Ben Sears is a lifelong Indianapolis resident, husband and father of two boys, as well as a contributing writer on Obsessiveviewer.com. Aside from watching movies and television, Ben enjoys photography (bensearsphotography.com) and running marathons, but never at the same time. That would be difficult. Donate to my fundraising for Wheeler Mission in the 2020 Drumstick Dash:
I have always had have a strong association between Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and the end of my high school years. When The Phantom Menace was released in 1999, I was transitioning from elementary to middle school like baby Anakin going from the desert of Tatooine to the endless city of Coruscant. With Attack of the Clones in 2002, I had had a year of high school under my belt and was still figuring out who I was and what I wanted to be, just like Anakin. With Revenge of the Sith, I found myself becoming who I would be.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to turn this essay into some strained metaphor about how I began the school year as Anakin Skywalker and ended it as Darth Vader. It’s just that senior year has a way of changing people. I started it as a painfully shy, awkward kid with a tight circle of friends and a part-time job at my local movie theater. By the end, I was still miles away from the popular clique but I had at least learned how to crawl slightly out of my comfort zone. For the first three years of high school I spent Saturday nights with friends playing Halo and watching movies. By the end of senior year, I went to parties, made more friends, drove around and even dated a little.
Although my tastes run geeky, I was never someone who loved Star Wars. I mean, I loved it, but I wasn’t “in love with” Star Wars like so many. I had certainly seen all the movies, even played some of the (mostly crappy) video games, but never wanted to spend every waking minute learning more about this galaxy far, far away.
Revenge of the Sith was different, though.
Let me put it this way: Everyone has at least one movie they loved when they were younger — maybe even one that they loved despite rampant criticism against it — that they realize the problems with when they return to it as an adult. Sith is one of those films for me. I walked out of the theater on my first viewing and couldn’t wait to see it again. It was the perfect Star Wars film, full of action, darkness (something sorely lacking from any of the previous films in the franchise) and more of the Jedi mythology that I loved. I would watch it in pieces during my lunch break at work. I bought it on DVD and would watch it repeatedly, especially during my freshman year at college. I can even remember the jealousy I felt when a coworker at the theater was able to snag the first poster of the film when it was announced.
Then, in the lead-up to The Force Awakens in 2015, I returned to the franchise and re-watched all the films. When I got to Sith, I felt like I saw it for the first time with open eyes.
Gone was the Anakin Skywalker who fiercely loved his wife and mother, replaced by a bratty man-child who couldn’t stop complaining about how unfair it all was. I saw the utter lack of chemistry between Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman, and George Lucas’s penchant for writing predictable, bone-dry dialogue. And sure, Anakin had previously shown flashes of the person he would become in this film, but the lengths Lucas goes to get there are tenuous at best. He murders a room full of children! The less that’s said about the wailing Darth Vader “NOOOOO!!!” when he learns the fate of Padme, the better. In the years since high school, I’d grown up. Sith did not grow with me.
I can’t help but love so much of the movie, though. Almost all of the action setpieces (and there are a lot in this movie) are well-made and filled with tension. General Grievous, the droid / cyborg / something leader of the droid armies, was a fun, memorable addition to the bad guys — an imposing, uniquely designed and realized character about whom I instantly wanted to know more. Was he a human-turned-droid? Was he a droid who was programmed to have a debilitating cough? Was he a Sith or just someone who’s just really good at killing Jedi? Never mind that Lucas essentially plopped him into the middle of the action and acted as if we were supposed to know his role and how he fits into the film before it starts. I mean, the guy can spin four lightsabers at once! What more do you need to know?!
Looking back at 2005, it’s hard to believe there was ever a time when we thought that Sith might be the last Star Wars movie we’d ever get. George Lucas’s stated goal with the prequel trilogy was to tell the origin story of Darth Vader, one of the most iconic characters in movie history. (The American Film Institute listed him as the third greatest villain in 2003, and one can only wonder if that ranking would be any different if the list was released after this film.) Sith gave us that, and Lucas insisted for years afterward that any tale told in his galaxy was ancillary, and that there would never be another.
Here we are in 2019, and we’ve gotten four (soon to be five) more Star Wars films.
Look, the Star Wars universe is an eternally flowing fountain of memes, but some of my favorites are from this film. It’s kind of crazy how much of a second life the movie itself has gotten thanks to meme culture. My favorites include Mace Windu screaming, “He’s too dangerous to be left alive” and Obi Wan’s “You were the chosen one!” Also, I was at a burger place recently where my order number was 66, and the cashier told me to execute Order 66. He looked pretty proud of himself.
I don’t blame most people for hating this movie or even for saying that it’s the worst of the franchise. These days I can’t help but see the flaws. It still means so much to me, though. A film that speaks to an era of my life when I wasn’t writing criticism or critiquing performances, dialogue and plot. I didn’t love high school, but I didn’t hate it. It was a time in my life where I grew and learned a lot. Revenge of the Sith will always be one of the films that spoke to me in a very specific way, in a very specific time of my life. We all need those films. In some ways, those are the best films.