Wow, HD. That's a pretty nice, compact way of describing it. Well, they're more "storybook" -- the visuals -- in TPM, aren't they? The film also tends to use a lot more daylight scenes and avoids some of the more complex grid / noir lighting of AOTC and ROTS. Ship designs, to pick on one design aspect, are also more organic (curved) and less militaristic (pointed or blocky) in appearance than in the later episodes. And the strong presence of Naboo, combined with Jar Jar, and the humble slave life of Anakin on Tatooine, work in tandem to give this film a more bucolic, wholesome quality. As Ingram_I has noted, the pre-race, Tatooine portion of TPM, in particular, functions a bit like a Sunday school play, further giving the film more of an innocent, happy, Easter-like vibe. The film was even promoted in its iconic teaser trailer as coming out in "Spring 1999", which might as well be a second sub-title. Easter occurs in Spring, of course, and both are associated with rabbits, and Jar Jar, as has often been said, is a bit like a "cartoon rabbit" (a clear ancestor of Jar Jar's is Roger Rabbit from Bob Zemeckis' 1988 film -- itself featuring a prominent noir tone than becomes more important for the PT, as noted, in AOTC and ROTS). Heck, I'm thinking outloud here, of course, but even the bubble barriers of the Gungan city, and later, their shield, as well as the bubble canopy of the N-1 starfighters, are a bit juvenile -- kids like bubbles, don't they? Pageantry, too: lots of regal heralds that announce new vistas (Boonta Eve, the dual reveal of Coruscant -- dark and light -- and the closing celebration). There's a lot of suitably "non-threatening" stuff in TPM juxtaposed against edgier details, meaning that even the lighter stuff is tinged with a darker quality. Yet it's the lithesome aspects of TPM that are particularly memorable (or grating -- depending on one's POV). Yes, according to a Gallup poll conducted in 1999, Qui-Gon was the most popular character -- and he seems to have remained that way: http://www.gallup.com/poll/3757/public-gives-latest-star-wars-installment-positive-rave-reviews.aspx His absence in AOTC is lamentable, but I think, as you sorta just acknowledged, that's kind of the point. Qui-Gon was clearly portrayed as a sort of "father figure" in TPM (he even assumes the "head" position at the dinner table at the Skywalker residence), while Shmi is the archetypal mother, and the younger ones gather around him. His death breaks a whole series of bonds and new ones are awkwardly (deliberately) established in AOTC. I mean, from this POV, Anakin is somewhat incestuously pursuing his "sister", and his nervousness around Padme -- especially when he mentions how he imagines Obi-Wan would disapprove of him levitating the fruit -- is like a measure of how he knows he is going against this sublimated relationship ... and violating the sanctity of the bond with his original father (Qui-Gon). With Qui-Gon absent, the galaxy can indulge itself; there is no saner, wiser voice to admonish these family members or hold them in check. Interesting. The way I see it, Maul is actually a mirror hiding in plain sight for Obi-Wan. The clue is Obi-Wan's hair (yes, dodgy wig included). It clearly parallels the thorns on Maul's head (Maul also being something of a Dark Christ -- there is some vague precedent for this in Christian lore: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrowing_of_Hell ). Observe how similar in height and build the two are when they are dueling each other in strict isolation in that sealed-off chamber at the end of the laser-gate corridor. They even assume similar snarling facial expressions. And at one point, Obi-Wan leans right into Maul, peering deep into his face, only for Maul to knock him back into the pit -- it is like Obi is being denied a closer look at his own mirror, lest he discover the truth too soon. "Hidden darkness" and with those quotes -- yes! A good way of putting it. I'm now rather charmed by that sagely (or not?) advice of Qui-Gon's: "Don't centre on your anxieties". Hmm, cores, centres, spheres, power generators. I wonder what it all could mean? Anyway, yes, Anakin and Shmi are great characters. I feel I'm about to inadvertently return to that "centre" quotation again, but when you get right down to it (oh), those characters are really the core (oh, oh!) of the entire movie -- their bond is the bond that lights the stars. It also lights the torch-paper of Darth Vader. A murderous destiny awaits. But here, it's just a sweet bond between mother and son. All their scenes are good, but I'll just focus on the departure scene as it's where things are brought into sharp focus. "What does your heart tell you?" could be a cheesy line in another movie, but in TPM, when you see how things will unfold, it has real depth. I sense, like a lot of sons, Anakin actually took his mother a little for granted, and almost built Threepio in apology -- a measure of his guilt -- at not being around for her more; Threepio, then, is the mechanized form of Anakin's denial. The departure scene is therefore sadder as Anakin is forced, if only momentarily, to face up to deeper truths. And people say these movies have no blinking depth and no emotion??? Your focus TRULY determines your reality! Ya. Many people still haven't wrapped their heads round it -- or so it seems. Sidious' introduction is cool, but Palpatine's is even cooler. I like the way his hologram flickers and falters, garbling his speech, suggesting the hollowness of his words. That observation was one I first