Rotten Retrospective: The Star Wars Prequels

It was bound to happen. After all, you can’t have a Star Wars week without talking about the most controversial entries in the franchise. Even the new director of the sci-fi epic J.J Abrams couldn’t go through an interview without being questioned about his opinion on them.

Of course, I’m talking about the prequels. Whilst any sort of art is subjective, it’s pretty much scripture that the films are awful additions to the Star Wars universe that fail to capture the same magic and appeal of the originals. You’ll have saw countless articles about why the prequels are so awful, Red Letter Media’s reviews are the most accurate of the lot, but what I’m going to do is try and balance it up: three things the prequels did wrong (easy task) and three things they did right (difficult task). Without further ado, let’s get started.

Anakin Skywalker Is An Awful Written, Cringe Inducing Emo 

I think I’m right in saying that everybody disliked the character of Anakin in the prequels. It’s very hard to defend someone who goes from whiny annoying fuck to heartless kid killer in the space of a few scenes and while this is a problem of mine, a lot of my problems with the prequels are linked to the man himself.

The Phantom Menace was definitely brought down by Anakin’s involvement in the narrative and it could have easily been avoided if he were a teen rather than an annoying child with the most cringe inducing dialogue possible. This quality of dialogue is consistent throughout Attack Of The Clones with the most excruciatingly bad romance I’ve seen since The Room and yes, I understand that this was necessary to make the events of Revenge Of The Sith more hard hitting but that’s the thing: they weren’t. This leads me onto my next negative but let’s calm down on the hate and move onto a positive…

Villains

When I gave myself the difficult duty of finding some positives in the prequels, I struggled. Big time. While I eventually got the other two, the first thing that came to my mind almost immediately was my appreciation for the villains.

Yes it does feel a bit weird to praise Lucas for once rather than scrutinise him and call him a husk but he was wise to introduce us to one of my favourite villains: Darth Maul. There’s just something so sinister about him and while as a kid I loved him just because of his double sided lightsaber, over time I’ve began to appreciate him even more especially with all the Expanded Universe material as well. While it was a massive mistake for him to be “killed off” in The Phantom Menace and not to have him a constant threat that would act as Obi Wan’s Vader throughout the prequel trilogy, it was still one of the few great glimpses.

Then there’s the obvious choice of Palpetine who, in my opinion, is the only character in the prequels who feels like he’s going through any sort of character development and whilst I feel his plan is a bit far fetched and is too convenient, I still enjoyed seeing it unravel. Then there’s General Grievous who, I don’t care what anyone says, is a great villain and if you have seen the Clone Wars micro series you’ll know why. His death in ROTS actually packs a bit of a punch with that prior knowledge. So yeah, well done Lucas, you might have done a lot of things wrong but your villains were at least great. Although the Siths were well portrayed, the Jedi on the other hand…

The Jedi Are Stupid, Dumb Fucks

Jedi: wise, powerful beings who are essentially defenders of the galaxy far, far away. So why did Lucas have to make them so fucking stupid? Don’t believe me? Here’s a short list of the absolute moronic decisions the Jedi Council made that inevitably lead to their demise in one way or another:

  • Allowing Jar Jar Binks to be part of the Galactic Senate when anything he did was by complete accident because he’s an absolute embarrassment who set black people in films back by 50 years. Also he pretty much results in the jedi becoming mince meat by the end of episode III
  • Confronting Palpetine with only three jedi when you’re almost convinced that he definitely has an army of troopers ready to kill your entire organisation with one order.
  • Making Obi Wan train Anakin when you know fine well that his high *sigh* midi-chlorian rate makes him one of the most powerful potential jedis there is as well as sensing he has a lot of emotional issues.

That’s just three of the many stupid decisions that make it even more difficult to like the prequels, knowing that the heroes you’re meant to root on are so naive and careless. In a series that built itself on the foundations of great characters both good and bad, it’s a shame to see the prequels fail to do either.

The Music Is As Amazing As Ever

Liam Neeson, Ray Park and Ewan McGregor in 'The Phantom Menace'

If there’s one thing that even haters of Star Wars can admit, it’s that John William’s score for the films are impeccable. The main theme that opens every film as the text scrawls down the screen is arguably the most iconic piece of movie music ever.

So when it comes to what the Prequels actually did better than the Originals, it’s not the lightsaber duels: it’s the score. Duel Of The Fates accompanied the best fight in the prequels and is synonymous with the franchise: hum the tune to anyone and they’ll tell you it’s from Star Wars. Not to mention the other classic numbers like Anakin’s Betrayal have managed to escape the critical bashing of the prequels to stand out as some of the best in the series. At least if the on screen acting blinds you, there’s still a treat for your ears with the soundtrack.

Overuse Of CGI

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One

While this is my final negative point, there’s a hell of a lot of bad things regarding the prequels that I’ve failed to mention: the space politics that will bore adults to death and lead kids to focus on their toys, JAR JAR FUCKING BINKS, racial stereotypes, no friendship between Anakin and Obi Wan, the list is near enough endless.

So why is overuse of CGI a bad thing? Surely CGI allows film-makers to create grand spectacles that previously couldn’t be done before. You’d be right to say that and I’d agree with you. The thing is though that most directors don’t see CGI in that way: they see it as a way of excusing lazy stories and uninteresting characters with big set pieces and fancy looking settings. Don’t believe me? Let’s ask the man himself George Lucas.

“Special effects are just a tool: a means of telling a story. People have a tendency to confuse them as an ins themselves. A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing.”

I don’t think I need to say anything more about this but what I will say is that J.J Abrams move away from relying on CGI gives me hope for The Force Awakens and from what I’ve heard it’s definitely paid off. If only Lucas listened to one of the few smart things he’s actually said.

Pod Racing

It really says a lot about this trilogy when one of the few saving graces comes in the form of an event that has little to do with the story. However, I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t enjoy the pod racing as a kid and even as an adult I still find it insanely cool.

Not only did it look great, and somehow still looks alright by today standards, but it’s one of the few actually character developments you seen in Anakin. Here’s a character who for his whole life has lived as a slave yet is now given this freedom, limited yes, and his passion as well as his natural skill as a pilot allows him to win. While I may sound like an idiot trying to create some sort of progression there, this scene is still a treat and as an extra bonus, has a minimum amount of Jar Jar Binks as possible. Perfect.

So what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you thought of the prequels down below in the comment section. Tomorrow’s post is my collaborative Best of 2015 with a great number of talented writers so look out for that!

Big love, Liam x

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