OK, it seems the everyone is a movie critic this week. If you ever doubt that most bloggers are geeks at heart, just look at all the Star Wars III coverage in blogs this week. Anyway, not to be outdone, here is my review. I will give a general review up front, with more thoughts that include spoilers in the extended post.
Overall, the movie was visually stunning, with lots of eye candy. The last third of the movie was emotionally engaging, though many of the actors' performances were sub-par. The movie was better than the last two (duh) and tied the story arc together fairly well.
However, my impressions of the movie really differed front to back, so for review purposes I divide the movie into three parts:
- Initial action / rescue sequence C+: The effects are nice, but the mission itself doesn't make a lot of sense, at least from Palpatine's eyes, who clearly must have orchestrated it. Movie-wise, it has two purposes. First, it is supposed to be the last gasp of the Obi-Wan and Anakin ongoing buddy movie, but the dialog for this sucks. They should have hired someone from the Lethal Weapon movies to do this right. Second, and perhaps the most effective part, it really sets up a scene in Return of the Jedi, making more meaningful a contrast between Luke and Anakin. Without this one sub-scene, this section of the movie would have just been an overly long action intro into the movie, kind of like the warm-up band to get everyone excited or the first 5 minutes before the credits in a James Bond movie.
- Dialog / exposition / Anakin turns D: Some people seem to like this section. I found it PAINFUL. The Anakin/Padme romance is never, ever very realistic. I don't know if it is the acting or the script or just lack of spark between the actors, but I thought there was more sexual tension between Luke and his sister, for god sakes, than Anakin and Padme. I will say the fear that drives Anakin to the dark side is a fairly good one. It was set up well in the previous movies. However, the execution sucked. Under the right direction, this could have been really powerful, given the dark irony at the end of the movie of what was really behind this fear. The final conversion seems to happen way too fast - he goes from "wait this is wrong" to "You are my master" in like 30 seconds.
- Destruction of the Jedi / Putting everyone in place for Episode IV B+: There is nothing wrong with Lucas's ability to direct epic action and special effects and to use music and editing to build tension and emotion. I thought it was well done. The final fight scene takes place in amazing environment. They do a good, but not perfect job, of establishing continuity with Episode IV. Once everyone shuts up, the movie gets good. Hayden Christianson really looks the part of dark Jedi at the end
Overall, I will give it a B but non-Star Wars fans would probably grade it lower. My episode ranking now is V - IV - [III or VI] - II - I. I will have to see it again and give it a bit of time to put it ahead or behind VI, but right now I have it ahead because its emotional impact walking out of it the first time was much higher than that of VI.