When Return of the Jedi hit the theaters, I saw it on the first night. The theatre was, of course, packed. It was the first time I ever saw fans dress-up in costume for a movie. There was a Boba Fett, a Darth Vader, and a Princess Leia. I thought they were nuts.
When the movie started, the crowd cheered. When Darth Vader first showed up on the screen, everyone cheered. Each major character received this treatment and it made the experience something I’ll never forget. It set the stage for years of waiting and wondering if we’d ever see the rumored prequels. When Lucas finally decided to take a stab at the prequels, we all collectively cheered in our respective households.
… and then we were screwed for two movies plus six years.
I saw Sith last weekend in the middle of the day. I’m still one of those guys who doesn’t understand the sheer number of screens this movie is playing on so I panic the entire day about the lines, whether we’ll get tickets, whether they’ll be enough seats. I’m sweating when we arrived at the theatre… I’m tense… and when I see there are no lines because the movie is playing EVERY 20 MINUTES on twelve different screens, I remember that this is a different world than Jedi’s 1983. It’s different in a lot of ways, but the most important difference is this is a world where…
… we’ve been collectively screwed by George Lucas for two movies plus six years.
Sidebar: It’s best you take a moment to understand what I mean by screwed by reading my thoughts on why There Was No Trilogy. Read it? Ok, good.
As I sat in the growing audience literally counting the minutes to show time, I listened. Folks were giddy, but they were cautious. I overhead the following tidbits…
“If he screws this up again…”
“I’ll walk out if…”
“I can’t bear it if…”
We were a crowd of folks wondering if George Lucas was going to bitch-slap our hopes and dreams once again. Everyone in my group of friends had said the same thing since Clones, “I am never ever ever paying for a theatre view of Star Wars again. Never. Ever.”
Yup, we paid again. We’re all sitting in that theatre nervously giggling. Didn’t even get a matinee price. We’re prepared to be let down because the dream that had been Star Wars had turned into a special effects extravaganza populated with one dimensional characters who weren’t, well, cheer-able.
Show time. 20th Century Fox. Lucasfilm. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
Wait for it…
George Lucas pulled it off.
To like a movie, it’s gotta stick with me. I need to be still chewing on it when I walk out of the theatre. I’ve gotta be talking about it the day after… and still noodling it on the drive to and from work.
The Revenge of the Sith is still wandering around my head and that means that George Lucas has created an engaging movie. If you are a Star Wars fan, you should see this in the theatre. The folks won’t be cheering at the beginning, but, by the end, they’ll know they saw a movie that deserves the Star Wars label.
As I’ve already said, the only character of importance in the prequels is Darth Vader and the way in which he was developed in the first two movies was high in concept and poor in execution. Did anyone believe that this bratty kid was going to turn into a villain of relevance? No. Was it because we couldn’t see through the utter lack of acting ability? Maybe.
Sith does the job of creating a complex person behind the mask.
In his final scene, we see Vader in a familiar place… a scene which heavily borrows from Empire and Jedi. He’s walking down the bridge of one the star destroyers… his back to the camera… his officers are garbed in A New Hope costumes… worryingly glancing at their new commander. He walks up to the Emperor and gazes at the primal Death Star. No dialog. Profile shot of Vader and the Emperor.
What Sith changed for me is that I now see the person behind the mask. I know the circumstances that put him there and it’s changed my view of one of the greatest villains in film history and that’s what I wanted. The Vader I saw in Return of the Jedi was done… he was dead. Sure, he saved Luke, but we were all wondering, “Whom is Luke saving?” We finally know. Too bad it took two movies plus six years of pain.
Random Thoughts + More Minor Spoilers + Serious Star Wars Nerdery:
– Hayden Christensen took it up a notch. This was easy to do because his notch in the prior movie was firmly set at “Incompetent Boob”. Still, his acting, will sometimes stilted, was palatable.
– When did Padme turn into such a useless twit? Wasn’t she running a country and/or planet a few years ago?
– I appreciate the fact that C-3PO had his memory wiped and R2-D2 did not. There is something comforting knowing that, at least, one entity knows it all.
– The Chewbacca cameo was a waste. Actually, the whole Wookie planet scene was visually interesting, but what was the point?
– I think we have officially explored every possible type of lightsaber battle including all variations of locale, number of lightsabers, and styles of battle. I realized this when General Grievous whips out four lightsabers. It was supposed to be a “HOW COOL IS THAT?” moment, but all I saw was “OVERKILL”.
– One comment I’ve heard is that Anakin succumbs to the dark side easily. His reasoning: “Well, my wife is going to die, I need to save her, so I better go start killing children.” Personally, this wasn’t a sore thumb for me, but I attribute this to the poor development of Anakin in Menace and Clones.
– Lucas is talking about a live action TV series. I’m sure the same crowd that grooves on the books and other Star Wars spin-offs is happy about this, but I’m quite comfortable with my sense of closure.
– I was secretly hoping to see the Millennium Falcon in this movie and I was carefully watching during hanger scenes. Didn’t see it. Good news is that’s actually there… albeit tiny.
Lastly, there was a heated debate in the car drive home regarding whether or not Vader knew he had kids at the end of the movie. Given that Yoda+ObiWan were actively trying to hide the kids and Padme is apparently buried looking pregnant, we resolved that Vader assumed his kid died when Padme died. This means there must be a moment in Empire Strikes Back when Vader realizes he has a son. The question is, when?
Surprisingly, this moment was added in the Empire Strikes Back re-release when Vader talks with the Emperor whilst looking for the Falcon in the asteroid field. In the original movie the dialog went:
Emperor: “We have a new enemy. Luke Skywalker.”
Vader: “Yes, my master.”
In the last re-release, they heavily edited the dialog while also adding in the correct Emperor. The revised dialog neatly ties in the Vader we meet in Sith with the Vader of the original trilogy:
Emperor: “We have a new enemy. The young rebel who destroyed the Death Star. I have no doubt that this boy is the offspring of Anakin Skywalker.”
Vader: “How is that possible?”
Emperor: “Search your feelings Lord Vader. You will know it to be true.”
That’s it. That’s what I wanted. I wanted the new trilogy to tie into the original trilogy. This one edit of Empire reminds me that Lucas had a plan. He had a backstory that tied into the frontstory… and it’s a great story.