Star Wars – comparing the trilogies

Wil Wheaton (who I’m beginning to think of less as an actor and more of a
writer and blogger) wrote a blog entry as well as an article (SFW) at (NSFW – I only read it for the articles) about Star Wars, what
it means to “my generation” (I’m only a year or two older than Wil) and why
the fact that the new trilogy “sucked so hard” made him not just disappointed,
but downright angry.

I didn’t hate the second trilogy (I’m going to refer to the trilogies
in the order in which they were released, i.e. the first trilogy is
episodes 4, 5, and 6, and the second trilogy is episodes 1, 2, and 3),
but it certainly didn’t mean the same thing to me as the first one did. I’m sure
that part of it was the fact that I was 8 when Star Wars came out, and my friends
and I were all into playing with the action figures and such. I think part of
it is also that there had never really been a movie like Star Wars – the effects
were state of the art, and unlike Star Trek, the aliens were truly alien,
not just humans with different coloured skin or bumps on their foreheads. It
created a whole new generation of science fiction fans, and paved the way for
innumerable other space movies. It was also one of the first movies to really
cash in on the toys and merchandising – I wonder if Lucas made more money
fom that then from the movies themselves. Basically, the first three movies were
not just great movies, they were groundbreaking in the world of cinema.

Then, 16 years later, along comes “The Phantom Menace”. The special effects
were, once again, state of the art, and zillions of people (myself included)
were excited to be entering the world of Star Wars once again. They even had big
name actors like Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor involved – how could it fail?
Well, it didn’t, financially, it made zillions. But the movie itself wasn’t
up to what I expected:

  • First and foremost was Jar Jar Binks, the most annoying movie
    character since … well, since the beginning of time.
  • There were the obvious comparisons between Darth Vader and Darth Maul, and
    while Maul looked menacing and was really slick with the very cool double-ended
    light saber, he had maybe two lines in the whole movie, and ended up being
    nothing more than a hitman. Vader, on the other hand, was the very personification
    of evil in the first trilogy.
  • The dialogue was bad. Really bad. Anakin asking if Padme was an angel made me
    cringe, especially once we realized that the two of them would, (ahem),
    “get together” in the second or third movie – that was kind of creepy. Another
    classic bad line: “Let’s try spinning, that’s a good trick”.
  • Qui-Gon insisting that Jar Jar (ugh) accompany them because of his life
    debt seemed like a desperation ploy to keep Jar Jar in the movie. Qui-Gon telling
    Obi-Wan “we may need a guide” was just laughable. Also, Jar Jar had no idea who
    these Jedi were, and yet immediately led them to the “hidden” Gungan city. Later,
    he led them to a special (also hidden) place that Gungans go when in trouble. If
    they have a hidden city, why would they need another hidden “special place”? And
    after telling them that Gungans don’t like outsiders, why would he lead outsiders
    to these hidden places twice?
  • The midichlorians were these microscopic life forms that live within our
    cells and give us knowledge of the force. Why, George, why? The midichlorians
    served exactly one purpose: Lucas wanted a way to quantify how strong
    Anakin was in the Force. It wasn’t enough to just say “this kid is really strong”,
    he needed to prove that the kid had potential beyond that of any known Jedi. But
    without an actual number to quantify that, there was no way to make that point,
    so he came up with the midichlorians. Now he could give an actual number and
    specifically say that Anakin’s number was higher than that of Yoda. I didn’t like
    this idea, but I can’t say why. The best I can do is to say that making the
    midichlorians some kind of intermediary between people and the Force seemed to
    reduce the coolness factor somewhat.

It did have some good points too – the lightsaber fight between Obi-Wan/Qui-Gon and Darth Maul and the pod race were both good, though I suppose that’s mainly because of the visual effects (and sound during the pod race).

I really wanted to love the movie – like I said, I was (am!) a huge Star Wars
fan, and was really excited about it. I remember leaving the movie feeling like
I was “betraying” Lucas by not loving it. It never occurred to me at the time that
Lucas was actually betraying us, the fans, by making it. I’m still not
sure that I feel that way about it, but I know some, like Wil, do.

I’ll post my thoughts on Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith later


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