Tue
Aug 23 2011 12:03pm

The Prequels Strike Back

If you still love Star Wars, you have to come to terms two things. One: the prequels happened, and are continuing to happen via the cartoons. Two: George Lucas will constantly be releasing Star Wars in various media formats, until the films can be transmitted via a telepathic imaging unit directly jacked into his brain. And until that day, we’ll continue to debate the merits of the old films versus the new films, versus the special editions versus extra special super duper Hayden’s ghost editions, etc, etc. But one thing that happens a lot in these conversations is we forget to praise the good things about the prequels, because we’ve simultaneously elevated the old films to an untouchable pedestal.

The Prequels

As a disclaimer: the prequels do suck. They are poorly structured movies, with crumby internal plots that mostly ruin or over-explain the themes of the classic films. However, bizarrely in spite of these truths, there are some great cinematic achievements and cool Star Wars moments we can highlight. Here are five in no particular order.

1. Ewan McGregor

Though he’s underused in The Phantom Menace, and the character is written inconsistently from the Obi-Wan we perceived from the old films, Ewan McGregor really owns the part. He doesn’t do a full-on Alec Guinness impression, but hits the marks just enough to make you believe this is the same person. Does this enhance our perception of old Ben in the old films? Yes. Because we witness Obi-Wan kicking ass in the prequels, his age and lack of agilitly in the classic films is a little sadder. When Obi-Wan looks at Vader for the first time in A New Hope, you can see the look on his face is saying, “oh shit, I’m going to die.” This is made a little more tragic since you know this guy was able to handle himself back when he was Ewan McGregor. The look on Ewan’s face in the final duel in the lava resonates with the expressions of Guinness in the duel with Vader on the Death Star in the opposite way.

Lucas talks a big game about themes being parallel in the two trilogies. This is a spot where it worked. Also, in Revenge of the Sith when Anakin worries if they might be walking into a trap and McGregor says that they should “spring the trap!” while smiling like a lunatic, you can’t help but love it. Oh, and when McGregor screams “NOOOOOOOOOOO” in The Phantom Menace after watching Liam Neasson being stabbed, the scream actually beats Luke’s scream in Empire Strikes Back. Just saying.

2. Ian McDiarmid

Let’s get serious. This guy is the star of Revenge of the Sith and he’s tremendously great in it. If you ever believed that Lucas had a masterplan of waiting almost 20 years before making Star Wars movies set before the existing Star Wars movies, one piece of evidence for that argument would be the age of Ian MacDiarmid in the prequels. This is the same man who played the Emperor in 1983 in Return of the Jedi. In that film, he was 39, but layers of creepy make-up: they made him look about a 70 or 80. Then, in 1999, McDiarmid was 54, and looking about the right age to be 30 years younger than his decrepit hooded-self in 1983. Not only does this work visually, but he totally owns his faux-innocent Palpatine routine, as well as the insidious Darth Sidious. Sure the lightsaber fight with Yoda is beyond silly, and it’s stupid that deflected lightning bolts mess up his face, but every line he utters in these movies is delivered with more panache and style than almost any other actor in the prequels. He even makes Christopher Lee look like a joker.

With Ian McDiarmid, we don’t worry about Palpatine’s motivations, or if his zany civil war plan makes any sense. He means serious business and he’s scary as hell. Don’t believe me? Watch that scene in Revenge of the Sith when he says “you’re anger makes your powerful…gives you FOCUS!” It’s like he’s actually aroused by Anakin’s anger. Creepy.

3. The Music

I’m not saying John Williams could have actually improved on the score for the original Star Wars films, but let’s face it, with “Duel of the Fates” from The Phantom Menace, he kind of did. This single piece of music alone might justify the entire existence of the prequels. Further, the whole score of Episode I is arguably better than the film it accompanies. (With the exception of that ludicrous track at the end featuring children laughing manically.) Further, the “Across the Stars” love theme from Episode II is wonderful while not trying to out-do anything he did in the previous movie. Finally, the “Battle of Heroes” stuff from Episode III totally elevates that crazy way-too-long lava duel into something truly emotional. If Star Wars movies are supposed to be old-school melodramas, then Williams really outdid himself in matching up some of the hyperbolic stuff in these movies to really great and memorable music. “Duel of the Fates” is just as famous as the “Imperial March” or the main Star Wars theme. And that’s because it’s great.

4. The Ships in Episode III

It took the designers a couple of movies to get this part right, but the fighters that Obi-Wan and Anakin are rocking in Episode III are awesome. We all know those yellow hot-rod fighters from Episode I are silly, but the cool Tie-Fighter/X-Wing mash-ups they’ve got it by the end of the prequels are totally sweet. Without getting into too much nerdy detail, the designs of these spaceships work because they look like Star Wars. In short, part of the reason why we watch the Star Wars prequels is more Star Wars stuff. Most people think neat Star Wars stuff means lightsaber fights, but come on, it’s all about spaceships right? I mean the title of the series implies lots of spaceship battles, meaning the prequels had to deliver really cool spaceships at some point. And I think they did. These ships are so awesome that 9-year-old Ryan would have a hard time choosing between Obi-Wan’s Jedi Starfighter and Luke’s X-Wing. Seriously.

5. The Subtle Vader-like Qualities of Anakin

It’s pretty easy, and sometimes too fun to take pot shots at Hayden Christensen’s portrayal of Anakin Skywalker. I’m going to go ahead and say I like it. And I like it because it’s perfectly bizarre. And though I maybe didn’t picture Anakin that way before, I have to now. I mean, what a weird guy, right? It would take a pretty big weirdo to become Darth Vader, and Anakin is super weird and creepy. The way Hayden plays him is that he’s sort of like Mark Zuckerburg or something, which is actually terrifying. But unlike Zuckerburg, Anakin is always being pushed around by some kind of official group of people who want to put him in a box for, like, his entire life. In the prequels the Jedi council is pretty much 75% responsible for him turning to the dark side, insofar as they treat him like shit. I mean, they basically tell this poor kid from the word “go” that he totally sucks, even though everybody knows that he doesn’t.

This is echoed in A New Hope when the Imperial officers at the big board meeting start talking shit to Vader TO HIS FACE. It’s like it doesn’t matter how much cool stuff Anakin/Vader does, people are always trying to discredit him. Part of this is because Anakin is socially dysfunctional, and part of that comes from being micro-managed by everyone since he was a little kid. When Vader is micro-managed by Tarkin, and later the Emperor in the classic films, we can now think of how Hayden Christensen was getting the same kind of crap from Mace Windu when he was in his twenties. Bottom line: Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader has always been one of the most talented people in the room, and everyone hates him for it. It makes sense that he’s openly choking people in Episode IV, and I think the little moments in Episodes II and III set it up better than a lot of fans admit.

 

5 Dumb Things in The Classic Films

As a disclaimer: these movies rock. They are structured well, with mostly great internal plots backed up by simple themes, which get slightly more complex as the series progresses. However, what we forget about the classic movies is how sloppy they were in a lot of areas, and how lazy some of the storytelling really is. Here’s what I mean.

1. The Love Triangle/Leia Being Luke’s Sister

One of the sloppiest things about the original trilogy is the half-assed love triangle between Luke, Han and Leia. If Lucas tries to tell anyone that Leia was always going to be Luke’s sister, he’s totally lying. It’s obvious that a fairly traditional love triangle is set-up in the first movie and continued into the second movie. In fact, you could almost imagine a third film in which Han dies, Leia is not Luke’s sister and the “other” Yoda refers to in Empire is VADER! Think about it. Instead, Luke is desexualized in Return of the Jedi, Han is turned into flat, boring wimp, and Leia becomes a sort of second-fiddle character to Luke insofar as she supposedly has all the power he’s had, but she was only using them to do…what? Force-powered legislation?

Leia shouldn’t be reduced to being Luke’s sister. It makes her lame. In the context of the original three films, she a much more interesting character in the first two than in Jedi. Both her and Han become sort of satellite characters to Luke by the end of the story, which feels wrong. I know the story is about Luke, but you really feel like it’s an ensemble movie in the first film. Jedi destroys this notion, but the undermining of Han and Leia’s agency was already underway in Empire. Those three characters are billed equally at the end credits. By the end of the story, they don’t matter, and Luke has to save them all. Which is dull.

