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