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Why Revenge of the Sith was Star Wars at its bold, brutal best

Hayden Christensen as Anakin in Revenge of the SithThis week, Disney+’s Obi-Wan Kenobi finally got its lightsaber out. Featured heavily in the marketing for the series, Hayden Christensen – aka Anakin Skywalker, aka the future Darth Vader – at last had his close-up. Several close-ups, in fact, with episode five of six revolving around a mock-serious duel…

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Why Revenge of the Sith was Star Wars at its bold, brutal best

Hayden Christensen as Anakin in Revenge of the Sith

Hayden Christensen as Anakin in Revenge of the Sith

This week, Disney+’s Obi-Wan Kenobi finally got its lightsaber out. Featured heavily in the marketing for the series, Hayden Christensen – aka Anakin Skywalker, aka the future Darth Vader – at last had his close-up. Several close-ups, in fact, with episode five of six revolving around a mock-serious duel between Padawan Anakin and Jedi Master Kenobi during their best pal days on Coruscant.

These scenes were in flashback and may well be all we see of Christensen (who has seemingly aged not a parsec). And they were a reminder nobody does boy-band brattiness more convincingly. If Death the Destroyer of Worlds were to come to us in the form of a second-string member of *NSYNC this is what they would look like.

Christensen’s moochiness aside, Obi-Wan Kenobi also harked back to the most underrated moment in the George Lucas cinematic universe (spoilers to follow). The big reveal was that Moses Ingram’s Inquisitor Reva – a target for all the racists in the fanbase –  was a survivor of Anakin’s slaughter of the “younglings” at the end of 2005’s Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

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We rewound to that chilling Revenge of the Sith sequence in which Anakin, lightsaber casting wonky blue shadows over his face, arrived at the academy for Force-sensitive youngsters with murder on his mind. Reva has waited ever since to take her revenge on Anakin, who in the Obi-Wan Kenobi timeframe goes as Darth Vader.

Anakin v Kenobi was a highlight of Obi-Wan Kenobi, a show which has too often seemed torn between appealing to kids and to older Star Wars fans. And it reinforced how wigged out and transgressive Lucas had become by the end of the prequels.

Children brutally cut down. The main character suffering horrific mutilations. Samuel L Jackson chucked out a window, to his death. These read like selected highlights from a lost Quentin Tarantino masterpiece. But no: this is a rough outline of how it all goes down at the end of  Revenge of the Sith.

Star Wars’s reputation was plummeting faster than Empire Palpatine down the Death Star liftshaft when the last of the prequels  was released in May 2005. Perhaps that is why it was written off at the time as just another CGI-slathered Lucas misfire, in the inglorious tradition of the Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones.

Flawed the closing chapter of the tragic tale of Anakin and his journey to the Dark Side certainly is. Lucas had by 2005 given up even pretending he was interested in directing human beings. Thus Revenge of the Sith suffers from the same stiltedness already all too familiar from the earlier prequels.

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With at least one special effects shot in every frame of the picture – 2,300 in total – the CGI overkill is strong in this one. Revenge of the Sith has the sheen of an entertainment assembled not in real life but on Lucasfilm mainframes. There are 65 human characters and 42 generated by computer.

Obi-Wan and Anakin clash in Revenge of The Sith  - Reuters

Obi-Wan and Anakin clash in Revenge of The Sith – Reuters

But none of that obscures the fact this is among the most whipsmart, taut and darkest Star Wars movies. The plot is cranked tighter than Darth Vader’s chestplate ; despite the digital overkill, some of the performances are genuinely compelling. Not least that of Jackson as Mace Windu, the Jedi Master tossed from a height by freshly-unmasked Sith Lord Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid).

Revisited a decade and a half on on, the first thing to say, then, is that Revenge of the Sith deserves better than its footnote status. The injustice has been put into even sharper relief as we process The Rise of Skywalker, the flailing and creatively exhausted end point in Disney’s 2015 – 2019 “sequel” trilogy.  Though it has its moments – this is one of the most visually epic Star Wars films ever – Rise of Skywalker fumbles everything Revenge of the Sith got right.

Revenge of the Sith is a masterclass in atmospherics and meticulous story-telling. The contrast is easily explained. Where JJ Abrams and co-scriptwriter Chris Terrio had to scramble to put together the outline for Rise of Skywalker in just a few months, Lucas conceived of the overall arc of Darth Vader’s fall and redemption as far back as 1973.

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Likewise plotted decades in advance was Anakin’s climactic light saber smackdown with Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor, who for once does not seem completely miserable portraying the Jedi Master).

