The subjects of both of my posts thus far have been—at least indirectly—related to books; as it happens, they dealt with several attempts to adapt Tolkien’s work to the screen. This post, on the other hand, is focused on a series of movies not based on a book. Yes, I know the site’s tagline says, “thoughts on literature,” but “thoughts on literature, movies, radio plays, television, all other forms of storytelling, and the occasional thought on something else entirely” is a bit of a mouthful.
In any case, a new Star Wars movie premiered in theatres just recently. Maybe I’ll watch it at some point, or maybe I won’t. Either way, although the original Star Wars trilogy isn’t my favourite film series of all time, I do like it (the originals, of course—not the “special edition” abominations). IV, V, and VI were all very well-made films; the characters, while not the most unique or original, were nonetheless well-shot, well-written, and well-defined. The story structure—whether within a single instalment or across the arc of the trilogy—was solid and the plot was engaging. Perhaps best of all were the actors who made all the characters memorable.
Alas! The prequels were about as antithetical to the originals’ virtues as one can get. They go beyond not living up to the originals, beyond spitting upon them; the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy are genuinely horrible movies even when taken on their own. Despite the situations really being completely different, it’s easy to see why so many people expected to hate Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit adaptation after something like the Star Wars prequels; fortunately, The Hobbit was in fact written before The Lord of the Rings, and prequels and sequels aren’t usually as prone to horrible failure when we’re talking of books.
A friend once told me that Jar Jar Binks had “ruined the prequels for him,” to which I replied, “What’s there to ruin?” Yes, Jar Jar Binks is an awful character; he’s annoying, pointless, and so many other loathsome adjectives, but he’s far from being the worst thing about the prequels. Worse still is the grim reality that despite the diminishing of his role with each subsequent prequel, each turned out worse than the one before it.
The Films Themselves
The cast, although made up of many very talented actors, gave near-universally terrible performances in poorly cast roles. Until then, I had assumed bad casting to be a pitfall unique to poor adaptations; I thought a character had to have been previously defined by a non-screenwriter for a casting choice to be wrong, and that bad casting came solely from neglecting the description in a book. The Star Wars Prequels were what first proved to me that this was not the case, and that it’s possible for one to utterly miscast even a role they themselves wrote.
I may explain some of the specifics concerning the abysmal writing of the prequels in a later post, but aside from getting steadily worse with each film, the storytelling is consistently awful. In fact, there really is only one truly good scene in the whole accursed prequel trilogy:
JUNKIE: “Hey, you wanna buy some death-sticks?”
EWAN: “You don’t want to sell me death sticks.”
JUNKIE: “Eh, I don’t wanna sell you death-sticks.”
EWAN: “You want to go home and rethink your life.”
JUNKIE: “I wanna go home and… rethink my life.”
Did you enjoy that? Well, good, cause it’s really the only good thing the prequels have to offer! It’s the only point where a prequel jedi actually acts like, you know, a jedi! And aside from that, as I said, there isn’t a single scene anywhere else in the prequels that’s well-written. I don’t have to go into much detail about the horrible visuals, either; the poorly rendered, poorly blue-screened CGI effects are less convincing than the effects in a similarly named trilogy from the ’70s, and often it just comes across as lazy. The music that John Williams wrote for the prequels is, as you’d expect, quite good, but even that isn’t as good as what he did for the originals.
The Foremost Horror
I’ve left the scariest thing for last, however. You see, as depressing as it is, an argument can be made that as irritating as Jar Jar is, he might actually be one of the high points in this abomination of a trilogy. Make no mistake, he is dreadfully unpleasant to watch; everything about him is grating. Despite this, he can at least be said to have a personality (even if it is horrible), which is more than can be said for most of the prequels’ characters. It’s virtually impossible to care about any of them because we almost never see anything besides dull action scenes and duller politics, and even then the characters are just plain unlikeable. Worse still, the characters are themselves so lifeless and dull that one cannot even feel strongly about them either way. In essence, the fact that it is possible to hate Jar Jar makes him better than the other prequel characters; at least he’s well-defined enough to evoke some sort of emotion at all!
In conclusion, it is my opinion that although Jar Jar is a sickening excuse for a character, he isn’t quite as bad as the likes of flat, bland, poorly-cast Mace Windu. The dishonour of being my most hated prequel character, however, is by far that of the abomination that they had the gall to refer to as “Yoda” despite everything he says (literally everything, if memory serves) directly contradicting things that the real Yoda said! Aside from the out-of-place “death-sticks scene,” I utterly loathe the Star Wars prequels and everything about them.