I was 13 in 1977 and read the novelisation of Star Wars before I got a chance to see the movie (it didn't come to the small town I lived in for a long time). When I finally saw the movie, I was somewhat disappointed that it didn't have the story detail that the book did. Yes, that early book referred to Palpatine and more. But the movie seemed too watered down, although I liked the realistic, lived-in look and the fun feel of the story. And what young teenager wouldn't want to identify with the nobody kid Luke Skywalker who goes on to do great things? Yet it WAS a bit simplistic and disappointing. "Sith" has a much more interesting, meatier plot.
"Sith" is the best of the six, in my opinion. It has the darkness of "Empire", x10, without the deficiencies such as that giant space slug, for example. I have to laugh whenever I hear "classic trilogy", particularly by young people not around for their initial release, in reference to episodes IV,V, and VI, as they weren't considered all that wonderful in their time. The original Star Wars was the butt of countless jokes (eg. on Cheers Sam and his vacuous date go to see Star Wars again, an indication of what lightweights they were intellectually), the second had a cheesy, awkward "romance" between the supposedly adult Han Solo and Princess Leia, plus the space slug, and the third had many problems (Jabba's Band? Ewoks? *Another* Death Star, Mr. Lucas?). But, you know, we still had fun at these movies because we overlooked their deficiencies. I think that people are forgetting that and judging the new series by some other standard. Come on people, just have fun! It's not literature.
Lucas has redrawn the character of Vader, in my eyes, from being a simplistic icon of evil to being a deeply tragic figure. The final minutes of the film reinforce that loss. It's a meaningful story.
I saw the film a second time and felt that it was virtually flawless, unlike my first viewing. I initially thought that the scene with Anakin being dubbed Darth Vader was weak, in terms of motivation for Anakin's switch to the dark side, but you have to think a bit about how the Emperor is manipulating him and cutting off his options for remaining loyal to the Jedi. It worked for me the second time. I thought Christiansen did come off well as a young man who was terrified of losing his wife, so he did his end of the job well. It was a difficult part handled very well.
I heard one young (7-ish) fellow behind me ask "where's Jar Jar?" part way through it, showing that the character did have some appeal, just not to teenagers. Jar Jar could have had a larger role, playing a more mature version of himself, but I doubt teenagers would have accepted it.
Oh, and I loved the "If you're not with me, you're my enemy" line, and Obi Wans's pithy response. Hmm, where have we heard that way of thinking before? Great job, Mr. Lucas, and thank you to all cast members for believable performances. The actors obviously dug deep for this one.