The Great Star Wars Debate

Posted: February 8, 2013 in Thoughts and Reflections

Star Wars Saga

When Phantom Menace opened in 1999, followed by Attack of the Clones in 2002, the general fan boy mass were mostly in collective agreement that the prequel films were in no way up to par with the original Star Wars trilogy. In fact, a large majority were in total outrage against George Lucas and his new “CGI Wonderland”, railing that Lucas ruined Star Wars forever and that the prequels were an insult to the prestigious Star Wars name.

When the long-awaited Revenge of the Sith stormed into theaters in 2005, the general outrage had lessened. But while most were satisfied with the final chapter of the saga—-stating that George Lucas had redeemed himself—-many still held firm that the Star Wars decimation was complete. With all this talk of a new Star Wars trilogy in the works, the floor has been opened to resurrecting this ongoing-yet-critical debate.

I stand in the middle of this heated dispute wondering what to think. While not a vehement cynic of the Star Wars prequels, nor an avid enthusiast of them, I have to ask myself why the general populace thinks that the prequels pale in comparison to the originals. And after much reflection on the matter, I have finally furnished a conclusion.

First of all, what exactly is “wrong” with the prequels? Silly characters? Perhaps (cue in Jar Jar Binks). But then wasn’t that inane little Sesame Street puppet in Jabba’s sail barge that cackled like an over-dosed witch seem a little silly to you? And let’s not go into C-3PO’s annoying jabbering.

Was bad dialogue the bane of the Star Wars prequels? Here I would certainly agree that the prequels suffered greatly under the hands of lower-quality scripting. Some dialogue between Anakin and Padmé in Attack of the Clones was a little over-the-top, in contrast to the terse, witty banter between Han and Leia. But there were bits and moments in the trilogy that seemed to me a bit unrefined, especially in A New Hope.

Bad acting, many claim, was what brought down the prequels. Again, I would partially agree. The young actor who played Anakin Skywalker in Phantom Menace was certainly the crux of bad acting. But I wouldn’t be so quick to judge the prequels in this area before first examining the trilogy. I mean let’s face it, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher weren’t exactly on the list of top actors of their time. Hamill’s young Luke was just a hair’s width away from the pesky young Anakin. In fact, throughout the trilogy the only actors worth truly noting would be Harrison Ford, Sir Alec Guinness, and Peter Cushing (the Grand Moff Tarkin).

Obi-Wan vs Vader

Too much CGI? Boing! That’ll set off another series of explosions. It is true that computer-generated characters have replaced the old-fashioned actor-in-suit method, but I think those who condemn Lucas for bringing down the quality of film making through excessive CGI haven’t completely thought it through.

Remember, when it came to special effects Lucas was no traditionalist. He peppered his original trilogy with special effects, most of which he came up with himself. I guarantee you that if the technology had allowed him, Star Wars IV-VI would have been just as CGI-laden as episodes I-III. After all, did he not revise the original films and add more CGI? Did he not even take the opportunity to fix further problems in the films with his Blu-ray release? Lucas was a visionary with exceeding limits technologically in the ’70s and ’80s. When the technology progressed enough to make his vision come true, he merely took the opportunities to further the aesthetic appeal of the Star Wars universe, regardless of whether audiences would love it or not. Star Wars is, after all, his crowning achievement, and he has complete rights to change whatever he likes.

Ultimately, though, I think the real problem we have with the prequels actually has nothing to do with them at all, but really ourselves. When we first saw the original Star Wars films, they were a spectacle to our young eyes. They were like nothing we had ever seen before. We never noticed the whacky characters and the awkward bits of dialogue and acting, nor did we ever think to ourselves that Yoda was really just a puppet. As a kid you don’t notice these things, and even into adulthood we still don’t quite notice them. Or at least if we do, we simply skirt around it and love the films all the same.

But then we grew up—-and Star Wars didn’t—-and we thought to ourselves, “Oh, what pitiful stuff!” and cringed. What we once thought was “cool” is now ridiculous, and we have all forgotten what made Star Wars special in our hearts. The young kids of today’s generation have absolutely no problem with the prequels, yet we condemn them the same way our parents condemned the originals. We now long for darker, more intense PG-13 films to satisfy our changed standards, instead of realizing that the light, jovial-yet-critical tone of the films was largely part of its success.

Stormtrooper - Clone Trooper

Please don’t feel that I am in any way denouncing the originals or elevating the prequels. Both have their pros and cons; their shortcomings and fortes. I am not trying to say that one is necessarily better than the other. I will confess, the original films do possess a certain kind of quality that is simply devoid in the newer films. I am not claiming that the prequels deserve the praise of the originals, but I certainly don’t think that they deserve the kind of rebuke and negativity that they’ve been receiving.

What I am trying to convey is that both trilogies are separated by 20 years of time and, therefore, have small differences in tone and style. But what truly differentiates them is their audience. The younger audiences are the same. The older audiences, however, have changed. We’ve grown up. And all we really want is our old Star Wars back. It’s not a bad thing, it’s perfectly understandable. But in order to have our old Star Wars back, we need our old mentality back.

So let’s make a collective agreement that the prequels are not “bad”, they’re just different. But not so different as Star Wars was when, in the summer of 1977, audiences around the world flocked to local movie theaters to see a revolutionary film that changed the style of film making forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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