Revenge of the Sith, and Star Wars in general, is still enjoying a pretty high media saturation rate these days. My home-sick-from-school son watched Episode IV today, and I have to say I enjoyed catching pieces of it here and there as I puttered around doing whatever it was I did all day. Ep IV was fun, whereas all of the prequels have taken themselves way too seriously.
Which is a fine segue into my more recent musings on RotS -- I, too, am taking this stuff too seriously, but I've had this little nagging feeling for a while, and I finally managed to tease out why.
I knew that Lucas was hewing pretty closely to the Campbellian mythic archetype; nothing wrong with that -- it's coming through loud and clear in my latest read Eragon, too. There's a reason archetypes are archetypes; they resonate. I don't have a problem meeting the Hero with a Thousand Faces yet again.
What I do have a problem with is the whole prequel plot. We've got a young man with extraordinary leadership qualities apprenticed to a supernatural/religious order. He falls in love with a politically powerful, beautiful young woman, but they have to keep their marriage a secret because the Powers That Be would not approve. The woman gets pregnant with twins, and delivers a boy and a girl, but dies in the birthing. The hero, gifted with foreknowledge and an ability to read minds, had no idea that his wife was pregnant with twins! Upon hearing of his wife's death, the hero goes mad. He suffers major disfigurement. There's a huge war on, millions upon millions of people die across countless star systems. Later, the son (with some peripheral help from the daughter, but it was mostly the son) helps to bring about the revolution and restore "balance" and peace to the Empire.
Those are the main plot points of Revenge of the Sith. So, what's my problem? They are also the main plot points of Frank Herbert's 1965-1969 Dune series, written well before George Lucas ever dreamed up his little rebels-that-could. Sure, sure, Paul Maud'ib wasn't quite as psycho as Darth Vader, but it's all there:
Anakin => Paul
Jedi => Bene Gesseret
Padme => Chani
Luke & Leia => Leto and Ghanima
Darth Vader => Maud'ib (who inspired jihads)/The Preacher (who was disfigured)
Is this such a stretch?
Ever since Return of the Jedi, when Vader uttered the infamous "So, you have a twin sister" line, I've had this vague feeling of disgruntlement about this series. Seeing it all plunked down with excruciating exposition in RotS finally clarified it for me.
Maybe everyone else has known about this forever, but I've never seen it discussed before. Maybe I'm just not geeky enough? I still really enjoy Episodes IV-VI, but with this realization the prequels have fallen even further in my estimation. They're not just overblown, badly written, and poorly directed -- their famed story, supposedly strong enough to sustain us through all the other flaws, is nothing more than a watered-down rip-off of a true classic.