This is my final written assignment for my grade 12 film class. Our last field trip of the year was going to a theatre and watch Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Of course, like after watching any movie, our teacher made us write a response to the movie. The questions were is Episode III similar in theme and mood to Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and are the new episodes better or worse than the original films? Even though I don’t collect Star Wars merchandise, I admit that I am a Star Wars fan, and obviously, I had a lot to say. Below is my response, and like all my school articles, I got an A for the effort. Note that this is not a film review of Episode III, but rather a candid discussion of the series in general.
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, probably the most anticipated film of this year, has been released and the Star Wars movie franchise is finally complete. There is so much hype around this movie mainly because of the plot. This is the episode where Anakin Skywalker, a Jedi Knight with a bright future, transforms into Darth Vader, one of the most feared and ruthless Dark Lords of all time, and not to mention one of the most memorable villains in movie history. The story of a hero turning into a villain is very intriguing, especially to the legions of fans that just have to know how and why, and that’s partly why Episode III set box office records on its opening weekend.
Due to the plot, this movie obviously isn’t going to have a completely happy ending, and many critics stated the similarity in theme and mood between Episode III and Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, the episode where Luke Skywalker confronts Vader for the first time and gets his hand sliced off. After watching Episode III, I also see similarities in between the two films in that things take a turn for the worse for the good guys near the climax of the film. In Episode III, this refers to Anakin turning to the dark side and becoming Darth Vader, the Jedi Order getting destroyed and Palpatine taking over the galaxy. In Episode V, the corresponding events are Han Solo getting frozen in carbonite and Luke being defeated by Vader. Both movies share this dark and unfortunate mood that seem to drain the energy of the good guys, but the films also share the fact that at the end of the film, there’s a ray of hope that appear and allows the righteous ones to continue on. In Episode III, this refers to the survival of Yoda and Obi-Wan and the fact that Anakin’s children are safe and hidden from their father. In Episode V, Luke was able to contact his sister Leia through the Force and was able to escape with his life and fight another day. So in the end, both movies share this theme of “there is always hope even when things go badly” and set up nicely for the next installment where the good guys are going to make a big comeback.
Other than these similarities in mood and theme between episodes III and V, most critics feel that the prequels are completely different from the original episodes. One reason is that all of the recent movies are digitally shot which looks different than the original film shot episodes. Another difference that a lot of people have recognized is that the recent episodes just aren’t as good as the original episodes. Sure, the prequels have a huge load of cool-looking special effects that look a lot more realistic than the ones in the old movies and the lightsabre duels are a lot more realistic, but that still doesn’t quite make up for what the prequels lacked when compared to the original movies. One of the biggest things that the prequels lacked was an interesting character. Specifically, the prequels didn’t have Han Solo or someone similar. Yoda and Obi-Wan are still teachers and father figures and that doesn’t change in the prequels. Padme Amidala is just a supporting character who doesn’t have any interesting attributes and Anakin Skywalker, the central character, frankly sounds like a spoiled brat to me. Examples of this can be found in Episode II, where Anakin keeps complaining about Obi-Wan holding him back and whines about how he should be all powerful and stuff. Granted, Anakin has gone through some pretty traumatic events such as his mother dying in his arms, but the character is just a bit too immature, and that carries into Episode III as Anakin turns to the dark side because he saw his wife dying in his dreams. I had a hard time believing this premise of the film and obviously this doesn’t elevate my views of Anakin Skywalker as a character.
Han Solo, by contrast, is very interesting and more likable because of his origins and personality. He is funny, sarcastic, charismatic, skilled and somewhat selfish but he comes through when it counts. Han Solo’s rebellious character, in comparison to Luke’s nice and complacent character, gives the old Star Wars a dynamic pair of main characters. It’s not a bad idea to have a wisecracking smartass in a film in order to change the atmosphere a bit, and the fact that Han Solo, even as a former smuggler and with no Force skills, became a hero, shows that a person doesn’t have to be a Jedi or be predestined to achieve greatness, and that’s why it’s somewhat easier for audience to relate to him than to the other Force-enabled characters. Oh, and Han Solo injects some much needed humour at the right moments and that’s something that the prequels lack. It’s not that Episode III doesn’t have its own share of one-liners though.
This brings me to my next point, which is that the prequels had bad scripts when compared to the older films. This is especially evident in Episode III, where some lines are said in moments or written in such a way that make them sound funny rather than to carry the emotional message across. Examples of this are “Annie, you are breaking my heart!” said by Padme or “You were the chosen one!” said by Obi-Wan to Anakin after having sliced three limbs off of Anakin’s body. The best example however, was when Darth Vader in his classic costume, finally gets up and yells “NOOOOO!!!” after hearing that his wife has died. I’ve heard that people in some theatres couldn’t stop themselves from laughing when they saw this “emotional outburst” by Darth Vader. The bad lines are accompanied by what is at best mediocre acting. Most characters in the prequels don’t seem to have more than three expressions, even though there were many good actors in the films. One final bad thing about the prequels is the overuse of special effects. Special effects are a novelty and they look cool when used sparingly. Overusing them numbs the audience and they don’t think the effects look so amusing anymore.
So, in my humble opinion, the newer Star Wars aren’t really up to par with the original episodes. It’s probably unfair to compare the new and old, since the older episodes were some of the most original and innovative cinematic experiences at the time period when they were released. The fact that the older episodes were ahead of their times means that these qualities are interpreted as greatness and etched into the minds of people who saw these films back in the days. The newer Star Wars films are pretty good films, but because of the wide ranging influence by the originals, the newer films are interpreted as not living up to their Star Wars names, because they lack the originality and innovations. It’s very hard to replicate greatness, and not even filmmakers such as George Lucas can accomplish this task. Well, there is one good thing that comes out of this. If a person watches all six episodes in chronological order according to the Star Wars universe, the films will get better and better along the way.