Positives to take from the Star Wars prequels

Feature Rob Leane 15 Jan 2014 - 08:58

For Star Wars: Episode VII, should JJ Abrams ignore the prequels altogether? Rob optimistically looks for some positives...

With Star Wars: Episode VII scheduled to hit our screens during December 2015, now is surely a crucial time for the future of the galaxy far, far away. Right now, planet-sized questions are being asked in the offices of the new creative team taking over the Bantha reins from George Lucas.

JJ Abrams, as a long-time fan of the franchise now taking over co-writer-director duties, will surely know that most people were left with a sour taste in their mouths after the experience of watching the Lucas’ prequel trilogy after years of build-up and excitement.

Kathleen Kennedy, Lucas’ replacement at the head of Lucasfilm, is sure to have promised Abrams some creative control with his new instalment, and has presumably encouraged him to pretend the prequel trilogy never even happened.

However, it’s easy to forget that not everything about these films was as terrible as it might seem with years of hindsight and countless negative reviews. For every Jar Jar Binks there is a Darth Maul, for every mind-boggling trade blockade there is an epic lightsaber battle.

With a galaxy’s worth of ideas and options, the new sequel trilogy has more potential than the Cantina Band’s long-awaited reunion tour. Contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of great ideas in the prequels that JJ Abrams could learn from. Ideas like these…

Cool new villains

Anyone familiar with the off-screen Star Wars world will know that the Emperor never stayed dead for very long. Various writers have seized the idea that he has at some point created a clone army of himself through which he continued to plague the galaxy for years after his first body was killed by Darth Vader in Return Of The Jedi.

An interpretation of this narrative idea would be incredibly difficult to portray on screen without seeming like a middle finger to the beloved original trilogy. Indeed, this idea has provided legions of fans with a treasure trove of exciting new Star Wars content in the dark times between films, but it just couldn’t work on screen, in this writer’s opinion. Indeed, remnants of the Empire and evil followers of Palpatine could remain, but bringing him back would just seem like a retcon and would lessen the impact of the climactic battle from Jedi.

In the prequels, especially in Episode I and II when the Emperor had not yet revealed himself, George Lucas managed to provide a series of fantastic villains which continually stole the show. For example, Darth Maul is surely everyone’s favourite thing about The Phantom Menace. From his mysterious debut appearance to his lightsaber skills, he is truly a highlight of the whole series and a great example of how expanding the universe of Jedi and Sith can be more thrilling than sticking to old ideas.

Despite the fact that most of his adventures take place in the wider Clone Wars canon, General Grievous was another brilliant idea and anyone who didn’t enjoy  watching Obi-Wan battle the cyborg with keen lightsaber skills surely has something against good entertainment. Again, the introduction of horror icon Christopher Lee as a mysterious Jedi-gone-bad Count Dooku was a stroke of genius, as well as being an opportunity for two underrated lightsaber battles.

As Abrams looks to build the Star Wars universe into a box office behemoth to match the much-adored Marvel model, he would do well to introduce some exciting new villains as Lucas did in the prequels, rather than drawing on the extended universe and resurrecting Palpatine. Surely fans would rather see new Sith with mysterious backstories than bringing back a baddie who has already had a presence in six films and a satisfying screen death. 

Tons of Jedi

The prequel saga also looked to expand the ranks of the Jedi, with some great results. The most notable new introduction was Mace Windu, the first black Jedi on screen, portrayed by Samuel L Jackson. Well-served by the writing, Jackson got more than his fair share of chances to shine, experiencing everything from Jedi Council scene-stealing  to great battle scenes, as well as standing up to evil Anakin, fighting the Emperor and ultimately getting his arm chopped off - thus continuing a classic onscreen tradition.

Sadly, for every Mace Windu there were at least five Kit Fistos – cool ideas forced to exist as underdeveloped background characters, or live out their best plots in cartoon form. Thankfully, The Battle of Geonosis, one the few redeeming features of Attack Of The Clones, gave all the Jedi a chance to show off their skills. Opportunities for Jedi to work as a team and show off their abilities are a sure-fire recipe for great entertainment, and this writer is grateful that he got to see it, despite the undeniable flaws elsewhere in the film.

The smaller lightsaber duels were great too, as Lucas treated us to everything from cool force moments to countless backflips and even Anakin wielding two lightsabers against Count Dooku. Jedi in the prequels proved to be the complete opposite of Alec Guiness and puppet Yoda’s tottering around in the original series. Viewers finally saw how effective the Jedi were at the height of their powers, an on-screen reality to match the lively imaginations of fans since the 1970s.  

CGI Yoda’s amazing acrobatics in his Revenge Of The Sith battle were undeniably memorable, as was the sight of Obi-Wan holding has own against a multi-limbed lightsaber-wielding cyborg. These face-offs were fantastic wish-fulfilment for viewers, and it’s unfair to include them in the generalisation that the prequels were a steaming pile of Bantha poodoo.

Expansive new planets

Since the very first scene in A New Hope, where the rebel ship attempts to outrun the Imperial Star Destroyer, fans have known that the Star Wars galaxy was as vast as our own. But as brilliant as the original trilogy was, their filmmakers were limited by technology and budgets, so viewers were treated to strange foreign planets… which looked a lot like the desserts, forests and swamps of our very own planet earth. This didn’t damage the spectacle at all, but the dawn of CGI has the ability to create new worlds and landscapes you couldn’t possibly make, let alone shoot, practically.

