to violence is always okay – hence why ‘The Dark Knight‘ was PG-13, not R.
- Darth Vader asks about Padmé: Even after trying to kill her, he still asks about Padmé. WTF. Get your head on straight, you pissant! How in the world will you become the awesomeness we first saw in ‘Star Wars’ if you’re going to be so damned erratic?
- Hayden Christensen’s performance as Vader: Man, even with the suit on, he’s bad. So sad…
- NO!!!: Really? A final cry of regret from Darth Vader? Seriously? And with his fists aimed at the sky? Christ, is this ever cheesy. I would have preferred silent mourning, a sense of crushing defeat and resignation than this load of crap.
Ultimately, ‘Revenge of the Sith’ is regarded as the best of the prequels by most series fans, and saw a bump in box offices grosses compared to its predecessor (making it the 5th highest earner in the franchise, thus far). Personally, I would concur, but nonetheless only saw it one more time, after getting it from the local library I was done with ‘Star Wars’, and didn’t even buy the DVD.
For me the most memorable part of that day was hanging out with my friend. It was about the journey, more so than the destination. We hung out in line, gabbing, grabbed food on the way back and spent the rest of the afternoon playing Lego Star Wars. ‘Revenge of the Sith’ concluded the series on a higher note, but it served mostly as closure by that point, nothing more.
Its greatest impact were the memories built around it.
It, however, was soon forgotten.
Date of viewing: December 3, 2015