Untold Star Wars: Rescuing Darth Sidious
The Star Wars prequel trilogy, and Revenge of the Sith in particular, is packed full of dramatic irony. One of the best examples of this is the opening to Episode III, which opens in the middle of a dramatic aerial battle above Coruscant, as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker are going to rescue Chancellor Palpatine. Seeing the two Jedi going to such heroic lengths to rescue the villain who has orchestrated the events of the entire story makes for a great sense of foreboding. It tells the audience straight away that Sith is about to get real.
As a piece of filmmaking, it is George Lucas at his fastest and most intense. None of the exposition that opened The Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones was deemed necessary here – it’s the third part of a trilogy, the audience knows the characters, so Lucas opts to kick things off with high-octane adventure. Perhaps all of the gloom that would come later in the movie emboldened the writer/producer/director to open with such a pure, exhilarating sequence.
It’s a relatively long section of the film incorporating the opening space battle, the rescue of the Chancellor, capture by General Grievous and return to Coruscant. Considering the amount that Revenge of the Sith had to do, in terms of showing how Palpatine enacted the final stages of his plot and the galaxy came to be as it is in A New Hope, it is particularly surprising that this adventure lasts so long. But the deleted scenes show that this could have been even longer. To see them, check out the Revenge of the Sith DVD and Complete Sage Blu-ray.
What is great fun – and also full of impending doom – during the sequence is seeing the bond of friendship between Obi-Wan and Anakin. The back and forth between them demonstrates quickly just how they have grown as equals, and how a daring rescue mission is just another day in the life of a Jedi Knight. The casual way in which Anakin’s love for his friends is re-established, as he refuses to leave Obi-Wan behind twice, is a great way to call back to his attachment issues in Attack of the Clones that will become all the more prevalent later in Revenge of the Sith.
The first deleted scene from this sequence takes place on General Grievous’ flagship, the Invisible Hand, and sees Obi-Wan and Anakin debating droid speak while waiting for an elevator. Although it continues to show their relaxed relationship, the humour is a little less natural than elsewhere in the opening. Whether the finished film would have had actual droid dialogue coming from Hayden Christiansen’s lips, or if he would have been imitating it, is unknown – but either way it seems a little surreal for Star Wars.
Another gag as part of the snippets deleted from the elevator scenes sees Obi-Wan and Anakin accidentally open the doors on a huge number of Battle Droids, a nice nod to the scene in A New Hope in which Han Solo accidentally runs into a room on the Death Star absolutely packed with Imperial troops. Like the Harrison Ford swordsmen gag in Temple of the Doom, had it been included it would have meant the call back gag occurring chronologically before the original – it’s classic Lucas timeline fun.
The more significant deleted scene is when Shaak Ti is executed by General Grievous, showing his brutality on-screen rather than just representing it through the dialogue as part of the bridge scene. The reason for executing her in front of the two Jedi is not entirely clear, and audiences may have been confused as to why Shaak Ti was on board the Invisible Hand ahead of Obi-Wan and Anakin. In the Clone Wars animated micro-series that aired ahead of the film release, Shaak Ti was shown to have been captured by Grievous during the siege of Coruscant, hence her being located board his flagship. The scene was adding more moving parts than necessary to the opening sequence, and making its removal understandable.
It would have introduced the character of General Grievous before the Jedi rescue Chancellor Palpatine, changing the order of events in the film. With so many villains for casual moviegoers to keep track of, it made sense to dispatch Count Dooku before bringing General Grievous into the proceedings.
One Shaak Ti has been executed, droids surround Obi-Wan and Anakin, who use a series of gestures to discuss in code what might be their best tactic. It’s amusing enough, but seems slightly off in a Star Wars movie – although it does reiterate the closeness of the relationship between the two of them. They ultimately opt to drop through the floor, which gives Obi-Wan a chance to use the word ‘oblivion’, a reference to his first meeting with Jar Jar Binks in The Phantom Menace he warns the Gungan of the Trade Federation threat.
Further scenes were shot, but not completed, that showed Obi-Wan and Anakin escaping with Chancellor Palpatine and the support of R2-D2. These were more jeopardy moments, on a blue screen set with small sections of the flagship interior for them to move across. It must have been rather exerting for Ian McDiarmid, who in his portrayal of Palpatine had typically not had many action sequences – of course thanks to stunt doubles and CGI he would have had help. Ultimately, these snippets only added to the duration of the opening rather than giving any meaningful character or plot information.
Ultimately, many fans would happily have watched a version of Revenge of the Sith twice as long as the finished film. With so much to wrap up in the prequel saga, George Lucas jettisoned anything that was deemed not to be telling the story in the leanest, most efficient way. The portion of the film that was probably the easiest to cut down was this opening, which remains an exhilarating thrill ride presented in a way that only a Star Wars movie can.