Even though they chose to inhabit it with the likes of Jar Jar Binks, The Phantom Menace gave us Naboo, a fully realised planet in all its glory. Sci-fi fans were treated to every aspect of the planet, from its palaces down to its streets, then down further to the underwater Gungan city and then all the way up into orbit for the climactic space battle.

The prequel trilogy became even braver in its final (and undoubtedly best) instalment. The visuals in Revenge Of The Sith are nothing short of astounding – from the opening space battle-turned-crash landing on Coruscant to the lavish lava of Mustafar where the final duel takes place.

Even Tatooine, the hive of scum and villainy, was expanded to include an amazing pod race sequence. Although some of the writing was undeniably awful, the prequels looked consistently brilliant.

Plenty of heart

Yes, Lucas’ attempt at showing us true love in the prequels was just god awful and the romance subplot absolutely ruined Attack Of The Clones. "I hate sand" is still one  of the most hilariously bad chat-up lines ever, and the rolling around in the grass was a whole universe’s worth of cliché cruelly combined for our viewing pleasure (or pain).

Those terrible scenes aside, there was undeniably a massive amount of heart in the prequels. In what could have easily become a CGI fight-fest (and yes, I know it was at points), the main characters' motivations were actually handled pretty well.

Obi-Wan’s dismay at Qui-Gon’s death is a highlight of the whole franchise, and gave the young Ewan McGregor something meaty to get his acting chops around. The heightened emotion for Obi-Wan, combined with the terrific Duel Of The Fates score, makes this one of the best battles in Star Wars history. As Abrams looks to craft his first lightsaber duel, he could do worse than taking inspiration from this sequence.

Although Anakin’s reversal of this scene, where he cries over his mother’s death before heartlessly murdering a tribe of sand people, doesn’t quite reach the  same emotional heights (perhaps due to the quality gap between the actors), you can see how Lucas was trying to create contrasting parallels across the whole franchise – how both Jedi reacted differently to personal losses.

While Obi-Wan sticks to the light path and sees the opportunity to take Anakin under his wing, becoming the Jedi master who would later lead Luke to the redemption of the galaxy, Anakin becomes a messed up ball of worry, plagued by visions of death and driven by the idea of immortality and saving his loved ones at any cost, famously becoming a total planet-destroying bastard and right hand man to the  tyrannical despot of the galaxy, before finding redemption in Return Of The Jedi.

Their final prequel duel in Revenge Of The Sith, although plagued with terrible dialogue ("From my point of view the Jedi are evil!", "I hate you!", and so on), is a big emotional battle too. Anakin is pure rage and anger, trying desperately to kill his former master and prolong his own life, while Obi-Wan starts by merely trying to defend himself while attempting to coax Anakin back to the light. Obi-Wan cannot even bring himself to finally kill his pupil when given the chance.

Although the dialogue and Christensen’s plank-of-wood acting style make the sequence far-from-perfect, it's difficult to fault the concepts behind it. Like much of the prequel trilogy, the ideas work but the execution is about as effective as chopping someone’s limbs off and hoping for the best. Lucas knew that the prequels needed to be built on heart and emotion, like the father-son reveal and the very-weird-in-hindsight love-triangle of the originals. Sadly, he was far too content to cast on looks rather than abilities, and presumably, no one had the guts to ever question his scripts.

A new hope?

So, just as there are plenty of negative lessons to learn from the prequels that we’re all well aware of (actually cast good actors, check your scripts for trite dialogue, don’t invent a terrible character ‘for the kids’), there are also several positive things that JJ Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy et al could take from the trilogy. Despite all the flaws, Lucas injected plenty of heart into his central conflict, created a beautiful visual world through CGI, introduced some show-stealing new Sith, and expanded the Jedi order through new characters and their individual fighting skills.

So with a barrage of Disney-led Star Wars sequels on the way, let's hope that JJ Abrams and his creative team aren’t throwing everything that was good about the prequels out of the window.

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As just a viewer not fan of Star Wars, I disagree. The prequels were awful and excessively juvenile in pitch. Not a patch on the originals. Darth Maul had presence but barely any scripted character. He was only cool because the actor and the design imbued presence, in spite of the lack of character in the script. In my view Grievous was cr*p and loads of Jedi fighting on screen devalued and reduced them to generic fighters there to be killed. And perhaps the worst thing, script-wise, was the portrayal of why Anakin turned to the dark side. Not directly because, per the originals, he'd been corrupted by power and the dark side, but to save his wife and because he'd killed Samuel L Jackson's character. Awful films best forgotten.

Thank you so much for this article. While I can understand fans of the original trilogy not warming up that much to the prequels and that there are many genuine flaws, I've never felt the sheer hatred for them so many other seem to feel. New worlds were explored; we got interesting new villains and Jedi; by 'Revenge of the Sith' you could see the natural progression towards the state of the galaxy in Episode IV (in technology, for instance); and the music was a beautiful as it has ever been. For something that was almost doomed to fail at living up to long years of nostalgia and fandom from the start, I think that's quite an acceptable achievement.

And is everyone going to keep harping on about how the original trilogy was perfect and the prequels pale in comparison? The love triangle was practically resolved by fear of incest, and the Empire was defeated by cute and cuddly Ewoks. Every 'Star Wars' film had its major problems (except, perhaps, 'The Empire Strikes Back').

Ah, Jango Fett's was the debut beheading of the series.