encountered in the Lard Biscuit analysis: http://www.lardbiscuit.com/lard/ilovetpm3.html It's even cooler, in a way, if you notice that the hologram sort of bends and ripples before it fizzles out, suggesting that there *is* a truthfulness to the language Palpatine speaks, but it's rather serpentine and may not be found exclusively in the domain of spoken words. Well, I guess I just wanted to talk about that blasted hologram, at last! It's cool to see Amidala's fancy costumes and all the handmaidens milling about -- those visuals alone give TPM a lush, civilized feel that marks it in stark contrast to the other movies. Put ANH on and then watch TPM straight after. The difference is shocking. You can understand that some of the antipathy to TPM must be because it's so different. The basic grammar of the film may be similar, but the feel and flow of the film are entirely different. Notice, for instance, how almost everyone sports hair/head extensions? Jar Jar enshrines the motif with his ear flaps, but also Qui-Gon (long hair), Nute with his crown, several of Amidala's head-pieces, Mas Amedda in the Senate (tentacles), even Anakin in his pod (check out the fabric which descends from the back of his racing helmet). They all look, well, Jar-Jar-esque. Or Jar Jar looks like them. That signature motif alone communicates a certain regality here that is massively dulled down in the other movies. I mean, in ANH, I don't think anyone appears that way -- another strong contrast between TPM and the original movie that spawned all the madness. I did also mention statues and figurines to you the other day. Palpatine has several in his quarters. Anakin has some in his bedroom. There don't appear to be any about in ANH. And what about the opera scene in ROTS? Generally, there seems to be a lot more "art within art" in the prequels, and some of it quite elaborate, like the podrace (the whole thing, including the flag parade). Maybe this is too baroque for some people's tastes, and they just wanna see Han blasting some stormies as he runs down a narrow corridor, trading wisecracks with Leia, but I'll be damned if this doesn't open the galaxy up and provide inviting counterpoints to the original films. Thanks. It's the SW universe equivalent of "paranoid fiction": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paranoid_fiction At least, that's my opinion and I'm sticking with it. It is quite a romantic and yet profoundly un-romantic and weird sort of a film. More than the others. Anakin meditating. Well, when he gazes on the yin-yang formation, or has a chance to, we're not allowed to see it at that point. In the wide shot of Anakin meditating, the formation is blocked by a pillar -- symbolic of so much that is obscured or only hinted at in this rather Byzantine movie. Sneaking. Shown right after Obi-Wan sneaks through that Geonosian structure and eavesdrops on the Separatists. Meanwhile, Anakin literally, well, DROPS ... and THEN sneaks. Anakin gets down and dirty while Obi-Wan stays removed and remote. Ditto the droid factory. Our first glimpse of it is via Obi-Wan (and he/we "hear" it before we "see" it), but all Obi-Wan does is look over it, with the hint of an arched, disapproving eyebrow-furrow forming. He's too aristocratic for this proletariat factory nonsense, but the fumbling youth of the galaxy -- Anakin, Padme, and the child-like droids -- will haplessly stumble upon and fall into that abstract nightmare. We see the same motif elsewhere, such as in the pursuit of Zam, where Anakin tussles with Zam directly on the roof of her speeder and is violently flung off after forcing it to crash-land, while Obi-Wan calmly pilots their original speeder down for a snug and dignified landing befitting of his noble lineage. The landscape of AOTC is amongst my favourite. There is also a kind of underrated, offbeat humour woven throughout. And isn't it just ... EPIC? Kind of an overused word today, but isn't it? Lucas goes Shakespearean and fuses Hamlet, Macbeth and Othello into a vertiginous pop fugue (Anakin has traits of all three protagonists). The visual landscaping, meanwhile, is more like Botticelli, with deft Spielbergian wit throughout. Very exacting call-backs to the previous movies, and call-forwards to the following (or, er, also preceding three), in some ways, make ROTS the richest of the SW canon. It gets weirder when you think that other movies which Lucas was involved with kind of allude to it. In "Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade", for example, Indy's father, Henry Sr. (played brilliantly by Sean Connery, of course), asks in one of many amusing scenes, "What happens at 11 O'Clock?" -- and the answer to that is ROTS (it starts at almost precisely eleven hours in, if watched in production order). Or even more succinctly: "War!" Very rich -- and fast-moving! -- film in which Lucas seemed to throw virtually every remaining idea or allusion to some forgotten or half-remembered thought in. There is even a kitchen sink, as pointed out in the commentary track, in the opening shot. And what about that whole opening sequence? It begins in Coruscant's upper atmosphere (kind of like how AOTC starts) and that zone seems to play host to a lot of fey nonsense. But there's darkness, too. When they crash back to the surface, everything seems okay, but we know that things are "off" -- and the tragedy is about to snowball. I love that speed, that density, and how ROTS is basically several types of movie (but then, aren't all the SW movies?) rolled into one. Few films deliver more.