NOTE: This post is literally unfinished. This is lame, but I fell asleep writing it and now I have class soon and then I'm leaving for a couple days. Hopefully I can finish it while I'm dog sitting.
Lucas had some really terrific ideas for the prequels that, unfortunately, were not executed nearly as well as they deserved to be. Without dwelling on all the flaws, here are some thoughts on how Ep. III should have been done differently to make Anakin's turning both more believable and more chilling and impactful:
Mmmmmmmmmmm this post is juicy. So many interesting ideas here that I want to play and run with.
1. Anakin's killing of Dooku: This is such a key moment in the turning of Anakin, but is mishandled so poorly that almost no significance really attaches to it at all. Anakin is conflicted for a moment, kills him, and then says in a completely deadpan delivery that that is not the jedi way. And then, to top it all off, nothing is ever done with this for the rest of the movie. What??? We need to see MORE conflict. Rather than being unconscious, Obi Wan needs to be trapped under the fallen ledge structure as he was while being fully conscious and in pain, and with something else bad about to happen, like another part about to fall and crush him. When Palpatine tells Anaking to kill Dooku and Anakin resists, Obi Wan needs to yell out to Anakin in a way that is just barely vague enough that Anakin isn't sure whether he is calling out for help, calling out for Anakin to kill Dooku, or both. Then in haste, Anakin kills Dooku and rushes over to save his master in the nick of time. Then, this needs to play out more during the course of the film as Anakin feels guilty and his guilt causes him to both doubt his own commitment to the jedi way and whether the jedi way is even right.
I like these ideas because they intensify the conflict. But unfortunately I don't think it would work. I don't think Anakin would kill Dooku if Obi-Wan was awake. Obi-Wan is basically Anakin's dad. The master/aprentice relationship started when Anakin was a little kid. And Anakin seemingly had no prior father figure. Anakin has this weird worship for his master that children do for their fathers. Anakin rebels for stupid, petulant, and emotionally charged reasons, but in that moment he felt emotionally wrong about what he was doing. Obi-Wan would have provided the anchor to truly validate and act based on that lingering sense of emotional wrongness.
Also, look at the scene in Attack of the Clones when Anakin killed the sand people. When backed into a corner emotionally, he's a murderous psychopath. He killed the sand people, he killed Dooku, he killed Mace Windu, he killed the Younglings to prove himself to Palpatine, and he force-choked Padme. If Obi-Wan's asleep, his emotional uncertainty is far higher, because there's nothing helping to fight this aspect of him.
(Long aside: when you look at Anakin as a psychopath (which, flat out, he is), you have to ask so many questions about the prequels. Why were no signs of this built into the first movie. Anakin seemed to have a hard but not tormented childhood. Was his mom secretly abusive and we never knew? Were his peers abusive? What about Watto? Anakin is not portrayed IN THE MOVIE as an overly traumatized child. Nor do we see him act overly weird or off like a kid who kills Animals for fun. There's no reason for him to be a psychopath. And also, women who are into killers are a very unique breed, and Padme isn't it. Doesn't psychology exist in the Star Wars universe? Wouldn't anyone have noticed this and tried to act on it? Didn't Obi-Wan notice anything that clued him into Anakin's psychosis? Blah, such bad writing. Back to the main point).
But while I disagree with the method, I do agree that Dooku's death should have had much more resonance throughout the film. Why didn't it? Very simple:
Anakin's Jedi Training has no surface meaning to him emotionally. If it did, why would he have tossed it aside because of Padme? Even before they "fell in love," he desperately wanted to bang her. He made zero attempt to stop himself. When he goes to fight Dooku the first time, he tosses aside all strategy and tactics because he's pissed off. Now, that's fine. Movies are about deeper meaning. The fact Anakin doesn't truly care about being a good Jedi is interesting and important to his character. But then why does he like being a Jedi? We need a reason or else there's no conflict. Him not wanting to be evil isn't interesting, and it means Palpatine wouldn't be able to manipulate him.
