Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What was Wrong the Star Wars Prequels?

Like many boys growing up in the 70s and 80s, I was a giant Star Wars fan. When Bantam released "Heir to the Empire", I went nuts reading the books at lightspeed and dreaming of Lucas making more movies. The books showed that you could create a story arc that would be true to the original trilogy but completely different. Zahn was actually better with Lucas' original material than Lucas would later be with the prequels. Zahn kept to some guidelines: limit the superhuman abilities of Jedi, make sure the Empire is not just a monolith of evil, and let the characters be 3 dimensional and not purely good or purely evil. Lucas did not follow any of these in the prequels. Bad guys were evil, good guys were all good, and the Jedi could do whatever they wanted yet somehow got shot down very easily in the 3rd movie. Let's just say Lucas' prequels will never be in my movie collection. There are so many things wrong with the movies, it is hard to list them all.

Lucas failed to understand a few things going in:

1. You can't contradict "facts" established from episodes 4-6. Obi Wan and Anakin meet as adults. Vader hunted down Jedi and killed them. Anakin turned evil by choice to get power quicker and easier. Luke and Leia's mom lived to see Leia grow up. Yoda taught Obi Wan. Obi Wan was old enough to be a general in the Clone Wars and teach Anakin. R2D2 can't have super android powers that he did not have in the original 3 movies.

2. The fan base was older. The core fans would drag their kids anyway, so the money would be there, it was a matter of meeting the fans' older tastes. A kids movie was not wanted yet Lucas forced a kids movie on people. The fall of Anakin Skywalker is suppose to be dark. Fuck making it a kid movie.

3. Even with Lucas shooting 2 hour films, he had a lot of ground to cover for an action/adventure film series and failed to deliver. He chose to wrap things up quickly, while shoving a rushed love story on us. The Lord of The Rings movies also showed that people would sit through a 3 hour movie if it is good. Movies can also span years. You can do it many ways, but an awesome way would be to have a montage of Anakin/Vader killing other Jedi in a variety of fights. Yes, George, they can.

4. He went for the money forgetting that he could make even more money with truly fantastic movies. Will I ever watch these on DVD? No. Will I watch the originals another 50 times and at least 100 when I have kids and hopefully, grandkids? Yes.

5. This might be the worst, but he forgot to work the special effects into the great story and instead let the special effects dictate a lot of what we saw. The Lord of the Rings was a great working of special effects into a classic story. The Star Wars prequels were not.


Here's where he failed with the films:
1. Basic Story: A three act story arc has the rise of Anakin, the turn of Anakin, and the complete transformation of Anakin into Darth Vader. We got: midget Anakin the boy slave bad actor being discovered, Anakin the Jedi Knight kicking some butt but still a whiny teen, and then Anakin the obsessive boyfriend who then gets tricked into becoming a bad guy. He chose to be evil. Can anyone do that in Hollywood anymore?

2. Basic Background: This might be the first thing he fucked up, and subsequently ruined the prequels because of, but he turned the Jedi into a priesthood, when the original set up was more like kung fu masters who take in students. Read any of the comics from Dark Horse set way before the trilogies but in that universe. Yes, there is a Jedi council, but the Jedi learned from masters on different planets. There was no big Jedi Oxford you went to from birth. By taking some of that 1 on 1 cool training away, he made the Jedi into "magnet school" of Force nerds rather than spiritually blessed warrior-philosophers. Yoda sounded like Professor Yoda in the prequels. Luke training in the jungle with Yoda one on one is fantastic. The connection between them seemed special and tough at the same time. That was missing. He demystified the Force by talking about midicholorians. He made it more a matter of science than of spirit. Jedi couldn't fall in love, marry and have kids. How did little Jedi show up?

