So, it looks like I’m about to defend my enjoyment and justify the reasons I like one of the most hated trilogies of all time. So widely disliked are these films that upon the release of the the third installment – Revenge of the Sith – there were a couple of ramifications in the movie industry itself.
Firstly, the Star Wars franchise, one of the biggest of all time, just stopped, cinematically at least. While the books, comics, TV shows and video games were all consistently expanding the universe, it took Disney buying the rights in October 2012, a full seven years later, before a new film was even informally announced. Secondly, George Lucas just… gave up. While the man was a prolific director through the sixties and seventies, he hasn’t helmed a single film since 2005. He has got plenty of writing and producing credits, however they’re mostly referencing characters he created decades earlier.
Now, it should be mentioned that these films are not universally hated. critical response to all three was at least mixed, especially Revenge of the Sith which is sitting at a healthy 79% on Rotten Tomatoes. The majority of the hatred was from film fans, and generally people who loved the originals. Which brings me to my first point.
I was eight years old when The Phantom Menace was released. Of course I had seen the original trilogy before it was released, but I didn’t have any real emotional or nostalgic connection to those films. Eight year old me really enjoyed that film. It had bright colours, lots of action, and was generally exciting from start to finish (although I should say, even I didn’t like Jar Jar Binks at the time).
I have of course seen the film since, and I can acknowledge it has some flaws, but even now, as somebody who watches hundreds of films a year with a critical perspective, I think there’s more to like than dislike. While some of the acting is hard to sit through, Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor are great together. There’s fantastic fight choreography (it features what is arguably the best battle in the franchise). The music, while some is of course a retread, is just as good as that in the original trilogy. And what stands out most to me is that there’s so much ingenuity. It’s clear that a lot of thought went into designing the aliens, the ships, and generally the world it’s set in, so it’s hard not to appreciate this film, for me at least.
Now we move on to Revenge of the Sith (but that’s part three, I hear you say… I’ll explain later). This was the big climax, the culmination of six films, and almost thirty years of anticipation, where we were finally going to find out exactly how the galaxy became the cold, hopeless place it was in the original trilogy, and boy did it deliver.
The opening scene set the tone. An explosive dogfight in space, that filled the screen from corner to corner with endless ships. It was some of the most visually stunning film making I’d ever seen, and cemented this film’s blockbuster status. And it didn’t slow down.
Jar Jar Binks was relegated to little more than a cameo, which was just the start of the positive aspects of Revenge of the Sith. All of the things I liked about Phantom Menace were back, great music, action, and world building, but there was even more here. The drama was at an all time high, and truly came to a head with the final showdown between Obi-Wan and Anakin. There was also one of the best character moments of the series, when The Emperor invites Anakin to the magic space opera, and basically gives him more motivation and development in one scene than he’s had in the trilogy so far.
To add to this, the eight year old who watched Phantom Menace was now a fourteen year old. The franchise had grown with me, and developed from a child friendly, light hearted adventure, into a (largely) serious and dramatic action sci/fi film. There were plenty of people around my age who I’m sure felt and experienced the same things I did when watching these films, just as there were plenty of people who feel the same about the original Star Wars trilogy.
Again, this film is by no means perfect, there’s still some issues with the acting, and Natalie Portman’s Padmé has changed from a Queen / high ranking politician to a whinging character with as much charisma as a moist towelette. Still, taking everything into account, it’s a very enjoyable film, with stellar action and plenty of drama to go along with it.
Now we get onto the embarrassing uncle nobody wants at the party – Attack of the Clones. To put it simply, I can’t defend this film. While it is notable for having a full scale Jedi assault, and a fight between Obi-Wan and Boba Fett, generally it has very little going for it. It is truly the low point of the franchise. But here’s the thing – it doesn’t really matter.
I think of the prequels the same way most people think about the original trilogy, as one story, and because of that, I think of the trilogy generally in a positive way. And anyway, a lot of great trilogies have one weaker or disliked installment. The Godfather Part III, The Dark Knight Rises, Back to the Future Part 3, Spider-Man 3, The Matrix Revolutions, and there are plenty more. This isn’t a true justification, but it does show that people can still look kindly on a trilogy if one of the installments isn’t quite as good as the others.
So, are the Star Wars prequels as good as the originals? No, and I’m not saying that, but as entertainment, which is what they were created to be (that and a way to sell toys), they work. Even my favourite films have scenes I don’t love, and this trilogy is no different. I’m sure I won’t be changing any minds here, but just maybe you’ll give these films another watch, and enjoy them for what they are.
What do you think about the Star Wars prequel trilogy? Have I made you look slightly more fondly on it? Is there nothing that can make you feel any differently about these pieces of garbage? Share any thoughts you might have in the comments.
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