We finally made it to Revenge of the Sith late Saturday night. We tried a few times to find time to see it, only to have other events prevent it, with traveling, planned activities at ideal times, and less availability to babysitters during some times when we did have time. Finally we decided to go Friday night for her birthday because my parents would be in town to watch the kids, but Sam forgot that Friday was even her birthday, never mind the movie date, and scheduled something else. We wanted to go later that night, but it would have taken us until way past midnight, which we didn't want to do. So we decided to go Saturday night instead. Then we arrived at the theater, and it was sold out (three weeks after its release!), so we had to go at the late showing anyway so we could still take advantage of my parents' presence. I want to come back to the issues of Lucas on Bush and Lucas on relativism and absolutism, but I'm going to save that for another post. For now, I just want to record my thoughts on how this film stands in relation to the others in the series.
I agree with those who think this is the best of all six Star Wars films. It's epic. Episode I is about as non-epic as you can get, but it was a good story. There's bad dialogue in III, but all six have bad writing, and it's not concentrated all in one place as happens too much in episodes II and VI. I walked out, and I expressed wonderment to Sam about how anyone could possibly think knowing the ending could ruin something like this. The special effects for episodes I, II, and III give them all presumptive favor over the original three, but in some cases that's outweighed by other things' being better in the originals. Episode V is generally agreed to be the best of the originals, and few serious critics have thought of any other as the best among episodes I, II, IV, V, and VI. The question is whether III is better than V. I think it is, but I've only seen it once. It's possible my view will change on repeat viewings. I enjoyed it more than I've enjoyed any of the others.
Part of it is the epic nature and seeing it all come back to the beginning. Part is seeing Yoda fight the emperor. I was expecting a pretty sudden change in Anakin that wouldn't seem convincing. I was wrong. The transition makes much more sense than I expected, even his turning against Obi-Wan. You can get a sense at just how much Palpatine has been poisoning his mind, and you also get a sense for how he's been manipulated by some of the deeper desires that the Stoic Jedi have condemned but that he thinks are truly important, ones the Jedi have at most only even suspected of him as he's kept them secret. Palpatine sees them as sees how to motivate him through them, setting things up so his deepest desires and passions can only be satisfied if he learns what the Jedi would forbid him to learn. When it's a life-or-death issue, he choose the life of his love and submits to the dark side in the hope that he can save the life of the one whose death he's foreseen.
Then the poisoning of his mind further develops once his mind has been so clouded, and it seems to him as if the Jedi have turned against him as he seeks to do what's right. The emperor's lies have shaped how he sees their opposition to the one person who wants to help save Padme, and finally Obi-Wan appears to be the one who has turned Padme against him, which immediately turns him to revenge now that he's given in to the dark side, which feeds his hate, anger, and fear.
There were things I didn't like. I wanted more Mace Windu and Count Dooku, though I was prepared for an early end to Dooku. Lucas needed to explain why Grievous was coughing. I've read some reviews that thought he was a droid, which shows that he didn't even explain well enough that Grievous is partly organic, which is why he can cough, but it would be good to know not just why he's the sort of thing that can cough but why he actually was coughing all the time. It would have been nice to see more Jedi than just Yoda and Obi-Wan putting up a decent fight againt the clones when order 66 was initiated. They looked pretty incompetent, even if it was a surprise attack by their own troops. Chewbacca didn't do enough to justify his presence. It might as well have been a mere cameo, and we didn't even know for sure it was him until the last scene he was in. The scenes with Amidala were much better than the long, awful ones in episode II, but they weren't great. Hayden Christensen has become a halfway decent actor now, but he still isn't great. Still, these are all minor gripes. They didn't stop me from enjoying this film more than any of the others.
I had a few friends in college who liked to compare Star Wars with Star Trek, and they thought Star Wars was obviously superior. I'd gotten to a point a few years ago when I thought they were so obviously wrong. I like Star Trek a lot, and I think movie 10 and the last few years of DS9 were some of the best scifi ever, so it's not a huge insult for me to say Star Wars isn't as good. I did like episodes I and II, which some people think were stupid. I maintain that those people don't know how to tune out the bad to prevent it from ruining what's truly good. I also insist that those people don't pay attention to how bad episodes 4-6 are and just remember how good they thought they were when they were kids. The bad dialogue, directing (except in episode V, which Lucas didn't direct), and acting are throughout all the Star Wars movies.
Still, I think Star Wars had not until been good enough to be better than Star Trek. After episode III, that's a harder claim to make. Some of the things I really like about Trek are still not true of Star Wars, including some of the more intelligent writing they've put forth over the years, but this movie was just so fun and so epic that I think it's going to count as better than much Star Trek, and that restructures the balance of things so I can't make a blanket statement anymore.