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The Darker tone of Revenge of the Sith - But why?

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https://originaltrilogy.com/topic/George-Lucas-Star-Wars-Creator-Unreliable-Narrator-Time-Travelling-Revisionist/id/66986

I recently read on this informative thread about how Lucas seemed to be more oriented with light hearted stories and toy sales, which definitely explains ROTJ, TPM, and films he had a lot of control in. But something I noticed is, this seemingly does not explain why Revenge of the Sith is a darker film with a lot of taboo subject matter.

George has been on record to say that he believes SW is a franchise aimed towards children, and the tone of his mostly controlled movies reflect that. However, Revenge of the sith seemingly contradicts this line of thinking. I mean it seems odd to have a movie aimed for kids that has Anakin…killing kids lol
‘‘Star Wars is basically a serial for children - that’s what it’s always been" (Hoffmann, 1999: 7).’’ -GL
https://web.archive.org/web/20180422062130/https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/scope/documents/2001/december-2001/kramer.pdf

Even so, some of the imagery in ROTS is more along the lines of horrifying, Anakin being burned alive as one of many examples. All of this makes for great drama, but why does ROTS seem to be a reversal of these beliefs that George had in mind?

Was there another chef in the kitchen so to speak? Did George try to do something out of his comfort zone?
Doing some research, I found an article that said Spielberg helped with some of the shots in ROTS https://web.archive.org/web/20050405211953/https://www.starwars.com/episode-iii/release/publishing/f20050330/indexp6.html

So is Spielberg to thank? Or is there another factor at play? Hope someone can help clarify and/or speculate, thanks!

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I don’t find anything contradicting. He said during the lead up to Revenge of the Sith to 60 Minutes he wouldn’t take a five or six year old to it but an eight or nine year old could probably handle it. He was right. That’s how old I was at the time. Star Wars has always been for kids. He said it from the very beginning to Time Magazine in 1977. Adults truly like to project their own opinions on what a kid will find interesting or boring. They rarely let them form their own thoughts. I instead find they end up projecting onto them how they think something should be or how they saw it originally. It’s no different in how they show them Star Wars. They show them the way they think the movies should be instead of letting them view things as George intended them as I-VI and letting the kid have their own opinions before giving the kid or really anyone for that matter their own opinions. Kids in general just gloss over what they don’t understand. I know I did. When it comes to Anakin killing the younglings I didn’t see much difference in terms of tone to the ending of The Empire Strikes Back or even Return of the Jedi with Palpatine torturing Luke with Force Lightning. I probably even glossed over Anakin and the younglings. It’s one of the same for a kid. Star Wars has always been designed for kids and got darker as they matured. Return of the Jedi getting slightly lighter than The Empire Strikes Back too is that Empire went away a bit from George’s vision slightly but that’s due to Irvin Kershner’s approach of focusing on character through more scripted event like cinematography and other slight changes from George’s approach. Most storytellers who tell stories for kids make the fatal mistake of dumbing down their stories or what they want to say as they’re afraid they won’t understand. George didn’t do that. He did the exact opposite. If anything he matured his stories with them and gave them lots of rewatch value now that they’re adults because we can understand more and more nuances. Harry Potter is the only other example I can think of off hand that follows a similar formula. Cinema or any media can truly influence your psyche. George always thought of the moral responsibility he had when telling his stories. He’s spoken of it. George is carefully crafting his stories to reflect these sensibilities. I wonder sometimes for some fans is it as simple as they wanted the films to age with them? That wasn’t how George did things. He made things generational and purposely darkened things down in the Prequels initially to show the decline of society before the Dark Times and Empire.

“Heroes come in all sizes, and you don’t have to be a giant hero. You can be a very small hero. It’s just as important to understand that accepting self-responsibility for the things you do, having good manners, caring about other people - these are heroic acts. Everybody has the choice of being a hero or not being a hero every day of their lives.” - George Lucas

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Interesting links there jinxfan2, I enjoyed reading them.

You could be right on Spielberg having an influence, but I would have thought the influence may have gone the other way. Both filmmakers at the time were parents bringing up young impressionable kids and possibly not wanting them to see violence in their films depicted in a certain way. Both directors made changes to their earlier work in a bid to attempt to remedy that.

