Wednesday, June 29, 2011

BSFME Extra: Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Madeline Barnicle doesn't watch enough scifi movies for her to feel like she should really nominate a contestant for our poll, but she did want to weigh in with her thoughts about why Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is the best of the Star Wars movies.

Star Wars III: Revenge of the SithMy shortlist of contenders for favorite science fiction movies is rather short for various reasons, such as my general preference for books over movies. With this caveat, announcing that Revenge of the Sith my favorite movie of the Star Wars series, never mind science fiction overall might raise some eyebrows. I'm not quite sure how much of this unusual preference is due to the circumstances under which I saw Episode III, and how much is due to Episode IV being a victim of its own success.

Revenge of the Sith was the only Star Wars film I saw in a movie theater. I was blown away by Obi-Wan's dramatic escape from Order 66 on the back of a huge dinosaur...thing, and appreciated the final musical segue. Although I had already seen some of the other films on the small screen, perhaps the scope of the big screen gave "Revenge" first place on any subsequent list I could make of the different episodes.

This would make sense--after all, I feel like my first exposure to a series is often my favorite. Whether it be the first in a series of books that can be read out of order, or preferring a book to its movie adaptation, these first encounters give me an idea of what to expect from a series. Variations in subsequent encounters often feel like failure to measure up, or (in the case of adaptations) frustrate me by omitting parts that I think are important.

I think there's more than this at play, however. While I wasn't old enough to see Episode IV when it came out in theaters, I had a great range of (mostly books) to choose from growing up. Many of them were space adventures, and I'm pretty sure that many (not just science fiction) probably featured the young kid from nowhere being called upon to save the galaxy (or equivalent). The details blur together after a while.

Like many people, I eventually developed a taste for plots that are a bit more complex than "kid called upon to save galaxy (or equivalent) by wizened mentor who dies halfway through." On the other hand, this doesn't mean I've completely thrown off the ideals of right and wrong. This often puts me in a bind when I'm looking for new material. It also means that I wasn't as blown away by Episode IV as others might be: while on one level I can intellectually note that it was very influential for future science fiction, I'd already read so many of the books that might have followed in its mold that--like adaptations or later books in a series--it didn't make much of an impact since I'd come to it later (even though it was actually published earlier). Episode V, on the other hand, gives us more complex loyalties on the parts of Lando and Han. As a consequence, I think, it was more interesting of a movie for me.

Episodes III and VI, then, complement each other in portraying Anakin's turn to, and then rejection of, the Dark Side. For some people, they can't measure up to Episode IV, and for others, they're overly simplistic. But given some of my idiosyncratic preferences, maybe it's not a surprise that this sequel and prequel are some of my favorites.

And of course, III is unequivocally better than VI. Ewoks? Come on.