Well, if you aren't one of the 20 million people who saw Star Wars III this weekend, you might be one of the few who have a problem with spoilers in this review. So, fair warning is served: MAJOR SPOILERS ahead!
Before all of the hype, my expectations were low for this third and final installment of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. How could one be enthusiastic after the laughable Phantom Menace and the ineffectual Attack of the Clones? I told myself I was not holding my breath when in fact, I was. I did not want this last one to suck.
I hoped that somewhere in Lucas' out-of-touch, uber-nerdy cerebrum he could find the imagination and inspiration to direct a fitting final piece to the series. I'm happy to say that you can believe the hype. He's delivered a fulfilling close to the [foreseeable] Star Wars saga.
The action is breathtaking right from the start as Lucas plunges viewers immediately into a scene where Anakin and Obi-Wan's attempt a daring rescue of Chancellor Palpatine. The pacing is appropriately quick, making 140 minutes fly by like 20 minutes. The only lulls are during the moments of stultifying dialogue. Lucas writes like a junior high student trying to sound poetic. I bet he's dated about two girls in his life, if you exclude Rosie Palm and her fiver sisters.
Try reaching for your date's hand when you hear these cringeworthy lines (excerpt from memory)...
Anakin: You are so beautiful.
Padme: If I am beautiful it is only because I am so in love.
Anakin: No, it is because I am in love.
Someone hand me a light saber so I can commit hara-kari. I was trying so hard not to laugh. Spaceballs was more romantic. Hell, the Silence of the Lambs was more romantic.
Well, when you are given crappy writing, you are restricted as an actor. And giving crap like this to a limited actor like Hayden Christensen, who is no Olivier, is asking for trouble. At times, I felt like the romantic scenes were about to become outtakes with Natalie Portman wearing a confused smirk, seemingly on the verge of an outburst of laughter.
Another interesting annoyance in the movie was General Grievous' chronic bronchitis. Maybe Grievous should have taken some time out of his busy Jedi-killing schedule and made a trip a pulmonologist. I wonder if they have albuterol inhalers in the far, far away galaxy.
A strong point in acting was Ian McDiarmid for his delightfully evil portrayal of Palpatine. McDiarmid steals every scene he appears in with Christensen. Palpatine's dark Sith shadow seems to envelope Anakin gradually as he turns to the dark side. Palpatine's wickedly hasty Jedi-offing is Michael Corleone-esque (see Godfather). Ewan McGregor deserves some praise for his effective portrayal of Obi-Wan, especially towards the end as Anakin's foil and adversary. Hayden Christensen deserves credit for not ruining the portrayal of Anakin's conversion to the dark side. He easily exceeded my low expectations for him with the reasonably convincing transformation. Lucas deserves some credit for making this very important piece to the story work.
In sum, the action, pacing, battle/light saber scenes, tying up of loose ends, and ending were excellent. The acting and characterization, all told, was passable, the good slightly outweighing the bad. The dialog; well, I'll just leave that alone for now. No need to beat a dead