Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (a 15-Minute Force production): Chapter One: Oh, I Have a Bad Feeling About This, Too

15minuteforce

 

00:00:00 – 00:15:00

Here I stand, happy to begin the first chapter of the third installment of the prequel trilogy, Revenge of the Sith, and our nineteenth chapter overall.

Before I started the 15-Minute Force project, inspired by Alex Robinson and Pete the Retailer’s most excellent Star Wars Minute podcast, I didn’t remember the prequels with much fondness. During my recent dissection, this assessment remained true for Phantom Menace, a movie that I often dislike and sometimes actively hate. I did like Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor, and Darth Maul: That’s about it. At least, that’s what I’d say if you asked me today.

Attack of the Clones surprised me this time around. I liked it much more than that putrid Jake Lloyd/Jar Jar Binks vehicle. Of course, there was nowhere to go but up. But, bitterness and sarcasm aside, Clones was a much better movie, with a lot of action and a tighter script. Sure, we’ll never get the stink of midichlorians out of the upholstery, and, let’s face it, love stories aren’t George Lucas’s forte, but this one held my attention until the credits rolled.

And, now, Revenge of the Sith. I’m going to qualify the following statement by admitting that my memory is often faulty and, apparently, my tastes change with time. However, I’m going into this one holding on to the idea that this was my favorite of the prequel trilogy. I fully expect to like it even more than I did Clones. We’ll find out together, you and I, whether this holds true. When I’ve talked about this movie with other Star Wars fans, I’ve always likened it to Empire Strikes Back, which remains my favorite of all the Star Wars movies I’ve seen so far (as of this writing, that excludes only Rogue One, which I will watch for the first time after this). Revenge is the darkest of the prequel trilogy in the same way that Empire was the darkest of the original. While this may further betray my Sith leanings, I like dark. For me, Star Wars always seems to work best when it’s at its darkest.

Without further ado…THX ad…Lucasfilm logo…the now-quaint 20th Century Fox logo…and…….

The opening brassy blare of the John Williams score that sends tingles up my nerd bone (don’t ask which part of the anatomy that is), and the opening crawl.

Episode III

REVENGE OF THE SITH

War! The Republic is crumbling

under attacks by the ruthless

Sith Lord, Count Dooku.

There are heroes on both sides.

Evil is everywhere.

In a stunning move, the

fiendish droid leader, General

Grievous, has swept into the

Republic capital and kidnapped

Chancellor Palpatine, leader of

the Galactic Senate.

As the Separatist Droid Army

attempts to flee the besieged

capital with their valuable

hostage, two Jedi Knights lead a

desperate mission to rescue the

captive Chancellor….

I love this crawl. No mention of trade federations or blockades, no talk of senate votes or political chicanery. This is war! The salient points are that Dooku is still up to no-good, having kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine (surely the secret Sith Lord and future emperor had nothing to do with that), and that two Jedi Knights, whom we probably know, are hot on his trail. Boom! Right into the action. Just the way we like it.

There are also a couple of mysteries presented in the crawl, though. Having already seen the movie, it’s not easy to put myself back into the mindframe I was in during the first watch-through, but I remember that my interest was piqued simply by the mention of the droid leader General Grievous. The droid army had, up to this point, not been shown with a true named leader.

The other mystery was a simple sentence that requires no elaboration, really. There are heroes on both sides. Star Wars has often been painted in black and white. Evil and Good. The admission that there are heroes on both sides suggests that there are shades of gray. Of course, we knew this. Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi are actually serving what’s destined to become the evil Empire under Palpatine, who is already secretly Darth Sidious. Their “side” of the war is no more capital-g Good than the Separatists are. In fact, since Palpatine is pulling all the strings, orchestrating his rise to Emperor, there’s no true side to this conflict. The Clone War is, as we shall see, a false flag operation, a military coup that will result in the formation of the Empire. Oh, yeah, SPOILERS.

As the crawl crawls away, we execute a patented Star Wars pan down, past the light of a sun and a lens flare that didn’t come from J.J. Abrams or Mass Effect. At first, a Republic Attack Cruiser fills the frame. Then two Jedi starfighters enter our field of vision from the right and the camera stays with them as they do a close flyby of the cruiser. Then the frame widens to show that we’re in the middle of a grand space battle. There are countless other cruisers, which I didn’t count, and one of those giant Droid Donuts. Some of the ships are Separatist cruisers. There’s a lot of weapons fire being exchanged. The Jedi starfighters zoom close to the “camera” again (I realize that this is all CGI, so there’s no real camera) and we catch a brief glimpse of Anakin in the cockpit.

The action is frenetic and not meant for those prone to motion sickness. A droid ship explodes and we push in on Anakin’s starfighter, where we see the familiar astromech droid R2-D2. Then we’re in the cockpit with an Anakin Skywalker who looks older than the last time we saw him. He has a scar on the right side of his face, both above and below his eye. His hair is more rock-‘n’-roll than punk rock now.

