“But From My Point Of View…”: Re-Watching Revenge Of The Sith

So the prequels come to an end, with another mass viewing party at the NFB household.

Lots of different things were talking about in the course of Revenge Of The Sith, and I’ll mention some of them below. But the major talking point I wanted to bring up here specifically is the “Anakin kills the “younglings”” scene.

This is never a scene that I have personally liked, even with its subtlety and good cinematography, a true rarity in the prequels overall. At the heart of it is the simple distaste for the killing of children, but there is also the tremendous leap in rationale evident, where Anakin goes from being conflicted between the Light and Dark paths, to willingly slaughtering children by the dozen.

Because, regardless of whether Anakin is becoming infamous death-dealer Darth Vader of the original trilogy, it still seems a bit much at that moment. The whole logic behind Anakins’ jump to the Dark side is his intense desire to save Padme from a death in childbirth, and by extension to save his unborn child. That’s why he lops off Windu’s hand to save Palpatine. It’s a fall of desperation primarily, though Anakin’s hunger for power is also a secondary factor. To go from that – joining Sidious to save his wife and child – to killing children seems like bad film logic. Surely Anakin should be sympathetic to the “younglings”? Surely, considering his deepest motivation, he should balk at harming a child?

You can find explanations aplenty for it. Anakin has already undertaken some mass slaughter, including children, but I always disliked that as well, and even so, he had the direct, Dark-side driven, motivation of avenging his mother. It was a horrific crime of passion, Killing the younglings isn’t.

Part of the problem is that, in my view, Sith does a pisspoor job of presenting Anakin’s inner turmoil. Some of the EU material, like the Sith novelisation by Matthew Stover, go into more detail on Anakin’s thought process, which comes across as a really bad mix of emotional dependency on Padme as a lover and Palpatine as a supportive mentor, manic depression and general mental instability, all things that Palpatine preys upon. The film doesn’t really get that across in my view, and it would have helped.

And at the end of the day, I don’t think the youngling scene does much for Anakin’s character. He’s already leading a slaughter at the Jedi Temple, a gigantic betrayal of the organisation that raised him and gave him his power. Soon he’ll turn on Obi-Wan directly, and Padme of course. You don’t need that scene. It doesn’t drive him the idea that Vader is an inhuman monster any more than a subtler approach does. How many people did Vader kill with his hands/saber in the original trilogy? Just five, in three films (add another seven if you’re counting ship to ship combat).

An argument could even be made for Anakin actively deciding not to kill the younglings, just leaving them be, for Obi-Wan and Yoda to discover later. After all, a central theme of the (well, previous) climax to the saga is “There is still good in him”. That would have added an interesting shade of grey to the final proceedings, and give Obi-Wan an outlet to try and turn Anakin back (which is what the Jedi should be doing, since “only a Sith deals in absolutes”). It would have to be a failing effort of course, to justify Force Ghost Obi-Wan’s later declaration that Vader is irredeemable, but it would have made for a more fascinating dynamic to the conclusion. Of course, I won’t deny there are certain tricky plot problems that would have caused, like what Yoda and Obi-Wan would do with a dozen Jedi younglings.

Others had different opinions:

 It’s not just that it demonstrates his Evil, it’s also an illustration of throwing away the trust of others, and of the betrayal of his power. The children come out of hiding when he enters, they trust him and see him as their saviour, but he betrays those in most need of his protection.

 I actually liked that bit where the shitty kid actor asks him what they’re going to do and he flicks on his lightsaber. Was one of the few decent shots in the prequels. If only it had better set up and pay off…  

I don’t know if the scene would be more or less odd if he had been asked on screen to do by Sidious. As it is he seems to take it up of his own accord to kill a load of kids, but if he was asked to do it would he still have done it? “Hey, Vader, I need you to kill a load of infants, you gravy?” “Sheeiiitttt Sidious, I dunno if we really need to… But sure. I’ll murder them. I’ll murder them good.”

It always struck me as kind of strange that the Jedi apparently made no effort to get the children to safety Even if Windu didn’t tell anyone what he was doing, the clones didn’t exactly make a stealthy approach. You would think someone would have chosen evacuation over charging the invaders one by one.

