8 Reasons the Star Wars Prequels Should Be Given A Chance
I know that this statement is going to infuriate some, but here goes. I think the Star Wars prequel trilogy is as good, if not better than, the original trilogy.
Okay, I know what you're thinking. I too have had my problems with the prequel trilogy, such as some logical inconsistencies where things don't quite mesh with the original trilogy's story (oh yeah, blank the droids' memories in the end, that solves everything!). The main problem I have with Phantom Menace, for example, is the glaringly obvious refusal of the Jedi to do anything about the problems of slavery, and their numerous failures throughout the prequel trilogy can be kind of a downer. However, I don't agree with the fans of the original trilogy who assert that the prequels represented George Lucas stomping on their beloved childhood movies.
Anyway, here's why I think the prequel trilogy should be given a chance.
8: Better Special Effects and More/Cooler Lightsaber Fights
Look, let's face it, you don't go to a Star Wars movie for deep intellectual stimulation. The audiences of action movies want fast-paced action, good special effects, well choreographed fights, and some badass dialog that illustrates how badass the main characters are. The prequel series offers a lot of great things in the way of that that the originals don't; force lightening, double-sided light sabers, pod-racing, piloting a ship directly through the liquid core of a planet, and some breathtaking looking epic battles.
A lot of times, the movies in the original trilogy seemed lagging and dull, the pacing wasn't very good because an action movie shouldn't have long stretches where not a whole lot is happening. Sometimes, it doesn't feel like the creators of the original movies knew what direction they were going in in the movies, creating movies that are indecisive and slow-paced. I felt like the story of the prequels was thought out in advance more, and that they half-assed the plot of the originals, making it up as they went along. For example, they started out having some romantic subtext between Luke and Leia, only to later reveal that they were brother and sister, having Leia end up with bad-boy Han. I think they got stuck with this love triangle and chose that as a way to resolve it without a large portion of the audience insisting that they chose wrong.
When it comes to technology, the prequels have a huge advantage over the originals. Star Wars: A New Hope was made when the best video game around was Pong, and it came out 3 years before Pac-Man. Can you imagine that? In sci-fi, technology is a key element of the world creation.
And the superior technology they used to create Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith really comes into play when it comes to scenery, which gives me my next point:
7: The Prequels Have Superior Sets and Scenery
Most science fiction movies are defined by the worlds they create: Avatar without Pandora would be another unoriginal movie about Indians, Logan's Run had us envision people living in a gigantic dome, The Matrix imagines a world where humanity makes one desperate last stand against mechanical dictators who control us, body and mind. Without the sets these great movies would be well, kind of shitty, and not really sci-fi as we understand it.
The sets in the original Star Wars movies, in my humble opinion, suck. Why did all the planets they encountered only have one kind of environment? Planets tend to have variations in climate, Mr. Lucas. And even the awesome sets they had inside the space-ships occupied by Vader (everything in Vader's surroundings seems specifically designed to look ominous and scary) just aren't enough compared to the blandness of most of the planets. The original Star Wars movies had sets that were just background, and not usually very interesting ones (desert, forest, ice, and space, basically). When the prequels added Coruscant, Naboo (the surface and the amazing Gungan city underwater), and revamped some of the old locations like Tattooine, I was blown away. With the creation of these visually stunning settings, the story really finishes the original vision started by the original trilogy; the creation of The Galaxy. The scenery in the prequels is absolutely beautiful and truly completes the science fiction look because they are wondrous places that you definitely couldn't find here on Earth.
6: Yoda is Way Cooler In The Prequels
In the originals we don't really see Yoda do a lot of fighting. He's more of a wise old hermit, sharing his knowledge of the Force to a trusted pupil before gracefully fading out of existence. To see him in his prime, doing a lot of actual fighting, especially the way he fiercely stands up to Anakin, is a treat for the audience. (Also on a personal side note, since I'm short I like to see short guys/gals that kick ass.) Yoda became one of the best characters in Soul Caliber 4 after his revival in the prequels, before that he was an old wise magical mentor dude, in the prequels he's gone from supporting character to a vital part of the main cast.
Also, talking about Yoda brings me to the mitochlorians controversy. I think explaining the Force using microscopic organisms is actually a good thing because in science fiction, unusual powers should have a scientific explanation.
One thing I didn't like about The Force was how simplistic it was; it was either good or evil and it boiled down to magic, which I don't believe has a place in sci-fi land. It seemed like a religion only where praying actually did something. I think it was weird in the originals how so many people didn't believe The Force even existed until they were being strangled by it. I mean, it's possible that Vader suppressed the knowledge of it and the Jedi because dictators have a tendency to delete things from history and general knowledge when they prove inconvenient. However, this doesn't make a lot of sense because Vader then uses the Force gratuitously to punish insubordination. He seems to be telling people that the Force is a myth so they don't try to use it to defeat him on one hand, and hurting anyone in the same room as him with it the next?
