Sunday, May 29, 2005

Revenge of the Sith - Third Impressions

I just saw Revenge of the Sith for the third time this afternoon. In marked contrast to the other two prequels, my enjoyment of RotS has grown with each showing; the dumb lines have been less annoying with each iteration; and each time I've found new things to admire.

Here's something I hadn't thought of: "Everyone made fun of the stupidity of having a single ship control all the droids on Naboo in Phantom Menace but now it’s clear why Palpatine wanted it that way: he wanted an off switch so that when the time came he could shut down all the Separatist armies in one easy move." (from a very sharp article:

Many people have commented that Anakin's choice--letting the Jedi die so that Padme can live--doesn't make any sense; how could he possibly make that choice, given how obviously evil it is? It didn't make much sense to me until I thought back to what it is like to first fall in love, or how I felt when Vicki was pregnant. I think there have been times in my life when, if someone had come to me and told me that a lot of people would have to die for her to live, I would have said, "Okay." I might say that even today, depending on the circumstances. The thing about Anakin's fall is that it is a fall: it doesn't happen all at once. Helping Palpatine kill Mace Windu is all-important; it's the bridge between the good person that Anakin was and the monster that he becomes. After he kills Mace, the murder of the other Jedi becomes a necessity for him, personally, a matter of survival for him and for Padme, and not just something he has to do for Palpatine.

Ah, another thing I've read complaints about is the movie's end; one reviewer wrote that apparently Lucas felt he had to set every single plotline of the later movies in motion. But after some reflection, the end of the movie is structurally very beautiful. We have, in order:
1. The big fights, Yoda vs. Palpatine and Obi-Wan vs. Anakin. A duality.
2. Anakin and Padme give birth on their deathbeds. Padme dies as the twins are born, and Anakin (as we've known him) dies as Darth Vader (the visual icon) is born. Anakin assumed the name Darth Vader before, but as a visual transformation the death of Anakin Skywalker and the birth of Darth Vader happen here. Another duality.
3. Padme's funeral. A single event, a unity, followed by:
4. The closing trinity. Bail Organa, Obi-Wan, and Darth Vader all go home to their families, to look after babies. Only for Vader, home is a Star Destroyer, his family is the Emperor, and the baby is the Death Star. The Death Star's early construction is not just a bone Lucas is throwing us; it's a necessary part of the symbolic story. We are left with three elements--the Death Star, Leia, and Luke--that will collide 18 years laters, in A New Hope.

A couple more things. Some people have said that Yoda gives up too easily after fighting Palpatine. I don't think so. Palpatine is visibly surprised when Yoda shows up. "So, you survived." And before Yoda has even left the building, Palpatine has been joined by a platoon of clone troops. I think Yoda had one shot. He would only have the advantage of surprise once, and he would only have so much time before Palpatine could summon his soldiers (that may have been what Palpatine's aid, the one with the horns, left to do right after Yoda's arrival). The fight with Palpatine was already a draw; add a few dozen or a few hundred blaster rifles on Palpatine's side, and Yoda would have been toast.

Another thing that is often commented upon is the apparent stupidity of sending Luke to Tattooine; isn't that the first place Vader would check? Sure, if Vader had the slightest reason to suspect that his offspring had survived. But two things come in here: one, the babies were delivered at least a little prematurely ("We must operate now if we are to save the babies."), and two, Padme is made to look pregnant at her funeral (kudos to Ryan Hill for pointing that out; I saw the movie twice without noticing). That's why it was important for Bail Organa, Obi-Wan, and Yoda to personally deliver Padme's body to Naboo: so they could perpetuate the illusion that Anakin's offspring died with her. Any after-the-fact checking that Vader may have done would only have confirmed what Palpatine had already told him.

It's a hell of a lot more complex than it looks like at first, and the more I think about it, the more I like it. It may even claw its way into the top three in my Star Wars movie ranking.

What do you think?

P.S. I didn't set out to be the Revenge of the Sith apologist. It's just that so many criticisms are advanced by People Who Don't Get It.


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11:01 PM  

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