BY JACOB LAURITZEN
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith was released a week before I got home from a mission for my church. As a missionary, I wasn’t allowed to watch movies, but I was still very aware of the movie’s release. I had friends offer to take me to the midnight showing, but I turned them down. I would just have to wait a week.
Leading up to the movie, there was a lot of hype. We had gotten toy spoon lightsabers from cereal boxes and toys from value meals at Burger King. I still have a few of those toys on the bookshelf in my classroom. It was fun enjoying the hype without actually being able to watch trailers or read message forums online to ruin the surprise.
The day I returned home from my mission, I had a meeting with my church leader, I changed into casual clothes, then my dad took me to see Episode III.
Episode III is by far the best movie of the prequel trilogy. Almost all of the problems with the first two movies are resolved. The plot is still complicated, but it makes sense for the most part. There is less focus on proving to fans that Anakin and Amidala love each other. You can probably count the shots with Jar Jar Binks on one hand.
If the purpose of Episode I was to introduce Anakin and all the other characters, and the purpose of Episode II was to show Anakin and Amidala fall in love, then the purpose of Episode III is to complete the tragic cycle by showing how Anakin becomes Darth Vader.
The movie opens to a battle between the Galactic Republic and the Separatists over the capital planet of Coruscant. It’s a fun opening to them movie that intentionally adds humor to what will later become a vary dark story. Anakin and Obi Wan make their way onto the ship of General Grevious (another new puppet for Palpatine to control) and Count Dooku. After Obi Wan is knocked unconscious, Anakin cuts off Dooku’s hands. Palapatine, takes the opportunity to try and push Anakin over the edge by telling him to kill Dooku. He eventually does, but he doesn’t feel good about it. That’ll change later.
After the battle, Anakin meets up with Amidala in secret where she tells him that she’s pregnant. If the Jedi are forbidden to love, then they are definitely forbidden to get their wives pregnant. Oops.
The rest of the story is Anakin’s gradual progression towards the dark side. He starts having dreams that Amidala is going to die in child birth, so he starts seeking out ways to save her, which eventually finds in the Sith. Palpatine intentionally tries to drive a wedge between Anakin and the Jedi as he slowly lures him towards him. When Anakin is forced to choose between letting Mace Windu assassinate Palpatine, or to save him, he decides to save him in the hopes that Palpatine, who has been revealed to be a Sith Lord, can teach him how to save his wife. If there was ever a good reason for turning to the Dark Side, Anakin has found it.
Anakin pledges his allegiance to Palpatine, who in turns renames him Darth Vader. Ewwwwwww.
Anakin/Vader is then assigned to kill everyone in the Jedi Temple, including the children and then later to finish off the rest of Palpatine’s puppets. When Amidala is told about this, she doesn’t believe it and she races to find out the truth. Anakin/Vader scares her by talking about the power that he now has and when he sees that Obi Wan had stowed away on her ship, he thinks she has betrayed him and he uses the Force to choke her.
By this point, Anakin has become Vader the serial killer. This didn’t occur to me until I realized that choking people is his MO. It’s kind of scary when you think about it. The little boy from Episode I is long gone and the biggest baddest villain in the galaxy has arrived–well, almost.
Obi Wan and Anakin/Vader have an epic lightsaber battle that eventually ends with Obi Wan cutting off Anakin’s arm and legs and catching fire as he struggles to not fall into a flowing river of lava.
Obi Wan takes Amidala away where she gives birth to twins! Whaaaattttt? And yes, they’re named Luke and Leia. But, because she has no more reason to live without Anakin, she dies in childbirth. The children are separated so Vader can’t find them.
Then the scene that everyone has been waiting for. We see Anakin, who has burns over his entire body, saved by Palpatine and then retrofitted with the famous Darth Vader suit and associated breather apparatus. He finds out that he killed Amidala and his transformation is complete. He no longer has any reason to be a Sith, but it’s too late.
Years ago, I wrote a paper in college describing out Episodes I through III are a Greek Tragedy about Anakin Skywalker. I thought I was pretty clever then, but it’s true. In a Greek Tragedy, the hero always has a tragic flaw that usually leads to their own demise. Anakin doesn’t die, per se, but he does transform into what he hates most–a Sith. And, it’s becomes of his own tragic flaw. His passion, which is apparently a trait of the Sith, leads him to fall in love with Amidala. His passion leads him towards powerful aspirations. His passion leads him to choke Amidala. His passion drives him on and on down to the point of no return.
And yet, Amidala’s dying words are that there’s still good in him. That will prove to be a theme for the remainder of the movies.