And finally…we see how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader!
Spoilers are about to slice through here like a lightsaber through butter!
Opening in the tail end of the Clone Wars, we begin in the middle of a heated space Battle. The Jedi and the Clone Army are trying to rescue Supreme Chancellor Palpatine from the Separatist leadership of Count Dooku and General Grievous. Anakin and Obi Wan end up in Grievous’ ship. The fight Dooku, who again knocks Obi Wan out quickly (Obi Wan is looking pretty incompetent here). This time, Anakin gets the upper hand, and at the encouragement of Palpatine, beheads Dooku.
Remember my complaint about how they killed Darth Maul in the first film? Revenge of the Sith does sort of do my suggestion. Christopher Lee has a great expression of fear on his face as he realizes Sidious (Palpatine) is wanting him to be killed by Anakin. Except, it occurs at the beginning of the film, making it not a special line being crossed. Sure, it indicates Palpatine’s growing influence, but it is not that last step before accepting the role of Darth Vader. And Dooku has not been a character really built up. We barely got to know him. I believe he appeared a bit in the Clone Wars cartoon on the Cartoon Network, but in the movies, he never gets to be a major heavy. Like Mace Windu, he is primarily earning credibility via the face in the role.
General Grievous, a character introduced in the Clone Wars cartoon, escapes in a lifeboat, while sending his warship plummeting down towards Corsucant’s surface. Anakin and Obi Wan manage an amazing crash landing.
Padme reveals that she is pregnant. Though worried about people discovering their secret relationship, Anakin is overjoyed by the news. However, he is soon beset by nightmares of Padme dying while giving birth.
Anakin is asked to spy on Chancellor Palpatine for the Jedi Council while Obi Wan checks on a lead for General Grievous. Anakin is uncomfortable with this, as Palpatine has taken on a mentoring role and even a father figure for him. Palpatine starts to drop hints about the power of the Dark Side, especially the power to save and even resurrect life.
Obi Wan finds and confronts Grievous. Grievous is actually kind of a neat character. A bit of a proto-Darth Vader, he is an alien cyborg. Like Obi Wan said of Vader, Grievous is more machine than man. He collects lightsabers of fallen Jedi, and his arms split from two to four. This creates a pretty cool visual where he spins his arms while holding four lightsabers.
Obi Wan manages to send Grievous packing into the great galaxy beyond. Meanwhile, Anakin is troubled by the realization that Palpatine is a Sith Lord. Palpatine has control of the Republic and is secretly leading the Separatists.
After learning of the news from Anakin, Mace brings several Jedi to take Palpatine into custody. He surprises them and manages to kill all the Jedi except Mace. Mace proves far stronger, and has Palpatine’s back (literally) against the wall.
While trying to use his force lightning against Mace, Anakin arrives. Palpatine begs Anakin for mercy. Windu is ready to kill Palpatine, stating there is no other option, but Anakin states he should face trial, not merely executed on Mace’s whim. Mace refuses and as he goes to strike, Anakin chops off Mace’s hand. Sidious takes this opportunity to fire another Force Lightning blast and launch Mace out a window to his death.
Now, I always assumed that the Emperor’s appearance was him being old (there was also once a version that he was constantly cloning himself, and the clone bodies were breaking down, but this is no longer canon).
Apparently, however, it is a result of expending ridiculous amounts of energy. He anoints Anakin as Darth Vader. He sends out the secret Order 66, which commands the clone soldiers to kill any Jedi they are with.
Now, Ben Kenobi told Luke how Darth Vader hunted down and slaughtered the Jedi. But it turns out he was not the frontline for this. Instead, he is sent to the temple looking all tough and scary…
To kill a bunch of little kids.
And while that is monstrous, it also makes Vader seem like less of a threat in general. He kills the easy prey, while the Clones are killing fully trained Jedi. Darth Vader is then sent to the Mustafar system, on a volcanic planet to remove the separatists. Obi Wan and Yoda survive the attempts on their life. Obi Wan and a very pregnant Amidala go to find Anakin.
Yoda takes on Darth Sidious in a powerful battle, leaping around and dodging Sidious’ attacks.
Yoda ultimately slips away and meets with Senator Bail Organa. Both Sidious and Vader proclaim the Jedi have attempted a coup, forcing Organa and Yoda to flee. When Obi Wan and Amidala reach the volcanic planet, they try and talk Anakin down, so to speak. But he believes they are betraying him, and starts to force choke Amidala. This results in a dramatic life and death lightsaber duel in the middle of flowing rivers of lava.
Obi Wan delivers one of the dumbest lines of the entire franchise. “Only Sith deal in Absolutes”. It makes a certain amount of sense regarding Obi Wan’s attitudes towards facts in the original trilogy. But it is just a dumb line, as we saw Jedi dealing in absolutes just…heck…twenty minutes earlier. As the fight concludes, Obi Wan cuts off Anakin’s arms and legs. There is a lot of dramatic but weird dialog. Obi Wan laments that Anakin was his friend, he was supposed to bring balance to the force, yadda yadda yadda.
And then he leaves Anakin to slowly burn to death.
The Emperor pops over and picks up Anakin. Then we get scenes of Amidala giving birth, while Darth Vader is encased in his new suit. Amidala dies as she looks upon her twins. They give Leia to Organa and take Luke to Anakin’s half brother Owen Lars. Because if you want to hide a kid from his dad, his family is probably the best place. And you know, don’t give him the last name of Owen or anything. And seriously, Amidala died why? Other than she had to as a plot contrivance? They seriously don’t have the technology to save her? She appears to have died of a broken heart. Really?
And speaking of Amidala? She is practically set dressing in the film. Poor Natalie Portman is sidelined the majority of the film to be Anakin’s plot device.
I really found the prequel film rules about the things like the Rule of Two, which states there are only two Sith Lords at a time. A master and an apprentice. This makes no real sense, and the original films had no such implication. The idea that there would only be two Sith in comparison to endless Jedi seems bizarre. Within the legends (books and comics, mostly), this is also challenged by Darth Plagueis, who was the master to Palpatine. But the rule makes no real sense, because it is not a notion that there is like a single Sith Emperor over all other Sith…It is literally that there are two Sith at a time.
Nobody has any real chemistry in this film. It just feels like everyone is delivering their dialog so they can be done with it.
In spite of this, Revenge of the Sith (a title meant to recall the original working title of Return of the Jedi) is far from the worst of the prequels. The first twenty minutes are terrific. The various action sequences that follow are quite good, especially the Mustafar battle.
I also like how the technology of the world feels fresh and shiny, like this is everything at it’s heights. Contrasting that with episodes four through six where everything seems old and broken, like the rule of the Empire has crushed any sense of beauty and design and left only the most industrial sense of design.
But unfortunately, the entire prequel series was obsessed with answering questions nobody had. And this one is no different, making a mad rush to pack in stuff we don’t really need. The film takes place twenty years before a New Hope. And we get a shot of Gran Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader watching the beginning of the Death Star. Now, is the idea it could take twenty years to build the Death Star is not implausible. But they built a second Death Star with totally different specs in a couple years. Infant Leia sees Amidala, while infant Luke’s eyes are closed. Why? Because in Return of the Jedi? Leia tells Luke that she remembers her mother’s smile. Luke cannot remember anything about her. It is like Lucas sat down and watched the original films making a list of things he thinks have to be in the new films.
However, the three prequels just never meet the goal of being a great new trilogy, because they are bogged down in weird choices of storytelling and fan service.