REVIEW: Revenge of the Sith treats fans to the Dark Side of the Force

Spoiler-free section

Overall, Star Wars: Episode III-Revenge of the Sith was even more intense and dark than I was expecting. It tied up several loose threads, but left others open. The second half was very different from any of the other Star Wars movies.

Early on in the film, Artoo steals the show in a series of scenes. Based on fan reaction to his flying in Attack of the Clones, I’m sure some will continue to ask, “Why doesn’t Artoo do this stuff in the sequels?”

That doesn’t bother me, though. For one thing, he’s gotten older by then. And another, it’s conceivable that he could have been damaged somewhere along the line and the Rebels either didn’t have the resources or desire to fix the rockets. Remember, they were a rag-tag band of freedom fighters. With really cool starfighters. They used their resources on the ships and not repairing Artoo’s rockets.

Still, Artoo’s contributions left me wondering, could the little droid actually be a Jedi?

The Phantom Menace was Liam Neeson’s movie and Attack of the Clones was Natalie Portman’s. Artoo aside, Revenge of the Sith belongs to Ewan McGregor. He is Obi-Wan.

How’s that for a review that, in reality, says nothing? Now, I’m just waiting for Episode IV to come out so I can find out how the Jedi will defeat…oh wait, no spoilers in this section.

On a more serious note, if you’ve not seen Return of the Jedi lately, you may want to watch that one soon. There’s a scene near the beginning of Revenge of the Sith that mirrors one near the end of Jedi. It highlights one of the differences between Anakin and Luke.

Incidentally, there was nearly an uprising in the first showing here yesterday. After sitting through six or seven previews, the movie finally came on and the top half of the screen was the bottom and the bottom half of the screen was the top. A rather disconcerting start to the movie, especially since it took them a couple of minutes into the opening scene to fully fix it.

Since I knew we were coming back later in the day to see it a second time, it didn’t bother me too much. I thought a few fans were going to jump over us and into the projector booth, though.

The way it went straight from the previews to the messed up 20th Century Fox and LucasFilm logos, without the normal theater intro, I actually thought it was a joke at first – the beginning of a last commercial before the movie. That would’ve been a pretty funny way to start a preview, actually.

Anyway, I loved Revenge of the Sith. It was a very satisfying installment that did not disappointment. And once you see it for yourself, you can read the rest of this review.

Warning: The rest of this review assumes you’ve seen the movie and contains major plot spoilers.

Having also re-watched the first two last night, I’d say at this point that Revenge of the Sith is the best of the three prequels, although Attack of the Clones comes pretty close for me. As to where it ranks within the overall saga, I’m really not sure yet. I think it is still too new to decide.

This movie does change the experience of watching the first two in some ways. For instance, I noticed that there’s a line in Attack of the Clones that definitely foreshadows part of this movie, although it was not obvious until this one came out (I guess that’s the mark of good foreshadowing).

In Attack of the Clones, Anakin tells Obi-Wan that he keeps dreaming about his mother in pain. Then he says, “I’d much rather dream about Padme.” So, he is given his wish in Revenge of the Sith. Ah, wishes are always tricky like that. You can never be too specific with them. Lots of other stuff, but that was probably my favorite for some reason.

In Revenge of the Sith, it is Anakin’s very quest to save Padme’s life that kills her. And, ironically, it is the Jedi who actually unlock the key to “immortality,” not the Sith. But even that immortality is only their own and would not have helped Padme, had she actually been in real danger.

Obviously, Anakin must unlock this key as well at some point after seeing Obi-Wan do the trick – information that he does not share with Sidious. Or maybe Yoda and Obi-Wan (and even Qui-Gon, I guess) helped him in some way at the time of his death.

I still find the “All is forgiven, be one with the Force” ultimate ending for Anakin in Return of the Jedi a tiny bit suspect. But I suppose Jedi and the Force are very forgiving. In the end, the Dark Side is not stronger. Just faster and more seductive. Luke was strong enough to avoid its trappings, while Anakin was weak.

I’m looking forward to seeing what effect Revenge of the Sith has on re-watching the original trilogy.

Let’s see, nitpicks . . . or shall I say, open threads . . . with the caveats that I loved Revenge of the Sith and I’m sure most of these can be explained in some way. For many, it could be that they occurred between episodes III and IV. I sense an Episode III sequel novel on the horizon.

Based on the animated Star Wars: Clone Wars series only, I’d say that Mace Windu went down far too easily. As did most of the other Jedi. I guess the cartoon embellishes the whole thing a bit. Or maybe it’s just a cartoon, and not real like the movies.

Why does Owen seem so bitter against Obi-Wan in Episode IV? And what was that whole deal about Owen opposing Anakin’s involvement in the Clone Wars? Did he oppose it after the fact? He seemed to barely know Anakin, much less offering him advice on getting into a war that had not started the last time they met. Also, do Owen and Beru know the full story of what happened to Anakin? They seem to allude to it in Episode IV.

Luke says that there’s something familiar about Dagobah when he first arrives there in The Empire Strikes Back. This is a very personal nit (i.e., I thought I had this part figured out, but the reality was much simpler than my idea), but I’d always assumed that meant he spent the first year or so of his life there before going to Tatooine. If the big deal about Anakin’s fall was that he was not initially trained by Yoda and at a young enough age, that would have partially explained why Luke was able to avoid the Dark Side. (Then again, Yoda apparently trained Count Dooku and look how that turned out.)

