Countdown to the Force Awakens: The Pros & Cons of Revenge of the Sith

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Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith is where I veer off from the prequel haters.  I don’t care what anybody says – this is a damn good movie.  Yeah, it still has prequel-ish problems like bad dialogue and the over use of CG, but the positives significantly outweigh the negatives for this one.  Bottom-line – you finally care.  It feels like Star Wars.  For the people who want to lump this in with the other two, I don’t get it.  What else could you have possibly wanted from this movie?  It delivers on everything it promised, and even enhances the story, which should be the main function of a prequel.  This is a powerful film that was clearly not just for kids.  George Lucas gave fans the last hurrah (or so we thought) that we deserved.

By the end of this article, I’m going to convince you Revenge of the Sith is worthy of the Star Wars name.  Here it is – the pros and cons of Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith!

Characters (Pro)

Obi-Wan Kenobi: Ewan McGregor, the Tim Duncan of the prequel trilogy, just a model of consistency.  In this one, he’s not just the best of a bad situation.  Obi-Wan is finally given real meat, because we feel the burden and sadness he goes through with regards to Anakin, which leads us to our next character.

Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader: It took three films, but Lucas finally nailed this character.  Yes, Hayden Christensen is still wooden here and there, but his performance obliterates what he did in the previous film.  The biggest improvement is in the writing.  Maybe not so much in the dialogue, but you finally felt invested in this guy’s journey.  He’s being pulled in so many directions, and watching how he handles all of it is fascinating.  When he says he “feels lost,” it might seem like a cheesy Anakin line from Episode II, but it’s true.  All the strongest influences in his life (Obi-Wan, Palpatine, Padme and the Jedi Council) give him different advice.  It’s no wonder this guy turns to the dark side!  Bottom-line: Anakin was finally the engaging character I always wanted.

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Darth Sidious: Count Dooku was a throw away villain, and while Darth Maul was mysterious and cool, there wasn’t a whole lot there.  We always liked Palpatine from the previous episodes, but we only got him in doses.  Aside from Anakin, this is Palpatine’s movie, and I loved every minute of it.  We finally got the phenomenal villain we’ve been waiting for.  In the first half he’s a slimy, calm, cool and collected politician, but when he gets scarred by Mace Windu, it’s full on crazy Darth Sidious.  Ian McDiarmid gives the single best performance of the entire prequel trilogy, and it’s pure pleasure to watch this evil bastard hose everybody.  Revenge of the Sith could not have been a more perfect title for this film.

Characters (Cons)

Jar Jar Binks: I know he’s literally in two scenes, but the fact he still gets one line of dialogue pisses me off to no end!  You can barely hear it, but it’s there.  After Palpatine and Mace Windu have their exchange about General Grevious, the posse walks away and there’s a faint “Excuse me” from Jar Jar.  There is no doubt in my mind George threw that in just to piss everybody off.  “Hahahahahaha!  Jar Jar spoke in every prequel film!  Take that, fans!”  Unbelievable.

Chewbacca: No reason for this whatsoever.  Total fan service.  Pathetic.  He does absolutely nothing but growl once.

Padme: This is definitely the best Natalie Portman performance out of all three, but she’s still a nothing character.  Her screen time feels limited, and she’s pretty much crying in every scene.  It’s not until the actual character’s funeral where I finally felt something.  As she’s being taken away, the japor snippet that Anakin gave her as a kid is on her.  I give most of the credit to John Williams, but I have to admit, that kind of gets to you.

The Jedi Council (specifically Mace Windu): It’s no wonder the Jedi fell.  We always pictured the Jedi Council to be great men and women all working together to keep the galaxy at peace, when in reality they were a bunch of arrogant dicks.  They are also hypocrites.  They pride themselves as honorable, yet are very shady.  They make Anakin spy on the Chancellor, but the assignment is not officially on record.  Everything that Palpatine tells Anakin about the Jedi actually happens.  He told Anakin the Council doesn’t trust him, and they didn’t.  He said they wanted to take over the Senate, and that was literally their plan, but they were coy about it.  Please.

Mace Windu was the real culprit in all this, and I singlehandedly blame him for the extinction of the Jedi.  He’s a complete jerk to Anakin, and for no reason.  Anakin made great strides from when he was a padawan, yet Windu still treats him like he’s an untrustworthy head case.  If I had a boss like Mace Windu, I’d probably go to the competitor as well.  But in one of the biggest moments of the film, he goes for the kill on an unarmed Sidious.  Not only is this against Jedi code, but if he never attempted to kill him, everything would have been fine.  Anakin would not have gone to the dark side, and the Jedi wouldn’t have been slaughtered.  He should have taken him captive and waited for Yoda to deal with everything.

Speaking of Yoda, I want to take him to task as well.  He knows the Jedi are getting out of hand and power hungry, yet he continues to go along with it.  He’s always saying stuff like “To a dark place this line of thought will carry us,” yet he doesn’t do anything about it!  Step up your leadership, Yoda!  Get your house in order!

Also, the Jedi who get killed by Sidious that stand perfectly still are the worst Jedi Knights in the history of the galaxy.

