The special effects question is easy: This is quite simply one of the most gorgeous films ever made. Everything is superb. Lucas has an incredible visual sense; he is a truly visual filmmaker, and his images hit home, are beautifully executed, and are technically stunning. Of course, we really and truly expect perfection here from Lucas, so this may not seem like news.
You are deceiving yourself. Lucas has frankly outdone what I thought possible. My jaw was on the floor the entire time.
But what about those tattered remains?
I myself am not a huge Star Wars fan. I enjoy the films, but I wasn't raised on them, didn't see any of them (except Episode II) in the theaters. I was one of those kids who knew Darth Vader was Luke's father before I had heard of Star Wars, because I saw the parodies before I saw the originals.
I will say this now. Episode III proves that "A New Hope" was a mistake. A freak accident of success, because Lucas seems incapable of doing fun action. How he managed to make "A New Hope" a delightful, playful, fundamentally fun movie is beyond me. Because when Episode III starts, it falls flat on its face, continuing the sad attempt in Episode's I and II to make the kind of joyous space opera that, of all six, only "A New Hope" managed to be.
Lucas however, can do myth very, very well. And once Lucas gets around to telling the Myth Of Anakin's Fall, the real story that Episode I and II have been leading to, everything works. Here we have the George Lucas of "The Empire Strikes Back" and "The Return of the Jedi." Hayden Christiansen goes from a pretty (if ineffectual) actor to being the tragic Darth Vader, and you believe. Darth Sidious is the villain that Darth Vader was in the original trilogy. Better perhaps, more sinister. The fall of Anakin is completely and utterly believable. I was shocked. I understood why he fell to the Dark Side. It's called the freakin' Dark Side for goodness sake! How could you freakin' fall?
Because of a tempter. Because of dark dreams. Because of love.
I don't want to spoil anything for those of you who, like me, went in not knowing exactly how it all happened. Some have always known the story, and are just watching it play out; some of us have willfully ignored the spoilers, and waited.
But I will say this for those who do know what happens. When order 66 is given, my breath was taken away. When the final battles occur, I was truly fearful. In other words, he doesn't screw it up.
I'm going to see it again.
Jamie also saw Revenge of the Sith, but it doesn't seem like he saw quite the same film. His thoughts:
I heard it might be good, so I tried to like it. I really did. Revenge of the Sith is one of the worst movies I've seen recently. It's Battlefield Earth bad.
It's not just that when Lucas tries to "do" myth he generates a world populated by generics. Nor is it just that the plot is absurdly thin (the movie exists to showcase the galaxy's most complete betrayal ever, brought on by two dreams and a promise from someone who couldn't be more obviously untrustworthy if he were twirling a mustache).
This movie is terrible first, because Lucas writes unbearable dialogue, especially in romantic scenes. And since the motivator is romantic love, we get a lot of bad lines. Remember "I don't like sand"? Episode III one-ups that. The climactic emotional moment, I swear to God, is a rip-off of Homer Simpson.
And second, Hayden Christensen is a lousy actor. There, I said it. Even with the silly script, Ewan McGregor is fine, and Natalie Portman brings life to a few scenes, but Anakin gets not a single believable moment. Even when all he has to do is look sideways, he's more fake than a losing high school forensics team. He's wooden like community-college Acting 101. I could go on.
Best I can say is that Jar-Jar doesn't speak. The special effects are there, and since they cover every square inch of the screen constantly, you will get many per unit time per dollar. If you like that kind of thing, you're going to go see it anyway, so enjoy.
Thanks go to erikharrison for his take on the movie.