Star Wars Episode III: modern morality play

From a post long, long ago, here is my review of the last (sixth actually, but third in George Lucas’ time-space disturbance in the force) Star Wars serial, Revenge of the Sith. I can’t wait for number seven, which will be the seventh.

The dark side

First, there are “Episodes I-III.” Period!

For future generations watching the saga in numerical order, the latest film totally destroys one of the most famous lines in movie history: “I am your father.” In “Episode V,” I remember being absolutely stunned when Darth Vader revealed that Luke Skywalker was his son. Unbelievable! Future generations will not enjoy that wonderful, shocking surprise. And when romance seems to be budding between Luke and Princess Leia in “Episodes IV-VI,” future viewers are going to think, Ewww, they’re brother and sister!

Second, speaking of brother and sister relationships, Padme Amidala and Anakin Skywalker seem almost like siblings in their so-called “romance.” The chemistry between them is as exciting as, well, Chemistry.

Third, Anakin seems to turn to the Dark Side of the Force a bit too quickly. In “Episode I,” there were absolutely no clues that the chubby-cheeked cherub would become the evil dark Lord. (He could have at least cheated in the pod race or kicked an Ewok to foreshadow his potential for evil.) And I still don’t think his mother being killed by Sand People provided enough motivation to suddenly and inexplicably wipe out an entire village.

The light side

“Episodes I” and “II” seemed to be simply an excuse to show off Lucas Film’s incredible computer-generated characters and battle sequences. Admittedly, they were incredible, but I nearly fell asleep with all the long-winded political speeches in “I” and “II.” And even during the battle scenes, characters had not been sufficiently developed so that I really cared who won. Well, I was hoping that the annoying Jar Jar Binks would get swallowed up by an Opee Sea Killer.

But after the seemingly obligatory computer-generated space chase scene, “Episode III” reveals real characters with real personalities as well as real strengths and weaknesses, not simply action figures in front of a green screen at Skywalker Ranch. And, like the 1977, 1980, and 1983 episodes, the latest film explores larger-than-life (and light sabers) themes.

Revenge of the Sith is a modern-day morality play where we witness a powerful struggle not only between good and evil, but the temptation to use evil for anticipated good; the end justifying the means.

The Senate gives in to the temptation. Supreme Chancellor Palpatine offers the Republic “a safe and secure society” if the Senate will pledge to him its total allegiance. And, so they do, but former Senator Padme laments, “This is how liberty dies. With thunderous applause.”

Obi Wan Kenobi gives in to the temptation of doing wrong with right intentions. When Anakin is asked to spy on the Chancellor, he objects saying that would be treason. Kenobi replies, “We are at war, Anakin.” (And why, if the Jedis are so smart, did it take them three episodes to figure out that the Chancellor is actually Sith lord, Darth Sidious?!)

But most of all, Anakin Skywalker gives in to the temptation to save life by destroying it. He’s having dreams that his wife will die in childbirth. So, when the Chancellor tells Anakin that the Dark Side of the Force promises immortality, hubby travels down that destructive path. Yoda notes, “Twisted by the dark side young Skywalker has become.”

While the opening crawl warns “evil is everywhere,” it never presents itself as evil—just like in real moral battles!

The Chancellor seems to be a kindly, grandfather type who only has the peace, safety, and security of the Republic in mind. (Nothing like “Episode I’s” Darth Maul trick-or-treating as the devil!) And he only wants Anakin and Padme to live happily ever after.

Even Obi Wan is willing to bend the rules for the good of the Republic.

And no one knows Anakin has turned to the dark side until the Jedi temple is strewn with dead children.

It’s a great morality play and graphically portrays the consequences of evil. (Graphic indeed with close-ups of the smoldering, dismembered body of Anakin.) And, although Anakin attempted to save Padme by turning to the Dark Side, that choice eventually killed her.

Like son Luke, who sees the reflection of Darth Vader in his own face in “Episode V,” the film shows how easy it is for each of us—you and me—to sometimes do wrong for a well-intended good. And the disastrous results of going down the path of the end justifying the means.

May the truth be with you.

Copyright © 2005 James N. Watkins

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