Today I have the privilege of writing the next article in our series looking back at the entire Star Wars saga, with Episode III Revenge of the Sith. I hope you enjoy it.
Star Wars Episode III Revenge Of The Sith written by Paul Wright:
Light your torches. Get your pitch forks. Wake the neighbors. Because I’m going to have an angry mob after me for what I’m about to say: Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith is a great Star Wars movie. Not only great, but one of my favorites, probably in the top 3. But hear me out, because Revenge of the Sith is a better movie than it gets credit for.
To be fair this isn’t exactly an objective statement. Like so many of you, my love of Star Wars and this film in particular, comes in large part from the experience of seeing it in the theatre. On the big screen. When the new trilogy ends, I’ll be proud to say that I got to see the entire Star Wars Saga on the big screen (Yes, I’m counting the re-releases, I’m not that fucking old yet). When the new trilogy, Episodes VII to IX, was announced I felt a profound sense of gratitude that I’d once again be able to go to the movie theatre with my friends and family and see a NEW STAR WARS MOVIE! The most important part of that last sentence was “friends and family” and probably the single biggest reason I love Star War so much.
I remember my Dad taking my brother and I to see the re-released “Special Editions” at the local theatre in Cambridge, Mass. At that point no one in the theater cared about Lucas mucking about with the movies, at the time I certainly didn’t care. There was a palpable excitement in the theatre seeing these incredible movies. Even if the guy next to me had seen the original back in 77, we were all about to see something new. Some of the additions actually really add to the trilogy, seeing Jaba confront Han in A New Hope, puts their conflict with him in Return of the Jedi in a slightly different light and bookends Han’s journey in that trilogy in a cool way. Say what you want, but I think re-releasing the original trilogy, changes and all, was one of the smartest moves Lucas ever made. Because even though some of the changes are for the worse, Lucas created a whole new generation of Star Wars fans and I was one of them. So, when the prequels came out I was chomping at the bit.
I’ll never forget seeing that first trailer for The Phantom Menace. This was before the internet was in constant use, I had no idea this was coming. My brother and I lost our minds, the movie we were about to see was forgotten because we just saw a trailer for a NEW STAR WARS MOVIE! It was pure joy and man… it was one HELL of a trailer. Try to forget any negative feelings you may have for The Phantom Menace and just try to appreciate this trailer on its own terms:
After The Phantom Menace mostly disappointed (but I walked away more or less enjoying it at the time), Attack of the Clones was a huge improvement. It’s a very flawed movie, but I love it. Finally, we got to the real meat of it… Revenge of the Sith. Seeing this movie opening night was without a doubt the best movie going experience of my life.
Me, my brother, and a group of our best friends waited in line for at least 2 hours to see the midnight show. At this point, I was in college and the highlight of the pre-show festivities had to be watching one of my best friends who was dressed as a Sith Lord, nearly get pummeled into submission by an 11 year old boy, toppling into a gigantic movie theatre display in what started as a “playful” lightsaber duel. Everyone in line loved it and it set the tone for a great night. Finally, we took our seats and the movie began and those immortal words appeared across the screen…
A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far, Far away…
There I was surrounded by people I loved and hundreds of strangers, all there because we all loved these movies. This is what people are talking about when they call movies “magic”. There was magic in the theatre that night. I don’t think Ive ever seen a theatre crowd so wrapt to the movie they were watching.
I feel I should say I don’t think Hayden Christenson who plays Anakin Skywalker, is a particularly good actor. There were better choices for actors to play the man who would one day be the most feared and reviled individual in the galaxy. But Hayden Christenson stepped up his game between Episodes II and III. You could see that there was something very wrong about this guy. The transition from the swashbuckling man we see at the beginning of the film to the man consumed by rage and fear, ready to fight Obi-Wan to the death really works and is the backbone of the movie.
And since I brought him up, lets talk about the real hero of this movie (and the entire trilogy really): Ewan MacGregor. He is fantastic as Obi-Wan Kenobi. More than anyone in the prequels he always managed to make Lucas’ stilted dialogue work. I hate the idea of this stupid, fucking Han Solo prequel movie, but I’d love to see MacGregor return to the character in an Obi-Wan stand alone movie. I’m sure there are plenty of interesting stories that could be told during his 20 year vigil on Tantooine.
My esteemed colleague, Mr. Tim Cuff, believes steadfastly that the 3 way lightsaber duel in The Phantom Menace is the best lightsaber fight in the Star Wars Saga, but Anakin and Obi-Wan’s fateful duel on Mustafar is mythic. It’s the stuff of legend! The creation of Darth Vader! This is a fight fans have been hearing about for decades and it doesn’t disappoint. While the fight choreography in The Phantom Menace fight may be more dazzling, it’s hurt by the fact that film keeps cutting away to Padme’s misson, the Gungan’s battling the droids and Young Anakin in his spaceship. This fight only cuts to the almost equally epic Yoda vs Palpatine fight. Which is a thrilling fight no Star Wars fan ever thought they’d get to see. Yoda and Palpatine, the Jedi and the Sith in their purest forms.
Let’s not forget that these two men were like brothers and the power of there bond being destroyed is felt in every lightsaber swing. In my favorite scene in the movie, there’s a pause in Anakin and Obi-Wan’s fight across Mustafar’s volcanic landscape. Obi-Wan looks at Anakin with pain in his eyes and says “I have failed you, Anakin. I have failed you.” The tragedy is that Obi-Wan couldn’t save his friend, and though it wasn’t his fault, he’s haunted by it for the rest of his life. Of course, Obi-Wan ultimately wins the fight. Anakin is horribly maimed and burned. Obi-Wan says to him “You were my brother, Anakin. I loved you.” With nothing left of the man he once was, Anakin’s last words to Obi-Wan “I hate you!” are a guttural scream. With that Obi-Wan picks up Anakin’s lightsaber, the same weapon wielded by Rey decades later, and turns his back on his dying friend. The Emperor defeats Yoda and shows up on Mustafar to saves his apprentice. Almost like Frankenstein’s Monster his transformation into Darth Vader is complete.
What I love about this film is that its just as much about the failure of The Jedi as it is about the fall of Anakin Skywalker. Their monastic, black and white view of the world (as well as their arrogance) is what led to their downfall. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Luke is trained very differently when he becomes a Jedi. Luke was almost always kind of a grey Jedi, as if Obi-Wan and Yoda learned from their mistakes with Anakin.
So, the story of the creation of one of the greatest villains in cinema history was complete. The movie closes out with the setting of the twin sun’s of Tantooine and John Williams’ iconic music swells. The credits hit the screen: Directed by George Lucas. I shot up into air and screamed “FUCK YEAH!”. The theatre erupted. I’m sure opinions varied later on, but in that moment we were all caught up in the magic of Star Wars. Which brings me to my original point and why Star Wars is sacred to me. Star Wars is family. It turns strangers into brothers. It brings us together instead of tearing us apart. So, whenever a new chapter in the Star Wars Saga hits theaters, I look back at that night back in 2005 and realize I’m going to make new memories and have new experiences with the people I love. What is that, if not magic?
May The Force Be with you…