The following article contains spoilers for Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.
It has been three years since the Clone Wars began. Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) rescue Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) from General Grievous, the commander of the droid armies, but Grievous escapes. Suspicions are raised within the Jedi Council concerning Chancellor Palpatine, with whom Anakin has formed a bond. Asked to spy on the chancellor, and full of bitterness toward the Jedi Council, Anakin embraces the Dark Side.
Although I honestly kind of love the prequel trilogy of Star Wars, George Lucas’ third entry in the trilogy, Revenge of the Sith, makes the previous two installments feel so inferior in virtually every way. Yes, The Phantom Menace was a fun and vibrant new addition to the saga, and Attack of the Clones was an awe-inspiring sci-fi romance story told with skill and passion, but Revenge of the Sith feels so grandiose. After small hints throughout the predecessors of Anakin Skywalker turning to the dark side and becoming corrupt, we finally see that transition and it is horrifying and heartbreaking.
Anakin was always lead by a lie from Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). One night, Anakin dreams that his wife Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman) will die during childbirth. Sure, it’s just a dream, but usually, Anakin’s worst nightmares come to fruition (take the death of his mother for example). He’s naturally scared and doesn’t know what to do. He wants to do whatever he can to protect the one he loves most, but it seems like that is completely out of his control.
Having been a long-time friend of Palpatine’s, Anakin turns to him for some advice and is shocked to hear Palpatine say that he can teach him a way to save Padmé’s life, but there is just one catch – he has to join the dark side and become Palpatine’s new apprentice under a menacing new nickname – Darth Vader.
This whole trilogy has really been about love and how far one is willing to go to save and protect the ones they love most. All three of the prequels have that underlying theme in them, but Revenge of the Sith demonstrates this the best. As a kid, Anakin Skywalker looked up to the Jedi like they were the greatest thing in the galaxy. He wanted nothing more than to become a Jedi Master and he spent most of his time in training and admiring the Jedi.
But Revenge of the Sith shows just how easily someone can be corrupted if they are lead by a lie and are blinded by their love for someone. Anakin is hesitant to turn to the dark side for a little bit. After all, he has been a Jedi for years and feels a strong allegiance to them, especially Obi-Wan Kenobi, who he has served under ever since he was a young boy. But the promise made by Palpatine of saving Padmé’s life is too good a promise to let go, so against all odds, Anakin finally caves in and agrees to join the one thing he swore to destroy.
There are plenty of moments sprinkled throughout Revenge of the Sith where we get hints that Anakin is one moment away from becoming fully evil. One of his first big acts of evil was allowing Palpatine to kill Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson), another one of Anakin’s friends in the Jedi Council. Anakin is distraught upon seeing Windu get shocked by electricity at the hands of Palpatine, but quickly gets over it once Palpatine reassures Anakin that he can save Padmé’s life.
Of course, Anakin’s worst deed while still technically within the Jedi Council was executing Order 66. I genuinely wish I could’ve been in the theatre opening weekend for the scene in which Anakin kills the younglings to see how shocked the audience would have been. The first time I saw that scene I was absolutely flabbergasted. It’s a scene that we all should have seen coming because in the back of our heads we know that eventually Anakin will turn to the dark side and become Darth Vader.
We know this because the original trilogy already happened before the prequels, and we were able to see the big picture. But it becomes such a shocking moment because we just spent the last two movies with Anakin who seemed like a powerful and committed Jedi. Somebody that wanted to bring everlasting peace and hope to the galaxy, only for him to change his ways after being lead astray by Palpatine.
Hayden Christensen delivers what is quite possibly his greatest performance ever here as Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader. You can practically feel his pain and suffering in every single moment of screentime he gets. You feel genuinely sorry for him whenever something goes wrong for him. But there becomes a moment where you no longer start to feel bad for him because you recognize that he has become too far consumed by hatred and evil to turn back from his new path.
And Ewan McGregor once again delivers a magnificently strong performance as Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, and probably his best work as the character to date. The scene after Obi-Wan slices off Anakin’s legs during the Mustafar battle sequence is heartbreaking. Hearing Obi-Wan tell Anakin how much he loved him and how hurt he is to see what he ultimately became never fails to be crushing and painful. I truly cannot wait to see both McGregor and Christensen reprise their roles in the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series. It’ll feel so wonderful to get more Anakin and Obi-Wan content. It’s been far too long.
Revenge of the Sith isn’t without its problems. Once again, the dialogue can be somewhat weak, especially on Anakin Skywalker’s behalf. Natalie Portman has some unfortunately bad dialogue as Padmé as well. But at the end of the day, George Lucas’ final outing in the prequel trilogy is nothing short of epic and marvelous. Lucas succeeded greatly with telling a bold and tragic story of love, corruption and loss with these three movies, and I can’t wait to see what comes next for Obi-Wan and Anakin in the near future.
Overall Grade: A
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi violence and some intense images
Directed by: George Lucas
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: May 19, 2005
Running Time: 140 minutes