10 reasons the ‘Star Wars’ prequels don’t completely suck

Well, they do though, eh?

It’s a shame, because in between miscasting, misjudged characters, non characters and tax embargoes there as some very typically Star Wars tropes which get lost in the soup of prequel bashing.

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But let’s have a look at Episodes I-III one more time, looking past the dialogue, the wooden acting and Jar Jar Binks to celebrate all that’s good about the Star Wars prequels.

 

1. Ewan McGregor

Despite some dodgy lines and an equally dodgy wig on occasion, McGregor is a stand-out in the prequels as Obi-Wan Kenobi. So much so that he even recorded a bit of dialogue for The Force Awakens.

He is a steady rock amongst the shifting lava fields of actors and his lightsaber battles are the best the entire series – including the original trilogy and The Force Awakens – have seen.

His desperate cry to Anakin on the shores of Mustafar – “You were supposed to bring balance to the Force!” – is the best piece of acting again in the whole Star Wars canon.

 

2. The lightsaber battles

As alluded to above, the lightsaber battles in all the prequels are superb, with highlights being Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon fighting Darth Maul, and Obi-Wan and Anakin’s legendary battle on Mustafar.

 

3. John Williams

Ah, well, of course. Williams is and always will be superb. From his ghostly variations of the ‘Imperial March’ in The Phantom Menace to his choral ‘Duel of the Fates’, his work here is as good as anything in the original trilogy.

 

4. Darth Maul

Conversely the best thing about the prequels and a big reason why they suck, this character has proved himself worthy in The Clone Wars and is unforgivably jettisoned in the prequels after a superb fight. His design is striking, his skills fantastic, but his backstory virtually non-existent. What a waste of a character!

5. Ben Burtt Jr.

Who, you say? He’s the genius responsible for the noise of the TIE fighters, Vader’s breath and the “vroop vroop” of the lightsabers. In the prequels, he’s equally brilliant, no more so than in The Phantom Menace with the sound design of the pod race being as iconic as anything else Star Wars has delivered.

6. The opening of Revenge of the Sith

John Williams’ music, an epic space scene and the sweep around to the battle above Coruscant to save Palpatine is breathtaking and, seen in a decent cinema, makes your tummy lunge as you realise the scale of everything that’s happening.

Of course, later, Buzz Droids and a moody Anakin waste this, but to start with it’s deliciously decadent.

 

7. Those little Padawans

In Revenge of the Sith, when Anakin attacks the Jedi Temple, we meet a very young Padawan who is very pleased to see Master Skywalker.

When Vader turns his lightsaber on the look on the little boy’s face – along with a tentative step back – is heartbreaking, and sums up just how far Vader has fallen to the Dark Side.

A little later when Bale Organa tries to gain entrance to the Temple an older Padawan attacks a platoon of Clone Troopers with the Force and a saber. He’s superb. What was his story, we wonder, as he’s tragically struck down.

 

8. Chewie and Kashyyyk

Chewbacca is never a bad idea, and a war of Wookies is obviously the scene that Lucas couldn’t afford in Return of the Jedi. Again it’s wasted by silly Tarzan calls, but on the whole seeing a herd of Wookies running at the clone army is thrilling and, to top it all, Chewie is on great form.

 

9. Yoda’s journey

Watching Yoda’s progression from middle aged man to old Jedi is wonderful, from his ’70s sideburns to his walking stick. And watching him battle both Dooku and Sidious is far less ridiculous than you’d have first though.

Yes, of course, it makes no sense that he has a stick but can then jump around, but it more than makes up for it with his acrobatics.

 

10. The overall arc

It’s nice to see the petulance of Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens. On hearing that BB-8 has escaped Jakku, or that Rey has escaped the Mind Probe room, his teenage tantrum echoes his grandfather’s younger self.

Anakin himself is wholly miscast in both incarnations, but his story arc is brilliant and watching Vader fall is like watching Jack Torrance be seduced by the Overlook Hotel.