For George, Han no longer shooting first; George’s disproven claims which even people who worked on the 1997 Specials Editions don’t believe. And the later bullshit ‘we didn’t kill many people in these films’ claim too.

For Spielberg, the replacement of guns with walkie-talkies in ET. Which he would later change back some time afterwards.
 

It is an interesting point you bring up, and something to think on.

To me, most of the darker content in ROTS appears after Anakin pledges his allegiance to Palpatine. Anakin’s about-turn to the Sith is abrupt and baffling. In the space of one scene, Anakin goes from being a disgruntled but loyal Jedi to child-slaughtering evil. He does this because of his visions of Padme dying during childbirth, and Palpatine just happens to mention that an old Sith once learnt how to prevent death. This enough enough for Anakin, and he quickly joins the dark side. Within a few scenes, Anakin is Force-choking a pregnant Padme, the woman he did all this to protect. That’s not good storytelling.

The child-killing, then choking pregnant wife, and finally being burnt alive in his fight vs Obi-Wan: all three occur quite quickly in the film. Huh, that is something indeed to think on, I think I’d have to re-watch ROTS again before commenting more (look what you made me do! lol). When I think of more I’ll post it in here.

What are your thoughts on it jinxfan2?

Does anyone know if there more behind the scene videos which also cover the filming of these scenes, to see if others also had some input on the tone and content for these scenes, how they were filmed, or where George talks about the higher age rating for ROTS (and why)?

The Secret History of Star Wars | Star Wars Visual Comparisons | George Lucas: Star Wars Creator, Unreliable Narrator & Time-Travelling Revisionist

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ken-obi said:

Interesting links there jinxfan2, I enjoyed reading them.

You could be right on Spielberg having an influence, but I would have thought the influence may have gone the other way. Both filmmakers at the time were parents bringing up young impressionable kids and possibly not wanting them to see violence in their films depicted in a certain way. Both directors made changes to their earlier work in a bid to attempt to remedy that.

For George, Han no longer shooting first; George’s disproven claims which even people who worked on the 1997 Specials Editions don’t believe. And the later bullshit ‘we didn’t kill many people in these films’ claim too.

For Spielberg, the replacement of guns with walkie-talkies in ET. Which he would later change back some time afterwards.
 

It is an interesting point you bring up, and something to think on.

To me, most of the darker content in ROTS appears after Anakin pledges his allegiance to Palpatine. Anakin’s about-turn to the Sith is abrupt and baffling. In the space of one scene, Anakin goes from being a disgruntled but loyal Jedi to child-slaughtering evil. He does this because of his visions of Padme dying during childbirth, and Palpatine just happens to mention that an old Sith once learnt how to prevent death. This enough enough for Anakin, and he quickly joins the dark side. Within a few scenes, Anakin is Force-choking a pregnant Padme, the woman he did all this to protect. That’s not good storytelling.

The child-killing, then choking pregnant wife, and finally being burnt alive in his fight vs Obi-Wan: all three occur quite quickly in the film. Huh, that is something indeed to think on, I think I’d have to re-watch ROTS again before commenting more (look what you made me do! lol). When I think of more I’ll post it in here.

What are your thoughts on it jinxfan2?

Does anyone know if there more behind the scene videos which also cover the filming of these scenes, to see if others also had some input on the tone and content for these scenes, how they were filmed, or where George talks about the higher age rating for ROTS (and why)?

Well, I don’t know all of the answers to what you’re asking, not sure if anyone does (hence why I made the thread), but I do agree that it’s rushed. But it’s interesting to note that much of ROTS was surprisingly outlined in the 80s, although its story beats vary from the final product. There’s an article here that quotes a transcript between Kasdan and GL in 1981 (prior to ROTJ) when discussing ROTS and the prequels. Good quote here: ''On his missions through the galaxies, Anakin has been going off doing his Jedi thing and a lot of Jedi have been getting killed—and it’s because they turn their back on him and he cuts them down. The president is turning into an Emperor and Luke’s mother suspects that something has happened to her husband. She is pregnant. Anakin gets worse and worse, and finally Ben has to fight him and he throws him down into a volcano and Vader is all beat up.