The tussle and Anakin’s subsequent lava plunge entered Star Wars lore via James Kahn’s 1983 novelisation of Return of the Jedi. There, Obi-Wan’s Force ghost describes to Luke how his fight against Anakin culminated in Darth Vader “falling into a molten pit”. As a result of his injuries he became more machine than man. And so was born the Darth Vader of the heavy breathing and nattily contoured helmet (this part of the exchange got cut from Jedi itself).

With those set-pieces to work from, Lucas had plenty of time to fine-tune Revenge of the Sith after the release of Attack of the Clones in 2002. He was clear from early on that this would be a bleaker, more violent Star Wars than any before.

Anakin’s journey into Vader-dom is certainly a brutal business. He turns against the Jedi, kills the pre-teen “younglings” at the order’s temple and gets it into his head that his lover Padmé and best pal Obi-Wan are conspiring against him. Palpatine, meanwhile, is truly nightmarish when finally unmasked in all his Sith Lord horror (shortly before tossing Windu out the window).

“People think Star Wars is extremely innocent, although we do cut a lot of people in half and cut off a lot of arms,” said Lucas who can’t have been surprised when Sith became the first Star Wars to receive a PG-13 rating in the US (PG in the UK).

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There’s certainly a lot of lopping and chopping here. Revenge of the Sith culminates with Anakin, now irredeemably gone over to the Dark Side, fighting Obi-Wan on the lava planet of Mustafar. At the conclusion of the confrontation Obi-Wan lops off both Anakin’s legs. The stricken ex-Jedi flails, limbless, on the basalt.

“You were my bother Anakin. I loved you,” howls Obi-Wan as Anakin’s leg stumps catch fire and the flames engulf him (he has also misplaced an arm by this point).“Aaaargh,” responds Anakin. “Aaaaaargh!”. His former mentor leaves him to die. It’s Star Wars, George, but not as we know it.

“This one is a little tougher, and I think children, young children especially, should be warned that this is not your average Star Wars,” Lucas had confirmed to Vanity Fair. “It’s a lot darker. There’s a lot more scary stuff in it. It’s brutal in places, and they should be aware of that.”

Hayden Christensen as Anakin in Revenge of the Sith

Hayden Christensen as Anakin in Revenge of the Sith

Lucas lobbed in the kitchen sink making Revenge of the Sith and then threw in a new worktop and breakfast bar for good measure. The final product was so overstuffed that radical trimming was required in post-production. Out went an entire subplot in which a group of Republican leaders, led by Natalie Portman’s Padmé and Genevieve O’Reilly’s Mon Mothma, try to outwit Senator-turned-Emperor Palpatine.

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So too was a sequence in which Yoda (Frank Oz) begins his exile on Dagobah. Chinese-American actress Bai Ling, meanwhile, claimed her performance as a Senator was cut because she posed for Playboy the month the movie came out. Lucas insisted the character had been expunged a year earlier.

Some of the pruning can be considered judicious. Lucas had written a scene in which Palpatine tells Anakin that he created his new Sith acolyte out of Midi-chlorians, echoing Darth’s “No, I am your father” line to Luke in Empire Strikes Back. Even the biggest defenders of Lucas’s prequels will agree we are better off without. And the director had briefly considered a cameo by a 10 year-old Han Solo. Liam Neeson had, for his part, agreed to play a Force ghost version of the Phantom Menace’s munificent manbun Qui-Gon Jinn and to have a confab with Yoda. Ultimately there just wasn’t room.

None of these omissions are deal-breakers. Revenge of the Sith already has more than enough going on. Sitting through it anew after Rise of Skywalker, what’s especially striking is the extent to which it widens and deepens the Star Wars universe. Where all Abrams and Disney could do was drill down and down into the Skywalker family, Sith looks to the stars and the huge galaxy spinning above.

Has a Star Wars movie, after all, ever began more thrillingly than Sith does with its spectacular battle between the Old Republic and the Separatist fleets above the capital planet of Coruscant? It’s a whizz-bang affair, featuring sentient proto-TIE Fighters and zero-gravity mini-bots buzzing like dystopian hornets.

Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen - Reuters

Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen – Reuters
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Later we travel to the partly-submerged world of Kashyyyk to see Wookie tribes fighting droid Separatists (this was where schoolboy Solo was to pop up). And then to Utapau where Obi-Wan tracks down Separatist leader General Grievous (originally supposed to be voiced by Gary Oldman – accounts differ as to why he wasn’t ultimately cast).

