And Jvstin comments:
Having not read the ancillary material, I found the conversion of Anakin to be unrealistic and unconvincing.
Interesting comments. And having seen the film last night, I’ll add while it is fresh…
Neal Stephenson (registration required) provides a slick and effective analogy. On record, I resent media that does not supply the whole story and assumes that essential content can be done “offline”.
You want to enrich the material you can’t get into two hours, fine. You decide to skip the significant back story. No.
While I think Hayden Christensen did well with the story that was presented to us, I don’t think we got enough of that story. Some actors would have been able to ‘sell the untold parts’. Hayden didn’t do that. Regardless of whether it is director, script, or actor. It didn’t work.
(But Ewan and Ian were just wonderful at selling the parts not presented.)
I never accepted that Anakin’s emotional turmoil was about his war experiences, or his mother, or his love for Padme. What came across was that it was about Anakin’s obsessive dreams of control.
He was born a slave–with no control. When he joined the Jedi he grasped at a personal belief that he would have control once he had enough power. All else flows from this. Padme’s love could have saved Anakin (as Luke’s love does later) but she mostly ignores his control issues from early in their relationship. Padme doesn’t recognize the basic untruth of Anakin’s relationship with the Jedi.
Anakin is a false Jedi nearly from day one. He’s really not far from Dark all along.
It is the relative ossification of the Jedi Order that is ripe for the confusion of all this.
Mark Hamill (not a versatile actor) was asked to do much less with his part and managed more than what was written on the page. To be fair, I think that the structure of the first three movies allows this–plus the chemistry between Han and Leia gives Luke more than a few ‘cherries’ to pick from the material.
This plus Luke being raised in a family that wasn’t enslaved and you have the difference that will tell in the end. It doesn’t hurt that Luke gets training from a humbled Obi-wan and Yoda.
Did I enjoy the film. Oh yes. Was it good story? Yep. Does it stand with the rest of the canon? Yes. I’d say that in structure it was superior to all but ‘Empire Strikes Back’. In the gestalt of cast, direction, script, it probably edges out everything but the first two films.
But then, ‘Phantom’, ‘Clones’ and ‘Return’ are very uneven stories that played below expectations.
It is probably of no matter, but the ‘worst’ of the Star Wars films is better than the ‘worst’ of the Star Trek films. Check any history of film sequels and you’ll find how tough it is to follow great material with good stuff.