Now, when he falls into the pit, his other arm goes and his leg and there is hardly anything left of him by the time the Emperor’s troops fish him out of the drink. Then when Ben finds out that Vader has been fished out and is in the hands of the Empire, he is worried about it. He goes back to Vader’s wife and explains that Anakin is the bad guy, the one killing all the Jedi.‘’ https://www.huffpost.com/entry/star-wars-prequels-return-of-the-jedi_n_3313793

Obviously, it seems GL didn’t intend for Padme to die but…she does in the movie. Which would have tied back into ROTJ when Leia remembers her mother if Padme lived, so oh well. It seems as if, if I had to guess, the first half of ROTS is mostly filler to set up the eventual canon outline that George had set up. But the way it’s described in this quote, it feels slower, and that Anakin does not become Vader at the end of the movie, but by the end of the third act seemingly.

Many feel ROTS is the best prequel, and while it does have a tragic and dramatic story, I feel its overly fast paced story does not do it justice, though it does improve it to an extent. Phantom Menace has better structure in terms of a story imo.

To me, the seeds of ROTS’ were laid in ROTJ, I mean the film has many visual parallels (Mace electrocuted the hands of the Emperor, Anakin betrays, turns into Vader - Luke electrocuted by Emperor, Vader betrays turns into Anakin) and even the title parallels it. George was seemingly going to connect them more seamlessly by outlining the dark and dramatic events, so they could tie into each other and therefore flow. But the end product is still dramatic but not consistent in pacing.

That’s one reason, although I am more curious about the in depth process of it.

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Many people know George had outlines and ideas for the Prequel films back in the 70’s and 80’s as part of the backstory for the Original films. This is known and not really surprising. These ideas were also not well executed onscreen in the PT for many fans, and as you say are rushed.

Plans also changed over time, of course. Yet many other discrepancies were also needlessly introduced.

From the “Making Of ROTJ” book and Huffington link you posted:

George Lucas [on The Force]: “Like yoga. If you want to take the time to do it, you can do it; but the ones that really want to do it are the ones who are into that kind of thing. Also like karate. Also another misconception is that Yoda teaches Jedi, but he is like a guru; he doesn’t go out and fight anybody.”
 

But that doesn’t really have much to do with the dark tone of ROTS that you are asking about. Why do you think the 3 scenes Ken-Obi mentions above were so rushed in ROTS? Or appear so dark in tone?
 

In the countless interviews George has done on Star Wars it is striking nobody asks him why there are so many disconnects, or why he did not follow through some of his outline ideas for the Prequels back in the 80’s, or simply correct the changes he made to them before filming.

As you said: Padme not dying in the early ideas, but then dying on screen in ROTS, contradicting Leia remembering her mother in ROTJ, when ROTS later shows this is not possible.

Lucas: “Yes, so we can bring that out when Luke is talking to her [Leia]; she can say that her mother died when “I was two years old.”

This is quite a simple fix to make if killing Padme was to become a thing in ROTS, but George didn’t adapt the story to go with this change. Yet nobody asks him why? Perhaps because there are so many, and nobody want to open that can of worms?! 😃
 

Many other discrepancies were also needlessly introduced. Or plain “time-travelling revisionism” as listed in the link you posted: https://originaltrilogy.com/topic/George-Lucas-Star-Wars-Creator-Unreliable-Narrator-Time-Travelling-Revisionist/id/66986

The depth process is something that was there in among George’s outlined plans and ideas, it is unfortunate he did not see them through. Or give them the attention to detail that any changes in story warranted. Instead it comes off as lazy, disconnected, a little baffling, and incoherent storytelling. And not really “connect them more seamlessly by outlining the dark and dramatic events, so they could tie into each other and therefore flow” - even for the instances which you mention (is it a parallel when a writer uses something similar, or flips something, to what was used some 20 years before? Does it tie into each other and flow? To me, no. But it is good that some people do, and also enjoy them).

In trying to retcon or re-write Star Wars history so many times, George also does himself no credit, making it more difficult to believe or trust his other claims.
 

Have you read “The Secret History Of Star Wars”, jinxfan2? There is some interesting facts and evidence on George’s backstory for what became the Prequels in there. It is very much an eye opening read.

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