Sorry, ulthar, had to call attention to this, you don't like The Empire Strikes Back?
I love that film. Unreservedly, it's built into my brain.
Well, there's no accounting for taste.
And, by that of course I mean to stave off all the "hate mail" I'm about to get.
No, I did not like ESB. From the first moment I could not get my head around the fact that it was completely unnecessary to "improve" or "build" upon the original SW.
I am not a big fan of the retcon. And, ESB is perhaps the archetype of retconning a previously GOOD basic storyline. And, those retcons not provided for in ESB certainly had their stage set in that installment.
And, while I've come to like the Yoda character, at first his introduction was just annoying. As was Lando. Which is another of my big problems with ESB....it begins the habit Lucas has of just having TOO MUCH going on.
In SW...we had a nice, tight little group of characters, only two sets, and enough tension not only between the good guys and the bad guys but also within those two groups to make it interesting. With ESB, Lucas begins his ever expanding trend of just making things too darn complicated.
And, no matter what anyone says, I think the whole "Vader is Luke's father" storyline complete neutered one of the baddest movie villains ever created. Vader was EVIL not because you cared how he became that way, but in that he was a total mystery...
(not unlike the idea that a movie can be scarier by not showing you the monster but hinting at it....)
With SW, Lucas had a literary success; then he got into "overtelling" the story and, in my opinion, destroyed the magic. "Always leave them wanting more," as the saying goes. You yourself admit that the extension of this that he accomplished with the midochlorians was abysmal storytelling; I just make the claim that this trend began with ESB.
"Clean" stories are many times more fun. Lucas' tendency to over complicate, even if it requires the dreaded retcon, turned me off ALMOST completely. It is my flaw that I kept returning to the well time and again expecting the original "tight" magic of the first one.
Don't get me wrong...I don't mean "tight" here in the sense of overly GOOD storytelling in the original...but, it was interesting enough and simple enough...the original movie was not intended to have a sequel, so the plot was somewhat linear. Only after it was successful were longer arcs introduced, and I think that's the fundamental weakening.
A stand-alone movie should have a linear plot...one that ENDS (as you said) within its running time. Who cares if there are unresolved points? It does not matter to me, at least. Those are usually subplots and provide needless detail (or complication).
And that's the gripe with sequels you mentioned...that the bending of the original linear plot into a multi-movie arc rarely works. I see SW and POTC as exactly the same model...SW and POTC were great FIRST installments and stand on their own (pretend for a bit that none of the SW sequels exist...does that diminish the original in any way?).
And NONE of this "analysis" was on my mind with the first viewings. My dislike was a gut reaction and I've spend the intervening years trying to put words to it. At the end of the day, I just did not like it.
That's not to say, too, that over the years I have not come to enjoy watching it. Within the larger arcs, yes, it's a key piece of the puzzle and far better made than another of the other sequels/prequels. Even now, though, I'm left with the basic question "was it REALLY necessary?"
Could Lucas have put the effort into retconning that story to just simply create a new one? New characters, new worlds, new conflicts, new themes...would THAT have kept the magic I missed from SW?