Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005) Director: George Lucas
Revenge of the Sith is the third and painful final installment of the Star Wars “prequel” series. It finishes the long-awaited trilogy and after watching it, you can almost hear a gasp of relief among the director, staff, and actors, as if desperately wanting to pull this series to a close and forget it ever happened. And fans have largely agreed, though of the three prequel film, Revenge of the Sith has been somewhat critically reappraised (perhaps deservingly 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 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 go on a special mission to rescue Palpatine who has been captured by a new villain, a mechanical villain 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 ambushed by Count Dooku. Obi-Wan is injured and left unconscious, but Anakin defeats Count Dooku. In anger, and at Palpatine’s urging, he 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 becomes motivated to save her at any cost. Meanwhile, Palpatine appoints Anakin as his personal representative to the Jedi Council, while he sows distrust in Anakin toward the Jedi Council. In response the Jedi Council grows skeptical of the relationship between Anakin and Palpatine, and the Jedi Council denies Anakin a seat as a Master on the council. Over time, Palpatine tells Anakin of the sith power to avert death, and Palpatine reveals to Anakin that he is a sith lord. 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 ends with Obi-Wan shooting Grievous in the heart causing him to suddenly incinerate) and Yoda travels to Kashyyk, the wookie planet, to battle an invasion of Separatists. Mace Windu and three other Jedi confront Palpatine to arrest him, but Palpatine kills three of them, and is overcome by Mace Windu who returns his force lightning with a lightsaber, thus 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 just 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 orders “Order 66” which instructs all clone warriors to attack the Jedi instead. This eliminates the old Jedi order. Darth Vader then goes 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, goes 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 Yoda and Obi-Wan. They return to Coruscant and witness the carnage at the Jedi Temple. Obi-Wan goes to confront Anakin on Mustafar with Padme who is distraught at what he has become (Anakin then chokes her) until Obi-Wan defeats Anakin after gaining the higher ground and cutting off his legs and his body gets mostly lit on fire, while Yoda confronts the new Emperor Palpatine. Obi-Wan leaves Anakin suffering and on the brink of death. Yoda and Palpatine battle 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): Luke and Leia. Padme then dies in childbirth (didn’t Leia once say she had memories of her mother?). Palpatine takes the mutilated body of Darth Vader and covers him in mechanical limbs and a black suit with a breathing apparatus. The emperor tells him that Anakin (himself) killed Padme. At the end, Yoda and Obi-Wan go 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 by Bail Organa on Alderaan. The film closes with a funeral for Padme on Naboo, while Vader and the Emperor oversee 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 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 by novelists. Originally, Lucas was going to have 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 falls to the depths of the dark side. Again, Hayden Christiansen’s acting and dialogue is wooden and uninspiring. Padme is an unfortunate character (her character arc has declined from the once confident queen of Naboo in The Phantom Menace, into a petty and forgettable waif). 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 series. 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 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 scene between the emperor and Yoda. The Jedi appear to be a fallen and incapable group of warriors whose powers could not foresee nor prevent the rise of evil. 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 more questions than it answers.