Most of my criticism centered on how Padme uses decoys to save her own bacon, and how incompetent the assassins are since they keep missing the target. (Of course, if they were any good, we wouldn't have a story, would we?)
But then I thought about it some more and came to some other conclusions.
The stuff on Tattooine is basically all right. Anakin slaughtering the Sandpeople, for example, was really good character development.
The clone troopers thing--not so much. But, okay, we needed to have the "Clone Wars" to fit with eps 4-6, so that's tolerable.
Anakin needed to be with Padme, unsupervised, so they could fall in love. (That scene in her villa on that little island is the most boring scene in the entire series. When I saw Ep 2 in the theater, I found myself counting the peanut bulbs that lit the aisle in the theater rather than watch that scene, and it was the first time I saw the movie.)
Here's where the larger story begins to fall apart, though. There are several things wrong with the chronology. First off, Obi-wan is too young at the end of Ep 3; when we pick up with Ep 4, even if we assume it's 20 years later, Obi-wan would be what? 50? Let's say he's 60--what about it? "I'm too old to..." At age 60, a Jedi master such as Obi-wan Kenobi shouldn't look like Alec Guiness. (My mom, at age 60, was doing roller skating dance competitions. And she's not, as far as I know, a Jedi master.) I mean, a lot depends on how old Obi-wan is at the end of Ep 3 but I fail to see how he could be much older than 40--45 at the absolute outside.
How could he be as old as 50 at the end of Ep 3? Figure he's in his 20s in Ep 1, and Ep 2 takes place 15 years later; how much longer after that does Ep 3 take place? They don't really say but it's obviously been a year or three at most. If Obi-wan is older than 25 in Ep 1, and still a padiwan, he must be retarded, considering what Jedi "on the job training" is like.
Obi-wan is too young and the Clone Wars too recent in Ep 4.
So we change things up a little bit. Extend the amount of time Anakin and Padme spend together--she gets pregnant in Ep 2, has a kid (Luke) and the couple puts him in some kind of suspended animation. They figure that someday they'll be able to retire, thaw the brat, and raise him properly. But then the Clone Wars begin, and things get nasty; with the beginning of the Clone Wars, Palpatine's plan to become emperor shifts into high gear.
Who stores the kid for them? The genetic engineering aliens who make the Clone Troops, of course. And while they're storing Luke, they do an experiment and clone him, swapping his father's Y chromosome for an X chromosome, and Leia is born. (I can find a reason why they put Leia into suspended animation with Luke. Maybe they don't want anyone to know about their little "experiment".) Or: considering that their father is a Jedi knight, they try to see if the Force is genetic--especially considering how few female Jedi there are. Maybe they decide to spring it on them when they come for Luke. (Who cares? The movie's full of flimsy justifications; what's one more?)
Obi-wan and Anakin--and the other Jedi--have their hands full managing a full-scale galactic war. Anakin can lose his hand in their first confrontation with Dooku, just like in the movie, or we can make it even worse and have him lose the whole arm, up to the shoulder.
Everything else being equal, at the end, Anakin and Padme make their bratcicle "legitimate" by marrying, secretly. No one knows of the child or the marriage. This is a key point for later.
So, Ep 3:
A lot of what we see in Ep 3 can be left alone, except for some details. I've never been happy with Anakin's premonitions as a motivator, for example. They're not definite and all the Jedi masters can tell him is, "Well, if it's destiny...." No one seems to think of the possibility that his premonitions might be the result of Sith activity and Anakin never thinks that his wife's death could be because of his actions.
It's fine that he can be blind to his own complicity; the story as-written just doesn't handle this at all well. Hayden Christainsen plays it like a petulant child, not a man struggling with the age-old issue of doing the wrong thing for the right reason, or vice-versa. Anakin's struggle is not at all obvious and it's not shown to us. Instead, it's more like this:
Palpatine: Turn to the dark side.
Anakin: I shouldn't.
Palpatine: You can save Padme!
Anakin: I mustn't.
Palpatine: Only I can help you!
Anakin: Well...okay. But only if I get a cool-sounding name.
Palpatine: Your Sith name shall be...Darth Vader!
I've discussed the problem before: it's a very difficult task, artistically, to protray Anakin's descent into evil without losing the audience's sympathy. But what we got was the opposite; they showed us Anakin's descent into evil without making his descent obvious.
"Anakin becomes a monster in Ep 3, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt."
He kills a bunch of kids but we don't see that happen. He kills a bunch of other people but we really don't see that happen, either.
