The Prequel Menace

Looking Back at the Second Star Wars Trilogy

Gino Maley, Opinion Editor

I know, I know. I actually think that the Star Wars Prequels aren’t terrible. Surprising, yes, heretical to some, even. But before you dismiss this piece and label me a “prequel apologist;” I do think that for all the things the Prequels did right, they did a lot wrong. I do agree that George Lucas has no right to be anywhere near a Star Wars film unless he’s shown a ticket to the theater usher like the rest of us. But what I can’t stand is this cultural staple of gathering up the town mob and collectively bashing the movies until they’re black and blue. So let me tell you why the Prequels aren’t that bad.

First, a starting point. One of the things I hear a lot from Prequel-haters is something along the lines of “they’re not nearly as good movies as the original trilogy!” And while I would agree, I would also suggest that these people look at the original trilogy through nostalgia-tinted glasses. After recently rewatching all the movies in preparation for the The Force Awakens, I came to the conclusion that it’s a miracle that A New Hope was nearly as successful as it was. While the story and themes captures the imagination and wonder of all viewers, from a purely objective standpoint- it’s pretty terrible. It’s the perfect combination of cheesy sci-fi campiness, bad acting, and laughable editing that it’s amazing it was so incredibly well received. And this is coming from someone who lives and breathes Star Wars. Empire Strikes Back is where the franchise actually became good and well done, minus an infuriating cliffhanger ending, and Return of the Jedi is just barely on par with Episode V.

Let’s start with Phantom Menace, the first movie in the prequel trilogy and a strange, deformed creation of modern CGI. Menace actually did a lot of really cool things in its premise, and it actually was pretty cleverly written at parts. It introduced us to not only a young, handsome, and interesting Obi-Wan (a character who lacked depth in the originals,) but it introduced us to the living, breathing world of Star Wars. No longer was the universe a galaxy far far away, but one that lived and worked, up close and in person. Menace gave us a deeper understanding of how the galaxy operated and functioned, and introduced us to how then Senator Palpatine would use these functions to manipulate it in his own way. The foreshadowing of the return of the Sith was very well done, and it made it seem real. The one major criticism I have of Episode I is that it is far too long. The film’s cool stuff is held back by Lucas’ want to build up the world, mired by writers who didn’t understand that you don’t have to show tell everything. Slim down the lengthy movie, remove some of the political scenes, shorten some obnoxiously long moments, and turn Jar-Jar from a useless buffoon who survives on luck into simply a simple-minded alien who is easily manipulated, and you’d have a great movie.

Attack of the Clones is by the far the worst thing Star Wars ever made. And there’s a lot of bad Star Wars stuff. This abomination of a movie had an idea of what it wanted to show, but not a good idea of how to show it. It wanted to show the Clone Wars and their origin, as well as Anakin’s beginnings of succumbing to his emotions. How’d they achieve this? Have Anakin creepily interact with Padme for what feels like hours and somehow turn that into the two falling in love. It’s rushed and terrible, and whoever wrote Anakin’s supposedly romantic lines probably got all his material from a thirteen year old’s description of love. If the movie had instead developed the Clones and the Clone Wars, as well as Count Dooku and the villains, this movie would have been good.

Revenge of the Sith is great. It shows us the full transformation of the Star Wars world into one that is full of hate, anger, and the Dark Side. It perfectly captures the deception and manipulation that went into it all, and it showcases the emotional journeys of all the Jedi involved, especially Anakin and Obi-Wan. I’ve always said that if there’s one thing the Prequels did right, it’s Ewan McGregor, who played Obi-Wan Kenobi. The actor captured Obi-Wan so well, and his clear passion for the character shined through the murky waters of the Prequels. What I would have loved to have seen more of would be General Grievous, an awesome, intimidating character that is underutilized and underrepresented in the films, and more of the Clones and how they operated. The Clones are awesome, and the idea of the Clone Wars was one of the best things the franchise had going for it, but sadly it was underdone in the films.

So- not perfect. Not great. Some parts not even good. But what I can say about the prequels is that they have some cool aspects in them, and they really have a foundation for what could have been a trilogy of really awesome movies.