Adam J Purcell Ponders… The Sith

Published: 30th May 2005

War! As the first sentence in the opening crawl it was short, to the point and oh so cheesy! I half expected the next line to be 'What is it good for?' Then I had the soundtrack to Xena's "Lyre, Lyre Hearts on Fire" suddenly playing in my head. 'Absolutely nothing! Say it again!!'. Thank you, George.

I'm not the fastest reader in the world but even I can normally manage reading a Star Wars opening crawl. It wasn't so easy this time. Not only did I have to try and chase away Xena before any thoughts turned to Xena, Gabrielle and Padme (...) but for some reason Tony, who I was unfortunately sitting next to, began gesticulating wildly. And in public too. Next time I'm sitting next to someone else! I later found out that he was trying to tell me the surround speakers weren't working. Unfortunately I hadn't noticed, what with Xena and all. That and I was afraid he would start a rendition of William Hague's (from the Conservative Party) vocal version of Star Wars across me directed at Keith, who was sitting the other side of me. Fortunately he contained himself this time.

So, finally the film begins straight into a CGI orbital battle. We quickly get our first glimpse of General Grevious and I'm finding myself slightly puzzled - it mentioned him in the crawl but did I see something about him having defected? Whose side was he on? Oh well, never mind. At least Xena had gone.

One problem with these prequels (and not by a long shot the biggest) is R2-D2. He was always a droid with attitude and he's probably the most consistent character, personality-wise, throughout the films. Artoo from Episode 1 is the same Artoo in Episode 4. Except... Where did all his skills go? Naturally this review is full of spoilers so click 'Back' now in the unlikely event you haven't seen the film yet. Anyway, there's our plucky droid hero springing out of the Jedi Starfighter like some gymnast. Next thing he's taking on battle droids twice his size. 'Come on then, one at a time or all at once, it's all the same to me!' I imagine the little dustbin saying. And he does it. He must have had one hell of an off-day on Tatooine when those Jawa's jumped him, that's all I can say! They didn't know how lucky they were being killed by those Stormtroopers, if Artoo had caught up with them Episode 4 might have to instead be called 'Revenge of the R2 Unit' rather than 'A New Hope'.

Next up we had the show down with Count Duckula, I mean Dooku. What is it about Christopher Lee? First he was cut from the cinema release of 'Return of the King', then he gets immediately killed off in 'Revenge of the Sith'. Half a scene, if even that when most of it clearly was his fight double with a bit of dodgy head replacement. Did he die at the beginning of filming? Not according to imdb. No, it just looks like a loose end George had to quickly tie up. Another nasty death for Mr. Lee, too. Makes me wonder how he'll top all his screen deaths in real life.

Limbs! Off they flew, this way and that. More severed limbs than you can shake a detached hand at. Lucky these lightsabres cauterise when they sever or Episode 3 would have more gushing than Kill Bill. But what about the cantina fight? Why, in Episode 4, did Kenobi's attack on Ponda Baba leave the thugs arm laying on the floor trailing blood? Did Kenobi forget to fully charge his lightsabre so it was running a little cooler than it should? Or was it just that the old man missed with his swipe and covered his failure by ripping Baba's arm off with the force? Teetering on the Dark Side, that dirty old hermit is.

Underwhelmed! As for the film in general I'm afraid that's basically the feeling I came away with. That may well have been the last time I see new Star Wars on the big screen. Where's that sadness? Where was the excitement come to that? Where were the 'wow' moments? We all knew what was going to happen and it did, there were few surprises. I was rather hoping for a twist or two. Even without it though it is quite possible to create a bit of drama, tension and excitement - look at something like Apollo 13, we all knew that story and that they'd survive but it was still a great film. Episode 3 was flat. It's a bit like watching someone else playing a computer game - yes it may look impressive, it may be fast paced but it's not exactly engaging.

It's quite a long film but nonetheless, for me, it did suffer a bit from fast throwaway references that should have been expanded upon. It's always been the case that a lot of the details behind a Star Wars film are revealed outside of it. Literally for decades I have known that Darth Vader needed his suit life-support systems after he lost a fight with Kenobi and fell into a lava pit. I also remember as a kid reading somewhere (a fold-out glossy page that came with one of the Palitoy Star Wars vehicles, I think - not that I've got it now) that the Stormtroopers were all, in fact, clones. That may not be so true by Episode 6 but it clearly is at the end of Episode 3. Lot's of background detail. More, I'm sure, than I even realise. Some of that got a bit frustrating, though. Tarkin, for example. After all the remarkable photos that showed a very convincing younger Tarkin we then didn't really get to see him! What was the point of that? Then there was Chewbacca. What was the point of any of that sequence? The Wookies save Yoda. I was expecting more.

Unanswered questions:

  • Did Darth Sidious (or his old master, Darth Plagueis) cause Shmi's pregnancy with Anakin? It was implied but neither confirmed nor explained.
  • Why do some Jedi's bodies disappear when they die? I'd heard it would be explained but Yoda's throwaway line about learning to talk to the dead doesn't cut it.
  • How did Sidious remain hidden? Windu mentions he's shrouded in the Dark Side. Why didn't the Jedi sense him?

Why don't they use their force abilities during fights? I've had so much fun in the computer games like Jedi Outcast using my force powers during fights. Picking people up with the force and choking them, throwing my lightsabre at them to cut them in two and then let their bodies fall to the ground! Or maybe picking them up and dropping them into a chasm! Why is there so little of that in lighsabre fights in the films? The whole Kenobi/Skywalker fight was a big letdown - we were told it will be a spectacular and dirty fight. It just wasn't either of those for me.

Oh, well, disappointing as it was it gave me new insight into Episode 4. No, nothing to do with the Skywalkers or Kenobi or the Empire. That is all the same and exactly as expected. No, it is R2-D2 I will look on in a new light. Not because of his ninja-like prowess in Episode 3 but because of what he knew. Of the two droids apparently only 3PO had a mind wipe. Next time I watch Star Wars: A New Hope that's about all that will be different.