Why I Love Revenge of the Sith
"This is where the fun begins."
I unironically like the Star Wars prequels. I know this isn't a popular thing to say, but it's true nonetheless. I saw Episode I: The Phantom Menace when it was released in 1999 and I was immediately pulled into this fantastical world of evil robots and delicious light saber battles. I don't love The Phantom Menace anymore, but I do think it has a lot going for it, in spite of some terrible artistic choices. The pod-race is a brilliant and thrilling thing. The fight between Darth Maul and Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi Wan Kenobi is probably the best of the entire series. Episode II similarly had some great moments. I particularly like the detective mission that Obi-Wan undertakes to discover the reasons for a clone army.
I am not going to bother getting into the flaws of Episodes I and II here, as this isn't a Why I Hate article. Sufficed to say however that there were many issues with the casting of the movies, as well as some endemic issues with the script and character choices. While I like Episodes I and II, I can honestly say that I love Episode III. It is, in my opinion, up there with The Empire Strikes Back and The Force Awakens. It makes good on all the potential of the series, and finally delivers a movie that has a good sense of humour and isn't nearly as wooden or sexless as its predecessors. That's underselling it: it is a joyful film full of gorgeous design, excellent set-pieces and an emotionally satisfying story.
I saw Revenge of the Sith in 2005 at the Savoy cinema in Dublin with two of my friends, Alan and Sean. We saw it three times that day, and it really held up to repeated viewings. The CG effects work finally lived up to George Lucas' faith in them, with a digital Yoda feeling nearly as real and tactile as the puppet work in Empire. The space battle that opens the movie is one of the most impressive in the history of Star Wars. I love the whole opening segment, and laugh every damn time at Ewan McGregor's line after crash-landing a giant spaceship on the planet below: "Another happy landing." This is a line that is just as amusing as the many given to Harrison Ford. There are many scenes that I love in Revenge of the Sith but probably my favourite is the General Grievous battle. A stunning piece of CG work, he always feels real enough to touch. His character was a wonderful creation and served the purpose of a monster heel in wrestling. Lucas and co. built up the character in the wonderful, original Clone Wars animated series as an unstoppable force, and watching Obi-Wan battle him is a joy that I will never forget.
The final battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan is what everything was leading up to, and it delivers big time. Surprisingly violent and distressing for younger viewers, it bridges the gap between the originals and the prequels very well. I didn't think that Hayden Christensen was good in Attack of the Clones, but I felt that he did a good job here. He and Ewan McGregor gelled very well together and you really felt like they were old friends pushed to war with each other. A weak point of the film is the relationship between Anakin and Padme, played by Natalie Portman. You never really get the sense that they are in love, a major failing that Attack of the Clones should have gone out of its way to fix.
There is an argument to be made that Revenge of the Sith is a better picture than The Force Awakens. It contains nostalgic things, sure, but it's not obsessed with them. The Force Awakens is a brilliant movie but it is quite knowingly a retread of the first movie, from its structure to its reverence of the original cast. Revenge of the Sith is a daring movie, which, while flawed, is arguably more interesting and compelling than a trip down memory lane. Without the weight of the first two prequels dragging it down, I fully believe that more people would love the movie as I do. Revenge of the Sith is a prequel done right. It connects to the original trilogy well, but the story it is telling is unique to the series, and tremendously dark when it comes down to it. Seeing an innocent child transform into an evil monster provokes conflicted feelings that make for good viewing.
I don't think Revenge of the Sith is a perfect movie, but its dizzying array of top quality set-pieces, its successful connection to the original pictures - I love Jimmy Smits as Bail Organa - and a long awaited tipping point in CG realism make it a movie that I will always love. It is an emotional thing, something that the first two prequels can't claim. I still tear up at the creation of Darth Vader, so iconic and imposing is he as a character. I feel that people are way, way too harsh on the film, largely because the first two left a bad taste in their mouths, focusing on small and generally forgivable flaws - my friend was obsessed with the stupidity of the line about having the high ground, which I never thought merited any irate confusion - and ignoring the fact that as a whole, it is a damn fine Science Fiction picture that would have received damn good reviews had it not been Star Wars. Well it is Star Wars, and I love this picture.