The Jedi Master does all this while riding a giant multicoloured space lizard. Cornered, the asthmatic, half machine/half biological Grievous rips off his cape to reveal four arms, each bearing a light-sabre. Subsequently, he tries to run over Obi-Wan over in a huge armoured wheel. By way of riposte Kenobi targets the flesh and blood organs concealed at Grievous’s midriff. The droid leader burns to death. Whatever else you might say about Sith, you can’t claim it’s dull.

Anakin’s seduction by Senator Palpatine is no less transfixing. It helps that McDiarmid, reprising his part from Return of the Jedi (he’s back in Rise of Skywalker), brings real Shakespearean menace in the part. Christensen, acting against his boyband looks, is every bit his match, communicating genuine confusion as Palpatine by degree wins him over.

Ironically the weakest performance is from the cast member who would walk away with her reputation essentially intact, Natalie Portman. She has complained that after Star Wars she was widely assumed to be a terrible actress and that for years nobody would cast her. Still, within a decade she was winning an Oscar for Black Swan, so the fall-out was relatively short lived.

George Lucas with Samuel L Jackson on the set of Revenge of the Sith - Reuters

George Lucas with Samuel L Jackson on the set of Revenge of the Sith – Reuters
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Besides, for once Hollywood was right: Portman is incredibly stilted in Revenge of the Sith. In her defence, Padmé is one of the thinnest ever Star Wars characters. Speaking at the time, Portman claimed Padmé had the makings of a feminist icon. Obviously that wasn’t Lucas’s intention. Despite Portman’s best efforts, Anakin’s lover and the mother of Luke and Leia feels like a two-dimensional transplant from a children’s morality tale.

Revenge of Sith suffers, it is also true, from some horrendous closing scenes. Padmé gives birth to Luke and Leia and then loses the will to live and so surrenders her spirit. Reborn as Darth Vader, the horribly charred Anakin does not take the news well. “Noo!…..,” he shrieks in a sequence that scores high for unintentional comedy.

Lucas was combative during promotion of the movie (he had, he said, “earned the right to fail”). It must have frustrated him that the blowback from the (truly horrendous) Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones made it impossible for critics and cinema-goers to watch Revenge of the Sith on its merits.

He was distressed, moreover, to see Christensen, whose career would quickly fizzle out, dismissed as a mannequin with a light saber. “Poor Hayden,” Lucas said on the eve of the Sith’s release. “His performance is great. They just don’t like the character.”

As Jedi junkies survey the wreckage of Disney’s attempt to resurrect Star Wars, Obi-Wan Kenobi will surely help rehabilitate Revenge of the Sith. It is in places clunking and silly, yes. But it is also epic, thrilling and suffused in tragedy. And it reminds us that, unlike JJ Abrams, George Lucas knows how to bring a Star Wars trilogy to a satisfying conclusion.

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Rebeca Huntt Keeps Cool With Vipassana Meditation and Vintage Slip Dresses

“Brave, stubborn, narcissistic.” With those three defiant words, Rebeca Huntt’s voiceover seems to preempt the critical response to Beba, her debut documentary that doubles as an impressionistic memoir. “From the early days of writing this film, I didn’t want Beba to be an archetype or a saint. Quite the opposite, she needed to be as…

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Rebeca Huntt Keeps Cool With Vipassana Meditation and Vintage Slip Dresses

“Brave, stubborn, narcissistic.” With those three defiant words, Rebeca Huntt’s voiceover seems to preempt the critical response to Beba, her debut documentary that doubles as an impressionistic memoir. “From the early days of writing this film, I didn’t want Beba to be an archetype or a saint. Quite the opposite, she needed to be as unexceptional, as human as possible,” Huntt explains in an accompanying zine. The project is an eight-year odyssey, tracing her teenage discomfort with identity, through her years at Bard as a budding Afro-Latina artist, and back to her family’s rent-stabilized one-bedroom on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. (Her mother is Venezuelan, her father Dominican.) Huntt may be a newcomer, but her voice is warm and earthbound. “You are now entering my universe,” she says at the start of the documentary, sounding like an emcee to a lush, domestic-scaled circus. “I am the lens, the subject, and the authority.”

Huntt, at ease in the Zoom window, wearing a white tank top and gold nameplate necklace (Beba is a childhood nickname), brushes off any idea that such assuredness comes naturally. “I still consider myself shy, even though it seems weird,” she says, aware that baring one’s soul to a camera is an unusual expression of the trait. She credits the film with giving her the “sense of self-acceptance that I would’ve probably come to, for sure, maybe 20 or 30 years from now.”

