The first three Star Wars episodes (released, of course, nearly two decades after Episodes IV through VI) have given prequels a bad name. There was so much in them to dislike – the tedious exposition of galactic politics and trade policies, the petulant performances of Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker, the awkward dialogue, the brazen suspension-of-disbelief moments (Midichlorians? R2-D2 can fly?), the crude insult that was Jar Jar Binks, etc.
Still, Revenge of the Sith worked better than the other two because: a) stuff actually happened, and b) the movie did really try to answer all the questions, big and little, posed by the initial trilogy. How did the evil Empire come to supplant the Jedi-guided Republic? How did Anakin Skywalker turn from a well-meaning Jedi apprentice into Darth Vader, the most stylish, bad-ass villain in the galaxy? (Short answer to both: Blame the baleful influence of Senator Palpatine, a.k.a. Darth Sidious, secret Sith lord.) It even tied up loose ends generated by the earlier prequels (if R2-D2 and C-3PO originated on Tatooine in Episode I, how come they don’t remember the place when they land there in Episode IV?). Revenge of the Sith also closed the prequel trilogy with an appropriately operatic, tragic vision. From the massacre of the Jedi tots to the heartbreak of Natalie Portman’s Padme to Christensen’s apparent descent into hell on a planet of lava, director George Lucas offers a grand, terrible panorama of a universe slipping into darkness.
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