If you know me, you know I love Star Wars. So I decided to do a brief piece about why I enjoy Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and why I believe it’s the only good prequel in the Star Wars canon.
Now, let me say first that I wholeheartedly agree with the majority of Star Wars fanboys and fangirls when I say that the prequels are vastly inferior to the original trilogy. I could rant all day about how George Lucas became a smugly incompetent douchebag who deliberately surrounded himself with yes-men while he alone took full creative control over the prequels. I could also explain how Episode I: The Phantom Menace and Episode II: Attack of the Clones are mediocre films that don’t answer nearly as many original trilogy questions as they could have, and for the most part, flat-out suck.
Let me also say for the record, that as a kid, I saw the Star Wars films well after the fact, and completely out of order at that. Obviously, I was vaguely familiar with the characters – what kid doesn’t recognize Darth Vader’s suit? – but I didn’t actually see the entire saga until I was 10 or so. I saw Attack of the Clones at age nine. Needless to say, it’s my least favorite of any of the Star Wars films and served as a pretty terrible introduction to this universe as a whole. Still, out of curiosity, I took it upon myself to watch all the other films over the summer.
Keep in mind that this was 2005. Revenge of the Sith had just come out in May, and the Star Wars series was potentially done after Lucas said he had no plans to direct any subsequent sequels. So in order to catch up with my peers and upgrade my nerd level, I had to immerse myself in the Star Wars lore.
To this day, I consider Revenge of the Sith to be a quality Star Wars film and the one saving grace of the prequel trilogy. Here are a number of reasons why:
- It starts fast.
After the opening crawl, Revenge of the Sith wastes no time in throwing us directly into the action. The Jedi, led by Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, are leading the assault on the star cruiser commandeered by General Grievous and Count Dooku in order to rescue Chancellor Palpatine. This is a fun, action-packed opening that allows us to see a little bit of what we’re in for the rest of the way.
This is in stark contrast to The Phantom Menace, which spent nearly the first half hour talking about the Separatist movement and the Trade Federation and their threat to the planet Naboo. Similarly, Attack of the Clones wasted an insane amount of plot time focusing on the romance between Anakin and Padme, sequences which contain some of the most infamous acting and writing of the entire Star Wars saga.
Give Revenge of the Sith credit for being able to hold our interest from the get-go.
- The characters are better fleshed-out.
The chemistry among the cast members is handled much better than in the first two prequels. At this point in the story, Obi-Wan is a Jedi Master and Anakin is a Jedi Knight. Therefore, Anakin’s no longer a Padawan and Obi-Wan is no longer his official mentor.
In the original trilogy, the elderly Obi-Wan describes Anakin as “a cunning warrior and a good friend.” That side of Anakin is on full display in Revenge of the Sith, as he saves Obi-Wan’s life early in the film and shows his courage. At the same time, Obi-Wan is still worried about his pupil’s well-being. For instance, he’s careful to warn Anakin about the powers that Chancellor Palpatine has accumulated in the Galactic Senate.
Anakin, being unusually strong in the Force, has definitely progressed, both in terms of fighting skills and his overall maturity. In the end, of course, pride is Anakin’s downfall, which allows him to be seduced to the Dark Side.
In both The Phantom Menace and particularly Attack of the Clones, Anakin was hard to empathize with, constantly grumbling about Obi-Wan, resenting the authority of the Jedi Council, and (of course) embarking on a forbidden romance with Padme. In Revenge of the Sith, however, Anakin’s internal conflict is brought to the forefront and we get a real sense of how he, the Chosen One, allowed himself to be manipulated and turned to the Dark Side.
- The cunning of Emperor Palpatine.
In the film The Usual Suspects, Keizer Soze (played by Kevin Spacey) famously remarked “The greatest trick the Devil ever played was convincing the world that he didn’t exist.”
The same can be applied to Palpatine in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, where he goes from Senator to Chancellor to Galactic Emperor. Palpatine uses his intelligence and charm to mislead everyone, even the Jedi Council, from realizing his evil plan until it’s too late. Early on the film, Obi-Wan is disturbed by how much power Palpatine has been given during the ongoing Clone Wars. Anakin, meanwhile, believes that Palpatine has been unfairly criticized. In turn, Obi-Wan requests that Anakin be able to keep his distance from the situation and keep an eye on Palpatine while reporting anything suspicious to the Jedi Council.
The entire mid-point of Revenge of the Sith consists of Anakin turning to the Dark Side and helping the Emperor execute Order 66, which eliminates all the Jedi (except Obi-Wan and Yoda) and establishes the Emperor as the sole authority, with Vader by his side.
Ever since the Emperor was introduced in Return of the Jedi, we were all wondering how he was able to gain so much power and turn Anakin into Darth Vader. All of these questions are answered satisfactorily in Revenge of the Sith. In my opinion, the real highlight of the film is following the Emperor as he and his new apprentice begin to put plans into motion that set up the entire original trilogy.
- Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan.
The first two prequel films were a distressing exercise into how George Lucas could hire numerous big-name actors – Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman, and Christopher Lee – and convince them to recite lines that were just cringeworthy. The one consistent highlight for me was Scottish actor Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan.
The prequels are unified by their narrative of following Anakin Skywalker, going from a poor slave boy on Tattooine to the man in the mask. But of equal importance is the evolution of Obi-Wan. Introduced as Old Ben in the original, lots of Star Wars fans were instantly curious about Obi-Wan’s origins and how he became the mentor to Luke in the original trilogy.
In The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, Obi-Wan is shown to have wonderful skills with the Force and a keen instinct as a mentor to Anakin. Obi-Wan’s wisdom is shown numerous times, especially in Revenge of the Sith. Whether it’s warning Anakin about the Emperor or discussing how he and Yoda can bring down the Empire for good, Obi-Wan’s analytical mind is nearly as powerful as his skills with a lightsaber.
This is consistent with the Obi-Wan of the original trilogy, who first and foremost, wanted to train Luke the right way – to teach him how a Jedi thinks just as much as how a Jedi fights.
- The lava scene and Obi-Wan’s turmoil.
The two climactic duels in Revenge of the Sith happen concurrently. In one, the Emperor and Yoda go head-to-head in the Senate chambers; in the other, Obi-Wan and Anakin fight each other in hellish conditions on the volcanic planet Mustafar.
In the end, as most of us remember, Obi-Wan hacks off Anakin’s limbs and lets him fall down the rocky embankment to the edge of the lava, where Anakin then catches fire. Shortly before Anakin burns alive, a distraught Obi-Wan tells his former student that as the Chosen One, he was supposed to destroy the Sith rather than join them, and bring balance to the Force, as opposed to leaving it in darkness.
It’s hard not to get emotional during the dark moments of Revenge of the Sith, especially when the Jedi are double-crossed and executed or when the Emperor officially names Anakin his apprentice. But the image of Obi-Wan crying over the loss of his friend – after seeing his former student join the Emperor and destroy the galaxy – hits the emotions raw. Throughout the prequels we’ve seen Obi-Wan do so many things right in an attempt to guide and teach Anakin, but in the end, it was all for nothing.
In the final scenes of Revenge of the Sith, Yoda admits that he has failed and that he must go into exile, and Obi-Wan does the same. At the same time, the newborn Luke and Leia are transported to their respective planets, where we find them in the original trilogy years later.
There are a lot of bad things to say about the prequels, and that includes Revenge of the Sith. Say what you will about George Lucas, and by all means, say it. But I feel like he got it mostly right with Revenge of the Sith. You could say that the third time was (mostly) the charm.