On Saturday I went to my writer’s group and had a great discussion with Kristin Lamb about Star Wars. One thing led to another and before I knew it, we were critiquing the prequels. As with most Star Wars Fans, our opinion was not very high. Still, its always good fun to sit around and rip George Lucas a new one.
She plans to write a blog on this in the next few days. As soon as it is up, I will link it here:
I mentioned to her that I wrote a critique a few years ago on this very subject. I thought it would be fun to rehash it on this blog. Not only is it a fun post, but it gives you a glimpse into the kind of crazy rabbit trails we end up talking about at the Warrior Writers Group every Saturday morning at 10 AM.
Enjoy eavesdropping on the cliff notes of our conversation yesterday:
I love the original Star Wars trilogy. I even hung a Boba Fett action figure from my rear view mirror when I was in college until it was stolen. I replaced it with Darth Vader. He was also stolen. I bought a second Vader, which was stolen along with my car stereo and CD player. After that, I gave up on hanging action figures from my rear view mirror, but I never gave up on Star Wars. Like most fans, I fantasized about Episode I for almost two years before its release. The 6 months before May of 1999 is kind of a blur for me, except for the growing sense of anticipation. Unfortunately, my extreme disappointment in what I was exposed to in that dark theatre in early June (no, I was not there for the opening debut, but that is another long story. I was out of the country and the theatres in Eastern Europe were only showing pirated copies of the Godfather at the time) led to despair, which led to my eventual cynicism of Lucasfilm LTD altogether. I have found that my experience was shared by millions. Perhaps we all need some level of therapy after what we have endured for the past six years. The good news is that I think it is over. The prequel is complete, and we can all get on with our lives.
It is my hope that putting our frustrations into words will help us all heal from this trying time and we can finally lay this ghost to rest. That is, until we find something else to gripe about, like why Peter Jackson won’t direct The Hobbit.
I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it, and may the Force be with you.
Why I hate the Star Wars Prequels!
Or: Why I think George Lucas Lost His Mind after 1995.
25 Reasons Why I Hate Episode I
Stupid, Annoying Accents From the moment the Vicroy opened his mouth, I knew we were in for some major problems. I understand why the agents of the Empire have British accents. It made them sound unsympathetic and arrogant. But why George Lucas feels this incessant need to give each creature their own unique and annoying accent is beyond me. It just irked before the Viceroy had finished a single sentence.
“I have a bad feeling about this.”
I have seen the original Star Wars Trilogy somewhere approaching 1,000 times. I don’t feel this to be an over-exaggeration but, more accurately, a pretty good estimate. Granted, it has become sort of an inside joke among Star Wars fans that this line needs to be repeated in every book, graphic novel, cartoon and role playing adventure. It was to be expected that the line would creep into the movie as well. I’m fine with that. However, it was Obi-Wan’s first line, for cryin’ out loud! We don’t even know what is going on and already Obi Wan has a bad feeling. It gave me a bad feeling about what was to come.
Jar Jar Binks
What can I say that hasn’t already been said ad nauseam about this poor, pathetic life form? Lucas failed miserably in everything that he was trying to accomplish with the Jar Jar Binks character. The only thing Jar Jar did for the movie was sell a lot of lunch boxes and back packs. He was so ridiculous that (gasping dramatically) HE LOOKED FAKE. I know Lucas would loose the graying mop on top of his head to hear me say that, but it’s true. Simply put, he was so “cartoony” that he didn’t belong in a live action movie, no matter how good the special effects on him were. To make things worse, he kept reminding you that he wasn’t real by doing silly things like extending his tongue out to grotesque lengths and walking like an absolute idiot. His very first appearance in the movie is the point when you realize you’re going to be seeing a film alot less like Episodes IV-VI and a lot more like Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
“Plplplplpleeasssee, Obi Wan!”