I actually think the author of this article is right to look for positives in the prequels. As a fan, but more over someone who loves to watch movies, these were generally better films than what was generally slated. The problem with these films were that the main character, Anakin, was handled terribly throughout the three films. There is no getting away from this, and I wish the part wasn't given to a someone who didn't have any real acting credentials. And also the inclusion of Jar Jar Binks! While his character was essential to the first film's plot... I just wanted to punch him. But, Quigon's character and ObiWan more-so were highlights of the series... Yoda is also freaking cool in these prequels, where in the Empire, and Jedi, all I can think of is Mark Hamill is making a guest appearance on Sesame Street! So pick the good from all 6 films JJ and go forth and make something that we can be proud of to say we are fans of these films. In JJ we trust!

The Midichlorians are strong with this one.

The one thing the prequels had to do was turn Anakin into Darth Vader, at the very latest this should have been done at the end of the 2nd film, leaving the third film for him to run riot killing off all the jedi.

Maul, Dooku and Greivous were 3 good villains. The trouble was there were three of them. They never lasted long enough for any particular character development, they were just there as people to have lightsaber fights with, padding while we waited for Darth Vader.

To be perfectly honest, reading this title on the main page, I was expecting a much shorter article.
Interesting read though.

Can someone clear something up for me? I remember at one point there was
dialogue which said that the Sith were extinct and then later on
dialogue that there were only ever 2 Sith. Not exactly hard to go from 2
to zero, is it?

I always took it to mean that Sith came in
pairs (master and apprentice), so if you found one, there had to be
another; after all if there were only 2 Sith in total, it shouldn't have
been hard for the numerous Jedi to win, should it? I just remember
hearing the dialogue about the number of Sith and thinking it seem both
very specific about the number and also that it couldn't possibly be
what they meant, surely?

Have I taken things correctly or is it just wishful thinking on my part?

With regards to lightsaber fights, I'd much sooner they return to the somewhat slower, but much more tense battles of the originals, compared to the flash bang wallop excitement of the prequels. You can have the space battles for stuff happening quickly and the excitement! Any type of sword fighting should give ample opportunity for classic quotes!

Sorry to disagree but the prequels were terrible for all the reasons you've listed.

Having a new villain every film was just a toy-selling opportunity on the part of Lucas. Darth Maul was a brilliant creation but he was killed off when (like Vader in the originals) he should have remained a threat throughout the trilogy. Christopher Lee was criminally wasted with banal dialogue and complete lack of any motivation or character development. For Lucas to waste the talents of such a cult screen icon just underscores how terrible a director Lucas became with his obsession with style over substance.

If there are to be more Jedi in the new films can they at least be able to last more than 5 seconds against any potential Sith threat. The way in which 3 members of the Jedi Counsel were dispatched by Palpatine so quickly was laughable.

If a multitude of new worlds/planets are to be featured let it be for a good reason other than to showcase ILM's ability to render CG cities. Just watch the "special Edition" original trilogy and you'll see what I mean. The CGI additions to Mos Eisley and the celebrations at the end of "Jedi" were completely unnecessary and stuck out like a sore thumb.

Oh, and I don't recall there ever being any "heart" to the prequels...

They should have Darth Maul return as per Clone wars cartoons!. His brother rescues him and he now has some pretty awesome new robolegs! :) Give Ray Park a call!! NOW!!

Corrected. Thanks for the spot, my bad!

Acting. They should have acting in these new ones.

Nope, sorry. I'd actually list 'tons of jedis/jedi & lighsaber fatigue' and 'crap villains' (Greivous and Dooku) as some of the many WEAK points in the prequels. And 'heart'? I really, REALLY disagree with that one.

Genuinely good points about the prequels? Some great art direction and production design, Ian McDiarmid camping it up, some great John Williams music, and the Drew Struzan posters were great. That's literally about it.

The prequels were poor films at the time of release and have dated horribly since. A couple of years ago, I sat down with my girlfriend to watch the original movies as she had never seen them before. Having loved the OT, she wanted more, and asked if we could give the prequels a go. Literally 10 minutes in to The Phantom Menace she turned to me with a look of disgust, her nose wrinkled up. "Why does everything look so weird?", "This is nothing like the other films" "Who are all these people?"etc etc. And off it went, never to be watched again.

That was a totally objective, unbiased opinion, and it speaks volumes.

the prequels were awful in every sense, the light sabre battles dull, the overuse c.g.i. unforgivable, uninteresting and wooden characters, the script and performances, everything about them stinks like week old fish, if abrams has any sense he will steer clear of unnecessary c.g.i. and use as much practical effects and location shooting as possible

Rob you must have a heart of gold. First you defend Spider-man 3, and now the prequel trilogy. I wish I could be so generous after so much disappointment and wasted money.

The thing about the prequel trilogy that really bothered me was what it did to Vader. In the original trilogy there was so much mystery and dread around him. And then to learn he was once a truly great Jedi. Just a brilliant character. But then when we get to see his journey. And he's not a great Jedi. He's a brat that seems to lose a limb almost every time he battles someone. Try as I might, I can't erase that from my mind. I see Vader and I see an idiot that tried to leap frog Obi only to get his arms and legs chopped off.
The prequels add nothing positive to the Star Wars mythos. They only detract.

I do always try to look for positives! Totally agree that Anakin's prequel back story didn't do justice to the original trilogy mystery and the backstory teases by old Obi-Wan in Episode IV, one of many wasted opportunities! The fact I was 8 years old when Phantom Menace came out might explain my blind optimism...

