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Darth Vader. Just the name of the most iconic villain in a generation recalls his ominous, metered breathing and his unmistakable voice. But how did Darth Vader become … Darth Vader? “Answer the question that Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith poses,” Yoda might ask.
Twenty-eight years ago, George Lucas started bringing us to a galaxy very far away. Now, the journey is complete. The final chapter of Anakin Skywalker‘s tragic transformation into Darth Vader begins as he and Obi-Wan Kenobi rescue the kidnapped leader of the Galactic Republic. But retrieving Chancellor Palpatine (who will eventually rise to become the emperor) from the hands of the Separatist leaders General Grievous and Count Dooku will finally prove the bane of the Republic and the downfall of young Skywalker.
As the Republic starts its final lash against the Separatists, tension grows between an imperious Chancellor Palpatine and a Jedi council that has every right to distrust him. Anakin’s loyalties are put on the edge when Palpatine assigns him to be his representative on the Jedi council—and the sketchy council returns by asking Anakin to spy on the chancellor. The Jedi leaders desperately need Skywalker’s eyes and ears, yet they deny him the coveted title of Jedi Master, fanning a smoldering spark of resentment in Anakin’s heart that Palpatine manipulates and exploits.
Simultaneously, dark visions of his wife’s forthcoming death during childbirth haunt Anakin in her sleep. He vows that nothing will take his pregnant wife, Padmé, from him … a promise he can only fulfill with Palpatine’s help. As the chancellor’s twisted scheme to destroy the Jedi order and take over the universe comes together little by little, Anakin steps beyond the point of no return into a series of hard choices that will decide his destiny. That destiny takes form in a final climactic clash against Obi-Wan upon the volcanic flows of the molten planet Mustafar …
POSITIVE ELEMENTS OF STAR WARS EPISODE III
Star Wars Episode III once again showcases the great struggle between good and bad that frames the whole Star Wars story. Jedi Knights Obi-Wan, Mace Windu, Yoda and Anakin (before he fell into the dark side) continuously put themselves in harm’s way for one another and for the benefit of peace and democracy in the Galactic Republic.
Padmé’s love for and loyalty to Anakin remains strong. But when Anakin finally reveals that he’s gone over to the dark side to save her, she refuses to accept his rationalization for doing so. Before capitulating to Palpatine entirely, Anakin reveals to Mace Windu the chancellor’s real identity and devious scheme, and offers to help the Jedi as they face him. In a quick appearance, Chewbacca and other Wookiees help rescue Yoda from the nasty Jedi holocaust.
Shortly after Padmé (whose marriage to Anakin is still untold) announces to her husband that she’s pregnant, he exclaims, “Our baby is a blessing.” Senator Bail Organa and his wife graciously nod to the menacing, secret adoption of Leia, the daughter of Anakin and Padmé; Owen and Beru Lars agree to look after Leia’s twin brother, Luke.
SPIRITUAL CONTENT OF STAR WARS EPISODE III
Star Wars Episode III also continues to expand audiences’ understanding of The Force, the spiritual energy field made up of all living things that can be harnessed for light or dark. When Anakin tells Yoda about his horrible visions of Padmé’s death, the Jedi Master says, “The fear of loss is a path to the dark side.” About mortality, he teaches, “Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those surrounding you who join The Force. Mourn them, do not. Miss them, do not. Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed, that is. Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” Yoda’s answer to Anakin’s fears about losing Padmé closely reminds some of the basic teachings of Buddhism. According to buddhism.about.com, “Our clinging to things that are by their nature impermanent is what leads us again and again into suffering.” Detachment from desire, then, is one key to Buddhism’s answer for right living—much similar to what Yoda says.
Chancellor Palpatine has his own dark lessons about The Force to teach Anakin. Sounding much like a typical serpent in the Garden of Eden, Palpatine starts to lure the young Jedi into joining the dark side by twisting his beliefs about right and wrong: “Good is a point of view, Anakin. And the Jedi point of view is not the only valid one.” Then, the old snake insists that the way of deepest knowledge of The Force necessarily involves exploring the dark side. “If one is to understand the great mystery, one must study all its aspects, not just the dogmatic, narrow view of the Jedi. If you want to become a complete and smart Jedi leader, you must embrace a greater view of The Force.”
Yoda tells Obi-Wan that the deceased Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn has “returned from the netherworld of The Force to train me” and promises that Obi-Wan can learn to commune with him, too. Yoda promises, “Your consciousness you will retain, when one with The Force.” In this vision of a person’s life after death, the spiritual worldview of Star Wars partially resembles Christianity’s teaching on that subject (sans any mention of heaven, hell or personal judgment). But the Old and New Testaments testify that a gulf does—and should—exist between this world and those who’ve gone onto the next (Deut. 18:10-11; Luke 16:25-26).
One last spiritual point: Amid their lightsaber fight, Anakin says to Obi-Wan, “If you’re not with me, you’re my enemy.” The older Jedi responses, “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.” This exchange is genuinely a weird one, provided the fact that Obi-Wan and the light-side Jedi appear intent on defending a set of utter ideals that Palpatine and his evil gang cavalierly question. Nevertheless, by saying the words, Obi-Wan not only dismisses the essence of utter truth, but he unintentionally brands those who cling to it the equivalents of the Sith.
SEXUAL CONTENT OF STAR WARS EPISODE III
Padmé wears a strapless nightgown in two scenes. A well-endowed alien female (she has long appendages growing out of her head, but otherwise looks human) attends a Coruscant social event wearing a revealing, flimsy white dress. A young Jedi woman’s outfit reveals much cleavage, also.
Indeed, the violence in Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith is not kids’ stuff. And it may even have adult viewers—me among them—wondering whether it really had to be so vicious. Lucas’ response? “This has always been a dark story. It’s about a man’s descent into hell. That’s pretty serious stuff. … I could pull it back a little bit, but I don’t really want to.”