In this edition of Retrospective Perspective, I hope to once again take you back to the days of old, circling a young Star Wars
fan eagerly awaiting the saga’s next installment, not knowing that it would be the last for a while. This entry in particular is a wee bit longer than the last, but I hope that my experiences can remind you, dear reader, of your own nostalgic Star Wars
memories. Without further ado, allow me to punch in the coordinates for a hyperspace jump back to 2005….
I have a bit of personal history with Revenge Of The Sith
. This is the first Star Wars
movie that I vividly remember being excited for, counting down the days until May 19th, 2005 and then counting down the days until the DVD’s release on November 1st, 2005. As I mentioned in the last Retrospective’s Perspective, I grew up with the original trilogy, as well as The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones when they were released. Following Attack of the Clones came the Genndy Tartakovsky-based Star Wars
: Clone Wars micro-series in 2003. I was a regular cartoon viewer with the likes of Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and Kids’ WB, so having an animated Star Wars
television show continuing the story and making the wait less painful was too awesome. As I also mentioned in that article, my first time being aware that Episode III was on its way was courtesy of a featurette on the Original Trilogy’s Bonus Material DVD. From that moment on, I was hungry for more, and I had so many questions. Why were Anakin and Obi-Wan fighting? How is Anakin going to get in the Darth Vader suit? Why are they not showing enough of the lightsaber fight? Are those new lightsabers Anakin and Obi-Wan are sporting, and why do they look like Luke and old Obi-Wan’s sabers? Who the heck is Rick McCallum?! When am I going to get to see Episode III?! WHAT ARE THEY GOING TO CALL IT?!
Kindergarten year. Early 2005, around February, I believe. I’m six years old at the time. My dad takes me to the movies to see Racing Stripes; that couldn’t hope to capture my attention. I don’t remember much about that movie, all I remember is walking out and stopping in my tracks at the sight of the first teaser poster for Episode III. Because I had the stature of Yoda, my dad had walked off and didn’t notice me staying behind, in awe at the sight of it. Don’t worry, he soon realized before he exited the door and came back to get me. He asked why I was just standing there looking at a poster; I looked at him, pointed to it and his response was “Oh.” Anakin with a red lightsaber, looking majorly irked. His face cut off by the poster, as a huge cloak took the majority of it. The cloak’s ripples formed the sinister mask of Darth Vader. I was scared at first, but it turned to excitement when I read the bottom.
At the time, I must have thought “I know now that it’s definitely happening soon, I just need to know when!”, as there was no date on the poster. I do remember going on my dad’s computer later on and finding my way to starwars.com, and that was when the game changed. I’m greeted with a brand new poster, and the information I desperately needed: a release date of May 19th, 2005.
When I saw this, the hype was instantly dialed to 11. How many days would that be?! Imagine a womprat from Rogue Squadron II’s Tatooine training level on death sticks. That was me.
There was a link to a trailer. I remember watching it for the first time in glorious 240p quality. 20th Century Fox. Lucasfilm Limited. “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….” The calming Force theme begins to play. Luke walked toward the Binary Sunset as old Ben Kenobi’s narration began: “For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the old Republic. Before the dark times. Before the Empire.” Intercut with clips from Attack of the Clones; the music started to turn more and more sinister, and Kenobi’s narration ended with “Vader was seduced by the dark side of the Force.” Then, a hooded figure slowly turned his head and looked straight at me with fiery, hate-filled, dark-side eyes. “Wait, is that Anakin?” The familiar breathing kicked in as the image cut to a volcano exploding. Now 6-year-old William was actually getting really scared. Strange creatures walking alongside a lava river; it actually looked like H-E-double-hockey-sticks. Then, it faded to black as the Emperor’s voice sounded off; what was said next is an interaction I’ll never forget as its thundering bass rang through my dad’s Dell speakers. “Lord Vader?”
The music suddenly got really intense as Vader rose, strapped to what looked like a strange table. New clips began to play as he rose: a hooded Obi-Wan looking up, Palpatine looking deceptively friendly, R2 and 3PO aboard a familiar-looking ship, Padmé looking worried, Mace Windu raising his lightsaber, the mighty Chewbacca and another Wookiee (Wait, there’s more of them?!) and Yoda about to pull out his lightsaber. The music stopped, and so did Vader. I could go on and on about how awesome the trailer was, but I need to continue this story. As I’m writing this story, I stopped here to rewatch the teaser. Can you really blame me?