That’s not to say Luke doesn’t go to Dagobah early on his life just because it isn’t in this movie. Perhaps it’s Obi-Wan showing up to take him there that annoys Owen so much. There’s fodder for the sequel novel right there. Which reminds me of another nit. . . .

Would it have been so hard to throw a line in saying that he was no longer going to call himself “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” but was going to call himself “Ben Kenobi” instead? (And what kind of a fake name is that? Similarly, did they not think Vader would put two and two together if and when he ever met Luke Skywalker?)

Speaking of throwing lines in, supposedly Kenobi “once thought as” Luke did – that there was still good in Vader. Where was this? Once their Revenge of the Sith battle began, at least as far as I saw, he never tried to convince Vader/Anakin to turn back. Unless, again, that takes place later . . . but . . . IV makes it sound like this was their last battle until what George Lucas has since called their old man fight. During which, Obi-Wan, obviously, was spending most of his energy meditating in preparation to do the Force spirit trick. How’s that for a made-up explanation?

I suppose that incident must have occurred between III and IV, though. It had to be something that Obi-Wan attempted to act on, because Vader was actually the one to tell Luke that Obi-Wan had once thought that way.

In fact, Padme’s last words to Obi-Wan may have helped to put the idea in Obi-Wan’s head. At the time, I suppose he thought Anakin dead anyway.

Did Obi-Wan have the ability to “feel” that Anakin was still alive from such a great distance? He does not seem to know. That also could be an interesting piece of the sequel novel, finding out that Vader was still alive. In fact, if they did think Vader dead, why didn’t Obi-Wan and Yoda then team up to go against the Emperor? The Yoda vs. Emperor match was essentially a draw. Obi-Wan would’ve tipped the scales. Unless there’s an implication that Yoda’s power was somehow usurped, the more he fought the more powerful the Emperor became? That may be a stretch, though. They both seemed weakened.

The funny thing is, the first time I saw the movie, I misheard Padme’s last words. I thought she said, “‘Obi-Wan’ . . . there’s a good name,” which would have been the worst last words ever! It wasn’t until the second time through that I was able to hear, “Obi-Wan . . . there’s still good in him.”

Apparently, whatever imbalance Palpatine created in the Force clouded the vision of the Jedi a lot. There was Palpatine working about two doors down from Yoda and Mace, and they never sensed that he was the Sith Lord. Yoda could feel the pain of Jedi millions of miles away, but not tap into the evil Sith Lord hiding in the open. I suppose it makes sense that Yoda could more easily tap into the Jedi, but you’d still think they would be able to get some kind of reading on Palpatine. There’s a line in Attack of the Clones in which Mace states that only the Sith lord knows that the Jedi’s power to use the Force has been greatly diminished, so I guess we can chalk it up to that.

As expected, they messed up the reveals of both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Sure, everyone knows by now that Vader is Luke’s father and that Leia is Luke’s sister. But still, watching the movies in order will make those scenes less important.

I’ll grant that it would have been practically impossible not to show that Anakin was Vader without making a very confusing and far inferior movie. I was surprised that he got the name prior to the suit, though. That was their one, small chance at ambiguity there. It would have been a way to make it appear that Anakin actually died and that “Vader” was someone else. I guess I imagined him “turning” in mid-battle somewhere and then going against Obi-Wan rather than how it was portrayed in the movie as two separate events.

Even then, however, it still would have made Obi-Wan’s line “A young pupil of mine named Darth Vader killed him” stand out as a li–unique point of view on the truth once Episode IV rolled around. This wasn’t really a problem for me, simply a surprise. I suppose I’m actually glad they didn’t take that ambiguous route anyway just to preserve a “secret” that everyone knows. So, this one, I’ll give them. I still wonder if the “proper” order to watch these movies in for the uninitiated would be IV, V, VI, I, II, III, though. But that is a discussion for another day.

But this next one I knew I was right about, but of course I was wrong again. Kenobi mentions at the end of The Empire Strikes Back that Luke is their last hope. Yoda tells him, “No, there is another.” Kenobi doesn’t seem to know the Leia connection at that point!

I thought for sure he’d whisk Luke off to safety (to Dagobah!) without realizing there was another to be born (they could’ve hidden that from the audience as well, by taking the POV with Obi-Wan–preserving the Return of the Jedi reveal). Another personal nit.

This leads into the part that probably annoyed me the most. In Return of the Jedi, Luke asks Leia about her real mother. He even puts an emphasis on “real,” and she doesn’t question it. She says that her real mother died when she was very young, but that she remembered her being very beautiful and very sad.

Yes, this can be explained away by “Leia was a Jedi” or “She was just remembering pictures” but it just seemed that they killed Padme in Revenge of the Sith for the emotional impact, rather than staying true to the established story.

For a moment, I thought they did it right, though. When Bail Organa first gets back to Alderaan, for a split second I thought it was Padme standing there to take the baby from him. Remember, the fate of the “Natalie Look-alike” from The Phantom Menace was never revealed. The double killed at the beginning of Attack of the Clones was a different character. Perhaps Padme had faked her death and was going to raise Leia on Alderaan. But no, she was really dead.

And yes, it did seem funny at first to hear James Earl Jones utter the particular lines of dialogue that serve as the first words from within the Vader suit–but it also made sense. They were really Anakin‘s last words (at least for the next couple of decades or so).

Anyway, those were my nits that come to mind this morning. Still, all things considered, Lucas tied it up better than I ever thought possible. Fantastic film.

Story: 9 (out of 10)
Performances: 9
Visual Style: 10
Effects: 10
Music: 10
Overall: 10