After watching Attack of the Clones with my 11 year old daughter, she sent me this drawing of her lightsaber. I remember doing the same thing after seeing The Empire Strikes Back in 1980, rushing home to draw monsters and spaceships. This is all the proof I need that Lucas hasn’t failed, at least when it comes to inspiring a generation of kids.
After a while, all of the anti-prequel memes and videos start to sink in, and I sometimes think, “Hey, maybe these movies really do suck.” But whenever I actually sit down to watch them, I am pleasantly surprised. Despite a barrage of criticism, I have long maintained that Episodes I—III are great movies, and that much of the hate directed at them has to do with growing up and becoming jaded. Conversely, adoration for the originals has much to do with nostalgia. Older fans tend to dismiss the newer films, while younger viewers are typically more appreciative. This dichotomy between young and old has led to much debate. It’s difficult to accept that something you once loved can also be deeply flawed. “It can’t be me!” the haters think, “it must be George!” They insist Lucas has lost his way, that his success was a fluke, attributed to everything else but him. But the facts simply do not bear this out.
You won’t see people attacking Uwe Boll with the same vitriol, despite his highest rated film on Rotten Tomatoes scoring a 25%, with his lowest at 1%. Compare these figures to Lucas’ THX1138, at 88%, or his lowest rated film, The Phantom Menace, at 57% (3% shy of certified fresh). Box office receipts further attest to Lucas’ success as a filmmaker, with The Phantom Menace holding the #6 spot with 474 million, to the original Star Wars at #7 with 460 million. Still, critics insist Lucas is incompetent. It’s a character assassination that has driven the auteur into early retirement, even after saying that he wanted to make “smaller, more personal films.” But you’ll rarely see this kind of hatred for failed directors like Uwe Boll or the Wachowski Brothers/Siblings, or even for M. Night Shyamalan; and it has everything to do with nostalgia, growing up, and unmet expectations.
To test my theory further, and to prepare for The Force Awakens, I sat down with my kids for a week long movie marathon. This was the first they’ve been exposed to Star Wars, and the results were not surprising. Never did my older daughter say to me, “Daddy, why did the movies suddenly get better?” after Episode IV. Of the six films, Attack of the Clones happens to be her favorite, followed by VI, but “they are all pretty close.” My 5 year old, on the other hand, is running around the house knocking things over with her plastic lightsaber.
The prequels are rife with flaws, without question, but what Lucas does well—the action, the special effects, the mythological/philosophical/political motifs—more than make up for it. Besides, a lot of the same flaws get excused when it comes to the originals. And so, after carefully re-watching the saga, I thought it’d be interesting to compare, what I feel, is the worst of the prequels to the worst of the originals.
I should warn you, however, I am very new to podcasting, and would love to have the power to edit this thing. But I can’t, so please forgive the three-hundred or so times I utter the words, “you know.”
If you’d prefer not to listen to my voice (can’t really blame you) here is a list of the flaws I have found in both films:
ATTACK OF THE CLONES
- When the Naboo cruiser is blown up after landing on Coruscant, Corde tells Padme, “I’ve failed you senator.” Well, not really. The purpose of a decoy is to die in place of the person being protected. Oddly, Captain Typho seems to understand this, when he says, “She did her job.”
- Yoda tells Padme, “Seeing you alive brings warm feelings to my heart.” She doesn’t acknowledge him in any way.
- Obi-Wan gets into an argument with Anakin on whether it is in their mandate to find Padme’s assassin. Kenobi insists that their duties do not extend beyond protection. Later, when Kenobi sees the assassin droid outside her bedroom, he jumps through the window to catch it. But it would have made a lot more sense for Anakin to do so, being the impetuous one, and the one determined to find her killer.
- Zam Wessell shoots the droid carrying Kenobi instead of, you know, shooting him.
- Jango Fett uses a “Kamino saber dart” to kill Zam, when he could have used a blaster, leaving a trail for Kenobi to follow (although, it could be argued that Palpatine intended that he find the cloning facility on Kamino).
- A lot of the romantic dialogue is just painful to watch.
- After Anakin admits to murdering children (albeit, children of an “evil” species) Padme seems not to care.
- The most inexplicable mistake, and the one I simply cannot defend: the Jedi never make the connection between Jango Fett, the clones, and Count Dooku. Knowing Fett was hired by Dooku, and that he was also the template for the clones, they should have at least been suspicious of the Republic Army. This could have been fixed with a scene of the Jedi discussing their mistrust of the clones, which might have helped them escape Order 66.
RETURN OF THE JEDI
- The plan to save Han is ridiculously convoluted. First, C3PO and R2D2 show up as gifts for Jabba (just to get them into the movie, I guess). Then Leia arrives in disguise with Chewbacca (again, to get him into the movie), only to get captured. Lando is somewhere in the background, pretending to be someone else. Finally, Luke makes an appearance, only he doesn’t have his lightsaber. What was the original plan exactly?
- Jabba is a fat, naked alien slug with a penchant for “scantily clad human females,” apparently. This makes no sense. It would be like a horse getting turned on by a spider. Even if the point is to “degrade” her, how does Jabba know what is degrading to a human? And where does he even find a slave costume? Do they have racks of sexy outfits in the back somewhere? Slave Leia was, obviously, an attempt to appeal to adolescent boys.
- Luke falls into the rancor pit, using a perfectly sized bone to escape the rancor’s mouth. If the bone had been an inch or two bigger or smaller, he would have been lunch. And why again doesn’t he have his lightsaber?
- Finally, R2D2 shoots Luke’s lightsaber into the air, so he can catch it at the perfect moment, after he somersaults off a diving board. How could he have known any of that was going to happen? It all seems so contrived.
