Please note: The following text contains spoilers. Viewer discretion is also advised – Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith is rated ‘12’. For more details on the film’s content from a Christian perspective, read Focus on The Family’s review, from Plugged In:
It’s no secret that I’m far from what you might call a Star Wars nut. Whilst I grew up watching the original films on VHS tapes, played the video games (Star Wars Battlefront II – legendary) and even owned a talking Yoda toy, I have no allegiance toward the Rebels or the Galactic Empire.
No, I can accept that the films of the Skywalker Saga (Episodes 1-9) are somewhat flawed – most notably due to their on-the-nose dialogue and ropey performances – but also note their ability to be vastly entertaining and emotionally affecting in the same breath. The series’ overall scope, themes, visual design, and artistic vision that was developed and executed by George Lucas is undeniably impressive and rivalled by few other cinematic properties.
Perhaps the strongest element of the series, however, is found in its handling of various themes throughout, such as light versus darkness, finding our place in the universe, the alluring, but dangerous draw of temptation and the negative lifelong effects it so often brings – the latter of which Revenge of The Sith handles movingly. But in Episode III, we see less of the Star Wars charm and light-heartedness we’ve come to expect from the series and are forced to watch as our hero makes a pact with Lucas’ equivalent of the devil, and then descends into darkness. It may surprise you then, to know that it’s for this reason that Revenge of The Sith is my favourite of the three prequel films. Unlike The Phantom Menace and Attack of The Clones before it, this is Star Wars at its most thematically raw and mature. Lucas explores what humans do in the face of uncertainty, how far we’ll go to protect a loved one (which may begin positively, but turn evil quickly), the appealing but dangerous lure of the ‘dark side’ and the crippling power of fear. It all makes for a more depressing, if grounded kind of Star Wars, but Episode III prompted me to reflect upon the tactics of the devil (or Darth Sidious here) and how the Lord implores us to cling to Him as the One who brings life in all its fullness, protects us, and will never lead us astray.
In this final instalment of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, we witness Anakin’s long-expected turn to the dark side, which includes defecting from the Jedi order to become the apprentice of Darth Sidious and his grotesque, physical transformation into the fearsome Darth Vader. Of course, none of this happened overnight in the world of Star Wars, as it has been leading to this moment from The Phantom Menace onwards. We watch throughout the series as Anakin struggles to control his anger, abandon his pride and stop fear from gaining a foothold in his life. And in this third instalment, we see all of that materialise and more, when Anakin is unexpectedly denied the rank of Master and a seat on the Jedi Council, as well as having frightening visions of Padmé (Natalie Portman), his secret wife (Jedi, dying in childbirth. All of this is too much for the young Jedi to bear, and in his distrust of the Jedi Council, he confides in his friend Senator Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) who, unbeknownst to Anakin, is a lethal Sith Lord. The Supreme Chancellor takes Anakin under his wing but uses the Jedi Knight’s distrust of the Jedi Council and his fear of losing Padmé, to his advantage – he secretly means to turn him to the dark side.
Everything about Palpatine/Darth Sidious’ behaviour points to the Bible’s description of the devil and his tactics. Like the devil, Palpatine “prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8), scheming from within the shadows to then prey upon the weak and the desperate. As Supreme Chancellor, his role is to serve the Senate and ensure that democracy is protected across the galaxy. And yet, he stands before the senate a liar – it’s almost as if he “disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14, NRSV). And his latest victim is Anakin, whom he deceives, filling his head with lies about the Jedi which causes him to doubt the virtues of the Jedi Order:
Supreme Chancellor Palpatine: “Remember back to your early teachings. ‘All who gain power are afraid to lose it.’ Even the Jedi.”
Anakin Skywalker: “The Jedi use their power for good.”
SCP: “Good is a point of view, Anakin. The Jedi point of view is not the only valid one. The Dark Lords of the Sith believe in security and justice, also. Yet they are considered by the Jedi to be...”
SCP: “The Sith and the Jedi are similar in almost every way, including their quest for greater power. The only difference between the two is that the Sith are not afraid of the Dark Side of the Force. That is why they are more powerful.”
In that exchange, Palpatine attempts to make evil look good and twists a foundational truth which the Jedi has built their very order upon: the desire to use their power for good. Later, he even tempts him with the “pride of life” (1 John 2:16). In appealing to his ego, he tempts the Jedi with the desire to become more powerful than any of his contemporaries (“Don't continue to a be a pawn of the Jedi Council! Ever since I've known you, you have been seeking a life of great significance, far more than any Jedi…”), and promises him that in joining forces with one another, they will be able to find a way to save Padmé from dying – thus alleviating his fears. To any Christian who has experienced any form of spiritual warfare, it’s clear that he knows Anakin’s weak spots and is looking for opportunities to lead him astray, just as the devil does for us too.
Yet we know that whilst Palpatine is a formidable opponent who has now assumed control of the galaxy in which Star Wars is set, he ultimately sits upon a throne of lies - which by the Skywalker trilogy’s end will crumble, because “everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all” (Luke 12:2, NLT). And the devil, whilst he too has placed the whole world under his rule (1 John 5:19), remains “a liar and the father of all lies” (John 8:44, GNT), as well as a “thief” who “comes only… to steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10, GNT). But God is infinitely greater and more powerful than the enemy, and His desire is that we would not fall under the devil’s control, but experience “a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10, NLT) found in Him. Thanks to the atoning work of Jesus on the Cross, we can be forgiven of our sin, reconciled to Him and experience a life in which we need not fear, or seek to boost our ego through the things of this world, because we can find everlasting love and our complete worth in Christ alone. Unlike Anakin, we need not allow ourselves to give in to the temptations of a trickster who doesn’t care about us in the slightest, because if we invite Jesus to come and live within our hearts, “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4, NRSV) and we can trust, as well as cling to Him.
Why not prayerfully invite a friend or family member who doesn’t yet know Jesus, to watch Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith for themselves? Use the film’s themes to ask them what they thought of the film, if they spotted any links to Christianity and what they might think of the Gospel’s response to this subject.
If you feel able to, ask them if they believe in the existence of both light and darkness in this world – the latter of which is vying for our attention? If they answer yes, ask them why they believe that. Prompt them to consider the existence of God and the devil but share about how whilst the enemy makes many attempts to control our lives, God wants to bring us freedom found in relationship with Him.
Take the opportunity to share the hope of the Gospel message with them, encouraging them in the knowledge that whilst the enemy is cunning, we believe in the One who is more powerful than anyone and has overcome the world, so that we might be united with Him – now and forever! So, why not invite them to turn from their sin, put their trust in Him and walk into dependable friendship with Him, today?
Prior to watching the film for yourself, however, take a moment to pray that God would speak to you through the show. If you feel comfortable, pray this prayer over all your future, film-watching experiences:
Dear Lord, as I watch this film, I ask that you would be present here with me. Highlight to me anything within it that is honourable, anything that can be used in conversation for your Kingdom purposes. Amen.
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith is currently available to stream on Disney+ (U.K.)