I feel much the same about Community Season Four. Easily the weakest of all the seasons, but it still had some plus points I don't want them to forget. Particularly the stellar work done on Shirley's character, better than anything she got in s1-3. I don't want them to throw out the baby with the bathwater, and I think it's the same with the prequels. Anyone who says they had no merit whatsoever has their head up their own arse. Hell, even The Room has some potentially interesting moments, if completely stupidly executed.

Well at least this time they have a director that knows how to direct actors not just special effects.

It's an age thing. Below a certain age, Star Wars is eps 4, 5 + 6, and entirely focused on Luke and his adventures, and that stupid prequel stuff.
Above it, it's a series of six films which entirely focus on Anakin's journey for three films, and then jump to being about him and his son trying to kill each other for the next three. The prequels are extremely jarring if you were a kid in the 70s.

Although I don't agree with most of what you said I do fully agree about the music, art direction and production design. And who the hell can't love Ian McDiarmid for having a whale of a time, especially in RotS! My god that man can overact in the best possible way.

I'm done with Star Wars. They brought me hours of joy as a child. But the prequels were tantamount to ripping my own beating heart out of my chest and stamping on it. My new Sci-Fi inspiration is Neill Blomkamp, District Nine and Elysium are truly defining movies in Sci-Fi.

Fair enough. I suppose it's an example of the old adage "be careful what you wish for". I think nearly everyone (including myself) wanted to see that Vader backstory when it was teased in the original trilogy. Having seen it, I wish I could have the old Vader back with all the mystery.
As an aside I think I was slightly older when I saw them for the first time. I remember going to Attack of the Clones on a date with my first girlfriend! When it ended I immediately turned to the girl and apologised for inflicting something so awful on her-but turns out she loved it. Perhaps that's when I first realised we'd never last.

"Plenty of heart"? Most of the characters were cardboard cut-outs who couldn't care less about each other - look at Red Letter Media's review where he asks people to describe characters from the prequel episodes without using their name or what they wore. Nobody could.

Hopefully Abrams has watched Bioware's Old Republic trailer about the Battle of Alderaan. That had an epic lightsaber fight, because of the moves and the high use of Force powers. Something we don't see a lot of in the movies.

I loved the prequels and the sequels that followed them. I think most people don't realize that it was Jar Jar Binks fault that the clone war happened. The only problem I have with 7,8 & 9 is I don't see where there is to go with the story. But I will see it cause I enjoy watching motion pictures.

Totally agree. The prequels are pretty much terrible from start to finish, for me.

With these new ones, write a good story with good characters and don't let anybody touch a green screen until this is nailed down.

I was such a shame they managed to cock it up so badly. Darth Maul was INCREDIBLE, but we hardly got to see him before he was killed off. And the transition of Anakin to Darth Vader was WAY too rushed. In the space of half an hour, he'd gone from being a troubled anti-hero to killing 4 year old children - seriously?

It was a story that seemed difficult to ruin, but somehow George Lucas managed just that. But I have high hopes for this next trilogy and its spin-offs - 2015 can't come quickly enough...

Red Letter Media's review of Star Trek (also directed by Abrams) is mainly full of praise, applauding its ability to pay fan-service AND appeal to a contemporary audience.
Given that this is the same outlet that gave us absolutely scathing deconstructions of all the SW prequels. I'm inclined to feel hopeful for Abram's ability to deliver.

Agree on the Vader point. Having Anakin suddenly appear dressed as Vader in the final scene of the 2nd film would surely have been instantly one of the greatest-ever cliffhangers?

Instead we got, "NNOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!"

Dreadful.

Oh dear, doomed by the Clones! Exactly spot on about 'what you wish for', I feel the same now when people start hating on Iron Man 3 for example, it's insane how much money Hollwood spends on geeky cinema now! We would've all signed up for that a few years ago, but it can't always be perfect!

Wow, did they get a new director?

Zing!

In spite of all the money lavished on these movies - the best character was a dude in face paint.

Pretty true for the most part, the only thing I really disagree with is the 'Tons of Jedi' thing. I guess that would be assumed since the Empire is (presumably) overthrown by Luke and the rebels, but still, what made a lightsaber so special in the original trilogy, was that there were only a few people who possessed one. Think about it: Obi-Wan had, like, 2 (one was Anakin's until he gave it to Luke), Luke constructed one, Darth Vader had one as well, and maybe even the Emperor and Yoda (although they never use it). That's like, 4 lightsabers seen in the ENTIRE trilogy, and it's what made them so special. In the prequels, yeah, the lightsaber duels HAVE been wonderfully choreographed, but the lightsaber lost its importance along with the Jedi, sort of.

I think it's sadly inevitable though.

Much shorter version of a question I posted here earlier.

How many Sith were there meant to be?

Totally agree

Are you kidding? I much prefer puppet Yoda than the laughable ninjaesque fighting-like-a-cat-on-a-hot-tin-roof Yoda of the prequels.The Dooku lightsaber fight was just ridiculous and lost Yoda all his dignity in my eyes.

Lucas went way too far on many aspects. Jedi powers went from simply being able to influence weak minds, enhance senses and pick up objects to bringing down star destroyers. Why do they even need lightsabers if they are that powerful? Can't they just force-crush any opponent from a distance?

The Jedi saber fighting styles became too flashy also. Ludicrous and unnecessary spins and flips while sword fighting are likely to severely decrease your chances of survival. The battle between Luke and Vader at the end of the Empire Strikes Back is a thing of beauty because of the simplicity of the fighting styles. It is gripping. I know the different styles are supposed to reflect the different Jedi's personalities but wouldn't you think they would each be taught the same style at the academy?

