It is no secret that there has been and perhaps always will be hate and anger, enough to turn anyone to the dark side, directed at the Star Wars prequels. Now, it’s only a couple of days away from the nationwide release of J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so we thought why not open those old wounds of collective hate and examine this delicate matter? Are the prequels really as horrible as the interweb make it out to be? Are we defenders or hecklers? Join us as we SEARCH OUR FEELINGS!
Prudence: Let me go on and say that, no, I don’t think the prequels are the horrible movies they make them out to be. I do acknowledge the fact that there are indeed bad moments, but just like Luke on Darth Vader, I find that there is much good in them as well. I think the hate stems much from the fact that the prequels are a letdown in comparison to the amazing original trilogy. They’re just not as exciting as the campy, pulpy, high adventure of Episodes 4-6. And when you disappoint Star Wars nerds it will open the floodgates to some pretty strong emotions. I guess it is safe to say that I’m a defender, but perhaps only to a certain extent. Where do you stand on this one Benny?
Benny: I wouldn’t say that I hate the prequels vehemently but I wouldn’t defend it against the ire of fans. I’m just ambivalent towards it and I would say that they are, at most, disappointing for me. They just lost the magic and the awe that the original trilogy inspired in me when I first watched them. But I can’t fully write-off the prequels because they did create some of the coolest characters of the saga and some pretty inspired concepts. But for every inspired moment/character that the prequels had, they have twice the blunders. Case in point: General Grievous and Darth Maul are two of the most inspired villains in the Star Wars Saga. Jar-Jar Binks on the other hand…
Prudence: Okay, let’s talk Jar-Jar. I am not quite sold on the fact that he was Queen Amidala’s choice to act as her proxy in the Senate. Surely she must have a court full of more qualified individuals. But on one hand Binks is a native of Naboo and knows the planet and its people, as much as anyone in Amidala’s camp. And was he not instrumental in bringing Qui Gon Jin and Obi Wan Kenobi to the underwater city of Gungan, and therefore allowing the two Jedis to reach Naboo, rescue Queen Amidala and prevent the signing of the treaty? And was he not the one who revealed the Gungan’s nature as warriors and their possession of a grand army, and therefore giving Queen Amidala the idea to rally them to their cause? Naboo would have been overtaken by the Droid Army in seconds if not for Jar-Jar. So why yousa hatin on him?
Benny: Honestly, I hated Jar-Jar simply because I don’t know why he was in the film. Yes, his actions were instrumental to the film’s plot but he didn’t have to be a silly racial stereotype. It really did seem that he was just there to add unnecessary levity to the film and to be a marketing ploy in an attempt to appeal to children.
Prudence: Now before I get back to Jar-Jar, which I will, I am with you on General Grievous (although, for the life of me, I don’t know why a droid would develop a persistent cough) and Darth Maul as inspired villains. Especially Darth Maul. I mean just look at the guy. He has horns sprouting out of his head, red-black skin, a double-bladed lightsaber and a stare that can curdle your blood. I think it really is a bad decision to have him killed off much too soon.
Back to Jar-Jar! Haha. I don’t know. I really don’t see him as a marketing ploy, or as any kind of racial stereotype. He is indeed absurdly silly (how else could he be exiled out of Gungan if he isn’t vexingly clumsy?) He’s the bumbling sidekick, the one who acts as foil to your grim-faced heroes, and in Star Wars’ case, to the grim-faced Jedis. And I think he does a good job of it. But I get it. I get why he’s the sort of character that you really won’t take to. Not right away. Let me send you a talking Jar-Jar doll. Hahaha.
Now aside from Jar-Jar, another thing the prequels did was to introduce the term “midi-chlorians” as a way of explaining force sensitivity. The more you have of these microbes in your blood, the more Force-sensitive you are, and the more likely you are to become a Jedi. And a lot of the fans didn’t like this. I do think it’s quite unnecessary. I accept and love the Force already in all its mysteriousness. It needs no explanations. I wouldn’t want J.K. Rowling telling me that Harry Potter’s midi-flimflam is off the charts.
Perhaps this is Lucas making a move towards making Star Wars more hard sci-fi? And therefore more respectable? And if that is so, then it’s a bit of a shame really, because one of the things that make Star Wars great is its campiness and pulpiness.
Benny: On Jar-Jar, the accusation that he is a racial stereotype mainly comes from his speech pattern but I don’t want to comment on that because I’m no expert in race relations. On the accusation of being a marketing ploy, my only comment is that we’ve seen this before from Lucas in the form of the Ewoks from the Original Trilogy. Part of the reason why I didn’t take to him is that they gave him so much screen time on Episode I. It’s fine if you’re a comedic relief/foil who appears every now and then but if you’re a comedic relief/foil who is given a terrible amount of screen time with terrible lines, that’s a different thing entirely.
