This is where the fun begins.
By Diana Estigarribia
May 21, 2005
If it ‘s been awhile since your last Latin class, that means “I have kept the faith.” My faith in George Lucas, that is. I quite enjoy the oft-maligned The Phantom Menace and even Attack of the Clones. In the face of the naysayers, the haters, even my own creeping self-doubt, I kept the faith. And the masterful, moving Revenge of the Sith is my reward.
Episode III is an adult movie. That’s fitting since the trilogy’s main character, Anakin Skywalker, is no longer a little kid or a petulant adolescent but a man. In a way some of his daily concerns and stresses are as mundane and familiar to any of us who’ve crossed over into “adulthood”: career aspirations and frustrations, relationships, marriage and family. Most of the time we have to juggle them all at once. And that’s if you’re just a garden-variety earthling. Revenge of the Sith shows what it’s like to struggle with the demands of adulthood if you happen to be the most powerful Jedi who ever lived.
With the Original Trilogy, it was Luke Skywalker I related to; with the Prequel Trilogy, it’s his father Anakin, and that’s never been more true than with this movie. Finally, George clears away the clunky politicism of the Eps. I and II, the awkward “comedic” touches, and focuses on Anakin like no time before. We’re squarely in his head and his heart throughout the movie. It’s like Jedi in that way; in his quest to redeem his father’s soul, Luke focused on the inner-Anakin like a lightsaber cutting through metal. We’ve arrived at the point of this whole crazy thing, and it’s glorious. Not perfect, but glorious.
I’ve only seen ROTS once as I write this though I plan to repeat viewings before the week is out. I’m grateful for the breathing space, because I came out of the midnight screening on Wednesday night completely gutted. I was not expecting the emotional demands of this film. It’s one thing to intellectually know the events of the back story, including the fight with Obi-Wan, Anakin’s psychological and physical transformation into Darth Vader, the separation of the twins, the death of the Republic and the rise of the Empire, but it’s quite another to have to watch every moment leading up to it, seeing it unfold and then locking into place with merciless inevitability. George doesn’t turn away, and we can’t.
If you’ve made any emotional investment into the Star Wars mythos, you will not walk away from ROTS unaffected. You’ll feel the emotional connection between Anakin and Padme, which is absolutely necessary for the film to succeed. And considering that the romance between them is one of the weakest points of the earlier two prequels, this dramatic leap is quite amazing. Partly that’s due to the fact that the actors themselves are older and more experienced; partly, the dialogue isn’t as bad as you might have heard. Take it from an old married lady–-sometimes people in love say really silly things to each other.
And of course, there’s Anakin’s relationships to his peers and superiors. This is the meaty part of the story, as it plays into all of his flaws as a Jedi. But you really feel for the guy, as he’s pulled in so many directions at once, caught in a tug-of-war between the truly evil machinations of Palpatine and the equally misguided way the Jedi Council treats their messiah. I came away from ROTS with a different perspective on each of the Master Jedi: Mace Windu, Yoda, and Obi-Wan.
Ewan’s performance as Obi-Wan in ROTS is the one we imagined ever since we heard of his casting as the venerable master. He’s really present (as are all the performers) in the role. And you realize this guy is just as flawed as his padawan, just as arrogant–-from a certain point of view. He’s part of the culture that refuses to give Anakin the chance he needs to defeat the Dark Side.
By the time of the events of Jedi Obi-Wan’s an embittered old spirit, unable to support the son of Skywalker as he should (“He’s more machine now than man, twisted and evil” or “Then the Emperor has already won”). But in ROTS we see the reasons why it’s so hard for Obi-Wan to understand Luke’s unshakeable belief about the good left in his father. Obi-Wan knows things about Anakin that most of us couldn’t begin to imagine before this film. The movie shows us the horrible truth, but it’s so good that we lose none of our sympathy for Anakin. In fact it changes how we feel about Anakin/Vader in ways I’m still processing.
I’m focusing on the emotion because as I get older that’s what Star Wars becomes for me. I started out as a kid playing with the action figures and my Cantina set and I’ve ended up here, thinking about what all this means for the characters involved. Just this morning I thought, as a little personal fan fiction note to myself, that Luke and Leia have family on Naboo. Not only are they truly reunited, but there’s still a chance to discover something about their other parent, Padme.
When I started this piece I didn’t think I’d be writing about family, but that’s why this film is so deep and ultimately, very moving. I read about others’ emotional reactions to the film, as well as Spielberg’s comments that “you’ll cry at the end.” Honestly, I cried before the end; I did cry for Anakin/Vader, for Obi-Wan, for Padme. For Luke and Leia. Yes, the film ends with a hopeful tone; visually, the final shot is probably his best since the first trilogy. I haven’t even started to deal with the rest of the film’s eye candy—but I’ll save that for my next piece. I’ll leave you with one final thought: no matter where you are in your love of, previous disappointment with, etc.—please go see this movie now. You’ll rediscover why you once loved Star Wars, or, it will make you feel good for loving it all this time.