Monday, January 4, 2016

Star Wars: A Discussion (Episode II)

Star Wars fans of my generation (and older) tend to have an inordinate dislike of the prequels. I blame the fans. "But how can it be their fault for not liking the movies?" you might ask. "Isn't it Lucas' fault for not making something that the fans would like?" Well, no, it's not Lucas' fault. It's the fault of fans for, basically, assuming ownership of something that doesn't belong to them. Unwarranted expectations will get you every time.

I want to go back to something I said in my last post, that thing about how I never quit on Star Wars. I think this is a significant point. See, I was there when Zahn's books came out, so to speak. I bought them in hardback. Because I was into comic books, I have first printings of the Dark Empire series from Dark Horse. For a while, I was reading all of the Star Wars novels for no other reason than that they were Star Wars, and I think reading them taught me a lesson.

See, some of them... well, some of them sucked. And sucked hard. In fact, I'll just say it: Kevin Anderson's Jedi Academy trilogy was so awful that not only will I never read anything else by Anderson, but they broke me from reading anymore Star Wars novels. The lesson was not that some things that "are" Star Wars won't be good; it was about expectations. I somehow expected that these things would be great just because they were set in  the Star Wars universe. Well, I didn't really expect that, not in my head, but on some emotional level that is what I expected.

Of course, what I wanted was to be taken back to that feeling I had when I was seven when that star destroyer first "passed over my head" and made me see the world in a way I had never seen it before. But you can't have that feeling again. You can't go back to seven and experience that thing in that same way ever again. You can't have your eyes opened for the first time more than once. That can be a hard thing to learn, but Kevin Anderson beat it into me with his horrid books.

So it was that when Lucas announced the prequels I determined to have no expectations. Or as little as possible, at any rate. I knew these weren't going to be the same movies. I knew the time period they were going to be set in, and I knew what they were about. My goal was twofold: to avoid finding out stuff about the movie beforehand (because I had known absolutely nothing about Star Wars when I was seven and my grandmother took me to see it) and to not have expectations. I already knew where expectations would get me.

Which is not to say that I was not excited. I was right there with everyone else camping out for tickets for the opening midnight show of The Phantom Menace and camping again to get in so as not to have to sit in the front corner of the theater.

Also, I was in no way disappointed with The Phantom Menace. Not even with Jar Jar. He's funny. He makes me laugh. And my kids like him.

I want to make a point here: I was seven when I first saw Star Wars. I was a kid. I'm not saying that I loved Star Wars because I was a kid, but, essentially, Star Wars was a movie for young people, not for adults. There were toys because the target audience was kids. When I went into Phantom Menace, I wanted to go in with as much of that as possible. I wanted to see it with eyes that were fresh and young and with no preconceptions. Part of that was looking at it through the lens of my kids. Well, just one kid, at the time, but each of my kids has loved Jar Jar as they have come into contact with him. Lucas said Jar Jar was a character in the movie specifically for kids, and, from that standpoint, he totally works. So, really, the problem with the Jar Jar-haters is not actually Jar Jar, it's the people who hate him. And, you know what, it shows your age and your unwillingness to be a kid again, as you were when you first saw Star Wars.

And that takes me back to my opening statement: the problem with the prequels is "the fans," the original fans.
It's the truth, and you should just get over yourselves. You don't own Star Wars and Lucas doesn't owe you anything. Didn't owe you anything.
And, actually, you, all of you, should be ashamed of yourselves, because it's because of you that Lucas sold Star Wars to Disney.
/end rant

Yes, I like the prequels. Love them, even. Sure, in my list of Star Wars movies, they are not my favorite, but one of them does come in at #3, and they are Star Wars, so even the one at #6 is way ahead of most every other movie out there.

That being said, there is one problem I have with the prequels: the death of Padme during childbirth. The problem is, as it worked out, that kind of had to be the way that happened but it doesn't fit the previous narrative of Leia having gone with her mother when the twins were split up at birth, and it doesn't fit with Leia's memories of her mother from when she was a young child. So, see, despite the fact that I can see that it Padme's death is necessary from a story perspective, it doesn't work for me because of my own expectation that she should have taken Leia away and raised her in hiding for several years before her death.

But that's it. That one thing is the only issue I have with the prequels.

I don't want to get into anything about how I feel about The Force Awakens, right now, but, regardless of that, I wish that Lucas was the one making them. Just as I wanted to see his story for the prequels, I wanted to see his story for the sequel trilogy, too. As it turns out, despite what Disney said they would do (which was to follow Lucas' original story), according to Lucas, they have strayed from that, and that disappoints me.

