Neal Stephenson's NYTimes op-ed talks about how the Star Wars cycle — in particular, the execrable first trilogy (Teresa Nielsen Hayden suggests getting the DVD, watching it in Italian and pretending it's opera, but that only works if you don't speak Italian, otherwise, you'll still have to suffer through the "dialog") — is better than it seems, when taken as a whole with all the geeky supplementary material in the games, comics, TV shows, toons, and other sources.
The Internet, it seems, has made it possible to extract all the non-pablum elements from Hollywood blockbusters and stick them online, so that the movies are friendly to civilians, but geeks can enjoy them by logging in.
If you have watched these cartoons – or if you've enjoyed some of the half-dozen "Clone Wars" novels, flipped through the graphic novels, read the short stories or played the video game – you will know that the battle cruiser in question is owned by the New Droid Army of the Confederacy of Independent Systems, which is backed by the Trade Federation, a commercial guild that is peeved about taxation of trade routes.
And that is not the only aspect of "Episode III" that you will see in a different light. If you watch the movie without doing the prep work, General Grievous – who is supposed to be one of the most formidable bad guys in the entire "Star Wars" cycle – will seem like something that just fell out of a Happy Meal.
Likewise, many have been underwhelmed by the performance of Hayden Christensen, who plays Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. Only if you've seen the "Clone Wars" cartoons will you understand that Anakin is a seriously damaged veteran, a poster child for post-traumatic stress disorder. But since none of that background is actually supplied by the Episode III script, Mr. Christensen has been given an impossible acting task. He's trying to swim in air.