(ETA, 18:45 CST: You know, it was a curious experience sitting next to someone who, when confronted with, "Anakin, you're breaking my heart!" might well have responded, "yeah, baby!" As I wrote to zengeneral here, "he said you killed younglings" is usually a negative assertion...)
Some quick rambling comments, 20-80 minutes after viewing, follow.
Major holes: Jedi Council members are all masters rather than knights? "Never before in the history of the Order"? Huh? Well, I'm going to interpret that vis-a-vis the "cardinal" concept: if a Catholic is not a bishop when he is appointed cardinal, he is consecrated as one first; and if he is not a priest, he is ordained one first.
I'm sure I'll think of more later.
Differences versus the book:
- Artoo versus super battle droids: farce can be taken too far, but after Episode I, I lost any hope of Lucas realizing that. As long as the eight-year olds cheer, right?
- Stover described the duel between Dooku and the Jedi better. I liked the suddenness of Anakin taking Dooku's hands at one swipe, though. The dangers of ambidextrous people using a lightsabre as a bastard sword...
- Jedi masters falling before they even take a step is not as interesting as Jedi masters fighting and being beheaded in a whirlwind of destruction, but I see that Lucas wanted to transition from Yoda the little green helicopter that could into the "novice versus cripple" of Episode IV. Look at how Grievous does the Shiva thing at first and then... doesn't.
- Mace Windu screamed too much. Otherwise, his fall was every bit as good as in the book, even without all the Vapaad (which just isn't there).
- I liked Yoda spinning to behead the two clones. I didn't like the WWF Force-bashing of the Red Guard. Since we never see them fight in Return of the Jedi, either, they are thereby reduced to a bunch of buffoons.
- So much for not killing sentients! Yoda sticking it to a clone is pretty hardcore. Hey, but as long as they wear masks, right? Depersonalization is the order of the day.
- After all that fighting, they had to reduce it to the farce of Anakin trying to backflip from a floating platform onto higher ground? Come on, what was wrong with the flyover in the book? It kept the cadence of the climactic scene of the prequel trilogy: brutal, relentless, the combatants exhausted but the battle replete with Anakin's anger.
- The biggie for me was Obi-Wan's leaving Anakin on the bank. In the book, Obi-Wan senses Palpatine's approach and Padme's failing. Of course, in the film, we can suppose that Anakin drained Padme through some Force-based link
- Minor or trivial plot differences:
- The aftermath of the temple massacre was more plausible in the film than in the book. I didn't quite buy the way Bail Organa snuck back to Coruscant, and the "ugly baby" entry into the Jedi Temple wasn't as good as the way they fought their way in.
- Anakin killed more Jedi than "younglings" alone, though! Of course, Stover and Lucas only described his killing the clan leader and a couple of teenaged Jedi in the holos, or it would have been more than "Star Wars dark". The rest is all implied - by Anakin's lighting his lightsabre in the film.
- Didn't Padmé stow aboard on Obi-Wan's ship in the novel (and the original screenplay) rather than the other way around?
- I liked that Mas Amedda ran away in the book. In the film he stands around like a Sith acolyte. Unless Palpatine brainwashed him (a possibility) or purged his memory, I didn't think he would let it all hang out like that, even during his takeover.
- OK, is it just me, or does it look to you as if Anakin were doused in fuel when he catches fire? In the book, he's on a thin crust and he sinks in; this is how it was described in Return of the Jedi (the film and the book): "molten pit", remember? In the film, he slides down the bank, screaming his hate at Obi-Wan, and his severed legs catch fire and ignite his entire body, incinerating all of his hair in seconds. For that, I would have liked to have seen him use the Force to shield himself. Or something, because that just looked hokey.
- Major or significant plot differences: The implication that Darth Plagueis fathered Anakin by means of midichlorians is more pronounced in the film than in the book. And Anakin never picks it up. I hope they leave this to mystery now, because retconning could get weird.
Dialogue and Acting
Not as bad as I had been led to believe.
- There were a few clinkers, such as a few of Obi-Wan's lines. Boy, somebody doth fear the slash contingent. As miyeko pointed out to me, every mention of how Obi-Wan loves his apprentice comes back-to-back with "he's my brother". Right. Because he's not something else. But you just have to emphasize that.
- Natalie Portman did her best, I'm sure, but so many of her lines were duds that I felt sad for her. As far as I can tell, she can act better than Hayden Christensen, too, but she had the harder job in this film. All Hayden had to do was act alternatly doubtful, resentful, tortured, and menacing througout the film, and I'm sure the costume and makeup artists didn't hurt.
