I realized that the prequels were telling a very different kind of story from the original trilogy. The original is a delightful space adventure centering around the battle between good and evil. These prequels are a less delightful space adventure centering around what good and evil actually are. There are themes at work here that maybe weren't as apparent in the first two prequels. This is the story of why Jedi are Jedi and why Sith are Sith. This is the story of who's right and who's wrong and who gets to decide.
I think Anakin's transformation into Vader is very, very interesting. I won't go into details, of course, because I don't do that sort of thing, but the Anakin/Palpatine scenes are the heart, dark as it is, of the film, and they don't disappoint. His turn to the Dark Side involves a lot of character traits we saw in Attack of the Clones, and I can't even remember if anything important happened in The Phantom Menace anymore. I can see how some seeds were planted in that first prequel, but so much seemed to be a distraction. The power struggle between the Jedi Council and the Senate, though, I think that's been in play since the beginning, and it finally pays off here.
I found the power struggle stuff fascinating in this installment, and people have of course wondered if it was some sort of statement on the Bush administration. These people forget that Lucas conceived this whole business in the seventies. The fact that it's disturbingly accurate is a testament to...humanity. Go us. We rule. At sucking.
Yes, there is some clunky dialogue and wooden acting. Yes, there is a groanworthy scene or two. Yes, Lucas can't seem to write a scene in which more than two people converse. But the flaws aren't enough to overshadow the fact that this is one of the deepest, most complex, and most psychologically fascinating Star Wars installments there is. If you were burned by the first two prequels, or you avoided them because others had been burned, I urge you to see this one anyway. It's a great little tale of a good Jedi gone bad, a good world gone haywire, good intentions gone all bajiggity.