Several years ago, I challenged myself to write about the Star Wars prequels The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, but instead of sharing ten things I hate about them (all too easy), I thought it would be more interesting to seek out five things I actually like as well as five things I hate. Since these movies are utter shitgarbage, it actually proved to be quite difficult to find things I enjoyed about them. Often it was something small, some tiny background element, or some cheesy little moment that amused me. For some reason I ran out of steam and never finished writing about the final movie in the prequel trilogy (probably because I had already sat through two turds and didn't want to subject myself to another), but with the new (and hopefully good) Star Wars: The Force Awakens film releasing this week, it seemed like a good time to finally finish what I started and turn my analytical gaze to Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
Five Things I Like About Revenge of the Sith:
Some people desperately cling to the foolish notion that this is the "good prequel". They are sadly mistaken. There is no good Star Wars prequel. This might be the least horrid, except for the fact that it's utterly boring, bogged down in dull politics, tedious battles, and completely unconvincing love story. Natalie Portman won an Oscar for god's sake but all she does in this movie is stand around and cry over what an unbelievable idiot her secret husband is. But more on why the movie sucks later. For now we'll get to the things I enjoy, most of them involving Ian McDiarmid and his hammy acting as Sheev Palpatine. (Did you know the Emperor's first name is Sheev? Not many people know that. Are you a little bit sad that you know that now?) Most people think his over-the-top performance is a weak spot in this movie, that he took things too far into cheesy territory, but I disagree. If you ask me, he was just about the only entertaining thing in the whole godawful mess of a film. If you know you're working on a piece of shit, you may as well try to have fun with it (and get away with as much trolling as you can).
1. Palpatine's Gentle Encouragement
At the beginning of the film, good ol' Sheev Palpatine has had himself "captured" by his favorite Sith honor student Darth Tyranus (AKA Count Dookie) so that the Jedi can rescue him, Anakin can kill Dookie, thus setting the stage for him to turn to the dark side and take Dookie's place. This of course is entirely reliant on many things just happening to fall exactly into place. Dookie has to lose the fight (and considering that he handed Anakin his ass... and his arm... the last time they fought, that's a pretty big if), Obi-Wan has to somehow be gotten out of the way so he doesn't witness this murder, and Anakin has to be manipulated into actually going against all of the moral teachings of the Jedi and execute an unarmed (literally, hee hee) prisoner. If any one of these variables doesn't go exactly as required, the whole thing is a bust. But hey, wouldn't you know it, all the pieces fall into exact place, because I don't know, The Force or lazy writing or some shit. Fortunately for Palpatine, Anakin is as easy to manipulate as warm, wet clay. Obi-Wan is conveniently knocked out and Anakin finds the defeated Dookie kneeling in front of him, two lightsabers crossed at his neck. Palaptine tells Anakin to kill him, a command that Anakin initially balks at (and Dookie seems surprised. Seriously? He's on Team Sith, he didn't see this coming?). But after repeating the command and saying "Do it" in the most obviously evil voice ever, Anakin crumbles like a desiccated cookie and decapitates him. Anakin Skywalker is like an obnoxious frat boy you could get to do the dumbest and most insane shit simply by suggesting it to him, and then suggesting it to him one more time. He's incapable of saying no.
2. Palpatine's Vampire Spin
Once the Jedi finally catch up to obvious knowledge the audience easily figured out during the first prequel even if they'd never seen the originals, they confront Chancellor Palpatine to arrest him for being, well, basically Satan. Again Palpatine speaks in the most cartoonishly evil voice you could imagine, whips out a red lightsaber that he apparently had tucked away in a wrist holster, and then executes what I can only call a "vampire spin" maneuver, accompanied by an unholy noise that's somewhere between a croak and a growl. Then the Jedi have their asses soundly beaten by an old man who's wearing a knitted shawl and puffy sleeves. Every time I see him perform this ludicrous and unnecessary maneuver, it makes me chuckle. I also can't take Palpatine seriously running around swinging a lightsaber for the same reason I can't take Yoda seriously doing it--more on that below.
3. "No, no, no"/"Unlimited Powwwwerrrr!!"
Every time I watch this scene I am simultaneously thankful and amazed that this was the take George Lucas actually decided to use in the final version of the film. Mace Windu has bested Palpatine and has him unarmed and backed into a corner on the edge of a steep precipice (every lightsaber duel must be fought near a yawning abyss). He tells Palpatine that the oppression of the Sith ends here, and Palpatine says "No, no, no" in a hilariously bizarre (and again, obviously evil) style that's impossible not to want to emulate as much as possible in your day to day life. Then Palpatine starts zapping him with clearly evil Force lightning, but it gets deflected back to him by Mace's awesome purple lightsaber. For some weird reason he continues zapping to no avail, only disfiguring himself more and more as the lightning comes back on him. Mace is about to kill him when Anakin flips out (because Palpatine had made some half-baked vague mention before about how he might maybe have perhaps heard some rumors about how it's theoretically possible to save his wife from dying in childbirth) and cuts off his lightsaber arm. Then, for reasons unknown to anyone but George Lucas and possibly not even him, Palpatine shouts out "Unlimited Powwwerrrrr!!!" in a cartoonish voice as he zaps the defenseless Mace and blasts him out the highrise window. It's one of the most bafflingly strange moments in the entire movie, and for that reason I love it.
