The Decade Since ‘Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of Sith’

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Where were you ten years ago today, on May 19, 2005? If you’re a reader of this blog, I’m going to guess you were where I was: seeing Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith on its opening day.

By then, of course, six years had passed since the release of Episode I, so your expectations had to have been low. For me, I was mostly curious to see where Lucas was taking this thing. He faced a daunting task with this final movie. Not only did it have to be dark, as we watch Anakin’s descent to the dark side and the collapse of the Republic, but he also had to create a movie that could be compelling despite the audience going in knowing exactly what would happen. By just about every measure, he of course failed in these goals, creating what is arguably the worst of the prequel movies.

Again, I’m going to assume that, like almost everyone else, you left the theater that night with a mixture of disappointment, anger and, yes, relief. Disappointment, of course, at the smoldering wreck that was the prequel trilogy, now visible in all its ugliness. The anger was primarily over the single scene of Luke and Leia’s birth, because, dang it, did Lucas really not even see Jedi, where Leia states that she remembers her mom? But also relief, knowing that the prequels had at long last come to an end, and that for all of their considerable failings the prequels had at least given us the backstory on the fall of the Jedi (and, much less interestingly, the rise of Vader).

But let’s take a moment on this, the tenth anniversary of the end of the nightmare that was the prequel trilogy, and look back on all of the good that the revival of Star Wars has brought. Compare the last ten years with the period from 1983-1993–the ten years following the release of The Return of the Jedi–and I think you have to come to the conclusion that, as bad as they were as movies, the prequels really did end up being a net good for the franchise.

The highlight, of course, of this past decade came on October 30, 2012, when we got the fantastic news that Disney had purchased Lucasfilm. While there was some amount of doom and gloom that day, the fact is that Star Wars Rebels would likely not have happened with the Disney purchase. Episode VII would not be nearing release. It’s clear that, in addition to lots and lots of money, Disney has injected into Lucasfilm a new energy.

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Let’s talk about Rebels. I know a lot of my fellow Star Wars nerds ignored it, because after all it aired on Disney XD and thus must have been a kid’s show, but please believe me when I tell you that it is the best thing to happen to Star Wars in 30 years. Yes, I get all of the praise heaped on Clone Wars. And I’m not even arguing that Clone Wars is in any way bad. It isn’t. (More on that in a moment.) But while the Clone Wars told a lot of really great stories, and had a lot of really great characters and really great animation, it didn’t feel like Star Wars. And that, I think, is the greatest strength of Rebels: it is the first property in the franchise since Jedi that actually feels like it’s truly part of the same franchise. It has the grittiness of the original films. It has the closeness–instead of telling grand, sweeping, galaxy-wide stories about the people running the galaxy, Rebels tells stories about a small band of friends fighting their own little war in their own little corner of the galaxy. It brought back Billy Dee Williams, James Earl Jones, and Anthony Daniels, and added Brent Spiner, Tiya Sircar, David Oyelowo, Freddie Prinze Jr., and even Paul Reubens to the franchise. It is the continuation of Star Wars that I’ve been waiting for since 1983.

But singing the praises of Rebels in no way detracts from Clone Wars. More than anything else, I think it truly helped keep the Star Wars flame burning over these last ten years. It gave us hope that it was in fact possible to still tell good stories in compelling ways in the Star Wars universe, something that both the prequels and the seemingly endless stream of barely readable novels both sought to disprove. It gave us great new characters like Ahsoka and Asajj, and pulled in some incredible talent like Katee Sackoff and Jon Favreau.

But, most importantly, it gave us geek parents something to watch with our kids, something to keep their interest alive in Star Wars without having to sit through another scene with Jar Jar or with Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman pretending to have even the slightest bit of chemistry. Clone Wars gave us the backstory that I think we all wished we had gotten from the prequels.

Star Wars Episode VII - The Force Awakens

Of course, by far the most exciting development of these ten years was the announcement not just of a new trilogy–the long, long awaited final three movies–but of Disney’s plans to start making new Star Wars movies an annual thing. To be honest, I’m almost as excited about Rogue One as I am about Episode VII.

