It was an epic year of high school firsts and personal discoveries, of big victories and small failures, and over-all great change in the weeks and months leading up to the release of Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith. And throughout it all, my house was chock-full of minutely detailed fan-theories and wide-eyed conspiracy theories regarding the final fate our galactic heroes and supposed villains. I remember having countless detailed conversations with my dad as to what exactly was going to make Anakin turn to the darkside and become Darth Vader. We all figured it had something to do with Padme dying since we’d all seen what happened with his mother and the rage that lurked beneath the surface, especially considering he loved her so intensely and she definitely wasn’t in the originals. so as sad as it was, it was a safe bet that our badass Queen turned Senator was going to be taken from us somehow. But by whom? How? And why? These were the million-dollar questions and dear god did we have some crazy ideas.
Looking back at it all, the entire lead-up to the release was completely nerve-wracking and thrilling – the stakes had never been so high for me before with regards to a movie franchise. The only thing that came close was waiting for each new Harry Potter book (and let me tell you was a whole-other level of stress, especially after The Goblet of Fire), but Star Wars was something I had literally been born into, I had lived and breathed with theses character and their stories my entire life, and now with this final episode on the horizon, we were going to be given the answers to every question we as fans had ever asked ourselves. What were we going to do with ourselves once it was all over?!
I remember when the Sunday paper released the first detailed images of Episode III and Anakin, I was eating breakfast with my family at one of our favorite diners and I just couldn’t take my eyes off the haunting image of Ani surrounded by the black and red of Mustafar. This was it… it was actually finally happening. The Anakin I had fallen in love with over the last two films was about to face the thing that was going to break him, that was going to turn him from the bright happy boy who loved an amazing woman, to the black-clad mechanical monster that terrorized the galaxy. I was going to be with him every step of the way, but this was a perilous journey and I knew we weren’t all going to make it through to the other side. I was almost 16, and this was the first time I had to let a character go. I’d known going in that there was no saving him, but over the course of two films and six years, I had forgotten somehow that Anakin was not mine to keep. That I had to give him back to fate so that he could become the villain he was meant to be. Because the end of his story had already been told, it was the cliffhanger of a middle that was about to be revealed.
When the film finally soared into theaters May 19th 2005 my parents, my little brother, and I took our seats and I held my breath. This was the last time we wouldn’t know the whole story…or so we thought. It didn’t surprise me to learn that I had been right, that it was the loss of Padme, or rather the fear of losing her, that lead Anakin down the darkest of paths, but I was blown away by how intense every second of the film was. I cried in anguish as Anakin made that fatal decision to leave the Jedi temple to stop Mace Windu from arresting Palpatine, and then again in horror as he marched back into the temple to wreck the destruction of Darth Vader. That scene shocked me more than any other. My Anakin was gone, I had watched him leave, watched him blur into Darth Vader before my very eyes, and no amount of begging and pleading from either Padme or myself could get him to stop and come back to the light. I left the theater stunned and absolutely amazed, telling those waiting in line for the next showing that they were in for a heck of an emotional roller-coaster!
Fourteen years later and I still feel utter shock and devastation every time I watch Revenge of the Sith. Every time Anakin stands alone in the temple, feeling the weight of Padme’s life on his shoulders I want to scream at him not to leave, not to make this horrible decision. Even as I’ve gotten older and my love of the Jedi Order has faded into a much harsher viewpoint, I still find myself wishing that Anakin could have found another way, that he had just waited for Obi-Wan or something, I don’t even know what really! But his fate was sealed long before his birth, and this was the path the Force set him upon and no amount of tears or wishes was going to keep him from bring balance to the galaxy in the most brutal way possible.
And in the end that’s what makes this film so epic and timeless. No matter how much time has passed since its original release, fans still find themselves interacting with the moments playing out onscreen, hoping time and again that this time the story changes, that this time Anakin makes a different choice. We sit there entranced as the events unfold before us, the way that they always have ever since 2005 and still we can’t help but have hope. Hope that this time, we can rewrite the story, that we can defy fate. Hope that this time, maybe if we’re strong enough, we can reach through the Force and save the characters we’ve come to love.