And one last thing. How about we scale it back a bit and give the characters a chance to breathe and grow.

I stand by my long held view that all of the prequels are flawed works, but that the only truly bad film among them is Episode II. The others are still quite good, for the reasons already outlined above in the article (and very well too, for that matter).

Slight side bar here: Has anyone seen the hilarious interview of the kid who played Anakin in Episode I from a couple of years ago? It's hysterical how much he apparently hates his life and what acting in Star Wars has done to it. :D

Yoda do not had a lightsaber. Yoda do not FIGHT.

I think a good prequel is a much harder thing to achieve than a good sequel. Remember the sucker punch in the stomach you felt when you found out Darth Vader is *spoiler!* Luke's father, or Leia was his sister? They couldn't replicate that in the sequels.

Strange foreign planets… which looked a lot like the desserts... yummy :-)

Always two, there are. A master and an apprentice.

I like the word "Always" in that context. I would love it if the Force, to provide balance, actually turned people who may otherwise have been decent Jedi sorts into Sith when there is a gap to be filled :)

While I disagree with a lot of your points - I thought Mace Windu was one of the most boring characters in a sea of incredibly boring characters, and very badly played by Jackson, while the excess of lightsaber fights got seriously tedious, and Yoda SHOULDN'T HAVE A LIGHTSABER AT ALL - I applaud you for taking the prequels' side. You're opening yourself up to a lot of fan rage. I'm sure it'll get plenty of clicks ;) Personally I think the prequels ARE pretty much as awful as their reputation suggests, and having re-watched them over Christmas I was newly struck by the multiple levels on which they fail as films. But still, they're not wholly without merit, and a more nuanced analysis of them is welcome. Whether Abrams will take the right lessons from them, on the other hand... we will watch his career with great interest.

That being said, I must take issue with your take on Obi-Wan not killing Anakin at the end of Revenge of the Sith. Re-watching that film, I thought that - apart from their fight being about ten minutes too long - Obi-Wan de-legging his former friend and leaving him to die was not just a hideously callous action, but a fundamental betrayal of the character of Obi-Wan, and of what we've been shown of the Jedi code. The guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy? Supposedly enlightened beings? And Obi-Wan brutally mutilates his friend and leaves him to slowly slide down a bank into some lava? "You were my brother, Anakin!" he wails, before buggering off. What was his thought process there? He either had some hope that Anakin would survive, and be rescued, or he figured he was going to die anyway and left him to suffer. Stupid? Cowardly? Brutal? Take your pick. Certainly not merciful. It would have been more merciful to just cut the poor guy's head off.

TL;DR - it's just quite appalling behaviour, really.

Definitely with you on the arresting Palpatine scene! It gets me every time! Even if you ignore the fact that 2 of those jedi didn't even get in a single parry, and the other only a few, the actual deaths are still comedic!

You should do a similar article, with a focus on the Expanded Universe as well. Lots of rich content there, in many cases, far far better than anything in the prequels.

A certain Grand Admiral comes to mind...

Agreed. Although they had some really great actors on board.

Personally, I think it's hard to get anything out of your actors when you are constantly standing in a green screen set with the director shouting at you, "Ok...now look left, there's something flying by your shoulder! Ok now... run, you're surrounded by robots...".

It's hard to really 'get in the moment'.

Oh yeah, absolutely. Have you seen the behind the scenes footage with Natalie Portman just ducking and dodging non existant objects on a green screen stage?

When I saw Sith in 2005 I walked out the cinema thinking something was lacking and had been for all the prequels. I wanted to love them or at least like them because it was Star Wars but couldn't.
A few months later I saw Serenity and I realised what it was that Star Wars lacked. Heart.
Simply put the prequels were lacking. Lacking in heart, fun, passion, story and the creativity required to make a good film and I would happily watch Serenity a thousand times than watch any of the prequels ever again.

MACE WINDU : There is no doubt. The mysterious warrior was a Sith.
YODA : Always two there are....no more...no less. A master and an
apprentice.
MACE WINDU : But which one was destroyed, the master or the apprentice?

Mace's assertion here made me take that to mean there are always a pair of Sith if you find one, rather than only ever being two sith existing.

KI-ADI : Impossible! The Sith have been extinct for a millenium.

Yoda has been around for 900 years, so he probably knew a fair amount of sith history as a young'un.:

"Mace's assertion here made me take that to mean there are always a pair
of Sith if you find one, rather than only ever being two sith existing"

Yes, that's exactly how I took it to mean at the time, it's just that it could be taken to mean that there's just two in isolation full stop. Did we ever see any other Sith about? Was Christopher Lee's Dooku also a Sith?

I suppose I never questioned Yoda's statement. Dooku...is one of "the lost Twenty" who left the Jedi Order. He serves Darth Sidious as 'Lord Tyranus', the word 'Darth' isn't mentioned in his name. So he could be a Dark Jedi, or perhaps with the red lightsaber and fights with Jedi, we're supposed to assume he's a sith? But I get what you mean - Palpatine is pretty much the one and only sith around after Maul until he persuades Anakin to join the Dark Side.

Don't feel that way, I liked "Spider-Man 3" and although the Prequels are flawed, they aren't failures I don't think!

I admire optimism but this is like trying to find the good things to come out a train wreck or a world war. All the reasons cited were partly why it all failed. The only positive thing about the prequels is all the petulant rants and laughing they have inspired by being so very bad.

