Revenge of the Sith – Todd’s Extra Special/Long Review

This is long. Long, long, long. The movie has been in my head chewing up my brain’s clock cycles since I saw it on Friday and if I don’t write about it I may well have an embolism. So, at the risk of passing an embolism on to our readership, here we go…

This movie should’ve been titled: Star Wars: It Was the Best of Times, It Was the (What in the Name of God’s Green Earth Were You Thinking When You Wrote/Shot That) Worst of Times. I’ve never wanted to both kiss and strangle Lucas at the same time quite as much as I did when walking out of the theater on Friday. The man is at the same time both brilliant and unforgivably inept. He’s a wonderful story guy. A visionary. And the limits of his imagination appear to know few bounds. But there’s a difference between coming up with a good story and actually writing it. And George Lucas couldn’t write his way out of a paper bag. His ability to craft dialog and direct actors is surprisingly amateurish for a guy with his resume.

The thing is, I don’t fault him for being a lousy writer. Writing good dialogue is as much a gift as it is a learned skill. What I fault him for is being too stubborn to know his own limitations and get help where it is so clearly needed. He should not be writing the scripts for these movies (at least not the final versions) and he absolutely should not be in the director’s chair (as evidenced by any scene in which Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman share a camera). And he -of all people- should know it. I can only assume its pride that puts such blinders on the man, but god help him, he can’t be saved from himself.

And with that, we introduce as exhibit A: Revenge of the Sith. It’s at once both breathtaking and nauseating. And it swings so wildly back and forth in both directions it would take pages and pages of comments just to outline every example of each. So that’s what I’ve done. Lucky you.

***There are SPOILERS here. If you read on, don’t complain to me.***

The good:
– Any scene between Anakin and Palpatine. I don’t know if Palpatine, as played by Ian McDiarmid, just got the best dialog to use or if his acting chops just made it work, but this film fails miserably if he doesn’t pull off his part. And I think he absolutely brings out the best in Hayden Christensen’s portrayal of Anakin. Christensen is never better than when he’s playing off McDiarmid.

– Mace Windu’s duel with Palpatine and Anakin’s intervention. I have no trouble whatsoever with that scene or how quickly Anakin turns after choosing a side. He was forced to pick a side and given the circumstances, I have no trouble believing his choice. At that point I think he knows he has tied his fate to Palpatine and to so quickly take a knee and follow any order -no matter how heinous- is believable.

– The mask being put on Vader and the first few breaths. Simply the best Star Wars moment ever. And it’s ruined shortly thereafter (as noted in the Bad section.)

– Anakin vs. Dooku. It starts awkward, but once Anakin goes one-on-one with Dooku the scene smoothes out and plays out as a terrific parallel to Luke’s final duel with Vader in RotJ.

– Obi-wan’s “good bye” to Anakin. Ewan McGregor got very little to work with in the first half of the movie, but he works well with what he was given and he really shines once Anakin falls. The final scene between him and Anakin is just a perfect character moment. Should he have left Anakin “alive”? No, but I have no trouble believing that he would do just that. Anakin should have had no hope of surviving anyway.

– Anakin’s hate of Obi-wan at the end. When Anakin looks up and screams of his hatred for Obi-wan you see how consumed by his fear and anger he has become. He is Darth Vader in that moment and the material that gets him to this point makes it work. It is tragic in the most wonderful kind of way. (Okay, he was burned up by lava and should not have been in the dialog-speaking world, but I can get past that.)

– Everything Anakin after the scenes at the Jedi Temple (wow). This has to be why Hayden Christensen got cast as Anakin. In Clones he was just a petulant whiny bitch. Though I always thought it was poor scripting and direction, I still hated him in Attack of the Clones. Hated him. But here… He plays anger and hate note perfect. Long before he gets the mask, he becomes Darth Vader, something I would not have believed possible going in.

– Yoda vs. Palpatine (except for the unexplained retreat). A great battle that gets a little sidetracked in the senate chamber and ends far too abruptly. I’ve since read the scene was cut back and it clearly shows (and hurts).

– Obi-Wan goes to Tatooine. The last scene where Obi-wan hands over Luke to Owen and Baru and heads out into the desert is absolutley perfect. Thanks to the Vader scream, it becomes the best moment in the movie. There’s also no dialogue. Just the John Williams musical score. Go figure.

The Fair (but should’ve been much better):

– General Grievous; the dude is hard-core in Clone Wars (where the coughing thing is explained; god Lucas needs a script editor), but is turned into an action figure vehicle in this movie. Sometimes he works, but for the most part he’s completely wasted. And why does Lucas not explain he was injured in the Clone Wars and that’s why he’s hacking and coughing. How hard is adding a line in the opening text-crawl?

– The Jedi being fortune cookie spouting pricks. God help me, but at times even I was routing against these guys. In some ways, it’s a key point that makes the movie work, but I simply cannot accept the notion that the Jedi are such compassionless stooges. But at least they’re consistent. They’ve been pricks throughout the new trilogy and it’s a huge weakness. Case in point: Anakin has visions of Padme dying and goes to Yoda. Granted he doesn’t tell Yoda its Padme, just someone close to him, but all-wise Yoda basically just says tough break, deal with it. Anakin goes to Palpatine and the guy not only listens to him, but offers hope. Yeah, he plays bait and switch, but compared to the Jedi he’s a f-ing Santa Clause. Why wouldn’t Anakin side with him? I swear, if any of the Jedi showed the slightest bit of compassion or concern for Anakin’s well-being, Anakin would never have turned. Story-wise is a tough issue for me. It’s unbelievable the Jedi would be so callous, but if they weren’t, it would be impossible to buy into Anakin’s fall. Very catch-22, which is why this beef is in the “Fair” section.