But more on that later.


  1. Replies
    1. Rajiv: I would agree that Star Wars is amazing.

  2. Good point - Leia remembered her mother.
    Empire was more for adults and the latest film is of the same ilk. So I'm glad they went back to that. Sorry, Lucas about destroyed Star Wars for me with those last three films. This latest film did capture that original feeling for me.
    Although if they'd followed Zahn's books, that would've been cool as well.

    1. Alex: The latest movie captured that feeling because it was, basically, a re-make.
      I think your own expectations is what just about destroyed Star Wars for you.

  3. High expectations lead to disappointment.

    That aside, my husband said the same thing as you: he wished Lucas was the one that had done the Awakens instead of Disney. I can't say much on this because I haven't seen the movie and probably won't.

    1. Elsie: You know, I don't mind that Disney made it; I just wish they had retained Lucas' story the way they said they were going to.

  4. Oh, Andrew, I LOVE this post! Admittedly, I went into it thinking that, once again, here's another person complaining about the prequels. But you hit it perfectly: kids LOVE Jar Jar. They love the lights and people in cool costumes and, oh my heavens, that Anakin kid! Boy, can he pilot! I enjoyed the prequels--OF COURSE, not as much as 4,5,6, but I was a kid when those were released, so they are very special to me. I, too, had the issue with Padme, because, in response to Luke's inquiry about remembering her (their) mother, Leia's response is something like, "She was beautiful, but sad." So, I wish they would've stayed true to that patch of dialogue by waiting a while 'til she died. Great post.

    1. Alyssia: Now I have that Weird Al song in my head.

  5. I really loved The Force Awakens. Lucas let Disney make it and they did a great job so I don't really get why he's complaining. I certainly thought it had a lot less problems than the prequels did.

    1. Jeanne: I enjoyed Force, but it actually has more problems than all of the other movies combined. It's clear that parts of the movie were not very carefully thought out.

  6. I haven't been able to read any of the dispute between Lucas and Disney because I'm afraid of spoilers.

    I think you're right about people wanting to feel like they were 7 again. My parents never really got into Star Wars at all; I don't even think they liked the movies. So there's something to the point that it's meant for kids. That's how it differs from Star Trek (for example) which is more aimed at adults, I think.

    I think, too, that the story that Lucas wanted to tell was more complicated and less able to fit into the serial/western feel of the first three. Lucas wanted to show how the Empire came about, and also show the development of Darth Vader. He threw in some action set pieces, but the storyline was different and more involved. Lots of people complain about the fact that the first movie dealt primarily with a trade dispute -- but they miss the point that Lucas was using that to show how the Emperor manipulated that dispute into more power for himself.

    There is a tendency to idolize the things we liked when young and see the newer stuff as never living up to it. That's why we all generally like music from when we were teens. I can hear songs now that I hated as a teen, but I kind of like them because I first heard them when I was a teen -- but the same kind of music made by a new group just turns me off. Nostalgia plays a big role in determining what we think is great, and helping us judge (unfairly) newer versions of those things.

    1. Briane: My parents didn't get into it, either, which didn't actually stop my mom from going to Empire on opening night and leaving me at home. There's a larger story to that, but I'm probably not going to take the time to write that up.

      Lucas' story for the prequels was more complex, which was an issue since most people don't like "complex." It's why people don't get the more subtle aspects of the original trilogy, too. Personally, I like the political aspect of the prequels and was glad to get to see something that was only mentioned in passing during A New Hope.

      In a lot of ways, Force is TOO nostalgic.

  7. The prequels certainly failed to live up to the hype I'd placed on them. I do remember pretty clearly when the credits rolled on The Phantom Menace and while the crowd cheered my best friend at the time turned to me and said, 'That sucked.'

    I felt very protective of the movie and debated its merits fervently - but by the time Attack of the Clones came out I had decided that it wasn't the movie I wanted it to be. To this day I can't watch the prequels with any enthusiasm. I feel there were opportunities for something great to be done but Lucas missed the mark. No hard feelings. He tried. And they had their moments, but weren't for me.

    That said, I have no issue with folks who do love them. They are modern myths, after all.

    1. Rusty: It was, however, the movie Lucas said it would be and had been saying it would be for years. But people wanted the OT over again and the prequels weren't that.