2. The Second Death Star

I don’t need to spend much time on this one, because it’s so obvious. The biggest example that there were too many cooks in the kitchen by the time the script for Return of the Jedi was being written is this pointless second Death Star. It’s as if the writers forgot that the second movie didn’t need a Death Star to make it feel like Star Wars. Why does the whole movie revolve around the destruction of another Death Star anyway? Well, Mon Mothma tells us “the Emperor himself is personally overseeing the construction of this Death Star.” The subtext here is that the Rebels want to KILL THE EMPEROR. This is a big ruse to simply assassinate the Emperor.

What if the entire movie was only about this instead? What if the gang had to track down and murder the Emperor? If you think about it, the plot structure wouldn’t be that different. Instead of Endor, it could be all about infiltrating Coruscant (or whatever they wanted to name the Imperial Planet) with a stolen Imperial Shuttle. The Rebel Fleet could still be there, creating a diversion, while Luke, Han and Leia sneak in and try to pop a cap in Palpatine. Of course, the lightsaber fight between Luke and Vader would still go down. See? You don’t even need a Death Star. Same movie. Only better and smarter.

3. Vader’s Lameness in A New Hope/Why Tarkin?

Though I like how it relates to the prequels, I don’t like what a pansy Vader is compared with Tarkin in Episode IV. It doesn’t really make sense with what we see Vader doing in the later films. Why would Tarkin be holding Vader’s leash? If he’s the Emperor’s right hand man and Tarkin is an Imperial Officer, why is Tarkin in charge? What is the point of this character dynamic? I love Peter Cushing, don’t get me wrong, but seriously, his character doesn’t make any sense. It’s like Lucas was already worried that Vader was overpowering the narrative of Star Wars, so he gave him a keeper. But then Tarkin is promptly killed. Also, why would Vader do what Tarkin says? He chokes everyone left and right in Empire, why not before? Based on what is depicted on screen, Vader should be showing everyone who is boss all the time, and yet, in the very first Star Wars movie every shown, he’s not near as in charge as we’re lead to believe he always has been.

4. Why is Luke Suddenly a Badass? /Luke’s Weird Ethics

Just why is Luke so much better at using the Force in Return of the Jedi than he was in The Empire Strikes Back? Maybe Obi-Wan left a bunch of Cliff’s Notes on Force-stuff in his house on Tatooine. Luke is using the Force to make one of those poor pig-faced guards gasp for breath when he waltzes into Jabba’s Palace. Did he learn how to do this because he reached a certain age? Also, why doesn’t he just use this kind of crap on Vader and the Emperor when he shows up on the Death Star? I know! It’s because Luke has double standards. Luke lies to himself so much. Come on, he was there to confront Vader, but also to kill the Emperor. Here’s where his double standards become clear. In his head, it’s okay if someone is killed by a spaceship blowing up a space station (i.e. what he did in A New Hope, what he claims the Rebels will do in Jedi.) But if he goes after the Emperor and stabs him personally with his lightsaber, then that’s turning to the dark side. Come on, Luke. At least Anakin doesn’t kid himself that murder is murder. When Anakin kills, he kills everyone!

Luke does this same thing and gets a medal. Then he teases the Emperor about it, saying “soon I’ll be dead and you with me.” Anakin kills a bunch of people and then feels fucking awful. FOREVER. Luke also kills everyone on Jabba’s Sail Barge by blowing it up. Was that necessary? Would Obi-Wan approve? In terms of body-count, Luke is probably tied with Anakin prior to Anakin turning to the dark side. Bigger hypocrite: Luke.

5. Confusing Amount of Time Passing in The Empire Strikes Back

Just how long does it take for the Millennium Falcon to get from Hoth to Bespin? I’ve heard all kinds of theories. We never see the Falcon go into lightspeed when they escape the Star Destroyer, so if Star Wars followed the rules of regular science fiction this would mean it would take years to get to Cloud City. Han even says, “it’s pretty far.” It sort of makes sense that it took a while, because it would account for Luke having a fair amount of Jedi training before taking off to go rescue his friends. But the problem is, we’re not really told. Are we dealing with a couple weeks here? A month? Possibly six months?

If we knew, like from a line of dialogue or something, it would strengthen our understanding of where everyone is at emotionally. If Han and Leia have been making out on the Falcon for like six months, or even a couple weeks, that’s a way bigger deal than couple days. This is a structural flaw in the film that no one seems to worry about it. It’s mostly important with Luke’s Jedi training. If he was only there for like a week, there is no way he would have enough information to actually be good at any of this stuff. Further, I know Han and Leia have liked each other for awhile, but if we had a better idea of just how much time they’ve spent together, everything might be a little more interesting. Instead, it relies on lazy movie logic and makes us come to our own conclusions. In a story as basic and simple as this, we shouldn’t have to be worrying about stuff like that.

What else dear readers? What do you love/hate about Star Wars?

 


Ryan Britt is a staff writer for Tor.com.

62 comments
Scot Taylor
1. flapdragon
Original trilogy hate: During Luke's training, why doesn't Yoda mention, "Oh, hey, by the way, the Emperor can shoot lightning from his fingers, but a lightsaber can deflect it. For the midichlorians' sake don't throw away your lightsaber!" (As Obi-Wan tells Anakin at the start of "Clones," "This weapon is your life!")

Full series hate: Yoda. Seriously, the guy can be held personally responsible for the downfall of the Republic.
"Phantom Menace": "I don't want Anakin trained because he's too old." So--you'd let this uber-powerful Force guy just wander the galaxy picking up whatever tricks he can?
"Revenge of the Sith"--"Obi-Wan, you go and kill Anakin even though you have a deep emotional attachment to him. I'll go kill the Emperor. Never mind that it would make WAY more sense for us to kill the Emperor here on Coruscant then go after Anakin; two Jedis are better than one. Yes, I know that you're one of only two living Jedi, the other being Anakin himself, who's actually killed a Sith. Oh, and because I take a little tumble off a floating platform, I'm going to go into exile and let the whole galaxy be taken over by Palpatine. Maybe somebody will depose him eventually."

"Revenge of the Sith": Advanced medical droids can't tell that Padme is carrying twins? C'mon. Also, the whole collapse-of-Padme-into-a-sobbing-mess bit. Portman was tough in the first two prequels; are we seriously to believe that she gets weepy and emotional and PASSIVE just because she's pregnant? This is supposed to be Leia's mother?

Thanks for the opportunity to vent. I've been holding this stuff in for quite a while. ;-)
JLHanke
2. JLHanke
Ryan,

Good premise and I agree with some/most of your points. The prequels suck - the original trilogy is awesome - and yet, both have their good/bad points.

Ewan McGregor was awesome as Obi-Wan in II and III. Just watch the scene on Mustafar as Obi-Wan and Anakin argue before the duel. Ewan tries SO HARD to make the crappy dialogue work. Same thing after he beats Anakin and he leaves him to (he assumes) die. It's not Ewan's fault that the dialogue for all 3 prequels was trash and Lucas' crush on CGI made it impossible for his actors to be believable.

Ian McDiarmid was awesome as well (though I disagree that Christopher Lee was awful - the way they wrote his only scenes in III was terrible). While I see some of what you mean about Hayden, he just doesn't pull it off for me. He's OK in the action scenes, the scenes with Palpatine in III, and once he loses it, but his acting in ALL of the scenes with Padme is just inexusable. Yes, the dialogue in these sections is the WORST, but Portman does her best to try and elevate some of it (though she really does not succeed, especially in III). Christensen is terrible in all of those scenes, and you have to say that is largely why II is not a good movie. The middle third needs to be carried by the love story, and it falls totally flat.

The ships and the space battle in III are great - though I hate the missile with the stupid droid things in it - terrible idea, worse physics. (Watch how the "drag" of a near-total vacuum pushes the disabled droid off the ships - ay caramba!). The scene doesn't hold up that well in repeated viewings (because of the stupid droid missile and bad dialogue), but I think back to when I first saw III in the theater, and that opening sequence was AWESOME, starting on just the two fighters in seemingly peaceful space, then pulling back on the massive battle. Not quite as awesome as the never-ending Star Destroyer in IV, but still pretty cool.