The filmmaker, currently living in a mountain town an hour and a half outside Mexico City, is back in New York for a celebratory few weeks. When we speak, Beba has just premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival; encouraging reviews are pouring in from the New Yorker and the Times. For just about anyone—let alone a first-time filmmaker preparing for a theatrical release (Beba is now playing at Manhattan’s IFC Center)—it would be a disorienting spell of nerves and to-dos. But as Huntt lays out in this three-day wellness diary, she has strategies in place. “I can’t do anything unless I’ve exercised and meditated in the morning,” she says, underscoring how her art and well-being practices are inextricably linked.

“I carry an ancient pain that I struggle to understand,” Huntt says in the film, as she plumbs the family tensions. Are there ancestral coping mechanisms too? Psychedelics, for one, which Huntt says she took in a therapeutic way while editing Beba: “I was tripping on shrooms and sort of channeling different pains of my grandmother and my mom and myself and my sister.” An impossible-to-describe feeling came over her that “there was a floor, no matter what,” Huntt says. “There was a place for me to land.”

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Monday, June 13

6:30 a.m.: I just sprang up and now it’s time for the gym. I went to sleep at around 10:30 p.m. last night, after a late walk along the park with my niece. The air felt dreamy and fresh, as did our conversation (she’s 16). Today is the first day of my big week: the New York premiere of my feature film, Beba, at Tribeca Film Festival. My film and I are finally coming home. For the past two and a half years, I have been living in a little mountain pueblo in Mexico, so coming back to New York feels intense but also beautiful. This will always be my first home, and it feels meaningful to walk these streets again in this new chapter of life, as grown-up “Beba,” a wiser and more reflective version of myself. I remind myself to stay as focused and present as possible. I’ve hired a trainer for the three weeks I’m in New York. Exercise is, for me, the most efficient and powerful form of therapy and self-love, so this is a must. My trainer’s name is Marc Lamar, and he’s awesome. I relish the boundary of having this training four days a week at 7 a.m.—it reminds me to prioritize caring for myself and not stay out too late!

Morning workout.

Courtesy of Rebeca Huntt.

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8:20 a.m.: I just finished my workout. I chilled in the steam room for 10 minutes. At home in Mexico, most of my workouts are outdoors, so it feels luxurious to be able to hit the steam room, and I’ve been taking advantage of it every day as a mini detox. Then, of course, I have to stay hydrated for the rest of the day. My mother made a big deal about moisturizing since we were kids. I love my routine. I take a shower and use Dr. Bronner’s unscented soap (I have eczema / extremely sensitive skin), and then I moisturize with shea butter or coconut oil. Right now I’m using Shea Moisture’s Head-to-Toe 100% extra virgin coconut oil.

For my daily face routine I use Biossance everything. I’m obsessed with them. I start with the Squalene + Elderberry cleanser, then I do the toner, the Squalene + Omega repair cream, and the SPF 30 (which I love because it doesn’t leave white residue on my skin and it gives me a dewy look). Then I use the vitamin C rose oil.

10 a.m.: I try to fit in at least a half-hour of Vipassana every day. I’ve done a silent Vipassana retreat for the past two years, and it has really revolutionized how I approach my life. Meditation helps me stay grounded, present, and grateful. I’m proud of myself for doing the full hour today. Everything around me is high energy right now, and it is fascinating to observe my thoughts come and go, a lot of chatter up there. I end the meditation by reminding myself to give myself a lot of grace and love in this hectic and magical moment. I send love to my family and my team / colleagues.

11 a.m.: Just finished the breakfast I made for myself, which consisted of oatmeal pancakes, fruits, and two hard-boiled eggs. Going to take a quick shower, and head to the Tribeca photo shoot.

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Queen Elizabeth Makes First Public Appearance Since Her Platinum Jubilee

After her many Platinum Jubilee engagements earlier this month, Queen Elizabeth headed to Scotland for yet another week of royal ceremonies.The monarch took an overnight trip on the Royal Train to Edinburgh, Scotland on Monday and is scheduled to spend the next several days at her home there, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, as she and…

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Queen Elizabeth Makes First Public Appearance Since Her Platinum Jubilee

After her many Platinum Jubilee engagements earlier this month, Queen Elizabeth headed to Scotland for yet another week of royal ceremonies.