(Another two asides: First, Dooku is a stupid name. I feel ridiculous typing it. Second, if you haven't watched the Plinkett Attack of the Clones review, you really should. And if you're not going to sit through all 90 minutes, at least take 20 minutes of your day to watch parts four and five. He so ingeniously explains why the Anakin/Padme "love story" makes no sense.)
There is a reason Anakin got off on being a Jedi. It's the same thing that drove Darth Vader in the original trilogy. Lust for power. He and his mom were slaves. Then he was forced to be subservient to Obi-Wan, well beyond when he felt he was ready to come into his own. By hinging Anakin's transformation on being angsty, Lucas got the character completely wrong. Elements of the power lust even leaked their way into the movie. Anakin wanted power over Padme's death. Anakin even then wanted to overthrow Palpatine.
So after Anakin kills Dooku, inevitably he'll want to talk to Palpatine about it. Palpatine knows Anakin would feel guilty, but he gets it out of his mind. He tells Anakin letting Dooku live would be weak. He tells Anakin that he took charge of the moment and ensured their safety since they couldn't practically have taken Dooku prisoner. This is the kind of stuff that would pique Anakin's emotional interest. It would further separate his personal motivations and the Jedi's. It would make him trust Palpatine. Where to go from there? I'm not sure. But the scene no longer is just an excuse for Anakin to make angst faces and be evil. It would stir something deep in the character which would continue to matter.
2. Palpatine's conversation with Anakin at the opera: Good enough as is.
This might be the best scene for Palpatine in the whole Star Wars saga. Just. So. Well. Acted. Even the writing isn't bad. Unfortunately, Anakin doesn't do much. He asks the right questions so Ian McDiarmid can keep being awesome, but he does nothing emotionally. Anakin's reactions here are too dependent on the other scenes to really talk about in a vacuum. If you change the Dooku scene and the aftermath, this moment plays differently, and I don't know how. Maybe it's because I can't see straight but I'm still typing. Let's move on. I'll come back to this scene later once it's in context.
3. Confrontation with Mace Windu: This whole scene wasn't bad. The problem is, it was underwhelming because Anakin's turn seemed too abrupt for many. It could easily be improved with only minor tweaking. It's fine up to Anakin confronting Mace, and then it all goes downhill. Mace should be about to kill Palpatine similar to how the scene actually played out. But it should be WAY more obvious that Anakin is still plagued by guilt and doubt about his confrontation with Dooku. He should argue more protractedly with Windu about how what Windu is about to do is not the jedi way. The dialog should really dig more deeply into the theme centering around the conflict between 1. having an absolute set of moral values that can never be compromised whatever the consequences vs. 2. doing what is expedient for the perceived greater good despite potentially bad consequences down the road. Anakin then needs to jump in to defend the emperor, attempting to merely stop Windu but not harm him, while Palpatine completely plays possum and acts defeated and in jeopardy (although the audience and Windu obviously realize how dangerous he realy is). Windu and Anakin continue dueling, with Windu becoming more and more frantic in trying to justify killing Palpatine and Anakin becomeing more and more frantic in talking him out of it, with Palpatine subtly manipulating both of them from the sidelines until it reaches such a fever pitch that Windu tries to take out Palpatine, and Anakin all on his own accidentally kills Windu himself. Then there needs to be more dialog than what we had, where Anakin rationalizes what he did and Palpatine helps him rationalize it. We have to see and feel here that Anakin really turns in his thinking here and reasons through that the jedi order is not only obsolete, but actually is the potential threat to ultimate peace in the galaxy because of their compromised morals and failure to maintain the necessary order to keep peace. But he's not ready to storm the temple just yet.