J.U.B.A. (What is a J.U.B.A. I hear you asking. Good question. It’s a Jedi-Underwater-Breathing-Apparatus. Evidently all of the Jedi carry one on their utility belts…you know… just in case they crash on a planet and have to scuba dive to an underwater city. Remember to see Reason #24 when I post it.) Jar Jar informs the Jedi that his city is underwater. Never fear, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan just happen to have handy dandy little JUBA thing-a-ma-jig in their pockets. Now that’s funny because in about 20 minutes they will damage their hyperdrive and seem to be fresh out of the parts they need to fix the ship but anytime there’s any obstacle in a single character’s way they always seem to have a grappling hook, a set of binoculars or a mysterious underwater breathing device no bigger than a Kazoo conveniently attached to their person.
The Planet’s Core – The Quickest Route Boss Nass (see reason #1 for stupid accents, by the way) tells the Jedi and Jar Jar that the quickest way to reach the Naboo is through the planet’s core. Okay, I am by no means a Geologist. I can’t tell the difference between Igneous and Sedimentary rock. I was once asked in a Physical Science class what type rock the teacher was holding up, and I said, “A hard one.” However, one thing I do know is that you can’t just traipse through a planet’s core… for any reason. Even if it is the quickest route I think that the risks (i.e. certain death) are too great for even a fully trained Jedi to undertake such an asinine voyage.
A Fish Tries to Eat Them
I don’t care what planet they are from. Fish don’t eat metal.
R2-D2’s Ceremony. Lame, lame, lame!
There is no way around it. The fact that all of these characters just happen to board a ship with R2-D2 is lame. The fact that R2 saves the day by fixing the shield is lamer than lame.
There is a scene where R2-D2 saves the day. After everyone one is safe, Queen Amidala asks one of her lackeys to read the number off the droid. The man says “R2.. D2, your highness.” (In the theatres, there was a big cheer from the audience at this point that I found rather annoying. But then again, this was the same crowd that cheered about twenty minutes before during the 20th Century Fox Fanfare, so I shouldn’t have been surprised.) Then Queen Amidala says, and I quote: “Padme, clean this droid up. It deserves our gratitude.”
I have never been so embarrassed in all my life.
There are many flaws with the scene. First of all, if this had been any other droid they wouldn’t have had a lame-ass little award ceremony for it. Secondly, the Queen’s decoy is having Padme (actually the real Queen Amidala in disguise) scrub down the droid. Where did these ushy-gushy feelings for droids suddenly come from?
The movie could have benefited so much from leaving this scene on a cutting room floor somewhere and my most embarrassing moment could then revert back to the time in high school when the football team took off my pants and gave be a spanking in the school cafeteria.
Anakin built C-3P0
I will not accept that fact that Anakin built C-3P0. I won’t do it. You can torture me in a scene reminiscent of the finale in Braveheart and I will cry out “Freedom!” rather than admit to this space bologna! Anakin simply didn’t build C-3P0, end of story. Anakin says that he’s good at building things. I’ll believe that. My friend’s nine-year old son used to build stuff and wire up all the home electronics. That I’ll believe. Anakin built a Pod Racer. I will even believe that. However, I will not even entertain the notion that he put C-3P0 together. What, did he use an “Assemble Your Own Robot” kit the he bought from the Inner-Galactic Home Depot? I doubt they give those to slave boys anyway. Would you let your slave build a droid and just trust in his good nature that it won’t actually turn out to be an assassin droid? Never in a million years will I accept the fact that Anakin Skywalker dinked around in a junkyard enough lazy afternoons until he put his own droid together and then downloaded him with over 6,000,000 forms of communication. He didn’t do it, I tell you. He couldn’t have done it. And if that weren’t enough, this whole set up would make a mathematician’s head spin at the sheer odds that Anakin Skywalker just happens to find all the right junk parts to put a robot together that runs perfectly for over 20 years, only for his son to acquire the same damn machine in Episode IV. It was far more believable, and shall I dare say entertaining, when all we were expected to believe was that poor R2-D2 was just a handy device that Leia used in Episode IV to smuggle the plans of the Death Star off of her ship. That’s it. C-3PO was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Besides, can you imagine the circuit distress it would cause that sissy droid if he ever found out who his programmer was? “No, C3PO, I AM YOUR CREATOR!” Good thing his memory was wiped in Episode III.
