The consensus seems to be that Revenge of the Sith is, in fact, the best of the prequels. True, that can be damning with faint praise, but…well, let’s see what the Geeks have to say about this one.
Tom: Back when I was in grad school, I used to go to a local laundromat to do my laundry. One day while I was there, I met a young woman from China. We got to talking, which was hard since her English was only so-so, and my Chinese does not exist.
We more or less hit it off, you know, before she mentioned a boyfriend from home…but she and I stayed friends for a bit, and we went to the movies a couple times. I tried taking some DVDs to her place once, and one of them was Phantom Menace. She’d told me she loved fantasy movies, and she really enjoyed Spider-Man, but I was a little surprised that she didn’t recognize Phantom Menace at all. She declined at first until I told her it was part one in a six part series and the last one was coming out the following spring. THAT got her attention and we watched Phantom Menace. She actually liked it. She even laughed at Jar Jar a couple times (language barrier again). We went on to Attack of the Clones and she couldn’t wait for Episode III.
She didn’t believe me, by the way, when I told her the older movies were better.
Time passes and we went to Revenge of the Sith, and I distinctly remarked to a woman sitting next to me with her kids that my friend was probably the only person in the theater who didn’t know how the movie was going to end. I sometimes wonder how kids like my nephew (who turns 10 on the 18th and will see the movie that day) will react to how these movies go if and when they watch them in episode order as opposed to release order like I did. I mean, I think this movie gives away all the surprises from the older films for future fans, but what do I know?
For the record, my Chinese friend did go on to see the originals and did agree that the older movies were better.
But here I was rewatching this one, and I was thinking about what went wrong with the prequels.
I mean, I haven’t seen Hayden Christensen in anything else, so I don’t know if he’s been good in other roles. I’ve read that he actually was decent in some movies, and he may actually be a good (but probably not great) actor, but what does he do here? He whines (like Luke does), or he doesn’t show much emotion at all. He’s, I guess, stoic. But you know what? So’s Samuel L. Jackson. Can you name any movie he’s made since Pulp Fiction where he isn’t some sort of human volcano? Where’s the fire?
Natalie Portman, who has an Oscar at home, is another one. Granted, she can be rather flat in a lot of movies, but she and Christensen seem to be having a competition to see who can be less emotionally invested in whatever’s going on. She had better chemistry with Thor in Dark World and Portman apparently didn’t even want to be in that movie when her choice for director left the production.
But you know what? I honestly think Christensen improved a bit here from the previous films. And there were moments, mere moments mind you, where I think Obi-Wan and Anakin were almost coming across as friends. How much time passed between this and Attack of the Clones anyway? Point is, McGregor at least was showing some sort of friendliness, and there was some sort of script support, and Christensen was almost there, much more so than he was in any scene with Padme.
But once again, there wasn’t enough. About a third of the way through the film, Anakin and Obi-Wan part, and the movie actually gets…well, almost good. Anakin’s seduction, and the fall of the Jedi, was actually pretty well done. Palpatine even makes a couple decent arguments before Anakin realizes the guy’s the Sith Lord they’ve been looking for. What really makes the prequels frustrating is more like wasted potential as opposed to just not being there. There’s enough fan edits of these movies floating around to suggest Lucas had the raw material to make these movies good. He just didn’t do it.
A co-worker told me he read part of the novelization for this movie. He said it was a shame they didn’t get Yoda’s thoughts on why he lost at the end of the movie as related by the novel, that the reason the Jedi were doomed was because the Sith adapted and the Jedi did not. Qui-Gon managed to adapt…but for some reason, no sign of Liam Neeson to tell us so.
Show, don’t tell, George.
Final notes: Nice juxtaposition between Anakin and Padme at the end…she dies in a bright room, while he survives in a very dark one. Anakin’s repairs into the Vader we know is actually rather effective until he screams that “NO!” And how pointless was that Chewbacca cameo?
RYAN: Tom, as always, brings the even hand of a rewatch viewed through the eyes of impartiality. I say the prequels do not deserve such treatment and so let me unleash my final torrent of bile and hatred over this blessed last piece of garbage.