The whole scene was way too ‘obvious’ a way to show him going evil. The Sith aren’t meant to be quite that level of cartoon villains tying women to train tracks. They’re meant to be selfish, powerhungry, etc, but that was comically “evil” and removes a lot of the sympathy we should feel for his descent in to the dark side.

Some other thoughts:

-I often see the opening space battle get a lot of flak, but I think it’s really under-rated. There is some great CGI work in that sequence, and I’ve rarely seen the idea of a space battle executed with as much flair. Indeed, the CGI in Sith continues to hold up pretty well.

– I wonder if they ever came up with a good reason for the Trade Federation droids to have comedy personalities.

– The first time we see Grevious, he looks cool, unique and the music adds something threatening. And then he starts heaving and coughing like a 20 pack a day guy, and the effect, that crucial first impression, is lost forever.

– I’ve always weirdly liked the “Fire Ships” that help The Invisible Hand crash-land successfully. Just a nice piece of the universe.

– Actually I like that whole moment, especially when the main theme cuts in. Even when the control tower goes kablamo.

Sith certainly shouldn’t get a pass on the bad romantic dialogue stakes. “You look beautiful”. “It’s only cause I’m so in love” Jesus Christ.

– Ian McDiarmaid is just loving it in Sith. Lucas must have just told him to go nuts, and he goes NUTS.

– Watching it this time, I certainly noticed that weirdly slow middle section more. Everything between the rescue of Palpatine to the Obi-Wan/Grevious fight is really dull in my opinion.

– That bubble opera man, what the hell is that supposed to be? I suppose it’s an interesting sci-fi background to one of the prequels better conversations. Palpatine’s smile as he talks about – or rather, remembers – the death of “Darth Plageus” is just great.

– The people I was with were happy to christen Grevious’ vehicle as “Horse Bike”.

– The Palpatine/Windu scene/fight is real polarising for me. On the one hand, Sidious’ lines as it starts are some of the best in the prequels, maybe even the saga: How wonderful is it when the mask drops for “I AM the Senate”. And of course, that creepily quiet “It’s treason then”.

– But then he kills three Jedi in seconds, Kit Fisto and co flailing around like Left Shark for some reason, looking like total chumps.

– People go on and on about “UNLIMITED POWER!” but they ignore that amazing facial expression of “Nooo, nooo, YOU WILL DIE!”

– Younglings are always adorably sympathetic when you give them a British accent.

– Natalie Portman really does have surprisingly little to do in this film. Most of her scenes are in her apartment.

-Do think the volume of lightsaber fights in Sith is a serious detriment. By the time we get to Anakin/Obi-Wan something is lost with them.

– The “Fall of the Jedi” sequence, which is something Lucas must have had in mind from start to finish when it comes to the production of the prequels, is really well done.

– I can never not hum along when “Battle Of The Heroes” comes on.

– The Anakin/Obi-Wan fight, on its own terms, does deserve a lot of praise, as do the actors, who worked so hard to do nearly all the work themselves.

– Oh but the lines during that fight. “Anakin my allegiance is to the Republic, to DEMOOOCRAAAAACY!?”

– “But from MY point of view, the Jedi are evil!” A ghastly written and placed line. Just awful.

– The “High Ground” moment, as far as I am concerned, is clearly referencing something we never see. I like to imagine some never filmed scene, even as far back as Menace, where Obi-Wan and Anakin talk lightsaber tactics and this comes up.

-All the galactic politics scenes are worth it to see Palpatine chuck hoverthings at Yoda.

– Obi-Wan’s decision to not kill Anakin just doesn’t make any sense within the film. The EU tries to cover it, but in the film it’s a bizarre weak point in the narrative.

– Film could have ended on a few different points, the mask coming down on Anakin being one. Instead, we get “She’s lost the will to live” and “NOOOOOOO!” Still, at least the actual final shot is a decent connection to Hope.

I used to think that Sith was the worst of the lot, if only because it was overflowing with minor flaws instead of having just one or two big ones, But this re-watching has certainly changed my mind a bit, and I’m happy to consider it better than Clones at the very least. But it’s still not a good movie as far as I am concerned.

Next time, fulfilling destiny on Death Star II.

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One Response to “But From My Point Of View…”: Re-Watching Revenge Of The Sith

  1. Pingback: Review – Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens | Never Felt Better

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