Short Take: This is it. This is what the franchise fans have been waiting for -- an episode that takes no prisoners...
I'm not going to do a full review - there are plenty of people on the web more eloquent than I that have handled that - but I will just offer some brief observances, thoughts, questions and conclusion.
First of all - I loved it. It was a much more engaging story than the other 2 prequels, there was (obviously) a lot more at stake, and you got the feeling that the ground was tipping and things were running down a very steep slope to the inevitable end.
That said, I did think the first half or so of the movie - while necessary - did seem to drag a bit, and they seemed to take an inordinately long amount of time on the Hole-in-the-Ground planet with Obi-Wan. Screen time was absolutely necessary for Anakin and Padme to show the continuing evolution of their relationship, and of course Anakin and Palpatine and their journey down the dark side of the Force.
General Greivous turned out to be mostly a wimp, although he did spin a mean saber. His character in the animated Clone Wars series was much more effective than in the movie, but maybe he was just a little tired - especially since he appeared to have a bad case of emphysema (more of that later). Several people mentioned to me they thought it unrealistic Obi-Wan with one lightsaber could've defeated a cyborg with four lightsabers. I say it's simple - Greivous wasn't a Force-user, and that's what evened up the odds. You can be a fabulous swordsman, have four arms and robotic reflexes, but resisting the organic and spiritual Force was futile (sorry).
I thought Anakin's progressive (regressive?) steps over the line, and the resulting, reflezive "What have I done???"'s were great. I think a lot of us expected him to hurtle down the dark path and not look back...but he cursed himself many times. The first time was when he killed the sandpeople in Episode II - he was very remorseful for having to do it but was more angry at himself that he was too late and too weak to save his mother in time. In similar ways in "Sith" his anger and fear take control, he takes a giant step by attacking Mace Windu - agonizes that he did it - then falls once again under Palpatine's influence who convinces the still naive and pliable Anakin that it was necessary. And the journey continues.
Ok, more salient quotes and notes:
- I had heard there would be a scene were Anakin attacks and kills the youngling Jedis-in-training, and that it would be gruesome. I was concerned it might be disturbing to BrainyBoy and had warned him about it ahead of time. When the time came, the attack was actually shown offscreen. Anakin walks into the room where the kids are hiding - one comes out and asks for his help, he ignites his saber...cut away. Later Yoda and Obi-Wan come upon the already dead children. It wasn't nearly as gruesome as I'd feared...but as it turns out it you could hardly see a mark on the kids lying on the ground. No saber burns, no slashes - how did they die? Did he choke them? Looks like Lucas decided not to show anything, which kind of diluted the effect somewhat.
- Speaking of the younglings, the little kid who jumps out of nowhere to buy time for Bail Organa to escape - have we seen him before? Was he hiding out during Anakin's slaughter? Did he escape? (I wonder if it was Whie from the novel "Yoda: Dark Rendesvous" which takes place a few months before "Sith" begins) As it stands, it seems like the scene was written for a kid who won a "Win a Small Part in the New Star Wars Movie" contest... Or maybe that was Lucas' son...
- Maybe I know nothing of anatomy, but is it customary even on Earth to bury a woman who has died while pregnant - especially very pregnant - while still with the baby(s) in her belly? Wouldn't it be standard medical and family procedure to go ahead and deliver the baby(s), confirm it/they too are dead, then bury them all separately? Obviously the reason Padme was disguised to appear as if she was still pregnant was to ensure Anakin and Palpatine never got suspicious the children were actually born, but still...?
- Ok, Threepio had his memory wiped. We knew it was inevitable, but what about Artoo? Just because he doesn't actually speak English doesn't mean he doesn't have the whole experience in his memory? He was there for as much as Threepio was. I actually long suspected Artoo knew full well who Anakin/Darth, Luke, Ben and Leia were throughout the Original Trilogy, and this confirms it :)
- Did you catch Obi-Wan picking up Anakin's lightsaber after the final battle and taking it with him? Something told him he had to give it to someone, for some reason, in about 18 years or so....
- Mace Windu's fight with Palpatine? Wicked. Loved it.
- When Anakin and Obi-Wan were fighting in and around the control room on Mustafar, I expected to see a diagram or a hologram of the planned Death Star displayed, similar to what we saw in the control room on Geonosis at the end of Episode II. I wanted Obi-Wan to see it, puzzle about what in the world it was, maybe take a moment to see a couple of notes, then file it away in his mind. That way, years later when the Millenium Falcon is closing with it we know why he recognizes that "that's no moon...that's a Space Station". He's seen it before. But he didn't. Oh well.
- What, you couldn't have given Tarkin one line?? Or at least mentioned his name?? Grr.
- To all you Jar Jar haters out there, especially you vocal ones: Feh. Fie upon you all. I hope you are very happy. At least George denied you the final satisfaction of seeing him come to a gruesome end like you all wanted. But be sure and let me know when you've written your books, or filmed your own movies and know everything there is to know about characters and mythological archetypes, and then we'll talk.
- Darth Vader's final, "Noooooooooooooo!!!" Ok, yes, I cringed. But it wasn't so much the word, but the gesture Hayden made. Leaning backward, hands clenched in fists at the air....that's cliche. Falling to one knee or any number of other dramatic poses would've been more appropriate. I blame Christensen for this, but I also blame Lucas - because ultimately, the director has to make that call.
- I had hoped to see evidence that it was actually Palpatine who had deliberately planned and ordered Anakin's mother's death at the hands of the sandpeople, and that it wasn't just a random occurance. Maybe he still did, but it was never addressed.
- Speaking of Palpatine meddling in Anakin's affairs, so....apparently we're let to believe that the Emperor's master, Darth Plageous (where does Lucas get these Dark Lord names? I think he has people assemble all the bad words in the dictionary in a hat and he just picks one out. I would assume Plageous' master was like Darth Rigormorteous or something) was able to manipulate the Force in such a way as to create and preserve human life. Palpatine goes on to tell Anakin that Plagueous taught him, Darth Sidious, and he can teach Anakin so as to make sure he could save Padme's life.
Does that imply, though, that Plageous is the one that "created" Anakin in the first place? Or did Sidious do it himself after learning the secret? The mystery of Anakin's true father was never revealed, only that he "came from the Force" or something. I would imagine this is it.
- What happened to Mon Mothma? Was she an unnamed extra like Tarkin that we were just supposed to recognize? For those who don't recall, Mon Mothma was the older lady in "Return of the Jedi" that outlined for the Rebels that they were going to have to attack the new Death Star. Supposedly they actually cast someone to play the younger version of herself - subsequent Wars lore supposes she was another Senator who allied with Bail Organa to intial oppose the Emperor and eventually created the Rebel Alliance.
- Speaking of Bail Organa - good job, Jimmy Smits!
- More later, including how I set everyone straight on the "clunky" dialogue and the "awful" acting. Finally.