Long, long ago, in a childhood far, far away, I was a child obsessed with Star Wars. By the age of twelve I already had every available piece of Star Wars trivia crammed into my head (diameter of the Death Star? 120 kilometers), including the knowledge that there would be nine films in total. Once, after gushing about the series to my grandmother (who couldn’t have cared less), I was struck by a sudden, sorrowful realization, and blurted out “it’s too bad you won’t be alive to see them all.”
Well, Grammy got the last laugh: Lucus truncated his series to a meager six films and the matriarch is still around. But if the thought that grandma would not live to see all of the Star Wars films was a major bummer to me at the time, the truth would have been devastating: That, by the time the final film rolled around, I would be so disinterested in the whole franchise that I wouldn’t even bother to see it in a theater.
I tried to psyche myself up Revenge of the Sith by rewatching the first two films in the trilogy — and, as an aide to readers who wanted to do likewise, I even gave tips on how to fast-forward through the boring and stupid parts. (See: How To Watch The Phantom Menace and How To Watch Attack Of The Clones.) And it actually worked — for a few days, there, I was vaguely fired up to see Episode III, especially since everyone kept raving about how it was “the best in the series since The Empire Strikes Back” (pretty faint praise, when you think about it). But when The Queen and I found ourselves with an evening free we had to choose between Revenge Of The Sith and Batman Begins, and we opted for the latter. I like to think that my twelve year-old self would have taken some comfort in the fact that we still saw a movie about an awesomely cool awesome guy in a black cape and mask, albeit one unable to choke people to death with his mind.
Anyway, last weekend I finally watched Revenge of the Sith. And yes, it was quite a bit better than the other two, although that’s akin to saying “Moe was the funniest Stooge.”
My two previous “How To Watch” guides were so people could cram in anticipation of Sith without having to endure the full 4+ hours of Episodes I & II, so doing breakdown of this film might be pointless. On the other hand, I’m sure there’s someone out there who, like me, wants to watch Episode III just to get the whole thing over, and wouldn’t mind being steered away from the superfluous stuff. And so, here we go again: How To Watch Revenge Of The Sith:
|Start FF time||End FF time||Elapsed Time||What you’re missing||Why you might want to watch it|
|9:16||11:22||2:06||How many times have we seen this in the prequels? Heroes need to get from point A to point B, but Lucus can’t just have them exit stage left and then arrive at their destination a moment later, noooooo. Instead there has to be a “travel” scene, full of sound and fury and signifying absolutely nothing in the overall narrative. If these films were resumes, this is what we would call “padding.” In this instance, Anikan and Obi Wan need to get from the hanger of a Federation Cruiser to another floor, and en route there’s an extended sequence of assorted elevator trouble, which includes this scintillating exchange:
Obi Wan: Did you press the stop button?
Who says Lucas can’t do dialog?