Now, on to the OT - you're totally right about the love triangle and the second Death Star. Unnecessary and lame. I see your point about the amount of time passing in ESB - it could/should have been at least mentioned, but I always assumed it was several months worth. Makes sense for Luke's story, but it doesn't really show in the Han/Leia dynamic as well as it should have. Also, while it makes little sense from a physics standpoint that the Falcon could get ANYWHERE at sublight speed in months (unless they were actually IN the Bespin solar system, which they're not), you have to remember - this is a universe where you can go faster than the speed of light. Say that again slowly - you can go faster than the speed of light. It's not exactly as if Lucas ever really paid attention to the laws of physics and relativity.

Tarkin as a character made some sense in IV and Cushing knocked it out of the park, but the dynamic with Vader was weird and confusing. I feel like Lucas could have tweaked the relationship a bit and it would have worked better.

I don't really see Luke as being so much more hypocritical. I didn't think he choked any pig guards - I thought he put them to sleep. All of the denizens on Jabba's barge (with maybe 1 or 2 exceptions) were scumbags, criminals, etc, so it's not all that morally reprehensible to blow them up. Both Death Stars were combat vehicles (though the second MAY have had construction workers on), so even though all of the Imperials blown up were proabably not strictly EVIL, it's not like a slaughter of innocents or anything. Remember that the crew of the Death Star, knowingly or not, allowed something to run that DESTROYED PLANETS without provocation. That makes every one of the crew at least in some part complicit to mass murder. So I don't see Luke being in moral grey area there as much.

As far as striking down the Emperor, it wasn't that he wasn't also evil - the taboo was that Luke would be doing it in anger/vengeance, which was the same slippery path that Anakin started with the Sand People. Here there is more moral gray to discuss, but I don't really see Luke as a huge hypocrite like you.

You didn't mention Ewoks, which is the most common gripe about the OT, but I actually liked the Ewoks growing up myself and don't mind their presence as much as some. I won't even mention the changes made in the Special Editions, since I basically lump those into the Prequels. There are good points (some of the improved special effects), but the story changes are abhorent.

I'll stop this WOT, but it's good to remember that the Prequels MIGHT not be the worst 3 movies ever made (III at least had some good points), and the OT had some flaws too.
Chris Palmer
3. cmpalmer
I liked the art direction in the prequels. You mentioned the Episode III ships, but I think it was pretty cool that the Episode I ships and buildings have a 1920's/30's feel to them. Then Episode II was more 1940's (think of the diner and the buses - if I'm not confusing scenes). Episode III was more 1950's or early 1960's. This fits with the original Star Wars having it's distinctive 1970's look and then Empire and Jedi looking so 80's.
JLHanke
4. benjicat
Jar Jar's jarring jacknapes justify George's jailing.
Jim Burnell
5. JimBurnell
The prequels:

I agree with points 1 through 4 (especially 3!), though not so strongly on 2: Ian McDarmid is a great actor whose malevolence shines through, but like everyone else in these films, the cheesy dialog and plot ruin him for me.

I fervently disagree with 5. Hayden Christensen is good at playing exactly one role: the boy who cries because he doesn't get things his way. It worked for him in Life as a House and in Shattered Glass, but Anakin Skywalker deserved better than to be written as a wimpy pansy who obliterated the Republic just because his Jedi masters wouldn't let him play with their toys. The two three four greatest mistakes of the prequels, IMHO, were Jar-Jar Binks, midichlorians, Lucas' pathetic insistence on writing the dialog and story himself, and the casting of Anakin (both young and older). I read somewhere that Christian Bale was the original choice for Anakin, and I will forever wish that had happened. Bale has the requisite inner darkness. Christensen made me want to spank him.

The originals:
Not really in much agreement here. Leia's kinship to Luke does raise weird questions, like how she hadn't noticed that she had THE FORCE all along, but at least it gracefully fixed the love triangle situation. And I didn't get the feeling at all that Solo and Leia were reduced to pawns in V and VI: they had a lot of action and plot development on Bespin and Endor, and were crucial in turning off the shield generator to allow for the destruction of the second Death Star and the Emperor with it.

As for the second Death Star, if all the action had taken place on Coruscant, how much more heavily guarded would the Emperor have been? This is the same plot element used in Inglorious Basterds: megalomaniac ruler becomes too assured of his own invulnerability and goes someplace where security is tenuous at best, where he meets his demise. It didn't have to be another Death Star, but Coruscant would have made it hard to deal a fatal blow to the Empire without killing a lot of innocents in the process.

I always imagined that Tarkin outranked Vader only because the Empire was so well-established by then that the politicians had re-asserted the semblance of government. (Don't forget, Leia threatened Tarkin with diplomatic sanctions for his actions, so clearly there was some kind of new Galactic Senate, even if it had no real power.) Vader had already done his part by wiping out the Jedis, so he was more of the Emperor's "enforcer" than the guy in charge of things. With the destruction of the first Death Star, though, it was clear that a firmer hand was needed to re-assert control.

Agreed that Luke's sudden proficiency in the Force in Jedi is surprising, but there presumably is a significant amount of time between the conclusion of Empire and the beginning of Jedi, and Yoda dies in Jedi, so I always assumed Luke returned to Dagobah to finish his training? And necessary killing isn't a Dark Side issue; what's the real issue is the motivation for the killing: hatred, revenge, that sort of thing. If you believe all war is murder, then yeah, Luke's a murderer. I prefer to think otherwise.

Last, regarding the Hoth-Bespin trip: Solo and Leia were clearly flirting even in ep IV, and it was already ratcheted up several notches on Hoth (Leia kisses Luke just to piss off Solo). It totally made sense to me that Lando's betrayal on Bespin would finally make them admit the feelings they had for each other, and it didn't seem sudden to me at all. What's more, Luke was barely trained when he faced Vader on Bespin, so I always imagined that he had about 4-6 weeks of Jedi training with Yoda before he set off to rescue his friends.

Sorry to ramble.
JLHanke
6. Nick. S
Good article, especially the prequel segment, but I have to disagree about Luke's hypocrisy. Killing when at war, or even in a hostage situation, which was when he was doing his killing isn't murder. And I'm sure Luke wouldn't have had a problem with taking the emperors' head given the chance, the problem was he had to go through cadet to do it, which he did have a problem with. I don't see the inconsistency

As far as the falcon not going into hyperspace, I believe it did after the Chase through the asteroids, after they hid in the star destroyer garbage.

Finally anakin feeling bad about killing only happened after he slaughtered the village of sand people. Before that I think he was all for killing bad guys.
Adam Whitehead
7. Werthead
5. Confusing Amount of Time Passing in The Empire Strikes Back

I think you're reaching here. In 30 years of seeing people complain about things in the original trilogy to the point of rage (including how the explosion of the Second Death Star should have wiped out all life on Endor and how big the Super Star Destroyers are exactly), I've never even heard anyone raise this as an issue. The sense in the film is that a few days to maybe a few weeks have passed, and I don't think anything more than that is necessary. Certainly the lack of knowing how much time has passed is not really a weakness.
JLHanke
8. Nick. S
Damn. Vader not cadet above.
JLHanke
9. Crystal Sully
I agree with all but one thing. You forgot to mention Darth Maul, hands down the best new character to come out of the sequels. I will never forgive Lucas for killing him off so quickly, that character had so much potential and really made the sequels enjoyable for me. Darth Maul is so bad ass he makes up for Jar Jar Binks in my opinion, not to mention was given the greatest piece of music as his battle song with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan: Duel of the Fates.
JLHanke
10. Daniel Wyman
You know, I think you've pointed out why I've never been able to hate the prequels. Ewen McGregor is just that good and the occasion pieces, like the duel with Darth Maul works so well that it redeems the rest of the series... somewhat.
JLHanke
11. Seryddwr
I was a teenager when I went to see The Phantom Menace in the cinema in 1999, and just as I was coming to the conclusion that I would rather watch flies buzzing round a dog dirt for two hours than sit through this horrible film, there came the three-way lightsabre fight between Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, and Darth Maul, and just for a moment, it made me think that I had been too hasty.

