Endings are always interesting. Particularly those that may end the battle, but not the war — the star war — and even more particularly those that are only the beginning. Revenge of the Sith is indeed a prequel, at once ending an arc and setting another up. It isn’t the story that so grabbed me, although the tragedy and tone of this film is palpable, it’s how it both exists in concept, and how that came to the screen.
Star Wars III happened at a specific period in my threatre-going career, where there was a group of people that never recurred, before or after. So the movies we saw included this, maybe some others, and I know for sure X-Men III. And we were in middle school, sitting through another in the endless lines of scheduled and unscheduled assemblies, and I whispered to an erstwhile movie-partner that I couldn’t wait to see X-Men III later that night.
With time, I’ve seen that that X-Men sequel was not good, and I’ve also had to make concessions about Revenge of the Sith, which doesn’t have the same exact spark as the original trilogy. But the prequel trilogy’s chief problem has always been with story, because characters are an extension of story, and Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Padme are simply no Han Solo, Luke, Leia, C-3PO, R2D2, Yoda, Darth Vader, and the list goes on and on. These Jedi are larger than life, and so are more gods than humans, but are also underwritten, so come off more as epic fan-fiction than epic, with their quibbles and lame one-liners.
I like General Grievous — a lot. I like the CG locations, I like the CG clonetroopers even. The big battles, the big aliens, the big story with all these moving pieces. Star Wars III is at the end of the day, a modern science-fiction epic film, realized with all the Hollywood money they could throw at it — for my young mind, it represented the closest approximation of what I always wanted to make, once I grew up to be a millionaire astronaut filmmaker.
Only, my story would be darker than Star Wars, and different in countless ways. But this was the apex of SF on the silver screen where scope was concerned, and like the two films that’d come before it, sported inspirational art design. But unlike the two earlier movies, this one was good throughout.
One has to look only as far as some of the Episode III art books and behind-the-scenes material to learn how much love and design smarts went into this film, this massive undertaking by committee. And while I do enjoy most of the artwork, I do fundamentally disagree with Doug Chiang’s philosophical approach of basing the fantastical off of the known. It works, but some of his creatures and robots can look almost too familiar.
But that’s why he’s part of a team, and the team formula is sound. George Lucas is still the showrunner fans want impeached, but his vision ties everything together, and maybe you don’t get the galactic imagination without the bad dialogue. Who knows — we’ll see when Return of the Jedi 2 comes out.
So although A New Hope has the best story (and moment, for my money, where Luke watches the sunset and Williams’s Binary Sunset swells), and Empire is the best film, Revenge of the Sith speaks to me as an aspiring artist and storyteller, in a way that’s so out-there I’ve never bothered to explain it.
But lightsaber duels, cool as they are, don’t appeal to me, nor does science-fantasy, nor the Star Wars mythos. But science-fiction finally as large as The Lord of the Rings — that’s important to me.
And General Grievous.