The UnPopular Opinion: Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!
****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****
With the reveal of the new teaser for STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS last week, a wave of nostalgia came over me. Seeing Harrison Ford back in action as Han Solo reminded me of how great the original trilogy was and is to this day. So, along with my son, we began revisiting all of the STAR WARS saga from THE PHANTOM MENACE through RETURN OF THE JEDI. In watching all six film, I found that my rankings of the movies has altered as years go by. While I still defend the prequels as being worthy additions to the STAR WARS saga, I have always leaned towards the classic films as my favorites. Now, with a decade having passed since the release of STAR WARS: EPISODE III - REVENGE OF THE SITH, I can say with certainty that I now hold the final prequel in higher esteem than I previously did. I know that it is not the unpopular opinion to consider REVENGE OF THE SITH to be the best of the prequels but I am here to tell you that it is the best STAR WARS film after THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.
I know, you are already slamming your fists on the keyboard and swearing that my blasphemy will not stand, but I am telling you that STAR WARS: EPISODE III - REVENGE OF THE SITH is George Lucas at the height of his directorial abilities and melds everything he wanted to do with the prequels with what made the original films so great. There is a great deal of special effects wizardry on display in this film but it also manages to get right what the first two prequels were unable to fully execute: Anakin Skywalker.
Where the original trilogy focused on Luke, the prequels have made Anakin the focal point. In THE PHANTOM MENACE, he was just a little kid being swept along with the galactic politics that introduced us to the Republic and the Jedi's place in the grand scheme of things. There was a specific order to things in the world that felt more like the setting of a chessboard with cheesy dialogue. ATTACK OF THE CLONES took that to the next level and gave us a pedantic teen version of Anakin who was forced to wrestle with his emotional growth and desire for power. Many disliked Hayden Christensen's performance but he was truly playing the part. In STAR WARS: EPISODE III - REVENGE OF THE SITH, Anakin is an adult, having served in the Clone Wars and grown under the tutelage of Chancellor Palpatine/Darth Sidious. We find him on the precipice of becoming Darth Vader and it could not be more thrilling.
What makes THE FORCE AWAKEN trailers look so good is the more subtle use of special effects than we saw in the prequels. The pervasive use of green screen turned many fans off the way THE HOBBIT did for LORD OF THE RINGS fans. But, unlike Peter Jackson's films, the visual style of the prequels differs dramatically from the original trilogy. In STAR WARS: EPISODE III - REVENGE OF THE SITH, those disparate visuals begin to converge and represent a true prequel to A NEW HOPE. Characters begin to align with where we find them in the 1977 film and seeing the birth of Luke and Leia brings that wave of nostalgia, that singular emotional pull we had wanted through EPISODE I and II all along. George Lucas nails it with this film.
Whereas the original trilogy had a focal good versus evil narrative that pit the Rebels against the Empire (and Luke against Vader), the prequels were all about the fall of Anakin Skywalker. STAR WARS: EPISODE III - REVENGE OF THE SITH would have been better subtitled THE FALL OF SKYWALKER because that is what this movie is all about. In ATTACK OF THE CLONES, the scene where Anakin tells Padme about how he slaughtered the Sandpeople who killed his mother was a shocking scene and a truly dark moment for the series. But, nothing could have prepared us for the massacre at the Jedi Temple where Anakin murders all of the young padawans. It was the darkest sequence in the STAR WARS saga and handled beautifully by George Lucas. You truly feel the pain endured by Anakin.
But. the true gem in the film is the closing battle between Anakin and Obi-wan. Ewan McGregor has long been my absolute favorite aspect of the prequels and ranks as one of the best STAR WARS characters of all time. In fact, I would put him slightly above Sir Alec Guinness simply because of how strongly he embodied the original character as well as made it his own. Seeing a Jedi fight his apprentice and the heartbreaking way McGregor screams "you were the chosen one!" ranks as one of the best moments in the films. Even the "death" of Anakin followed by the rise of Darth Vader was done perfectly as a homage to James Whale's 1931 FRANKENSTEIN. Many hate the way James Earl Jones yells at learning of Padme's death but I found it worked. Remember, this is not yet the Darth Vader we meet in A NEW HOPE. Anakin has only just donned the mask for the first time and is still the young man adjusting to becoming a full Sith Lord.
Everything from John Williams' score to the final act ushering the Skywalker twins to their new homes is full of nostalgia while remaining the perfect bridge between the old and the new. George Lucas could have used some oversight in editing and restructuring the first two prequel films but STAR WARS: EPISODE III - REVENGE OF THE SITH should remain untouched. There are so many moments in this film that work: Yoda's battle with Palpatine, Palpatine's transformation and the death of Mace Windu, the romance between Anakin and Padme, the introduction of Bail Organa. The list can go on. It is because of all of these moments and how cohesively they work that this movie represents Lucas' greatest film achievement as a director. You can argue that THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is the best STAR WARS film, but it is not the best George Lucas film. You can say A NEW HOPE set the tone and works the best as a pure movie, but if Lucas had had the tools at his disposal that he had when making the prequels, we may be singing a very different tune today.
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|Extra Tidbit:||I loved the ending battle so much, I tried to rewrite it for a contest years ago. I didn't win but you can read it here.|