11 Reasons Why I Didn’t Completely Hate the ‘Star Wars’ Prequels
Thursday, August 7th, 2008 at 10:05 am
I don’t believe for one moment that you can both “love” the Star Wars prequel movies and be a real Star Wars fan. The only explanation I can arrive at for those movies is that George Lucas put his money ahead of his brain, and went from there. Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace was nothing short of shocking, and I started fast forwarding the moment they hit Tatooine. Episode II: Attack of the Clones got better, if only for the fact that Jar Jar was all but banned from the screen. And by the time that we reached Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Lucas had finally brought it all around.
But the simple fact of the matter is, that a large majority of the prequels were horrible.
That being said, and as the title would suggest, I didn’t completely hate the prequels. And so, without further ado, let us begin a countdown of the 11 reasons that I didn’t completely hate the Star Wars prequels.
Obi-Wan Kenobi/Ewan McGregor
From the moment that he walked on to the screen as Qui-Gon Jinn’s young padawan, I was a fan of Ewan McGregor. He stepped into the very big role of Obi-Wan Kenobi, and though at first there was not much for him to live up too, his role grew. By the time that Episode II wrapped up, McGregor had earned my respect, and by the end of Episode III, he had proven himself as a worthy successor to Sir Alec Guinness.
There is some indefinable quality about McGregor that makes him the perfect person to play a young Alec Guinness. One would almost hope that, if they one day made a film portraying the life of Guinness, McGregor would be up for the role. He is a quiet star, someone who I don’t notice in the news as a flamboyant dickhead, but still pulls big roles.
Obi-Wan Kenobi, the character, is just as good. He was such an integral character to the movies, that he had to be treated with respect. The dry wit and humor that he showed, especially in times of stress, are nothing short of fantastic. And the dedication to his role as a Jedi is exemplified in his duel against General Grievous.
Overall, if I had to only have one reason to not hate the prequels, it would be due to Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the man who played him, Ewan McGregor.
He passes by almost as an afterthought, played by the inimitable Liam Neeson, he is the man who crafted Obi-Wan into the character we first saw played by Alec Guinness. I think for this alone he deserves to be mentioned in this list. That he made such an indelible imprint on the Star Wars universe though, in such a small role — comparatively speaking — is another reason.
On a more somber note, it was Qui Gon’s cremation that also helps make these movies not totally suck. It is another look into the lives of the Jedi, how they mourn, how they cope. But it also provided us with that great line, “Always two there are; no more, no less: a master and an apprentice,” followed by that fantastic zoom out which took us to a not so unhappy Palpatine, which leads us right into”¦
Not much is told of the Sith in the original trilogy. Off the top of my head, I’m not 100% certain that that fact is thrown about much at all. It was always just “The Emperor” and his dark servant, “Lord Darth Vader.” But in this prequel trilogy, we are shown a little bit of the Sith, the opposing side of the Force to the vaunted Jedi.
This isn’t surprising. The original trilogy’s heroes were the Jedi, in the form of Luke, primarily, Obi-Wan, and Yoda. But in the prequel trilogy, it was definitely the Sith who came out on top, over and over. The mass destruction of the Jedi is proof of this.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Sith in this prequel trilogy is Darth Maul, portrayed by the most excellent Ray Park (also known for his work as The Toad in X-Men and the Headless Horseman in Sleepy Hollow). The martial talent, the fearsome makeup, and his brooding on-screen presence were really a highlight, one of the very few, from Episode I.
The Dark Side of the Force
A little different from the Sith, is just what powers the Sith. Once again, apart from those scenes at the end of Return of the Jedi where the Emperor is raking Luke Skywalker with his Force-lightning, we don’t get to see too much of the nastier side of the Force. But in the prequel trilogy, in particular Revenge, it is all but a co-star.
There were two aspects of the trilogy that the dark side of the Force was most evident, and are also great moments of the film; from a slightly morbid sense.
The first is, for lack of a better term, the “wooing” of Anakin Skywalker to the dark side. So subtle was Palpatine that young Skywalker never knew what hit him. Granted, he was never the smartest droid in the bunch, but one would expect a certain measure of thinking for oneself. But Palpatine so manipulated him, and the events around him, that you see each step of his path down the road to the dark side taken, because there was no other choice.