3. Basic Plot points: Obi Wan met Anakin when Anakin was the best star pilot in the galaxy, saw how he was gifted in the Force and then took him in to train him. Obi Wan was older than Anakin by a considerable amount, which was not honored. If the Jedi are so powerful and strong, how the fuck did they not see the future when the stormtroopers would just shoot them in the back? How? Another giant plot hole is that Vader's mom is buried right next to where Vader's son who is strong in the Force grows up. So Vader never goes to visit his mom's grave for 20 years? He never sees this little boy with the Force, blond hair, and the last name Skywalker????? Was Skywalker like "Smith" in the galaxy so he couldn't be sure it was his kid? Even bigger problem is that Anakin does not choose to become evil for his own gain. He gets tricked into evil to save his woman. Lame. It was like Lucas couldn't let Anakin make the evil choice of his own action so that kids would get mad.

4. Wasted Frames: He wasted space with lame scenes for Jar Jar. Wasted use of the Wookies. Didn't spend time showing awesome battles that didn't have CGI stamped on them. Go look up the battle scenes from Braveheart and substitute lightsabers for the actual blades and that is what I am talking about. Wasted an entire film showing Anakin as a kid. The entire first film was a waste of 2+ hours. He wasted one of 3 films on crap.

5. Missing Pieces: There was no lovable rogue (Han Solo, Lando). There were no underside characters for this "worn in" galaxy (Jabba, Boba Fett). There was no love triangle. Even though Luke and Leia are revealed as twins in the 3rd film; the love triangle of Luke-Han-Leia was great. The prequels could have been full of these guys. Think about it: a Jedi who went to the dark side but came back. There had to be at least one since Obi Wan going undercover and hiding from the Emperor and Darth Vader with the help of smugglers to hide Luke, Leia and their mom. The love triangle was built in: Obi Wan, Anakin, Luke/Leia's mom. How perfect? Run on sentence alert: They could even make it realistic where Luke/Leia's Mom should get down with good guy Obi Wan but she chooses bad boy Anakin who gets her pregnant and then goes evil, ditching her, and then she crawls back to Obi Wan, who still loves her so he helps hide her and the kids and never gets to tap it but lives in the desert watching over Luke pretending that he is the son Obi Wan should have had with Luke's mom, dreaming of what Luke's mom was like before she had the twins as he masturbates through tears of regret. That would probably be a deleted scene.

6. Bad Casting: Anakin never should have been a child in the first film. He used Liam Neeson who has a serious, dramatic background for one film only. Samuel L. Jackson had some weight but wasn't allowed to flesh out his character. How cool would it have been to see Samuel L. teaching Anakin or advising Obi Wan on some tricks of the Force? When they cast the films, Lucas should have called DiCaprio everyday and said "name your price, you will be in my fucking films as Anakin". Supposedly they did reach out to Dicaprio and he said no.

7. No explanations: He failed to explain some things like why some Jedi fade away as they die or threw shitty explanations at us like the midicholorians or how the Jedi got all blue and fuzzy after death. The blue fuzzy explanation was a dumb throw in. How come Anakin couldn't tell using the Force that his wife was pregnant with twins? How did Yoda and Obi Wan, who were wicked powerful, hide for years when the Emperor and Vader could feel Luke's little disturbances of the Force? Why did Vader stop looking for Obi Wan? Why did the galaxy stop using droids for fighting and switch to clones and then stop using clones? How could Darth Sidious be so evil right under the Jedi council's nose? So stupid.

8: Too much CGI: every alien looked way too CGI fake. Battle scenes were obviously CGI. Even the space scenes were not as solid as the originals. It felt like an awesome video game during some action scenes. CGI still hasn't figured out how to capture that real look. Kind of like how Jaba the Hutt was obviously fake, but he looked so real that he made your skin crawl. Jabba looked like something you would find down in Chinatown in some dungeon ready to devour you whole.

Not everything was bad.....