I may be in a minority of one here, but IMHO this is far and away the finest of all the lightsabre fights in the series. The dynamic is so cleverly built up - Obi-Wan's and Qui-Gon's double-teaming; the look on Liam Neeson's face as Darth Maul nonchalantly twirls his staff, and you realise Qui-Gon's run out of ideas; the aforementioned 'Noooooo!' as Obi-Wan watches his master going for a Burton; and - this is the best bit - the first ten seconds or so of Obi-Wan's face-off with Darth Maul. Don't know how they did it, but it's great.

The film's still cr*p though.
JLHanke
12. Tratclif
About the closing music in Phantom Menace: listen to the tune sung by the children's choir, then listen to the tune of the Emperor's Theme from Return of the Jedi. Williams was even cleverer than you credit him.
JLHanke
13. Darth Touma
I disagree a little with the Tarkin/Vader dynamic comment. It is all a matter of military protocol. Vader is simply observing military leadership and discipline as he learned from his days as an officer in the Clone Wars. While you can be a superior officer (Say Vader holds the assumed rank of a Admiral of the Navy to Tarkin's full Admiral), you still need to let the Commanding Officer of an installation run his show, and you do not undermine him in front of junior officers.

In the scene where he chokes Motti, Tarkin tells Vader to release Motti, true. However, Vader's reaction is more akin to "Fine, your base, I'll play by your rules" than "Sir, yes sir." Furthermore, I can't recall another scene in ANH in which Tarkin gives Vader an order.

At least that is what it appears to me, based on my own experience in the military, and I am no scholar.. I could also have missed something..
JLHanke
14. Ember
The Expanded Universe has answered at least one question: Luke returned to Tatooine (I believe) to train and build his new lightsaber in between ESB and ROTJ. That's why he was such a badass Jedi in ROTJ.

And I agree that it would have been nice to know how much time elapsed while Han and Leia were traveling to Bespin. That has always been the biggest annoyance to me (other than if the space worm was basically open to space, then they would have needed way more than those little mask things to avoid dying in vacuum) in ESB. I don't think that asteroid was large enough to have it's own atmosphere...
Ryan Britt
15. ryancbritt
@6 Nick
I suppose what I'm really trying to point out here is how little attention is paid to all the murders Luke commits. Han was made PC in the special editions by not shooting first. Anakin is monster for murdering all the sand people. But in terms of body count, Luke is a little out of control. Further, Jabba and his goons aren't part of the empire, so I'm not sure the rules of war really apply there. Luke blowing up the sail barge seems to be ruthless and cold. Just saying, we never really think about it because everything seems so heroic.

@7Wert
I suppose I'd I might be reaching. But that's what we do when we over-think these movies, right? Though I do remember wondering as a child if they ever slept during Empire. It bothered me then to not understand if days were passing or even hours!

@12 Listening to it now. Looking forward to hearing what you're talking about! :-)

@13 Darth
I think my issue with the Tarkin stuff is simply that it seems like they didn't know what they were doing. Was Vader in charge or wasn't he? In the other films it's like he's a high ranking officer. In the first film it's not just not clear. Tarkin is of course awesome, but I'm just not sure he's totally needed for a larger story. His most important moment comes when he refuses to evacuate. Beyond that, I'm not sure he serves a real story purpose. And I think we give this minor flaw a pass because Cushing is so great.
JLHanke
16. Smaug's Li'l Brother Puff
I never know what to make of these conversations. All I know is that a movie called Star Wars came out in 1977 and was the GREATEST THING EVER, and continues to be. The next time I noticed the name George Lucas, it was attached to Raiders of the Lost Ark, the SECOND GREATEST THING EVER.

I fear you all are wandering in some crazy fever dream.
JLHanke
17. Cascador
The children chanting at the end of episode I? You thought that was terrible? You do realize that this is the Emperor's theme in disguise. Williams just used higher vocals and sped it up. But that's the whole point. The Jedi and the Naboo think they have a victory on their hands, but the one who is the most victorious is Palpatine which is exactly why his theme is played. It's just genius and just shows how Williams knows how music is important to the story.
JLHanke
18. Mike, TK-1984
Well, since the can of worms has been opened, here is my take of the six films.

Episode I:
This movie is special to me because, up to a few years prior to its release, there were to be no more Star Wars films. Ever. I remember someone quoting Lucas allegedly saying that, after the filming of Jedi wrapped, he was fed up with everything Star Wars and that was the end of it. Imagine the glee of my little nerd heart upon learning of three new SW films and literally counting down the months, weeks, day, hours of the premiere of Ep I.
Having said that, Jar Jar annoyed the hell out of me. Maybe he was there to appeal to a new generation of revenue-generating kids, but it was too much for me after enduring the Ewoks.
I understand the purpose of portraying young Anakin as an innocent, loving child, but with someone as strong in the Force as he was, I would expect a little more wisdom or substance to his personality, a la The Last Emporer (no pun intended).
I loved Liam Neeson and his character.
I loved Darth Maul even more. The lightsaber battle at the end of the film kicks ass thanks to the fight coordination and John Williams' music.

Episode II:
My least favorite because it failed at one of it's main objectives - establishing the deep love between Anakin and Padme. There was no chemistry or passion between the two. Everything seemed forced. Why not up the teen-angst-love cheese factor a la the Twilight movies? That seemed to work for droves of love-sick pre-teen and teen girls debating which team they were on.
The origin of the Clones and the Clone War was good as was Yoda's first depicted lightsaber battle. I remember during opening night the theater audience going crazy as the little green one whipped out his little green weapon to open a can of whoop-ass.
The ending was satisfying...watching the early-style star destroyers fire up and lift off among a sea of Clone Troopers as a proud Palpatine and distressed Senator Organa look on.

Episode III:
This is my second fav movie because it finally answers the questions I had asked about the origins of everything depicted in Episode IV.
Ian MacDiarmid is simply delicious through and through. He portrays Palpatine as a calm, patient manipulating Chancellor, and a bad-ass, borderline insane Sith Lord when he battles Mace Windu and Yoda. His laughter as he dangles from one of the floating pods in the Senate Chamber after dispatching Yoda always makes me smile. Ian made that character.
On that note, I do agree that Yoda gave up too easy after that battle. I would understand if he were physically injured, but it almost seemed like he just said, "Fuck it, it ain't my problem no more."
The Mustafar battle was satisfying except for the end. How could Obi Wan having the high ground give him such an advantage against Anakin? As for Obi Wan dispatching Anakin, it was anti-climatic simply watching Anakin jump up and Obi Wan simply walk under him as he comes down. Wouldn't Anakin try jumping farther away from Obi-Wan to avoid such a disadvantage, and then run toward him to continue the battle?
Speaking of anti-climatic lightsaber battles, Palpatine's killing of three Jedi Masters in his chamber seemed way-too lame. He jumps, lands in front of them along with Windu, and they stand there as Palpatine draws back and stabs two of them. That pause lasts for an entire two seconds, and the four Jedi stand there and do NOTHING?! It would have been so much better if Palpatine flies across the room at breakneck speed in the same way as Obi Wan and Qui-Gon ran away from the destroyer droids in Ep. I, and takes out two Jedi Masters with a massive swipe of his blade without giving anyone time to think. Remember how quickly Obi-Wan slashed Darth Maul after jumping in front of him?
There was another lull when Windo raises his blade to kill Palpatine. He swings back and seems to hold it for a few seconds while we cut to Palpatine, then to Anakin, then to Anakin rushing in, then to Mace's hand being severed. Continuity, people!
It would have been nice to see Anakin lying on the Emporer's operating table gasping for air, which would justify the need for a futuristic iron lung and pressurized suit.
Palpatine's deflected Force-lightning is the reason for his deformed face? Considering that same lightning did nothing to Luke's face, maybe another reason for the disfigurement could have been given, such as Palpatine's use of the Dark Side to alter his looks until it was no longer necessary and could have been used to his advantage in justifying the Jedi treason to the Senate.

Episode IV:
I can't find much at fault with this film considering the circumstances under which it was made, and it remains my favorite of the six.

