Review – Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith
The basic idea for this series is to review Star Wars in episode order, as though I had never seen Star Wars before and know nothing of the story. It has been very challenging because a lot of the content doesn’t make sense in this order. There are callbacks to movies that haven’t happened yet, which considering the order should be setups, but instead they are not explained or set up, just “member berries” for the audience who remembers the next movies.
Revenge of the Sith is quite liked by audiences, although I find the movie to be the worst of the prequel trilogy. The story is linear; it moves from Attack of the Clones to A New Hope by just filling in the scenes with what the audience is expecting. Seeing how I can’t use that excuse in this series, since I’m feigning no knowledge of A New Hope, I thought that it would change my outlook on the film. I am sorry to say that it still comes across as linear. No character does anything surprising at all.
It could be that the chemistry between Portman and Christensen doesn’t convey the depth of love between the characters, and that makes Anakin’s actions hollow, but I don’t think that’s all that is going on. Anakin’s fall to the dark side in this movie is pretty jarring. In Attack of the Clones, Anakin’s slaughter of the Sand people is well motivated. The emotional damage of his mother dying in his arms, and knowing that he was getting premonitions from the force so that he could have stopped it, makes the character’s actions believable, if not relatable. This brush with the dark side seems to have no consequences at all for Anakin. Surely he harbours resentment towards the Jedi Order, and more specifically Obi-Wan and Yoda, for counselling Anakin that the dreams about his mother would pass. That Jedi counsel stopped his actions to help his mother should be a part of the character, yet nothing is expressed.
Anakin’s dreams of the future are his downfall, yet his downfall is not a result of the Sith, but the force. If Anakin’s dreams were sent to him by Palpatine, it would crystallise the story as the dark side trying to corrupt Anakin. Instead, the plot isn’t driven by the antagonist, but the force.
Anakin doesn’t have any good reason to think that Palpatine is telling him the truth, the Sith are masters of deception, so Anakin’s complete faith in the Sith Lord is unfounded. To galvanise the Sith’s promise I would have had a scene at the end of the Windu battle where Palpatine resurrects one of the fallen Jedi in Windu’s party, then kills him again. Show that Palpatine has the power to prevent death in others then show that he has no intention of doing so once Anakin has taken the mantle of Vader.
There are aspects to like about the film, I liked the climax battles; the Emperor vs Yoda and Obi-Wan vs Anakin. Visually they are quite the spectacle, although dangerous to look into in-depth.
While the lightsaber collisions are well choreographed, the wider actions crumble under scrutiny. The highlight of which is the final piece of the battle. When Anakin leaps over Obi-Wan, who has the ‘high ground.’ In the Phantom Menace Obi-Wan leaps over Maul and survives. In fact, 5 seconds earlier in the fight Anakin leaps over Obi-Wan. This technical argument for the fight just doesn’t make sense in the universe, but Anakin has to become Darth Vader, so of course this works when the story needs it to.
A more satisfying end of the fight would have had Anakin win the battle, but be in a situation where his arrogance has led him into a trap of his own making. Obi-Wan disarms Anakin (because he needs to have Anakin’s lightsaber in the next film), then Anakin uses the force to attack Obi-Wan throwing a big piece of machinery and disabling Obi-Wan, but the machine then rolls down the hill, throwing Anakin into the lava. That also puts Anakin in a position where he needs to save his own life using the force, showing how powerful he is, but still burning him. You could do it a million ways, and the idea is still the same, Anakin’s downfall is his overconfidence; I just think that it could have been done better.
I have a flurry of other problems with this film, that Padme is basically an ornament instead of a character, that Obi-Wan just walks away from the injured Anakin and leaves him to die, the phrase “Only a Sith deals in absolutes,” Padme dies for “reasons we can’t explain,” why are the children named by Padme, why does only C-3PO have his mind wiped?
All of these problems stem from the same source, the story is just trying to fill in the gaps between the last film and the next film and it can’t be bothered to find unexpected but inevitable answers to solve these plot questions.
This movie feels like it goes from point a to point b without any deviation or surprise. Considering that it is the culmination of 1000 years of Sith work in the shadows and the beginning of a Jedi counterattack plan, it should have felt like a game of 3D chess. Instead, it comes across more like paint by numbers.