Star Wars Prequels Reassessed

Like many people in my age bracket, the Star Wars prequels were a profound disappointment. Episode I had the annoyance of Jar Jar wasting screen time, the back story on Anakin and how his “chosen one” status was a more than a little underwhelming. The pod racing was like a video game where you have to sit and watch someone else play, and the battle sequences seemed sterile and predictable.

Episode II suffered from bad acting, a stupid love story, and a title that didn’t really relate to the overall thrust of the film. I mean the clones did attack, but only at the end and, well, really, BFD.

Episode III suffered from even worse acting, a plodding storyline that “got good” in the final act in that it nicely bridged the gap between the two series. In a way, I was glad when the prequels ended because I thought George Lucas could now concentrate on films that had nothing to do with Star Wars. Only time will tell if he can rise the challenge of doing a non-Star Wars film – and doing it well! It can be easily forgotten that he did make American Graffiti and TXH -1138. And while the latter film wasn’t all that great, it did have the distinction of being more of a thought piece on the dangers of conformity in a dystopian future.

But back to Star Wars for a moment…

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, Maya and I were talking about Star Wars when we were having dinner, and we decided to watch Episode IV: A New Hope for fun. Back in 1995, I bought the trilogy on VHS (with the remastered sound). I still have it, but I couldn’t find it, so Maya and I made an impulse run to Best Buy and bought the DVDs – which, by the way, cost less than the VHS copies I bought back in ‘95.

Anyway, we watched Episode IV and then Maya went on to watch Empire and Jedi on Thanksgiving. After that, I broke down and bought the prequels on DVD and Maya and I watched all three. The DVDs come with deleted scenes and interviews with Lucas and others who worked on the film as to why a particular scene was cut. To me, The deleted scenes provided quite a bit of information on the Republic, Padme’s family, and even Anakin’s back story, and if Lucas decided to include the scenes, the films would have been better. They wouldn’t have been great, mind you, but there would have been a depth to the stories that wasn’t there in the theatrical release.

Okay, so after viewing the prequels again, my opinion of them has changed from what I wrote above. They still don’t shine like Episodes IV and V, but the story is compelling in that characters like Obi Wan are much more interesting because it shows him in action and that he had a life before becoming “the old hermit” who lived beyond the dune sea in episode IV. The Republic – after being built up in Episode IV – was a bit of a let down because the political structure, while democratic, wasn’t really explained.

I was trying to figure out what the missing ingredient was in the prequels and it was this: a non-believing smart-ass like Han Solo. Solo’s presence was a very good counterbalance to the mysticism of The Force and Luke’s journey to become a Jedi master. Also, the prequels were missing the “magic three” of the Luke, Leia, Han triangle. They were friends who were very devoted to one another. In the prequels, the triangle of Anakin, Padme, and Obi Wan was not based on friendship, but rather on a master-disciple relationship (Anakin and Obi Wan) and an obsessive kind of love (Anakin’s love for Padme). For me, it was hard to warm up to characters because they were so rigid, but these characters weren’t supposed to be balanced (in terms of their relationships with one another) to begin with, so maybe I just didn’t get that the first time around.

So, if you’re thinking of re-watching the prequels, you might be surprised that they aren’t as disappointing as you remember the first time around.

Thanks for indulging my inner-geek for a few moments.

–PK

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