The monarch took an overnight trip on the Royal Train to Edinburgh, Scotland on Monday and is scheduled to spend the next several days at her home there, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, as she and other members of the royal family attend to various duties and celebrations. The queen attended the historic Ceremony of the Keys on Monday morning, wearing a light blue coat and matching hat while carrying a bouquet of flower and the walking stick she’s come to rely on in recent months due to ongoing mobility issues. During the ceremony, Queen Elizabeth was given the keys to the city of Edinburgh and welcomed to her “ancient and hereditary kingdom of Scotland.” The royal was also joined at the event by her youngest son, Prince Edward, and his wife, Sophie, Countess of Wessex. As the monarch was presented with the keys on a red velvet cushion, the Royal Highland Fusiliers and the Band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland provided a musical performance.

This ceremony marks the royal’s first public appearance since her Platinum Jubilee, although she did receive guests at her home at Windsor Castle this past week. The palace announced on Monday that the queen will also be attending an Armed Forces Act of Loyalty Parade in the gardens of Holyroodhouse on Tuesday. And, this week, the royals will also host a garden party attended by Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Edward, and Sophie, as well as an investiture ceremony for Scottish people receiving honors from the Queen. The monarch may also hold an audience with the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, but it has yet to be confirmed. As the royal continues to struggle with her mobility, Buckingham Palace is only able to confirm her attendance a few hours prior to these event as it is largely based on how Queen Elizabeth is feeling that day. Last week, however, a royal source confirmed to People that despite these recent health setbacks, the queen is back in the saddle again and riding horses after a brief hiatus due to “discomfort.” They added, “At 96, it’s amazing that the Queen has been on her horse.”


Listen to Vanity Fair’s DYNASTY podcast now.

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Welcome to Wampler’s Metaverse, a programmable multi-delay pedal with a whopping 11 core sounds

Home News Wampler has announced the arrival of the Metaverse, which we’re relieved to say is not an underwhelming new VR space but a comprehensive delay pedal – one featuring 11 different delay algorithms and up to 128 preset slots.Essentially, the Metaverse does for delay what Wampler’s Terraform did for modulation, packing a hugely versatile feature…

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Welcome to Wampler’s Metaverse, a programmable multi-delay pedal with a whopping 11 core sounds

Wampler has announced the arrival of the Metaverse, which we’re relieved to say is not an underwhelming new VR space but a comprehensive delay pedal – one featuring 11 different delay algorithms and up to 128 preset slots.

Essentially, the Metaverse does for delay what Wampler’s Terraform did for modulation, packing a hugely versatile feature set and a wide array of studio-quality (48 kHz/24-bit) tones into a pedalboard-friendly box. 

Central to the unit are those delay options, which include a mix of classic tones, Wampler algorithms, and some truly far-out sounds, such as the whoosh of analog flanger delay. 

Wampler Metaverse

(Image credit: Wampler)

Some of the more traditional options include BBD (a Memory Man-style Bucket Brigade Delay), ANLG (inspired by a Boss DM-2), the Echoplex-style SPC (Space Echo delay) and TAPE, which channels multi-head tape tones inspired by the Binson Echorec. There’s also a crisp, ’80s-style digital delay, which takes its cues from a TC Electronic 2290.

The Metaverse also sees Wampler draw upon its back catalog, with the tones of its Doctor, Faux Tape Echo and Ethereal pedals all available here. 

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It also throws in both analog and digital flanger delays, and Wampler’s take on an Aqua Puss-style modulated delay. “If you love vintage boutique analog delays, you’ll love this setting which can almost warp space and time with its liquid repeats,” says Wampler.

(Image credit: Wampler Pedals)

Controls on offer include Delay, Feedback, Tone, Mod and Mix dials, alongside two footswitches, one of which is dedicated to tap tempo. Hold down the bypass switch and you’ll have access to other parameters. Finally, there’s a preset button.

On the preset side, you can save up to eight directly to the pedal using the central preset save/recall button, or up to 128 presets via MIDI connection. 

There’s full CC and PC command for MIDI, plus a stereo I/O and the option to connect an expression pedal to control any of the pedal’s parameters.

Wampler Metaverse Delay

(Image credit: Wampler Pedals)

We are pleased to see that Wampler has addressed our main (and pretty much only) criticism of the Terraform – the tiny typeface of the effects names, which was almost unreadable. Here it has opted for considerably larger lettering and abbreviated effect names, which should make it easier to identify settings on the fly…

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Finally, Wampler is making the pedal available in software format, too, free to anyone who registers the unit for the warranty on line. This set of 11 AU and VST3 plugins are compatible with most popular DAWs, and would ordinarily set you back $49.99 if purchased separately.

Expect to find the Metaverse for $/£349 street. Head to Wampler Pedals for more.

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Matt Parker

Matt is a freelance journalist who has spent the last decade interviewing musicians for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk (opens in new tab), which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.

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