ROTS Is The Best Star Wars Movie To Date: A Commentary

I don’t have a favorite Star Wars movie. Each one is unique and adds so much to the saga, it’s hard for me 37 years out to imagine any one of them without the others. There are things to love about each movie and there are favorite things about Star Wars that are scattered across the existing films.

But as I often say, “favorite” and “best” are two different things. Sure you can cite something as your favorite because in your opinion it’s the best, however they aren’t synonymous. Between Anthony Daniels’s cryptic Tweet from a couple of weeks ago that TFA might exceed TESB as the “best Star Wars film” and someone on my Facebook feed expressing the opinion ROTS had the best opening of the series, I started to feel it was time to finally cite what I think is artistically the best of the series to date.

It’s a realization that crept on me for the past decade. I’d never been a member of the “TESB is the best” club. Even when there were just three Star Wars films, I’d leaned more toward ANH’s deathless charm and revolutionary cinema (so much so its taken for granted today, much like “Casablanca” or “Gone With The Wind”) and I thought ROTJ did some things even better than TESB. With the prequels, there was an audacity and grandeur not seen before in the saga, though you did have to wait until the conclusion for it all to fully pay off.

And what a payoff it was. ROTS isn’t always the easiest movie to watch, especially after you’ve invested six years into these characters and came to love them. It’s even tougher taking The Clone Wars into account. But in that film, I really felt Lucas saved his best for his last. He took the saga to territory it had never crossed, not compromising what he felt was necessary to tell the story, neither flinching nor becoming gratuitous in its darkest moments. While ROTS has its share of action, adventure, and pulpy/comic bookish moments as the other films do, it also has many amazing, dramatic scenes that still make me go, “Wow.” I think the scene at the opera house between Anakin and Palpatine is the single best scene in the whole series and all it consists of is the two of them talking. The second best scene in the whole saga is the “ruminations” scene with Anakin and Padmé. From a pure filmmaking perspective, it’s brilliant. So is the Order 66 montage, which owes heavily to Lucas’s mentor Francis Ford Coppola as well as to Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein.

I thought it was a great decision to cut between the Anakin/Obi-Wan duel and the duel between the most powerful of each side, Yoda and Sidious. The stakes are never higher and I have to agree with Camille Paglia, I can’t remember a more passionate, emotional scene involving two men (Anakin and Obi-Wan, that is). The denouement is as close to perfect as it gets artistically. It was genius to cut between Padmé’s final moments/the birth of the twins and Darth Vader’s torturous installation in his suit. Vader’s cri-de-coeur at hearing the news of Padmé’s death got to me; it resonates depending on how you invested in what’s happening, as is the case with all of the movies. The final montage of the film brilliantly concludes the fates of the Skywalker clan: Padmé’s funeral, Darth Vader gazing at the under-construction Death Star, Leia’s arrival on Alderaan, and Obi-Wan bringing Luke to the Lars homestead. ROTS not only wraps up the prequel trilogy, it also brilliantly establishes what’s to come next in Eps IV-VI.

On top of it all, the film is beautiful to look at and John Williams’s score hits all of the right notes (ha ha).

Watching ROTS is like watching the best Olympic skater alive not only do a gold medal winning, perfect 10 program but also the best program of her career, all for kicking it up a higher notch than usual.

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16 Responses to “ROTS Is The Best Star Wars Movie To Date: A Commentary”

  1. M. Marshall Says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with you on the statement about the difference between “favorite” and “best”. Star Wars is my favorite SF film but if you were to ask me what is the best SF film of all time is, it’s “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951). That film never ceases to amaze me every time I watch it and it’s just as relevant now as when it first came out.

    And yes my heart sank tremendously when I first saw Order 66 in action.

    • Keith Palmer Says:

      I suppose I’ve been more a 2001: A Space Odyssey person myself, but I do have to remember how in the 1990s it seemed basically the single science fiction movie “written science fiction” fans would condescend to see as capable of standing alongside their literature… I’ve seen The Day The Earth Stood Still myself, and can accept there are things about it that can appeal to some people more than Kubrick’s particular vision in 2001.

      Anyway, getting on to Star Wars I can completely see the point of this post about Revenge of the Sith; I suppose I invariably view the six movies “one after another” these days, and it sort of provides the solid capstone to the “new movies” unit. The one problem with comments like the one made, though, is that it just raises my ire remembering the more dismissive reasons generated to condemn it…

      In any case, I have the suspicion Abrams and company have a very careful list of things to avoid and a playbook that “everyone agrees on,” such that The Force Awakens will appeal to the tastemakers on first viewing as “just like The Empire Strikes Back itself,” and yet I’m completely willing to question how great a movie that’ll make it.

  2. Nobody Says:

    The only real flaw about the film is the wealth of scenes left on the cutting room floor. In an age of needlessly 3 hour long films, I would’ve gladly sat through a day-long cut of this movie.

    • M. Marshall Says:

      Well at least they’re included on the DVD and uploaded on YouTube so it doesn’t hurt to watch them. I enjoy the scenes with Padme, Bail, Mon Mothma and the senators.

      • Hunk a Junk Says:

        Yeah, the “rebel alliance” scene is the only scene I truly would like to see cut back into the film — not because I necessarily need to see the birth of the rebellion, but because it shows Padme has a secret she’s keeping from Anakin — a secret that leads directly into their next scene where she asks him if he thinks they might be on the wrong side fighting for the republic.

    • Adam D. Bram (The Nilbog) Says:

      For me, it’s the Qui-Gon Ghost. I would have waited until Liam was available and postponed as long as possible.

      I feel Sith is a bit more flawed on a technical level – certain things are far too rushed narratively in the final cut. However, it’s greatest strength is hitting the emotional beats better than any film in the Saga.

      • Nobody Says:

        There’s that, too. I wonder why he wasn’t available for AOTC and ROTS, but was, finally, for TCW.

  3. madmediaman Says:

    Yup, RoTS is near perfection. The ONLY thing that could have improved it is restoring the deleted Rebellion scenes, but I do understand the desire to bring the film in as close to 2 hours as possible.

  4. Eduardo Vargas Says:

    I’ve always had some conflicting feelings of this film. On one hand, I have to say it’s my least favorite of the saga, mainly because it’s a lot darker than the others and it’s not as much fun. I always walk out of it feeling empty, whereas with the other films I walk out with a sense of joy and feeling good about the world (even is ESB).

    On the other hand, I do feel that it is in some retrospects one of the more complete films of the saga, not only in the number of worlds and characters and so on, but in it’s vision.

    It’s safe to say that it ages better with time for me, but at the same time it’s hard for me to see which one is “better” than the other.

  5. ICMYI SWPAS Posts 11/20/14 | lazypadawan's Holocron Says:

    […] ROTS Is The Best Star Wars Movie To Date: A Commentary. […]

  6. peacetrainjedi Says:

    I agree with you on both the Opera scene and the Ruminations scene. Williams’ score in both cases ventures into new, and chilling territory, complementing the brilliantly acted performances perfectly.

  7. starwarsanon Says:

    I get goosebumps even thinking about the Ruminations. Oooo soooooo gooooood. And the Order 66 is still painful and so sad to watch. I wouldn’t say it’s the best, but I do like ROTS a lot.

  8. PrinceOfNaboo Says:

    You make a good point with ROTS.

    I’d say for all the complaints about “bad editing” in the PT, ROTS has truly wonderful editing. The Order 66 sequence, Padmé’s ruminations, Padmé’s death/Twin Birth/Vader’s Rebirth, the duels were all brilliantly intercut and edited.

    The acting is strong, the story moving. Great scenery. Emotional music. Memorable lines if dialogue.

    My only complaint is that this is the only film where the massive reshoots slightly hurt the movie. Some lines just feel a bit out of place now, but they’re still legitimate.

    ROTS is a strong contender for best SW film.

  9. Mike Says:

    A really good post, it’s my second favourite behind ANH for most of the reasons you mentioned. The film is also a strong case for watching the Prequels after the Original Trilogy as it is Lucas’ final film.

  10. lovelucas Says:

    RotS, for me, is the hardest film to watch yet it is the most powerful.. However – and I’ve said this a jillion times- my vote is AotC because it reveals so much of George and it’s so beautiful esp the PRACTICAL locations. It has my favorite ending but again the ending of RotS is the most powerful one of them all – no question, no argument will be entertained.

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