Day 3 everybody! The finale to the prequel trilogy, the one where everything happens, is finally here!
Through the first two prequels, the events that lead directly into A New Hope are few and far between. We meet Uncle Owen for the first time (a gorgeous young Joel Edgerton, I might add); Anakin is the first Skywalker to lose a hand; we first see the true power of Yoda, from whom Luke learns to become such a powerful Jedi, and there’s even a little Jabba the Hut cameo. Other than that, it’s all leading up to the big stuff. How did Padme die? How did Anakin turn? How did Obi-Wan and Yoda end up on Tatooine and Dagobah? Well folks, this is where it all begins. At the end.
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith sees the Clone Wars escalate, and as Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) hunts for a key General from the Separatists to end the war, a “shocking” revelation from Padme (Natalie Portman) drives Anakin (Hayden Christensen) to seek help from the Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), who grows more powerful each day.
Episode III is definitely the strongest of the prequels, both in story and impact – the usual politics between the separatists and the Republic are once again at play, but this is where they actually work. The formal negotiations behind us, Revenge of the Sith is full of backstabbing and double agents, as Supreme Chancellor Palpatine schemes and kills his way into absolute power to form the Empire that we all know and hate. From the opening it feels like a real Star Wars film – it’s enjoyable, full of action and fun humour, and tense lightsaber battles that showcase the power of our Jedi. The plot is more focused, and Anakin is more likeable within it, with his relationship with Padme more palpable and sweet than the last film, as is his brotherhood with Obi-Wan. But the doom of Anakin’s impending betrayal constantly looming, never giving us ease.
However, the emotional turns of the story that mark Anakin’s descent – his pledge to the Dark Side, his loss of Padme, his betrayal of Obi-Wan – lack any emotional reaction from Anakin, whether it’s regret or dark hatred, mainly because of a lacklustre performance from Christensen. This removes a lot of the depth and tragedy from many of the films’ pivotal scenes, as his actions are unsympathetic. We see no strong motivations for him to do the things he does, and because of that there’s no redemption. Even Padme’s character is diminished, her pregnancy leaving her incapable of performing her Senatorial duties (we see her in the Senate once), and this disappointingly strips away the enormous strength of a heroine we know far better.
But as the film goes on, it becomes clearer that the series is not just about Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side or his journey to becoming Darth Vader – it was just as much Obi-Wan’s story, the story of their brotherhood, which makes the film even sadder. His refusal to believe in Anakin’s transgression of the Jedi Code by committing murder, his apology to Anakin at the climax for failing him, gives the film at least half of the emotional punch it deserves, and their final duel is bittersweet, as they try to outdo and even kill each other, the ultimate fate of their once close bond. Ewan McGregor gives a brilliant performance, and even manages to elevate Christensen’s bumpy outing.
Even Yoda’s ending is sad – his defeat by Palpatine is harsh and painful to watch, particularly as Palpatine is quite goofy throughout the film, not helped by his newly grey, soggy marshmallow face. And despite how cool General Grievous is, lightsaber collection and all, his CGI rendering makes him look like a video game character, hard to take seriously.
It’s certainly not the ending we all deserved from the prequel trilogy. Our villains were not always the most imposing of folks, and our heroes weren’t always the most likable, or even heroic. But from it, we got a tragic love story (that mostly worked), some of the series’ best lightsaber battles, and one hell of a young Obi-Wan Kenobi. Revenge of the Sith is a thrilling closure to the prequel trilogy, and, at very least, it makes you excited to watch A New Hope once more. I know I am.
What are your thoughts on Revenge of the Sith? Or the prequels in general? Let me know in the comments below!
Photos taken from IMDb.com: