The Revenge of the Sith

Written by the illustrious Firebird, with the speed of a bullet, upon request. Thank you, Firebird!

The Revenge of the Sith. Hmm, has a nice ring, doesn’t it? Sith sounds like something – someone – that could get revenge if it wanted to.

But it’s someone else who has taken vengeance on women. It seems they have replaced Padme Amidala with a bad clone that tries and fails even to be true to the character established in the previous movies.

{I’m going to reveal the end of the movie, so don’t read this if you don’t want to know.}

Amidst the special effects, the constant suspense-filled battles, the many-threaded plotline, and all the male interaction, you find one lone woman: Padme Amidala. You are immediately clued in to the fact that she has changed from the Padme you kind of liked from the first two prequels by the fact that her hair is in a normal style. Padme had this penchant for wacked-out hairstyles, things I’ve never ever seen in real life, not even on TV. It was weird, but, it was Padme, you know?

But I watched her hair the entire movie, and she never once put her hair up any different than I might do.

That was the beginning, but certainly not the end. The chemistry between her and Anakin Skywalker (they got married at the end of Attack of the Clones) had always been a little doubtful – he’s a little too stiff to have believable chemistry with anyone – but in this movie, I wouldn’t have been surprised if she decided to stick a knife in his back when he hugged her. She was just that cold and stiff.

And yet her entire part of the movie was to worry, and pace, and chew her fingernails and get more and more pregnant all of the time. Oh, and she conveniently goes to see Anakin, thereby giving Obi-Wan Kenobi the chance to stow away in her ship and get there to fight him. “˜Cause the Padme who ruled a country and fought and won a war and established peace alliances in a longstanding cold war situation couldn’t avoid that particular stereotypical stupidity.

Meanwhile, when she discovers Anakin has changed, and is now willing to betray the principles she has lived her life for, what does she do? Tears dramatically spill down her cheeks in slow-mo (what woman cries like that, really?) and she whimpers, “Anakin, you’re breaking my heart!” He uses the Force to choke her, and she never ever recovers. She dies for no reason at all after giving birth – apparently from that broken heart – and is buried with great pomp and circumstance.

You know, it might not have bothered me so much if Padme had been a milksop all along. That would have been a slam to women in general, but this was worse, in my mind. Padme was smart, opinionated, sometimes rash, well-educated, and she lived for democracy. By her early 20s she had won a nation-wide election as queen, survived a siege, escaped capture, made allies out of the other sentient race on her planet by her rational presentation of their mutual need to fight off invaders, and subsequently planned, fought and won the battle that won a war – including an impressive decoy strategy. She also took time out to go the Senate and make the motion that gave Senator Palpatine the opportunity to take control of the Senate – not what turned out to be a good move, but a bold and decisive action in a time of crisis notwithstanding.

She was loyal to a fault, to the point of charging off on a rescue mission and dragging Anakin along against his orders. She refused to be left behind just because she was a woman when danger was afoot, but wanted to see for herself what a situation was and how to act and react.

My favorite scene of all three movies is at the end of Attack of the Clones, when Padme, Anakin, and Obi-Wan are chained to three high stone pillars with unearthly monsters headed toward them for the expressed purpose of killing them for the spectators enjoyment. While Anakin and Obi-Wan are chatting (“What are you doing here?” “We came to rescue you.” “Nice job.”), Padme picks the lock on her handcuffs and scales the pillar using the chain. Anakin – who is turned the other way toward Obi-Wan – suddenly asks, “What about Padme?” Obi-Wan looks over Anakin’s shoulder and says, “She looks like she’s on top of things.”

And it wasn’t like, oh, yeah right, she can pick locks and climb a chain. Rather, you’re thinking, of course! Why didn’t Obi-Wan and Anakin think of that? She is a real person. She fights and works and plays hard. She makes bold decisions and is willing to take decisive action – and when things don’t go well, she takes responsibility for her actions.

But love seems to have changed all that, or maybe it was pregnancy. That Padme didn’t come back for the third movie. Of course, she couldn’t have. That Padme would have snapped Anakin out of his self-delusion that he needed special powers to protect her from life. She wouldn’t have given up and died of a broken heart. And she wouldn’t have stood by while her man became a Sith.

It seems that making Padme the Love Interest made the writers unable to show her as a real woman. I’m not sure the problem is that Anakin loved her, or even that she was supposed to love him, but that the writers of the movie couldn’t envision a love as fierce as Padme’s other qualities – the kind of love that jumps in feet first and takes the good with the bad, that is willing to abandon fear but not the love of life. If Padme was going to love, she would love like that – but since they couldn’t write for that kind of love, the Padme of Revenge of the Sith didn’t seem to really love anyone, or to even be herself.

