I completely understand where most people's dislike of the second Star Wars trilogy springs from. It started with politics and Jar-Jar Binks in Phantom Menace and then hit rock bottom with Hayden Christensen's portrayal of Anakin Skywalker. However, as frustrating as the prequels are, they're not entirely devoid of cool moments. We get to watch Yoda bust out his lightsaber and do some damage, and the showdown between Palpatine and Samuel L. Jackson's Mace Windu is still pretty great.
My favorite moment in the entirety of the new trilogy comes at the end of Revenge of the Sith -- in a scene many a fanboy and fangirl fantasized about from the very moment these films were announced. That's right -- the moment where Anakin finally becomes the Darth Vader we all know from the original (and better) trilogy. It's one of the few things the second set of films gets right -- the showdown that leads to Anakin donning the imposing black suit with the built in respirator and transforming from a whiny child into what is arguably cinema's greatest villain is everything I'd hoped it would be. It almost makes up for all the terrible things that have come before -- yes, even midichlorians -- but not quite. Just in case you haven't seen this film and have no clue how Anakin becomes Vader, consider this your spoiler warning.
In this lengthy sequence (which an enterprising YouTube user has edited together quite nicely), Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) Lightsaber duel over a river of molten lava. Obi-Wan ends up on higher ground, but Anakin -- ever the arrogant one -- decides he can still win. Kenobi slices him down -- and after words are exchanged, Anakin dips into the lava and catches on fire.
When Emperor Palpatine arrives later, the badly burned and horribly disfigured young Jedi is still clinging to life. Palpatine's guards place him in a medical pod and he's transported back to safety. It's here that the moment everyone's been waiting for finally happens. Medical droids work to put Vader back together -- encasing him in a heavy black suit and then placing a facemask and headpiece on his burned skull. As the pieces click together, we hear the familiar hiss of the breathing apparatus and Anakin Skywalker is no more -- he's now fully Darth Vader.
Palpatine greets his pupil (who now has the James Earl Jones' voice). Vader asks about Padme, only to learn that she's dead and he was responsible. He breaks out of the restraints that bind him, unleashes the power of the dark side of The Force, and then screams "No!" before the scene ends.
Granted, it's not exactly Shakespeare, but the reason this moment works in spite of the shortcomings inherent in the writing is because Lucas finally gives us what we want. I've often thought that the real problem with the new trilogy is that Lucas acts as though he knows better than the fans -- and that what he wants from the story is more important than entertaining the people who made Star Wars into a cultural phenomenon in the first place. In this scene, though, Lucas is on the same page as the rest of us and the result is one of the best moments from the three new films. Normally, I'd think "There's no way you could screw this up," but after sitting through Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, I'd concluded that there was no such thing as a slam-dunk in this series anymore. Luckily for us, Lucas gets it right and Revenge of the Sith, and the new trilogy as a whole end on a relative high note. What do you think? Did the birth of Darth Vader live up to your expectations or was it one more disappointment in a series of films seemingly full of letdowns? Watch the clip and then sound off in the comments section below.