The Action Sequences (Pros)

All the Lightsaber Duels: There are five lightsaber duels in this film, and only one I don’t care for.  Obi-Wan battling General Grevious is a waste of time.  The four lightsabers was a blatant attempt at trying to out do Episode I.  Also, I don’t like the idea of a non Jedi dueling a Jedi.  Why can’t the Jedi just use the force?  As far as the other duels, they bring the epic quality that were promised when this movie came out.

There isn’t much to the Dooku duel, but it’s fast paced and I love how it mirrors the duel from Return of the Jedi with the Emperor looking on in his throne chair.

I can’t stand Mace Windu as a character, but his duel with Sidious was the most intense I’ve seen Samuel L. Jackson as this character.  The music is tense as hell, and I love the close quarters atmosphere.  Sidious busting out the lightsaber for the first time was definitely a crowd pleasing moment.

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What makes this film truly special though are the final duels we thought we’d ever see in a Star Wars movie: Yoda Vs Sidious.  Obi-Wan Vs Darth Vader.  We’ve waited years for these, and both delivered.  Yoda and Sidious go nuts and force the crap out of this fight.  The music.  The pod room.  Epic as hell.  This is where Ian McDiarmid really got to sink his teeth as the villain of all villains.  Only he could do that laugh.

The duel to end all duels though was Obi-Wan and Vader on the lava planet.  I can understand someone not liking this fight.  It’s completely over the top and insane, but when you think about it, how could you not do this?  Aside from all the acrobatics, crazy special effects and rehearsed choreography, this duel works above all else because you cared about this relationship.  That’s what makes the end so powerful as Vader’s body completely burns.  This is why Episode III hits me.  If you’re a Star Wars fan and didn’t like this sequence, I’m not really sure what you were looking for.

The Action Sequences (Cons)

The Utapau Chase: This sequence felt like it belonged in Episode II – nothing but a CGI fest with no meat whatsoever.

The Opening Sequence (Battle Droids): Overall, the opening space sequence wasn’t bad, but the battle droids completely ruin it.  For some reason their voices are more annoying.  R2 sprays them with oil (haha) and lights them on fire with his jets.  That sucked.  Again, this felt like an Episode II scene.

The Story Beats (Pros)

The Opera Scene: I don’t know what the hell Palpatine and Anakin are watching here, but it looks like an opera, so I call it the opera scene, alright!  This is by far the most well written scene of the entire prequel trilogy.  It’s Palpatine at his most evil.  Everything he tells Anakin from the Jedi’s betrayal to the legend of Darth Plagueis, and of course the unnatural powers of the dark side is brilliant.  It really makes you understand why Anakin ultimately turns to the dark side.  Ian McDiarmid is great, really delivering this monologue with true gusto.

Aside from that, it also gives us a reason to not completely hate the midi-chlorians.  When Palpatine talks about the dark side manipulating the midi-chlorians to create life, it hits you like a bolt of lightning.  Anakin wasn’t some random Jesus kid.  He was born from the force because of a Sith lord.  That’s pretty damn interesting.  And while it’s never explicitly said, it’s strongly hinted at that Palpatine was the one responsible for this.  That is one hell of a plot twist.  Through all the Jar Jar hatred, Anakin/Padme love story, Jake Lloyd, the CG and everything else people want to bitch and moan about with the prequels, it’s nuanced stuff like this that people don’t pay attention to.

Order 66/Jedi Temple Assault: It’s just another brilliant look into the mind of Darth Sidious, and how well executed his plan was from the get go.  He takes the Jedi out like chumps.  Vader’s assault on the Temple with an army of Clone Troopers behind him was also cool from an aesthetic point of view.  For all the complaints about how the prequels were made for kids, it’s hard to lump Episode III into this when you see Vader ignite the lightsaber against the younglings.  Yikes.

Becoming Darth Vader: Yeah, the “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO” sucks, alright!  I get it.  It blows.  Awful.  But putting aside that one blunder for just a minute, the masking scene could not have been more perfect.  Watching the mask descend onto Anakin was chilling, the music is perfect and then everything goes quiet as we hear the iconic breath.  If that doesn’t get to you as a Star Wars fan, then I suggest watching another film series.

Qui-Gon Jinn: We never see him, but I love how they reveal it was Qui-Gon who discovered how to become one with the force (force ghosts).  That was a nice touch.

Getting to Where we Need to Be: The last five minutes could not have been more flawless.  The Emperor, Vader and Tarkin over see the construction of the Death Star.  Bail Organa takes Leia home to Alderaan.  Obi-Wan delivers Luke to Owen and Beru, as they stare out into the dual suns of Tatooine.  Bada bing, bada boom.

The Story Beats (Cons)

“She’s Lost the Will to Live”: The birth of Luke and Leia is generally fine, but this line pisses me off.  The reason for Padme dying in child birth should have been left ambiguous.  When the medical droid explicitly says “she’s lost the will to live,” it makes the character look especially weak.  Padme was never a strong character though, so I guess this ending is fitting.

Closing Thoughts

There’s no debate on whether Revenge of the Sith is the best of the prequels.  That’s obvious.  There is a debate on whether it falls into the “it’s tolerable” category, or if it’s legitimately good.  While it’s obviously not in the class of the original trilogy, this is still a great movie.  While some of the prequel issues carry over, I still felt like I was watching a Star Wars movie, and that’s all you can ask for.  The prequels are a complete mess, but at least with this last chapter they add some value to the overall Star Wars saga.