– Obi-wan vs. Dooku: I’m sorry, but Dooku owns Obi-wan far too easily (and it’s the second time it happened in the last two flicks). Obi’s not some punk. Would’ve been better if he’d been given something else to do within the framework of the story while Anakin confronted Dooku alone.

– Obi-wan vs. Grievous: This should’ve been kick-ass. It kind of was for a short while when they were actually dueling. But you couldn’t see the action well and it soon degenerated into a chase scene that you know is there to cross-sell the video game. Ugh.

– The lava planet Mustafar. I swear, this whole planet exists to cross-sell the video game. I mean, what was with the platform jumping in the final duel? Visually, it was tres cool, and it’s a nice backdrop to the heated rage in Vader. But at the same time, a planet of Volcanoes? Am I the only one who thinks such a world would be too hot (never mind where the oxygen comes from) for even a couple of Jedi to just be running around dueling?

– The opening space battle. Starts out way, way cool, but got too hung up on the Anakin/Obi-wan interplay and those stoopid “chopper” droids or whatever they were called. If they’d kept it a little larger scope, like the second Death Star battle in RotJ, it would’ve been a killer opening.

– The end of the Yoda/Palpatine duel. They’re fighting. It’s cool. And then Yoda falls off a platform, gets up (with no hint of injury), grunts, and the next we see of him he’s crawling through an exhaust port. The idea of Yoda, defeated, running in such a manner is great. But he’s holding his own and then he just buggers off. Completely ruins the moment. I’ve read they cut a scene where Palpatine brings in clone troops against Yoda. Certainly, that would’ve helped explain his retreat better. But Lucas didn’t even need that. The guy just fell like sixty feet. It would’ve been totally believable for him to have been injured and forced to retreat. I mean how hard is it?

The Unforgivably Bad:

– Any scene between Anakin and Padme. Just like in Attack of the Clones, Lucas cannot write or direct a romantic scene. He can’t do it. He sucks at it. He’s so bad at it there is just no way he shouldn’t realize it and get help. His handling of the Anaking/Padme romance makes me nostalgic for the love story in Titanic. Yes, the actors are wooden as hell, but both have proven in other roles they have acting chops. It’s Lucas, pure and simple. The guy is his own worst enemy.

– Turning Padme into a weak-willed, wait at home for your man and cry about it wimp. I’ll get to her end in the next bullet, but Padme -who wasn’t exactly the best-implemented character to begin with- is completely ruined in this film. At least in the others she had some gusto, badly written as it was. In this one she’s just the jilted, crying chick waiting for her man. She was a f-ing Queen two movies ago. Now she’s June f-ing Cleaver after Ward slaps her in the face for burning the brownies. What the hell?

– Killing Padme. I’m a-okay, with letting Anakin think she died, but to actually kill her? I’m not a continuity whore, but it creates a continuity SNAFU that Lucas could easily have avoided. Have her go to Alderran and raise Leaia (sp?) under a new identity. It would’ve preserved the accuracy and meaning in Leaia’s line in RotJ when she tells Luke what she can remember of “her real mother.” I mean, the only way you can justify that line now is to say she didn’t know she was adopted, but even then casting kills you. In no galaxy is Jimmy Smits Carrie Fisher’s dad. All Lucas had to do was have her fake her death and go to Alderran. That’s it. She was a strong enough character to recognize the wisdom in splitting up the twins. It would’ve been far better than having a droid say, “There’s nothing wrong her medically. She just died of a broken heart.” What the *fuck* is that about? She just gave birth to two healthy children and tells Obi-wan that there is still good in Anakin. Does this sound like a woman so defeated that she’s just going to die because she lacks the will to live? ARGH!

– The Jedi Genocide. Here’s the thing. I loved the animated Clone Wars stuff. There are shortcomings, but you have to take it for what it is and given the limitations of the format (a series of shorts) both seasons were awesome (season 2 in particular). Between that and the fact that it leads directly into Revenge of the Sith, I treat it as canon. All well and good, but the Jedi in Clone Wars and the Jedi in Revenge of the Sith clearly have never met. In Clone Wars a single Jedi lays waste to armies of droids. They’re bad ass in all the ways I was hoping to see from the movies. In Sith there’s Yoda, Anakin, Mace Windu and Obi-Wan. The rest are pathetic. They’re the storm trooper equivalent of Jedi. I can stand a couple of them getting gunned down in the back w/o warning, but for the most part it’s shot like they forgot how to use a lightsaber. It’s pathetic. And every time one of them eats it, we see Yoda clutching his chest. That begs the question, is Yoda the only Jedi in the galaxy that can feel something is up? And if so, he sure as hell wasted his time training these dopes. In the Clone Wars they’re all kick-ass. In Sith they’re all punks with light-up swords and it hurts an otherwise gripping moment in the film as they’re eradicated.

