So, Star Wars is going through somewhat of a resurgence recently. The Force Awakens made enough money to make Bill Gates blush, and Rogue One added another boatload of cash to the official Disney money-pile.
Don’t get me wrong, we’ve been reaping the rewards, Force Awakens was a more than worthy entry into the main series and Rogue One told a pivotal story in the Star Wars universe, but it could have been worse, it could have been MUCH worse.
Cast your mind back to 1999, I was only 4 in 1999 so I’ll excuse myself from the reminiscing as I was almost certainly drawing on a wall in crayon at the time. But most of the world were going hopping mad over a new Star Wars film, sounds familiar doesn’t it?
Truth be told, Force Awakens is the first Star Wars movie I saw in cinemas, having watched all previous six episodes on DVD after their cinema run, and I consider myself lucky that my first Star Wars cinema experience was the midnight showing of Force Awakens, as I loved every second of it, but imagine for a second being at a midnight showing of The Phantom Menace, I imagine that once the excitement dissipated, it was replaced by disappointment, or in some cases, despair.
You understand of course that Phantom Menace isn’t completely without merit, it’s just that the negatives outweigh the positives.
I know that there are plenty of people on the internet ready to spew bile on command about the prequels so mine will probably get lost in the shuffle, but still I hope to add so amusing and valid points about this period, I am more offended by the wasted opportunities that the prequels represent as opposed to the movies themselves, drab as they could be. I shall go through point by point and list my quibbles with the prequels, and if any shred of sanity and dignity remains, I shall name some positives.
Killing Off Darth Maul
One potent criticism of the prequels is that there wasn’t an overarching villain as there was in the originals, and the thing is, they had one right there, Darth Maul looks incredibly cool, his fighting style was great to watch, the fight between him, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon being to me one of the best moments the prequels turned up.
That being said, why was the decision made to take a villain, who could have easily carried a few more films, and kill him off in the first film of a new trilogy, he could have even been a key figure in Anakin’s journey to the Dark Side, imagine in his final test of allegiance towards Darth Sidious, he is charged with fighting and killing Darth Maul, don’t tell me you haven’t dreamed of that fight, we all have, and it would make sense, the Sith operate the ‘Rule of Two’ meaning one master and one apprentice, therefore Sidious would need to get rid of Maul if he wanted Vader, think of the whole story including Maul, and things look immediately brighter.
Look, I am not an easily-offended man, but even I must admit that something is off here. Firstly, the Trade Federation representatives are blatant Japanese stereotypes, it’s not even hidden really, the accents the design with slanted eyes, and I’m not gonna be an idiot and say George Lucas is racist, that would be absurd, he’s married to a black (or African-American if you prefer) woman to start with, so if he was racist I’d imagine there’d be a lot of awkward meals at Skywalker Ranch.
Then there’s Watto, I think I’ve seen propaganda that portrays a less stereotypical Jewish character
No he’s probably just misguided, otherwise he wouldn’t ask Ahmed Best to voice Jar Jar Binks in an in-your-face faux Jamaican accent. I’ve just checked, Ahmed Best is from New York City, meaning that the accent was in no way natural, neither was anything about that character, but we’ll get to him.
So Much CGI
I’m an actor you know. Well, I’m an actor in local stage productions, nothing on this scale, but I can’t imagine having to act to a guy covered in ping-pong balls, or just to a blue screen, in some places here it shows too, some transactions are so jarring that it just makes them look so forced (no pun intended).
Whereas in the originals a nice mix of cutting-edge effects and models and puppets were used, and to great effect, in the prequels, more or less everything is CGI, there was not one real clone, no clone costumes were ever made, because they were all CGI. Which strikes me as overkill, I would have made the battle scenes have much more impact if real people were in the suits rather than a combination of pixels fighting each other.
Empire Strikes Back is widely considered the best Star Wars film. It was also the first Star Wars film to not be entirely directed and written by George Lucas, and just look at the results, when writing with someone else Lucas contributed and the movie was great, the same goes for Return of the Jedi (although the Ewoks have Georges’ fingerprints all over them).
Come prequels time, it was all Lucas, and boy did it show. George was never a strong director as good as A New Hope is, there are cast members who criticise his directing style and going back now you realise that the dialogue isn’t as strong as Empire or Jedi, and that returns here, some dialogue is the prequels makes me wonder if George has ever heard human interaction.
It all goes to show that even the best creative minds need help and in George’s case what he really needs is an editor.
Let me just say, that Ewan McGregor really did his best with what he was given, and was at times, great in the part. Hayden Christensen however, really wasn’t. I don’t completely blame Hayden, sometimes an actor needs a good director to bring a performance out of them, and as previously discussed, George Lucas isn’t that. He’s proven to be at least decent in films after this, but God he is so wooden in these films, it’s like watching a fence with a face drawn on it. Especially in the romance scenes, to say Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman had chemistry is like saying Michael Bay makes good movies. They don’t and he doesn’t.
Elsewhere performances range from decent to grating. Christopher Lee does his best with what he’s given, even in his eighties he still wields a sword (or lightsaber in this case) with such grace. On the other side of the scale whoever was voicing General Grievous must have been actively trying to be grating, and that’s without mentioning Boss Nass…
Jar Jar Binks
Jar Jar Binks could slide down a flagpole right to the end and I’d still want to cave in his CGI skull with a baseball bat. I don’t think there has been a more aggressively annoying character, every ‘quirky’ speech pattern makes me want to put a hot poker down my ears and quite frankly the rise of the Emperor was directly his fault, seeing as he cast the vote to grant the chancellor emergency powers. So from this we can gain that Jar Jar Binks is directly responsible for all that is evil in the universe and I wish he’d have stayed underwater.
Boring Story for 75% of the Trilogy
Most of the trilogy comes from a trade disagreement. That doesn’t sound very much like Star Wars does it? Watching bureaucrats bitch at each other in outer space is not what I wanna see, if I wanted to see strange looking space people talking nonsense in a crowded room, I’d watch Prime Minister’s Question Time.
All The Missed Opportunities
Let me know list some good things from the Prequels:
- Darth Maul
- Pod Racing
- Battle of Geneosis
- Some of Mace Windu and Count Dukoo
- Anakin’s descent in Episode III
- The Lightsaber duel between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan.
A films series that is completely bad can just be put down as bad and forgotten. But something like the prequels who had flashes of almost brilliance to be so utterly banal and boring is the worst thing. What really disappoints me is that had the prequels been handled by another director with George watching from afar, Lucas’ reputation would still be in tact. Whereas now due to the prequels he’s often the victim of ridicule, some of it fair, some of it not, after all, he gave us Star Wars in the first place, let that be his legacy.
Please remember that this is just my silly opinion that is often played for laughs, if you disagree, wonderful, the world would be a bleak place if we all agreed with each other, feel free to Tweet me or whatever for an intelligent discussion, until then, May The Force Be With You.