“Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakes” is coming out December 18.
That’s a long time for a “Star Wars” fan to wait. And it’s been a while since the last “Star Wars” movie came out in 2008. So to hold you over, let’s relive the last film in the prequel, “Revenge of the Sith,” specifically the last 15 minutes of the film, a moment Star Wars fans waited decades to witness and producers pulled out all the stops to pull off.
(For more “Star Wars” recaps, check out the on-going series, “Star Wars” Rewind).
2005’s “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” was the seventh “Star Wars” movie released, and the final one George Lucas would be involved in. “Phantom Menace” and “Attack of the Clones” were fine, but for the most part “Star Wars” fans were left feeling unsatisfied. “Episode III,” promised to give fans the answers they had been wanting for decades, and some redemption for Lucas.
“Revenge of the Sith” had a mature feel compared to the previous two films and captured the horrific fall of the Jedi. In it, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) finds himself moving closer to the dark side as Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) — who we come to learn is the Emperor, Darth Sidious — convinces Skywalker that he’s the greatest Jedi of them all. This leads to Skywalker leading the rise of the Empire.
But it’s the final 15 minutes of the film that set it apart from the others in the prequel.
In it, Anakin loses the light saber battle against Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and is left for dead as he burns alive on the volcanic planet of Mustafar.
The Emperor saves Anakin and what follows is something “Star Wars” fans waited decades to see — Anakin turns into Darth Vader.
Industrial Light and Magic’s Rob Coleman was the animation director on all of the “Star Wars” prequels and he is on the commentary for the Blu-ray version of “Revenge of the Sith.” He said the Darth Vader sequence was one he’d “been thinking about since I was 13 years old.”
Visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett described the idea behind the setting for the construction of Anakin into Vader in the commentary: “We wanted to get that interrogation look with this ridiculously hot top light,” he said. “Uncomfortable and very unsympathetic.”
Then there was showcasing the iconic Vader mask and helmet.
“I love this idea of getting inside the mask,” Guyett said in the commentary. “And the other touch was seeing him breath for the first time. I remember we did the shot and George came back and said, ‘Just disturb the smoke enough above the mouth piece so you can see him breath for the first time.”
But perhaps the most memorable moment was the filming of Vader when his construction is complete. James Earl Jones, who voiced Vader in the original trilogy, returned to do the dialogue in this scene. And according to producer Rick McCallum on the commentary, Christensen was inside the Vader costume for the scene.
“I went to go pick up Hayden in a golf cart [to bring him to the set] and he insisted to play this,” said McCallum. “He wanted to be in the suit.”
The scene was shot 10 days before principal photography on “Revenge of the Sith” wrapped, and McCallum recalls the incredible sight when he got to the set with Christensen.
“There were about a thousand people on the stage,” he said. “Everyone from the studio. We opened the stage doors and I let four hundred to five hundred people in, as many as we could get in. People were sitting on the floor. George did a couple of takes, Hayden got off [the set], and everyone just came up and touched him.”
“Most of these people honestly had gotten into the film business because of ‘Star Wars,'” said McCallum. “It was just a great day.”
Though Lucas took a lot of heat on the internet following the release of the prequels as many thought they didn’t hold up to the original trilogy, it’s hard to argue that the ending of “Revenge of the Sith” is completely satisfying.
Along with seeing the creation of Darth Vader, we see the birth of Luke and Leia Skywalker, C-3PO and R2-D2 being handed over to Captain Antilles who erases their memory in order to protect the whereabouts of the twins, and how the twins are split up to protect them from Vader ever finding them, following the death of Padmé (Natalie Portman) during child birth.
The film concludes with Kenobi giving Luke to his uncle and aunt on Tatooine, where 20 years later the Jedi master and future apprentice would find each other in “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.”
“I always wanted to end the movie on the twin suns, it was such a strong image in ‘Episode IV,'” said Lucas in the commentary.
About the ending to “Sith,” Lucas added, “There’s something very satisfying about having all the little pieces wrapped up.”
Watch Anakin Skywalker become Darth Vader: