Contributor: Rick McGimpsey
Today (21 May 2016) is The Star Wars Prequels Appreciation Day. With the Prequels getting so little love as it is I thought I should make a post for the occasion. I am what you could call a Prequels apologist and while I do not think the films are perfect I do like them and am ready to defend them as needed.
And so for The Star Wars Prequels Appreciation day, I offer 10 things that I loved from the Prequels.
1. The Score
Whether you like the Prequels or not the grandeur of John Williams’ music is undeniable with The Phantom Menace and Revenge of the Sith especially turning out some of the finest soundtracks Williams has ever done. Duel of the Fates is easily on my top 10 favourites tracks (another post for another day perhaps) demonstrating that John Williams is an artist who can add dignity and beauty to anything.
I hope recent rumours about him retiring from composing future Star Wars soundtracks are untrue. No one can replace John Williams and the Saga won’t be the same without him.
2. The Expansion of the Star Wars Galaxy
It is a point in the Prequels’ favour that they didn’t try to go too retro with the designs and worlds. George Lucas gave us a plethora of new planets and cultures with the Prequel trilogy; from the Venetian look of Naboo to the unique waterworld of Kamino to the exotic fungal beauty of Felucia. The Star Wars Prequels opened up the universe of Star Wars in new ways for hungry fans wanting more. The EU had already been doing this for about 15 years prior and the Prequels expanded it further. While I may not be a big fan of Jar Jar Binks, Otoh Gunga is still a cool looking city which is another testament to the undeniable quality of the visual design despite flaws within the trilogy’s story.
3. The Jedi Order
In the Original Trilogy the Jedi were an all but extinct society survived only by old men past their prime and asthmatic Dark Lords too decrepit or too physically encumbered to demonstrate the full power of the Force. In the Prequels, however, we see the Jedi Order at the height of their strength. In The Phantom Menace Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon Jinn fight one of the best lightsaber duels seen in the Saga revealing the extent of what young Jedi and Sith can do. And at the Battle of Geonosis we finally get a look at what the Jedi Order was renowned for when fighting in numbers.
4. The Special Effects
I know, I know; special effects don’t necessarily make a film any good. But, bear in mind that I am not suggesting that the special effects excuse the Prequels’ flaws. They don’t. But they do bear mentioning as a positive element to the trilogy. The visual look of the fight scenes, ships, creatures, and planets are groundbreaking achievements in filmmaking that are influencing current Hollywood blockbusters today. Now while special effects cannot solely carry a movie (see Transformers 2 and The Hobbit Trilogy for further reference) praise should be given where praise is due. These films look cool whatever the critics can say. To say otherwise is unreasonable.
5. Obi-Wan Kenobi
Ewan McGregor’s performance is one of the highlights of the Prequel Trilogy. Many of his mannerisms and voice tones reflect Sir Alec Guinness convincingly and I can easily see him growing older to be the Obi-Wan Kenobi we see in the Originals. There are many scenes in Revenge of the Sith especially where he sounds virtually identical to Guinness. Impressive, most impressive. Sir Alec taught him well.
6. The CG Yoda
When ILM changed Yoda from puppet to CG character in Attack of the Clones a whole new door for the future of alien characters was opened for the Star Was franchise. With ILM’s creative work the new Yoda was now able to move and make facial expressions that his puppet counterpart could not. While I do have nostalgic feelings about the muppet Yoda from the Originals the way the Prequels allowed him to do more and express more left me satisfied. Although to be fair the duel scene between Yoda and Count Dooku was still pretty stupid.
7. Artoo and Threepio
Close examination of the plot of the Original Trilogy reveals that the story is predominently seen from the perspective of these two droids. They are passive observers to the historical events happening around them which is why Star Wars first opens with them on the Tantive IV reacting to the events that set in motion the entire franchise.
I love Artoo and Threepio. C3PO is probably my second favourite character next to Han Solo and the inclusion of them in the Prequels and allowing them to witness Galactic history once again is a good thing in my book.
8. Christopher Lee
Do I need to say more? It’s Christopher Lee! His presence in anything gives it oodles of cool points. Attack of the Clones is by far my least favourite Star Wars movie and yet Christopher Lee still allows the film some dignity and badassery. That’s because he is Christopher Lee. He is Dracula. He is Saruman. He was a Bond villain. And he is Darth Tyrannus. It is only fair that a former Hammer Horror veteran gets a place in the Prequels since Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars was played by none other than Peter Cushing who is none other than Van Helsing and Dr. Frankenstein.
9. New EU Resources
The Star Wars Expanded Universe was alive and well prior to the Prequels being released and now even more stuff was open to being explored. Dark Horse now had the Clone Wars, Qui-Gon Jinn, Darth Maul, Jango Fett, Naboo, Utapau, and a thousand other things now to incorporate in their comics. And the books and video games likewise that had the Prequels to thank for new expansive content. The EU was left with much to thrive on now that the Prequels made the Star Wars galaxy so much bigger.
10. The Story
OK, I can see this one being a bit controversial which is why I left it for last. When I say the story I do not mean a lot of the obvious flaws like Jar Jar Binks, Anakin turning to the Dark Side too quickly, midichlorians, or Padme being about as useful as a damsel in distress in Episodes II and III (died of a broken heart my ass!). Those things bug me as much as any disappointd fan. What I mean by story is the more fundamental themes found in the Prequels. Most of the problems within the Prequels were a matter of their execution rather than just being stupid in and of themselves. A lot of the content was fine in theory. It was just carried out poorly. I criticise the execution of many of Lucas’s ideas like most fans, but I think I understand what he was attempting to accomplish and there are elements in the story telling that is quite brilliant.
Much of the plot echoes and parallels and foreshadows events that happen within itself and in the original trilogy. Lucas employs foreshadowing very well. And many emotional scenes were done well too. The friendship between Obi-Wan and Anakin that we see developed over the trilogy makes Kenobi’s “You were the Chosen One!” speech all the more heartbreaking. And I love much of the dialogue that Yoda and Qui-Gon had to offer in the films.
George Lucas had a story to tell and it was a good one. The fact that he didn’t tell it as well as I should like has not made me hate the finished product. I think the past 15+ years of bandwagon hating on the Prequels has kept fans from honestly seeing the better points of the films. A closer examination is merited. It’s time calm down and let go of the hate.
Thank you for reading and may the Force be with you.