The Star Wars Prequel Trilogy: Flawed Work and How to Handle It

Yesterday, I posted my review of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. To me, I felt that it is ultimately a deeply flawed movie, suffering most of all from a lack of stakes and writing that relies far too much on telling rather than show. So, it is understandable why people would hate this film. But what about the whole Star Wars prequel trilogy? Is the hatred that is so frequently thrown at them so deserved? Honestly, I don’t think so. Yes, they are a weak trilogy, especially in comparison to the original trilogy. However, just because they’re not as good does not mean that they deserve hatred. To me, they deserve something else: acceptance.

Now, let me be clear on something. I am not denying the fact that Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith are flawed films. They clearly are. Much like Episode I, they suffer from stilted writing that comes off as very blunt. Most of the performances suffer from the same wooden feel. There is also an over-reliance on CG in place of using physical sets. The result is that most of the locales have an unnatural feel to them, all smoothly designed without a sense of the real to them. However, among these many faults are the glimpses of promise.

The core story, of Anakin Skywalker’s fear of death allowing him to be twisted into a powerful tool of the Sith, is a fascinating one. It could have made for a wonderfully tragic examination of how one’s desperation and fear can open them to manipulation, turning them into a weapon of hatred. The films also showcase a twist upon the generic Chosen One narrative. Anakin is believed to be the one to fulfill an ancient prophecy and bring balance to the Force, but his actions instead shift the power to the Dark Side. It’s an interesting twist on the familiar formula, one that could have worked in conjunction with Anakin’s descent into darkness. Mind you, both of these are cases of could, rather than did. If filmmaker George Lucas perhaps had someone else to direct or had helped to develop the story while letting another screenwriter actually write it, then perhaps their potential could have been achieved. Instead, the resulting prequel trilogy is best described, at least to me, as alright. Now, that brings me to acceptance.

When I bring up the idea of acceptance, I do not mean that a fandom should simply be fine with getting subpar work. Followers of a particular fandom should expect or want the thing they are passionate about to at least offer a certain level of quality. However, when those weaker works do emerge, I think it is important how these works are handled by their fans. I don’t think these lesser works should be hated and treated as if they didn’t exist, nor should their faults be justified and treated as if they were not weaknesses at all. Rather, the fact that they are lesser works should be accepted and people should move on. After all, the stronger works still stand and the overall appeal of the franchise lives on. Just because there are bad James Bond movies like The Living Daylights or Die Another Day does not take away from the strong craftsmanship of entries like Casino Royale or Goldfinger. Just because Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was an alright film that didn’t meet the same level of quality doesn’t mean that the rest of the Indiana Jones films are somehow hampered by its presence. Such is the case with the Star Wars franchise and the prequel trilogy.

That is why I wish to propose something to any Star Wars fans reading my blog. As the weeks tick on and we move ever closer to the release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, I suggest putting aside the furious debates about the prequel trilogy. Rather than getting caught in feedback loops of angry tirades or needless justifications, let us instead come together in appreciation of this franchise. Let us relish the fun pulp action and daring space fights, these elements inspired by old sci-fi serials and World War II movies. Let us enjoy the memorable characters, from the menacing threat of villains like Darth Vader and Boba Fett to the charm of heroes like the farm boy Luke Skywalker or the roguish smuggler Han Solo. Let us wonder at the sheer universe that George Lucas first brought to the big screen back on May 25th, 1977. A universe of mystical forces and grand space battles, a landscape where the battle of good and evil would unfold a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. I’m not asking that we treat the prequel trilogy as if they do not exist, nor am I suggesting that any talk of the Star Wars films should just be shallow yes-men speak. Rather, I am saying that we should unite the fandom in a positive way, rather than allow our passion to tear each other apart.

May the Force be with you, dear readers. Always.

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