Over his headset, Anakin tells Obi-Wan that General Grievous’s ship is dead ahead. It’s the one crawling with vulture droids. Using the Jedi command of sarcasm, Obi-Wan says, “I see it. This is going to be easy.”

Having been given a name, the vulture droids now become a part of the Star Wars universe. They are neat- and more than a bit sinister-looking, and when they leap from Grievous’s ship, they look a little like TIE-fighters when in flight.

Obi-Wan contacts a clone trooper called Odd Ball and orders his squad to form up behind him. We see the faces of several clones. They are all the same face, of course. In the following minutes, we are witnesses to the deaths of several clone troopers, who die unmourned by the Jedi. They are, after all, meant to be cannon fodder.

We are more concerned with Obi-Wan’s ship being attacked by buzz droids after some fancy flying by both Jedi to avoid getting blown up by missles. Buzz droids are tiny robots that have what appear to be giant googly eyes on their backs. Not the toy that all the kids were asking for that Christmas. These ridiculous-looking droids manage to quickly decapitate Obi-Wan’s R4 unit. They are in the process of shutting down all of Obi-Wan’s controls until Anakin begins firing at him, picking off buzz droids like Luke Skywalker picking off womp rats in his T-16. Of course, the buzz droids look like they’re smaller than two meters. Anakin appears to have near-surgical skill with his starfighter’s guns. At least until he blows off the wing of Obi-Wan’s starfighter, assuming that was an accident.

Not risking blowing off the other wing, Anakin switches tactics, using the wing of his own starfighter to begin scraping the droids off before they kill his Master. One of the buzz droids begins to attack R2-D2, who successfully fights it off after Obi-Wan gives him the useful tip to attack its middle eye. Always go for the eye in the center.

Suddenly, the buzz droids are no longer a threat as the two Jedi are drawing closer to General Grievous’s ship. Anakin disables the force field, and then the two Jedi slide into the ship’s huge hangar before the blast doors close. Then it’s no longer a space battle but hand-to-hand combat (or at least lightsaber-to-droid-blaster combat) as the Jedi conduct a familiar slice-and-dice of the droid soldiers in the landing bay. R2-D2 also disembarks from the starfighter, under orders to locate the chancellor. R2 heads for the nearest convenient computer socket to plug in and tune out.

In the aftermath of this brief skirmish, we get our first full-body look at Obi-Wan and Anakin. Obi-Wan looks a little shaggier this time round as well, but he’s still rocking the Jesus robes. Anakin’s outfit is very dark, quite Darth Vaderesque in fact. I noticed during the fight with the droids that both Jedi were using the bluish-white lightsabers in this movie. I seem to recall Anakin using a green lightsaber in Attack of the Clones, but this may have been a loaner after his was destroyed in the foundry.

R2-D2 shows the Jedi a hologram of General Grievous’s ship. It seems that the Chancellor’s signal is coming from an observation platform at the top of a spire on the vessel. Pretty far from where they are located. Anakin senses Count Dooku. Obi-Wan senses a trap, but says that their next move is to spring the trap.

This part of the movie is reminiscent of the similar scene in Phantom Menace, when Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi boarded the Trade Federation battleship, which was also a trap. As Admiral Ackbar might say, it’s always a trap.

So far, there have been eight breathless minutes of the movie. The pace slows only slightly here as the Jedi order R2 to stay with the ship and Obi-Wan throws some sort of communication device to the little droid. I’m not sure why. Wasn’t Anakin already communicating with R2 outside of his starfighter? Has R2 ever needed a handheld device to communicate with anyone? I sense a plot-device trap.

Cut to our first appearance of General Grievous, that mysterious character mentioned in the opening crawl. He is a towering caped figure who I was certain was a droid up to the moment he started coughing. As he is speaking to a Neimoidian crewmember, his eyes seem very organic. A cyborg of some sort perhaps, part man and machine. Much in the same way Darth Vader will be. I’m sure there’s an in-universe explanation for the coughing, too, but I’m not going to bother to look it up. The Neimodian tells Grievous that the two Jedi are headed their way. Just as Count Dooku predicted, General Grievous says.

The Jedi briefly fight with destroyer droids—again, just as in Phantom—before backing into an elevator where a squad of regular battle droids gets the drop on them. More slicing-and-dicing ensues.

The elevator stops before reaching the top of the spire, and Obi-Wan begins calling R2-D2 over the communicator. Now we see why he gave R2 the communicator. R2 is hiding from a couple of those bruiser droids that have entered the hangar. You know the ones I mean. The droids that look like they’ve spent too much time in the gym working on their upper bodies. The sound of Obi-Wan’s voice on the communicator gives away R2’s position. Meanwhile, Anakin has used his lightsaber to cut a hole in the roof of the elevator car.

