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 lookout, with 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.