|At one point we learn that R2-D2 has tenacle-like prehensile appendages that he can use like hands to catch and minipulate things. In Clones, you’ll recall, it was revealed that R2-DT could MOTHERFUCKING FLY! So you might want to watch this sequence and then fantasize about what Episodes IV-VI would have been like if they had continued to give R2-D2 Astounding New Abilities in each film. Return Of The Jedi probably would have ended with R2-D2 killing young Anikan with his hitherto unrevealed time-travelling lasers.|
|15:23||23:36||8:13||Another “travelling” scene with more elevator zaniness (memo to Lucus: Please. Stop); the Federation Cruiser crash lands on the surface of Coruscant.||If you want to watch any of the later General Grievous scenes, you’ll need watch this one to see his escape. Personally, I found Grievous to be an unsatisfying and ultimately unneeded character, and wouldn’t have minded if he’d just died here. With Count Dooku dead, Lucus basically needs a stopgap Bad Guy until Anakin’s conversion to the Dark Side (sorry — total spoiler, there!) so that he can intersperse the plot with fight scenes.|
|29:10||30:28||1:18||People told me that Lucus had mercifully kept the romance stuff to a minimum in Sith; they didn’t warn me that he accomplishes this by condensing all the cheese from Attack of the Clones into this single, one minute scene. When Lucus goes back and re-edits Sith (because you know he’s going to be tinkering with these things until the moment he dies), let’s hope he takes the opportunity to delete this sequence entirely and replace it some shots of teens doing some totally radical skateboard tricks or something.||If the action scenes have you worried that you might die from testosterone poisoning, this will serve as a perfect antidote.|
|42:17||42:37||0:20||By this point it’s clear that even Lucus knows that the audience is sick of his “romantic” “dialogue,” because he now apparently feels the need to suckerpunch the viewer with it. This scene starts out as a fairly interesting political discussion between Anakin and Padme, but then, just when you let your guard down: bam! “Hold me,” Padme blurts out, while you scramble to raise your defensive shields. “Like you did on Naboo.” Lucus, you sneaky little bastard.||It’s the most mock-worthy scene in the film.|
|46:23||46:40||0:17||One of the goal of these fast-forwards guides has been to rid the prequels of any and all mention of midichlorians. I was kind of taking a gamble in doing this in the first two guides, since it was still remotely possible that Lucus might shed enough light on them in episode III to make them retroactively not-stupid. But I’m here to tell you now (and will explicate further in “Analysis,” below), that he does not. So if you want to skip the only mention of them in Sith, you’ll need to lose these 17 seconds.||Unlike most edits, this falls right in the middle of a scene. But it’s a small sacrifice to make for a midichlorians-free film.|
|45:43||1:00:51||14:08||This is the first half of the climatic Obi Wan Kanobi v. General Grevious showdown, which involves (of course), a lightsaber duel. As I mentioned above, I think Grevious should have been junked in the first half an hour, and this scene does nothing to change my mind. I mean, seriously: how many lightsaber battles have we seen now over the course of the six films? And you already know there’s going to be at least one more at the end of this one. Lucus tries to keep them interesting by continually upping the ante — Darth Maul had a double-ended lightsaber, Clones ended with Yoda going all Spider-Man on Count Dooku’s ass, and now Grevious employs four — count ’em, four! — lightsabers at once. But the whole thing is starting to remind me of the “number of blades in the disposable razor” arms race.||The fight is actually pretty cool, unnecessary thought it may be.|
|1:05:21||1:07:36||2:15||Second half of Kanobi v. Grevious showdown||See above.|
|1:09:02||1:10:36||DON’T CUT THIS SCENE! In fact, watch it twice. It involves Anakin and Padme, in different parts of the galaxy, each looking out windows and presumably thinking about each other. It’s the only segment in all three prequels that actually works as far of the romance goes — presumably because (a) neither actor opens their mouth and ruins things by emoting, and (b) Christensen and Portman aren’t in close proximity, so their astounding lack of chemistry isn’t glaringly obvious.||Because against all odds, it’s good.|
|1:19:42||1:20:23||0:41||If you’re ditching the General Grevious tangent, you’ll need to cut out the first 40 seconds of this scene to have a clean subplot-ectomy.||Again: not bad, just superfluous.|
|2:13:39||2:20:00||6:21||End Credits.||You want to savor the fact that, at long last, the Star Wars saga is over. Sweet, sweet closure.|
Total time saved: 35:39.
Analysis: Yeah, not bad. It would be considered a fairly mediocre movie if it didn’t have the whole Star Wars cachet going for it, but it certainly hurdles over the bar that was set so low with Phantom Menace.
Many people told me that Sith was all action, with little plot. I didn’t find this to be the case. There was plenty of story in there, but, unlike Phantom and Clones, it all served to move things forward (instead of, as was often the case in the prior two films, plot being introduced via infodump, where one character halts the action and launches into a soliloquy wherein he explains some long and convoluted aspect of galactic history or politics).