– Vader screaming “Noooooo” like a B-rate Austin Powers villain. The best moment of the movie, Vader getting his mask is completely ruined here. He gets the mask, takes his first breaths, is stood on his feet and told that Padme has died. He gargles a bit and force crushes half the stuff in the room in his rage. That’s fine. Then he takes a step and stumbles. Hokey, but hey, he’s got two new legs. I’ll buy into it. But then he raises his fists and shouts “No” for like ten seconds. This crap was hokey on the GI Joe cartoons in the 80s. It’s the kind of thing that should get you thrown out of the screenwriter’s guild when done in this kind of movie.

– Any dialogue involving a droid. In fact the droids drag down this entire trilogy. Even R2D2. How the f-ck do you f-ck up R2D2? I mean his little bleeps and bloops aren’t even the same as the original trilogy. WHY? And what’s with giving him all these new abilities? It’s just stupid. Thank god he can’t speak. God, if there’s a line of dialog in the movie delivered by a droid, you can bet it’s bad.

Conclusions:

As Tony Kornheiser is fond of saying, that’s it, that’s the list. The thing is, this is a great movie. Or at least there’s a great movie in there. It’s just dragged down by the kind of garbage I’ve listed above. I came out of the theater for the first time really hating Lucas. And it’s precisely because he comes so close to the precipice of greatness so many times in this movie, only to turn around and jump back in the narrative kiddie-pool with shocking regularity.

I’ve gotta see the movie again before I can make a final opinion, but obviously this is way, way better than Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones. Based on my first impression it’s also still far behind A New Hope and Empire. There is a lot of material that is better than anything in those movies, but those movies don’t have anywhere near the pitfalls of Sith.

Right now, I do think Sith is better than Return of the Jedi by a nose. It’s close, and I may change my mind after repeat viewings, but Sith is just so intense. As a whole these films are very similar in that they have a lot of great stuff, but are horribly fumbled far too frequently. In Jedi it’s the Jabba scenes and the Ewoks that almost derail the entire flick. In Sith it’s the droids and anything to do with the love story. But as good as the Vader vs. Luke and Death Star battle are in Jedi, only Vader’s final end and funeral pyre in that movie really grab me emotionally every time I see it. Sith is rife with moments where I was genuinely choked up over the tragedy that is Anakin’s fall and the last scene on Tatooine… I just ate that up.

In any case, Lucas does manage to deliver a quality flick here that’s a far more fitting end to the Star Wars movie franchise (presumably) than I expected after the waste of film that was the last two movies. For all the schlock, though, Revenge of the Sith has made enduring it all worthwhile for me. And for that, I am happy… and mad. But mostly happy.

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7 Responses to Revenge of the Sith – Todd’s Extra Special/Long Review

  1. longenus says:

    Todd,Nice review, I pretty much agree totally. What i liked best about it was that as a whole it just had that certain feel that you get from watching 4,5,6. It flowed much better from beginning to end and we didn’t have to suffer thru any 10min pod race scenes or over done rousing victory celebrations. But i have to say that as a geology major, the volcano planet would likely have oxygen since its one of the main gases expelled during eruptions, no getting around the heat though :)mike

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  2. bill says:

    Great stuff, Todd. I need to see it again too and after our phone conversation I want to see the animated stuff.

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  3. Todd says:

    Doh, about the oxygen. But to sate my curiosity I have to ask: On predominantly molten worlds, even if oxygen is part of the air, isn’t it still going to have a lot of poisonous compounds in the air that would keep it from being breathable? (That’s not to nitpick the movie. I’m genuinly curious as to whether its even remotely plausible.)

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  4. bill says:

    I am no geology major but I would think that the molten lava being that close would pretty much melt skin.

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  5. Kleine Tako says:

    Great review, Todd. Just wanted to add that my friends and I (also Futurama fans) have dubbed Vader’s yell “The Calculon.”

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  6. Sean says:

    Thank goodness somebody else wants to talk about Sith at length, because it’s been on the brain pretty much since opening night. I’m actually willing to go so far as to call it a flawed masterpiece, because despite the presence of more than a few stunningly weak scenes, it achieves the sort of emotional resonance that few movies ever do. It works as the keystone of the entire story, and specifically as a negative mirror image of the arc of the original trilogy. Looking at the six films as a whole, I’ve found myself almost considering the trilogy to consist of Episodes III, IV and V, with the Luke/Vader/Palpertine scenes extracted from the rest of Jedi. Anyway, let’s look at the sections you expanded on:“The good:- Any scene between Anakin and Palpatine. I don’t know if Palpatine, as played by Ian McDiarmid, just got the best dialog to use or if his acting chops just made it work, but this film fails miserably if he doesn’t pull off his part. And I think he absolutely brings out the best in Hayden Christensen’s portrayal of Anakin. Christensen is never better than when he’s playing off McDiarmid.”I basically agree with that. McDiarmid was fantastic in the original ROTJ, and he’s every bit as good here (although perhaps he errs on the side of a little too much maniacal laughter). ”- Mace Windu’s duel with Palpatine and Anakin’s intervention. I have no trouble whatsoever with that scene or how quickly Anakin turns after choosing a side. He was forced to pick a side and given the circumstances, I have no trouble believing his choice. At that point I think he knows he has tied his fate to Palpatine and to so quickly take a knee and follow any order -no matter how heinous- is believable.”-I thought that Anakin’s response to his actions was one of the strongest sequences in the movie, and probably the best acting job that Christensen has done in the trilogy. He’s essentially defeated by his own decision, one which was, under the circumstances very understandable (and the fact that Lucas makes Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side understandable and sympathetic gives the whole Star Wars saga an emotional complexity that it lacked before, or more precisely, takes the complexity that the end of Empire provided and turned it up another notch-hence the masterpiece tag). I never got the impression that Anakin had simply turned evil but rather that he realized he had no choice but to go over to Sidious, and that he looked like someone who was horrified with himself even as he was swearing his allegiance and talking himself into a state of agreement. ”- The mask being put on Vader and the first few breaths. Simply the best Star Wars moment ever. And it’s ruined shortly thereafter (as noted in the Bad section.)”No question.”- Anakin vs. Dooku. It starts awkward, but once Anakin goes one-on-one with Dooku the scene smoothes out and plays out as a terrific parallel to Luke’s final duel with Vader in RotJ.”I actually thought one of the few good decisions Lucas made in AoTC was to not try to outdo the Kenobi-Maul duel and to instead give the showdown between Dooku and Anakin a sort of mythic resonance. It made this duel work twice as well, and was one of the many times when I was happy in some remote way that Episodes I-II existed simply for the way they informed on Episode III, even though the execution was hopelessly bungled.”- Obi-wan’s “good bye” to Anakin. Ewan McGregor got very little to work with in the first half of the movie, but he works well with what he was given and he really shines once Anakin falls. The final scene between him and Anakin is just a perfect character moment. Should he have left Anakin “alive”? No, but I have no trouble believing that he would do just that. Anakin should have had no hope of surviving anyway.”I could have done without Obi-wan professing to everyone in sight that Anakin was his brother- assured storytelling would have cut that line out for being too self-evident. But after the combination of the glory that was the Anakin-Obi-wan duel and my pleasure at seeing Lucas willing to get thoroughly ill with Anakin’s dismemberment and transformation. I also loved the small touch-which I didn’t pick up on at first viewing-of Obi-wan picking up the lightsaber that he will eventually give to Luke.”- Anakin’s hate of Obi-wan at the end. When Anakin looks up and screams of his hatred for Obi-wan you see how consumed by his fear and anger he has become. He is Darth Vader in that moment and the material that gets him to this point makes it work. It is tragic in the most wonderful kind of way. (Okay, he was burned up by lava and should not have been in the dialog-speaking world, but I can get past that.)”Actually he did his screaming before he catches fire. Agree on everything else, though.”- Everything Anakin after the scenes at the Jedi Temple (wow). This has to be why Hayden Christensen got cast as Anakin. In Clones he was just a petulant whiny bitch. Though I always thought it was poor scripting and direction, I still hated him in Attack of the Clones. Hated him. But here… He plays anger and hate note perfect. Long before he gets the mask, he becomes Darth Vader, something I would not have believed possible going in.”I actually thought that Christensen did a good job for most of the movie. In some ways his most important scenes were the early ones. I’m sure that every Star Wars fan was sitting on the edge of his or her seat to see if RoTS was going to be terrible or not and I thought that Christensen’s confidence and increasing comfort with the role was one of the things that settled you down and let you know that everything was going to be all right. I ended up liking Anakin in this movie more than I ever liked Luke. (And on a side note, I just recently watched the DVD release of RoTJ for the first time and noticed that the ghost of Christensen has been put in at the end, a detail that I found to be profoundly effective. It gave the end of Jedi an emotional resonance that I don’t think would have been possible before this movie.)”- Yoda vs. Palpatine (except for the unexplained retreat). A great battle that gets a little sidetracked in the senate chamber and ends far too abruptly. I’ve since read the scene was cut back and it clearly shows (and hurts).”I had no problem with the editing. It was obvious that Yoda had a limited window to defeat Palpatine before reinforcements arrived and tilted the battle hopelessly against him. The battle had some nice symbolism to it, but the emotional core of the entire series was taking place on Mustafar, so I think Lucas was right not to let this scene go on too long and overshadow the other one.”