Episode V:
Also a great movie and little fault to be found, although I wish the Stormtroopers could at get a little close to their targets. It would make them look like a greater threat and less like clones of Moe, Larry and Curley. The other beef I have is the ease at which Luke's X-Wing flew off of Hoth without the Empire seeing him.

Episode VI:
The Death Star II plotline was kinda lame, but the model's detail was incredible, especially considering it was an actual plastic model. I loved seeing beams and floors in the uncompleted sections. It made it look very believable. What I strongly don't like about the Death Star II are the special effects of it blowing up, especially in the movie's remake. The strobing lights in the incompleted sections before it blew up looked like someone was turning an incandescent light on and off. How about the fireball erupting from these sections a split-second before the big bang and showing large fragments flying toward the camera and into Endor's atmosphere? That would have been awesome. Instead, it just looked like a cut from the model to a stock explosion effect.
Stormtrooper armor vulnerable to an Ewok's arrow? Seriously?

In spite of these gripes, I am very grateful for George's contribution to popular culture and a very happy childhood for this 40-something nerd. Thanks for reading.
JLHanke
19. GMSkarka
Gotta disagree with point 3 on the older films: The reason why Vader is second fiddle to Tarkin is because in the original, Vader is the "black knight" archetype to Tarkin's "evil baron".

The whole "Vader as Emperor's right hand man" thing doesn't start to appear until EMPIRE. And, to be honest, I kinda prefer the original set-up -- the idea of Vader being this freaky hold-out of the old ways, which pretty much ruins his chances at any political authority beyond being the Badass Henchman.
JLHanke
20. dav
I would also put Liam Neeson on this list as a postivie aspect of the prequel trilogy. Of all the actors alive I probably see him as the most perfect person to play a Jedi. I liked his misguided wisdom and his fearlessness to take a stand. Wish we could have seen some more badass Jedi stuff out of him though.

A surprising negative was Samual L. Jackson (I never thought I'd say that), but he was terrible. Too subdued. None of the fire we're accustomed to seeing from the actor. It was a wasted role and I didn't miss him when he was gone.

Negatives in the original trilogy include sending Han, Luke and Leia to Endor in the first place. I actually don't mind the story once they get there, but WTF is up with sending 3 of your top people and probably your 2 best pilots to fight a guerrila action planetside? It didn't make sense that Han would volunteer for it. It didn't make sense that the Rebels would agree to it. Why couldn't Krix Madine have handled that? From a story perspective, there's no way Luke goes to see Vader without first going to Endor. From an attack planning perspective Han and Luke should have been flying into the heart of the deathstar to kill them all. As much as I like what went on (and I don't hate the Ewoks by any measure), their mission just seemed to minimize their importance. I would imagine that Lando comes out as the ultimate hero of the Battle of Endor while Luke, Han, and Leia are forgotten by history.
JLHanke
21. dav
Liam Neeson also rocks the baddest ass Jedi beard of anyone in any film (Sir Alec included).
JLHanke
22. Jeff R.
Another problem with the Leia retcon is the fact that Vader spends (again, we don't really know how much time goes by, but at least hours and possibly days) torturing Leia (or watching the torture droid do it), and never once notices any Force Strength in her.

. And post-prequels, we can't argue that a minimal amount of training is required to show up on force radar, since we know that it's all about the midichlorians...]
JLHanke
23. Megaduck
On the old series, point three. I always throughts the Vader Tarkin dynamic was just because Lukas hadn't planned out into the full six movies.

In the movie, it works. Vader is just The Black Knight/The Dragon to Tarkin's Evil ruler thing. In fact, it's a roll the Charecter of Vader is very good at because he does the exact same thing in the next two films, just that Tarkin is replaced by the emperor.

This is why Vader is the one getting into sword fights and flying a star fighter around. He's acting like a Elite Mook rather then the BBEG.
Sol Foster
24. colomon
I've been complaining about the muddled timeline of ESB for years now. I'm pretty sure if you cut out the bits with Luke, no would would ever argue the story took more than a few days.

Personally, I have no major issues with the stories of the prequels, and their visual design and music are terrific. The big problem was Lucas directing dialogue he wrote. Ugh.

@flapdragon: I think Yoda being a fsck-up is something the prequels got right. It's subtle enough I don't think a lot of people notice it, but practically every bit of advice he gives Luke in the original trilogy is wrong...
JLHanke
25. Death Stars
I've always liked the concept of "Death Star 2." It always irritated me when a Secret Weapon to Destroy the World aaaaaalmost works, but is foiled at the last minute, and then the supervillain doesn't think to try again with the same (or improved) secret weapon.
Scot Taylor
26. flapdragon
@24 colomon: Oh, I agree, he's a total dumbass in the original trilogy too. This "wisest creature in the galaxy" crap has always irritated me. Frank Oz's masterpiece deserves better.

There's also been some commentary that Vader is subtly never as evil as he's made out to be. He doesn't kill Luke in Cloud City. When he's carbon-freezing Han, he prevents a stormtrooper from blasting a rampaging Chewie by jerking the trooper's gun out of his hands. Although he kills incompetent admirals/generals by the handful in "Empire," he spares the super-star-destroyer commander who lets the Falcon escape from Bespin at the end. Yoda is the ultimate menace; Vader truly is the savior.

@ 18Mike, TK-1984: Thanks for bringing up the Obi-Wan/Anakin "high ground" thing during the final duel in "Sith." Obi-Wan talks about the high ground as though it's some sort of universal law that whoever has the high ground wins. But, um, who had the high ground up to the very end of Obi-Wan's duel with Maul? By his own logic, Obi-Wan should've been prime rib at Maul's hands.
Scot Taylor
27. flapdragon
@25 Death Stars: "Death Star 2: Electric Boogaloo." ;-)
JLHanke
28. Philonius Kel
I always did have a problem with the passage in time in the middle of "Empire", but I think it can be written off as Lucas not wanting to bog down the story. There could have been a LOT of snoring waiting to see Luke get his meager training....

Which brings me to my biggest problem: the continuity between episodes III & IV. If only Lucas had fleshed out the basic story line of the prequels, especially the relationships between Vader, Luke, Leia, and Obi-Wan, then it wouldn't seem so awkward and raise questions. For instance, the fact that the last two Jedi in the galaxy (that we know of, not counting the expanded universe stuff) decide to hand off the last remaining hope of restarting a new Jedi order. It's been explained that Yoda went to Dagobah because of it's remoteness and the fact that it was so teeming with life and the Force, that Yoda's presence could not be easily sensed. So why didn't he and Obi-Wan simply take the two orphans with them to Dagobah, start raising them there, and begin REAL Jedi training at the proper, early age (as hinted at in episode II)? Then by the time of episode IV, all four of them could have confronted Vader and the Emporer, and probably have defeated them easily in one stroke... an organized rebellion would still have to happen though in order to confront the Imperial military. I know, would have changed the whole "farm boy" & "princess" motifs, but oh well. At least it's apparent that the prequels were most certainly an after-thought.

Hayden's love scenes... don't get me started! But Ewan most certainly made up for it in my book. Best casting there.

Speaking of Anakin: am I the only one that finds the CG-animated "Clone Wars" version of Anakin to be much more likable, better acted, & awesome?
Joe Vondracek
29. joev
If you've ever seen the movie Clerks, you'll understand why I'm amused by people's comments about the Death Star 2.0.

Yoda, not so great, he is. Luke didn't need a lot of training. He just needed to learn to do and forget about trying.
Sky Thibedeau
30. SkylarkThibedeau
I have always been amazed at Badass Luke in episode VI but he is being led on the same mission tract by Darth Sidious as his father was. I think like Anakin in his raid on the Sand People for Mum, Luke is in full pre Dark Side mode taking on Jabba's people in the sand skimmer's and killing them all to save his sis. The difference is Anakin gives in to his dark side when he has Dooku in his power in episode III in a scene that is mirrored with Luke and Vader in VI. Anakin beheads Dooku but Luke refuses the Dark Side and essentially places himself at Darth Sidious' mercy giving Anakin the chance to redeem himself and bring balance to the force as prophesied.
JLHanke
31. Halcyal
Episode III, lead-up to the Obi-Wan/Anikin fight:

Aniki: "You're either with me or you're against me."