On your second point, “midi-chlorians” was really a bummer of a concept since it did take away the mystery of the Original Trilogy not to mention the campiness. I think Lucas’ biggest mistake was to take away that sense of mystery and camp and attempt to make the whole saga more serious than it needs to be.
Prudence: No, you did not just say that about the Ewoks. Let me send you a talking Ewok doll. Hahaha.
Now aside from Jar-Jar and the Midi-chlorians, the plot of the prequels wasn’t well received either. Too much politics, they say. Too much standing around talking about trade routes and blockades, they say. An organization dealing with an Evil Sith Lord, an assassination attempt, and clones ordered by some old Jedi. There’s just too many threads to keep track of, they say. Do you agree?
Benny: Somehow, I don’t agree. The plot was too clunky, yes, but these are threads that paid off in the end when it was explored further in the animated TV shows, The Clone Wars and Rebels. But, independent of those TV properties, I do agree that the plot could’ve been trimmed down or executed properly.
Prudence: I don’t agree as well. These are the “prequels” after all. The prologue, so to speak, before the big rebellion. And it is only called for that they will be more political. Anyone wishing to take hold of an empire, galactic or otherwise will start with the government. So no, I didn’t think there was too much politics nor did I think the plot was too much to handle all at once.
What did you think about Hayden Christensen as Anakin? A lot of people think he was a miscast. I believe they considered his performance as “too whiny”. And they also weren’t quite on board with Anakin and Padme as a couple. They thought they had no spark and no chemistry. Do you agree?
Benny: I agree on the criticisms of Anakin as portrayed by Hayden Christensen, an actor I don’t really like because the guy cannot act. I don’t care if a character is whiny but at least make it subtle and nuanced. On his chemistry with Padme, it’s not Natalie Portman’s fault if she was forced to act next to a plank of wood and sparks didn’t fly.
I imagined that the Prequels would have been at least passable if they cast a different Anakin.
Prudence: That is so true. It kind of makes me sad thinking about it because Anakin Skywalker is one of the most, if not the most, important characters in the Star Wars universe. He’s young Darth Vader for chrissakes. An actor with great acting chops is crucial in playing this conflicted and tortured anti-hero. And yeah, Natalie Portman is blameless on this one, the casting director however is not.
Now surely, there must be something the prequels did right. What do you consider as their good points?
Benny: It’s hard to say that the Prequels did something right as a whole because it just wasn’t that great. As I’ve said, I did like some of the new characters that they’ve introduced. Ewan McGregor as Kenobi is probably a highlight of The Phantom Menace. Christopher Lee as Darth Sidious is a great performance from the beloved character actor. Grievous and Darth Maul, despite their short screentimes, are very compelling villains. And there are enough good in the plot of the Prequels to keep Star Wars fans happy.
Prudence: Yeah, I agree. A smattering of good performances and well-crafted new characters here and there. I also think that the prequels did pretty good in fleshing out the planets with great set pieces. Naboo looks breathtaking. Coruscant, the urban metropolis, looks alive and bustling. Another thing, unlike in the original trilogy where the lightsaber fights look very slap dash, the fight scenes in the prequels are much more complex and better choreographed. The one between Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan and Darth Maul in the The Phantom Menace was pretty epic.
Benny: I was going to say that the 2 Vs. 1 lightsaber battle in The Phantom Menace may have been one of the best fighting scenes in not only the saga but in the history of film but I may just be engaged in hyperbole. However, what is not hyperbole is the fact that, in order to make a good movie, you need more than good supporting performances. Yes, the Prequels had that but so did other fantasy/SciFi franchises like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Hunger Games. What the prequels lacked was a charismatic lead and a coherent plot.
Prudence: You have a point. Still, I consider that as a silver lining. Having good supporting performances is better than having bad supporting performances on top of extra bad lead performances. Haha. Now after taking the prequels apart, I still maintain my stand that they aren’t bad movies in their own right. I’ve seen some bad movies and the prequels aren’t any of them. They aren’t great but they aren’t space garbage either. But still I acknowledge the sad fact that the prequels will always be known as the inferior, as George Lucas’ major blunder.
In the spirit of the holidays, I propose that we collectively let go of our hate and instead joyfully anticipate Star Wars: The Force Awakens! Meanwhile stay tuned for next week’s The Original Trilogy discussion! *cue the Cantina Song!*