Sith and the Star Wars
Sitting down to review a film like Revenge of the Sith is an unusual task… This movie is part of a greater story, however unlike reviewing something like, say, Matrix Reloaded, which we all knew was part 2 of a three part story, Revenge of the Sith is part three of a nine part story… What’s worse is that we’ve already seen episodes 4, 5 and 6! So, now that all the films are on the shelves (or at least cinema screens) it’s a little difficult to see them as individual films, in fact it’s not even really fair to consider any of the movies (with the exception of Episode 4: A New Hope) as ‘stand alone’ movies. No more so than you can consider an episode of ’24’ an entity of it’s own. And so, that’s what I’m going to do. For the purposes of this review I’m going to not just look at Revenge of the Sith as a movie, instead, I’m going to take into account the part it plays in the over all arc of the Star Wars Saga… in fact, if anything this is more of an editorial (read: rant) than a review… lets just call it my two cents.
Firstly a warning: It is impossible to talk of the overall story and how events in Revenge of the Sith fit into that arc without crossing into that traitorous territory knows as SPOILERS. As such, do not read any further if you are one who likes to avoid such foreknowledge of a movie’s content.
In 1977, when George Lucas introduced the film going world to a new galaxy, the more observant viewers took note of the fact that the opening scrawl of Star Wars: A New Hope billed it as Episode IV. From the beginning Lucas has maintained that his original vision for the Star Wars Saga, as it became known, was a nine part epic. However, not knowing if the movie would be a success or if he would ever get the opportunity to tell the entire story, Lucas opted to take the chapter most capable of standing as a single movie and produced it first.
Now, 28 years later, six of those nine original chapters have been made and, according to Lucas, they are all that will be made as the story is now complete. That’s not to say we’re never going to see another Star Wars universe movie or television series (yes, there’s a couple in the works) but just that we’re not about to see episodes 7, 8 and 9 of the original nine chapters being made as sequels to the original trilogy.
Revenge of the Sith fills in the blanks between the original trilogy and the beginning of the saga, in many ways it suffers from being a ‘middle chunk’ of a greater story, but that’s not to say that a film can’t thrive and be brilliant in such a position: Just look at Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back. One can (successfully) argue that Empire is the greatest chapter of them all.. Or at least, it used to be (more on that comment later). Because of the unusual way that the saga has been made (ie: out of order) Revenge of the Sith has been put into a position where it has to do a lot of house keeping to prepare the viewer for the next three chapters of the story. We already know that the clone army turns on the Jedi’s and that they are all but exterminated. We already know that the Empire will be formed and will take control of the (Star Wars) universe. We already know that Anikin Skywalker is going to lose his tenuous hold and plummet into the clutches of the dark side.. and, best of all, we already know that this will result in Anikin becoming one of cinemas most recognizable villains, Darth Vader! But.. Why do we already know these things?
The question has to be asked: “How does George Lucas intend for these movies to be viewed?”. I mean, in what order? If I buy the, inevitable, uber, special, mega edition, Star Wars Box set, featuring all 6 movies, plus The Ewok Adventure: Caravan of Courage and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor.. plus a bonus DVD with A Star Wars Christmas and the Star Wars edition of the The Muppet Show.. What order am I suppose to watch them in? What order will the movies be packaged in?
The answer seems obvious. Of course we’re suppose to watch them in the ‘correct order’: Episodes 1 through 6. However that presents a problem. For those of us old enough to remember seeing the original trilogy unfold there were revelation along the way that made for compelling viewing, by both youngsters and adults alike.
In A New Hope, we were introduced to a wide eyed youngster named Luke Skywalker. Living with his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru on the planet Tatooine, Luke longs to leave his farm home and join the Imperial Academy. However when the family acquire some new droids, it seems that adventure has come looking for Luke. Across the course of this, and the films that follow, we are treated to a gradually unfolding story where we learn that Luke’s father was not killed by the evil Lord Vader as Luke was raised to believe, but instead that Vader is in fact Luke’s father. We learn that Luke has a sister, and that she is Leia, one of his companions throughout the films. There are many relationships that form and are revealed to be part of a greater story.
The revelation that Vader is Luke’s father was one of the most shocking of all three films and for all who saw The Empire Strikes back unaware that this nugget was about to be dropped, it remains one of the most important scenes in the original movies.
So.. the question once again is asked.. What order are we suppose to watch the films in?
From a story telling perspective there are things revealed in Revenge of the Sith that simply decimate the emotional value of the final three chapters of the story. Sure, we now understand Obi Wan’s actions at the end of A New Hope a little better. But we also know completely that Luke is Vader’s son… So, no great impact there. We know that Senator Organa adopted Vader’s daughter, Leia.. So, no real drama in that revelation that Leia is Luke’s sister either.
OK, so maybe I’m wrong! Maybe we’re suppose to watch the movies in the whacky order of: 3, 4, 5 and then 1, 2, 3… But there’s a problem there too…
We know that Obi Wan is killed by Vader at the end of episode 4, so we know that he’s in no danger of dying at any point during 1, 2 and 3. We already know (as we established before) that Anikin is going to turn to the dark side and become Vader.. so.. no surprises there. We know that the Jedi’s are going to be wiped out, but we also know that Yoda will survive.
I’ve only listed a couple here, but no matter what order you watch the films in, episode order or release order, the information revealed in one trilogy taints ones ability to enjoy the other. As a result of Lucas’ desire to join all the dots in Revenge of the Sith, he’s removed the adventure of the last three films – There is no a sense of discovery in their plots anymore, as a viewer we are now privy to the information that was once hidden from us.
I’m baffled as to why George Lucas would go to all the trouble of addressing what he saw as inadequacies in the special effects used in the original trilogy, to use his reasoning, so that all six movies have a consistent look. But that he would not pay the same attention to preserving the story of said films.
Revenge of the Sith boasts some of the best light saber fight action that we’ve seen yet and the final moments in which what remains of Anikin Skywalker are burnt away and he becomes, completely, the Vader we all know and love, were perfectly savage. Without doubt the darkest moment in the entire saga: Both in the story and visually… Honestly, I didn’t think Lucas had it in him. Ewan McGregor seems to be acutely aware that the next time viewers see Obi Wan on screen he’ll be played by the magnificent Sir Alec Guinness and treats us to some wonderful Guinness like mannerisms and vocal inflections – McGregor is undeniably the strongest actor on screen in this episode and the (Tiny) scene he gets to share with the underused Natalie Portman is probably the best of the film.
However, there are some needless scenes (what’s the point of the whole wookie section of the film?) in Sith and the dialogue at points doesn’t get any more horrific as it does when we see a legless Anikin, on fire by a lava pit, yell “I hate you!” – Yeah.. I know, it had to be done.. cause hate leads to the dark side.. blah blah blah.
I’ve heard many people say that Revenge of the Sith is almost as good as The Empire Strikes Back, and I guess if you neglect to take into account the damage that the content of Revenge of the Sith does to the content of Empire then you can probably say such things with confidence. However for me, a Star Wars fan at heart, this final part of the puzzle has left this once potentially great master piece looking more like talentless graffiti. Call me a purest, but I’ll be putting Episodes 1, 2 and 3 on the shelf that I’ve kept reserved for Highlander 2.