I am three kinds of depressed right now.
The first kind is a result of the perfect tragedy of the story. Anakin turns against everything he believes in, everything the people who love him believe in, in order to save the woman he loves. But as he walks further and further down that path, he loses even that. Just enough. Just enough so that when Sidious causes Padme to die, Anakin finds it conceivable that his own Force-choke was the reason. That he had killed his wife; that his ties with his former life have been completely severed; that all he can do now is move on down the dark path, continue his quest for power–not for any noble purpose, but because it is all he has left.
I could have believed in that tragedy.
The movie didn’t let me.
It was so good. I was thoroughly enjoying myself. I was happy. New things were happening that I didn’t expect, but that made sense. I watched Palpatine’s web of deception and I understood, to the depth of my being, how it was affecting Anakin. I was convinced that it would all culminate in one great event that would send Anakin plummeting into the Dark Side; I had every indication that the story was that strong.
The event turned out to be Palpatine pretending to be frail so that Anakin would save him from Windu–Anakin slicing off Windu’s hand–Palpatine “recovering”, screaming “unlimited power!” and blasting Windu to his death with Force lightning.
This happened, and Anakin said thickly, “What have I done?”
And you see how this could not possibly have been the scene that turned him. For he still had remorse.
But he staggered forward as Palpatine approached him. He dropped to his knees. He said, “I will do whatever you wish.” He said, “I pledge myself to you.” And when Palpatine immediately slay all the Jedi, he said, “Yes, my master.”
In his very next scene, Anakin ignites his lightsaber to kill a child.
I do not believe in Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side!
I do not believe that the man who, for the duration of the film’s exposition, was in anguish over his feelings of ambition and jealousy, who strove to do the right thing, who refused to leave Obi-Wan to die, could so quickly turn to slaying children.
The Windu scene could have been a factor. One that caused him to rethink everything. But it couldn’t be the factor.
Not unless Palpatine was doing something to Anakin’s mind. And while this is a possibility (especially given Palpatine’s apparent ability to kill people from afar), there is no indication that he is doing anything. The film does not provide evidence of this theory. I have only come up with it out of desperation.
That scene is the primary reason for my second depression, my depression at the fact that the movie could have been brilliant. There is another.
Anakin and Obi-Wan’s duel.
“Don’t try it,” Obi-Wan warns, but Anakin leaps anyway–and then Obi-Wan relieves Anakin of all his remaining limbs. Anakin’s body falls to the edge of the rocky hill and catches fire due to the molten lava not a foot away from him. He burns, and writhes, and screams.
And Obi-Wan watches, and then turns and walks away.
“You were my brother,” he said. “I loved you.”
But he was going to let this “brother” die in torment, rather than putting him immediately out of his misery. He didn’t expect Anakin to survive. But he didn’t ensure Anakin’s death.
I can understand the reasoning that Obi-Wan couldn’t stand to kill Anakin. He said as much when Yoda sent him on that very mission. But I find it hard to believe that Obi-Wan could stand to watch Anakin suffer through that much pain. I find it hard to believe that Obi-Wan wouldn’t show his padawan, his brother, mercy.
There is an answer for both of these scenes, and it is the worst answer possible.
“Well, it had to happen that way, to prepare for the other movies.”
These scenes were very good, but in the end they were both forced to fit a mold that was no longer suitable. Realism–I mean story realism, realism of character–was abandoned in favor of getting everything to work out correctly.
I think Lucas was on the road to telling a different story than he originally intended, and I think the new story changed how other things worked out. Padme wasn’t supposed to die in childbirth, after all. Leia remembered her mother. “Very beautiful…kind, but sad.” Lucas had to change this to make Anakin’s fall work out properly. I’m not happy with that edit, but I can understand the need for it. Anakin needed to lose Padme so that Palpatine could manipulate him fully. Leaving her alive would have fit the later movies, but it would have felt unbelievable. “Surely Anakin could sense Padme,” people would say. “Surely he’d look for her, surely he wouldn’t just believe Palpatine’s word.”
Lucas saw that this would be unrealistic, and he modified it. But he didn’t apply the same wisdom to the two most important scenes of the movie.
I do not believe in Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side, and I do not believe in Obi-Wan’s decision to leave Anakin writhing in pain.
Those two scenes were the pillars for the entire film. And they completely collapsed, taking the rest of the movie–which was perfectly planned, well-executed, beautifully rendered, and even decently acted–down with them.
I think the overall story was sound. I think the acting was good. I think the special effects were wonderful, and they didn’t seem to overshadow the plot this time. This could have been a brilliant movie.
But in crunch time, at the moment when everything had to make sense, when I was supposed to be twisted up inside with the terrible necessity of it all, when I should have been thinking, “They don’t know what they’re doing, but it couldn’t have happened any other way”…it all fell flat. None of the artistry that went into making the rest of this film beautiful could save the two glaring plot inconsistencies that sucked all joy out of my final Star Wars experience.
And that, my friends, is my third depression. This is it; this is the end. This movie, that could have been great, that should have been great, has put the final nail in the coffin of the girl who once introduced herself to her dormmates with “The most important thing about me is that I love Star Wars.”
It’s all over. And I don’t even get to say “What a way to go.”