The next few months were a blur, but I’ll try to recount as best as I can. Going to Toys ‘R’ Us and being greeted with an ENTIRE Star Wars
SECTION at the front of the store, I almost fainted from excitement. I do remember the first Episode III toys I bought: III-01 Obi-Wan and III-02 Anakin (with Lightsaber Attack!), Anakin’s yellow Eta-2 Jedi Starfighter, and one of the toy lightsabers that extended by holding the button down and flicking it (it was based on Anakin’s saber).
In addition to the quintillion other figures I already had from the OTC collection, the Saga 2002-2003 line, and even the Episode I line, it was a breath of fresh air to have new Star Wars
figures from a new Star Wars
movie. During the time leading up to May 19th, I added the Unleashed Anakin statue with the Mustafar base, Anakin’s electronic color-changing lightsaber (from blue to red), the official movie soundtrack which was not only my first soundtrack, but always occupied my mom’s Toyota Camry radio every day after school, the official movie storybook which I read over and over again (not knowing I was spoiling myself, but I didn’t care.) There was also the Revenge Of The Sith
video game for Game Boy Advance, which my dad bought for me. Sadly, I didn’t have an Xbox or PlayStation 2 (GameCube squadron!), so I never got to play the console version until much later on in my life. With all of these preparations, you’d think I would be more than ready for Episode III, right? Well, life is hilarious sometimes.
Thursday, May 19th, 2005. I’m stuck in school and I remember being sad, knowing that Episode III was in theaters and I couldn’t see it on a school day. I remember bringing my lightsaber attack Anakin figure to school that day, and a friend who sat in front of me in class revealed that he brought his Obi-Wan figure, the same one as mine. Recess was amazing that day.
Saturday, May 21st, 2005. The big day that you may or may not have been waiting for me to talk about. I’ll try to recount the events that went down on this day as best as I can. I remember waking up first thing in the morning and watching cartoons/eating cereal, a common pastime. Commercial break. Some new Sketchers or something. A TV spot for Episode III. I get excited again. I rush upstairs to my dad’s computer room and I beg him if we can go see it. He says no. I’m sad but I accept it. One thing you should know is that my dad is a very sarcastic person, it was just a concept I didn’t understand at the time. I’m sitting playing my GameCube in my room later on when he comes in and tells me to get dressed, cause we’re going to go see Star Wars
: Revenge Of The Sith
! No time for celebration, I get dressed, put on my favorite pair of light-up Sketchers, and for good measure, I bring the flick-out lightsaber and hang it proudly off my belt. Why that turned out to be a mistake, I will divulge later on. I jump into the very back seat of my dad’s big red Ford Expedition, and we drive off.
We arrive at the theater and go straight inside. I remember the way my dad ordered the tickets: “One adult and…one Jedi.” That only made me more excited; I go straight in after getting my ticket ripped, no time for popcorn or drinks! (At least as far as I remember.) We take our seats in the middle of the auditorium. Some trailers start playing, one of them was for Mr. And Mrs. Smith, that one Brangelina movie. Other people are coming in but that didn’t matter. I thought, with the lights still up, it’d be an opportune time to practice my lightsaber skills. According to my dad, people were laughing at the sight of a kid running amok with a toy lightsaber before the start of a Star Wars
movie, because that’s funny. (Notice how I’m expressing slight resentment at not being able to practice lightsaber forms without becoming a laughing stock, even though this whole thing happened 13 years ago.) My dad had to come down and fetch me; I hurriedly rush back to the seats as the “Feature Presentation” thing ends. The lights go down, and the sound system (thankfully not THX) kicks in with the triumphant Fox fanfare. The Lucasfilm logo shows up before the fanfare ends, which I noticed was shorter than usual. The “A long time ago” byline shows up before the familiar yellow words crash onto the screen with the music I knew all too well. I was so excited that I was, according to my dad, making the whole row of seats shake. Episode III and “Revenge Of The Sith
” made their way up onto the screen, and the paragraph afterwards caught me off guard a bit. “War! The Republic is crumbling under attacks by the ruthless Sith Lord, Count Dooku. There are heroes on both sides. Evil is everywhere.” An exclamation mark in a Star Wars