I’m going to admit here that I just did a quick search of the elevator’s number—31174—to determine if it had any special significance. Someone’s birthday, perhaps. I didn’t find anything. But, while going down that particular internet rabbit hole, I noticed that the name of the Trade Federation dreadnought was the Invisible Hand. An Adam Smith/Economics joke, I assume. Well done, Star Wars folk.

Anakin leaps through the hole he created to the top of the elevator, just in time to suffer the consequences of R2 getting the car moving again. This time, the car zooms down the shaft, leaving Anakin dangling from a ledge. Two battle droids appear at a door above the dangling Anakin, their weapons trained on him. Obi-Wan again calls out to R2, commanding him to reverse the elevator. R2 does so, but the communicator noise has definitely given him away this time. The two Steroid-O-Droids approach R2 and proceed to bully him around. R2 begins squirting oil all over the place, which I thought was the astromech equivalent of losing bladder control, until he fires his rockets and sets the musclebound droids on fire, which seems to have taken all the fight out of them. Intercut with this sequence, the elevator continues up. Anakin jumps back inside while the two droids who were threatening him are destroyed by the passing elevator.

When the elevator doors swish open, the two Jedi walk out onto the observation deck. Chancellor Palpatine swivels around in his oversized chair, a move that is purposefully and highly reminiscent of the Emperor’s first appearance in Empire. Palpatine is bound to his chair by some sort of energy bands around his wrists. There appears to be no one else on the deck.

Obi-Wan asks the Chancellor if he’s all right. Palpatine responds, “Count Dooku,” which hardly seems to be an answer…

Oh, I see. Count Dooku is entering the observation deck from another elevator, accompanied by two super battle droids. He somersaults from a raised platform that now strikes me as architecturally unneccessary. The elevator door could have been placed at floor level, since the only reason the raised platform and twin staircases seem to exist is an aesthetic one. Of course, if the platform didn’t exist, Count Dooku couldn’t have executed his impressive somersault, looking like Christopher Lee even though we know this is a CGI effect.

Palpatine, ever the confidence booster, tells the Jedi to get help because they are no match for Dooku; he is a Sith Lord. Obi-Wan tells Anakin that this time they are going to attack together. The unspoken words are: unlike the last time I told you this and you ignored me and ended up losing your hand.

I’m still confused about the whole Sith Lord thing. Does this mean that Dooku is Darth Sidious’s apprentice? Or, does this mean that each of them have their own apprentices? How does this fit in with the whole Sith Rule of Two deal, since Dooku had to be a Sith Lord already while Darth Maul was alive? And is the cyborg General Grievous also a Sith, since he uses lightsabers? So many questions, with answers that don’t really matter.

The Jedi attack Dooku—Lord Tyranus, if you prefer—together, two blue lightsabers versus the evil red. Count Dooku gives them an evil grin and says he’s been looking forward to this. Anakin boasts that his powers have doubled since they last met. Good, says Dooku. Twice the pride, double the fall. Pride goeth before the fall, squared, in other words, using Jedi Common Core Math.

During the fight, Obi-Wan is cast aside like a broken doll and crushed under a fallen platform. It’s obvious that he’ll never walk again, if he’s still alive. Wait a minute. I’ve already seen him alive and walking later so. . .there’s no real suspense here. It’s a foregone conclusion that he and Anakin both survive this encounter with Dooku. Which can only mean…

Anakin wins his lightsaber duel with Count Dooku, slicing off both of the Sith Lord’s hands, double the retribution for Dooku taking his own hand. Retribution-squared, using Jedi Common Core Math again, even though the square of one is still one. But, Anakin doesn’t stop there. Urged on by the cackling Chancellor Palpatine, who seems only barely able to hide his evil nature at this point, Anakin uses both lightsabers, his blue one and Dooku’s red, to scissor off the Sith Lord’s head, which is as effective a method of killing Sith Lords as it is vampires. And we’re talking Christopher Lee here, so…

Dooku looks at Palpatine in shock as the Chancellor orders Anakin to kill him. It seems to me that the last thing any Sith Lord should expect is loyalty. From anyone. Anakin only momentarily pauses before killing Dooku.

When Anakin seems to be second-guessing himself afterward, Chancellor Palpatine reminds him that it wasn’t the first time he’d given in to hate and revenge. There was that time with the sand people. You know, when you committed mass murder and killed an entire tribe of Tusken Raiders, women and children included. By this exchange, I believe that we are meant to realize that Anakin’s un-Jedi-like execution of Dooku was just another step in Anakin’s trip towards the Dark Side. A trip destined to be completed during the course of this movie.

And here the first fifteen minutes of Revenge of the Sith ends. And what a rousing chapter it was. The best yet, in my opinion.

Today’s Top Secret Prompt: “Are You All Right?” And, the Proper Coded Response: “Count Dooku.” Until Next Time…May the 15-Minute Force Be With You.

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