I spent a long time wishing I was Darth Maul when episode 1 came out

Fnar ................................. fnar Larissa.

what i want to do is get Marvel to give all the raw footage available to a new director and see if he could edit it better than Lucas.

Sounds like she is a keeper.

I do agree with the Jedi (we got to see different races of aliens and how they are as jedi, not just humans), the new planets were cool especially the hell planet in Revenge of the Sith and I liked General Grevious but the rest was a bit meh.

I recently played through the Metal Gear series and was struck at how well their prequels tell the story of how (till then) the series arch villain "Big Boss" (yep, that's his name) became the man he was, so much so I feel his prequel stories (mainly the first one "Snake Eater) are better than the core series featuring the hero "Solid Snake". And then, once again, I was struck at just how much of a wasted potential the Star Wars prequel where instead of adding to Vader's mythology they damn near destroyed it.
It's not as if the MGS story is known for it's coherence or even plausibility, but at least when telling the story of their how their villain came to be they had the sense to create a flawed anti-hero following a particular road of self-destruction, a character who made some kind of sense measured against what came after, rather than offering some ipso-facto "this happened so then he became BAD" trite.
The only positives the Star wars prequels offer are in an object lesson in what not to do.

I often refer back to Den of Geek's excellent "The Case for Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" article, which also manages to find the bright spots in the universe.

Another good article here, thanks.

In my humble opinion, even the 'good' points of the prequels have over the years become less and less appealing. As an 8-year-old, I absolutely loved the climactic battle between Yoda and Dooku for example, but now in 2014 I roll my eyes at the thought of it. Wise old Master Yoda, reduced to a jumping, spinning, green ball of CGI yelling nuttiness? Bah...

Yeah, I agree. Episodes 1 and 2 about getting the audience to like Anakin, and then have him change and a really dark final movie taking us from his conversion and the growth of the empire, up to his ship capturing Leia. That would have been cool :)

Sadly I dislike the prequel trilogy immensely, even some of the aspects mentioned as positive above.

Its simple though, all JJ Abrams needs to do is watch the Redlettermedia analysis videos and follow the advice!?

I too have found positives in the prequels, the fight between Maul, Qui Gon and Obi Wan was epic at the time as it was really the first proper fight we had seen between Jedi and Sith (barring a shot skirmish) and it showed the older style of Qui Gon against the more agile Maul followed by plenty of emotion shown by Obi Wan that he probably should've kept bottled up, also the opening sequence to Revenge was pretty good as well, there are a few other highlights, though Episode 2 can be struck from the record as far as I care. I did find plenty of positives in the prequels,none involving younger actors I'd have to say... Oh and Leia was the eldest... grrrr!

To take the point raised by Mr Plinkett, one of the main problems with Phantom Menace is that there ISN'T a main character in the film. We don't even meet Anakin for ages...

District 9, sure! Elysium? That was a pretty shallow action movie with very little to offer but brilliant visuals, IMHO.

Great point about Obi-Wan there. It never even occurred to me how strange and callous he was being by doing that...

Nah, the crappiness began with the writing...

Lucas could have hired any genius writers/directors out there, but instead decided to do both duties himself. I'll never understand that.

" the prequels looked consistently brilliant."

Well, the ones I watched looked like garish cartoons whizzing about so fast that you couldn't make anything out and so didn't care. All the locations looked flat and entirely unconvincing.

I'm with you, Jon dude, I'm done with the 'Wars myself too... Luca$ has systematically destroyed every ouunce of innocent joy and sense of wonder that used to be standard with these films... and mangled them beyond recognition through the corporate grinder! It's no longer a saga, it's corporate product, a commercial franchise designed with one intent in mind; to keep Lucasfilm in business and pay for it's enormous overhead costs, period!

I could go on at length about not only why the prequels stank like a whorehouse at high noon, but also why preserving the mystery and mystique of the backstory was a much better idea than actually showing it onscreen... I could but I won't, because, quite simply, I couldn't give a monkey's toss about the 'Wars anymore... and that includes the clearly mercenary-motivated new trilogy!

All that being said, I still LOVE the Original Trilogy, and once they're released again in they're original theatrical versions - and it will happen sooner or later - then I'll be first in line to hand over my moolah, make no mistake, but that's where it ends for me... the OT is a perfectly self-contained story in three acts that needs neither prequels nor sequels nor spin-offs; beginning with 'Star Wars', continued in 'The Empire Strikes Back', and ending definitively with 'Return of the Jedi'... thank you, goodnight, curtains, the end.

I do, it can be summed up in one simple word: HUBRIS.

The rule of two is an invention of the sith to stop infighting and dilution of power, not a rule of the SW universe :)

I think theres plenty to like in the prequels. All the fanboys of the OT will always hate the new stuff, undoubtedly whatever JJ cooks up they'll find a reason to hate, just the way it goes.

That being said, one of my biggest gripes with all the films is the way EVERY, SINGLE lightsaber fight ends, namely, terribly. The WORST OFFENDER is the maul/obi one ending. Obi Wan, hanging a long way below decides to leap (slowly) up and over Maul, who still has his lightsaber drawn, and has long ago realised Obi is upto something. OW having enough time to fly up and over and cut him in half is ludicrous.

Emperors death is even worse. Probably most powerful force being who's ever lived. Killed by a useless black fumbling half robot, by the terrifying act of picking him up and throwing him. Even IF, the shock prevented him from doing anything at all in the seconds vader has him above his head (and why would it), why on earth would a fall down a shaft kill him?! Awful.

