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Post #1475999

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Re-evaluating Revenge of the Sith
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14-Mar-2022, 11:13 PM
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15-Mar-2022, 8:35 AM
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I saw the Prequels when they first came out, and was mostly disappointed (for the usual reasons). I haven’t really watched them too much in the intervening 15 years.

To my surprise, Revenge of the Sith seems to be considered a masterpiece nowadays. Anecdotally, it seems like at least 2 out of 3 modern Star Wars fans are likely to consider it amazing, ranking it close or equal to The Empire Strikes Back in quality. Many fans rank it higher than the OT. This is pretty strange to me, because my opinions about Star Wars movie quality generally have aligned with majority fan consensus, e.g. my ranking of the OT is ESB, ANH, ROTJ (with ANH and ROTJ possibly interchangeable). So I thought I must have missed something about Revenge of the Sith. My hazy memories of it basically made it seem like a partially unwatchable CGI fest with an unsatisfying fall for Anakin. But since I now strangely appear to be in the minority with this opinion, I decided to re-watch it just to see if I totally misjudged it.

So I re-watched it and found… it’s not exactly as terrible as I remember, but not exactly great in any sense. I like the opening scenes with Anakin and Obi-Wan in the space battle over Coruscant and inside the ship. I feel like the action and banter between them in this scene should have been what we saw in the first two Prequels. Still… parts of this sequence are a bit weird. Palpatine is tied up in an evil-looking chair that’s supposed to remind us of the Emperor’s throne in ROTJ, but there’s no plot reason for him to be tied up in that chair. He’s a prisoner in an enemy vessel (at least he’s pretending to be) so why is he not locked up in a cell or something? Whatever. Then Anakin beheads a defenseless Dooku, which seems to want to signify that Anakin crossed a line - but it didn’t really land for me because it doesn’t really play into his later downfall. Maybe it’s supposed to show us that Anakin sees the Jedi as hypocrites when Mace Windu wants to kill a defenseless Palpatine. Or maybe it’s just that it activated Anakin’s dark side and made killing defenseless people easier for him, but he already killed a tribe of defenseless Tuskens in the last movie so I don’t know.

Anyway, the opening space battle and scenes aboard Grievous’ ship were overall pretty decent - and probably the best sequence in the Prequels, even if they contain some strange or uneven moments.

But the whole middle part of the movie then reminded me why I didn’t like Revenge of the Sith originally. The movie rapidly degrades into a series of over-the-top CGI action sequences. At one point we actually see Obi-Wan riding a giant lizard while fighting a cyborg in a uni-cycle with sparkling energy sticks. I mean it’s just insane - the whole sequence comes off as visual noise to me - it’s pretty much the archetypal example of “CGI action scene that looks like a video game”. There’s also a meaningless battle on Kashyyk that has no connection to the rest of the movie.

I remember Anakin’s fall being very sudden, but it wasn’t quite as sudden as I remember. In fact, when Palpatine first reveals he’s a Sith lord, Anakin just turns him over to the Jedi council, and apparently even wants to kill him. It’s only after Anakin (inadvertently) helps Palpatine kill Mace Windu that Anakin decides to go full Sith. Still, it does seem pretty sudden, considering that Anakin was just involved in fun, swash-buckling action and light-hearted banter with Obi-Wan, and now he’s willing to murder Jedi children.

But I’m not sure if I think his turn to evil is necessarily too sudden. It’s more like Anakin’s fall is too… incoherent. I mean Anakin is just all over the place. He was already unstable and psychotic in Episode 2 (he slaughtered a whole tribe). But then the opening scene in Episode 3 depicts him as a heroic, well-adjusted person. But then he kills Dooku, but then he feels bad about it, and then he saves Obi-Wan’s life. It’s just really hard to get a reading on Anakin by the time he’s bowing down to Palpatine. But it’s difficult to buy he would be willing to kill Jedi children at this stage.

Anyway, the Order-66 scenes are pretty cool though. The ending lightsaber battle really SHOULD be amazing, but I just didn’t feel like Anakin/Obi-Wan spent enough time together as good friends for it to have a significant emotional impact. But it’s still sad when Ewan McGregor breaks down in tears.

Overall, it’s not as bad as I remember - but I really can’t understand how so many people consider this a masterpiece on par with the OT. I’m envious, because I always wanted an Anakin Skywalker movie that I could love. The story itself is so compelling, but I just can’t get past all the flaws in the actual implementation. Regardless, it’s fascinating to me that mainstream consensus about this movie has changed so much. I pretty clearly remember back in 2005 or so, my opinion about this movie pretty much aligned with the majority fan consensus. It’s really interesting how ROTS is nowadays considered one of the best Star Wars movies - and also very hard for me to understand or explain.