September, 1998: the lobby of a hotel somewhere in South Dakota or Wyoming. I’m 13 and with my family on the return trip to Ohio from our last trip to Yellowstone National Park, my favorite place on the planet at that date. I’m carrying a plate of food back to the table when Mom hands me an article from USA Today that announces a release date for the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Sure, Lucas began writing those in 1995 and I suppose the fan community was well-informed during the three years of filming that they were coming out, but my older brother had only told me back in February that “earlier ones like when they were kids” were in talks.
It was nine months after getting this article that I finally sat down in the theater to breathlessly see the first of the new prequel trilogy, a major step up from the last wait. I didn’t even have to wait 24 hours to see ROTJ after ESB, and ESB had followed ANH after only a couple of weeks. Nine months was a torture, especially since it came out on May 19 and my dad wouldn’t let me go to the theater until June 19. But if you count that September day as when my wait began, I waited more than six and a half years to see Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (the last Star Wars movie ever). Maybe I just like to wait for things, because E3 is my favorite movie of the prequel trilogy.
May 19, 2005 was actually a really lackluster day in an awful year, but I did dress up like Luke Skywalker to see the movie about his father’s fall to the Dark Side. This movie has my favorite soundtrack, favorite climax, favorite animal . . . I love Episode III, you guys.
Let’s talk about sounds. I love the sounds in Episode III. One of the reasons I had any disappointment with Ben Burtt’s fabulous sound effect book was that he didn’t talk about the E3 effects very much, and they’re some of my favorites. After the opening shot — one of the greatest opening shots in history and one I’m beginning to despair of ever getting to see in 3D — we’re introduced to the electrostaff, the preferred weapon of Grevious’ Magna guards. The sound that these things make is incredible, this whirring crackling — plus they’re purple, which is epic in my book.
We’ll skip George Lucas’ premature senility demonstrated by his absolutely lifeless writing and focus on the positive: Obi-Wan and Anakin’s relationship and haircuts. First of all, Hayden Christensen looks good. I love Anakin in this movie. For the first time, I love Anakin! I understand his motivations and frustrations, I feel sorry for him. And I think he looks pretty good. Obi-Wan, as ever, doesn’t have to look good because he is good. Good-looking, I mean. Ah. But anyway, their dialogue is worse than a toolbox falling down the stairs — nothing but telling me what good friends they are without ever showing it to be true — but I get it.
I’m not saying Episode III is lacking in flaws. This is why it’s not my favorite of all time, that’s ROTJ, you know that, but this movie still thrills me on so many levels. I like tragedies, you see. The prequel trilogy is a tragedy in the Greek tradition, the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker, ending with his fiery death on Mustafar, and the original trilogy is a comedy, ending with the triumphant celebration of “peace and justice” (open for debate). And I love to watch a good tragedy.
Back to the space battle. Seriously, this is one of the greatest things ever. Watching Anakin and Obi-Wan fight together is great, the only glimpse we get of them as a team, where we can finally understand when Ben tells Luke what a cunning warrior and great pilot his friend was. I love these Jedi star fighters, for real. Which is why I’ve decided to make the cake for the E3 celebration the wing of a Jedi fighter with R4’s head.
Yes, you can imagine I’m working on quite a shindig for Episode III because it is my favorite and its tenth birthday is tomorrow. Yes, I’m a little worried because my joblessness and homelessness has persisted longer than I thought, but I have some confidence, anyway.
In conclusion, the reason Episode III is the greatest thing ever is that final battle scene. I dreamed about that scene ever since I learned that Obi-Wan and Anakin had their final confrontation over a lava pit. And around 2 AM on May 19, 2005, I saw my imagination come to life, to the exact detail, right there on that screen. And it was good. You can read my full thoughts on that battle scene (here).