Darth Maul was garbage, we know next to nothing about his character or motivation and he dies straight away - who the hell cares?

Epic lightsaber battles... are not what makes Star Wars awesome.

Please, for the love of JJ, can we just pretend they don't exist because they are not Star Wars, they are just very bad films, a wolf in sheeps clothing.

They did have good acting, they unfortunately had bad acting too, and the bad acting overrode the good, it was the lead that was the most wooden..

One good thing to come out of the prequels is the Attack of the Clones animated series, my kids love it and I find it enjoyable, the acting is much better! I just hope they can drag some of the more liked characters from that into the new films, having Ashoka a Rex appear as in the new films would be a good idea, characters known and loved by their target age group of kids and adults alike. I doubt there is a boy at my sons school who does not know them...

Why is it hilarious that someone hates their life? Are you sick?
The prequels are all very poor films.

I agree, I have been a Star Trek fan as long as I can remember, and I loved the new Star Trek films, sure there were flaws, but the flaws in Star Trek were in the science/technology used to create/move the story. they did not ruin the film.

Now with Star Wars, I think he will do a great job, all he needs is a cast as good as Star Trek has now (and you have to admit, the new Star Trek has an amazingly talented cast)

Sadly I find this to be the case for most people... if you loved it as a child, you defend it as an adult. In the case of the SWP you really need to be more objective though because they're just plain awful on every level.

Heart? No that was exactly what was missing.

And "CGI Yoda’s amazing acrobatics in his Revenge Of The Sith battle were undeniably memorable" - ye gods I WISH I could forget that. As other writers have explained before, Yoda wielding a lightsabre completely misses the point of Yoda.

Here's my theory - the Jedi were never meant to be what they have become. If you watch the original trilogy and build up clues as to what the Jedi were from those scenes alone, you get a very atmospheric picture of a secret society of do-gooders - someone can be a Jedi as well as holding any other profession.

From some place came the idea of the Jedi as some kind of monastic police force and it is horrible, truly horrible. Some of the blame for that lies in the Extended Universe but the prequels codified it, and I hate them.

Darth Vader = Anakin, i.e. the most powerful Jedi ever, supposed to bring balance to the force and all that...
he is more powerful than the emperor, and the Emperor did use force lightning to try and stop him, I think that is what killed Vader...
And who knows if the Emperor died from the fall? He may have survived.. soon after the Whole death star exploded, ensuring he was dead!

They certainly had a great art team - from Darth Maul to the battle droids to the spaceships and clone troops, everything was beautifully designed - even if the abundant use of relatively primitive cgi backgrounds renders the films themselves a bit of an ungainly eyesore to watch now, a decade later.

I loved McDiarmid - he was the only member of the cast who looked like he was having fun and didn't act in that weird, stilted way everyone else did. Even great, charismatic actors like Liam Neeson give very awkward performances in the prequels.

The music is great - especially 'Duel of the Fates' which they bizarrely opted not to use during the showdown between Anakin and Kenobi. That song at the end of The Phantom Menace though (the fruity number with the laughing kids that is an inversion of the Emperor's Theme from RotJ)... Yeesh, that's best forgotten.

It was the main thing that stuck out for me on my re-watch - and the only thing that made me actually angry, in the way that many people are about the prequels. Mostly I think they're rubbish films, and a huge missed opportunity, and there are lots of irritating things in them, but I don't find them offensive. That final scene, though... it was just so fundamentally wrong. I think a lot of the awful choices in the prequels can be explained, if not excused, but I'm still mystified as to what we're supposed to take away from that scene.

While I agree with you on the Clone Wars series (the best Star Wars has been since Jedi for me), I can't agree that the prequels had good acting. They had good actors, but not good acting; a fallout from the way the movies were made as said above.

the new star trek films may be entertaining on the most superficial level imaginable but as star trek films they fail on every level imaginable, the new cast and their portrayal the characters is awful, star trek has been dragged down to the level of the dumbest action blockbusters, perhaps not as low as michael bay fare but not far off
star wars is of course a completely different kettle of fish to star trek so perhaps there's a chance abrams can pull something off but i hold little hope after the mess he made of star trek

Maybe I am, heh... I don't know, it's kind of hard to feel sorry for someone when they get paid a significant amount of money to do something and they don't even do a very good job of it. His portrayal of Anakin was lacking to say the least.

Largely agree with this. The main problem I have with the CGI though was that it often lacked verisimilitude in Attack of the Clones. To be fair though, it had vastly improved by Sith although the CG troopers still looked a bit like they belonged in a video game. It was frustrating watching Christensen's performance in Sith on TV recently; he was much better than in Clones right up until the end when he screwed it up with his weird delivery in the face-off with Obi Wan (although, to be fair, the dialogue didn't help). The biggest problem I have with the prequels (and this applies more to the first two than the third one), was the way the actors are forced to speak very flat, formal dialogue in very flat formal tones with no word abbreviations and with lots of odd stilted pauses in between exchanges.

Yes, yes, I hear what you say about Obi Wan and agree - yet it was satisfying seeing Anakin having his arse kicked after turning into such a cock.

Honestly, the only thing I can really remember about any of the 3 movies was the impressive lightsabre battle early in episode 1 between Maul and Kenobi/Qui-Gon Jinn. That was a surprisingly well choreographed battle but everything else was quite forgettable.

