Episode 2 of 6: The Hits & Misses of the Prequels-Chris Salce
In 1999, 22 years after the original trilogy, George Lucas would begin to bring us the most anticipated trilogy millions of us have been waiting for. The trilogy that would tell us the story of how the possible chosen one that would possibly fulfill the prophecy of the Force, Anakin Skywalker, would become a Jedi only to fall to the dark side & become the most powerful Sith Lord, Darth Vader. Starting with,”Episode 1: A Phantom Menace”. A Phantom Menace would open up with Master Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn & his young apprentice Obi-Wan, who are sent to confront the leaders of the evil Trade Federation. While confronting leader Nute Gunray, the Jedi escape an assassination attempt & warn the Queen of Naboo (Queen Amidala) about the plot of the Trade Federation to take over Naboo. With droids already in Naboo, the Queen is no longer safe. The Queen then leaves Naboo with the Jedi. They land on Tatooine where we meet a very young Anakin Skywalker. Anakin was a slave along with his Mother Shmi as he is discovered by Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn & Padme (Queen Amidala). While staying with Anakin & his Mother, Qui-Gon senses the Force within young Anakin. He explains that Anakin has a high Midi-chlorian count which is much higher than any Jedi has had before. Qui-Gon is convinced that with this, Anakin is the chosen one to fulfill the prophecy of the one to bring balance to the Force. After Anakin wins his freedom by winning a Pod Race, Qui-Gon takes Anakin to the Jedi council to discuss his future & if he is in fact the chosen one. The Jedi with some hesitation allow Qui-Gon to train Anakin. While in training, the Jedi are trying to find a way to resolve the conflict but the Jedi sense that there is something dark lurking behind the conflict. Possibly the extinct Sith. This takes us to the sequel “Episode 2: Attack of the Clones” (2002). Attack of the Clones takes place 10 years after the ‘Phantom Menace’. Here we find an adolescent Anakin being trained now by Master Obi-Wan following the death of Master Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn. As Padme (now known as Senator Amidala) escapes an attempted assassination, Obi-Wan & Anakin sense that there is more to this assassination plot & want to find out who is behind it. After being sent on a different mission than Obi-Wan, Anakin is sent to Naboo with Senator Amidala. There, they fall in love while knowing the tension it would cause among the Jedi & The Senate Council. This is also where we start seeing a change in Anakin starting with his Mother dying. Meanwhile, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine moves for a vote for a Republic Army which then leads to a war involving the clone army lead by the Jedi council against the Separatists battle droid army lead by a rogue Jedi, Count Dooku. The last of the trilogy “Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith” continues the Clone War & how Anakin finally becomes the evil Sith Lord, Darth Vader. Amidala reveals to Anakin that he is going to be a father. Tortured by nightmares of losing his family the same we he lost his mother & angry that the Jedi council doesn’t feel that Anakin is ready to be a Master Jedi, Anakin vows to do anything it takes to keep his family safe & to become stronger than any of the Jedi. He then finally succumbs to the dark side of the Force & leads the betrayal of the Jedi along with the clone army & the Republic after orders from Chancellor Palpatine who we find out has been the Sith Lord the Jedi sensed all along. Now that I have given somewhat of a brief rundown of the prequels, rather than to just totally bash the prequel trilogy & say how much Jar Jar Binks should have never existed, (which I will talk about him in the next article) i’m going to explain why certain subjects & scenes did or didn’t workout well both consistency wise & fan wise
The plot of A Phantom Menace:
Most of the fans would say that episode one was really bad. Some would go as far to say that it was a complete throwaway. While I don’t think it’s a complete throwaway, there are reasons why it didn’t fit into the rest of the Star Wars saga. To start off, Characters as important as Darth Maul, Mace Windu & Qui-Gon Jinn were never again mentioned in the original trilogies’ universe. After dying in Episode 1, Qui-Gon is only mentioned again after, at the very end of ‘Episode 3:Revenge of the Sith’ when Yoda tells Obi-Wan that “an old friend has learned the path through immortality. One who has returned to the netherworld of the Force, Qui-Gon Jinn.” Yoda then goes on to tell Obi that he will teach him how to communicate with Qui-Gon. If Qui Gon was the very first Jedi to learn a path of immortality, why would Obi-Wan & Yoda fail to mention him at all to Luke when they are training him? Especially since he was so important to the Force & Obi-Wan. Another inconsistency with it is how R2D2 spends half of the movie & a good chunk of episodes 2&3 with Obi-Wan. After spending all that time with him, why would Obi-Wan go on to state in episode 4, that he can’t seem to remember ever owning a droid? You could make a case saying that he could just have some sort of memory loss because of old age or that he technically didn’t own him but even we couldn’t accept that. The biggest thing that didn’t go over too well with fans (besides Jar Jar existing & Darth Maul only being used in that one episode) was “Midi-chlorians”. Here’s what Midi-chlorians are explained by Qui-Gon, “Midi-chlorians are a microscopic life form that resides within all living cells. & we are symbians (lifeforms living together for mutual advantage) without them we could not exist & we would have no knowledge of the Force. They continually speak to us telling us the will of the Force.” For years we assumed that in the Star Wars galaxy, anyone could become a Jedi that had the will to do so. Now, it’s pretty much said that you have to be born with these “midi-chlorians” in order to become a Jedi. Why the movie somewhat fit in was because it gave a back story to both Anakin & Obi-Wan. We learned about where Anakin came from & how he went from being a slave to being a padawon apprentice of Obi-wan.