Anyway, The Force isn't the only thing in the prequels that gets more interesting:
5: To See Democracy Break Down is More Interesting Than Seeing the Dystopian Aftermath
One of my favorite lines is when Padme Amidala says "I was not elected to watch my people suffer and die while you discuss this invasion in a committee!"
The Phantom Menace and the trilogy in general show an example of how democracy breaks down in times of emergency, crisis, war, and international strife. It shows characters frustrated with a slow political process when decisive, strong leaders would bring a swifter end to the troubles.
I said that no one watches Star Wars for intellectual stimulation and that's probably true; for me the movies should put entertainment first. However, the prequels have an advantage of being more stimulating because they evoke a discussion about politics that more reflects the political issues most of us face today. Instead of politics boiling down to fighting Space Hitler, in the prequels it is nuanced, with many separate points of view all competing. It shows that the rise to power of a dictator isn't as simple as a strong man overpowering his enemies, that a democratic institution might inevitably give way to dictatorship in times of struggle and panic.
The Galactic Senate was one of those killer sets of the prequels that blew me away visually, but it also interested me that the plot of these movies involved more complicated political intrigue than the orignal trilogy.
4: The Moral Ambiguity in The Prequels Makes Them More Interesting
In the original trilogy, it's pretty much given that there are only two sides: good and evil. Although Han Solo is mostly a neutral character who only looks out for himself, his good side shines through in the end. Everyone else is quite obviously either good or evil; no one questions Darth Vader's evilness... until the very end when he dies. It's obvious even then to me that the only reason they did that that way was to prove Luke's goodness, he doubts whether it was right to kill even Vader because well, that's just what you expect a good character to do.
In the 70's TV and movies were much less nuanced or complicated when it came to morality. Good was good and evil was evil, and evil had to be eliminated, end of story. Nowadays we have things like Wicked that deliberately attempt to understand "evil" people, to see what possible life circumstances led them down a path of ruin and destruction. A lot of times today, we often see "evil" people as mere victims of chance and circumstance. It may have weirded out some people to think of Anakin Skywalker aka Darth Vader this way. It's weird to see an iconic villain turn into a frightened child who misses his mommy. But that's the thing that I think is great about the prequels. They show that even the most despicable people are still human inside. Deep inside, Vader is still this uncertain kid venturing out to unknown worlds, longing for the comfort of home, and fearing for his mother's well-being under a system that's cruelly indifferent to her condition of slavery. To understand Vader like that makes him a lot more interesting than merely making him some big, bad, tough brute who bullies people into submission for no apparent reason. Anakin is seen in these movies troubled by many deep emotions, including forbidden love.
3: Padme Amidala is a Better Character than Princess Leia
Even though Leia is allegedly a Princess, we never hear her talk about her political position or her concerns for her people. She is basically in the beginning just another distressed damsel for the hero to save. She's not very smart, not very compassionate, not very tough, and not very sexy (if you have to put her in a revealing bikini just to show it off, there probably wasn't much there to begin with), especially in A New Hope. By Return of the Jedi, she has developed into a stronger character, but to begin with she just seems like a spoiled, snarky rich girl without any sense of love or justice. Case in point: her most famous lines are "aren't you a little short for a Storm Trooper" and "you scruffy nerf herder", meaning, most of what she says and is famous for saying are catty, snide, petty comments. Also, she has no breasts. She's basically the Paris Hilton of sci-fi.
Compare that to Queen Amidala, (Smurfette still, but a better female role model character than Leia) a young elected official, who starts off pleading passionately and eloquently for the needs of her people. She feels more of a range of emotions than Leia (who in comparison seems like a robot with 2 facial expressions, bored and pissed off). Padme falls deeply in love, whereas the romance that unfolds between Leia and Han is more the stuff of sitcoms than epic fantasy adventures. Like I mentioned before, she's also more passionate about politics, cares about someone other than herself, and is stronger-willed than her bratty daughter. I think this has something to do with the way women's roles have changed and evolved in American culture since the 70's.
Which leads to my next point...
2: It Introduced Star Wars to a New Generation
For everyone who says "PREQUALS RUINEDED MAH CHILDHOOD", I wonder how many of them stopped to think about my and the Millennial generation's childhood. Phantom Menace came out when I was a kid, specifically, I was 9, the same age as the protagonist (whom yes, I did end up developing a slight crush on).
Star Wars at the time was getting old and stale. It had attained "classic sci-fi" status, to be sure. But you know what we do with classic movies? We make fun of them. We tear them a new one, with comedy. We pick apart their every little flaw with the gleeful sadism of children pulling the legs off a grasshopper. Almost every cartoon in existence has spoofed Star Wars, including Hello Kitty. Being "classic" means it's old, and old things tend to get ridiculed as they turn into the definition of cliché.
Every successful long-running franchise has changed over time to keep up with changing times. The prequel Star Wars movies do that successfully, rescuing the Star Wars franchise out of tired-out-land (you know, Paula Abdul is the queen there I believe), and let the great stories and memorable characters of the series captivate new, younger audiences.
1: Samuel L. Jackson.
Seriously, what more needs to be said?