So, as painful as it was to watch The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, or Revenge of the Sith, we do have to be thankful for them in that they did restart the Star Wars franchise. Without them, we probably wouldn’t be looking forward to season 2 of Rebels this fall, and we might never have gotten to see Harrison Ford once again don the black vest. All in all, the ten years since Sith have been good ones for Star Wars fans, and the next ten years promise to be even better.

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7 thoughts on “The Decade Since ‘Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of Sith’

  1. “did Lucas really not even see Jedi, where Leia states that she remembers her mom?””

    Technically she didn’t. Not really. What Leia said she remembered was “just images really, feelings.” Considering she was Force sensitive, isn’t it possible that Padme’s personality and emotions could have been imprinted on her at birth?

  2. Leia was adopted by Bail Organa, so doesn’t that mean Leias mother would be bails wife, and not her birth mother padme?

  3. Thanks for this article and I agree with the majority of it. I do however feel that for all of the good stories that Clones Wars told, it ruined the mystique of the Mandolorians that had been built up over the years when it didn’t need to. That really took a lot of the shine off the series for me. Rebels has been great so far and I hope it continues going strong.

  4. Man, you fanboys never DO grow up do you?! I LOVED the Prequels, especially Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. They answered a lot of questions from the first three installments. REMEMBER we did NOT have any books, comic books, or whatever to refer to obtain ANY back story whatsoever. The only back story we were aware of was what the employees of the movie revealed or what Lucas revealed. SO, being concerned with who Padme’s mother was, or the “mystique of the Mandolorians” was not even in our landscape. This is exactly WHY you fanboys looks so ridiculous and juvenile to those who saw the original films in the 70’s. You guys need to “LET GO OF YOUR HATE”…I mean, REALLY…it’s TIME. After all it has been well over a decade!

    1. I think the movie plots were pretty good, but there were some juvenile mistakes made by George Lucas. Incidentally, I lived a while in the house he built on Maui, in Ka’anapali. Anyway, I saw a fan ‘edit’ of all three movies (they are on Youtube) and it was more watchable. And this guy obviously could only edit and not add anything, but the second or two here and there he cut out made the movies more enjoyable and less of a tiresome ordeal. I think a lot of the problems were basically poor, unfocused editing. Obviously in The Phantom Menace the shots of the battle in space, the lightsaber duel in the palace on Thead, and the battle out in the plains between the Gungans and the droids was a total headache. When the Gungan captain tells Jar Jar “Jump Jar Jar, Jump,” I had a serious headache, it was just too frenetic.

  5. Well put, RK Nagarya. “Let go of your hate!”

    After ten years, history has judged that the prequels are widely despised, but also greatly accepted. Only Episode I has a “Rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and I believe that’s because it functions more as a prologue to the saga than an actual part of it.

    Phantom Menace does not a have a coherent storyline, but it DOES have two of my favourite moments in film: The podrace, and the Duel of the Fates battle at the end of the film. The other two films aren’t in the same league as the Original Trilogy, but to say they were “terrible” has no footing.

  6. There have been so many reasons given as to why the prequels just don’t do it for a lot of fans. I think the simplest charge you could level against them is that they just don’t work as films that appeal to the casual audience — something the originals did with such ease.

    It’s too bad that the prequels will likely be remembered as failures. Maybe the great thing about the backstory revealed throughout the originals (the Clone Wars, Anakin Skywalker, the Republic, etc.) is that the audience was left free to imagine what it could have been like.

    Personally, I’ve never had much of a problem sidestepping the prequels and letting them be for what they are. They don’t retroactively spoil or lessen the unaltered originals, which are still floating around out there for those who are willing to look.

    I do think it’s a shame that Ewan McGregor, who was such a brilliant choice to play a younger Obi-Wan, was wasted on a series filled with mostly passionless CGI sequences and beyond-bland dialogue. Ironically, I think it’s TPM that comes closest to recapturing the essence of the series. It also helps that it still used a surprising number of sets, physical locations, props, and so on. But there are things to enjoy in each of the prequels, however brief and fleeting the moments are; and, weirdly enough, those are the versions through which a lot of younger fans have come to know the series.

    Will the new sequels come anywhere near recapturing the sustained brilliance of the ’77-’83 editions? I doubt it. But I’m looking forward to seeing what Abrams-Kasdan et al. conjure, and that’s not something I was even sure would be the case in 2012.

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