- Obi-Wan goes to Tatooine. The last scene where Obi-wan hands over Luke to Owen and Baru and heads out into the desert is absolutley perfect. Thanks to the Vader scream, it becomes the best moment in the movie. There’s also no dialogue. Just the John Williams musical score. Go figure.”I was always of the position that I would have forgiven Jedi for the Ewoks had it simply ended five minutes earlier with the scene of Luke burning the body of his father. As I watched Sith the first time, I was having the same thought- this needs to end with the shot of the Emperor and Vader standing side by side watching the Death Star being built- but in this case I was wrong. Lucas absolutely nailed the last shot. ”The Fair (but should’ve been much better):- General Grievous; the dude is hard-core in Clone Wars (where the coughing thing is explained; god Lucas needs a script editor), but is turned into an action figure vehicle in this movie. Sometimes he works, but for the most part he’s completely wasted. And why does Lucas not explain he was injured in the Clone Wars and that’s why he’s hacking and coughing. How hard is adding a line in the opening text-crawl?”I didn’t know the backstory and yet I loved Grievious. I loved the fact that he was coughing all the time- it instantly gave this movie exactly the sort of human, almost childlike touch that was a hallmark of the original trilogy. Pretty much everything about Grievious brought a smile to my face, from the way he moved to the ridiculous things he said to (and especially to) his constant wheezing about. I really didn’t need the explanation. ”- The Jedi being fortune cookie spouting pricks. God help me, but at times even I was routing against these guys. In some ways, it’s a key point that makes the movie work, but I simply cannot accept the notion that the Jedi are such compassionless stooges. But at least they’re consistent. They’ve been pricks throughout the new trilogy and it’s a huge weakness. Case in point: Anakin has visions of Padme dying and goes to Yoda. Granted he doesn’t tell Yoda its Padme, just someone close to him, but all-wise Yoda basically just says tough break, deal with it. Anakin goes to Palpatine and the guy not only listens to him, but offers hope. Yeah, he plays bait and switch, but compared to the Jedi he’s a f-ing Santa Clause. Why wouldn’t Anakin side with him? I swear, if any of the Jedi showed the slightest bit of compassion or concern for Anakin’s well-being, Anakin would never have turned. Story-wise is a tough issue for me. It’s unbelievable the Jedi would be so callous, but if they weren’t, it would be impossible to buy into Anakin’s fall. Very catch-22, which is why this beef is in the “Fair” section.”I don’t know why it’s unbelievable that the Jedi would be callous- they’re a monastic military order, and last time I checked there weren’t too many of those historically that were renowned for their sensitivity. There is a critique of the Jedi implicit in all of the prequels and put into words by Palpatine- namely that they really aren’t any different than the Sith. Consider it the Star Wars equivalent of Sauron’s ring. It’s notable that the Jedi run around talking about bringing the force into balance, but what they are actually looking for is not balance but the banishment of the Dark Side of the force. ”- Obi-wan vs. Dooku: I’m sorry, but Dooku owns Obi-wan far too easily (and it’s the second time it happened in the last two flicks). Obi’s not some punk. Would’ve been better if he’d been given something else to do within the framework of the story while Anakin confronted Dooku alone.”Probably true in theory, but I was impressed enough by the unpleasant crunch of that metal going into Obi-wan’s legs to let the matter slide.”- Obi-wan vs. Grievous: This should’ve been kick-ass. It kind of was for a short while when they were actually dueling. But you couldn’t see the action well and it soon degenerated into a chase scene that you know is there to cross-sell the video game. Ugh.”I liked the chase scene, myself, which I found inventive enough to keep my interest (I mean really- an eight foot droid that moves like a spider riding around in a giant hamster wheel while pursued by a Jedi riding a giant Iguana?!?!). ”- The lava planet Mustafar. I swear, this whole planet exists to cross-sell the video game. I mean, what was with the platform jumping in the final duel? Visually, it was tres cool, and it’s a nice backdrop to the heated rage in Vader. But at the same time, a planet of Volcanoes? Am I the only one who thinks such a world would be too hot (never mind where the oxygen comes from) for even a couple of Jedi to just be running around dueling?”Never let reality interfere with a good metaphor.”- The opening space battle. Starts out way, way cool, but got too hung up on the Anakin/Obi-wan interplay and those stoopid “chopper” droids or whatever they were called. If they’d kept it a little larger scope, like the second Death Star battle in RotJ, it would’ve been a killer opening.”Having been through three different attacks on the Death Star now (if that fight over Naboo wasn’t a Death Star attack, I don’t know what is), I was fine with not taking that approach. Plus I was interested in the way that the scene worked as visual metaphor. All Star Wars movies have had the same visual metaphor of the good guys moving from left to right and the bad guys moving from right to left, which was only interrupted for the battle scenes in AoTC, when the Jedi were leading the clones from right to left (which is to say were unwittingly helping evil). So it was kind of fun interpreting Anakin’s continued insistence that Obi-wan move to the right. ”The Unforgivably Bad:- Any scene between Anakin and Padme. Just like in Attack of the Clones, Lucas cannot write or direct a romantic scene. He can’t do it. He sucks at it. He’s so bad at it there is just no way he shouldn’t realize it and get help. His handling of the Anaking/Padme romance makes me nostalgic for the love story in Titanic. Yes, the actors are wooden as hell, but both have proven in other roles they have acting chops. It’s Lucas, pure and simple. The guy is his own worst enemy.”As badly as these scenes were written, I was willing to give them a pass because at least this time around the actors looked like they actually wanted to be in the same room with each other, in stark contrast to Clones. The fact that the love scenes were also followed immediately by Anakin’s dream’s of Padme’s