As a lead up to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, FBTB is going to do something crazy (and likely something that a whole bunch of other sites are going to do too), and review the previous movies. Why? Because shut up, that’s why. We are going to take a slightly different take, other than just eviscerating the PT and fawning love on Empire Strikes back, and actually look at some of the impacts that it has on the toys and stuff we really love. Plus, it gives us an excuse to make fun of Jar Jar. It’s basically win-win.
Given the hate that I enjoy piling on The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, I suppose it’s a little bit surprising that Revenge of the Sith is the Star Wars movie I’ve watched the fewest times. It’s easily the best of the Prequel Trilogy, but I just get so tired of the prequel by the time it gets to Revenge and something in my nerd brain won’t let me watch just one movie. But if I want to watch the good Star Wars movie, I have to get through the bad ones. Those are the rules, as ironclad as needing a flag if you want to have a country.
Again, thanks to our man Austin for the incredibly poster art, because they should have just marketed the entire movie like pulp 50s Sci-Fi. I mean, this is such a “Revenge of the Creature” kind of movie compared to Episode II, it kind of fits. We don’t have any gill men running around, unless you count Grievous, but it was in black-and… you know, I really don’t know where I was going with that joke. It’s just that MST3K has been in at the forefront of my brain lately.
As a collector, Episode III came at a pretty interesting time. There was a lot better feeling about Star Wars after Attack of the Clones (as compared to TPM), even if the film hasn’t aged quite as well. However, LEGO was also struggling at this time, and the action figure market was really starting to tumble around Star Wars. The initial wave of Episode III sets are still probably the worst overall lineup that LEGO has ever offered (in my never-ever humble opinion, anyway), and still includes some real stinker sets.
Of course, for me, some of that is hindsight, as I was towards the tail end of a dark age. I also didn’t see the movie when it came out, waiting a few weeks after the release before I managed to get time to see it. I was busy with something… what was it… oh right, getting married. I didn’t have the heart to drag my wife to another movie like this, so had to find a friend who wanted to go again. So a whole lot of reasons why the best of the PT still doesn’t occupy as many of my opinions as the rest… maybe because it’s harder to hate. Or it could be because it’s the prequel film that lacks depth the most.
The movie came out while I was on my honeymoon, enjoying time in tropical Hawaii. I’d been so busy I don’t think I was even aware of the release date, and I think I spent that day at the Arizona memorial in Pearl Harbor (which is an an incredibly and serene place to visit). I also manage to avoid pretty much any spoilers about the film, hadn’t bought a LEGO set or even really seen them, so when I first went into this movie, it was with a totally fresh set of eyes.
As a film, Revenge of the Sith starts out with immediate action, which harkens somewhat to how Episode IV first captured everyone’s imagination. We’re treated to the siege of Coruscant, with Republic Star Destroyers (seriously, that’s a terrible name to give something if you want to be seen as a good guy) and Separatist ships, including Grievous’ flagship, the Invisible Hand. We get introduced to this new character right away, and you’d only know about him is if you watched the (now not-Canon) Clone Wars cartoon on Cartoon Network.
We get immediate action, with the Jedi Generals fighting alongside clones, new ships like the ARC-170 and the Jedi Interceptors, and clone buzz droids. A poor astromech gets slaughtered, clones blow up, droid ships die… lots of pew pew pew going on in the first minutes. We also get the reason a few small ships are storming a blockade in the middle of a space battle… to rescue Chancellor Palpatine, who is being held by Grievous and totally not the secret Sith leader of the fake war. It culminates with the two jedi getting on board, R2 being his normally murderous self, and general mayhem.
It’s actually a fairly long scene, with some droid and lift hyjinks. Obi-Wan gets to the bridge, though Grievous gets away because some cyborgs cough a lot but apparently don’t need to breath and can get in space. We also get to see Magna droids and their jedi fighting prowess (something that gets a bit of a callout in one of the Force Awakens teasers), and generally, Obi-Wan actually being the great general that we hear about later on.
Anakin has the more interesting arc, since he’s the one that goes to rescue the chancellor, being “held prisoner” by Count Dooku. Once again, Christopher Lee gets the shaft in the third movie of a trilogy, since his part is short, Anakin’s power is doubled, and he’s eventually executed by the now not-Padawan Anakin. It’s surprising he can move around without any spine whatsoever, since Palpatine gets him to break the Jedi Code, execute a helpless prisoner, and know it was wrong but just move past it. Sure, on one hand it shows the influence that the Sith Master has over Anakin, but on the other, it’s just too much and too sudden. Especially when justified as “it’s only natural you wanted revenge.”
You know, there was supposed to be more to this scene, as evidenced by the deleted scenes on the disc. Interestingly, Shaak Ti was also being held hostage by Grievous, and is executed in the scene. It’s a very dark moment that makes him quite a bit more dangerous. Didn’t make the cut, presumably so we’d get more scenes of Anakin listening to Dashboard Confessional or something like that to get his gloomy face on. Another cut segment has Anakin, after his fall, killing her while she meditates. Basically, the existence of this character was cut out of the movie, both life and death. Luckily, we had the Clone Wars to give her substance. And perhaps some hope that maybe some of the Jedi went into hiding and show up in later movies (you know, like Kanan). It’s likely they don’t trust anyone named Skywalker, though, so will probably stay hidden until Luke reveals himself as Darth Womprattus.