How Anakin was portrayed:
The way Anakin was portrayed was a little kid that was more of a smart mouth at times that grew into a whiny adolescent teen that would always talk back to his elders & masters. Although this would describe most of us at one point of our lives as we grew up, this isn’t how we pictured Darth Vader to be. From what Obi-Wan told Luke about his father in the original trilogy, we knew Anakin to be the best star fighter in the whole galaxy, a cunning warrior & a great friend. We pictured him to be wise. Yet, we really didn’t get any of that from the prequels. In the prequels Anakin was sometimes doing things on accident like blowing up a space station in Phantom Menace which would result in a victory for the Gungans. As a pilot he had a Maverick like flying style but would often find himself getting into trouble because of endangerment most of the time. These things wouldn’t really describe the greatest star fighter in the galaxy or a wise person. The very robotic like acting of Hayden Christensen & a mix of bad dialogue wouldn’t help us believe this to be the Darth Vader that we all knew. Where the prequels did get right about Anakin was the reason why he was filled with so much hate. The fear, the jealousy, the pain, & the misery were all there.
The dialogue often made us confused about what was going on or emotionless when we knew we should have felt some kind of emotion. At times there were some emotionless lightsaber fights such as the one between Mace Windu & Darth Sidious in Revenge of the Sith. There were a lot of spots where there could have been great dialogue that would have helped the scene out. Or even when Padme confronts Anakin for the first time after learning about how he betrayed the Jedi. Instead, it felt like the actors were reading straight off of a paper rather than giving us the effect that something epic is taking place right in front of us. Where the dialogue was good were parts like Yoda describing how fear was the path to the dark side. Or how Obi-wan describes how Anakin was like a brother to him & how Anakin was supposed to bring balance to the Force, not leave it in darkness.
The Special Effects:
The special effects were both visually stunning to the eyes also as quite overused a lot of the time. With the new CGI effects we got to see all new worlds with new species that were nothing like the ones from the original trilogy. That wasn’t necessarily a good thing though. It was hard to feel like we were included into the Star Wars universe because during most of the prequels, everything looked really fake. The environments seemed lifeless & were hard to interact with. The clone troopers that we all loved as stormtroopers just didn’t have quite the same affect on us. Even though they still looked really cool with new uniforms & armor, it was hard to get over how many of them there were & how unrealistic they looked. All the species, (although we knew weren’t real obviously) didn’t play out like the the species of the original trilogy to when they were in actual makeup & prosthetics. Although there were some, it was just too much of the cgi that got our attention. Where the special effects did workout really well would be in bringing us Pod races, massive galactic wars & most of all, the light saber fight scenes. We got to see how awesome Darth Maul was with a double light saber. We seen so many tricks & flips during the fight scenes that we couldn’t have ever imagined before. We even got to see Yoda use a light saber for the first time & more than once! So many light saber fights that all were very distinct in their own. But it would raise the question, why did Darth Vader & Obi-Wan look very stiff in their final battle in episode 4, after being able to do so many tricks & flips? Old age? Lack of using abilities for a countless number of years? Who knows how to explain that?
Where we as fans of the saga went wrong was assuming how it would play out. We all assumed our own prequel before they even came out. We all had our own story of what happened & it’s arguably understandable to do so. But what we need to remember is that this all came from the creative mind of Lucas himself. It was his creation & his story. You can’t hate someone for not thinking like you do & telling there own perspective of a story & after all, we should all know what hate leads to… Yes, we felt robbed or disappointed because we were emotionally invested into the story & waited decades for this another trilogy. But whether you thought the prequels were a hit or were a big miss just like a stormtrooper with his blaster, George Lucas continued to show us that he could still create something. That imagination was still flowing within him after all these years.
Next article: “Episode 3:The Good, the Bad & the Scruffy”. The characters we love & love to hate (yes, this is where we talk about Jar Jar)