The midichlorians ultimately amounted to nothing. It seemed as if Lucus introduced them in Episode I to explain something that didn’t need explaining (The Force), but wound up generating more questions than he answered. So Anakin didn’t have a father? And he was maybeconceived by the midichlorians, somehow? And Darth Sidious’ former master may or may not have had something to do with that? I did a little poking around on the web to see if maybe all this stuff was addressed in the novelization or something, but, alas, no. Thanks to the midichlorians these prequels have more loose ends than a yarn store, and Lucus makes no attempt to tie them up.
But while I was researching the midichlorians, I looked up a couple of other questions I had about the story. Here are the answers.
Why, of all the Jedi, did only Obi Wan and Yoda disappear when they died? I got my Revenge of the Sith DVD from NetFlix, which means it came sans bonus disc. If I had all the extra goodies, though, apparently I could have watched a deleted scene that made sense of this. You know how, at the end of the film, Yoda tells Obi Wan about “one who has returned from the netherworld of the Force to train me, your old Master, Qui-Gon Jinn”? Well, there was a scene before that where Yoda explains that Qui-Gon Jinn had contacted him from Beyond, and revealed, among other things, that he had learned how to become so attuned with the Force that one could actually merge with it upon his death. This imformation is imparted to Yoda and, somewhere between episode II and IV, on to Obi Wan as well. That seems like a fairly significant plot point to omit, if you ask me.
What was the “Prophecy” again, and why didn’t Anakin fulfill it? The Prophecy is mentioned often in the prequels, but nobody ever tells us exactly what it says. The closest we get is this exchange:
OBI-WAN: With all due respect, Master, is [Anakin] not the Chosen One? Is he not to destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force?
MACE: So the prophecy says.
YODA: A prophecy . . . that misread could have been.
Later, after defeating Anakin in combat, Obi Wan shouts “You were the Chosen One! It was said that you would, destroy the Sith, not join them!”
My interpretation was that Anakin does fulfill the prophecy — three films later when he kills the Emperor and himself in the process, thereby reducing the number of card-carrying Sith in the universe to zero. But in searching USENET for other people’s opinions, I found many arguing that Anakin fulfilled the “balance to the Force” part of the prophecy in Sith by setting into motion the events which left an equal number of Sith (Vader and Sidious) and Jedi (Obi Wan and Yoda) alive.
The problem is that The Prophecy is never clearly stated anywhere — not in the films, not in the novelizations, not in the voluminous additional Star Wars material that exists, and not in any interviews with Lucus. And the two things we know about The Prophecy — that the Sith get destroyed and the Force gets balanced — seem contradictory (how is the Force “balanced” if all the Dark Side guys are dead?) My conclusion: The Prophecy is just a plot device, and only a fool would waste any time trying to figure it out. WISH I’D KNOWN THAT 15 MINUTES AGO!!
Jumpin’ jehosephat, are those actually Hayden Christensen abs?! At at 31:08, Anakin saunters out of his bedroom shirtless adorned with abs rarely seen outside of a Captain America comic book. Frankly they looked a little too perfect to be true, and I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe Lucus had added a little computer-generated definition. Unfortunately, this proved rather difficult to research, as searching Google for “Hayden Christensen shirtless” returned about 218,000 websites aimed at teenage girls and gay men. Switching to Google Images verified that Christensen is a pretty buff guy, though. One thing id for certain: if he had devoted the time he spent doing sit-ups to acting classes, these last two films woulda been a lot more bearable.
Okay, these movies weren’t so great, but did get me marginally excited about Star Wars again. Are there any good books in the series? I trolled through a bunch of Amazon reviews and lists, and consensus seems to be that the creme de la Star Wars creme is: The Thrawn Trilogy (Heir To The Throne, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command), set five years after Return of the Jedi (and the very first non-novelizations Star Wars books ever written); the Han Solo Trilogy (The Paradise Snare, The Hutt Gambit, and Rebel Dawn), set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope; and Shatterpoint, a Mace Windu novel set during the Clone Wars.