Finally Watched The Train Wreck That Is "Star Wars III: Return Of The Sith"

10 Nov

I won’t moan about plot wholes, contradictions with the later movies or over-reliance on special effects and action scenes here. I will moan about the failure to deliver what should be the main point of Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith, what even Lucas himself said to be the main point of this movie in one of the many documentaries: Why does a good person turn bad?

All everybody wanted was a convincing answer to this question. The answer given in Star Wars III isn’t convincing. I would even say that it goes one step further: it damages or even destroys the character known as Darth Vader in the movies IV-VI.

I’ll concentrate here on the most important scene in the movie, Anakin’s final turn to the dark side and say why it didn’t work for me. Here it is (Anakin chopped off Jedi master Windu’s arm to keep him from executing chancellor Palpatine [dark side]. This gave Palpatine the chance to attack Windu again with lightning bolts. Windu falls from the window):

Anakin: “What have I done?”
Palpatine: “You’re fulfilling your destiny, Anakin. Become my apprentice. Learn to use the dark side of the Force.”
Anakin: “I will do whatever you ask.”
Palpatine: “Good.”

WtF?

In this exchange there is nothing (substantial) that might seduce one to turn to the dark side. It’s my destiny? Well, I must still think about this before I say yes. Before this exchange, Anakin’s inclination to make things go his way is present: he prevents Windu from executing Palpatine because Palpatine is (supposedly) able to save Padmé from death. It’s Anakin’s wishes and his will that motivates his action. But instead of using this in the “seduction” speech to make Anakin’s turn to the dark side more believable, we get some non-specific gibberish that is not strong enough to counter Anakin’s realization of “what have I done?” and make his acceptance of his new master convincing instead of unbelievable and seemingly out of the blue. Leave the “what have I done?” out or give a better reason, e.g. “Become my apprentice. Learn to use the dark side of the Force. Together we can save Padmé” or some such nonsense, to make this scene work better.

I don’t say that I would find Anakin’s turn to the dark side more convincing then, but at least I wouldn’t find him a stupid fool who is not able to think for himself even a little in this scene. Think of what this does to Darth Vader’s character: Anakin realizes he did something terribly wrong and a few seconds later he meekly complies to someone telling him it’s his destiny and commits himself to a future where he has to do “terrible wrong things” all the time. Darth Vader is a character who came to be because he didn’t think. Urgh! Talk about damaging a perfectly good villain.

To be fair, Anakin next sentence after Palpaltine’s “Good” clearly states Padmé’s safty as (one) motivation for his action, but I think it’s too late. Palpatine’s “good” makes Anakin’s “I’ll do whatever you want” a total acceptance; Anakin’s (possible) specification – Palpatine shall help him to save Padmé – now just seems a mere afterthought:

Anakin: “I will do whatever you ask.”
Palpatine: “Good.”
Anakin: “Just help me save Padmé’s life. I can’t live without her.”

Reading that, maybe it’s better to say it’s all about Anakin’s wishes – and the weakness they imply. Talk about damaging a perfectly good villain.

And now Palpatine talks about his ability to save Padmé’s life:

Anakin: “Just help me save Padmé’s life. I can’t live without her.”
Palpatine: To cheat death is a power only one has achieved but if we work together I know we can discover the secret.”
Anakin: “I pledge myself to your teachings.”
Palpatine: “Good. Good.”

Palpatine spells it out for Anakin: he doesn’t have the ability to save Padmé’s life. But if they work together … Never mind that Padmé is already pregnant for some months (at the most 3 months to go) and in all the time before only one Sith discovered the secret to cheat death (=to raise someone from the dead?, but Anakin says that he won’t let Padmé die, so huh?), Anakin never considers that maybe they won’t have enough time to discover the secret and save Padmé. Instead he pledges himself to Palpatine. So again, no brains? Talk about damaging a perfectly good villain.

Here is the rest of this gem of dialogue:

Palpatine: “Good. Good. The Forche is strong with you. A powerful Sith you will become. Henceforth you shall be known as Darth Vader.”
Darth Vader: “Thank you, my master.”
Palpatine: “Rise.”

And so Darth Vader was created and destroyed in one scene.

Okay. That is a bit hard. But is it really better to say that the destruction of Darth Vader started earlier? Maybe it started even in Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones? Yes, that’s my dissatisfaction with Hayden Christensen in the role of Anakin Skywalker speaking. He’s just bad in this role, making Anakin and therefore Darth Vader unbelievable. Maybe it started with Anakin’s hare-brained motivation to join the dark side: Padmé’s death in childbed, seen in nightmares? Not once does he stop to wonder about the possibility of this happening in their time with the advancement in all kinds of knowledge. And it certainly doesn’t help that there is zero chemistry between him and Natalie Portman who plays Padmé, the love of Anakin Skywalker’s life, either, to make it somehow believable that he’s so in love he can’t think clearly.

It’s hard to suffer or even identify with Anakin. Sadly, that’s the one thing needed since we know what will happen to Anakin. In this view, Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith fails to deliver a convincing answer why a good person turns bad. But more, in this view, Darth Vader exists because Anakin is a whining, self-centered, sulking boy who can’t think to save his life, literally. He’s all skills and no intellect. He has brawns but no brains. He’s the perfect tool to help other persons to power. A fool, a moron, call it what you will. And if that doesn’t damage and destroy Darth Vader’s character in the later movies I don’t know what does.

So is it really too hard to say Darth Vader was created and destroyed in one scene? – I think, better that than to think about, and write about, all the missed opportunities that went before and helped to make Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith the train wreck that it is.

PS: I have to get this off my chest: Wookiees as tarzans? Lucas choice to delete scenes with Padmé showing her as more than just a pining house wife (watch the deleted scenes – they are just a few minutes) to “develop” Anakin’s story?

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