Obi-Wan, with conviction: "Only a Sith deals in absolutes."

Given the above, Obi-Wan is either tangentially proclaiming that he is
a closet Sith, or he fails logic forever.


Also, Episode VI, conclusion:

Leia looks off into the sky and proclaims with campy "mysterious significance": "I can feel him...."

Even watching the movie at six years old, I think that that line and its execution made me groan."

P.S. I second, or third, or nth Liam Neeson's/Qui-Gon’s awesomeness in Episode 1, along with Darth Maul and even Young Obi-Wan.
Darren James
32. b8amack
One thing about the originals? Yoda is an asshole. Yeah, I said it. In that, his character stays consistent throughout the films.
JLHanke
33. Jaquandor
I actually love the Prequels, even though I concede that they are definitely flawed. But for me none of the flaws are fatal, and some of them aren't really even flaws in the first place. I've been slowly working my way through the Prequels on my blog, in a series called "Fixing the Prequels". I've gone all the way through TPM (http://byzantiumshores.blogspot.com/search/label/Fixing%20the%20Prequels%3A%20TPM) and AOTC (http://byzantiumshores.blogspot.com/search/label/Fixing%20the%20Prequels%3A%20AOTC) thus far, should anyone be interested. One thing I'm glad to see noted by other commenters here is how often the Jedi turn out to be just plain flat-out WRONG about stuff.
Christopher Johnstone
34. CPJ
When you add everything together, Yoda behaves so irrationally throughout that I was seriously expecting there to be a big revelation at the end of RotS along the lines of:

Yoda: Actually, yes. I intentionally destroyed the Jedi. The dark side of force and the light must be balanced. The light side has become too dominant. The fabric of the universe is in danger. There must be a time of darkness to restore balance. This is sad, but true. In time, the Jedi will return and true balance will be restored blah blah blah.

By the time tEsB rolls around, I sort of thought maybe Yoda was senile or something. He is about to die of old age after all.

One thing I wonder is that after Lucas dies, will Lucas enterprises wait a reasonable amount of time (say 5-10 years) and then remake the prequels? I expect it's a possibility. Also a set of three sequels seem likely and/or expanded universe trilogies set at different times. I wonder if we'll start to see really excellent star wars trilogies in a semi-regular way only after Lucas is dead.

The good things about the prequels for me (some of which you hit on)
- Ewen McGregor / young Kenobi
- Sam L Jackson / Mace Windu (he pulls off some good presence I feel)
- Darth Maul (I remember everyone talking after Ep I and saying, 'yeah, but clearly Darth Maul isn't dead. Lucas won't kill his best villian')
- Palpatine (really nailed in terms of acting / presence)
- The trade federation ships in Ep I were pretty cool and looked Star Wars to me. Giving them detachable globes in Ep II seemed beyond strange. Also, there were dozens of ships at the beginning, but the Naboo fighters 'won' by destroying a single vessel. WTF?
- Ships in Ep III (mostly: the capital ships on both sides remain a bit unimaginative)

Broadly speaking the underlying plot of the prequals is actually pretty good too. It's just terribly messed up by bad pacing / scripting. As a core plot I think this is quite cool for mythic SF. Note that I actually haven't changed all that much, just tidied up some poor plot decisions. Otherwise, the basic plot is fairly solid:

- Jedi discover boy who has strange and phenomenal force talents
- Boy has murky ancestry
- Dark force users are drawn to boy
- Boy is naive and really, he's only a kid. Not his fault that dark things want him on their side
- Boy falls for girl
- Jedi are all stoic about this sort of thing: no love for you
- Jedi make mistakes, tragic flaw sort of thing (stupid stoic philosophy, you think love makes you weak? No. Lack of love makes you weak, stupid Jedi).
- Boy + girl have secret affair
- Galaxy explodes into war driven by human purest factions (to help explain why the Empire is human dominated later). Clones are involved on both sides. Stupid fighting robots don't exist.
- Shadowy figures are manipulating everything
- Boy becomes Jedi (maybe boy goes to dark temple ala Luke + cave, but boy fails his test).
- Jedi are worried about boy. Make stupid mistake: try to kill him
- Boy goes nuts, come under protection of non-Jedi-friend Palpatine
- Palpaine is the shadowy power! Shock!
- Boy sees that Jedi are pratts and dark side isn't really so bad, I mean, if you put it that way
- Boy goes to find girl
- Girl rejects him because Jedi have told her boy is now a monster
- Boy goes even more crazy
- Girl runs away and hides on Alderan. Uses force trickery given to her by Jedi to hide from boy. Boy thinks she's dead
- Boy goes even more nuts
- Palpatine reveals himself as a) shadowy figure + b) leader of human purest faction. Attack on Jedi council. Jedi temple destroyed. Non-humans are rounded up for deportation to work camps.
- Palpatine undergoes a ritual to attain zenith of dark powers. Becomes disfigured by ritual. Becomes godlike too.
- Palpatine seizes power. Institutes Empire. Largely obliterates enemy factions / seperatists in order to tidy up loose ends.
- Boy goes on rampage killing escapee Jedi. Has final conflict with Obi-wan.
- Boy disfigured in battle.
- Obi-wan escapes, finds Yoda.
- Yoda explains that he knew it was all going to happen this way. He let it happen. Force needs to be blanced. Dark side needs to rule for a while.
- Obi-wan calls Yoda a total ass and leaves
- Second to last scene is Darth and Palpatine overseeing something bad (execution of dissenters / undesireable aliens?)
- Final scene is girl with twins on Alderan staring strongly into sunset. Obi-wan arrives looking utterly defeated. Trilogy ends.

I'm not saying that rewrite fixes everything. I haven't include Darth Maul or Dooku or intricies of what happens in the Clone Wars exactly, but the basic plot involving 'boy of power who is a threat, and we fear him, and he turns bad because we fear him' is a pretty cool general plot landscape.

You can alter, add or subtract I suppose as you like. Agree or disagree with my outline too. It's a bit of a rush job written in a few minutes.

C.
JLHanke
35. BCsmith
Flapdragon- You do sorta have a point about Padme, but do consider that her husband (at this point) has pretty much turned into a psychopathic killing-machine at the emperor's command, has seen evidence (dead children) that proved the fact, and was choked almost to DEATH by that same person ( probably the only time I ever saw pre-Vader anakin choke somebody, but do correct me at your liking), endangering her children. So at least she does have good reason to act as emotionally as she does.
Michael Burke
36. Ludon
While there were a lot of cool effects in that opening battle in Episode III, that whole everything slides down when that part of the ship noses down ruined it for me. They had already established artificial gravity within that universe so this made no sense. What might have worked better would have been to have some of the gravity plates/generators fail and every loose thing in the area 'falls' to the nearest working gravplate. Some things falling (visually) uphill, some falling sideways. You could still have had that silly bit with R2D2 getting covered in junk.

But the worst thing in the entire sereis for me was that kid in Phantom Menace. I saw his whole character arc in PM as little more than "Gee. I could be a hero like that" porn for the pre-teen set. Builds droids. Despite his low status, he's cool with the other kids. He designs, builds and races giant racing craft well before going through his growth spirt. And his great achievement? His turning the tide of battle? I've said it before and I'll say it again. Anakin wasn't a hero. He just pulled a Homer.

I still don't own a copy of that movie. Everytime I think about getting a copy I think about that kid then put the DVD back on the rack.
Kim B
37. Amaranthine
You know, I really don't understand why so many people dislike the prequels (yes, I realize that wasn't the point of this blog post, but I've been wondering for a while now).
Maybe part of the reason why I don't mind them is because I'm a bit younger-- I was 9 when Episode 1 came out-- so Episodes 1-3 have always seemed like part of the original story to me.
But also, I'm a developing Star Wars geek; I have read several of the canonized Star Wars book series. It seems clear to me-- and I know several other Star Wars geeks who agree-- that Star Wars is Anakin's story. Yes, the orginal three episodes are about Luke-- but as a whole, Anakin is and always has been the main character of Star Wars (excluding historical timelines like KotOR, of course). Even disregarding the books, I think the movie series becomes much more epic and powerful when it is seen as Anakin's story-- the tragic rise and fall of a flawed man who is twisted by his own love.
So why does everyone dislike Episodes 1-3 so much? Is it because people don't think the movies are well done? Is it because the story was destroyed for them when they realized that Anakin/ Darth Vader was not supposed to be a pure-evil villain?

