Attack of the Clones came out at the tail end of my seventh grade experience. As a twelve-year-old, the wait between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith looked to be interminable yet also far too short, because the next film would be the last.
Hell-bent on enjoying every bit of the Star Wars universe that I could, I started to explore the Expanded Universe (books and comics, mostly, although we had the animated Clone Wars shorts, too) and the Expanded Universe offered a lot more than it had in the past. Between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, material set between the two films added up to little: two novels, neither good, and comics that, while great, didn’t focus on known characters nor the overall state of the universe leading into Attack of the Clones.
This time around, the EU released a massive amount of material set between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. I was there for all of it. I first started going to my local comic book shop so I could buy the Republic series. I’d pick them up on a Friday if it was a school week so I could look forward to a great end to a hellish week; if it was the summer, I’d walk up on the Wednesday they came out. I bought the new novels the week they came out (sometimes even the release day- always on a Tuesday). The comics were a blast, detailing original characters’ journeys, like Aayla Secura and Quinlan Vos, while also giving me the adventures of Obi-Wan and Anakin, along with hints towards Anakin’s eventual fate. The novels were a little more hit (Yoda: Dark Rendevouz) and miss (The Cestus Deception and Jedi Trial), but my enthusiasm for the next one out never waned.
As the release date of Revenge of the Sith neared, the stories became more entangled with the film. There’d be comics and novels set around characters, mostly Jedi, who would appear in the final Star Wars film. Labyrinth of Evil, the novel set just before the film, gave information on almost all of the players in the film (helped that it read well, too).
When I walked into the theater to watch Revenge of the Sith, I didn’t walk in just to see the end of the prequel trilogy. I walked in to see the end of a three year multimedia story. The deaths during Order 66 weren’t just nameless Jedi, but Jedi that I’d read about. Each death hit like a blow because I felt I knew them almost as well as I did, say, Mace Windu.
To go to the film not just as a fan, but as an uber fan (it would not be surprising to know I didn’t have too much of a social life in high school), where picking up the new comic or novel was immensely satisfying, there was a bittersweet element to the film. I saw the characters that I’d read about die, I saw the ending of the plots I’d followed, and I knew this would likely be the last Star Wars film (it turns out it was the last Lucas Star Wars film; we’ll see what that means come December).
I had some qualms with the film. Many of these came out of the fact that for almost every day between Attack of the Clones’s release date and Revenge of the Sith’s release date I spent at least some time thinking about Star Wars. Others were more concrete: where was Qui-Gon? What’s up with Natalie Portman’s acting? Why isn’t there more dialogue between Obi-Wan and Anakin during their climactic fight?
2005, with all those comics, novels, and the film itself, was the year of Star Wars for me. In terms of Star Wars enjoyment, I’m not sure it’ll ever get better than that. I saw Attack of the Clones four times in theaters. I only saw Revenge of the Sith once. This has nothing to do with quality (I mean, clearly). A layer of sadness hung over Revenge of the Sith for me, not even because of the events in the film, but because it marked a significant end in the Star Wars journey.
My interest in the films did not fade, although I did fall out of the EU somewhat as time went on, especially as the interconnected novels became … well, we’ll say less than stellar. I kept reading, and continue to read, the comics because they’ve been consistently excellent, be they from Dark Horse (check out the Omnibus collections) or Marvel. But there’s just a little bit less of a spark even with a new film on the horizon.
If I have a hankering to watch a Star Wars film now, I almost always go to Revenge of the Sith. I get the most out of it in terms of depth, but also in terms of emotion, much of it coming from the experiences surrounding the film as the film itself. When I watch the film, some of that old enjoyment comes back, memories of reading the novels and comics that surround it, recalling the first time I saw General Grievous on the big screen (eh, he turned out to be a letdown), and remembering how awesome it was to see Darth Sidious use a lightsaber like a goddamn boss.
When it comes to Revenge of the Sith, I’ll always argue in favor of its quality because I think it’s a great film. However, I could wake up tomorrow and realize it’s actually on the level of Attack of the Clones and I’d still love it because, damn it, it’s my Star Wars.
Join us on November 11th, for our (surprisingly emotional) group discussion of Revenge of the Sith, the final installment of the Star Wars prequel trilogy.