opening crawl? That there was how I knew for sure that Episode III wasn’t playing around. As the crawl ended, it panned down to Coruscant space as the Venator-class Star Destroyer slowly lumbered into frame. I remember my dad whispering to me “That’s a big ship.” It reminded me of the Empire’s Star Destroyers, but then the two Jedi Interceptors flew into frame and my brain melted. Without question, I instantly recognized who was flying them: Anakin and Obi-Wan! Seeing them fly into the fray and doing tricks amid warring Star Destroyers and Trade Federation ships was indescribable to 6-year-old me; I felt as if I was following them in my own ARC-170. “This is where the fun begins!” The Coruscant battle came to a climax as the two Jedi Knights flew straight into General Grievous’ battleship. I was having an absolute blast watching my heroes whip out the ol’ lightsabers and showing the battle droids a reason to say “Uh-oh.” They went through some more antics before the big fight with Count Dooku. He had always been a favorite of mine (I had the 12-inch figure from the Saga lineup), so it was a big shock to see him get killed by Anakin. Somehow amidst the hype I had for this film, I made a fatal error by not paying attention to the fact that it was the first Star Wars
film to be rated PG-13, and for good reason. But no matter, good guys rule and bad guys drool! (Or so I thought.) Anakin was soon piloting a broken husk of what was once Grievous’ battleship into the Coruscant atmosphere. The runway sequence was amazing on the big screen. The mission was accomplished, although General Grievous had escaped once again. Now this is where things actually went from bad to worse. The Jedi were back home, and Anakin ran off to be reunited with Padmé for the first time since the Clone Wars began (at the time.) Now, I was a big believer in cooties, so these scenes were everything but exciting for me. In fact, it was making me a bit drowsy. While I was rather enthralled at the revelation of Grievous and Lord Sidious working together, another Anakin/Padmé scene at their apartment on Coruscant dragged on for ages and helped my brain decide: “Let’s just rest the eyes for a bit.”
“Obi-Wan just cut off Anakin’s arms and legs.” My dad whispered into my ear. I shot up and took notice as to what was happening on screen. The setting was different; that H-E-double-hockey-sticks world was up on the screen, but it took a moment to register something horribly, horribly wrong. Instead of them fighting together like I had seen earlier, Obi-Wan was now standing over the defeated husk of Anakin Skywalker. “No, no, no, something’s really not right! Why are Anakin’s eyes yellow and where did his arms and legs go?! Why is Obi-Wan so sad and screaming at Anakin? Wh—why is Anakin in flames?! OBI-WAN DO SOMETHING!!!” This was the scene that traumatized me for years. Seeing Anakin on fire without knowing why he got there in the first place? I lost it. I began crying into my dad’s arm. Catching a peek on the screen, a screaming Anakin was reaching for Obi-Wan while he was still getting roasted-toasted at the same time; I was completely broken. The film went on, Padmé kicked the bucket, Anakin finally became Darth Vader, the Jedi were all gone, Luke and Leia were separated, and Star Wars
, as I knew it, was over. That was it. At the time I thought there wasn’t going to be anymore since the story was now complete, and that only made it hurt more. In the car ride home, I used my utterly brilliant Sherlockian-detective to piece together what happened in my own mind: Obi-Wan was clearly the bad guy because he was a total-poopy head and didn’t help Anakin when he needed it the most. My dad tried to explain what I missed as best as he could since he stayed awake for the entire 143-minute runtime, but I, being a stubborn 6-year-old, refused to listen. Even after getting McDonald’s fries and chicken nuggets to cheer me up, I was still distraught.
I never saw Revenge Of The Sith
again for as long as it was in theaters; I was too afraid of having to sit through that ending all over again. The months went by and I still hated Obi-Wan Kenobi with every gut I had. LEGO Star Wars
: The Video Game came out the next month and I must have spent hours on the Episode III levels, filling in the blanks of what I missed in the theater (While the Mustafar duel’s ending cutscene was way less graphic than the film, I still ran out of my room and waited until it was over.) I moved to a new town over the summer and, in the process, lost my Episode III GBA cartridge. I remember browsing through some TV channels one day and saw that Revenge Of The Sith
was on the HBO movie channel; out of curiosity I tuned in and immediately regretted my decision, as Anakin was writhing on the ground, minus two legs and an arm. I instantly switched back to Nickelodeon.
