Praising the Revenge of the Sith

There were two of the Star Wars movies that I didn’t like watch­ing as much as the oth­ers when I was younger, and the rea­son is sim­ple– both were the­mat­i­cally darker and mood­ier than my young mind would’ve liked. Those two were The Empire Strikes Back, which now I dis­cover is crit­i­cally regarded as the best Star Wars entry for the very rea­sons writ­ten above, and Revenge of the Sith.

I re-watched Revenge of the Sith not too long ago, and was, as the title of this arti­cle sug­gests, impressed by it far more than per­haps I should admit. Despite hold­ing a 80% “Fresh” rat­ing on Rot­ten Toma­toes, this film seems to be some­what hated for I pre­sume the fact that it wraps up a uni­ver­sally despised prequel-trilogy (which includes The Phan­tom Men­ace and Attack of the Clones), it has act­ing just short of being wince-worthy, and, because it was released in 2005, writer-director George Lucas splurged on then-new CGI tech­nol­ogy which, unfor­tu­nately, now seems dated.

I don’t dis­agree with that, but if you can’t see past that and enjoy what lies under the arti­fi­cial­ity of the visu­als than it’s a hon­est shame. Revenge of the Sith isn’t what it looks like, and has prob­a­bly more imag­i­na­tion than a major­ity of the sci-fi pic­tures released in the 21st cen­tury – which is ironic, see­ing as what this film does is rein­vent all the rich mythol­ogy and leg­ends and sto­ries and plain old-fashioned his­tory, and puts it in a galaxy far, far, far away.

It’s true that per­haps this goes appre­ci­ated the most by me, an admit­tedly big fan of the rich mythol­ogy and leg­ends and sto­ries and plain old-fashioned his­tory in  gen­eral, etc. (The Illiad is one of my all-time favorite books. Love it.) And, of course, I can’t say I was expect­ing much from Revenge of the Sith, which means I was on the look­outwith an extremely open mind, for some­thing to make the two-hours-plus time spent worth­while. I found it, and I think you can too.

Let’s start at the begin­ning, and some char­ac­ters. Anakin Sky­walker (Hay­den Chris­tensen) is a young, tal­ented appren­tice under the sage and staunch Obi-Wan (Ewan McGre­gor), but with more raw tal­ent and ambi­tion than is appre­ci­ated in the Jedi ranks. Cer­tainly, the strict and some­what stiff Coun­cil, led by the no-nonsense Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jack­son) and the uber-sage Yoda, are wary of all the young man’s emo­tional bag­gage and action-not-words tem­pera­ment that go against their phi­los­o­phy of being unnat­tached to any­thing, patient, calm, self­less, and pas­sive pro­tec­tors of the ven­er­a­ble Old Republic.

Anakin is secretly mar­ried to Nabooian sen­a­tor Padme Ami­dala (Natalie Port­man), who reveals that she is preg­nant. He loves her dearly, and she him, so when he starts hav­ing night­mares of her dying at child­birth, he is (under­stand­ably) ter­ri­fied and is dri­ven to assure his wife that he won’t be pow­er­less to stop her death unlike what hap­pened to his mother (in Attack of the Clones).

Then you have his close rela­tion­ship with a politi­cian, Supreme Chan­cel­lor Pal­pa­tine (Ian McDi­amird), and things get inter­est­ing politics-wise. Pal­pa­tine is the leader of the Sen­ate, and dis­trusted by the Jedi Coun­cil because altough his term is fin­ished he is still in office, due to the ongo­ing Clone Wars against the Sep­a­ratists’ droid army led by a pur­ported Sith Lord. The Jedi sus­pect him of try­ing to become a tyrant, an emperor, try­ing to uproot the Repub­lic at the cost of many lives.

But back to Anakin, poor tor­mented Anakin, and Pal­pa­tine, whom he has long regarded as the father fig­ure he never had and con­fides in him thus. Pal­pa­tine makes Anakin his rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the Jedi Coun­cil, which both­ers the mas­ters, but they accept because they need to know the goings-on of the Chan­cel­lor. What they refuse to do, how­ever, cit­ing his age and rel­a­tive inex­pe­ri­ence, is make Anakin a mas­ter. (If one is to be on the Jedi Coun­cil, one is to be a Jedi Mas­ter. Works that way, usually.)

So here you have it, a clas­sic anti-hero haunted by guilt of the death of his mother, wrecked with fear of los­ing the only woman left in his life, and infu­ri­ated, pos­si­bly even humil­i­ated by his exclu­sion on the Coun­cil. And that’s before he starts being drawn into Palpatine’s seduc­tive lies whis­per­ing about the Dark Side, the tan­ta­liz­ing sce­nario of being able to pro­tect some­one from death. Could he save Padme using these exclu­sive pow­ers? Now Anakin is dri­ven by blind greed, seek­ing some­thing that he real­ized, with some egging, can­not be found on the side that he’s on right now.

Such a juicy char­ac­ter is sel­dom seen in science-fiction movies. And when you look at the big­ger pic­ture, it’s no less thrilling: even­tu­ally Anakin, still hold­ing some ves­tige of good in him, will inform the Jedi Coun­cil of his dis­cov­ery that Pal­pa­tine is the Sith Lord they are look­ing for. Windu, still not trust­ing Anakin, trusts him to wait while he takes some backup and goes to arrest Pal­pa­tine, in the name of the sen­ate. The Sith Lord spits out, “I am the Sen­ate!”, to which Windu replies “Not yet.” “It’s trea­son then,” snarls Pal­pa­tine, before he jolts out of his seat and takes the Jedi by sur­prise. A pitched duel ensues between Windu, the sole sur­vivor, and the awak­ened dragon of evil. Par­don the hyperboles.

Mov­ing on to the next page…you know you want to read more…

2 thoughts on “Praising the Revenge of the Sith

  1. Nice arti­cle. This is eas­ily my favourite of the pre­quels, and I agree that there’s def­i­nitely some­thing to take from it.

    I like the whole Brutus/Julius com­par­i­son, and you make the entire con­struct of Anakin’s char­ac­ter sound bril­liant. Which, I’m sure, was exactly how it sounded in the script. It’s just a shame some­thing was lost between writ­ing and execution.

    The char­ac­ters are there, the plot is there; but the dia­logue isn’t (it is George Lucas after all) and, more impor­tantly, nei­ther is the con­vic­tion. Which, as you rightly point out, is heav­ily down to the acting.

    But there’s def­i­nitely some­thing in there to like. Even if it is just the five (5!) lightsaber duels. ;)

    1. Cheers for read­ing! Glad you liked it.

      The act­ing is kinda awful, yeah. You know it’s bad when Natalie Portman’s hilar­i­ous “What are we gonna do, Ani?” becomes the most mem­o­rable dia­logue of the movie…

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