death also helped cut the awfulness. Not to imply that these scenes weren’t bad, they most certainly were, but they escaped being hopelessly damaging. ”- Turning Padme into a weak-willed, wait at home for your man and cry about it wimp. I’ll get to her end in the next bullet, but Padme -who wasn’t exactly the best-implemented character to begin with- is completely ruined in this film. At least in the others she had some gusto, badly written as it was. In this one she’s just the jilted, crying chick waiting for her man. She was a f-ing Queen two movies ago. Now she’s June f-ing Cleaver after Ward slaps her in the face for burning the brownies. What the hell?”A necessity borne of bad writing and Portman not bringing anything to the role. Padme just didn’t wash as a spunky Leia type, so I was happy to see her screen time dramatically reduced. Plus I thought her most effective scene was the one where she had no dialogue at all, as the camera was shifting between her, Anakain, and the outside scenes of the Republic in its final sunset.”- Killing Padme. I’m a-okay, with letting Anakin think she died, but to actually kill her? I’m not a continuity whore, but it creates a continuity SNAFU that Lucas could easily have avoided. Have her go to Alderran and raise Leaia (sp?) under a new identity. It would’ve preserved the accuracy and meaning in Leaia’s line in RotJ when she tells Luke what she can remember of “her real mother.” I mean, the only way you can justify that line now is to say she didn’t know she was adopted, but even then casting kills you. In no galaxy is Jimmy Smits Carrie Fisher’s dad. All Lucas had to do was have her fake her death and go to Alderran. That’s it. She was a strong enough character to recognize the wisdom in splitting up the twins. It would’ve been far better than having a droid say, “There’s nothing wrong her medically. She just died of a broken heart.” What the *fuck* is that about? She just gave birth to two healthy children and tells Obi-wan that there is still good in Anakin. Does this sound like a woman so defeated that she’s just going to die because she lacks the will to live? ARGH!”Another instance where the cut of a single line would have improved matters quite a bit. If the droid had said that she was dying and they didn’t know why and then forced Obi-wan to make a decision to operate, it would have been much better. And I didn’t really find there to be a continuity issue- for starters it isn’t clear that Leia knows she’s adopted and hence doesn’t know who her real mother was (she certainly doesn’t know anything else about her family), but even if you don’t take that route, Leia’s having an indistinct impression that has never left her doesn’t really strain credibility any more than any obscenely early childhood memory. ”- The Jedi Genocide. Here’s the thing. I loved the animated Clone Wars stuff. There are shortcomings, but you have to take it for what it is and given the limitations of the format (a series of shorts) both seasons were awesome (season 2 in particular). Between that and the fact that it leads directly into Revenge of the Sith, I treat it as canon. All well and good, but the Jedi in Clone Wars and the Jedi in Revenge of the Sith clearly have never met. In Clone Wars a single Jedi lays waste to armies of droids. They’re bad ass in all the ways I was hoping to see from the movies. In Sith there’s Yoda, Anakin, Mace Windu and Obi-Wan. The rest are pathetic. They’re the storm trooper equivalent of Jedi. I can stand a couple of them getting gunned down in the back w/o warning, but for the most part it’s shot like they forgot how to use a lightsaber. It’s pathetic. And every time one of them eats it, we see Yoda clutching his chest. That begs the question, is Yoda the only Jedi in the galaxy that can feel something is up? And if so, he sure as hell wasted his time training these dopes. In the Clone Wars they’re all kick-ass. In Sith they’re all punks with light-up swords and it hurts an otherwise gripping moment in the film as they’re eradicated.”It strains credibility that the Jedi were so out of touch with the force that they couldn’t feel that something was wrong, but I was willing to go along with it because the scene was so well done. Also, it kind of worked as a metaphorical echo, so just as the Jedi council’s vision was clouded by the dark side, so are the Jedi clouded and unable to see the enemy in their midst. Another small touch that probably went unnoticed was how much of the Clone trooper imagery in that montage was taken from Wehrmacht war footage. (Also loved the brief nod to Jaws a little later on with the mounted troopers shining their lights out over the bodies of the dead wookies being a straight reference to Brody and Hooper shining the light across the wreckage of Ben Gardner’s boat.)”- Vader screaming “Noooooo” like a B-rate Austin Powers villain. The best moment of the movie, Vader getting his mask is completely ruined here. He gets the mask, takes his first breaths, is stood on his feet and told that Padme has died. He gargles a bit and force crushes half the stuff in the room in his rage. That’s fine. Then he takes a step and stumbles. Hokey, but hey, he’s got two new legs. I’ll buy into it. But then he raises his fists and shouts “No” for like ten seconds. This crap was hokey on the GI Joe cartoons in the 80s. It’s the kind of thing that should get you thrown out of the screenwriter’s guild when done in this kind of movie.”Unquestionably. And yet, it kind of added to the camp. It was almost like an homage to the Sith Academy (I don’t know if anyone has read the material on that website, but it’s just about the funniest stuff ever put to page.) I do think that Vader’s clumsy movements while understandable still worked to render the scene even more ineffective and that a better model might have been to take from The Princess Bride and the life-sucking machine.”- Any dialogue involving a droid. In fact the droids drag down this entire trilogy. Even R2D2. How the f-ck do you f-ck up R2D2? I mean his little bleeps and bloops aren’t even the same as the original trilogy. WHY? And what’s with giving him all these new abilities? It’s just stupid. Thank god he can’t speak. God, if there’s a line of dialog in the movie delivered by a droid, you can bet it’s bad.”I actually thought R2’s humor worked pretty well in the opening scene, and that it was the successful humor early that sold the pathos late. I agree that the droids were pretty much a disaster through most of the new trilogy, but I thought R2 redeemed himself a bit here.

