STAR WARS….That’s enough about the First Amendment. Let’s talk about something really important: Star Wars. Will Episode III suck?

The case for the prosecution is easy: Episodes I and II sucked, didn’t they? The plots were lame. The directing was weak. And could Lucas possibly have picked a worse actor than Hayden Christensen to play the pivotal role of the entire series?

And yet….I suspect that Episode III will be pretty good. I know I’m just setting myself up for even bigger disappointment by saying that, but here’s my case. It has two parts.

Part one: were Episodes I and II really that bad? Sure, they seemed pretty lame to me, but let’s face it: there’s really no way to recreate the experience of seeing Star Wars for the first time, and that’s gotta hurt the comparison. Here are the relevant aspects of my first exposure to Star Wars in 1977:

  • 18 years old.

  • Freshman at Caltech.

  • Had been hyped by my friends into near hysteria.

  • Midnight showing in a gigantic theater in Westwood.

  • Waited in line for hours.

  • Surrounded by a screaming throng of fans inside the theater.

That’s not going to happen again, is it? Bottom line: no, the sequels aren’t as good as the originals, but I figure their deficiencies owe at least as much to old age and cynicism as they do to the movies themselves. Besides, remember how much everyone griped at the time about Return of the Jedi and all the damn Ewoks? I could do without the Ewoks, but I think it was the best movie of the original three.

Part two: this is guesswork on my part, but I think Episode III is the entire story Lucas wanted to tell in the first place. It’s what he had in mind when he wrote the original treatment 30 years ago, and it’s the only part he actually cares about. Episodes I and II, conversely, were just filler designed to stretch the whole thing into a trilogy ? and it shows.

So there you have it: Episodes I and II are probably better than many of us give them credit for, and Episode III will be better still because it’s where Lucas’s heart is. In a week, we’ll know for sure.