On this day in Film History (part 2): Revenge of the Sith (2005)

Star_Wars_Episode_III_Revenge_of_the_Sith_poster

Alright, admit it: from the moment the prequel trilogy started, THIS is the movie you were waiting for. Everyone wanted to see Anakin make his final transformation into Darth Vader, and oh boy, did this film deliver!

This entire film is a giant climax of sorts, because there’s precious few moments when there isn’t some action of some kind going on. The tragic thing is, things start out so well for Anakin and secret wife Padme at the start of the film: Anakin returns to a hero’s welcome after saving the Chancellor (he also killed Count Dooku in cold blood but since Palpatine was the only witness, he doesn’t mention that part), he finds out Padme is pregnant AND, not long after, he’s informed by Palpatine that he wants him (Anakin) to be his representative on the Jedi Council.

Anakin (in typically arrogant fashion) believes that this means he’s also being promoted to the rank of Master, since traditionally only Jedi Masters sit on the council, but while a seat is granted to him, his dreams of glory are shattered when the promotion is not given (even though Obi-Wan assures him that it will come soon enough). Anakin has been thoroughly manipulated by both sides (Jedi and Palpatine) at this point, and is growing increasingly tired of it. Palpatine is aware of this and uses Anakin’s frustration and growing mistrust to finally push him over the edge (where he’s been teetering ever since Attack of the Clones). Palpatine’s gambit is impressive: he admits EVERYTHING to Anakin, that he’s a Sith Lord, that he knows about Padme being his wife and furthermore, that he can prevent her from dying in childbirth (Anakin has been having recurring dreams about Padme dying, similar to what happened right before his mother died). Anakin draws his lightsaber and almost kills Palpatine on the spot (in fact, during this moment, I was practically begging Anakin to do exactly that, even though I knew it wasn’t going to happen), but he needs to do “the right thing” so he leaves to inform the Jedi, who try to arrest Palpatine, who kills them all (ultimately with Anakin’s help) and from this point on the Jedi are doomed/royally screwed.

Revenge of the Sith “The Jedi Purge”

But as agonizing as Anakin’s turn to the dark side is (that scene with the younglings in the temple KILLS me every time), it’s what comes after that is the real highlight of the film: Anakin and Obi-Wan’s final confrontation on Mustafar. There’s actually something of an urban legend regarding that final duel and the entire sequence in fact. The story goes that Steven Spielberg happened to be visiting the set that day and Lucas asked him, half-seriously, if he wanted to direct this scene. And allegedly, Spielberg accepted (without taking credit) and that’s supposedly why the entire Mustafar duel is so freaking awesome. I don’t know if it’s true (but I’d kind of like it to be).

Revenge of the Sith “Battle of the Heroes” (2005)

The music for the Mustafar duel was dubbed “Battle of the Heroes” and is just amazing (Williams really outdid himself there). The moment when Obi-Wan finally realizes that there is no way to pull Anakin back from the dark side and that he MUST kill him, is just so heart-wrenching to watch. Of course, in the end, Anakin’s arrogance is what does him in. Even though Obi-Wan warns him that he (Obi-Wan) has the high ground (and therefore the advantage), Anakin leaps anyway and loses the rest of his natural limbs as a result. I still find the burning scene difficult to watch (I know people criticize Christensen’s performance, but I really think he nailed it here).

And finally, I have to talk about that “transformation” scene when Anakin finally becomes recognizable as Darth Vader (in the armor and helmet). This scene, if you think about it, is really the lynch pin that ties the prequels into the original story. Everything that has happened has been slowly building up to this moment, and it’s really perfectly done.

Revenge of the Sith “Anakin becomes Darth Vader” (2005)

And quick question, did anyone else geek out just a little bit when the newly rebuilt Darth Vader spoke and it was James Earl Jones’ voice? That little detail also helped to tie things together, and was an excellent choice. Also, the birth of Padme’s twins answers the age-old question of whether Luke or Leia is older, and the answer is: Luke!!!

Revenge of the Sith is often called the best film in the prequel trilogy and I absolutely agree with that assessment. What did you think of the conclusion to the prequel trilogy? Let me know and I hope you enjoyed this look at two Star Wars films today, enjoy the rest of the day! -Bex

*film poster is the property of Walt Disney Studios

For more “On this day” posts, see here

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