Revenge of the Sith Thoughts

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We finally made it to Revenge of the Sith late Saturday night. We tried a few times to find time to see it, only to have other events prevent it, with traveling, planned activities at ideal times, and less availability to babysitters during some times when we did have time. Finally we decided to go Friday night for her birthday because my parents would be in town to watch the kids, but Sam forgot that Friday was even her birthday, never mind the movie date, and scheduled something else. We wanted to go later that night, but it would have taken us until way past midnight, which we didn't want to do. So we decided to go Saturday night instead. Then we arrived at the theater, and it was sold out (three weeks after its release!), so we had to go at the late showing anyway so we could still take advantage of my parents' presence. I want to come back to the issues of Lucas on Bush and Lucas on relativism and absolutism, but I'm going to save that for another post. For now, I just want to record my thoughts on how this film stands in relation to the others in the series.

I agree with those who think this is the best of all six Star Wars films. It's epic. Episode I is about as non-epic as you can get, but it was a good story. There's bad dialogue in III, but all six have bad writing, and it's not concentrated all in one place as happens too much in episodes II and VI. I walked out, and I expressed wonderment to Sam about how anyone could possibly think knowing the ending could ruin something like this. The special effects for episodes I, II, and III give them all presumptive favor over the original three, but in some cases that's outweighed by other things' being better in the originals. Episode V is generally agreed to be the best of the originals, and few serious critics have thought of any other as the best among episodes I, II, IV, V, and VI. The question is whether III is better than V. I think it is, but I've only seen it once. It's possible my view will change on repeat viewings. I enjoyed it more than I've enjoyed any of the others.

Part of it is the epic nature and seeing it all come back to the beginning. Part is seeing Yoda fight the emperor. I was expecting a pretty sudden change in Anakin that wouldn't seem convincing. I was wrong. The transition makes much more sense than I expected, even his turning against Obi-Wan. You can get a sense at just how much Palpatine has been poisoning his mind, and you also get a sense for how he's been manipulated by some of the deeper desires that the Stoic Jedi have condemned but that he thinks are truly important, ones the Jedi have at most only even suspected of him as he's kept them secret. Palpatine sees them as sees how to motivate him through them, setting things up so his deepest desires and passions can only be satisfied if he learns what the Jedi would forbid him to learn. When it's a life-or-death issue, he choose the life of his love and submits to the dark side in the hope that he can save the life of the one whose death he's foreseen.

Then the poisoning of his mind further develops once his mind has been so clouded, and it seems to him as if the Jedi have turned against him as he seeks to do what's right. The emperor's lies have shaped how he sees their opposition to the one person who wants to help save Padme, and finally Obi-Wan appears to be the one who has turned Padme against him, which immediately turns him to revenge now that he's given in to the dark side, which feeds his hate, anger, and fear.

There were things I didn't like. I wanted more Mace Windu and Count Dooku, though I was prepared for an early end to Dooku. Lucas needed to explain why Grievous was coughing. I've read some reviews that thought he was a droid, which shows that he didn't even explain well enough that Grievous is partly organic, which is why he can cough, but it would be good to know not just why he's the sort of thing that can cough but why he actually was coughing all the time. It would have been nice to see more Jedi than just Yoda and Obi-Wan putting up a decent fight againt the clones when order 66 was initiated. They looked pretty incompetent, even if it was a surprise attack by their own troops. Chewbacca didn't do enough to justify his presence. It might as well have been a mere cameo, and we didn't even know for sure it was him until the last scene he was in. The scenes with Amidala were much better than the long, awful ones in episode II, but they weren't great. Hayden Christensen has become a halfway decent actor now, but he still isn't great. Still, these are all minor gripes. They didn't stop me from enjoying this film more than any of the others.