- Ewan MacGregor did quite well. Even Obi-Wan's need to disbelieve that his apprentice could slaughter younglings was plausible. Even a bit of Anakin's unspoken but implied suspicion that Padme turned to Obi-Wan for more than advice came through (in my viewing), though it's pretty clear from canon that Padme remained faithful to her husband.
- Do Jedi really say "use your feelings" that much? I guess it beats over-repetition of "use the Force", but Lucas has a way of homogenizing his canon so that the Star Wars franchise reverts to a MacDonald's feel.
- Dooku gets almost no dialogue, and I liked the way Stover handled his death better. There was more of a sense of betrayal and less of the "woah there, sorry, didn't mean to murder a prisoner in cold blood... sorry, I'm OK now. Shall we?"
- Grievous's coughing was so annoying. He actually had a personality in the book, but the film showed nothing of the cyborganic being save a skeletal mask and some plasma-burnt slime.
- The final act of Anakin's fall felt truer in the film. I could see him making a split-second decision to save Palpatine, goaded by his would-be Master, and recoiling in horror at first. The little voiceover morality play helped.
- Padmé was the one true casualty of the galaxy both in the story and as a character.
For sheer spectacle it rates a 9 / 10.
- Mustafar was your basic lava planet. The lava waterfall made my stomach churn even though I knew exactly was was going to happen.
- Many, many eye-candy shots of Coruscant, Alderaan, even Tatooine. Someone should win an award for all of that an Utapau to boot.
- I am so glad the full screenplay expanded on Kashyyk and the Order 66 scenes. Now we can rest easy in a sense of a larger galaxy. (YMMV; some people hated the Special Edition Coruscant scenes and the musical "redemption" theme that Lucas added.)
- Vader's transformation worked. I liked that startled and dreadful look in Anakin's eyes as the mask came down. "His was an awful dying, that dragged interminably on and on," wrote the novelist of Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula... that look made me think of that turn of phrase.
- anim8t0rboi is right: Vader pulling a Sam when he is first "unveiled" rings dully.
- When did the clones get modified again? Was there a second decanting on Kamino, or did Palpy start interbreeding them with female Imperials or recruiting and conscripting Imperial citizens? And why, story internally, do the clones all become helmeted? Boba Fett mentions in some EU book that "I've one of those faces that used to be seen everywhere". You can still see the fighter pilots in orange-and-white flight suits in ROTS.
- I didn't mind Jar-Jar's silent appearance. As a sign at Celebration III read, "stop the hate!" ;-)
- The "quick transition to Rebel Alliance vs. Empire": hrm. I'm of two minds: obviously Tantive IV is the same ship, so no surprises there. The Red Guard was always like that, so ditto. The officers' uniforms and bridge architecture went Imperial too quickly. And I didn't see any white stormtrooper rmor; did I miss that?
- Owen and Beru Lars really looked the part, too.
This was the best part of the film, IMHO, modulo the skilled if not inspired cinematography. Hats off to John Williams.
- All the combat themes were good - the fighter scene (light but not bouncy, befitting the moods of Anakin and Obi-Wan), the face-off against Dooku (tight and tense).
- The overtures during Palpatine's opera house conversation with Anakin and his revelation were spot on.
- Anakin's meeting with Padme after he debarks from the wreck of the Invisible Hand, and his dream, were incredibly poignant. Longing, foreshadowing, and mournful, like the love theme turned to a dirge in Zefferelli's Romeo and Juliet, and Eowyn's dirge. I have only good things to say about John Williams (though I have one complaint below).
- The playing of that soft dirge during the fall of Ki-Adi Mundi, Aayla Secura, Adi Gallia, etc. was very fitting. It sounded very much like Padme's theme, and I think they were similar if not identical.
- My only complaint, and this is a big one, is that the "Anakin's dream" and Anakin/Padme love theme should have been adapted for Padme's funeral. She died thinking of him; he fell in part out of a misguided hope of protecting her; the entire film canon is the story of his rise, fall, and redemption through her love and the fruit thereof; and the New Republic was forged in large part by their children. That should have been the leitmotif of her death and burial. Look at how Stover underscores it with the part about the little sandstone carving; he even mentions the currents in the Force that surround it: innocence, pure love, and unendurable heartbreak. This was a missed chance.
- Ending with the "Saga" theme, aka the Tattooine/Rebel theme, was a good choice.
All told, it was a good movie. I like it almost as much as Episode V already; time will tell whether I fall back from that.
8.5 / 10
Oh, and BTW. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe looks fit to r0><0r. Narnia. Be there or be square.
ETA, 19:15 CST: In other news, it is liu si (06-04) again, lest we forget.
(And happy birthday, finabair!)