The movie felt a lot less disjointed. It leapt around a bit, as have all of its predecessors, but as I commented in the parking lot last night, at least all of the different locations were colour-coded! All of the venues were sufficiently different-looking that it actually made it easier to tell where you were.
All told? I'm now pretty impressed with this closing chapter in the "Star Wars" saga.
First let me say that I love having a department director at work who enjoys chatting about science fiction and college hockey! Rick, who I often see at Cornell games, was also at the movie last night. He commented to me in the parking lot as I was leaving for lunch that Anakin's transition from good to evil was too abrupt. I'm not sure; we knew he had a temper, as evidenced when his mom died and he killed all of the Tusken Raiders. The genesis in this movie of his shift to the Dark Side was probably his decision to obey Chancellor Palpatine's order at the end of the fight with Count Dooku, and his internal conflict over that action.
How did Hayden Christensen do in this role? Others have observed that he's good at glowering, but horrible at delivering lines. I actually thought he was very good at visually acting the conflict he was enduring. The admittedly wooden delivery isn't all that far from most other performances in the "Star Wars" series, so I'd be reluctant to say he was bad here. I think he grew into the role he took on as a teenager, and I think he did well.
Ewan McGregor very nearly lived up to the example set by Sir Alec Guinness, and I thought did exceptionally well as Obi-Wan Kenobi. His beard even did a good job of approximating Guinness's from thirty years ago, though I don't think it was real. (What gave it away? It looked dry as he climbed out of the water.)
Other than some very oddly inflected delivery in his rant to the Senate, Ian McDiarmid was outstanding as Chancellor Palpatine. Jimmy Smits was great; Samuel L. Jackson was particularly disappointing. Scorpius as Tarkin? Priceless.
There's very little in this movie to "give away" in terms of broad-stroke spoilers; we all know where this leads. The damage to Anakin's body that takes us to the familiar high-tech Darth Vader suit was plausibly handled, and also pretty disturbing visually. I'm sure that scene was one of several (along with the fate of the younglings) that gave this movie its PG-13 rating.
Similarly, we had to see where Luke and Leia came from. I'm very amused to discover that the scene on Tattooine in which Obi-Wan delivers Luke to Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru was filmed along with the "Episode II" scenes that were shot on location in Tunisia, so they wouldn't have to set up a whole location shoot for just one scene in the final movie.
The birth scene was a bit contrived, and it would have been nice to hear where the names came from, instead of just having Padme utter them. Also, she should have acted more like a pregnant woman throughout the movie! They shouldn't have used light foam (or whatever) in her wardrobe, but something that weighed several pounds and moved, so she could have more of a feel for how she needed to move.
Even more than before, I'm blown away by the stunning visuals in this movie. They did a truly outstanding job of making it look good, from the people to the sets to the scenery, even to the extent of digitally removing the reflections of green-screen from C-3PO's shiny metal skin. Yoda was perfect.
Yoda also brought us a couple of the cheer-out-loud moments in the movie; he and R2-D2 both got in some satisfying ass-kicking. Some of the choreography was downright spectacular, but that's not surprising. George Lucas has always wielded a light sabre more deftly than he's wielded a pen. It's the battles, whether between individuals or armadas of spaceships, that define the flavour that is Star Wars.
The music still didn't impress me all that much. It was fine, and yes of course, I recognized lots of themes from earlier movies. That's one of the things that bothers me about much of John Williams's work. It's too derivative of itself. "Star Trek" in its various incarnations has shown that you can weave familiar themes into new music and end up with something that sounds like new music, and Williams has done great music in this series! I just don't think he did anything here that rose to that level.
One last thought... I love that R2-D2 knew everything all along! It even fits... and explains C-3PO's apparent cluelessness.