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Monday, January 9, 2017

Star Wars retrospective: Revenge of the Sith

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

I said after watching The Force Awakens that I was going to watch and cover the first half-dozen Star Wars films. It has taken me a year to do it, but I finally re-watched Revenge of the Sith a week ago.

Revenge of the Sith is here we see a heel turn by the Jedi Order, and that heel turn leads directly to the establishment of the Galactic Empire. It was a needless turn that makes the Sith look sympathetic, which is not what you want to do in wrapping up the trilogy that plunges the galaxy into twenty years of darkness.

I will start off the review with a couple complaints: The droids are completely useless and a total joke. Why the Trade Federation (and later the separatists) did not build the much stronger super battle droids as their army is beyond me. It does not make the Jedi look heroic to easily mow down hundreds upon hundreds of walking toothpicks that are not intimidating in the least. Even worse, the droids had the drop on Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker multiple times and could have killed them, but did not. That makes no sense.

Second, Hayden Christensen has improved from the previous movie but he does not sell his concern for Kenobi well at all, either during the space battle or when he is carrying Kenobi out. Where he really shines is his facial expressions later in the movie. He sells his grief and pain without a single word spoken. His look has improved too, from the Padawan haircut to a mess of hair and wearing all black.

Third, while the romantic banter between Skywalker and Padme Amidala is not nearly as painful or cringe-worthy as the awful dialogue in Episode II, it is still very bad.

The most interesting thing in this movie is that there is so much moral ambiguity between the Sith and the Jedi. I am not sure if Lucas intended to do this or not, and I waver back and forth on whether this was a good thing or a bad thing. On one level, the villains should be understandable - not necessarily sympathetic, but not mustache twirling monsters who cannot wait to step on a box of kittens either.

It starts when the Jedi ask Skywalker to spy on Emperor Palpatine. (Ian McDiarmid is excellent again.) Skywalker correctly points out that he is asked to betray a mentor and a friend, is being asked to betray the Republic, and is being asked to betray the Jedi Code. This unethical move by the Jedi Council leaves Skywalker vulnerable to manipulation by Palpatine.

Palpatine takes advantage, telling Skywalker that the Jedi plan to betray him and rule over the Republic. The Jedi themselves enforce this belief when Mace Windu goes to "arrest" Palpatine and attempts to murder him instead. This was a strange and poorly set up heel turn, as Windu goes from saying Palpatine will be put on trial to trying to murder him in less than a minute. What changed in that sixty seconds?

Skywalker stops Windu, and Palpatine kills Windu. Skywalker asks himself, "What have I done?" Um, you stopped an act of treason, a murder, an attempt to overthrow the legitimately elected Supreme Chancellor of the Republic and the assassination of the head of state. In that moment, the Jedi were clearly wrong and the Sith were clearly right. There would be no due process for a defeated Palpatine. He would just be murdered. Anakin Skywalker upheld the Jedi Code in stopping Mace Windu.

This was a very well done movie, and while it has flaws it more than makes up for the failures of the previous two prequels. (Which I still like, in spite of their flaws.) It makes sense that the Empire started work on the Death Star at the end of Episode III, because a project like that - building a space station the size of a moon - would easily take twenty years. There is a big plot hole in that Princess Leia says she knew her mother, but Padme's death could have easily been faked to protect her from Darth Vader.

Previously in the Star Wars retrospective, covering the first five movies: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

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