"Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones" ends with the secret marriage of Anakin and Padme. (Photo: Lucasfilm)
There are plenty of elements in the prequels that are worthy of celebration, and indeed, “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith” are very solid entries in the franchise as a whole. Yet we scorn all three movies because they are different. Or, more accurately, we scorn them because they’re not exactly what we wanted.
The prequels tell a different kind of story than the original trilogy told, which was jarring for many fans. Instead of a hero’s journey to victory, they depict a hero’s fall from grace, a tragedy that is harder to bring to life onscreen. Coupled with the fact that Lucas – with significantly improved technology behind him this time around – chose a different visual style, the first three episodes of the series often feel as if they are part of a different universe.
Different isn’t always good, but it isn’t always bad, either. The visuals in the prequels might contrast sharply from the original trilogy (think the sleek Naboo ships and the claustrophobic cityscape of Coruscant as compared to the roughness of the Millennium Falcon and the mostly untouched wilderness on Hoth and Endor), but that doesn’t mean they aren’t exciting. And in fact the slow evolution of the visuals, for example, the design of the ships, as the Republic evolves into the Empire, is one of the details the films executed the most gracefully.
But that evolution is overlooked because, at first blush, the new world Lucas created lacked the classic imagery nostalgia-obsessed fans wanted so desperately to see. It’s hard to love an update of something you loved as a child when it does not, in fact, look like what you remember. (It is worth noting that the “Star Wars”films from the Disney era have very strategically included iconic imagery from the original trilogy, from the set pieces to costumes to characters.)
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In the prequels, the lightsaber battles are sleeker affairs with better choreography and more athleticism. The duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin at the end of “Sith” is as operatic as the music that backs it up, while the same two characters mostly shuffle around each other in “A New Hope” until Vader takes a final, deadly swing. Of course, the “New Hope” battle is exciting and emotionally resonant without dramatic choreography, but there’s plenty of value to be found in the “Sith” spectacle as well.
There’s also no denying that the technology behind the prequels brought sequences to life that wouldn’t have been possible in the ’70s and ’80s. Jar Jar may have looked (and sounded) fake, but that lightsaber battle between Yoda and Count Dooku? It’s a breathtaking scene that was only achievable through CGI. In fact, the entire third act of “Clones,” from the arena fight to the first Clone War battle to Anakin and Padme’s secret wedding, is the greatest contribution the prequels make to the “Star Wars” canon, as thrilling to watch as anything in “Return of the Jedi.”
Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor, right) duels Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) after his turn to the Dark Side in "Revenge of the Sith." (Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd.)
And while the plot points of “Phantom” may have drifted too far into the obscure (using the words “taxation of trade routes” in the title scroll is always a mistake), the darker political themes in “Clones” and “Sith” are bold and intriguing, exploring the way fascism can creep into society.
“What if the democracy we thought we were serving no longer exists?” Padme asks Anakin in “Sith.” Later, she is proven right when the Republic falls, as she notes, to “thunderous applause” as Jedi are slaughtered across the galaxy by their comrades, and her husband murders dozens of children.
It’s an exceedingly dark place to go, and a far cry from the dancing teddy bear Ewoks celebrating the end of the Empire at the close of “Jedi.” In the original trilogy, the light side gets to win. In the prequels, it has to lose. Maybe it’s a harder story to stomach, but we shouldn’t dismiss it just for being told.
The cult of hating the “Star Wars” prequels came at us all in different ways. Maybe you saw the infamous Red Letter Media reviews, video critiques which viciously picked apart the films in excruciating detail, in nearly as much time as it takes to watch the movies outright. Maybe it just seemed like the right opinion to have. Or maybe you actually don’t like the movies.
But perhaps if you haven’t watched them in a few years, or if you’ve only heard about how bad they are, maybe you can give the “Star Wars” prequels another chance. Yes, you’ll have to sit through the painful use of the words “Meesa” and “Yousa” from a walking amphibian, but you’ll also see the adventure, the fantasy and the wonder that made a whole new generation believe in the Force. And isn’t that the point of seeing “Star Wars,” anyway?
‘Star Wars’: First photos from ‘The Rise of Starwalker’ and scenes from … FullscreenPost to FacebookPosted!
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Enjoy the first photos from December's 'Star Wars: Episode IX,' which now has a title: 'The Rise of Skywalker.' The photos and title were revealed as part of Star Wars Celebration in Chicago. This one carries extra emotion, as it shows the late Carrie Fisher (right) as General Leia Organa hugging Rey (Daisy Ridley). Lucasfilm Ltd.Fullscreen
We've seen this before: Rey (Daisy Ridley) is on the run in the ninth film from the 'Star Wars' saga: 'The Rise of Skywalker.' Lucasfilm Ltd.FullscreenHello, old friend (although we're still not sure if we can trust you)! Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) makes a welcome return in 'The Rise of Skywalker.' Lucasfilm Ltd.FullscreenKylo Ren (Adam Driver) operates in the reddish shadows in 'The Rise of Skywalker.' Lucasfilm Ltd.FullscreenThe Millennium Falcon goes into hyperdrive in 'The Rise of Skywalker,' the latest 'Star Wars' film. Lucasfilm Ltd.Fullscreen
C-3PO (Anthony Daniels,left) Finn (John Boyega), and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) are in peril during 'The Rise of Skywalker.' LUCASFILM LTD.FullscreenGet used to seeing this poster, which includes the title of December's 'Star Wars' film: 'The Rise of Skywalker.' Lucasfilm Ltd.FullscreenFinn (John Boyega), front center, and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) are out in the wilderness in a scene from 'Star Wars: Episode IX.' Lucasfilm Ltd., Lucasfilm Ltd.FullscreenDon't mess with Rey (Daisy Ridley)! LUCASFILM LTD.FullscreenThe 'Star Wars' gang is all here for 'Episode IX': Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), left, BB-8, new droid D-O, Rey, (Daisy Ridley), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and Finn (John Boyega). Lucasfilm Ltd.FullscreenFinn (John Boyega), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) get a look at what appears to be wreckage in the distance in 'The Rise of Skywalker.' Lucasfilm Ltd.FullscreenRey (Daisy Ridley) is back in action in December's 'Star Wars' film, which now has a title: 'The Rise of Skywalker.' Lucasfilm Ltd.FullscreenBB-8 and new droid D-O are on board for 'The Rise of Skywalker.' Lucasflm Ltd.Fullscreen
Kylo Ren's helmet gets some restoration work. Lucasfilm Ltd.FullscreenMemory of Victory's Past from 'The Rise of Skywalker.' Lucasfilm Ltd.Fullscreen
Joseph Naiman, 7, is living the dream, taking a selfie with two Stormtroopers in front of a Lego display at Star Wars Celebration. Alex Garcia, APFullscreenAs 'Star Wars' honchos unveiled a trailer, photos and title for December's much-awaited 'Episode IX' premiere, fans enjoyed Star Wars Celebration in Chicago, with these two dressed as Kylo Ren and Rey. Kamil Krzaczynski, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreen
A 'Star Wars' fan goes old school, dressing as Han Solo frozen in carbonite from 1980's 'The Empire Strikes Back.' Kamil Krzaczynski, AFP/Getty ImagesFullscreen
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