Yes, the Prequels are treated terribly by most Star Wars fans. No, they aren’t great films. But yes, they do have fans. Now, while I am not one of the aforementioned Prequel fans, I do think the trilogy gets more criticism than it deserves.
Yes, I am of the opinion that the Prequels get too much hate. No, I don’t think it’s a good trilogy, but at the end of the trilogy I was pleased. Indeed, I thought that the trilogy as a whole was worthwhile. Yes, I would even say that Revenge of the Sith is a fine, enjoyable film.
We are now at the point in time where you might say that I am biased for saying Revenge of the Sith isn’t a bad film, but here’s the thing – it is the only film in the trilogy that I fully enjoy watching. The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones aren’t good films, if you ask me. Let’s talk about the prequel films one by one, starting with the film with the biggest amount of pressure – The Phantom Menace.
I don’t think any director has ever been under more pressure than J. J. Abrams is under right now, preparing The Force Awakens for the world. But if anyone got close to the same amount of pressure, then George Lucas was that person. He was going back to the greatest franchise of all time, to tell us just how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. It was a risk worth taking, and it definitely didn’t always pay off. Indeed, to this day, some people are still irritated by the Prequel trilogy.
On paper you would definitely say that The Phantom Menace was going to work:
- The creator was writing and directing the universe once again.
- Liam Neeson, the Academy Award nominated star of Schindler’s List, was playing a wise Jedi Master.
- Ewan McGregor, the talented acting star of Trainspotting, was playing a young Obi-Wan Kenobi.
- Natalie Portman, Mathilda from Leon, was playing Queen Amidala.
- Ian McDiarmid, Frank Oz, Anthony Daniels, and Kenny Baker were all returning to the universe.
It should have worked, but somehow Lucas made some poor decisions: Stock characters, midi-chlorians, the trade federation, and Jar Jar Binks, to name a few. Ahmed Best was supposed to be a star – Jar Jar Binks was imagined to be, at worst, like the ewoks – great to some, silly to others (I love the ewoks) – or, at best, like Chewbacca: the new alien star of Star Wars. As it turns out, only Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Darth Maul were home runs for Lucas.
People always say that they were duped by the films and their own imaginations. People thought these films were better than they were. I definitely remember liking both The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, but eventually saw their flaws. However, I don’t remember ever disliking Revenge of the Sith, but I’ll get to that film later.
Attack of the Clones is probably as bad as The Phantom Menace is, but if I was forced to pick one over the other, then I would probably say that Attack of the Clones is the worst. Now, why is that? Because I pretty much hated every scene Hayden Christensen was in in Attack of the Clones. The dialogue is even worse in Attack of the Clones than in The Phantom Menace. Christensen just didn’t work in this film, and I would say that his performance is the worst part of Revenge of the Sith as well, even if I actually enjoyed the aforementioned performance in the latter half of that film.
Here are a couple of things that bug me every time I watch Attack of the Clones: Jedi can’t love now? How slowly does Padmé age? Why did you pair up Hayden and Natalie for half of the film, when it clearly does not work? Why did Anakin go from kid-dialogue to Shakespeare-dialogue all of a sudden? Oh, and don’t get me started on the whole Jango Fett is a clone-thing… Ugh… Ultimately, I really only enjoy watching Obi-Wan, Dooku, and Yoda in this film.
It isn’t tough for Revenge of the Sith to be the best of the Prequels, but it definitely is. Somehow, in spite of its flaws, Lucas managed to steer the Star Wars-ship away from the iceberg – thus avoiding total catastrophy. Christensen isn’t great in this film either, but he’s certainly better. Christensen definitely works when he’s paired up with Ian McDiarmid for a huge chunk of the film, even if the Dooku-execution and everything involving Grievous are problematic. But the final act? I absolutely love it. This is the one time where the Shakespeare-dialogue worked, and Ewan McGregor truly shines here. Sure, the high ground-comment doesn’t make a lot of sense, considering the fact that Maul had the high ground in The Phantom Menace, but I’ll let that one slide.
All in all, I do think that the major reason why this trilogy is treated so terribly is because it is being compared to the best trilogy of all time – the original Star Wars trilogy. It never comes close to the heights that the original trilogy did, but it did add to the universe of Star Wars. And, ultimately, while the trilogy isn’t great cinema, it did make us feel more for the man behind the mask and the wise master who gave his life for Luke, Han, and Leia in the original Star Wars film.
– I’m Jeffrey Rex