I had a few friends in college who liked to compare Star Wars with Star Trek, and they thought Star Wars was obviously superior. I'd gotten to a point a few years ago when I thought they were so obviously wrong. I like Star Trek a lot, and I think movie 10 and the last few years of DS9 were some of the best scifi ever, so it's not a huge insult for me to say Star Wars isn't as good. I did like episodes I and II, which some people think were stupid. I maintain that those people don't know how to tune out the bad to prevent it from ruining what's truly good. I also insist that those people don't pay attention to how bad episodes 4-6 are and just remember how good they thought they were when they were kids. The bad dialogue, directing (except in episode V, which Lucas didn't direct), and acting are throughout all the Star Wars movies.

Still, I think Star Wars had not until been good enough to be better than Star Trek. After episode III, that's a harder claim to make. Some of the things I really like about Trek are still not true of Star Wars, including some of the more intelligent writing they've put forth over the years, but this movie was just so fun and so epic that I think it's going to count as better than much Star Trek, and that restructures the balance of things so I can't make a blanket statement anymore.

12 Comments

You thought E3 was the best of the 6 films?!? I am always shocked when I hear the ocassional person say that. I thought the film was atrocious. It was the best of the prequesl, but that's not saying much. I'd be very interested hear your response to my review, as well as these and these reviews by critics.

BTW, here's how I rate all six:

Phantom Menace: 3/10
Attack of the Clones: 5/10
Revenge of the Sith: 6/10
A New Hope: 9/10
Empire Strikes Back: 10/10
Return of the Jedi: 8/10

The last few years of DS9 were pretty amazing. The whole war was sheer cool insanity.

I know folk have gotten into battles over Trek and Wars but they just felt like two different animals to me.

I'm with Rey. I like 'em both for different reasons. Of course, Doctor Who is better than both of them. ;)

Here are my rankings:

Phantom Menace: 7/10
Attack of the Clones: 8/10
Revenge of the Sith: 9/10
A New Hope: 7/10
Empire Strikes Back: 8.5/10
Return of the Jedi: 6/10

I'll respond to your review at your review.

Phantom Menace: 7/10
Attack of the Clones: 8/10
Revenge of the Sith: 9/10
A New Hope: 7.5/10
Empire Strikes Back: 9/10
Return of the Jedi: 8/10

Guess I whiffed on this one. I was sittin up in the movie theater guessing that the whole switchover to the darkside was gonna leave you cold.

I can understand why Anakin switched to the dark side, but it doesn't really work for me, as it was presented in the film. When I talked about it, I mentioned it in terms of Bruce Wayne/Frank Castle/Mad Max-type suffering. That, I would have bought. Or even if the Emperor had somehow gotten Annakin to believe that the Jedi were somehow going to be responsible for Padme's death...then I could see him switching from running to tell to chopping off Mace Windu's arm in about 35 seconds.

All in all, I thought it was a good movie, but it definitely lessened my respect for Darth Vader. Particularly since, as we see him beginning in A New Hope, he's supposed to be the scourge of the galaxy. Now we're coming to find that he's a punk with an 0-1 record against full-grown Jedi? *shakes head* I still liked it, though.

You also have to remember that Palpatine wasn't just using persuasive and manipulative words and events (which he was doing; he may even have been responsible for the dreams, though they may have been just the Force). Palpatine was almost assuredly using Force mind tricks to cloud his mind, which he could do because he's got this nifty Force crystal that amplifies his power. They don't tell you about this in the movie, but that's why he's so powerful as to hold his own against Yoda (you get the sense that he was letting Mace Windu get the better of him so Anakin would step in).

Another issue that Lucas has talked about is the dark side's enslavement. When discussing Jedi he said that Vader had been truly enslaved to the dark side for 20 years, and it took seeing his son's life threatened to snap out of it. Some of the things he did were under its control and not really a choice. You get the sense that that's part of what's going on in episode 3. Palpatine has taken hold of him to some degree, and he's controlling him, pulling him toward the dark side and greater enslavement, and it begins when he bows down to him. That's how he can bring himself to do such terrible things so easily and with no remorse. He's not really the one who's doing all of it. He's been submerged, and the dark side is pushing him along.