The only positives I would take out of the trilogy would be.....double sided lightsabres! EPIC!

Love the spoiler tag :)

Sorry but I have to disagree. I thought most of the cast (especially the core trio) nailed their roles. Thematically they are light weight in comparison to trek of old but they've given a lot of new energy to a franchised I've loved all my life.

The big themes of Star Trek work best as a TV show anyway. The films were always more superficial. The film that tried to tackle the biggest issues turned out to be the worst film (The Final Frontier). Star Treks 2, 6 and 8 worked well as they took elements of the TV show and made revenge thrillers out of them...which is what JJ Abrams did with his prequels.

I would got so far as to say that I can't think of anyone better than JJ Abrams to direct Episode VII as he understands the mythology (being a big Star Wars fan himself). The bigger worry is who the writers will be. As much as I love the Star Trek films he did there are quite a lot of plot holes.

Lucas had a strange way of directing, apparently he'd just tell actors to speak faster and more intense, which doesn't really help the actors out.

I don't know I think the acting from Ewan Mcgregor and liam Neeson was decent, Christopher Lee was also decent despite his limited screen time

Episode 1 was alright IMO...it was just ruined by THAT character. Ep 2 was puerile, 99% CGI garbage. It was over-reliance on the CGI that bummed me out.

GL basically just did a shitty job of fitting a prequel story in with the originals. They could have been written soooooooooo much better.

He made the original Star Wars in that way and only took more of a back seat for the others due to fatigue fighting the system from that first film so taking it on himself after such a long break was a natural step.

Bring Darth Maul back. make him float around like that Wordy from words & pictures.

Yes. And by the time the prequels came around, he had enough money that he could call all the shots. I seem to remember that they technically count as 'independent' films.

But there's a difference between studio 'meddling' and simply hiring the best of the best to see your ideas come to fruition.

If I forced you to finger paint with faeces, would the crappy artwork be your fault or my fault? Sorry: GL is responsible.."WEEEEEEEEeeeEEEEEeeeeEEEEeeE"

You mean Ewan 'rubs beard' Mcgregor. Where did he get that accent?

Agree entirely about Mace Windu and Obi Wan. Going right back to Star Wars ( sorry, A new hope) it was said that Darth Vader had fought Obi Wan and fallen into a Volcano. If Anakin had fallen out of sight the stupidness could of been avoided.

Agree. Lucas went to far. The light sabre battles especially. The only one that got it right was the Darth Maul one.

I've actually come to the opinion that Phantom Menace is the better of the prequels. The main reason being the sense of disappointment I felt after seeing Attack of the Clones and Revenge. After seeing Phantom Menace for the first time I thought it was ok. Not brilliant but ok. Set the scene, introduce the characters set the story for the next two darker films. It had Liam Neeson in it, (the only actor to come out unscathed), it had the pod race and it had the best lightsaber battle. But from then on, the whole Anakin turning to the dark side, I just didn't feel it.
Just a quick thought. I would of made Padme Palpatine's secret daughter and the sith that turned Anakin.

the prequels should not get forgotten about no. there are things that where awesome. something that where done a little better then the originals (tho very few). try and combine the great stuff from them and the originals. like only use cgi when the ships are flying about and space battles but have people sitting in a real cockpit. not a green screen.

10 Thoughts..
(1) Anakin should have been a teenager in Episode 1
(2) Episode 3 was the best movie of the prequels (and that's not saying much!)
(3) The art direction & special effects for each prequel were some of the best i've ever seen(Should have won the Oscar for both.. if didn't.)
(4) Dialogue was some the WORST I've ever had heard on screen( should have won a Razzie for screenplay for each prequel.. if didn't!)
(5) If the prequels are cannon use a couple of elements from them and then BURY the rest in history..
(6) I will admit the climax in each film was NOT predictable and i was into each finale!
(7) BUT i had to sit through 2 hrs of each film to get to the climaxes!!
(8) Didn't mind the flashy light saber saber battles..Something that hadn't been seen before!!
(9)Like some have said before me. Anakin should have transformed in the 2nd Film.(giving him room to be the ultimate bad ass in Episode 3!!)
(10) Will these new films bring back the excitement i had for Star Wars? I am willing to give episode 7 a chance..

Amazing how Mark Hammil can use that excuse, but Hayden Christiansen cannot.

Let's see you say a line like this one convincingly:
"I don't like sand. It's coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything is soft and smooth."

No, it's not the acting. It's the script and the direction.

Yeah, poor actors. They have to pretend that something is there that is not. That must be so hard...it's almost like you have to act.

Good acting tends to come from being face to face with someone so you can play off of each others emotions.

Not being able to see not only the character you are talking to, but also the surroundings you are in, is completely different.

Surely you can understand that without making a sarcastic reply?

I'm not complaining about the acting in the prequels, but I do believe that an actor that understands the script knows how to act a scene regardless of who is in front of them (how else would you rehearse?). Otherwise your succes as a actor would depend on the other actors, which is hardly what makes a great actor great.

The Prequels were largely not well written (plot and dialogue) and even great actors cannot save movies that are all over the place with the story. There are fanedits that make the prequels work really well. All they did is cut out stupid dialogue and poor comic relief elements and - voila - Anakin doesn't come across as a creepy idiot or bad actor.

Claiming that it's so hard acting in front of a green screen or a stand-in actor is really just a sad excuse.

To be fair though George Lucas only directed Mark Hammil in A New Hope, so Mark Hammil can't really use that excuse either.

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