I really enjoyed it this time. (See this post from a week and a half ago for background.)
It's been over ten years since my first viewing of it. Wondering now about my mostly negative reaction then, I vaguely recall that we (my wife and I) were watching it at night and I was sleepy long before the end of its nearly three hours. Also, at the time we had an old CRT television, not especially big and of the old nearly square proportions. So the wide-screen picture, formatted for CinemaScope or whatever it was, was squeezed into a smallish rectangle in the middle of the screen. And the layout of the room was such that I was relatively far away. We finally made the switch to a flat-screen a few years ago, and although it isn't very large, my favored chair is very close to it. And I have a halfway decent sound bar setup for the audio, and as we all know the score is an important part of this film.
So on this viewing I got something much, much closer to the visual experience of seeing it in a theater, and it did draw me in immediately in a way that it certainly did not before.
I still have some reservations--Tuco's almost comic villain laugh, for instance. And Eastwood's strong silent narrow-eyed menace is laid on too heavily. And I can certainly understand the revulsion of some contemporary critics at its violence. It's not really an improvement in our culture that we've now seen so much worse. It veers pretty close to nihilism, pulled back from that brink by the minimal but solid ethical code of Blondie ("the Good"). The treatment of the Civil War as a more or less meaningless struggle between more or less interchangeable forces is very much of its time, and of time since. I'm sure a great deal has been said by critics about the interplay of American Western and 20th century European sensibilities and culture in that vision.
It's not among my favorite films, but I see its appeal and its strengths now. And I want to see the two Leone-Eastwood predecessors in the "Dollars" trilogy.