Both Frank Oz and Ewan McGregor manage to instil real pathos and desperation into their characters as they watch their world fall apart and we’re left with a huge “if only” Hayden Christensen had delved a little deeper – or been directed a little more strongly – to give that fall to the Dark Side the epic tragedy it required.

 

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> Buy the complete original Star Wars saga box set on Amazon.

What do you like about the Star Wars prequels? Let us know below…

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  • Alex Denby

    I like that they eventually spawned The Clone Wars.

  • Tim

    Watch Anakin when he hears that Padme is pregnant. That is excellent acting.
    The problem was the director, not the actor. Look at little closer.

    • Hurocrat

      It’s both, I think. He was able to do quiet, he just wasn’t good with big displays of emotion. He couldn’t let himself go enough to do wild swings, and that gave him sulkiness where he needed rage and anguish. The directing didn’t help – Lucas could have wrung better emotion out of him, but it didn’t happen. And the writing wasn’t an asset either. Better lines could have given the impression of someone trying too hard to keep his emotions in check; what he was given sounded more like he wanted ice cream and didn’t get it.

      • IonHawk

        Agreed, saw him in both Jumper and Awake. He was horrible whenever emoting anything sad and looked whiny whenever he was supposed to be angry.

  • speckledjim

    No mention of Ian McDiarmid? For me he’s the best thing in the prequel trilogy, if not the whole thing.
    “My little…green…friend”

  • Fury

    The Wookies were fighting the Droid Army of the Separatists on Kashyykk, not the Clones. They were allies of the Clones.

  • Jake Trierweiler

    1: Agreed, Ewan McGregor was a really good choice for Obi-Wan.

    2: No. Faster and more choreographed, sure, but that absolutely does NOT mean they are better. There’s no tension, no danger, just a perfect, flawless dance without a thing out of place. It just doesn’t look real, it’s not exciting,

    3: Agreed.

    4: Darth Maul was a useless character created to sell toys. The extended universe making him better does not make him less so in the trilogy.

    5: Eh. No strong opioion, agree/disagree.

    6: Just a cluttered clusterfuck of cgi ships and flashing lights that, again, doesn’t look real in the slightest, nor is it really that interesting to watch.

    7: No. Just no.

    8: No strong opinion.

    9: This completely misses the point of Yoda’s character. Luke went to Dagobah looking for a great jedi warrior, and found a strange little man in a mud hut. He was no warrior, but he didn’t have to be. His power was in his attunement to the Force, despite his size. He doesn’t teach Luke to fight with a lightsaber because that’s not what’s important. What’s important is a connection and deep understanding of the Force and all that it binds together. Yet in the prequels he’s the same kind of jumpy flippy fighter as everybody else because MOAR LIGHTSABERS WOO FLASHY LIGHTS AND SWORDS. Seeing Yoda teaching the Padawans about how to fight with lightsabers rather than something more like what he taught to Luke in ESB was insulting to his character.

    10: This isn’t even a point. The plot of the prequel trilogy was so ridiculous, far-fetched, and convoluted for the sake of continuity, Episode I especially. And Hayden Christiensen is a perfectly fine actor, and had a few really good moments in the trilogy. He was just written like garbage and given awful, if any, direction.

  • NilbogResident

    “As alluded to above, the lightsaber battles in all the prequels are superb, with highlights being Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon fighting Darth Maul, and Obi-Wan and Anakin’s legendary battle on Mustafar.”

    I take major issue with these arguments that laud the lightsaber duels in the prequels. First off, making the Jedi or Sith as some sort of “martial arts”-like lightsaber expert eliminates any significance of what the lightsaber symbolizes. It also dumbs down Star Wars, and is completely nonsensical when pairing it with the duels in the originals. The prequels reduced the lightsaber to a mere marketing gimmick, and the duels have no emotion whatsoever. Furthermore, giving Yoda a lightsaber was absurd, and insulting to the audience. The whole point of Yoda’s physical characteristics in the originals was to challenge the assumptions that a Jedi must be of a certain “kind” of person. He was small, and his physical characteristics were not intimidating. That perfectly set up the understanding that the Force is not bound by “what” someone is. That’s such a beautiful concept, and the prequels pissed all over it.

