Two brawls and a bunch of nonsense comprise the next twenty minutes of Revenge of the Sith.
“I will do what I must…” – Obi-Wan Kenobi
Padme unwittingly takes Obi-Wan to Mustafar, where he confronts Darth Vader. After a bit of nonsense from Vader to Padme where he offers to overthrow the Emperor and rule the galaxy, he tries to Force choke his wife and he and Obi-Wan begin their epic lightsaber battle.
Obi-Wan has a little to say, and it is all good. Occasionally, Lucas gets it right with the words he writes.
I know I have long said that lightsaber battles are to be about dialogue and conflict, not spectacle and flash. This is one particular fight that is supposed to break that rule. There is nothing left to say between Obi-Wan and Anakin. This is not a battle between the Light Side and the Dark Side. This is an unleashing of fury and frustration and disappointment and grief. There should only be unrestrained combat as both unleash every bit of emotion they have left on the other for all the perceived slights and wrongs and injustices perpetrated against each other and the galaxy. Whether or not George Lucas understood this is hard to say because every other lightsaber battle in the prequel trilogy has resembled this one, but even if he didn’t consciously decide the method of this fight, he got it right by accident. There is one particular bit where he could have gone even more vicious and it would have amped up the stakes of the fight. At one point, Anakin is choking Kenobi, and Kenobi only manages to get loose by kicking Anakin and both lose their lightsabers. What would have been fantastic is if both had merely continued the fight hand to hand rather than with weapons. The non-lightsaber lightsaber fight as it were in which they don’t need sabers to continue to pound on each other. As it is, both use the Force to grab their sabers and they continue the sword fight.
The backdrop here of the lava planet is perfect. It is violent, angry, explosive, and red hot. I give Lucas full credit for choice of location.
Where this fight is silly is its duration and multiplicity of insane locations where they fight. After a while it all becomes a little much. It should be quick, violent, and race towards its conclusion, not go from one ridiculous set piece to another.
When the climax finally comes, it is over quickly. Obi-Wan’s “you were my brother, Anakin” speech is actually a little heartbreaking. It could be viewed as a bit over the top or melodramatic, but it feels authentic.
Anakin then catches fire, after having been dismembered, and the film earns its PG-13 rating once again. The horror is brutal and I credit Lucas for leaving the camera on Anakin while he burns, both in his own rage and in the lava. This is the price for evil and it is supposed to be difficult to watch.
“I’ve been waiting a long time for this…” – The Emperor
Yoda confronts the evil Darth Sidious. After a bit of banter, both draw sabers and begin to fight. Sigh. Masters don’t fight like this. Both are too powerful to fight like ordinary Jedi or Sith. Even later when they throw the Senate at each other it is too banal for a battle between Masters. Neither one should be able to beat the other with mere sword fighting or Force throwing of objects and they should know that. This should have been a battle of words, of ideologies, of philosophy. A fencing not of sabers but of viewpoints. But such finesse is beyond Lucas and so we get a CGI sword fight and a bunch of CGI nonsense. The only thing Lucas does get right is setting this fight against the backdrop of the Senate, emphasizing what is at stake. While Obi-Wan and Anakin are fighting a personal battle, Yoda and Sidious are fighting for the universe. I just love the visual, despite the fighting, of the Chancellor’s platform rising into the epic arena of the Senate. The only thing I would have done differently, if I were to plot a lightsaber battle, is to have the place full of Senators, to have the galaxy literally watching the battle between titans. That being said, I think Yoda wins this lightsaber battle. He is small and quick and thus should easily be able to get inside of the Emperor’s defenses and strike him down. Eventually the fight ends as pointlessly as it begins with nothing really happening and nothing having been won or lost by either party. In the end, it feels like filler.
After all is fought and done, Yoda is rescued by Senator Organa and a burnt Vader is rescued by Lord Sidious.