“I’m not sure this floor is entirely stable.”
This is just another stupid line in a pathetically long line of cheap jokes Lucas makes to try to win over the die hard Star Wars fans.
It didn’t work.
It’s a pointless, cheap and unacceptable way to gain approval from your fans. I have a better idea for how to gain approval from your fans: STOP PRODUCING MOVIES THAT SUCK! Instead of keeping movies under lock and key, why didn’t he allow a small percentage of trusted fans to see the movies before they were released? A simple test screening could have fixed a lot of big problems with Episode I. It probably couldn’t have convinced Lucas that the millions of dollars spent generating the Jar Jar scenes would have to go, but it at least could have fixed some of the other reasons this movie was such a disappointment.
Shmi Skywalker, The Blessed Virgin
Shmi Skywalker tells Qui-Gon that she “can’t explain what happened” about Anakin’s birth. She claims that Anakin just appeared in her belly and that there was no father. I’ve always wondered how Joseph believed it from Mary, never mind Qui-Gon Jinn who is supposedly a wise old Jedi. Comparing Anakin Skywalker to Jesus in this way is extra stupid. Damn you, Lucas! Damn you to hell for this blasphemy!
Jedi Schizophrenia This is the point where something starts smelling seriously rotten with the film. Evidently, now the Force can be quantified by something found in blood. Unfortunately for Lucas, no Star Wars fan accepts this silly new rule that he invented. This is something I wouldn’t have even expected from one of those crappy novels. We didn’t need a scientific explanation for the Force. In fact, we rather like the mystery of it. Talking “Midi-Chlorians” sound more like a case for documented insanity and schizophrenia when you think about Jedi listening to these squeaky little voices that tell them what to do all the time. I guess it’s a great defense for a lawyer when a Dark Jedi goes on trial for murdering a whole civilization. “The talking midi-chlorian’s made me do it.”
“You’ll never get me onto a starship!”
C-3P0 says this during the movie. You see, it’s funny because we know that he will spend a great deal of time on a starship during the later trilogy. Oh Lucas you scamp! The joke of making weak references about things that we know are going to happen just never gets old with you, does it? Bravo Lucas! Bravo!
A Bantha is a lumbering beast from Star Wars seen on Tatooine. Poodoo is…well, if you have a young boy who is in 1st grade, ask him what “Poodoo” sounds like and you’ll get an idea. Sebulba says “Bantha Poodoo” because it wouldn’t be right if two minutes elapsed in this film without some reference to the first three movies. The only problem is that the line just didn’t fit here. It felt like the line was being forced (no pun intended) because Lucas knew that every Star Wars fan worth his weight in Spice would recognize this line. Just another cheap trick in a bag full of cheap tricks. Surely Sebulba could have thought of something a little more clever than this to say. Wait, no he couldn’t… George Lucas was writing his lines. Never mind
Jawas appear sporadically throughout the Tatooine segments. They never say anything except the classic Jawa line: “Oonteenee!”
“Hey Jawa, you want my junked space cruiser?”
“Hey Jawa, your mom just died!”
“Hey Jawa, you have a nice butt.”
I hate Jawas almost as much as I hate Ewoks
At two separate points in the movie Anakin actually exclaims, “Yipee!” One “yipee” comes when he learns that he is going to join Qui-Gon and must leave his mother, home and everything he has ever known, forever. Ok, two things: Thing #1. No ten-year old could deal with this so easily and thing #2, no one, ten years old or otherwise, has ever actually said “Yipee!”
