We went to see Revenge of the Sith again last night. Fourth weekend out, and the theater was still packed. (We were able to get tickets 15 minutes before showtime—or, rather, preview time—but it was pure luck that we managed to find a pair of seats that weren’t in the front three rows.)

And now, Decisions that could have changed everything.

  1. Obi-Wan: Certainly, I’ll take down General Grievous. But since he wiped the floor with me last time, I’d like some backup. Anakin, would you care to join me?
  2. Mace Windu: Palpatine is the Sith Lord? Great work, Anakin! I’m going to recommend you for full Jedi Masterhood next week for this! Hey, you’ve been working hard, why don’t you go celebrate and unwind. Here, I’ve got a pair of tickets to the Outer Rim… (I can’t take credit for this one.)
  3. Anakin: (after delivering the report on Grievous’ location to the Jedi Council) *keeps his mouth shut*
  4. Anakin: In my vision, Obi-Wan was trying to help you. You’re right, we should ask him for help.
  5. Obi-Wan: You know, Anakin has been spending a whole lot of time with Senator Amidala. And everyone’s wondering who the father of her child is. I wonder if she’s told him, I mean we were on Coruscant around the time that… oh, blast!
  6. Ki-Adi-Mundi: Relax, Skywalker, I was on the Council before they made me a master, too. Oh, wait, they wrote that out? Never mind.

Finally, some thoughts on viewing order. For a new viewer, I think watching the original trilogy first, then the prequel trilogy, probably works best dramatically. There’s so much in the prequels that has impact simply because you recognize elements from the original.
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I don’t know if it was the show time we picked or just a matter of who sits where in the theater (we were about halfway back), but the largest demographic group in the audience when we watched Revenge of the Sith was not teenage boys, thirty-something men, families with kids, or twenty-something couples, though there were plenty of all of those. It was teenage girls. And they weren’t tagging along with dates or with families. They were out with their friends on a Friday night, willing to pre-order tickets and wait in line for an hour, looking for people they knew and chatting on their cell phones during the interminable bad-music-and-advertisement pre-show.

This was hardly a geek-only audience. If anything shows that a sci-fi movie has hit the mainstream, it’s the presence of thirteen-year-old girls with Hello Kitty blankets in the audience.

We went out to see Star Wars: Episode III last night. And for once, we weren’t disappointed. This is the kind of movie the last two should have been. There was a feeling of urgency throughout this movie that wasn’t present until the first battle of the clone army in Attack of the Clones. A lot of it does depend on having seen the original trilogy, particularly where Anakin/Luke parallels appear… but I have to say, the final shot was absolutely perfect.

We re-watched the previous two movies and the Clone Wars cartoon over the last few weeks, and having seen the entire trilogy, I look at it this way: Lucas gave us 4 hours and 20 minutes of prologue to Revenge of the Sith. That’s all Episodes I and II are: Palpatine setting up his dominoes and getting everything ready to trigger his ascension to Emperor and elimination of the Jedi.

We had already planned to pick up the original trilogy this week or next, and finish the entire series by the end of the month. On the way home I remarked, “You know, I’m not completely insane, so I won’t suggest watching Episode IV now.” Katie replied, “Actually, I was thinking about it.” We ended up watching Star Wars: A New Hope (second-worst title in the series, but it gets a pass since it was tacked on in re-release) starting at 11:00.

It’s strange. The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones didn’t really change my perspective on Darth Vader much, aside from wanting to add “Now this is pod racing!” to the Death Star trench. Having actually seen the transformation, I really do see Vader differently. Probably closer to the way Luke sees him in Return of the Jedi. Especially in the first movie, where Tarkin is pulling all the strings and Vader is more of an enforcer than a leader, he really seems like someone who is doing what he has to do, like Londo in Babylon 5. Katie said that he’s gotten used to power, and is unwilling to give it up.

One of the great things about the prequel trilogies is seeing the Jedi in their prime, at least as far as their martial arts are concerned. The climactic duel between Obi-Wan and Vader above the volcanoes of Mustafar is no exception. Unfortunately, going from this movie to the original makes the rematch on the Death Star look pathetic by comparison.

Oh, yes: Ewan McGregor is seriously channeling Alec Guinness in this movie.

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I woke up this morning to the music from Episode III playing on the clock radio. What’s odd is that I recognized it immediately despite the facts that I had not listened to the soundtrack, and the section I heard was all new music. None of the recurring themes from the other films was present, and yet it was unmistakably not only John Williams, but Star Wars. I let it run just to be sure, waiting for a familiar theme or the announcer’s voice (can you call someone on a classical station a DJ?), and sure enough they identified it as “the title theme from Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.”

Regarding the furor over Revenge of the Sith/Post-9/11 parallels: Get over yourselves.

You know, I could see parallels in Star Wars: Episode II and post-9/11 America. Palpatine’s emergency powers = PATRIOT Act. Militarization in response to the separatist movement = attacking Afghanistan and rattling sabers at Iraq. And there are conspiracy theorists who think that Bush arranged for 9/11 to generate an excuse for a power grab—just as Palpatine/Sidious manufactured his crisis by having Dooku/Tyranus arrange for the clone army under the name of a dead Jedi, then wait for the appropriate time to start fomenting a rebellion. But you know what, Episode II was filmed before 9/11, so Lucas couldn’t possibly have intended all that as commentary on the War on Terror any more than JMS could have been commenting on the same subject with the Nightwatch arc on Babylon 5.

So now, with Episode III, sure, he could mean it as commentary. And he admits seeing parallels. Note: seeing, not writing. But he states that the story grew out of looking at historical democracies’ descent into dictatorship (Los Angeles Times this morning):

Lucas began researching how democracies can turn into dictatorships with full consent of the electorate.

In ancient Rome, “why did the senate, after killing Caesar, turn around and give the government to his nephew?” Lucas said. “Why did France, after they got rid of the king and that whole system, turn around and give it to Napoleon? It’s the same thing with Germany and Hitler.

“You sort of see these recurring themes where a democracy turns itself into a dictatorship, and it always seems to happen kind of in the same way, with the same kinds of issues, and threats from the outside, needing more control. A democratic body, a senate, not being able to function properly because everybody’s squabbling, there’s corruption.”

That’s the model he’s been basing the transformation on. The prologue in the original 1976 novelization of Star Wars refers to the Republic “rotting from within” and describes Palpatine’s rise to power:

Aided and abetted by restless, power-hungry individuals within the government, and the massive organs of commerce, the ambitious Senator Palpatine caused himself to be elected President of the Republic. He promised to reunite the disaffected among the people and to restore the remembered glory of the Republic.

Lucas originally described Palpatine as becoming a figurehead Emperor, with the Imperial governors behind the Empire’s “reign of terror” (note the French Revolution reference there), but had clearly changed his mind by the time he wrote Return of the Jedi. But the description of how Palpatine gets into power tracks exactly with what we’ve seen him do in the actual films. In fact, throughout the prequel trilogy he uses the same strategy in each film. He creates a crisis as Darth Sidious (the invasion of Naboo, or the Separatist movement), then offers to solve it as Palpatine—as long as people will give him the power to do so.

In other words, Palpatine’s tactics were set in stone back when Bill Clinton was President.

As far as dialogue… Please, if you think a variation on “If you’re not with us, you’re against us” is a deliberate attack on a statement Bush made, you really need to get out more. How many centuries has that phrase been around?

I’m reminded of Yoda’s words to Luke on Dagobah, when he asked what was in the cave. “Only what you take with you.”