Tell me! I'd really like to know.
JLHanke
38. Megaduck
Amaranthine, I would say the main issue with Ep 1-3 is dashed expectations. People remember 4-6 as these increadable revolutionary movie experiances and expected the prequels to be the same.

Not only could 1-3 not live up to the hype and expectations they were also compeating with the golden glow of yesteryear. People saw 4-6 when they were younger and every time afterwords they saw them with the shine of nostolgia. However, they were older then they saw 1-3 and got turned off by movies that were meant for a teenage audiance being 40 year olds.

You are not the first person I met that saw 1-3 first and enjoyed them.
Seamus Cooper
39. Seamuscooper
Can't resist a few gripes about the prequels I haven't seen above:

1.The racism in episode 1. Seriously, why do those trade federation aliens speak with Japanese accents? That's not just racist--it's a failure of imagination. Also, characters who speak in a Carribean patois are referred to--by our heroes, yet!--as "primitives." No excuse for this crap in 1999.

2.The complete lack of heat between Padme and Anakin. This is supposed to be an all-consuming love affair that winds up affecting the fate of worlds? There's no sexual tension at all between these two. Not just in the performances, but in the writing as well, this is an absolutely heat-free relationship. Since the love affair is central to Anakin's tragedy and it's never credible, it ruins the entire thing. Are we sure Luke and Leia are really Anakin's kids?
JLHanke
40. MonkeyT
I never had a probem with Tarkin mostly because I assumed they specialized in such different areas: Vader's was being the Emperor's enforcer, Tarkin's was managing the various empire worlds. It's pretty obvious that Tarkin was originally meant to BE the Emperor until Lucas figured out that Tarking had to die, and while cutting off the head of the beast ends the story, cutting off its arm prolongs it.

I always thought it was interesting that in the final battle, no hero knew that Vader was involved. The heroes' opponent was the Death Star. Vader's attention was drawn to Luke, and their paths crossed, but none of the heroes were even aware of it. Luke/Leia/Han/Rebels were fighting Tarkin, but Vader got the huge reputation as the film's villain. Vader was like Michael Palin in Fish Called Wanda - killing people around Luke, but always missing his target.
Sky Thibedeau
41. SkylarkThibedeau
I admit in the prequels I half expected Mace Windu to shout "Get the $%#@%@ Sith out of my #@%@ Government!!!"
Ryan Britt
42. ryancbritt
@37
I think retroactively Star Wars is the story of Anakin. This certainly isn't how the series was initially conceived. The name Anakin isn't even mentioned until Return of the Jedi, easily the worst of the three classic films. As a fan, I totally accept this retcon and it isn’t a big deal. But it IS retcon. Just my thoughts. :-)
JLHanke
43. MiltonPope
Although I share the general disdain for the prequels, I have to say the last twenty minutes was kind of fun, watching everyone take their places for Episode 4. Except: At the very end, Anakin is still whining that his relationship with Padme isn't working out. At this point, he has already slaughtered the children he was supposed to be protecting. His moral journey is over, and the movie doesn't seem to know that.
JLHanke
44. Anomander1977
I agree with most poins about the OT, while they are awesome, they suffer from some problems people tend to desire to overlook.

Problems with the prequels stem from two things, and both are in The Phantom Menace (naturally):



1. Darth Maul should NEVER have died. He was as significantly badass as a
sith could come. They could have still kept Qui-Gon's death as is, had
him battle a rageful Obi-Wan but escape when he realized it wasn't going
to be easy to beat him. This would also have left Obi-Wan with more
room to grow as a Jedi to eventually become the Jedi master who defeats
Anakin...instead he beats Maul and kills him basically saying to us he's
top tier enough even as a padawan to defeat a powerful sith lord who
his own master couldn't best. This would also have led to the main
reason Maul shouldn't have died in TPM....there would have been no need
for Count Dooku...who to this day is a dumb idea IMHO. It would have
made the Yoda VS sith battle that he has with Dooku WAY cooler at the
end Of AOTC. Maul should have grown as apprentice to Sidious to the
point where Palpatine worried about his own safety (the whole apprentice
kills master thing) and has Anakin go up against him, which could have
been a WAY, WAY better duel come time for the opening to Revenge Of The
Sith and would have had even more emotional resonance...especially with
Obi-Wan present. Imagine the "Should I kill him?" question he poses to
Obi-Wan in that ship throneroom with the added aspect that this is the
guy who killed Qui-Gon...so you'd have Obi-Wan fighting his need to kill
the man who killed his mentor with his need to be a good Jedi master
and not kill. It just would have made for WAY better prequels to have
had him as the main baddie. I mean look at Asajj Ventress in The Clone
Wars cartoon show...she is about as cool as Darth Maul was....and they
use her and stick Dooku in the background as a kind of menacing
grandfather, cause they know how ridiculous an invention he was.



2. The love story. This should have been written by someone who actually
knows about romantic love. Lucas does not. The man has admitted he only
ever loved one woman....80's singer Linda Ronstadt (I'm not shitting
you) and that was brief and apparently relatively unrequited and one
sided. It's why he adopted his kids. It's why he wouldn't know good
dialogue about love if it jumped up and bit him in the ass. If you
remove all the love story from the prequels...don't they instantly jump
in quality? Yes they do. I'm mostly annoyed by Padme dying in childbirth
of a broken heart. I don't think anyone in society ever...has died of a
broken heart. Are you shitting me George? You really think that's
something that can happen? Imagine this....the love story is written way
better from the get-go (by someone else)...have the kid develop his
crush on the young Padme and have her rebuff him....and have them slowly
fall in love but without all the "I would die without you"
bollocks...you have 3 movies to build that relationship....3
movies!...not just jump from "Your not course like the sand of my
planet" (
JLHanke
45. Anomander1977
Cont.

...right to "I can't live without you Padme, I die when you aren't around"
( to go (and more fitting with Anakin's descent)
would have been for him to rage at her on Mustafar to the point where he
snaps, let's the dark side take over and runs her through with his own
lightsaber. We don't really need that scene where Vader asks after her
and the Emperor says he killed her in a rage to be fake...why does it
need to be? He's basically been trained, and coerced and PUSHED into the
dark side by Palpatine....having him snap (like he did on that family
of sand people in AOTC) is natural....thus making his redemption in the
original trilogy more compelling and emotional. Imagine a man who has
been pushed so far that he killed his own wife in a rage...and then
having to live a half-life in a mostly robotic body....that guy..would
be EVIL! It makes Vader a more multi-layered character...he didn't just
kill his fellow Jedi and even younglings....but his own wife! It would
have solved the "How do we kill her off" thing. All you have to do is
re-organize when the kids are born so that she is free to be around for
him to kill afterwards.



My thoughts. the prequels are OKAY....Phantom Menace has good
moments....Attack of the Clones is a lot better, and Revenge of the Sith
is the most watchable of the 3 actually.
Ryan Britt
46. ryancbritt
@Everyone
You know, I'm not as sold on Darth Maul as many seem to be. I think three movies with Christopher Lee's characer being fleshed out a little more might have been way more fun.
Chris Palmer
47. cmpalmer
If any of you haven't read it, I recommend David Brin's scathing article on the moral lessons of Star Wars.

Remember the final scene in "Return of the Jedi," when Luke gazes into a fire to see Obi-Wan, Yoda and Vader, smiling in the flames? I found myself hoping it was Jedi Hell, for the amount of pain those three unleashed on their galaxy, and for all the damned lies they told.


and

And yet, in "The Phantom Menace," Lucas wants us to gush with warm feelings toward a cute blond little boy who will later grow up to murder the population of Earth many times over? While we're at it, why not bring out the Hitler family album, so we may croon over pictures of adorable little Adolf and marvel over his childhood exploits! He, too, was innocent till he turned to the "dark side," so by all means let us adore him.

