“So this is how liberty dies – to thunderous applause”
Star Wars Episode III is what everyone was waiting for. The title “Revenge of the Sith” already had the Star Wars fans excited for the final prequel. Hopes were dashed in Phantom Menace and they were further corrupted by the love-story of Attack of the Clones … now we were to see Anakin truly become Darth Vader. The teasing of Anakins “medochlorians” through to the arrogant Anakin we saw in Attack of the Clones was now to come full circle as he turned to the Dark Side. Apprently, many things were changed during the production of this film as Lucas had planned this film even before Attack of the Clones. The focus had to be fully upon Anakin – nothing else could distract us from his fall from grace. Plot-points that involved understanding the deletion of the galaxy Kamino and showing Han Solo at the age of 10 were scrapped so that we would be fully immersed in Anakin. There is a side to me which would have had a kick out of seeing Han Solo as a child … but, considering how much I enjoyed Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith I don’t think I would want to change anything at all. Who knows – maybe in ten years time, Lucas will add the Han Solo scene in anyway. And he will scream “No-o-o-o-o!” as little Han see’s Anakin for the first time.
At the End of the Clone Wars…
Revenge of the Sith begins three years into the Clone Wars as Jedi’s defend the Republic in the face of the separatists that continue to rebel against them. We see the Jedi meetings whereby multiple Jedi’s are not physically present as they defend their own planets. But at least, unlike Attack of the Clones, we see Obi-Wan and Anakin on a mission together. They are more confident and know exactly how to use their strengths. This is what Attack of the Clones should’ve shown more of – our two lead characters “kicking ass”. What is strange is how we already know that the leader of the Republic – Supreme Chancellor Palpatine is a bad guy – we know he is Darth Sidious. The entire farce about Palpatine being “taken prisoner” is even more interesting – as an audience, we virtually know more than every character on screen. Grievious doesn’t realise who Palpatine truly is, Anakin doesn’t realise how he is being used, Dooku doesn’t realise how expendable he is … as we know Anakin is who Palpatine really wants as an apprentice.
This first action sequence sets in stone the downfall of Anakin – Dooku, the anatgonist in Attack of the Clones is murdered, by Anakin, in the first action sequence. Anakin is challenged by the direction to kill him, but comfortably does so – especially as Palpatine reveals how he knows about the sand people. It reminds me of Scar in The Lion King telling Simba – “It’s our little secret”.
Anakin and Palpatine truly come out of their shell in this film – the best scene in the prequels, possibly in the entire franchise, portrays Palpatine discuss the ‘power’ of the Dark Side during an opera. “It’s a Sith legend. Darth Plagueis was a Dark Lord of the Sith who lived many years ago. He was so powerful and so wise that he could use the Force to influence the midichlorians to create life… He had such a knowledge of the dark side that he could even keep the ones he cared about from dying”.
Hayden Christensen is widely considered the major flaw in these films – but the dialogue between Christensen and McDiarmid is incredible – you can see the cogs turning in Anakin’s head. He is desperate to save Padme, he believes he is stronger and superior to all the Jedi’s. It is Palpatine’s flattery and obsession that creates such ignorance and arrogance in Anakin. The two are a force to be reckoned with and you can see how the two complement each other so well.
Righting the Wrongs
In The Phantom Menace we discussed the ‘duality’ of life, whilst in Attack of the Clones we are presented with confusion and corruption. Revenge of the Sith categorically fights the definition of good and bad. Despite all the corruption in the senate, the ignorance of a the majority is what gives Palpatine strength. As Padme stated: “So this is how liberty dies – to thunderous applause”. On a galactic level, it is unclear who is good and who is bad – the separatists fight against a corrupt Republic, the Jedi’s fight to represent the corrupt Republic … the Jedi hold back information and skills from others whilst the very nature of democracy appears to be what is continuing the Clone Wars.
We know from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope that the Jedi lose their power and respect – and become outsiders to the galaxy. I think the parrallel’s to Fascism and the rise of power that Hitler had, feeds well into the saga. It is difficult to comprehend such corruption managing to slither its way into a position of authority – but Lucas manages to not only show how true evil manages to creep in, but also how that same evil distorts and damages others. Moreso, how Luke is then born into this world and knows no other truth. Through these prequels, we have seen the glory days of the senate and galaxy – whereby Jedi’s protected the universe. Not only is the growth of power to Palpatine fascinating to watch – but it is incredibly believable.
In Attack of the Clones, Anakin killed the Mothers and children of the sand people through his hatred for them – in Revenge of the Sith he murders all the Jedi. The “younglings” are murdered by the character we have sympathised and understood since The Phantom Menace. Lucas is not attempting to cater to an audience who just want action – he is trying to show us something we haven’t seen before and explain how anyone can be corrupted.
One thing which I believe is very difficult to clarify is the motives Anakin has for turning to the Dark Side. He becomes obsessed with saving Padme – this obsession makes him ripe for blackmail, which Sidious exploits. Add to this Anakin’s distrust in the Jedi – rooted in his own arrogance and desperation to be accepted as a Master. The changes we see in this film are heart-breaking – though we follow Anakin and concern ourselves deeply with his struggle to protect his family, follow his feelings and desperately do what he believes is right (which, unfortunately, is wrong), we realise that on a larger scale Anakin is single-handedly what ensures the defeat of the Jedi.
By far, the most memorable sequence is when in Sith Lord guise, Palpatine orders the storm-troopers to kill all the Jedi. We see characters who are protecting one-minute, and the next murdered by an Army they assisted. The devastating affect Anakin’s decision has had on the fate of thousands is truly epic – almost on a par with the destruction of Alderraan in A New Hope. One thing Star Wars does not shy away from is epic-scale tragedy – genocide and murder. Considering we are watching something primarily for “kids”, it is facinating to see how Lucas manages to squeeze in allegories of historical events potentially as diverse as the holocaust, communism and the cold war. We even see the terminal end of the Democratic Republic becomeing the Galactic Empire. This is equally facsinating as we know A New Hope provides that hint of a line whereby a general states the success of destroying the last remnants of “the republic”. It is about complete power and destruction.
Who Are We Really?
Lucas stated in an interview that he was interested in “the deeper psychological movements of the way we conduct our lives” and these deeper psychological movements are clearly the focus in Revenge of the Sith. This film depicts the deep hatred Anakin has for Obi-Wan – and by the end of the film it is too much. He burns on the lava and, in agony, calls out “I hate you”, you truly feel the pain he feels – his anger towards the choice he has been had to make and anger he believes Obi-Wan is responsible for. Both Sidious and Anakin, as their faces are scarred deep by the evil within them, hark back to The Exorcist, even as Palpatine continues to sell himself to the senate – and people seem to still support him.
Connection to Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
But it doesn’t end there – we see the birth of Luke and Leia and how her “broken heart” is the reason she died. I cannot help but think that, narratively, we would gain much more insight if we clearly saw how Anakin was directly responsible for her death. At any rate, a nice reference to Millais’ Ophelia is a nice touch as Padme’s funeral begins in Naboo.
Totop it off, we see an incredible final shot as we know that the next trilogy is where this leads – Anakin and Padme’s love has disrupted the galaxy, but it is their children who bring balance to the system. An incredible film that ensures that this prequel will not be forgotten …