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  1. SunlessNick says

    The Padme I saw in the first two films would certainly pull out every stop to bring Anakin back from the dark side – but equally certainly, once it became clear he wasn’t coming back, she’d pull out every stop to take him down. A fantasy I have of the ending is that she goes to the lava planet for exactly that reason. And at some point during his fight with Obi-Wan, she shoots him, he force smashes her (that being the reason she dies later on, not a broken heart), but she has bought Obi-Wan enough time to “regroup.” And damn it, the her arc in the first two films was heavily about learning to fight – and fighting is how she deserved to go down (since we know she had to) – not crying over her lost love.

  2. Firebird says

    Nick said:

    The Padme I saw in the first two films would certainly pull out every stop to bring Anakin back from the dark side – but equally certainly, once it became clear he wasn’t coming back, she’d pull out every stop to take him down.

    Precisely. And I could have cried at the funeral of the real Padme. Y’know, the one who would have done all that and fought Anakin and brought Obi Wan with her on purpose and could have died after fighting, if die she must.

  3. SunlessNick says

    I got to see the DVD of this recently. It had some deleted scenes which I was curious enough to see. The version of my reaction is ugh. A longer version takes in two issues.

    1. Padme was even more thoroughly nerfed than in the cinematic version. A chain of deleted scenes feature various senators, including Padme and Bail Organa, discussing the measures that Palpatine is imposing, and how likely it is that he’ll give them up – the proto-rebellion in effect. Padme’s one of them, and is reluctant to believe that Palpatine is up to anything sinister – due mainly to their long acquaintance.
    Later, Padme and a few others give a “You should do the right thing when this is over, and we intend to make sure you do” ultimatum to Palpatine. Ie, they behave like complete morons, given the suspicions around which this little cabal is centred. This is the reason why Bail Organa is a target later on. If Padme had otherwise resembled the version of her we saw in the previous films, I could have been ok with that – long friendship breeds trust, even if trust seems foolish.

    But this is also the woman who saw evil in Count Dooku before the Jedi did, and who could make a useful contribution to a fight alongside a dozen of them. To ruin her insight, coupled with replacing her fighting spirit with seeping tears, and the lack of wit not to detect Obi Wan aboard her own ship, and give her nothing to do but be pregnant and cry (oh, of course, hormones stopped her from being cool! I understand it all now, Lucas be praised!), then ugh.

    You know, I still like Padme more than Leia? That’s a measure of just how amazing an actor Natalie Portman is.

    2. Another chain of scenes show more detail to the opening attack on Grievous’s ship. Among other things, Obi Wan and Anakin round a corner and find Grievous and a few droids in the corridoor, with a captured Jedi. Natch, a female Jedi. She’s on her knees at Grievous’s feet while he menaces her with her own lightsaber, and makes some speeches, before killing her with it. She talks to Obi Wan and Anakin, essentially apologising for being so useless.

    How useless? Well, how many things could a Jedi do from that position? Grievous should have been flying down the corridoor, battle droids should be wrecked. Win or lose, no Jedi should be unable to fight in that position. Except apparently a female one. Oh, also the only female Jedi that has a speaking part in all three prequels. Ugh.

  4. Patrick says

    Regarding the second scene in question – who was the female Jedi? Keep in mind that the only Jedi to have previously survived encounters with Greivous were Shaak Ti, Aayla Secura, and Ki-Adi Mundi.

    In terms of how the prequel films treated their female characters, I’m still strongly in agreement with you. Aayla Secura also got seriously shafted.

  5. says

    Over here from the Indy post–the Jedi from the deleted scene floor is Shaak Ti. She actually got cut from Revenge of the Sith twice–first, in the scene you described, Sunless Nick, where she just sits there and is killed by Grievous, and then the second time, in the Jedi Temple when Anakin attacks with the Clone Troopers. In that scene she is meditating while Anakin comes up from behind and kills her. So yeah…I am glad those scenes were cut and wiped from continuity.

    (Spoilers for The Force Unleashed ahead)

    Fortunately, the version of her death that actually became canon is much more dynamic. She goes down in battle, facing off against Vader’s Secret Apprentice almost two decades after The Clone Wars. A much more fitting death for a Jedi Master at least.

    That said, it is depressing that both of the versions that Lucas envisioned had her passively sitting down while getting killed. WTF.

  6. Patrick J McGraw says

    Yeah, while Shaak Ti would certainly face her death with serenity, there is a world of difference between that and facing it passively.

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