I like that Anakin wouldn't just cut off Windu's arm immediately. I also like that Anakin should kill Windu on his own. But let me float this reason instead:
Remember how Vader dealt with people who were useless or impediments to attaining his goals? He ritualistically killed them quickly with force choke and moved on. Windu is about to kill Palpatine, the one who obviously really knows how to make the universe a better place. The one who can save Padme. The one who sees the true potential in the force by tapping into the dark side. At what point doesn't Anakin see Mace as someone who's evil like the sand people and detrimental to the greater good like Dooku. There's a pattern to Anakin's killings, keep it going here.
4. The Padme, Obi Wan, Anakin triangle: This is done pretty well in the first half or so of the film, but then just gets a bit goofy later on. I think it needed to go down a little bit differently. It's good that the jedi have been manipulated so that most of them are away from Coruscant at this point in the story when Anakin turns. In fact, I'd say it's pretty crucial that most of them are away. Anakin also needs to be sent away on some minor mission at this point in time, but a believable one--not kiling kids at the temple (at least, not yet). But perhaps just dealing with the separatists, who are hiding in some location Palpatine has just discovered, works well here. Okay, so Anakin is temporarily out of the picture, and he kills the separatists, which is really a win for everyone (except perhaps the separatists themselves, but you can't please everyone all the time). Padme now goes into premature labor for whatever reason (even stress over what is going on with Anakin works, I think). With Anakin away, she reaches out to Obi Wan for help. Something goes wrong during the childbirth and she dies of natural causes. At the same time (and the timing is crucial), Anakin senses that his nightmares about Padme dying are coming true, but he is helpless because he is so far away. He rushes back. Obi Wan somehow also learns that Anakin has killed Windu and that Palpatine is the Sith Lord. Before Padme dies, Obi Wan and Padme agree that Anakin is too dangerous, and the two babies need to be taken away and hidden, so Obi Wan deals with that. Anakin returns and finds Padme just about to die (Obi Wan has taken the babies and left). He learns Obi Wan was there, and comes to the conclusion (although an obviously misguided one) that Obi Wan is to be blamed for Padme not surviving. His distrust deepens when he learns Obi Wan has taken the children. Padme dies, and this pushes Anakin over the edge. Palpatine further manipulates him and his now complete distrust of Obi Wan, and now convinces him that the jedi are actually up to something nefarious and evil and that they must be destroyed. NOW is a better time for Order 66, Anakin slaying the jedi at the temple, etc., and it is more credible for Anakin to fall for it. With the buildup I've outline above, it makes more sense for him to now take this final leap. As far as getting the final showdown to a place where there's some lava, there are a number of ways to do that. Honestly, from this point forward, the major flaws have been fixed, so however we get to the final showdown between Anakin and Obi Wan, it works much better than how it was done in the film. Maybe Obi Wan goes to Lava Wolrd to hide. Or better yet, some other jedi master is there and instead of it being a nearly abandoned world, it is a place that is more populated, and one of the major clone battles is taking place there. The fact that it is a key location justifies Obi Wan going there to help whatever other jedi master is there and trying to save him from Order 66. Anakin learns Obi Wan is there, and goes to confront him. As the battle rages around them, Anakin and Obi Wan duel and have dialog similar to the dialog in the films. The only big difference is that now it is all much more believable, and instead of the audience watching and shaking their heads in disbelief over the amount of cheese, suck, and lame, now we're all on the edges of our seats even though we know what is going to happen--namely, Anakin losing the fight and getting burned up by lava, with Obi Wan managing to escape before Palpatine gets there to plug him into the respirator suit.
[Palpatine would simultaneously play to Anakin's love of Padme with the Plageus story while trying to squelch it, ultimately killing the emotions in Vader that made him good that come back in Jedi. It's fine if Anakin's actually somewhat unlikable in the prequels, and that then ties into how in Jedi he only redeemed himself inasmuch as he saved his son.]
We then have the cool scene with Anakin's transformation, without the "Nooooooooooo!" that killed all the momentum. We get rid of the Padme dying because she inexplicably lost the will to live scene. And we keep all the other closing scenes that really did have a nice impact at the closing of the film. Doing it this way easily takes pt. III, if not the entire prequel trilogy, up several notches, IMO.