You might have heard, there is a new Star Wars movie coming out next weekend. That’s given me the perfect excuse to re-watch all of the other Star Wars movies. Not that I need an excuse. I can watch most of them any time. But this time, I’m starting with Phantom Menace and plan on going in order through The Last Jedi. (I haven’t decided what I’m going to do about Force Awakens. I don’t own it, and didn’t like it. I’ll probably find a way to watch it, though, just to see if it’s any better than I remember.) I finished Revenge of the Sith tonight, so I thought I’d say a little bit about the prequels.
I should start by saying I’m a bit of a prequel apologist. I know their reputation. There are certainly flaws in all three. But I enjoy them. They’re not in the same class as the original trilogy, but they don’t have to be. I didn’t expect them to evoke the same feeling I had as a five year old seeing the original in the theater. I honestly didn’t even want them to. I will be quite satisfied if seeing Star Wars for the first time remains my best movie going experience. The prequels did what I needed them to do.
Phantom Menace is clearly the worst of the three. I also think it had the highest degree of difficulty of any movie ever made. The fact that it works at all, on any level, is itself a pretty big accomplishment. I wish there were less exposition. It falls into the trap of having a child in a lead role. Several scenes, like the pod race, feel like they’re there because the technology was new and they could do it rather than being an integral part of the story. And it introduced midichlorians. (Midichlorians are my least favorite thing about the prequels. I’d take a full length feature starring Jar Jar Binks if it meant The Force could go back to being a mystical energy field without any kind of rational explanation. I know it’s a short cut way to show that Anakin is really powerful, but I’d rather have Qui Gon and Obi Wan just sense it.) But those aren’t fatal flaws. The story itself works, both on its own and as it ties into the larger universe. The action is excellent. And it’s just a good looking movie. It certainly isn’t great, but it is watchable.
Attack of the Clones is both the second movie and second best of the prequels. It stumbles in telling the love story. Anakin and Padme couldn’t have less chemistry. But that’s never been why I watch Star Wars. Han and Leia are a great couple, but even they aren’t why I watch the originals. Attack of the Clones is really just a bridge. It has to get us from Episode I to Episode III, and it does that while having a bunch of fun along the way. It’s got to be the least thoughtful of the Lucas made Star Wars movies. So I say, take it for what it is, sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.
I really like Revenge of the Sith. A bunch of the dialogue is stilted and Anakin and Padme still lack chemistry, but it gets me. The action scenes are thrilling. If all I got out of the prequels was Anakin and Obi Wan’s lightsaber duel, I would be happy. It’s that good. But it’s also good in its quieter parts. Ian McDiarmid, Ewan McGreggor and Frank Oz give great performances. I feel what they feel. And they make me really care. Plus it brings the whole light side/dark side thing to the fore, and that’s ultimately why I watch Star Wars. It might not be perfect, but it gives me everything I’m looking for in a movie.
Next up is the original trilogy. And I know I’m going to love that. So, whatever I wind up thinking about Episode VIII, at least I’m having a lot of fun leading up to it.