On the other hand, maybe what Lucas was trying to imply was that Anakin actually did use “Yipee” a lot and was tormented relentlessly by the Tatooine bullies with wedgies and swirllies in the toilet because of it. This could explain his rather excessive temper tantrums later in life. Hummm…I may be on to something here.
“Anakin, meet Obi Wan Kenobi.” Ok, for the record, this is the point in the movie where I think I gave up. Lucas displayed such a flagrant disrespect for his own rules, and parameters, I wanted to vomit. This introduction is critical because of Obi Wan’s comment to Luke in Episode IV when he says, “When I first met your father, he was already an accomplished pilot, but I was amazed at how strongly the Force flowed in him.” I will grant Lucas the right to interpret these lines however he sees fit, but he spent so much brain power on Obi-Wan’s assessment on Anikin’s ability with the Force and that that whole stupid “midi-chlorian” gag (See reason #12) that he totally missed the obvious implication of Obi-Wan’s statement: Anakin was an accomplished pilot. What the hell had he accomplished? He’s a BOY, and a slave, to boot! Don’t give me this crap about Obi Wan referring to him being an accomplished Pod Racing Pilot, because until that glorified go-kart race, the kid had never even won before. It’s like Lucas was so obsessed to see a little boy Anakin and yet had written himself into a box with that line from Episode IV that he decided to just ignore it and pretend Obi-Wan never said it. “Move along, folks, nothing to see here. Just move along and enjoy my movie.” I won’t be surprised if another special edition box set comes out in 20 years and that line has mysteriously vanished from the exchange all together.
E. freakin’ T.
When the vote of no confidence is cast we see the various outrage and support that Queen Amidala receives. We see Wookies cheering (which are undoubtedly either three of Chewbacca’s relatives or probably, knowing Lucas, three clones of Chewbacca himself). When they pan across the Senate you see a hovercraft filled with E.T.s. Make no mistake about it, they’re the same race as freakin’ E.T. It’s not a race that kinda looks like E.T., they’re E.T.’s exact race. I’m sure that this is just a little thing that George Lucas thought would be a cute joke yet it’s another absurdity that made me feel a wrenching in my soul as my entire childhood space fantasy died a painful death.
“Yousa thinken yousa people gonna die?”
A scene that may have possibly been important or meaningful is ruined by this annoying line by Jar Jar Binks. If my mom was sick and someone said: “Yousa thinken yousa mom is gonna die?” I’d punch them square on the nose. But then again, anytime Jar Jar opened his mouth I wanted to punch him in the nose.
If I hadn’t seen Episodes IV through VI then I think the whole Palpatine thing would be pretty cool. I think Ian McDiarmid does a brilliant job of acting like a really nice, if kinda weaselly, politician. It becomes clear that he’s working some of the situation to his own advantage but that is what a politician does. It’s not clear what he’s scheming, if anything at all. There’s only one small problem with all of this: I have seen Episodes IV through VI and according to my most recent calculations there are about six billion other people who have as well. What’s worse is that we have all known for over twenty years who Senator Palpatine turns into! What’s with all the mystery? We know that he is Darth Sidious. Just say it and stop trying to be all clever. It’s like reading the last chapter in an Agatha Christie novel once a day for twenty years and then finally reading the beginning. This is why Agatha Christie didn’t design her books to be read in this manner. Unfortunately, George Lucas lacks that judgment.
Because of Jar Jar’s minimal involvement with the alliance between the Gungans and the Naboo he is made a general. What is it with George Lucas and this idea that anyone who does one minor thing is suddenly fit to lead troops into battle? This is the equivalent of some guy saving a kid trapped in an abandoned well and then meeting the President and the President saying: “Thank you, citizen. I’m now making you a general… in the United States Army! Now lead our brave men and women to victory!” I’m not even sure that Luke, Han Solo and Lando were all qualified to be generals, but I could accept it because they were in a rag-tag rebellion. Jar Jar is even worse because he showed that he is inept and clumsy prior to being made a general. Apparently showing Queen Amidala where the Gungans were hiding suddenly made him a military genius.
