Almost done with the prequels. Thankfully this is the best of three, though given the generally low standards of the first two that isn’t saying much.
What Went Wrong
I’d be remiss if I didn’t once more point to the most comprehensive take down of these movies.
Most of the problems with Revenge of the Sith are carryovers from mistakes made in the first two movies, emotional beats that fail to land with as much impact as they should because the foundation work for them hasn’t been done.
For example, Padmé and Anakin’s romance should feel tragic, with Anakin’s concern for her driving them apart even as they try to keep their growing family a secret. But their interaction in Attack of the Clones was so still and formal, it’s hard to believe either of them would miss the other, except that the plot calls for them to. Instead, their “love story” feels like a piece of background that Lucas wanted slotted into place, as cold and unfeeling as a CGI’d starship.
Even Count Dooku’s death, which should be a pivotal moment, is treated so perfunctory that it feels trivial, just one more Sith slain by a righteous Jedi. No big deal.
How to Fix It
This means there’s no Count Dooku in this one. He died in Attack of the Clones, a tragic end for a renegade that thought he was doing the right thing.
We also have to continue rewriting the scenes between Padmé and Anakin. Two people in love, hiding their child from their superiors, should display a lot more fear and desperation than they do. We need to see their relationship deepen and grow, despite their need to keep it in the shadows.
It would help if we got some hint that Padmé made an effort to hide her relationship with Anakin. We should see her dating other men, or dropping hints that she was being courted by someone else, to deflect attention from the young Jedi that apparently spends every night in her quarters.
Ditto for Anakin. We need to see him lying to the other Jedi, making excuses and begging away from assignments that would make him leave the capital. We need to feel the danger that Anakin and Padmé are in, and how far they’ve already gone to maintain their relationship. So when we see Anakin slipping to the Dark Side in order to save her, its one more small step along the path that he’s been on for years.
We also need to see more tension between Anakin and Palpatine, preferably over Padmé. As a Senator that’s presumably alarmed at the direction the Republic is going, we should witness her at her work: campaigning for re-election (with Palpatine possibly campaigning for her rival), lobbying for support for bills from her other Senators (bills that would likely reduce Palpatine’s authority), giving interviews with the media to support her position.
All of this should make Palpatine grit his teeth, and Anakin should be constantly defending Padmé to the Chancellor. It’d be one more sign to the audience of his feelings for Padmé, and it would tip off Palpatine to the significance of Anakin’s devotion.
And once Palpatine realizes that, he decides to kill Padmé.
That’s the final change we make. The visions Anakin sees of Padmé dying are not of her “losing the will to live” — which is frankly insulting for such a headstrong character — but of Palpatine draining her life force.
We know Palpatine has manipulated the Jedi’s visions of the future before. He decides to kill Padmé, knowing the visions of her in danger will drive Anakin further down the path to the Dark Side.
His plan is originally to blame her death on the Jedi, pushing Anakin to break with them for good. But when he finds Anakin near death after his fight with Obi-Wan, he drains her life force and uses it to keep Anakin alive, in a single stroke sustaining his most powerful apprentice and sealing Anakin’s allegiance to him.