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Haha. As do I. Let the nerdiness continue...
I agree with this stance on things. See how it works and if it falls flat (I'm thinking it will), go with the lightning. I understand your wanting to 'save' it for RotJ, but it's going to be in RotS anyway. And I am also 100% against Yoda's use of a lightsaber in Episode 2.
Your re-edit of the lightsaber duel sounds great too. Using the "2001" theme might be a little odd though, but go for it and see how it works. And since you need to cutaway from the duel at the beginning, why not keep the Padme/gunship stuff after all? That would be a perfect place for her 'recovery' scene.
How much of the Coruscant Elevator scene are you keeping in? That scene sort of rubs me the wrong way, but I'm not sure if it could be cut without making the characters come from nowhere.
Yes, all the gundark talk and forced laughter MUST GO. The whole scene doesn't need to be cut though.