Right before the big battle on Naboo between the Gungans and the Trade Federation there is a Trade Federation droid surveying the battlefield with binoculars. Is this a joke? It’s hard to tell in this movie what is done for humor and what is just unintentionally stupid. If this is done as a joke then it is not funny. If this is done because some “Lucas Minion” didn’t consider the absurdity of a droid with robotic-frekin-eyes surveying a battlefield with binoculars before hand, then shame on them!
After the droid army fire a few volleys at the Gungans’ shield dinosaurs, which bounce off harmlessly, a droid calls a “cease fire!” Now, we know at this point that the droids are being controlled by a mother ship in orbit. Why do the droids need to communicate via sound waves to each other? Droids that made no auditory communication would be much more realistic foe. Maybe if they said something more than “You’re under arrest!” and “Roger, Roger” every five seconds there would actually be a moment in the movie when you could take them seriously as an enemy. It should have been like Terminator, or the Borg. They should move as one, think as one, and kill with computer precision and efficiency.
If all else fails…use an accident!
Anakin saves the day by accident…Great George…that was clever. This poor resolution to the movie’s climax is the most obvious example of bad writing that I’ve seen since I had to sit through my 10th grade Fiction Writing course in high school and hear plagiarized versions of old Twilight Zone re-runs. I shouldn’t have been surprised though. Lucas just loves to resolve conflict through accidents. (See Return of the Jedi when Han Solo “accidentally” knocks poor Boba Fett off Jabba’s sail barge.) Qui-Gon tells Anakin to wait in the cockpit of one of the Naboo ships that was supposed to go into battle. Wasn’t there a pilot that could have been flying that thing? Apparently there were only about five pilots on the whole damn planet of Naboo at the time of the great space battle because they left their sixth fighter in the hangar. Through a “hilarious” chain of events Anakin ends up in the battle saying things like: “Oops!” and “What does this button do?” and “This is tense!” and “Whoa!” and of course, my favorite “Let’s try spinning, that’s a good trick!” and “Weeeeeeeeeee!” Great writing, George. Just marvelous. It only gets better when Lucas resolves the entire firkin’ battle scene with, what else…another accident. Anikin just happens to crash into the main Trade Federation mother ship, where he “accidentally” releases two proton torpedoes directly into the power core of the ship and then “accidentally” flies out of the hanger bay. Good thing for our heroes down below who were about to get blow away by the Droid Army, because all the Droids on Naboo suddenly loose power. Oh, for silly luck!
By the equipment that the average person carries around in this movie I’m surprised that they’re not all walking around with hiking backpacks. At one point Queen Amidala is cornered by troops and the only way out is to get a floor up. But how does one do that when there are not any stairs around? Not to worry! Queen Amidala and some of her entourage seem to have these guns that shoot grappling hooks and then also have motors that retract the grappling hook with enough force to lift a human body. Phew! That was close. For a moment there I thought they were all going to be Bantha Poodoo.
Obi-Wan’s Victory over Darth Maul
Granted, this lightsaber duel was the only highlight of the movie, and obviously Lucas has started to pay more attention to these fight scenes with each passing movie However, as brilliant, and exciting as the clash was for 15 minutes, it was ruined with the ending. After Qui-Gon’s death we are faced with the biggest disappointment in the final Jedi fight sequence. Obi-Wan, his lightsaber lost down one of many bottomless drain holes, is hanging precariously by a pipe. It seems like Darth Maul has him right where he wants him when all of a sudden, Obi-Wan just flips up out of the pit, uses the force to grab Qui-Gon’s fallen lightsaber and slices Darth Maul in half. That’s it. An otherwise action-packed fight sequence that ended with the stupidest, suspense-free finale one could ever hope for. Since Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan could barely survive against Darth Maul when fighting together I would have appreciated this climax a bit more if Obi-Wan would have had to assert some amount of effort.