- Boba Fett, the most popular bad guy aside from Darth Vader, the “best bounty hunter in the galaxy,” dies in the most idiotic way imaginable, as Han accidentally hits his jet-back, sending him flying against Jabba’s pleasure barge and into the sarlaac pit. This always seemed, to me, like a lazy way for Lucas to “wrap things up.”
- Leia strangles Jabba to death with a chain. His neck is about three feet wide. It would be like trying to strangle an elephant.
- The entire movie seems like two separate films spliced together. Part #1 is all about saving Han. Part #2 is about destroying the *new and improved* Death Star. But the two halves do not seem to relate to one another.
- Yoda dies, telling Luke he has completed his training. What? I thought it took years to become a Jedi. Apparently, Luke just needed a few days of acrobatics classes on Dagobah.
- The Ewoks manage to defeat “an entire legion of the Emperor’s best troops” using nothing but rocks, sticks, and bows that shoot sticks! Storm Troopers in battle helmets are knocked cold by teddy bears dropping things from hang gliders. Also, how lucky did the Ewoks have to be, to position those log traps for the AT-STs?
- Luke asks Leia, “Do you remember your real mother?” She says she does, but how does Luke know to ask this? Couldn’t she have been raised on Alderaan by Padme? And what the heck happened to her real mother anyway? None of this is explained or alluded to in any of the original films, proving the Luke/Leia/Vader relationship was a late invention and poorly thought out.
- The Emperor continuously goads and harasses Luke, stating that if Luke gives in to his anger and strikes him down, he will become like his father and turn to the Dark Side. Why? If I am in a room with Hitler, and I kill him, does that make me Hitler?
- Yoda tells Luke the Emperor must not be underestimated. And Vader tells him, “Together we can destroy the Emperor.” Palpatine is built up to be this ultimate evil power. But by the end of the movie, he proves to be just a feeble old man, powerless to do anything as Vader picks him up and throws him down a shaft.
The things is, every now and then I almost start to think I don’t care about AOTC that much. But then I’ll watch it – and I’ll be glued to pretty much the whole thing. I watched it two weeks ago and I was loving it – even though I was seeing it for about the thirtieth time. By contrast, I rewatched Empire again before XMas and I was genuinely bored for the first half-hour or so.
All of that said, AOTC is flawed in a bunch of areas. But there are some truly great moments, such as the death of Shmi which was brutal, or the Kenobi/Jango fight which was bad-ass.
Just for fun I’m also going to deal with some of your numbered points.
6. Some of the romance dialogue, yes it is uncomfortable. But it is justified by the situation. Anakin is meant to be an awkward, horny, inexperienced-around-women, lovestruck type of guy at this point. He’s an adolescent with mad hormones and the only women he’s ever been around in a meaningful way are his mother and Padme. And he’s been dreaming of Padme for 10 years and now he’s with her and he gets a little awkward and unsure of how to present himself. I mean he’s basically been raised as a monk for 10 years, but at the same time is infatuated with this woman – it’s bound to make him an awkward guy spouting awkward sentences.
7. I don’t think it’s that Padme doesn’t care. I think it’s that, firstly, she’s trying to process it. And second, she’s just seen him come back with his mother’s body and she’s probably still affected by that.
And regarding Jedi – my favorite of the OT films – I think the issue with Luke striking down Palpatine and becoming like his father is that once he gives in to his hatred and acts on it, he would literally be starting “down the dark path” as Yoda says; just as Anakin did with Dooku in ROTS. That’s my reading of it anyway.
Actually, regarding AOTC. the one thing I’ve always wanted to ask Lucas is: who the HELL is Syfo Dyas? They say he was a “leading member of the Jedi Council” “10 years ago” – which would place him right at the time of Phantom Menace. But I know ALL of the Jedi Council members from Phantom Menace by name – and Syfo Dyas isn’t one of them. If George wanted to have one of the TPM-era council members be revealed as the one who placed the order for the Clone Army, then why not just use one of the names that already existed from TPM? Why invent a new name – Syfo Dyas – when we never find out who that’s supposed to be?
Maybe George just likes having these mysterious, unanswered questions in there.
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I got the same impression watching the AOTC romance scenes. They’re definitely not your everyday Rom Com moments. They’re definitely intended to be creepy and awkward, and the way Anakin acts in these moments of desperation … well, let’s just say it resonated with me, because I’ve been there.
But what stands out for me in particular, from AOTC, is also one of my favorite scenes from all six (seven?) films. It’s during the battle on Geonosis, when all of the Jedi are surrounded by battle droids — and suddenly, Yoda drops down in a Republic gunship and lasers start flying. In that same shot, you have monsters and robots and lightsabers and spaceships in the background, everything that, for me, makes Star Wars what it is. It’s “all Hell breaking loose” and I doubt we’ll ever see such a thing in a non-Lucas directed film.
I’d also like to point that, though I felt ROTJ was the weakest in the saga, the climax between Vader, Luke and the Emperor is one of the greatest—if not *the* greatest—moments in film.
Last point, the other day my 6 yo daughter wanted to watch Episode II. I asked her if she wouldn’t rather see Episode VII (because we’ve only seen it twice), “the one with Rey in it,” I said. She answered, “No, that’s not Star Warsy enough, Daddy.” So there you have it, from the mouth of a six year old: Episode VII is not Star Warsy enough!
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Yeah Ep7 is very generic-feeling, like it could just as easily be a Marvel movie or one of the Abrams Star Trek movies. Lacks identity, imagination and ‘StarWars-iness’.
Snoke is a perfect example; he looks and feels terrible, like he’s just been recycled from Lord of the Rings or Guardians of the Galaxy.
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