I’m gonna come out and say it: I like the prequels. I know they have their bad points but it’s been fourteen years since Revenge of the Sith and twenty years since the Phantom Menace; I think we’ve spent enough time complaining.
I can remember playing Star Wars with my friends in 1999 at primary school. I knew Qui-Gon died before I saw the film but that didn’t stop me from playing as him (and dying) every time. We’d just fight with imaginary lightsabers and use the force to push each other away, but were eventually told to stop. No one was actually getting hurt so I never understood why.
I won’t go into the failings of the prequels too much. It’s been done to death. We all know Jar Jar was stupid (I was 7 when Phantom Menace came out and thought he was funny), we all know the animation at times looks like a low budget early-2000’s video game cut-scene, we all know the acting and dialogue can be cringe-worthy, and we all know green-screens don’t work as substitute for sets.
But it’s not all bad.
I think the Phantom Menace is my favourite, though that may just be nostalgia. I loved the pod-racing and I’m disappointed they haven’t done more with it. It’s great seeing all the different types of engines and their race through the desert at deadly speeds is thrilling!
The assault on Theed Palace at the end and fight with Darth Maul accompanied by one of John Williams’s best scores (Duel of the Fates), is epic and unforgettable! I loved it as a 7-year-old and I love it as a 28-year-old.
Attack of the Clones was where it began to lose me a little. Anakin was grown up and whiny and Hayden Christensen and many of the other actors were struggling to give a decent performance with a clunky script and vague directions from George Lucas. I love the guy, but as a director it’s your job to give the actors direction, not just say ‘more intense’ as Lucas apparently often did.
I remember not enjoying it as much as I thought I would when I saw it in the cinema. I was 10, the movie was long, and I was in kind of a weird mood that day. It’s the second longest film behind The Last Jedi. It was also the film that introduced Yoda’s fighting style which was, as the young people say, a bit extra (did I use that right?).
Finally, we have Revenge of the Sith. Honestly I think this one was probably the best. Re-watching it this year gave me a new appreciation for Anakin’s spiritual and moral conflictions. I noticed in the scene when he is debating whether or not to go and stop Mace Windu from attacking Palpatine that his face is half in shadow and when he makes his decision, he turns towards the shaded side. Symbolism!
Many people have said it before: George Lucas is a great guy for ideas, but I think he does need to be reined in sometimes. That’s the problem when you have created an amazing film series like Star Wars. You make something incredible and give cinema a huge leap forward in visual effects, audio engineering, story-telling, and many other things, but when it comes to make your prequel trilogy you’ve reached God-status and no one says ‘no, that’s a dumb idea’. The same thing happened with the Hobbit movies.
The prequels have bad points, but they also have Duel of the Fates, amazing lightsaber fights, Samuel L. Jackson as a Jedi master, Christopher Lee as a Sith lord, Ewan McGregor giving a great performance as a young Obi-wan, space battles, cool planets, and many other things.
I know they aren’t the best, they still make me cringe when I watch them but push through and try to look at the good points. It’s not all bad. I’ll leave you all with something Jon Favreau said about George Lucas and the prequels (Favreau is currently the creator, showrunner, producer and lead writer for the Mandalorian).
“Well, I would argue that the prequels are, and Lucas in general, is the bedrock that all of this [technology] is built on. He is the first person that had digital photography, he was the first person to do completely CG characters. The whole notion of not having even a print [version of the film], of having everything 0’s and 1’s was all George.
Not to mention EditDroid, which turned into Avid, Pixar was spawned out of their laboratories at LucasFilm, so he is arguably the center of the Big Bang that I’m doing. It’s building on the shoulders of what he was able to innovate.
This is twenty years later, and also there has been a democratisation of the skill set too. It’s no longer a few vendors innovating in ivory towers, that information has been expanded and disseminated and democratised so that effects that would cost you millions of dollars, you can do it on a PC now, with consumer-facing filmmaking tools.
When George came to our set and visited the Mandalorian, he said “Oh, we did this,” and what he meant was, “We had a green screen and we were building small sets and expanding upon it.” Now we had video walls, NVIDIA video cars that allow a refresh rate that allows you to do in-camera effects, we’re in there taking advantage of the cutting edge stuff.”Jon Favreau, Showrunner of The Mandalorian
– Tim Baker