I have to admit the first question I always ask when it comes to this film, is revenge for what exactly? The title of the film is not really explained in the film, apart from the Jedi beat them in the war generations before even Yoda lived. That little irritation aside, of the three prequel films, The Revenge of the Sith is easily the best. It’s not perfect though.
In my review of The Attack of the Clones, I was incredibly critical of how Padme character is used. In this film, it is downright awful. She is nothing more than an object to be discussed and emotionally attached to, and the incubator for the children that become important later. Her potential for interesting plot, when she is discussing political issues with the likes of Mon Mothma who helps found the rebel alliance, becomes a deleted scene. The one time she voices an opinion about separatist ideas with Anakin he shoots her down (verbally) and she becomes uncharacteristically submissive.
Thankfully she can be credited with having the one of the best lines in the entire Star Wars universe: ‘So this is how liberty dies… with thunderous applause.’
One of the most heart-wrenching, politically potent and soul destroying lines utterly by any of the characters, and certainly one of my all-time favourites from any film. Her world has just completely fallen apart around her. She then learns Anakin slaughters the younglings, bearing in mind she is pregnant with a child that will have potential with the force as well. She then learns Anakin really has turned to the dark side and wants to rule the galaxy as a dictator.
Quite frankly when you add all of that up together no wonder she loses the will to live. Her death is tragic, but I like to think that she held onto life just long enough for Obi-Wan, who she still trusts a little bit, to get her to safety just long enough to protect her child, because she knows in her heart that she has used up every last ounce of her strength and determination fighting for a world that has been utterly destroyed by imperialism and evil.
The rise of the Empire though is spectacularly brilliant. It is a film, where the good guys really lose, and not just a battle, I mean everything. The democracy turns to imperialism; the Jedi Temple and the Jedi diaspora are slaughtered in their droves; strong characters who could help fight the good fight die; and Anakin becomes Darth Vader. Their misguided hope that Anakin was the Chosen One who would bring balance to the force betrays the good guys. Balance does not mean the good guys win.
The Jedi and the Sith are balanced by the end; Yoda to counter Palpatine, and Obi-Wan to counter Darth Vader. Palpatine though had his cunning and patience. He didn’t strike out quickly like I expect the Jedi had anticipated a Sith would; he was more like a Jedi. Patience, calm, rational; everything that the Sith of old, full of emotions and lack of discipline were not. He slowly gained control over the Republic and struck out when it was too late for anyone to stop him from turning it into the Imperial Empire.
Fine the confused political plotlines in episode 2 and 3 could have been clearer; the beginnings of the formation of the Rebel Alliance who see the direction the tide is turning could have more prominence in the film; and Padme could have had a better role. The fact the betrayal of the Jedi is awful to watch, the psychological ploys of the Emperor preying on Anakin’s fears help create Darth Vader, and the battles between the Jedi and the Sith are brilliantly played out by the characters, makes the film worth watching, despite it’s flaws.
The most powerful reason being that Obi-Wan refuses the kill Anakin not because Darth Vader is needed for the upcoming films, but because the character of Obi-Wan cannot bring himself to kill someone he loves, because he is a good person, a better person than a Sith. He still acts on his love, even after betrayal and doesn’t resort to killing a helpless man. That is not the Jedi Way, and even after his world has been torn apart he continues to be a good man, even if the universe would be a better place if he wasn’t. Killing Anakin who is left helpless after their battle would be akin to slaughtering a village of Tusken Raiders simply because they had wronged him.