A few days before the release of Star Wars/Episode III/Revenge of the Sith/etc., Star Wars creator and certifiable megalomaniac George Lucas offered his opinion on why so many fans of the franchise were disappointed with the prequels. According to Lucas, “”The older [fans] are loyal to the first three films I made, and they are the ones in control of the media. The films that these people don’t like—which are the first two prequels—are fanatically adored by the under-25s. They are always at each others throats about it.”
That’s right, it’s not Jews who control the media, like the stereotype says; it’s the Star Wars fans.
Unfortunately, Lucas is wrong. The prequels may be better liked by kids, but that’s because they don’t know any better—I watched and loved a lot of crap when I was a kid (He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, anyone?). No, George, there is one very good reason the older, wiser fans don’t like your new movies: they’re bad.
For the five or six people who don’t know what happens in this movie, here’s a summary: the big bad guy, called alternately Chancellor Palpatine and Darth Sidious depending on how much wrinkle cream he put on that morning, tempts Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) to the Dark Side. Anakin becomes very, very naughty, kills a lot of people, falls in lava and ends up in a big black suit with an inordinately loud respirator.
There are some great battles and a few effective scenes. Ian McDiarmid turns in a wonderfully hammy but effective performance as Sidious, a.k.a. the Emperor, and his seduction of Anakin to the Dark Side is actually somewhat convincing (from his side, at least—Christensen doesn’t offer much in the way of acting here).
As I’ve told many people—at length, and despite their pleas—I think the prequels could have written themselves. A problem with the prequels is that, according to the off-screen mythos established in the Star Wars lore (and Lucas takes all that stuff very seriously—he has an entire department devoted to “continuity” in the Star Wars universe of movies, novels, videogames, and so forth)—according to this mythos, Darth Vader hunted down all the Jedi and, presumably, slaughtered a lot of other people besides. So, by making the prequels about Anakin Skywalker’s rise and fall, Lucas was essentially giving us a story about the rise of a Hitler. It doesn’t help that the films are loaded with strange lessons like “fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering”—I won’t argue with the last one, but there is such a thing as righteous anger, and fear is a natural human emotion that should be understood, not suppressed.
The prequels should have been about Obi-Wan and his failure with Anakin, not Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side, with Obi-Wan as a supporting character. But there was a point in this movie when I thought, “Well, they haven’t made Anakin that bad…maybe, other than a few Jedi and a few strangled Imperial captains, he wasn’t as evil as all that, which could make this whole thing work…”
…and then he killed some kids.
That was about it for me. Child-murderers do not deserve sweeping six-film epics devoted to them, period. Near the end of the film, after Anakin’s pregnant wife Padme (a hapless Natalie Portman, clearly aware of how terrible her lines are) has found out about the children, she still tries to talk him into running away with her and leaving the Dark Side, which—after the child-killing—makes her seem like one of those women who clings to her abusive husband. It’s creepy and disturbing, and it doesn’t help that Portman’s dialogue seems to have been cobbled together from Lucas’s copy of The Big Book of Clichéd Dialogue.
Allegedly Tom Stoppard gave the Revenge of the Sith script a once-over. I don’t believe it. Lucas apparently said that these films should be considered “silent films.” Great idea, George—I could imagine the characters were speaking interesting, subtle dialogue, rather than the laughably bad material Lucas came up with. Did he really sit in front of a computer, cup of coffee in hand, and ponder over lines like “I don’t know you anymore”?
The original films actually have a number of funny lines—mostly coming from C-3PO and Han Solo. The prequels, sadly, have no Han Solo character at all. Han Solo is the Everyman character of the original movies; he’s the one people can identify with. He has no supernatural powers. He consistently points out how ridiculous every given situation is. He has real motivations—early on, he’s in it for the money, and later, for love.
Rewatching the original films recently, I’ll admit that there’s a lot about them that hasn’t held up. But they’re still far, far better than the prequels.
And Han Solo is still the man.