1. The Obi Wan-Anakin lightsaber duel delivered the goods. It was what I had built it up to be for 20 years. That duel salvaged the 3rd film for me to be 'ok'.
2. Ewan MacGregor as Obi Wan. Great bit of casting and good performance. He captured some of that Obi Wan wit, and gave a decent hat tip to Alec Guinness.

3. Yoda's lightsaber fighting. When that happened, the entire crowd went nuts where I saw it. Yoda kicked some serious ass. It was a cross of kung fu, sword fighting and midget wrestling.

4. The lightsaber duel between Liam Neeson, MacGregor and the lame actor who played Darth Maul. Seriously, Darth Maul's real life voice was so bad they overdubbed his lines using another actor.

5. Natalie Portman. Thank you. I needed her to get me through those prequels.

6. Anakin hunting down and destroying the sand people that kill his mom. That's a cool application of Jedi powers. I wish they had shown the actual footage of it. I think we all saw this one coming after the first crappy film, "oooooh my mom can't leave the crappy planet so watch it end up costing her her life, while I go away to become a Jedi". It is another plot hole that no one confronts Anakin about this decidely evil act.

7. R2D2 rocked. I always wonder how he is going to get out of problems. When we get robots in the future, I hope they are like R2D2 and not like the Terminator.

8. Costume design was fantastic. I loved the quasi-futuristic, quasi-Asian look of the clothes. Not a lot of that monochromatic future wear from the 70s flicks.

9. Some of the settings were well thought out like Natalie Portman's home planet, Coruscant, the fiery planet where Obi Wan fought Anakin.

10. We figured out why Boba Fett was such a bad ass who could get killed so quickly. Look at his dad.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dude half that information is wrong. The originals were so bad and fake where as the prequels were awesome. And you are aware their is a 19 year diffrence between the third and the fourth right? Well anyway your part about the love triangle was slighlty distrubing to say the least. That would make it rated R.

Anonymous said...

Oh boy, that first comment... "that would make the movie rated R." Hilarious.

You're right, 28 Sherman, but what hurts most about the prequels is not the inconsistencies with the Star Wars classics - a new audience wouldn't mind them so much, nor would I. The prequels are simply very bad storytelling and would soon be forgotten, except for what drew kids to Star Wars in the first place - lightsaber duels, space battles, alien worlds and creatures. There, Lucas does still deliver. The story in-between is silly, choppy and fails to really engage the heart or the mind. The only emotionally memorable scenes are in Episode 3, like Anakin's seduction at the "opera" (haunting, still makes my skin crawl).

Anonymous said...

From what I understand Lucas's group of consultants from Episodes IV, V, and VI were either deceased, unavailable or not called upon for Episodes I,II and III.

I'm not sure about the validity of that claim. I thought Joseph Campbell (see link) was one of Lucas's consultants however the wikipedia article states otherwise.

It is peculiar and disappointing that Episodes I,II and III better written.


Joseph Campbell - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Campbell

Son of Brock Landers said...

comment 1 has to be a joke.

first, i am having fun with this. i guess my humor was adavanced. like lucas would have a masturbation scene in a film? Still, why make anakin a kid? Also, the love triangle is a classic story device.

comment 2, yeah bad story telling. not a good story arc for anakin, when he starts as a kid.

Anonymous said...

I don't know all the details like you do but I do know that I was extremely disappointed with the prequel Episodes I, II and III. What a huge let down! I can't believe it's the same writer! With the originals you had character contrasts Obi Won was controled (Spock like) versus Hans Solo who seemed more wreckless and Luke was kind of "in-between" those two types. The orignal movies also had surprises in them (the huge Death Star spaceship, Vader is Luke's father, Leia is Luke's sister, Vader turns against Emperor to protect his son). Also, I like the way the spaceships in the original movies (IV, V & VI) visually played with spaceship size contrasts. They show a ship that looked absolutely huge then a shadow covers that huge ship and we see an even bigger ship! The Millennium Falcon lands on an Imperial Cruiser allowing us to get a perspective of ship sizes (they failed to do this type of size contrast on the The Next Generation too... I found on a website that the original Constitution Class Enterprise was no bigger than one of the engine nacelles of the Next Generation's Galaxy Class Enterprise).

