Illustrating Anakin Skywalker’s fall – movie vs. novel

Star Wars Episode III left many dissatisfied with Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the Dark Side. Here’s how I think this could’ve been easily fixed.

Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith, often considered the “acceptable” chapter of the prequels. The conclusion of the prequel trilogy is a display of action and combat unparalleled (at least in scale of volume) by any other Star Wars movie to date.

We see the fall of the Old Republic and the emergence of Palpatine’s Galactic Empire, a satisfying finale to all the political scenes that were so prevalent in the first two prequels. In the process, we also witness the destruction of the Jedi Order, and with it, the turn of Anakin Skywalker to the dark side.

If there’s one moment fans were salivating for when the prequels were first announced, it was the eventual turn of Anakin Skywalker into the Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader.  How did it happen?  Why did it happen?  What exactly turned a heroic Jedi Knight into a Sith Lord?

In many ways, Hayden Christensen delivered an amazing performance in this installment, with the caveat that there were several steps in Anakin’s turn that never made it into the final movie, thereby blemishing what could’ve been an incredible finale.

In general, it’s commonly accepted if you read the book and then see the movie, the opinion is “the book was better.” And that’s definitely the case for Episode III, wherein the movie just doesn’t even come close to capturing the mood of the novel, especially when it comes to the circumstances that lead to Anakin’s turn to the dark side.

For starters, Anakin has spent most every day of the Clone Wars engaged in conflict with the droid armies of the Confederacy of Independent Systems (not to mention Count Dooku, Asajj Ventress, and General Grievous), and while his Jedi training may be sufficient to avoid most effects of expected PTSD, Jedi are not immune to the body’s basic need to sleep.

In the novel, the fact that Anakin is sleep deprived is established, and author Matt Stover does a fine job of subtly bringing attention to this as Anakin’s anger continually gets the better of him, he loses focus during conversations, and snaps at other Jedi and even his wife. It is often referred to as “the dragon” inside him, a force of unbridled power constantly attempting to break Anakin’s will.

Photo Credit: Lucasfilm

In the movie, the fact that Anakin isn’t sleeping doesn’t even come across, often leading to the impression that Anakin is simply a frustrated youth who isn’t getting his way. Only in a scene where he is awakened by a nightmare of Padme’s death does that element come into focus, but it focuses more on the dream, though, rather than the sleep deprivation. But let’s talk about that dream after checking out some info on sleep deprivation, courtesy of healthline.com

Anakin’s lack of sleep is actually addressed more thoroughly in Episode II with a single line of dialogue, when Anakin outright says “I don’t sleep well anymore.”

Point being, Anakin’s been pushing himself far too hard for far too long, and the events of Episode III are where everything crumbles for him.

Anakin’s premonitions in his dreams were well established in Episode II, when he sees his mother’s death before it comes to pass. Given that he failed in protecting his mother, he wasn’t about to do the same with the love of his life, and while Skywalker’s motive of protecting Padme is demonstrated in the movie, it again doesn’t really hold a torch to the novel, in one critical and vital element, which I feel would have changed the entire scope of the movie had it been included in the plot.

Enter the plot line where Anakin is tasked to serve as Chancellor Palpatine’s personal representative on the Jedi Council.

Photo Credit: Lucasfilm

In reading the novel, it’s revealed Anakin is ecstatic over this turn of events, as he is confident that in the Masters’ Archives he will find hidden Force knowledge that will enable him to counter his premonitions of Padme’s demise. However, these hopes are curtly dashed when Mace Windu declares that Anakin Skywalker will be on the Council, but not as a Master.

This is why Anakin becomes so upset in response, because he sees his path to saving Padme’s life so clearly, only to have it blocked by the guy whose lightsaber says BMF on it. This decision by Windu is ultimately revisited later when Anakin has to choose between the Jedi or Sith path, and Windu’s constant mistrust of him (Windu notes on more than one occasion that he doesn’t trust Anakin) makes the decision to stand with Palpatine that much easier.

Again, in the movie Anakin only comes across as a kid lashing out because he isn’t getting what he wants, whereas in the novel it’s easy to have empathy for the character when you witness his constant efforts to solve his problems blocked by Jedi policy and Sith manipulations.

After Anakin’s betrayal of the Jedi, it is only moments later where the biggest fail occurs, when Anakin pledges himself to Palpatine, so long as the Sith Lord will help him save Padme’s life, a promise that Sidious has made to Skywalker.

“I have the power to save the one you love.”

Not “We can maybe one day learn the power to save the one you love.” I mean I get that “treachery is the way of the Sith,” another brilliant line presented in the novel by Matt Stover, but Palpatine’s response is basically “Well…I don’t really know how to save her. I might have been lying about that.”

Wait…what??

Neither the book or the movie explain exactly why Anakin Skywalker accepts this response from Palpatine, but I’ve always found it odd that this glaring error was kept in the final draft and the novel. I mean, couldn’t Palpatine just have the power as he claimed, with the adjustment that the power could only prevent one from dying, but not actually bring one back from the dead?  Seems like an easy solution to me!

If you haven’t yet, check out the Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith novel