4. Obi-Wan Has the High Ground
This is one of those moments that I enjoy solely because of how insanely stupid it is. After a tedious lightsaber duel that's ten times longer than the Obi-Wan Vader duel in A New Hope, and eleven times less interesting, Obi-Wan leaps off of his floating lava platform onto a nearby slope and tells Anakin that the fight is pretty much over because he has the high ground, so obviously there's nothing Anakin can possibly do to win. He tells Anakin not to even try coming over there, seriously dude don't do it you have no idea, but Anakin jumps anyway, so Obi-Wan cuts off all the remaining limbs he was somehow still retaining ownership of after the previous movie. Really, for someone that stupid walking around with a lightsaber, the rest of his limbs were on borrowed time anyway. Obi-Wan is clearly just talking out his ass, because his statement makes no sense. Not only were they trading the high ground back and forth like Pokémon during the rest of their duel, but apparently Obi-Wan has forgotten about the ending of The Phantom Menace, where Darth Maul rather decidedly had the high ground against him, but Obi-Wan managed to leap up from directly beneath him and cut him in half while he just stood there doing nothing.
5. "And so it is."
In another brief but truly bizarre moment, Senator Jimmy Smits arrives at the Jedi Temple just after Anakin has murdered all the children (but he did it all for his wife!). He approaches the Clone Troopers standing around by the landing platform and they tell him there's been a rebellion but the situation is under control. He tries to push past them but they point their guns at him and tell him that it's time for him to get the fuck out. And then Senator Jimmy Smits just calmly and cooly says "And so it is" before backing away to no doubt go home and mix himself another six drinks. Who the hell reacts so cooly to having a gun shoved in their face and being threatened? Senator Jimmy Fucking Smits, that's who. Wait, what's that you say? Who the fuck is Bail Organa?
Five Things I Hate About Revenge of the Sith:
And now for the easier part: the things I don't like. There are many terrible and obvious things about this movie that have been pointed out by others long before me, so I'm not going to get into all of the more commonly mentioned ones here. I could discuss the fact that Anakin is more easily tricked than your average six-year-old child, how he basically turns evil because he had a nightmare, how Padme dies for pretty much no reason whatsoever (yes, I've heard the fanboy theories about how Palpatine magically used her life force from across the galaxy to save Darth Vader--too bad that's only on your desperate apologist blog entries and not in evidence anywhere in the film itself), the terrible dialog during the climactic duel ("Only a Sith deals in absolutes", "From my point of view, the Jedi are evil!"), or the fact that this film shows the Jedi prophecy about the one who will bring "balance" to the Force leaves the Jedi way worse off than if they had never found Anakin in the first place, but if the utter shittiness of those moments wasn't painfully obvious to you upon seeing the film, then you probably also think Olive Garden is a great Italian restaurant, and you're beyond any kind of help I could give you anyway. These selections below aren't by any means the only bad parts of the movie, not by a long shot... they are simply the ones I have chosen to focus on.
1. Yoda's Tearful Goodbye
When Yoda leaves the Wookiee homeworld Kashyyyk, he has a little heartfelt moment where he specifically calls Chewbacca out by name and says that he will miss him with a sad, longing look on his face. This is the most poorly shoehorned in bit of fan service to the original trilogy in any of the prequel films. At least with the Jango/Boba Fett thing it served the story, even if it somehow ended up making a character whose most meaningful contribution to the original films was looking cool somehow seem lamer upon learning his disappointing backstory. There was literally no reason at all for inserting Chewbacca in this movie aside from George Lucas wanting to give boners to fanboys across the world. Maybe in the next edit of Return of the Jedi, Yoda can ask Luke "How is my dear friend Chewbacca?" while coughing on his death bed.
2. Obi-Wan's Annoying Ride
Obi-Wan goes to the planet Utapau to go after named-by-a-five-year-old General Grievous, the cyborg general of the Separatist's droid army. So because he hates having combat advantages like the element of surprise, he rides on the most obnoxiously loud lizard creature that can possibly be found anywhere in the galaxy. This damned thing is constantly yipping, yelping, growling, snarling, yodelling, or otherwise offering up inane lizard commentary on everything that happens to pass under its gaze (listen to it here). But amazingly, somehow, when he arrives on Grievous's position, the lizard stops making all of its unpleasant noises without any prompting from Obi-Wan whatsoever, allowing Obi-Wan to listen in on Grievous's conversation undetected for several moments. Such incredibly lucky timing! Oh, I'll bet it was The Force!
3. General Grievous's Lightsaber Escalation
With the exception of Count Dookie's slightly curved lightsaber handle in Attack of the Clones, Lucas seemed intent on escalating the lightsabers in each movie to make them more extreme and deadly. In The Phantom Menace we had Darth Maul and his double bladed saber, so here with Grievous he had to one-up things even further, by giving him four arms, and thusly four lightsabers (which obviously should have all been double bladed). But that's not enough for Obi-Wan to deal with (I mean, come on, he can easily block four sabers at once, guys), no, Grievous's sabers have to spin at industrial machine speeds. This is supposed to be a serious moment where you're supposed to worry for Obi-Wan (you know, the guy who grew to old age and we already saw die in the earlier movies?), but instead it's just comically stupid. I burst out laughing the first time I saw this. I'm pretty sure that wasn't the response Mr. Lucas was going for.
4. Yoda Vs. Palpatine
This is absolutely, without a doubt, the one lightsaber battle that should never under any circumstances have happened outside of the worst fan fiction conjured up by bored twelve-year-olds. But did George Lucas let us down when it came to letting us down? No, he certainly did not. Both of these characters featured rather prominently in the original trilogy, and at no point was there the slightest suggestion that either of them had a lightsaber. Yoda specifically expressed to Luke that weapons and physicality were overrated, that you could be powerful without "crude matter" like muscles and laser swords. And Palpatine only held onto Luke's lightsaber to fuck with him--at no point did he make any move to use it, or even show any interest in doing so. He even seemed to regard it with amusement, like it was some harmless toy he had no respect for. The impression was that both of these characters had achieved a level of power that put them above that sort of thing. Yoda could move starships around with but a thought and Palpatine summoned lightning from his fingertips. So of course, George Lucas seems to fundamentally misunderstand his own two characters (maybe it's the fact that he did not write the scripts for the older movies in which they appeared) and has them bouncing here and there and everywhere and swinging at each other like a couple of Gummi Bears. The grandiose John Williams musical score that accompanies this fight in the large, empty Senate chamber suggests the intended epic nature of this duel, but really when you have a silly old man who seems to have some mental condition presenting as uncontrollable cackles and giggles fighting a cartoon character who is bound only by the loosest of Anime physics, it's impossible to take this fight seriously in any way. This was the moment where Star Wars truly became a parody of itself.
I'm not even going to get into the ridiculous "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" screamed by Vader, or the fact that they actually got James Earl Jones to say the name Padme, and how stupid that word sounds coming from Darth Vader's mouth. I just want to focus on the painfully awkward Frankenstein's monster way that Vader unbolted himself from the table and took his first little baby steps on his new robotic legs. I'm well aware that the old Universal Frankenstein movies are exactly what Lucas was trying to invoke here--but knowing that doesn't make it good. As Lucas has proven multiple times in this prequel trilogy, subtlety is not really his strong suit (I mean, Palpatine and Anakin are having some discussion about how it was rumored Darth Plagueis could create life while watching a space opera where giant spermy looking blobs fly around inside giant eggy looking blobs). We'd already gotten the Frankenstein idea with the table, and the lab, and all of the freaky looking instruments and robots working on building Vader's new body. You really didn't need to drive it home by turning Darth Vader into a Frankenstein parody. I'm honestly surprised that Palpatine didn't have to ignite the new life inside of him with his Force Lightning. If the character wasn't ruined enough by everything else in these movies, it's very hard to think of him as anything resembling a badass when you can call this mental image to mind... especially when he says "Padme". Think of Darth Vader at any moment in the original films saying "Padme".
Now my work is finally done, and I can breathe a huge sigh of relief, for barring an unfortunate set of circumstances I can't possibly predict, I don't have to watch this, or any of the prequels, ever again. Do you agree with my opinions? Disagree? Do you want to start a big argument in the comments where you tell me I'm an idiot because in some shitty expanded universe novel it depicts Yoda and Chewbacca's decades long love affair which I would know about if I knew anything about anything? Please let me know in the comments below, I'd love to hear your thoughts!
***OUR NEW SCI-FI THEMED PIXEL POSTERS HAVE ARRIVED!***
We've just added a new science fiction themed custom pixel poster to the store called "Pixels in Space, and it's filled with oodles of references you're sure to enjoy. We also still have our previous pixel poster up for grabs in a discounted 2-pack. If you enjoy what you see here on the site, please consider ordering one (or two) to help us cover our hefty monthly server bills! Click here for ordering info.
Have any questions or comments about this piece?
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS IN THE READER COMMENTS SECTION BELOW!
If you enjoyed this piece, be sure to check out:
Follow us on:
Want Your Ad Here?
Send us an email!