If I really got into writing the actual story I would probably come up with a good way to show the tragedy of Anakin--how he can't do anything but what he does, and what forces him to do what he did--but from here I can say that starting with the actual movie as a foundation, it must be much more raw than what the movie does.
Anakin kills a bunch of kids who were basically defenseless. (A Jedi master against little kids? It's like firing a Vulcan cannon at a Honda.) He does this on Palpatine's nebulous promise of helping to save Padme; at this point Anakin has abandoned everything in his universe in order to save his wife from a nebulous danger.
Palpatine should have been already teaching Anakin some of the techniques of the dark side at this point, showing him a little of the power of the dark side, not enough to save Padme--yet--but enough to show Anakin what he's missing.
Anakin's descent culimates on that hellish little world with all the molten lava--I can never remember the name of the place--with his fight against Obi-wan.
He chokes his wife, though not to death, and then the fight begins.
He kills Padme dead--she betrays him, he loses his temper, and chokes her to death. Then he turns on Obi-wan and the fight begins...and at the end of that fight, Anakin is fucked up.
He's not just a "basket case" with no arms or legs or skin anymore. No; Obi-wan hacks him in half like he did Darth Maul and leaves him for dead. The bottom half falls into the lava and burns up; the top half lands on shore. If we must, we can still have the top half catch on fire.
But Anakin remembers his training and is able to keep himself alive long enough for the new emperor to save his bacon. (Or what's left of it, anyway.)
"He's more machine, now, than man...," Obi-wan later says to Luke. This way, it's true: Darth Vader's meat portion is a head and part of a torso; the rest is machinery, and if you take the mask off his face, he dies pretty quickly.
Darth Vader: "NOOOO!"
No. No no no no no.
Palpatine: She betrayed you, Lord Vader. You killed her, but she deserved it.
Vader: Yes...my master.
Wait, you say. What about Luke and Leia? Darth Vader knows about Luke! WTF!
Vader leaves Luke in suspension, planning to come get him once his career as Galactic Overlord is better-established, raise him well, and then kill Palpatine and rule the galaxy as father and son. But maybe a dozen years after the events of Ep 3, Obi-wan learns of Luke's existence, is able to get to that "hidden" star system, and retrives the child from the aliens.
Why? How? Remember Padme is extra-paranoid; she's always using decoys to protect herself from assassins--so she makes sure to let the aliens know that if Obi-wan Kenobi comes for Luke, it's okay for them to let him have him. Maybe she left a message for Obi-wan somewhere and it took him that long to get it. Maybe the aliens find him and tell him that they just found out Padme's dead, and that they've got Padme's children waiting for pickup, and she left his name with them. Who knows? There are about 1,000 ways to justify this happening, ways which make at least as much sense as the movie's version of Anakin's descent into darkness.
He delivers Leia to Senator Organa on Alderaan. He delivers Luke to Owen and Beru on Tattooine, and then settles down in the wastes nearby to keep an eye on him. And thus we are set up for Ep 4 to begin about 20 years later.
I say "20 years" but it's not really clear how old Luke is supposed to be in Ep 4. Everyone calls him "kid" or "boy", so he could be as young as 16--but I always assumed he was at least 18, since he's talking about joining the military.
So Vader knows he has a son; he does not know he has a daughter. And, by the way, that makes more sense than the movie version does, since when Padme is buried, she looks pregnant, and they did that on purpose to let Vader think his child died with her. So how does he know Luke is his son? It's not like he used the Force to swab Luke's mouth for a paternity test! He just says, "I am your father!"
* * *
All of this is really an intellectual exercise to show that even a halfway talented writer like me can write a better plot for the first three SW movies than we got. A lot of the things I discuss here and in the prior entry are really technical issues, but without diving into Word and actually writing the thing--and without sitting through the damned movies again, which I really don't feel like doing--it's hard to nail down specifics for what should be changed and how they should be changed.
It's enough for me to know that I could do a better job than George Lucas did. Unfortunately, when I compare my net worth to his, it's small comfort.
My version has some other loose ends--like, what does a Sith Lord do to you when you tell him that you let his mortal enemy have his kid?--but although I've been rather flippant about justifying things, it's a fact that I know I can do better than the kind of things we saw in the movies. It might take some finagling--and I know the end product would not be 100% what I have discussed here--but it could be done such that it was convincing and reasonable.
This shows how SW Eps 1-3 could have been done, differently and probably better. But it's not likely I'll ever put much more work into this idea, because there's just no percentage in it. I don't care enough to spend a lot of time working on an epic that I'd never be able to sell or even web-publish without worrying about Lucas-Lawyers.