Brent Longstaff
48. Brentus
@47 - I think the second quote is missing the point. Anakin is shown as being kind and helpful and cheerful to make his eventual fall more tragic because of the contrast. If he had bullied the other kids and been surly to Qui-gon et al. and generally been a jerk, then it would just business as usual for a lousy guy to become Darth Vader. I'm not saying the execution of the idea was great, but the point of showing the cute Anakin was not to go "ahh how cute", it was to make us sad that he could fall so far.
JLHanke
49. ShaneH
Great comments in this thread!
For an entertaining look at many of the prequels issues I suggest viewing the reviews by RedLetterMedia on youtube. I found them more enjoyable than the movies themselves.

The thing that always bugged me in the original trilogy, in Empire Strikes Back (my fav of the first three), aside from the ambiguous timing issues already mentioned, was how did Luke travel from Hoth to Dagobah across interstellar distances in an X-Wing fighter? What!? Can't imagine a hyperdrive engine installed in a short range fighter.

Same question for how the Falcon gets to Bespin with a broken hyperdrive, but I believe someone already mentioned that. It at least needed to be intermittently working.

Regards,
Shane
Chris Palmer
50. cmpalmer
@48, I can see that as being the intention. But, even though we can anticipate the upcoming tragedy, Phantom Menace just shows a heroic little boy that the kids watching the movie will identify with. And to continue the Hitler analogy, Brin also points out that the ending is like if Hitler was captured at the end of WWII and put on trial and they said, "But he was a cute and good little boy and besides, he saved the life of his son." Then everyone gasps and says, "Well, if he saved his son's life, he must actually be a good person deep down inside!" and then he gets to go to heaven with all of his old friends.

There are also very questionable chains of moral logic. Jedi aren't supposed to love anyone. Anger leads to fear leads to hate leads to the Dark Side. Yet all of the bad guys are cold and dispassionate, whereas all of the good guys show plenty of anger and fear. The bad guys don't love anyone (except for Anakin). Personally, I think there's nothing wrong with being angry at people who do stupid, selfish, evil things.

I understand that they try to show that Anakin's love for his mother contributed to his slaughter of the sand people (I guess). But aren't Obi-Wan and Qui-gon pretty cold bastards that they not only took Anakin away from his mom, but also never came back and got her out of slavery and set her up in a nice house in the suburbs?
JLHanke
51. JamesH
Don't know if anyone mentioned it in the comments, but when you were talkin about the music to Episode I and ragged on the closing song during the parade, you missed a pretty awesome connection between the original and prequel movies added by John Williams. Listen to the emporers theme from the original movies, the slow brooding peice from Return of the Jedi, then listen to the kids singing -- Its the same song but the prequel version is written in a major key and sped up. This allows the song to fit the celebration of the moment, but still contain some of the dark foreboding of things to come.
Remi Gauvin
52. Rashkae
I don't think Luke not killing the Emporor (vs pig gards) was anything to do with morality of killing. Obviously, Luke, and the Jedi, have no issue with killing. It was all about motive. In particular, motive with use of the Force. Jedi killing (or horribly maiming) as a means to an objective he/she considers important... a ok... Using "the Force" out of anger? That's the kind of thing that forever warps you and create the Sith. That's why Luke couldn't attack the emporor himself. He couldn't do it dispassionately, and so long as his own motives were not 'pure,' it was better to sit and wait, and let the emporor die anyway. That does create a rather strange morality, where killing out of expediency is more acceptable to the Jedi than killing with a righteous wrath. I guess the point, however, and one worth considering, there really ins't such a thing. Wrath is wrath. Calling it righteous is just feel good justification.
JLHanke
53. Jason P Hunt - SciFi4Me
Actually, ryancbritt, the back-story involving Anakin has always been there in some form or another. The Making of Star Wars has details on how Lucas conceived of the original characters, Anakin being one of the more prominent generals in the early stages. He eventually evolved into the Luke Skywalker character, with other traits split off into Obi-Wan.
Katie McNeal
54. Katiya
My biggest problem with prequels vs. OT has always been the continuity between them, rather than anything individually within each. It's obvious that Lucas only had a vague idea about the universe when Episode IV came out, because listening to the dialogue makes it seems as though MUCH more time has passed between the end of the Jedi era and the beginning of the Empire.

For example, when Han refers to the Jedi and the Force as a "hokey old religion", that just makes zero sense. The implication is that the Jedis have been gone for a LONG time, certainly longer than Han has been alive...but seriously? How did something become a "hokey old religion" in 20 years? The same feeling of age is there with Tarkin and Vader on the Death Star...why would anyone have a lack of faith? Don't they remember the power of the Jedi, how they practically ruled the galaxy? About how they disfigured the Emperor? And accordingly, Vader seems much creepier as a follower of something ancient, rather than something that vanished within living memory. That inconsistency has always bugged me more than anything, mostly because I feel like the prequels were trapped by things not completely fleshed out in the OT (the Clone Wars? Really? I thought it was a weak plot, obviously scrambled together in order to make sense of something that had been previously mentioned.)

That said, the major downfall of the prequels is dialogue. Period. Even the best actors in the world couldn't make that crap work.
Ryan Britt
55. ryancbritt
@54 Katiya

Re: dialogue. Remember that rumor that Lucas asked Tom Stoppard to help him with dialogue on Episode II? What a joke!

@53 Sure, some kind of backstory was there, but I've got a Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays book from the 1997 in which it becomes super apparent that the "plan" to have Vader be Luke's dad wasn't even totally nailed down by the time the Empire screenplay was being written. A scene from the Leigh Brackett version had LUKE'S FATHER'S GHOST hanging out with Obi-Wan's ghost. Funny, right? :-)
Anthony Pero
56. anthonypero
54 @ Katiya:

It's obvious that Lucas only had a vague idea about the universe when Episode IV came out, because listening to the dialogue makes it seems as though MUCH more time has passed between the end of the Jedi era and the beginning of the Empire.



There is a flaw in your logic. Obi-Wan was very clear in the first third of Ep IV that Luke's father was a Jedi, and that he was a Jedi, and that that they fought together in the Clone Wars. And that his father died at the hands of a Sith named Darth Vader during this war. Leia's message to Obi-Wan via R2D2 also makes it clear that the Jedi served as generals during the Clone Wars. This all happens during the first third of the original movie. This very nicely sets up the timeline for when Jedi were around and influencial.
Obviously the spin you are putting on Han's comments, and the officers comments are not how they are intended to be taken.
Katie McNeal
57. Katiya
56@anthonypero

Fair enough, I understand how I'm supposed to read it, I just don't buy it. Agree to disagree, I guess. :)
JLHanke
59. RosieP66
I disagree. I don't think that the Prequel Trilogy suck. I believe they are just as good as the Original Trilogy. They are more complex and darker in story content. And I find them to be more relevant to today's society and the true nature of mankind than the Original Trilogy. And I cannot help but wonder if this relevance scares a lot of fans.

Katiya, your argument on the lack of consistency between the Original Trilogy and the Prequel Trilogy not only smacks of splitting hairs, but makes little sense to me.
Anthony Pero
60. anthonypero
Well, that's one way to view the Prequels, RosieP66. The other ways to view them are 1) Poorly acted. 2) Poorly written (by dialogue) 3) full of flat characters without any dimension, such as Padme and her entire retinue, Anakin, Dooku, etc...

As far as craft goes, the prequels trail the originals by a wide, wide margin in every category but the inevitable 1 that 30 years of technological improvements would dictate... special effects.
JLHanke
61. Cold Drake
One of the only good scenes in the prequels was when we see Vader, Palpatine and Tarkin watching the Death Star being built. It actually looked like a Star Wars movie for about 30 seconds, the look of the control panels and Imperial officers milling about.
I also enjoyed Jango Fett for his awesome looking costume and Christopher Lee.
JLHanke
62. pg
@39, When I was watching the 3rd prequel in the theatre I started getting it into my head that the movie was building towards a big reveal: During their final confrontation, Obi-Wan would reveal to Anakin that Obi-Wan was the father of Padme's twins! I enjoyed the movie more than anyone else in the theatre thinking that this was going to happen.

Sure, certain parts of the series don't make sense that way but I think that change would have improved the whole series and surprised people in a fun way instead of just the dot-connecting we got.

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