Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005) Director: George Lucas
“You were the chosen one! It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them!”
The third installment and sadly a painful conclusion to the Star Wars “prequel” trilogy, Revenge of the Sith is another mostly forgettable CGI-infused movie in this series. In watching the film, you can almost hear the gasp of relief expressed by all parties involved at Lucasfilm, as if desperately wanting to wrap-up this series and forget it ever happened. Today, despite some fashionably contrarian re-appraisals, fans have largely agreed that Revenge of the Sith is not the backstory they had imagined for Darth Vader. Though, of the three prequel films, Revenge of the Sith has been met with somewhat greater critical praise in certain circles (perhaps deservedly so after watching the snide, degrading Disney Star Wars sequel series like The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker).
The story for Revenge of the Sith takes place three years after the start of the Clone Wars. A civil war is underway between the Separatist faction of Count Dooku and the defenders of the old Republic. Obi-Wan and Anakin have been sent on a special mission to rescue Emperor Palpatine who has been captured by a new villain, a mechanical criminal under the control of Count Dooku named General Grievous. The Jedi believe they are walking into a trap (and they are correct). They rescue Palpatine and are immediately ambushed by Count Dooku. Obi-Wan is injured and left unconscious, but Anakin defeats Count Dooku in a lightsaber battle. In anger, and at Palpatine’s urging, Anakin decapitates Count Dooku while General Grievous escapes, and the Jedi crash land Dooku’s ship back on Coruscant. On the planet, Padme reveals to Anakin that she is pregnant (their marriage is still a secret). Anakin begins having nightmares that Padme dies in childbirth. He finds a new sense of urgency to prevent her death at any cost. Meanwhile, Palpatine appoints Anakin as his personal representative to the Jedi Council, while also privately sowing distrust of the Jedi Council. In response the Jedi Council grows skeptical of the relationship between Anakin and Palpatine, and the Council denies Anakin a seat as a Jedi Master. This decision draws the resentment and ire of Anakin. Over time, Palpatine tells Anakin of the Sith power which can avert death, and Palpatine reveals to Anakin that he is, in fact, a Sith Lord, himself. Conflicted, Anakin tells the Jedi Council of the truth of Palpatine, while Obi-Wan travels to Utapau to defeat General Grievous (in a ridiculous, entirely CGI fight scene that only ends with Obi-Wan shooting Grievous in the heart causing him to suddenly incinerate). Yoda travels to Kashyyyk, the wookie planet, to battle an invasion of Separatists. Mace Windu and three other Jedi confront Palpatine to arrest him, but Palpatine kills all three of them, and he is then overcome by Mace Windu who returns Palpatine’s force lightning with a lightsaber, thus hideously disfiguring his face (which explains his frightening appearance as the Emperor in Return of the Jedi). At the last moment, Anakin intervenes and cuts off the hand of Mace Windu and the emperor sends Windu flying off a ledge to his death. Anakin feels deeply tormented about what has happened but he knows he needs Palpatine to save Padme. At this moment, Anakin is dubbed Darth Vader, the new apprentice to Darth Sidious. Palpatine then issues “Order 66” which instructs all clone warriors to betray the Jedi. This eliminates the old Jedi order. Darth Vader then travels to the Jedi Temple and kills everyone, including the younglings in training. He then travels to the fiery planet of Mustafar to kill the last remaining Separatist leaders (the old Trade Federation leaders who have now been double-crossed by Darth Sidious). Palpatine, then, speaks before the senate floor and claims there has been an attempted coup by the Jedi which has left him disfigured. He declares himself emperor of the galaxy. The only two lingering Jedi remaining are seemingly Yoda and Obi-Wan. They return to Coruscant and witness the carnage at the Jedi Temple. Obi-Wan confronts Anakin on Mustafar with Padme who is distraught at what Anakin has become (Anakin then chokes her) and this leads to a ridiculously extensive CGI-ridden lightsaber battle until Obi-Wan ultimately defeats Anakin after gaining the higher ground and cutting off his legs. Anakin’s body is mostly lit on fire and left to die. Yoda confronts the new Emperor Palpatine. Yoda and Palpatine battle in the Senate until Yoda falls nearly to his death, and he flees Coruscant believing he has failed. Yoda and Obi-Wan regroup with Padme who delivers twin babies (which are surely premature at this point) –their names are Luke and Leia. Padme then dies in childbirth (didn’t Leia once say she had young memories of her mother?). Palpatine then recovers the mutilated body of Darth Vader and covers him in mechanical limbs and a black suit with a breathing apparatus. The emperor blames Anakin for the death of Padme. At the end, Yoda and Obi-Wan are forced into exile. Obi-Wan watches over Luke on Tatooine as he is cared for by his step-uncle and aunt, Owen and Beru Lars, and Leia is given to the care of Bail Organa on Alderaan. The film closes with a funeral for Padme on Naboo, while Vader and the Emperor oversee the early construction of a new super-weapon: the Death Star.
Lucas wrote and re-wrote this script several times, eventually settling on a particular focus: the downfall of Anakin. He originally had several side plots, such as a young Han Solo story on Kashyyyk. Several of the plot loopholes in the film series (such as how or why Kamino disappeared from the records of the Jedi library from Attack of the Clones) are left unexplained and were given permission from George Lucas to be explained elsewhere by novelists. Originally, Lucas intended for the Emperor explain to Anakin that he simply created Anakin from midi-chlorians and is thus Anakin’s father (in a parallel to Empire). Another scene was going to involve the ghost of Qui-Gon communicating with Yoda – perhaps why Yoda explains to Obi-Wan that his old master has been communing from death through the force at the end of the film.
This film is entertaining, I suppose. The overarching plot focuses on the detestable and whiny brat, Anakin, as he descends into his greatest moral depths, “seduced by the dark side.” Again, Hayden Christiansen’s acting and dialogue is wooden and uninspiring. Padme is an unfortunate character in this film (her character arc has entirely run stagnant from the once confident queen of Naboo in The Phantom Menace, to little more than a petty and forgettable waif –more or less a background character in the film). The bulk of the film’s action occurs altogether at the end as the plot seems to have been quickly slapped together in order to desperately connect the story to the original trilogy. It is filled with terrible cliches, confusing and irrational plot loopholes, awful dialogue, an unbelievable and sudden descent of Anakin into a purely evil figure, and even the heroes are not relatable –Mace Windu and the rest of the Jedi Order appear to be weak and disloyal to their own (all of this could have been avoided if they had simply trusted and supported Anakin) and the battle scene between Mace Windu and the Emperor is laughably goofy as is the cartoonish battle sequence between the emperor and Yoda. The Jedi appear to be a fallen and incapable group of warriors whose powers could neither foresee nor prevent the rise of evil. In many ways, Qui-Gon is the true villain of The Phantom Menace, while the Jedi Council’s incompetence drives the plot forward for the next two films. Also, why is the film called “revenge” of the sith? Whose revenge is exacted? What are they exacting vengeance for? The film leaves much to be desired and only raises a panoply of new questions.
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