There's also an irrationality to it all, something you see in normal humans without any of this Force control or outside manipulation by evil people. Saul, for instance, develops this irrational hatred for David. Samuel told him someone would take his place, that God had removed his kingdom from him. So as soon as he sees a successful young stud, he starts to kill him so he can't steal his kingdom away. He promises his daughter but gives her to someone else. Then he tries to ask a bride price for the other one that should get David killed, but he does it anyway, twice over. Now he's in the family and closer to the throne. Saul lashes out at him with his spear a few times, and eventually David flees. Saul claims that anyone who gave him aid is trying to overthrow the kingdom. He orders the priests all to be killed because one of them helped David get something to eat and gave him a sword for what David had told him was his mission for Saul. He says Jonathan is trying to overthrow him because of his friendship with David. He even later tells David that he's righteous when he spares him in the cave, and in the next chapter he's back to hunting him down. He just has this pathological inability to recognize most of the time that not everything is about him and that David actually is loyal and honorable to him.

By the way, Vader had to kill a bunch of full-grown Jedi in the temple before he got to the kids. I'm pretty sure they even showed that. According to Lucas, he goes and hunts down the stragglers later too. Not all of them had been on missions with storm troopers. They also purged the galaxy of all Force users, including ones who weren't Jedi (though we know E.T.'s race survives into our time because he ends up on earth in his own movie), and Vader headed that up. I'm sure we'll see some of this in the TV series, though I don't know if they'll be able to have Vader in that. I suppose it depends on whether James Earl Jones will do it and whether they can afford to pay him.

Yeah, I've heard that Palpatine was probably playing possum against Windu for Anakin's benefit. That much, I believe, but - and correct me if I'm wrong - as far as I know, Windu was supposed to be right behind Yoda.

Yahmeen, I've seen it twice, and I'll probably make it 3, but suffice it to say that your explanation makes more sense to me than anything I got out of the movie. They didn't show him doing any good Darth Vadering, though. All I saw was him going into the temple...there might have been a teenager in there somewhere, and then the little boy asking him what was happening. The part with the grown Jedi, was that in the book?

I guess that's why I was kinda disappointed, because I wanted to actually see dude take over. As it is now, we just kinda know that he did.

Lucas has a ranking of Midichlorian counts for various people at his website. I wish I had a link. I forgot to bookmark it. Anakin is unmatched, and the closest to him is Palpatine with his special crystal thingy. The big difference with Palpatine is his much more serious training. Luke and Leia might have been next, or they might have been after Yoda, but there's a huge gap between Anakin and any of the rest of them. Behind Yoda and the twins, Mace Windu was close and Obi-Wan not too far beyond him. Qui-Gon was pretty average, as it happens, not much above Chewbacca, who could have qualified for Jedi training.

I didn't read the book. thought I saw a bunch of people there when he went in, and presumably he killed them, even if it happens off-screen. It was before he even got to the chamber with the kids. I'm hoping they explore the other stuff later, because Lucas says there's this massive hunt to exterminate all force users besides the two Sith lords, and that includes much more than the Jedi. I expect most of the TV show to be about the rebellion's origins and some of the evil deeds of the early empire. It's going to be mostly minor characters. They credited Tarkin in the movie to the guy who plays Scorpius in Farscape, and you get a brief glimpse of him at the very end when they look at the Death Star construction, so I imagine he'll be a major baddie in the series.

Anyone see the Clone Wars? It was excellent how they showed how much Palpatine was manipulating to forge the weapon that Anakin was to become.

I didn't try hard to see it, because I didn't expect that they could do much in five-minute snippets, and the art was so horrendous that I didn't want to have to look at it. If there's good stuff in it, maybe I'll have to rent it. It's out on DVD now.

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