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  7. Todd says:

    “Thank goodness somebody else wants to talk about Sith at length, because it’s been on the brain pretty much since opening night.”Me too. I’m always tres introspective after seeing a movie I can get into, but usually I let it go after an hour or so, or at least by the next morning. I can’t seem to do that with Sith. It’s just in my head and won’t come out. I remain convinced it’s because this film is only held back from greatness by shortcomings that were 100% avoidable. Makes me crazy.Anyway, you had some excellent counterpoints in your reply. I love getting that kind of well-reasoned response, as it helps me see holes in my line of thinking or clarify why I think I’m right (depends on the particular argument). So let me take a swing at countering your replies:The good:(We mostly agree on all these points. I’ll stick to the ones where we don’t. )- Obi-wan’s “good bye” to Anakin. “I could have done without Obi-wan professing to everyone in sight that Anakin was his brother- assured storytelling would have cut that line out for being too self-evident. But after the combination of the glory that was the Anakin-Obi-wan duel and my pleasure at seeing Lucas willing to get thoroughly ill with Anakin’s dismemberment and transformation. I also loved the small touch-which I didn’t pick up on at first viewing-of Obi-wan picking up the lightsaber that he will eventually give to Luke.”I missed the lightsaber pickup as well, but read about it over the weekend. I wish I’d caught it, as it’s a great nod to continuity with A New Hope and is -in general- a nice touch. The reason I love Obi’s rant here is that it’s not even that he’s necessarily talking directly to Anakin. You see the conflict in him over what Anakin has become throughout and this is just giving voice to that. I can’t speak for the masses, but I do that (voice my interior monologues) all the time… though I do try to make sure no one’s around when I do. :)- Everything Anakin after the scenes at the Jedi Temple (wow). “(And on a side note, I just recently watched the DVD release of RoTJ for the first time and noticed that the ghost of Christensen has been put in at the end, a detail that I found to be profoundly effective. It gave the end of Jedi an emotional resonance that I don’t think would have been possible before this movie.)”Actually, I still don’t’ like that Anakin’s ghost in Jedi is Hayden Christensen. It has more resonance to me now after seeing Sith, but still it’s like, okay ultimate evil-guy gets to be young for eternity while Yoda and Ben stay all crusty. Nice reward. You also wonder when Anakin learned to perserve his essence (per Yoda’s dialog about that in Sith) given that he was good for all of twenty minutes before he croaked. Not a killer, to be sure, but worth noting. – Yoda vs. Palpatine”I had no problem with the editing. It was obvious that Yoda had a limited window to defeat Palpatine before reinforcements arrived and tilted the battle hopelessly against him. The battle had some nice symbolism to it, but the emotional core of the entire series was taking place on Mustafar, so I think Lucas was right not to let this scene go on too long and overshadow the other one.”It’s not a deal-breaker to be sure. It’s just that Yoda’s all, “destroy the Sith we must,” and he’s holding his own against Palpatine and the next thing you know he’s outta there. To me, it’s too big a break that either restoring the cut footage I’ve read would fix or having Yoda injured from his fall would handle equally well. I just want something more than an implied stopwatch guiding Yoda’s retreat here. The Fair (but should’ve been much better):- General Grievous = wasted opportunity:”I didn’t know the backstory and yet I loved Grievious. I loved the fact that he was coughing all the time- it instantly gave this movie exactly the sort of human, almost childlike touch that was a hallmark of the original trilogy. Pretty much everything about Grievious brought a smile to my face, from the way he moved to the ridiculous things he said to (and especially to) his constant wheezing about. I really didn’t need the explanation.”Yeah, I just can’t agree there. I’m okay with him being an egomaniac. And -to be fair- I’ve got the taint of Clone Wars on me and like the Jedi, Clone Wars Grievous and Sith Grievous don’t match up (at least to the best of my recollection of both versions of the character). Grievous is definitely one where I need to see the movie again before I’ll really settle into a final opinion on how he’s handled. – The Jedi being fortune cookie spouting pricks.”I don’t know why it’s unbelievable that the Jedi would be callous- they’re a monastic military order, and last time I checked there weren’t too many of those historically that were renowned for their sensitivity. There is a critique of the Jedi implicit in all of the prequels and put into words by Palpatine- namely that they really aren’t any different than the Sith. Consider it the Star Wars equivalent of Sauron’s ring. It’s notable that the Jedi run around talking about bringing the force into balance, but what they are actually looking for is not balance but the banishment of the Dark Side of the force.”This is the main point that I can’t get out of my head. Was the attitude of the Jedi towards Anakin believable? I go back and forth precisely for the reasons you mention. The reason I go back to it being a fault of the film is that it feels like a classic case of a writer forcing characters out of character to serve the greater plot. I mean I certainly can’t distinguish why Windu’s intent to kill Palpatine is any different than Anakin’s decision to off Dooku. Yet one is not the Jedi way and one is? Plus, the Jedi seem to have time and compassion for everyone but Anakin. Him they ignore and show the tough love. Is that really how you want to treat the “Chosen One? I absolutely agree with your conclusions about what is to bring “balance”, but we’re set up to believe the Jedi have always been a force for good. I’m okay with some of them kind of falling off the beaten path, but the ones who represent the best of them (Yoda, Windu, etc.) just seem too out of character to me. I look to Empire here. Yoda is a stern task-master in that movie, but hard-hearted is not a trait I’d attribute to him. He’s a geniuinely deep character. In Sith (and the prequels) he’s just a little green fortune cookie w/no heart whatsoever. I don’t like that and I think it’s weak scripting more than anything. All that said, ultimately I think I’ll force myself to accept your interpretation simply because Sith only works as a movie if you buy into the notion that the Jedi can collectively be so blindly callous. And for all that’s good in the movie, I want to Sith to work. – Obi-wan vs. Grievous: “I liked the chase scene, myself, which I found inventive enough to keep