Episode III is ultimately a story about failure… the failure of the Jedi to stop the rise of the Empire, the fall of Anakin Skywalker and his failure to do anything right, and the failure of the Republic as a whole. To be fair, the relationship between Padme and Anakin feels a lot more natural in this movie. It’s still wooden, boring, and mostly ugh, but that’s a step up from the last movie. We also get a glimpse of Anakin’s obsession, the recurring nightmares that Padme, now pregnant, will die, much like Anakin’s mother died, and he will be powerless to stop it.
There’s also evidence of a rift between Anakin and the Jedi Council with their (very justified) distrust of Palpatine and his relationship with the Chosen One. I’m not sure if Lucas was trying to portray Anakin as slighted by the council, but every single interaction between him and the council paint an entitled kid that has talent but no discipline. He’s that guy we all have worked with before, the one complaining that he should be the manager while taking his forth smoking break before lunchtime.
I’d like to write more about Padme in her role, but mostly she just shows up with Anakin to talk baby stuff or the like. Seriously, she only appears without him a handful of times, and is only remembered for a line I’ve always felt gets made fun of unfairly, when remarking on the fall of the republic. Otherwise, it’s just to talk to Obi-Wan about Anakin’s gross violations of the Jedi code and to die and spoil the biggest reveals of Episodes V and VI.
One of the big issues with Episode III is that the action basically bookends the rest of the movie, and that is mostly talking. It wasn’t until Anakin throws his temper-tantrum after not being made a Jedi Master, but being put on the council as a Knight. Given that Anakin is, what, 22 or 23 at the time, it’s actually a pretty huge accomplishment to be on the council. It means that they value his insight for some inexplicable reason.
Once they send off Obi-Wan to take care of Grievous, Anakin goes to meet with his sugar daddy, who reveals that he’s really a Sith and the one that’s been manipulating everything. For once, Skywalker does the right thing and goes to the Jedi council and getting Mace Windu on the case. That brief moment of being a good Jedi is undone when he shows up to help or something. It wasn’t in time for Kit Fisto or the other two Jedi who I don’t feel like looking up, but they were basically just redshirts for Mace Windu. At the same time, we get perhaps the first sulking montage in movie history.
What follows is maybe the worst overall scene in the trilogy (how many times have I said that now, four or five). We get the worst makeup possible on Palpatine, I guess as a way to explain how the Emperor, who was already kind of old, got to look really old after another 20 years pass. Mace Windu gets some questionable Jedi logic, and Skywalker thinks the obvious solution is to put Palpatine on trial and cut Windu’s arms off, pushing him to his death. And then the Emperor gets all weird voice, Anakin grows yellow eyes, and decides that those people who brought him out of slavery, and whom he’d dedicated his life to, were the enemy.
The scene with Mace Windu can almost be explained away… Mace Windu was using that “certain point of view” logic that should have resulted in Luke trying to kill a Force Ghost. A moment of passion where he obviously made the wrong choice. Instead, he goes from “petulant young adult” to “murdering young children because this guy told me to.” We also get to see that the most storied tradition of the Sith is to pull names out of their butts.
While the reasons for him suddenly going up to 11 on evil are absurd, the scene where he is walking up the steps with the 501st behind him, combined with the music, is likely the best shot of the whole prequels. For a bare moment, you saw the power of the dark side unleashed, and arguably the Jedi with the most potential tear down the whole thing. Apparently balance to the force is zeroing out the ledger.
While all of this was happening, Obi-Wan was off trying to end the war on Utapau, eventually finding Grievous and the second dumbest vehicle in this movie (the Wookiee ships still win for dumbest… wood is a poor choice against blasters). The fight itself is actually pretty interesting, and shows that Obi-Wan is actually a pretty good fighter, something we hadn’t seen much of. Unfortunately, the whole thing is undone by having to throw in a one-liner, “so uncivilized” to tie this movie to the next/first one.
Of course, once that happens, we get introduced to Order 66, and a montage of Jedi just being horrible. The majority get cut down without doing a single thing or even sensing the sudden betrayal. Obi-Wan was shot at from a distance, so I can get that, but it doesn’t really explain Plo Kloon or Aayla Secura getting basically shot in the back. Ki-Adi-Mundi at least turned around, but apparently deflecting blaster wasn’t his strong suit.
The only on-screen survivor in the movies are Obi-Wan and Yoda, and the rest are presumably wiped out. Of course, thanks to Rebels, we know that’s not true. The Marvel comic, Kanan: The Last Padawan, shows how he survived (his master did not), and the fact that some of the clones did take issue with the orders.
That’s really the part of this that didn’t make any sense. I get that the Clone Wars established that the orders were programming and chips, but the whole concept it doesn’t seem to gel, especially with all the other Clone Wars episodes that showed the rapport between the Jedi and the troops. Once the “order” wore off, it would have been Chaos, with the troops likely just going nuts over what they’d done.