From the details that you write, Lucas failed the original's even more than I thought! I just wanted to watch another great movie Star Wars movie... instead they showed Jar Jar who reminded me of Disney's Goofy. Also, amazingly, I actually liked the "Muppet puppet" versions of the alien creatures like Jabba the Hutt more than the computer generated ones. The computer generated ones looked good but there was something... that looked more "real" with the "puppets".

Also, the ships in the new episodes were not memorable... I don't know the names of any of those ships. I remember a stretched and pulled looking silver thing... But with the originals you had ships that actually looked like they were real or could be real ships (and I remember their names - Millenium Falcon, X-Wing, TIE Fighter, Death Star).

The only thing I can remember being excited about in the new movies was in the very beginning of the movie when the slanted yellow/gold writing briefing us on the story to come was scrolling off the screen and the camera panned down to the scene.

Fortunately, this Star Wars fiasco was made up by a new series that came out on TV around the same time called Stargate SG1 with Richard Dean Anderson. I bumped into him at a Theater in Santa Monica when the original IV, V and VI were re-released with new effects. He told us that he auditioned for the part of Hans Solo but didn't get the part. But he got Stargate which was a great Sci Fi show (originally on Showtime). There's a part in one of the shows where they froze him in a slab just like they did Hans Solo in Empire Strikes Back. So in a way he kind of got that Sci Fi role he was aiming for...

In conclusion, that first comment about the originals being so bad and the prequels awesome... Hmm... I'm trying to see it, I'm trying to understand... I even bought the prequel DVD's (they were on sale for $30 no tax at Amazon). Instead I find myself falling asleep on them... Kind of like the TV show Deep Sleep 9. But I'm still trying to see what you see... Meanwhile, you should take another shot at watching IV, V and VI.

Anonymous said...

Its a MOVIE! get over yourselves, It wasnt bad at all. The fact that you took the time to analyze all the movies to every detail, only shows you have no life. Enjoy it, and get over yourselves. Done!

mag9thepower said...

Hey I understand what your saying here. I barely got into the new films recently I watched them when they came out 99,02,05 and I didn't really think about them. well I just got them on DVD and I realized something their is a lot in the new films that show just how much people cant stand reality. To be honest the new films are more grounded in reality because the aggressiveness of our generation especially in episodes 2 and 3 are all there. To be honest I think that many people dont care for the new ones not because Lucas screwed up which he did. But the Aggressiveness and the clinched romance its what our generation is known for and I see it everywhere from everybody their aggressive way of talking, acting, and just how they act around their boy or girl friends. I think in a lot of ways the new films show something to the public at least over 12 or something...the way they are in many ways the characters in the new star wars film like Anakin the petty guy who wants to crawl back into his moms womb. Padme who just wont accept the person that Anakin has become. This is our generation all over again in movies and I can see how you say nobody will ever accept these films because the old ones were all about hope these ones show another side and it may not be what we all expected but it still shows a lot about the politics, spirit, and emotions of our generation more than the old ones ever will.
Thats me but again I also find the same kind of analyzing in the old films but those fit in that generation more but I think in general work across generations.Take care

Anonymous said...

The prequels are on Spike right now and I wanted to see if anyone else caught this tiny hole that has irritated me since I saw episode 1 in '99..

in A New Hope, C3PO and R2D2 didn't know Obi-Wan, and he didn't know them. After so many years of being with each other, don't you think at least one of the three would remember? I don't think any of their memories were wiped..

I agree with most of what you said though!

Anonymous said...