In September of 2005, I decided to visit starwars.com and I find that Revenge Of The Sith
was coming to home video on November 1st that year, along with Battlefront II. The hype suddenly came back, as well as a rush of anxiety. “I’ll finally get to see Episode III, but I don’t want to sit through that ending again.” I remember actually paying attention to the calendar that hung in my parents’ kitchen and actually counting down the days until November 1st. This time, I’d be ready. The day came along, and I was excited all over again. Unfortunately, it was a school day. My new teacher asked me why I was so excited. I remember saying this verbatim: “TODAY’S THE DAY Star Wars
EPISODE III REVENGE OF THE SITH
COMES OUT ON DVD!” I remember my dad picking me up from school that day; instead of greeting him with a “Hi, Dad!”, I asked “Can we go to Best Buy please?”
I take my seat in the middle of the car, having graduated from the very back seat, and we drive toward the local Best Buy down the street. However, in a swift motion, my dad turns into the Best Buy’s parking lot, and immediately drives toward the exit of the parking lot. I was confused: “Dad, why didn’t you park?” Still focused on the road, all he said was “Look in the back.” I spot a blue Best Buy plastic bag containing two DVD copies of Episode III, one full-screen and one wide-screen, and two exclusive lithographs. “The blue one is yours.”
And the rest was basically history. As I did with the Original Trilogy set that I obtained a year before, the first thing I did was delve into the bonus disc. The menu this time was way cooler; it was Anakin’s Interceptor flying into the Coruscant fray, destroying the film’s logo and flying past Grievous’ battleship, where the menu setting was.
The documentary “Within A Minute: The Making of Episode III” chronicled its namesake, focusing on one key moment in the Mustafar lightsaber duel sequence: the 49-second-long scene where the lava bridge falls, leaving Anakin and Obi-Wan to hang on for dear life as the river sweeps the entire thing away. It destroyed my mind to learn that just a under a minute of footage in the film ended up being the 158th scene shot, containing 1185 frames and the combined work of 910 artists and a total of 70,441 man-hours to complete. Rick McCallum virtually held my hand through this entire process of filmmaking which involved scripting, concept art, set-building, props, costumes, music, and feeding the cast and crew. The cool spider-web graphic as it zoomed into each filmmaking aspect with the respective crew names all around was awesome, and it really was mind-boggling how many people were involved with this one sequence. There’s even a BTS shot of Ewan McGregor accidentally whacking Hayden Christensen in the face with the lightsaber; I don’t know why but I always found it hilarious.
There were also the other goodies on the disc: the Episode III webisodes from starwars.com, the trailers and TV spots (which I watched endlessly), the still galleries and images, the “A Hero Falls” music video taken straight from the “Star Wars
: A Musical Journey” disc that came with the soundtrack I had, and the demo for Battlefront II which could only be played if you had an original Xbox, which I STILL didn’t have. But my dad did! There was also a documentary called “The Chosen One” which chronicled how Episode III handled Anakin’s fall from grace. There’s a section where they detail what exactly happened on Mustafar and how the burn makeup was done, and I couldn’t handle it. In fact, when I moved on to the film finally, I went through the chapter select and made a note to always skip Chapter 43, “Immolation”: Anakin’s final moments with a perfect head of hair. I was unable to watch Episode III in its entirety for 4 whole years because of this one scene. Call me what you wish, but that’s how bad this scene messed me up. That was 2nd grade to 5th grade, and a mere 6 months before middle school. Around December 2009, I watched the Immolation scene in its entirety for the first time. Revenge Of The Sith
has left a lasting impact on me, and for the unfortunate trauma it caused, I’d say it was worth it. I eventually did watch it in its entirety many, many times; the way it ties so nicely into Episode IV was done so well that I consider it one of the all-time best movie endings. Episode III is my third personal favorite Star Wars
movie, right behind The Empire Strikes Back
and Return Of The Jedi
. It’s the one that makes me feel most like a kid again when I watch it. Above all that I’ve said, I’ll never forget having that sad thought that Star Wars
was over. However, I should have taken The Clone Wars’ 2008 arrival as a sign. If I went back in time and told 6-year-old William that there would not only be a brand-new trilogy to continue the story after Return Of The Jedi
, but that there would be even more TV shows, higher-quality toys that virtually surpassed that of the ones he owned, new soundtracks, video games and Star Wars
: The Black Series, that kid would have fainted. Or, he would take a yellow kitchen glove, draw a scar on the right side of his face in pen, put his hood up, and whack you in the shin with an Anakin Skywalker lightsaber.