Normally, killing off 95% of your characters would end a movie, but this one is just warming up. Obi-Wan and Yoda meet up, learn that Anakin has murdered more than Tuskens and Palpatine is a Sith Lord. They split up duties, Yoda gets to take on the newly crowned Emperor, and Obi-Wan gets to go take on his own student and closest friend. He does this, of course, by going to Padme and letting on that he knew that Padme’s children were Anakin’s. This, of course, reveals that he’s a terrible Jedi Master but also apparently the only one that can sense anything.
The fight between Yoda and and Palpatine isn’t nearly as interesting as the opening dialog. It shows how insanely powerful Siddious is, but also how completely unhinged he gets when he starts throwing around senatorial pods and laughing. Apparently he’s a lot better in meetings than he seems to be here, but it’s kind of surprising that he was capable of running an Empire.
I suppose we are supposed to see the irony in the fact that Anakin is ultimately the cause of Padme’s death, when he shows off his new dark side powers and chokes the pregnant lady. Of course, it’s more just pointless and disturbing, because it seems so far out of Anakin’s character and the reason he fell to the dark side in the first place. R2-D2 sees this, and then keeps the secret forever, knowing pretty much every secret in the OT.
The whole of this fight is a perfect representation of the PT. It’s set in stunning visuals, with all the lava, the crazy jedi fighting, but at the same time, completely absurd. I mean, Obi-Wan is skilled with mind tricks and Anakin is the single weakest mind in the whole series, the fact that most of the fight is just trying to find the most impractical place possible. In the end, Obi-Wan gets the high ground and again just proves that he is the worst Jedi master when he fails to kill the dangerous Sith, instead letting him burn, taking his sword, and walking away.
Of course, this lets the Emperor show up and rescue some overdone steak, remark how he’s still alive, and give us one of the best scenes in the PT that gets spoiled in a way that only George Lucas is capable of. All Star Wars fans, no matter how you feel about these movies, get shivers when that helmet snaps shut, and that iconic “kwoooo, kwaaaaa” breath comes across. Of course, that’s taken care of with talks of Padme and screams of Noooooo!
Meanwhile, Padme gives up the will to live, because doctors in a galaxy far far away are only capable of fixing cybernetic arms to bloody stumps. As her last act of punishment to people watching this movie, she goes ahead and spoils the names of her kids, letting everyone connect the dots on the Skywalkers, and then going so far as showing Obi-Wan dropping off the babies on their respective new homes. Yoda also has to give a shout-out to force ghosts, telling Obi-Wan an “old friend” has come back. I mean, there wasn’t any way that Liam Neeson would actually show up in another Star Wars movie, so this is as close as we get.
While it’s not certain that Kenobi would have known Anakin survived, given that he didn’t actually kill him, he should have made an assumption that maybe he’d stop by and check out his old planet eventually, and hear about this young “Skywalker” kid. I’m going to assume that Skywalker wasn’t just Tatooine’s version of “Smith,” so likely a pretty unique name. It also makes the Lars seem like pretty bad adoptive guardians, given that they didn’t just bring him into the family. I guess Luke Lars just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
The movie isn’t done ending yet, because of of course it isn’t. We have to get a little glimpse of Tarkin, Vader, and the Emperor checking out their “not yet fully operational” battle station. Given that it was newly christened in A New Hope… how long did it take to build this thing? I mean, we know the cost in Earth Dollars ($825 quintillion, apparently), but there’s 20 years between this movie and the next one. I guess it was just those three guys working on it.
For toys, this was always a pretty weird movie. The original release wave gave us some of the worst sets ever made, in likely the weakest year (2005) for any of the sets. The Wookiee Catamaran was hard to find and incredibly fragile, and so unremarkable that it’s never been up for re-release. In fact, not sure anyone has ever wanted it for a re-release. That wave also gave one of the biggest missteps in LEGO history, Light-Up Lightsabers. Those played into one of the worst sets ever, the Ultimate Lightsaber Duel, which was like a bad LEGO version of Rock-em Sock-em Robots. And it’s well known around here that I’ve always regretted not being able to get the Ultimate Space Battle and Obi-Wan’s Interceptor. Luckily, I was able to build a custom version lately, and there’s a new version coming next year.
It wasn’t all awful. The Clone Turbo Tank has been a solid build in both the Episode III and the Clone Wars variety. It’s a set that could be served well by an update, especially if it actually got more movie accurate. The biggest issue with a lot of the sets have been pricing. Palpatine’s arrest is a set I wanted for years, but was never willing to pay the TRU tax for it, and it was overpriced without it. The Venator just wasn’t that interesting, since it was seen for a few seconds in the movie, even though it payed a big role in the Clone Wars. Really, it’s more that the movie itself didn’t lend itself to many sets.
And like that, we are at the end of the Prequel Trilogy and finally to the good movies. It’s the best of the PT by a pretty wide margin, but at best, an average movie with good visuals. It’s basically a 3 out of 5, honestly. It’s watchable, but don’t you dare think about it for very long.