I disagree with a few of your "facts"
I think some of those things are the opinions of certain characters of "what went down" and I don't think Obi-Wan necessarily had to be Anakin's "official" teacher... I like the "Amidala love triangle idea but then they'd have to be of similar age which I had them being in "mine" but you had Obi-Wan as quite a bit older in "yours"... yeah... I think Lucas caught "James Cameron disease" right before he made the prequels" by which I mean he got super focused on special effects and pretty much ignored everything else... stock story... not too great characters and random stuff that didn't make sense or cohear with the earlier movies.
Yeah, I think Dicaprio probably would have made a good Anakin.

My "project" for the past few days was to come up with a rough version of what I'd have put into the prequels:
http://ebalance.deviantart.com/?loggedin=1#/d2qahf1

So there you have it... thanks for the article! :)

Anonymous said...

I agree with Sherman. There are a lot of young people out there who think the prequels are awesome. They did not see the cultural impact the first three movies made. Thirty years from now they won't care about the prequels the way so many of us still care about the original trilogy.

Anyway, I made a mockumentary for school about this very subject, I think Sherman will like it. Please check it out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Lv_9qD3Ibk

Anonymous said...

OMG The prequels were terrible. I agree with all of your points. Godamn kids movie is what it was. Hayden Christiansen is an emo pussy with no acting experience and he is not Anakin. If you ask me, I'd say that Jaoquin Phoenix from Gladiator should have played Anakin. And George Lucas should be murdered by hundreds of nerds Caeser style.

fschalk said...

one of my main problems with the prequels in relation to the OT is the age discrepancies..Im sorry, but Alec Guinness looks at LEAST 30 to 35 years older than Ewan McGregor is Episode III, even with his "greyed temples". He is supposed to be 19 years older. Unless Obi-wan downed a bottle of JD and freebased some 8-balls every single day for those 19 years, I just dont see that as believable at all..Also, Anakin in Return of the Jedi looked 60ish, even in Ghost form (no he was NOT Hayden Christiansen)..How the hell do they explain that? Anakin would have to have been 40ish in Episode III. I dont believe in the "he was fucked up in the suit" explanation. He looked 60ish. Period.

Anonymous said...

I like to see you get third degree burns all over your body and look like the age you are...

Anonymous said...

They are not kids movies. There is suggested rape, amputations, complicated inter galactic politics, infanticide, etc... I've seen kids try to sit through these movies only to be totally baffled and bored. I watched the original trilogy as a kid and loved it, as a teenager and loved it, and as an adult and loved it. Kids are still watching them today and loving them.

To everyone who says that the prequels are better because they have CGI instead of puppets and "cooler" lightsaber battles: thank you for helping me to understand how people like Michael Bay make millions of dollars. I understand how 3 movies with themes about human relationships, adversity through hard times and the virtues of patience and understanding over impulsiveness and emotion are totally lost on you. I'm not judging you. Promise. Nope... still not judging you.

The only thing I disagree with the author about is the Yoda lightsaber fights being "cool." Yoda is an old dude, 780 years old, with only twenty years (or so) of life left in him. He also never teaches Luke to fight and spends the entire original trilogy saying things like "War does not make one great..." and "A Jedi uses the Force for defense..." I didn't even feel like they were the same Yoda.

But really there is nothing for me to say that isn't covered in Plinkett's reviews of the prequels on youtube or redlettermedia.com. Pretty funny too.

Jesse said...

you know why dont you all stop ranting on this little blog and check out mr plinkette's review of the star wars prequels two of them can be found on youtube but the third one can only be found on redlettermedia.com

Robert said...

Nice work. I agree with your pointe, especially the one about Lord of the Rings. That series & Harry Potter were everything the Star Wars prequels should've been. Lo & behold, they both left the same wonderful impression on audiences that the original trilogy did (I actually wrote an article for the paper sayin that, too).

Anonymous said...

Aw, Fuck off.

Juanita's Journal said...

Your inability to face a story with a more mature and complex plot. That is what's wrong with the Prequel movies.