Second on my list of morbid dark side moments, is what is now known as “The Great Purge,” the destruction of the Jedi. Marching in with the 501st at his back, newly crowned Darth Vader wipes a path of destruction through the Jedi temple. It’s vicious, it’s horrible, and the scene with the younglings is nothing short of a cross between masterful and terrible.
Planets and Technology
On a less sour note, one of the aspects of the entire trilogy that I liked was the different planets we visited and the technology.
First off, planets such as Kamino, Tatooine (especially in that very last scene with Beru and Owen), Mustafar, and the planet of the Wookiees Kashyyyk were just great to visit. They were so well designed, especially if you get a chance to look at the designs and paintings from the behind-the-scenes books. The Star Wars universe, in particular the Expanded Universe, is so filled with various planets, it was great to actually see some of them on-screen — especially during the Order 66 sequence where we saw the various Jedi getting cut down by their clonetroopers on these planets.But the greatest sight to behold was Coruscant. Not even named in the original trilogy, it took author Timothy Zahn to even tell us its name in his expanded universe books, which George Lucus then co-opted for the prequels. Nothing appeared in the original theatrical trilogy (only a quick scene in the later “extended” edition of Return of the Jedi). But in the prequels, the “entire planet that is a city” was laid out before us, from the Jedi temple to the Senate to the Chancellors palace.
More than the planets though was the technology used to get around on those planets. In particular, technology that had all the earmarks of becoming giant Super Star Destroyers, AT-ATs, and X-Wing fighters in the original trilogy. Seeing the giant Venator-class Star Destroyer in the opening sequence of Revenge is just fantastic, because you know that, in the hand of the Emperor, they will soon turn out to be even greater and more terrifying.
Though he was soon turned into a digital character for prequels, Yoda is still one of my favorite characters of the entire Star Wars universe. His wisdom, skills in the Force, and love for the children that he teaches makes him easily one of the greatest literary characters I think I can imagine.
And time and time again we see that no one is more powerful than Yoda is. Count Dooku only manages to get away because he creates an impasse for Yoda — kill Dooku or save Obi-Wan and Anakin. But, well, I’ve absolutely no idea actually why he didn’t kill the Emperor when he had the chance. This will pop up in my “˜Reasons That Almost Totally Destroyed Any Chance of Liking the Prequel Trilogy’, but why didn’t Yoda just get back up and keep going at Darth Sidious?
That aside, those times when Yoda seems to be struggling, especially when he is concentrating to repel the Sith’s Force-lightning, and then turns back with that terrible gleam in his eyes, are just spine chilling. It reminds me of what Dooku said in Yoda: Dark Rendezvous, the Clone Wars novel by Sean Stewart:
“If Yoda ever turned that way, Sidious himself would be annihilated. The universe had yet to comprehend the kind of evil that a Jedi Knight of nearly nine hundred years could wield.”
It is in that Yoda never turns to the dark side, in that he never gives in to his anger and just annihilates all who oppose the Jedi, that makes him the strongest character in the Star Wars mythos.
The Opening Sequence of Revenge of the Sith
A lot of people give Michael Bay a lot of props for pulling off the big scenes unlike any other. To be honest, the opening sequence of Revenge of the Sith definitely ranks among some of the “biggest” scenes I’ve ever had the privilege of watching. From the moment that Obi-Wan and Anakin’s fighters fly over the Venator-class Star Destroyer and into the massive pitched battle, until the moment that Anakin “lands” half of the Invisible Hand, it’s non-stop awesome.We’re treated to another one of those “Oh, I have a bad feeling about this” quotes that Star Wars is famous for. We get to see some awesome R2-D2 stuff, which I just can’t get enough of, and Obi-Wan’s “We’re still flying half a ship” is just a classic line I will remember till the day I die.
But more than that, this is one of the few in-movie moments where we actually get a look at the Clone Wars. Sure, we’ve got the Cartoon Network animated series, and the new one coming as well, but it just isn’t the same. The death of the clones is important too, because when they’re dying out there, flying cover for the Jedi, you get those same cringe moments that we got when we saw Porkins and Biggs die in the Battle of Yavin in Star Wars: A New Hope.
