I consider myself a Star Wars fan of the Episode III generation. Here’s what I mean by that. Every fan can point to a Star Wars movie that made them fall in love with the series. Usually, it’s whatever we grew up with, and that film defines what Star Wars means to us. Hence why fan wars constantly rage over which part of the saga is “real” (eyeroll).
Whiny fans aside, nostalgia goggles have their place. They make us feel a connection to a film, a certain specialness about it. They remind us of childhood memories, and preserve the unique experience of enjoying a story without any prior expectations to compare against.
Well, for me that film was Revenge of the Sith.
What value could a story about a Jedi turning evil, killing children, and burning alive have to a nine-year-old watching that story for the first time?
Surprisingly, a lot.
Before seeing this film, my strongest feeling about Star Wars was that Mace Windu had the best lightsaber. I didn’t know all that much about the series, and although my family had literally marathoned the entire saga before bringing me to the theater, I was a little girl who had trouble paying attention to things.
As as kid I was notoriously not the easiest to convince to watch a new movie (I’d rather just watch Kiki’s Delivery Service or The Parent Trap over and over and over…) but when my mother reminded me in the theater what this movie was going to be about (she literally had to explain to me that Anakin is going to turn into Darth Vader) I was pretty fascinated by the idea that this is such a pivotal movie that finally merges two interconnected stories into one, and in that movie I would see a good guy become a bad guy. That was a first for me.
While immediate first impressions are hazy in my memory, what I do remember is this film became the new The Parent Trap— once we had a copy at home I would watch it repeatedly. I memorized all the lines, all the scenes. I acted out lightsaber battles, I played many many hours of the 2005 Star Wars Battlefront II game, I started to immerse myself into all things Star Wars. My family and I even recorded our own retelling of the film using action figures and household objects including Barbie transport vehicles, tinted drinking glasses to give the impression of blue holograms, and our literal fireplace as Mustafar.
Suddenly, I loved Star Wars.
So what makes Revenge of the Sith so special to the “Episode III generation”?
As I mentioned earlier, it provides a satisfying link between old and new, Jedi and Sith, light and dark, Republic and Empire. A transition that, as a child, I had no expectations for, nothing to be disappointed by. I didn’t know Leia is supposed to remember her mother or any other discontinuities. I didn’t imagine Anakin or the Republic or the Clone Wars before seeing them on screen. I could simply enjoy the satisfaction, the beautiful storytelling, for what it was. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Revenge of the Sith makes us smile, laugh, and cry. It has exciting space action, beautiful cityscapes, an epic final battle on a volcano planet. It has intense, masterfully choreographed lightsaber battles. With the emotion, the visuals, and the story, little me was captivated. I couldn’t look away.
We were introduced to a movie that makes us ask “Who am I supposed to be rooting for?”, “Who’s right and who’s wrong?”, “Why do good people make bad choices?” These are incredibly important questions for developing empathy and an understanding of the world’s complexity. Something that, at least at that age, I had not been challenged to ask by a movie before. It’s certainly not the only film to address complex issues, but it was one of my first, so that means something to me.
When I’m watching Episode III, I follow Anakin’s progression with my own reaction. I turn on the film and think “This is where the fun begins!” and by the end I’m crying “Noooo!” It’s a treat every time I get to re-watch this film, and I would never be the Star Wars fan I am today without it.