my interest (I mean really- an eight foot droid that moves like a spider riding around in a giant hamster wheel while pursued by a Jedi riding a giant Iguana?!?!). “Glad you liked it. It just didn’t work for me. Just felt way to much like a cross-sell ad for the game, which is something I’m sensitive to thanks to an old college professor of mine. – The lava planet Mustafar. “Never let reality interfere with a good metaphor.”LOL That’s a good point, actually and I agree. That said, it’s still too much platform jumping arcade cross-sell action to it that I can’t get behind. So for me Mustafar=Good, but the staging of the final duel on it = bad. – The opening space battle. “Having been through three different attacks on the Death Star now (if that fight over Naboo wasn’t a Death Star attack, I don’t know what is), I was fine with not taking that approach. Plus I was interested in the way that the scene worked as visual metaphor. All Star Wars movies have had the same visual metaphor of the good guys moving from left to right and the bad guys moving from right to left, which was only interrupted for the battle scenes in AoTC, when the Jedi were leading the clones from right to left (which is to say were unwittingly helping evil). So it was kind of fun interpreting Anakin’s continued insistence that Obi-wan move to the right.” That’s an interesting pickup that I never would have noticed. It doesn’t save me from hating those chopper droids, though. The thing is, the space battle in Jedi is -for me- perfect. And I would’ve been extatic to get a version of that with the kind of ungodly special effects that Sith’s battle had. It’s not the Obi-wan/Anakin interplay that bugs me, it’s that we have this unheard of space battle over Coruscant and the backdrop and dogfighting take a distant back seat to more toy-selling droids. (Again, I’m cynical about that.)The Unforgivably Bad:- Turning Padme into a weak-willed, wait at home for your man and cry about it wimp. “A necessity borne of bad writing and Portman not bringing anything to the role. Padme just didn’t wash as a spunky Leia type, so I was happy to see her screen time dramatically reduced. Plus I thought her most effective scene was the one where she had no dialogue at all, as the camera was shifting between her, Anakain, and the outside scenes of the Republic in its final sunset.”That was an aweseom scene. I should’ve mentioned it. Also, I loved her line in the senate chamber about, “So this is how liberty ends, with thunderous applause.” I’m a-okay with her reduction in screen time. It was necessary. I just hate the complete makeover of her character. Natalie Portman is a first-rate up and coming actress. Maybe she did mail in her performances for lack of much to work with (if so, that’s hard to forgive too), but Lucas still shoulders the blame for her character not working on-screen. – Killing Padme. “Another instance where the cut of a single line would have improved matters quite a bit. If the droid had said that she was dying and they didn’t know why and then forced Obi-wan to make a decision to operate, it would have been much better. And I didn’t really find there to be a continuity issue- for starters it isn’t clear that Leia knows she’s adopted and hence doesn’t know who her real mother was (she certainly doesn’t know anything else about her family), but even if you don’t take that route, Leia’s having an indistinct impression that has never left her doesn’t really strain credibility any more than any obscenely early childhood memory.” Killing the line would’ve helped tremendously, but it still would’ve been far better if she’d lived, IMHO. I agree (and even said) I can buy into Leaia not knowing she was adopted (hence my line about Jimmy Smits being bad casting). But there’s huge emotional resonance for me in Jedi when Leaia talks about what she remembers of her “real mother.” I want her to be talking about Padme. In fact, that’s a place where the new movies could’ve *added* a huge amount of meaning when Leaia says she was beautiful (or something), “but sad.” That, “but sad,” means everything if Padme had actually lived. Instead Lucas leaves the fanbase having to make excuses for it. I hate that he did that. Hate it. :)- The Jedi Genocide. “It strains credibility that the Jedi were so out of touch with the force that they couldn’t feel that something was wrong, but I was willing to go along with it because the scene was so well done. Also, it kind of worked as a metaphorical echo, so just as the Jedi council’s vision was clouded by the dark side, so are the Jedi clouded and unable to see the enemy in their midst. Another small touch that probably went unnoticed was how much of the Clone trooper imagery in that montage was taken from Wehrmacht war footage. (Also loved the brief nod to Jaws a little later on with the mounted troopers shining their lights out over the bodies of the dead wookies being a straight reference to Brody and Hooper shining the light across the wreckage of Ben Gardner’s boat.)”See I can only go as far as the scene was oh-so-close to being well-done. (Nice obersvation about the Jaws shot, btw.) It could’ve easily been one of the high points of the movie. It was right there. All it needed was to be handled properly and Lucas just botched it. I’m okay with the concept of Clone Troops -especially with the advantage of surprise- offing a bunch of Jedi. That’s not the problem. It’s just how ineptly Lucas handled it visually that makes me crazy. I hate it when a filmmaker has me right in the palm of his (or her) hand and then drops the ball. And I think that’s what happened with the Jedi Genocide. ”- Vader screaming “Noooooo” like a B-rate Austin Powers villain. “Unquestionably. And yet, it kind of added to the camp…”No, it didn’t. No adding. No camp. Not there. No. No. No! 🙂 (I’m just having fun now. I know you’re just playing devil’s advocate with that one.) – Any dialogue involving a droid. “I actually thought R2’s humor worked pretty well in the opening scene, and that it was the successful humor early that sold the pathos late. I agree that the droids were pretty much a disaster through most of the new trilogy, but I thought R2 redeemed himself a bit here.”I wanted to think that, but I just can’t make the leap. R2 has more skills and abilities here than he ever shows in the original trilogy. We can explain it away all we like, but at the end of the day R2 has them because Lucas wanted to keep hammering us with the fact that he can do things now with effects that he couldn’t do in the 80s. It’s just showing off (and doing a bad job of it). In terms of the story, there’s no reason he had to make R2 anything more than he was in the original trilogy. Anyway, like I said. I love that you took the time to write up this comment. It’s fun to throw this stuff back and forth. My thanks!

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