This is one of those very male justified things, but I don’t care. Whenever I get to see sci-fi things go bang, I’m happy!
Some people seem to think that humor in Star Wars movies is a bad thing. They look at the moments of humor that C-3PO and R2-D2 provide in these prequel movies as some sort of betrayal of all that Star Wars is about. It seems to me that they have forgotten Yoda banging the shit out of R2-D2 on Dagobah!
But even more than justifying the moments of humor that R2 brings to the screen, he has, from the beginning of A New Hope, been a critical part of the series. From the moment that R2 records Leia’s message aboard the Tantive IV, R2 is crucial to the Star Wars Universe. Just as he fixed some of the Millennium Falcon’s on board systems, he did the same with Queen Amidala’s starship in Phantom Menace.
I just wish that there had been enough foresight on Lucas’s part to allow Obi-Wan Kenobi, or Ben Kenobi as he was then known, to remember R2-D2 when he arrived on the scene at the beginning of A New Hope.
Those who know me — which none of you do — know that half of the movie experience is made for me by the score. Lord of the Rings is the best there has ever been, closely followed by Gladiator, and then the Star Wars movies. These are movies in which a piece of music — when heard separate from the movie — still brings to mind the vision of the exact scene you saw on film.
Star Wars did this so well and most famously with Darth Vader’s theme music. The moment you hear those bass notes you know what is coming. And so when you heard echoes of it throughout the prequels, as early as Phantom Menace, in the track known as “Anakin’s Theme,” albeit hidden away behind a choir of strings, you get shivers. And that you never hear it in full until the very moment that Vader is robed in his new black suit is sheer genius on composer John Williams‘s part.
And the same can be said for scenes on Tatooine that hearken back to A New Hope, scenes with Padme that link music later heard behind Leia, and the multitude of New Republic and Empire themes echoing throughout all six movies, really helps bridge the stories in a way that, maybe, the stories themselves didn’t manage flawlessly.
The End of Revenge of the Sith
No, I don’t mean that when Revenge finished it was a good thing for me because it was all over. In fact, by the time I reached the end of the third prequel, most of my harsh feelings had dissipated amidst the awesomeness that was Revenge of the Sith.
But simply put, George Lucas has provided us with the greatest on-screen duel ever, and I think that it will be really hard to top. Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor worked so hard and turned out such a wonderful duel, even if you hadn’t seen the behind-the-scenes footage, you’d be amazed. With it, you see just how much these two actors put into actually dueling, themselves, rather than getting trained stuntmen in to do it. The camaraderie that has obviously built between these two actors was clear in the way that they worked together, and in how they portrayed their characters’ betrayals, supposed or otherwise.
Yoda’s obvious emotion at having failed; the despondency between Yoda, Obi-Wan, and Bail Organa as they go their separate ways; and the sheer maniacal evil that is the Emperor, all bring the better of the three films in this trilogy to a triumphant close.
OK, this is not just an attempt on my part to get to an odd number. I really love the character of Bail Organa. The main reason that I do, is because we know what will happen to him and his planet, and it is sad. You feel sorry for him. And as you watch, you realize why Alderaan was a ripe target for the Empire to stake their claim in A New Hope.
Bail Organa very well could have been the sole reason many systems would have defected from the Empire and joined what would later be the Rebellion. In fact, you find out later in the expended universe novels that it was Bail, Mon Mothma, and Garm Bel Iblis who made up the core of the Rebellion. Seeing Bail in these early times is really heart wrenching.
But, on top of that, he is played by Jimmy Smits, possibly one of the best-looking men alive (shut up!) and one of the greatest actors alive as well!
My man-crush aside, he is pertinent to so much that I love. That end scene where the Jedi kid kills all those troopers, saving Yoda — twice; his ship the Tantive IV (known as the Rebel Blockade Runner in the original trilogy); Captain Antilles (no relation to Wedge); reprogramming C-3PO’s memory: all of these little links to the original trilogy are just fantastic and Bail Organa is central to them all. Even Leia’s message to Obi-Wan Kenobi is addressed to General Kenobi.
As much as we all love the original trilogy, there are a great many things that we can hate about it and I might get to them one day soon. But above, my 11 long-winded reasons explain just why I don’t completely hate the prequel trilogy.