Star Wars: The return of the prequels

Fear became anger. Anger became hate. Hate became suffering. For most Star Wars fans, the attempt to bring their beloved space opera to a new generation fell under-par, and that’s putting it mildly for many of them (Simon Pegg recently referring to them as infanticide on the part of George Lucas). Much of the criticism claimed that the revamped franchise had changed too much from the originals.While there was certainly a story to be told in the rise of the Darth Vader and the Empire, much of the tone and authenticity was lost. With the hype around Star Wars: The Force Awakens making the buzz that Jurassic World generated sound mosquito-like, it’s time to look back at our last venture to a galaxy far, far away.

Lightsabers. If the prequels nailed anything, it was the preferred weapon of the Jedi. A week or so ago my housemate and I shamelessly watched an hour-long compilation of every lightsaber battle from all six films. The original trilogy only made up around 10 minutes of that video. George Lucas understood that the lightsaber was key to the mythology of Star Wars, and that modern special effects could be put to good use in developing the complexities of the Jedi art. Fans were blown away by Darth Maul’s double-edged saber, Dooku’s curved hilt, Windu’s purple hue and Grievous’ quad-wielding abilities. Not just the weapons themselves but the duels became more spectacular and thrilling, and there was less of those lowly blasters. So uncivilised.

While much of the casting for the original trilogy can be seriously questioned (here’s looking at you, Hayden), some of the talent on board cannot be argued with. Ewan McGregor made for a great Obi-Wan, his performances and hairstyle evolving gracefully throughout episodes I-III. Liam Neeson was another (if short-lived) hit, making for a believably wise Jedi master Qui-Gon Jinn. Above all stands the late-great Sir Christopher Lee as Count Dooku, somehow elevating the pitiful dialogue to immersive pathos with a simple flick of his eyebrows. A masterstroke in casting.

Fans were blown away by Darth Maul’s double-edged saber, Dooku’s curved hilt, Windu’s purple hue and Grievous’ quad-wielding abilities”

It’s such a shame that a lot of these actors were made to look and sound ridiculous when they could have given so much more (here’s looking at you, Natalie).

A bit of a contested factor in the prequels is the story. Many critics were quick to jump on the overtly political edge to the plot, deeming intergalactic trade embargos to be, well, boring. But I disagree, and the picture that Lucas painted of a galaxy united by its senate and torn apart by its corrupt leader is fittingly grand for the franchise’s scope. Mixed with the personal story of Anakin Skywalker’s psychological turmoil and often compelling motives, there was enough human drama amongst the stars to ground the audience. Special mention to the returning John Williams’ brilliantly expanded score too.

the picture that Lucas painted of a galaxy united by its senate and torn apart by its corrupt leader is fittingly grand for the franchise’s scope”

Don’t get me wrong: the prequels were a messy, money-making farce that took advantage of a new generation. Yet many from that generation, my generation, love the films because they grew up with them. Whether or not George Lucas can rationally be accused of killing younglings is up for debate, especially when all else is said and done. After all, he gave us Star Wars to begin with; a cinematic gift unrivalled to this day.

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