24 March 2009

Scenes I Like A Lot - Star Wars - Episode III

The Movie:
Star Wars - Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

What's Up:
Chancellor Palpatine is actually Sith Lord Darth Sidious. Anakin Skywalker, legendary Jedi Knight throughout the galaxy, has just sworn his allegiance to the Sith, and massacred everyone in the Jedi Temple. Obi-Wan and Yoda find out the parties responsible, with Yoda going to fight Sidious, leaving Obi-Wan to strike down his metaphorical brother. He hides aboard Padme's starship as she lands on the volcanic planet Mustafar, where Anakin has just slaughtered the unsuspecting Separtist leaders, including Nute Gunray. Padme pleads for him to leave all this behind and just be with her, but the unexpected presence of Obi-Wan sends Anakin in a rage, and Force-chokes her to unconsciousness. Obi-Wan and Anakin circle each other in a verbal jest, Obi-Wan trying one last time to connect to the young boy he once knew, but as the conversation draws to a close, Obi-Wan comes to realize that man is gone, replaced by a lethal weapon of evil and darkness. They draw their sabers, ready to duel to the death. Brother against brother.

Why I Dig It:
Say what you want about George Lucas' "talent" as a writer, but the sheer awesomeness of this sequence is irrefutable. This lightsaber duel is more than just, well, yet another lightsaber duel like Darth Maul fighting Kenobi and Qui-Gon in Episode I (1999), where it was simply bad guy vs. good guys. This duel is more personal. You have these two friends, who know each other so intimately they can anticipate their next action, who are then forced to do combat, not by choice but because they must (well, Obi-Wan at least). It's amazing and heartbreaking all at the same time. Whereas Yoda and Sidious are having a battle in the Senate arena that decides the future of the Republic - light vs. dark, you could say - this fight is all about these two people and all the damage they've done to eachother. With every clash of their saber, every hurtful comment Anakin spats and Obi-Wan responds with a regretful, wavering tone - the emotion behind the swords is felt, and only amplified by John Williams' resolute masterpiece, "Battle of the Heroes." (which kicks in once Anakin and Kenobi are on that giant tower floating through the sea of lava) So why do I dig it? Because it's the best damn sequence - let alone sword fight - that sells emotion without saying a single damn word! [minus their off-and-on spats, mind you]

This sequence also represents something personal for me. On that night on May 19th, 2005, every single person in the auditorium knew what this moment was, and how special it was. Here wasn't just another lightsaber duel, this was THE lightsaber duel. This was the sword fight of the century, and for some, the culmination of twenty-so years of anticipation and wonder. As Obi-Wan ignites his lightsaber, reluctantly but ready to do battle with a brother, you could almost hear the tense atmosphere in the room and the accelerated beating of our hearts. And once Anakin ignites his and does a rather well calculated back-flip, it was almost like our hearts took a few second pause as we understood that this was the moment.

And while I'm at it, who's brilliant idea was it to keep that blasted "I have the high ground!" moment? Really, would it be too much to ask Lucas' to come up with some other, more creative direction to bring about Anakin's loss of limbs? I mean, c'mon! Anakin should have been smart enough to just go a few more feet to, say, the right and be out of Obi's blade reach! Ugh, that's perhaps one of the more cinematic goofs that annoy me.

Too geeky? I can deal, because it's worth describing because there's never going to be an event as grand, as epic, and as shared as this sequence.

Anakin Vs. Obi-Wan, the most important duel ever put to screen. The fight of champions, the fight of brothers, the fight of light and darkness clashing, of ideologies and emotions, of betrayal and love. Epic in every sense of the word.

Now, if only Lucas could release a un-edited cut of the ENTIRE duel, that would be a wet dream come true.


thebonebreaker said...

Well said Andrew! :-)

Fletch said...

I'll admit that the somewhat corny "you were my brother!" speech gets me every time, I can't say that I'm nearly as enamored with this scene as you. It's a good duel, for sure, lasting for a really, really long time, but that high ground crap at the end is indeed the lamest of the lame.

My big takeaway from ROTS was pure evil. All I could think of was all the little kids who grew up with this crappy trilogy that had nonetheless surely seen Anakin as a hero of sorts. I took glee in watching him slaughter the "younglings" and later get grotesquely butchered, wondering if those little kiddies would later be crying and asking their parents what they had just seen. I'm terrible, aren't I?