Retro Review – Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
Thinking about a pivotal scene in Revenge of the Sith
I only saw it in the theater once.
Embarrassingly, I sobbed as the Jedi faced the order’s demise. And for that reason, it is not my favorite film to rewatch, although it ranks among The Empire Strikes Back, Rogue One, and The Last Jedi in terms of its artistic value (IMHO).
That said, in the ensuing years, I have seen Episode III dozens of times on video; so much so I can almost recite the script.
But, that makes it hard to review the film with any hope of getting my arms around the story and its complexity. And despite protestations about some of the dialogue and acting, it is complex; much more like a Shakespearean tragedy than a traditional Star Wars flick.
A Shakespearean Tragedy In Space
For example, the use of the honorific “Master” can be analyzed. As can the words “trust” and “love”.
Of course, the film is an unhappy one; especially for The Clones, whose story was — thankfully — more deeply explored in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. And also for Obi-Wan, who will ultimately face his apprentice in mortal combat.
But if the viewer takes a step back, the story is really Anakin’s and Padme’s. And, there is one scene that encapsulates the whole mess.
And no, it is not the duel between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Of course, everyone knows that Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) is the mother of Luke and Leia.
Pregnant with the twins, the most pivotal moment of Revenge of the Sith occurs with Padme sitting alone in the senatorial apartments. She is thinking about the trouble (tragedy) that she sees ahead, not only for her little family but for the galaxy as a whole.
Deep down, she knows Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) — the father of her unborn children — is unstable.
She has seen his capacity for carnage and his desire for control (and lack thereof). But, of course, she loves him – and has cared for him since they first met.
However, does she trust him? Can she trust him to do the right thing consistently? Especially since she often hints that Obi-Wan is the Jedi whose council she most appreciates.
And, those in the know — who have seen concept art and deleted scenes — know that it was in George Lucas’ mind for Padme to actually turn on Anakin.
However, that confusion and conflict, at least on the side of Padme, is really only implied in the completed movie.
And in the scene; a silent scene. Twilight is upon Coruscant and as the sun sets on the planet, the Jedi Temple itself becomes bathed in shadow. And we see the confusion on Padme’s face become deeper and darker.
Meanwhile, Across Coruscant….
At the same time, Anakin — who may or may not sense Padme’s gaze and conflict — seeks answers in the solitude Jedi Council Chamber. Situated on a minaret above the teeming city, with the light of the world growing dim, Anakin’s confusion — if not conflict — actually begins to dissipate.
Impulsive, and believing in action above all, he disobeys Mace Windu, breaking his the Jedi Master’s trust, and follows his fellow Council Members to Sideous’ Chambers.
Moreover, once he leaves the safety and tranquility of the Jedi Temple, the audience knows that his return to the sanctuary will only spell doom for everyone.
And I do mean everyone.
Revenge of the Sith: A Plague On Both Your Houses
Remember Horatio in Romeo and Juliet? Yeah you do. You read it in 9th grade. Anyway, In the midst of dying accidentally by Ana… I mean Romeo’s sword, and knowing that Romeo and Juliet have put their own love ahead of all, says:
“A plague o’ both your houses…”
In this case, it’s the galaxy whose demise is certain, and the Amidala and Skywalker clans who will suffer the consequences of the Padme and Anakin coupling.
For the audience — and despite the masterful John Williams soundtrack — the remaining moments of the movie play out as a dreadful dirge; the only true light occurring under the blue skies of Alderaan and the twin suns of Tatooine – with the twins offering “A New Hope….”
Finally, I place Revenge of the Sith high in the pantheon. It is the movie that really lets viewers in behind the breath mask of Darth Vader, the Dark Lord of the Sith. It is the movie that more than hints at Emperor Palpatine’s manipulation, duplicity, and evil. And it is also the movie that correctly paints Padme as a heroic woman, whose life was cut tragically short (by whom? Certainly not a broken heart….)
Moreover, Revenge of the Sith helps to better explain why Darth Vader will save his son, Luke by intervening in Sideous’ assault on the younger Skywalker in Return of the Jedi.
For that reason, I completely recommend the movie, with the caveat that younger viewers be forewarned about the transformation of Andaking into Darth Vader and Padme’s demise.