    • Christopher Haag

      Here’s a counterpoint to your criticism. Think of the era from Phantom Menace to Revenge of the Sith. This was the time of the Republic, the time where the Jedi weren’t nearly extinct. The Temple was thriving with new Padawans, trained in the Jedi ways by many wise Masters. The art of Dueling was one taught to everybody, freely and openly, by able bodied Jedi to future able bodied Jedi. All of the tricks and methods were open to being learned.

      Now consider the time of New Hope through Return of the Jedi. The Jedi are nearly extinct, merely having a lightsaber puts an Imperial target on your back. A young farmer is barely taught by an old sage, the villain they’re fighting is a machine that used to man. And the boy’s Master was another old sage, one who did not believe in a Warrior’s path. And then the boy was the only one, left to tackle his emotions and quell them to best the machine man in a Duel.

      We’re dealing with two different times of the Jedi, one taught from birth while the other stumbled into an amalgamation of teachings from sages. While it’s true that PT emotions were nowhere to be found in the fights, it’s not the choreography that was wrong. It just reflected a different time for the Jedi.

      • NilbogResident

        I just can’t buy the “different era” thing, as a viewer. This is just my point of view, but I’m not alone. When people have to make big mental stretches and forcibly try to fit the two trilogies together through explanation, that’s a huge problem.

        Glaring differences like the one I described in the previous comment shouldn’t need outside explanations in the first place, because a good prequel trilogy wouldn’t require that. Nor is Star Wars complex. It only became unnecessarily “complex” with the prequels, because of all the inconsistencies and stylistic incompatibilities with the original trilogy. All of these questions shouldn’t need to be asked in the first place.

        The lightsaber issue is just one part of the overall problem of the prequels, albeit one of the more glaring ones. The prequels don’t fit the tone, the stylization, the mythology or even the story of the originals. No rational viewer is going to want the prequels to be the same as the originals, but certain things need to be consistent in a fantasy universe. When you needed to explain the lightsabers in the prequels, that already answers the question of why so many don’t like the prequels. Star Wars is about the characters and mythology first and foremost, with the fantasy universe as a backdrop, in a simple, straightforward story.

  • Digzmania

    I loved the prequels. Could they have been better? Yes. Could the acting have been better? Most definitely.

    But as a kid from the 70’s, who had always wondered about the back story that led up to the movies that I sat and watched at the theaters in 1977, 1980, and 1983, and was completely enthralled with for most of my childhood; I was able to let myself sit back and enjoy the story for what it was. A really good story. Another magical piece of the puzzle, that was Star Wars.

  • Roman Cruz

    I actually doubt you watched the prequels recently. Because I did; marathoned all three episodes before New Year. Lemme tell you, it was not a fun experience. The acting was bad, majority of the lightsaber battles were actually poorly done, nearly every single infodump scene was two dudes walking along a CGI corridor/hallway/street.

    Consumed in very small amounts — maybe just some action scenes — maybe you could find some entertainment in the prequels. But you could never watch them back-to-back like the original trilogy, or watch them multiple times like I have with The Force Awakens.

  • ICE

    They dont suck i agree, the word suck doesn’t describe it well, they’re pulling golfballs trough garden hoses 😀 Just kidding, they re not bad and not good let’s just cal em FAIR

  • Mason Hartley

    I’ve come to realize that, strictly in my own opinion, if you recast adult Anakin (let’s face it Hayden Christensen sucked in Jumper too) and totally get rid of JarJar, abotu 90% of the issues are resolved. adding more Liam Neeson wouldn’t hurt either