Yes, Revenge of the Sith is the best prequel. That’s not damning with faint praise, that’s a genuine win among the worst contest ever conceived and flawfully executed. But what can you expect from a trilogy that ends with a film spelling out ROTS?
I’m going to talk about three things here that make this movie so bad.
First, Order 66. Let’s ignore the silliness about building in a code to execute Jedi knights that can be just, I don’t know, grown into a clone. That raises all kinds of issues about the stormtroopers–like why didn’t they build in more skills like, I dunno, sharpshooting. Which also leads to the effectiveness of this order. Suspend your notions of disbelief and allow Order 66 to actually turn all these clones against their friends and commanders. How does it work? The element of surprise only gets you so far when stormtroopers aren’t a fraction of the warrior or soldier a Jedi knight can be. Maybe the shock of having your friends start shooting at you is enough to down a few Jedi–but almost all of them? Aren’t Jedi supposed to have heightened senses, to be aware of their surroundings, to be able to avoid soldiers that fire into a shuttle bay about a hundred times and can only hit the Millennium Falcon twice? I understand that the Clone Wars cartoon goes into a bit more depth on how the Order was implanted or believed by the soldiers but that still can’t address how they could take out that many Jedi. Nonsense.
Second, let’s talk about the inability of Jedi and Sith to handle the vertical plane during lightsaber battles. The original movies had lightsaber fights that tended to be very…plain. Two lightsaber wielding opponents go toe-to-toe and they swing until somebody vanishes or loses a hand. (I literally just described every lightsaber fight in the originals and I like those movies!) In the prequels we get a lot more motion, but when it comes to moving up and down suddenly everybody loses their collective minds. Darth Maul is a hard-core double-saber using monster that can take on two Jedi at once with ease. When the pair of Jedi becomes a single opponent, Maul dispatches him fairly easily. He seems to be on the cusp of doing the same with the other opponent except–oh noes! The other opponent is underneath him, hanging from a metal handhold conveniently placed on the edge of a giant metal tube for no good design reason whatsoever! When that opponent gets a lightsaber and flies into the air, Maul has no choice but to simply watch while the Jedi lands and slices him in two. Yeah, that damn pesky third dimension. Fast forward to the end of ROTS and Obi-Won declares himself the early victor in his duel with Anakin because Kenobi is standing on top of a pile of dirt and therefore has the higher ground. Yes, I get it was a metaphor for him being a bit more moral than his opponent, but it’s also quite literal as Anakin is preparing to spring over his opponent in an effort to mimic a move known among the Jedi as “The Obi-Wan.” Maybe Obi-Wan has thought long and hard over what he would have done in Darth Maul’s slippers because he just slices Anakin’s legs off. Man, who could have seen that coming with any kind of Force sensitivity? So either Sith deal only in two-dimensional absolutes and cannot perceive a world with the haunting complexities of three dimensions or this idea of the more climbier lightsaber always wins is only true about 50% of the time. Either way–dumb.
Finally, let’s talk about Anakin turning to the dark side. We all knew it had to happen. Well, all of us except for Tom’s not-girlfriend. And the angle of Anakin turning to save Padme in light of his inability to save his mom isn’t a bad idea (although executed poorly–oh and if that was the plan than Sidious should have been behind the Sand People’s raid too). But the final moment that we know Anakin has turned is when he goes into the Jedi academy and kills all the children. Um, damn. Yes, that’s beyond evil. I wasn’t a dad yet when the movie came out but even I thought that was a bit extreme. Because Darth Vader was a big scary guy in the original films but Luke believed in him and ultimately brought out the good in him. It’s really hard to imagine there being good in someone who sliced up an entire room of children. Sure, the movie cut away from the actual violence but think of what actually happened here. Whether there was a fight or just a slaughter doesn’t really matter–Anakin had to plow through a room of children to turn evil? That seems a couple billion degrees beyond the previous actions. It’s a bit like Breaking Bad showing the progression of Walter White from a nice school teacher to a scheming drug mastermind except even he didn’t slice up a schoolroom full of kids. Hell, Walter White seems way more salvageable than Anakin and Mr White let Jessica Jones die!
But congratulations to ROTS for winning the Least Soul Draining Prequel award. You suck as a film but you even suck at sucking as a film since you came in third in the Worst Prequel Contest. Laugh it up, loser.