Star Wars Prequels vs. Originals

A fan of many things, I am. A great love for Star Wars, I have.

However, finding enjoyment from watching the movies doesn’t in any way make me an expert. I don’t spend hours reading about the many star systems of the galaxy on Wookiepedia (except in preparation to write this article). I haven’t read the books. I’ve only played halfway through the game Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. I have, however, played LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga from start to finish (and intend to write about it at some point in the future).

All of this is just to say that there are many people with far more expertise than I have who have voiced their complaints about the stark contrast between the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy. I will post a few of those (video) reviews here, then provide some of my own additional comments afterwards.

My favorite of these videos is actually an open message to J.J. Abrams, who will be directing Episode VII. The premise behind the video is to encourage learning from the prequels’ mistakes to make the sequels awesome. Since “4 Rules to Make Star Wars Great Again” was posted three months ago, it now has over one million views on YouTube.

Additionally, with over seven million views between them, we have “WHAT IF STAR WARS EPISODE I WERE GOOD? (Belated Media)“, “WHAT IF STAR WARS EPISODE II WERE GOOD? (Belated Media)“, “WHAT IF STAR WARS EPISODE III WERE GOOD? (Belated Media)“. All three videos show us a completely rewritten story for all three films, a story that I admittedly wish I could see in theaters. Warning: some profane language is used in these three videos. (Oh, and please do ignore the reading of the Star Wars slash fan fiction during the closing of the first one. Or don’t ignore it, if that’s your thing.)

Now for a few comments from me:

The first video, “4 Rules…”, does come with a follow-up essay, which I have not read. Instead, I wanted to share some thoughts of my own about the four rules, which are, in short, totally awesome and accurate.

Rule 1: The setting is the frontier

So much of the prequel trilogy is set on Coruscant (the city-planet), and so much of the plot happens within the Senate. Politics. And the Jedi Council. More politics. Boring. On the other hand, the original trilogy is set on Tatooine, on Hoth, on Dagobah, on Endor, and most importantly, out there in outer space—all places that are not urban. The video mentions that Star Wars is actually a space western, to justify that it should be set in the frontier. This brings up an excellent point about genre. I’ve never thought of Star Wars as science fiction. I’ve always categorized Star Wars as being more along the lines of fantasy.

Crazy, you think I am? Hear me out, you should. Let’s look to a dictionary:

fan – ta – sy. noun. 1. the faculty or activity of imagining things, esp. things that are impossible or improbable. 2. a genre of imaginative fiction involving magic and adventure, esp. in a setting other than the real world.

sci – ence fic – tion. noun. fiction based on imagined future scientific or technological advances and major social or environmental changes, frequently portraying space or time travel and life on other planets.

Star Wars certainly is mostly rooted in science fiction. It does involve futuristic technological advances. (Even though Star Wars is set a long time ago.) It does obviously portray space and life on other plants. But then, Star Wars does this incredible and wondrous thing: it portrays the force, which, in this “4 Rules…” video, is described as a kind of magic. The force is meant to be unexplained. It is meant to be fantastical. But then the prequel trilogy comes along and suddenly “midichlorians” are a thing, and away with it goes the “magic” and “mystery” of the force, firmly rooting itself in the “scientifically explained” realm of science fiction instead. The “Belated Media” videos also do away with the midichlorians. If you want science fiction, watch Star Trek.

Rule 2: The future is old

Forget “old”. Let’s rephrase: the future is real. Between 1977 and 1999, there were no doubt significant advancements in movie-making technology. But this does not mean that they need to be used. In the original trilogy, everything is real, everything is gritty. Nothing is CG or filmed in front of a green screen. Yes, scenes that use computer graphics can be impressive, but they distract from the story rather than enhance it. Less is more.

Rule 3: The force is mysterious

It would appear that I talked about this one already in the first rule. Move along. Move along.

Rule 4: Star Wars isn’t cute

I was confused when I heard that Disney had bought the LucasFilm franchise. After all, I’ve never thought that the Star Wars films were meant for children, so the Disney audience doesn’t really belong here. Except that George Lucas made the prequel films for a more kid-friendly audience. Case in point: Jar Jar Binks. Oh, and every other silly Gungan. But then, Anakin does murder the younglings. Double-standard much? Not only does Lucas make the prequel films more kid-friendly, he re-makes the original trilogy so that it is also more kid-friendly. I’m sorry, George, but Han shot first.

Rule 5: The characters are the story

Wait. What? Only four rules, the video has. Five rules, you are giving me.

Yes. I’m adding a rule, which is in part based on the three “Belated Media” videos, which are far too long and complex for me to break down and write about piece by piece. Instead, these three videos can be basically summed up with this one rule: the characters are the story. The reason the prequel trilogy suffers from a severe lack of focus is because there are too many characters and we don’t really know who the true “hero”—or who the true “villain”—is.

The “Belated Media” videos suggest that the true “hero” (and primary focus) of the prequel films should be Obi-Wan Kenobi. Before seeing the prequel films, I had read somewhere that George Lucas wanted to make the prequel films because he felt that the two trilogies together should show both the rise and fall of Darth Vader. Upon seeing the prequels, it was certainly very apparent to me that Anakin was in fact the focus: we see him as a child in Episode I, as a young man falling in love with Padme during Episode II, and finally becoming Darth Vader in Episode III. But if Anakin is in fact meant to be the focus, then this doesn’t really jive with the original trilogy, since Luke Skywalker is clearly the hero.

Anakin doesn’t need to be the focal point of the prequel trilogy in order to show us the rise and fall of Darth Vader. Instead, Obi-Wan can be the primary focus and the movies can still show us this secondary story arc. Just as Luke was the primary focus in the originals, with Darth Vader being the villain-turned-tragic-hero in the background.

Just as “Belated Media” suggests that Obi-Wan should be the primary hero, it also suggests that Darth Maul should be the primary villain for all three films. Rather than kill him right away to avenge Qui-Gon Jinn’s death, Darth Maul should escape, which gives Obi-Wan the very personal motivation over two more films to search for and kill him.

Lastly, I have this theory that the “two guys and a girl formula” seems to work really well. Here is an example: Harry Potter (the hero of the story), Ron Weasley (the best friend), and Hermione Granger (the other best friend who realizes that she fancies the first best friend in the end, so the hero’s two best friends get married and have kids).

Why does this sound familiar? Oh, that’s because George Lucas used this same “formula” for the original trilogy. Luke is the hero of the story, Han is his best friend, and Luke’s other best friend (er, sister) Leia realizes that she loves Han in the end, so they get married and have kids. This same “formula” could have worked for the prequels too: Obi-Wan is the hero of the story, Anakin is the best friend that he meets as a young adult and not as a child, and Padme is the other best friend who falls in love with Anakin, so they get married, have kids… and you know the rest.

Furthermore, if you are a new fan and decide to watch the movies in order (episode one through episode six) for the first time, the prequel trilogy ruins all the huge reveals in the sequel trilogy: the twins, the father, who Yoda is. I always tell people to watch four through six first, then one through three, because the surprises are far more rewarding. Sure, fan service is important for the returning fans, but don’t do it at the expense of ruining the story for new fans.

I basically agree with everything else that the guy from Belated Media says. As I said before, I really want to see the films that he’s written spring from the storyboards and find their way to the silver screen. Somehow.

Agree with me, do you? Share your thoughts in the comments, please do!