Reflections on Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

So I saw Star Wars: Episode III last night and tonight I’ve been watching the original trilogy again. I suppose before I start talking about the originals I should get into the final middle chapter. Let the spoilers begin.

As a movie experience, I loved Revenge of the Sith. I walked out of the theater quiet, saddened, and excited at the same time. The final chapter was a tragic one, and if George Lucas did one thing right it was make you feel the tragic weight of what was happening (though honestly, he’d have to suck the movie up royally not to get that right).

The process of Anakin turning was just bad ass. You felt his conflict as he struggled back and forth and ultimately stumbled into the dark side. While I certainly find deficiencies with the movie, I ultimately enjoyed it.

The deficiencies come to mind pretty quickly, and let’s all agree that the bit where Vader is told Padme is dead and screams “no” has to be the worst moment of the film. What was Lucas thinking? I also wasn’t too impressed with General Grevious. I thought he was unnecessary and lame. And the whole bit with the wookies? Seemed like a ploy just to get Chewbacca in there. The only purpose it had was to get Yoda off Coruscant so he wouldn’t be killed with the other Jedi. Meh.

I did enjoy Mace Windu’s showdown with the Emperor (as Samuel L. Jackson said, “I ain’t gonna die like some sucka” (paraphrased). And Anakin leading the charge against the Jedi temple and the whole execution of Order 66–wow. The final battle with Obi-Wan and Anakin was great. We finally had a light saber duel where the dialogue was more important than the blow-by-blow. I especially liked Padme’s dying words that there is good in him, connecting to what Luke ultimately realizes.

Unfortunately, it’s not a movie that’s allowed to stand on its own. Two especially crappy movies come before it, and three cherished films come after it. I guess I can’t help comparing it to the originals. Well, I guess I’m not as interested in comparing, I’m more interested in the storylines that don’t quite connect.

The most interesting thing I noticed was that C-3PO’s memory was erased, so he doesn’t realize his unique creation as a hobby of Anakin Skywalker. R2-D2, however, did not have his memory erased and would know all about everything. Apparently his inability to speak in more than blips and beeps kept him from filling everybody in.

The way Luke was trained is also curious. Apparently in the era of the Empire they can skip some of the usual things like padawans and trials and such. That’s not as troubling as some of the other details.

It’s also odd in Return of the Jedi that Leia has memories of her mother, Padme, her real mother. She says she died when she was young, though I don’t think she meant minutes old young.

Obi-Wan is probably the worst for inconsistencies. He doesn’t seem to recognize R2-D2. He also seems to have kept track of Luke, but has little recognition for Leia. He even seems surprised (or perhaps forgot?) when Luke takes off, says there goes our last hope, and Yoda says, “No, there is another.” Did he forget about the other baby? Odd since he remembers all those details in Return of the Jedi. The original series also skips over a few details, like Qui-Gon Jinn. In the originals Obi-Wan gives the impression that Yoda trained him, and that he thought he could train Anakin better than Yoda, which wasn’t exactly the case. He took on Anakin to fulfill a promise to Qui-Gon. Yoda didn’t want Anakin to be trained in the first place.

One thing that is consistent is the discussion of truth as depending on perspective. In Revenge Obi-Wan sees Anakin’s black and white thinking as part of the Sith, and tells him perspective is needed. In Return of the Jedi, Obi-Wan justifies telling Luke that Vader killed his father by relying on perspective. It was true from a certain point of view.

The explanation that Yoda has been communicating with Qui-Gonn and that’s apparently how Obi-Wan and Yoda are able to come back as spirits feels incredibly tacked on. You would think something like that could have been built into Jedi lore a little better.

Speaking of Jedi lore, we get nothing about the Sith in the originals. In the prequels it seems pretty vital that the Siths only work in pairs. Palpatine killed his apprentice and became the master. He took on Darth Maul, and then Darth Tyranus (Count Dooku) and then Darth Vader (and who knows how many in between). Yet in the originals the Emperor is more than eager to turn Luke to the dark side so they can all rule the galaxy together. Perhaps he’s thinking Luke will take down Vader and be his new apprentice, as Vader is thinking Luke will help him overthrow the Emperor. But if the master-apprentice thing has to stay intact, wouldn’t both the Emperor and Vader know what each other was planning? Seems kind of goofy.

The worst inconsistency is probably the complete anti-climax of the final battle between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Apparently in 20 years they lost a lot of skills. It’s also peculiar how Vader and Luke have so little interaction in Episode IV. I guess that all comes in Empire Strikes Back. With so much at stake it just feels like there should be something there. It’s also odd that Darth Vader never realized anything with Leia. I can only guess she was that well hidden, but it’s just odd as much intuition as Anakin Skywalker seemed to have.

I do like the connection that both Luke and Anakin act on visions. For Luke it is the vision of his dying friends that makes him cut short his training. For Anakin it is the vision of his dying love that makes him stop Mace Windu and “save” the Emperor (I don’t think he really saved the Emperor, I think it was all quite an act so that Anakin would take that final step and be committed to the dark side). What’s peculiar is the results of each reaction. For Anakin, it led directly to the dark side. For Luke, it meant a confrontation with Darth Vader before he was ready, and the knowledge that Vader was his father. But ultimately it worked out.

If Anakin hadn’t given in to his vision the Emperor would have been killed and peace would have reigned. But if Luke hadn’t given in to his vision, what would have happened? His friends would have been killed. And he would face Darth Vader at a later time. Who knows if he would have the love and wisdom to see good in his father and do the final work of defeating the Emperor. Or if he would have killed Vader as Obi-Wan and Yoda seem to intend, which seems to be the path the Emperor would want him to take.

Ah, it’s all kind of cloudy and confused. And I’m picking at strands and complaining about the tiniest things. I realize that. It’s only for the love of the trilogy that I’m picking at it.

But I still love the emotional weight of Revenge of the Sith, even if all the little pieces don’t quite fall into place. In all honesty, I need to go see it again.

One thought on “Reflections on Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith”

  1. The inconsistencies you mentioned also bother me – it’s kind of pathetic that the fans can keep the story straight better than Lucas can. Yet I still really enjoyed Sith. Better acting. No Gungans. And at times even some subtlety – I really liked the scene where Anakin and Padme gaze across Coruscant towards each other while she’s in their apartment and he’s agonizing in the Jedi Council chambers about whether to obey Windu’s orders or come to Palpatine’s rescue.

    I thought you might like to know that I’ve read from a number of sources that several scenes were cut, including a much more expanded version of the Qui Gonn revelation and scenes establishing the birth of the rebellion. According to McCullum and Lucas, there will be five or six deleted scenes on the DVD. That would explain why there’s a RotS Mon Mothma action figure, but she isn’t in the film. I’m guessing she’ll be on the DVD.

    Now the wait begins for 2007 when the 3-D versions of the films start to hit the theaters. I wonder if some of the plot holes will also be addressed.

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