No critic can overstate the impact of George Lucas’ Star Wars trilogy. Appearing at a time when sci-fi films were largely low-budget, post-apocalyptic downers (THX 1138, Logan’s Run, A Boy and his Dog), they injected a new hope into the genre’s blood. The effects which Industrial Light and Magic pioneered set the stage for modern CGI; indeed, the battle scenes in the original trilogy stand up to the test of time. And the sense of wonder that the setting evoked inspired a generation of storytellers.
With this to live up to, there were as many people holding their breath for the prequel trilogy as were chomping at the bit. Thankfully, 1999’s Star Wars: Episode I: The Seven Warriors shattered everyone’s expectations.
After the habitual title crawl, The Seven Warriors begins with a long, low horizon shot of the desert town of Anchorhead on Tattooine. A massive vehicle on armored treads rolls in from behind the camera, filling the screen in a manner reminiscent of the Star Destroyer in A New Hope. J. Hoberman also pointed out the evocation of the icy wastes of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back – a clever merger of two Lucas classics that doesn’t seem derivative (see “Definitely The Droids We’re Looking For”, Village Voice, May 18 1999).
The villagers of Anchorhead are menaced by a squad of Gammorrean slavers. One of them has his rifle raised to gun down a fleeing boy when another taps him on the shoulder. A robed figure approaches the village from the whistling sands of the desert: hooded, hands behind its back, featureless. Where did it come from?
“You!”, the Gammorrean cries. “What do you want?”
Still it approaches, soundless. Only when the figure gets within a few paces does the Gammorrean raise its blaster to threaten it. Then it raises a hand and gestures, and the Gammorrean lowers its weapon, confused. “The entire build-up here is a testament to Lucas’s growth as a director,” noted Bruce Westbrook. “We didn’t see Lucas really stretch out tension like this until Return of the Jedi, and then never so well.” (see “The Lone and Level Sands”, Houston Chronicle, May 16 1999)
The other Gammorreans surround the figure. Only now, outnumbered, does it raise its head slightly and speak.
OBI-WAN KENOBI: I’ve come to discuss surrender.
(The Gammorreans laugh, squealing and snorting)
GAMMORREAN: That’s the idea. Let’s hear it.
OBI-WAN KENOBI: Drop your weapons, mount your vehicle, and place yourself at the disposal of these villagers. Otherwise you may get hurt.
(The Gammorreans stop laughing abruptly, either confused or angry)
GAMMORREAN: We give the threats here, human! The Tekkari Syndicate surrenders to no one! We come and go as we please!
OBI-WAN KENOBI: No, I’m afraid it’s too late for that.
As one, the Gammorreans raise their rifles. The hiss-crack of a lightsaber emerges from the robes. And the moment we’ve been waiting twenty-seven years for begins.
One thing worth noting before the analysis continues. Though most critics picked up the parallels between The Seven Warriors and The Seven Samurai without much prompting, only a few saw the connection to the rest of Kurosawa’s work. Janet Maslin called the opening fight scene, where a young Kenobi fights off a dozen Gammorreans and Padme Amidala leads the villagers in a charge against the armored vehicles, “reminiscent of Yojimbo in its austere violence.” (See “In The Beginning Was The Future”, New York Times, May 19 1999). Though not as hectic as many of Lucas’s earlier action scenes, it still provides a healthy dose of thrills to start the story.
This also speaks to the tremendous misdirection which LucasFilms used to mislead savvy Internet fans. Early reports on AintItCoolNews suggested that the first ten minutes of Episode I contained a stilted ambush against two Jedi by a pair of incompetent mercantilists. The fact that these obviously fake “leaks” gave Episode I a much goofier name should have been a giveaway, but Harry Knowles was never known for cool consideration. The loss of credibility that AICN suffered when the real film debuted shattered the burgeoning site’s reputation; Knowles’s later arrest for child pornography went largely unmourned).
Wow, you are such a downer, worse than Obi-wan! Why would Lucas ever have stuck with that plot line you mention? Like, nobody would have gone to see the movie! How pathetic. Good thing YOU’RE not writing movies!
[[*sob* It would have been soooo much cooler!]]
ouch! I Hope George actually reads this site …
You sir, have wounded him more deeply with this review of “we wish he had” than any other reviewed did with their review of “he did”
You are an evil, evil man, Perich.
Why do you want to make people cry?
Wow….I’m just left with a harsh and bittersweet taste in my mouth of what could have….should have been…*sigh*
I don’t get it. Why did you post pictures of the girl from The Professional and that kid from The Virgin Suicides? Were they extras in this movie or something? Where are Heath Ledger and Anne Hathaway? This was the first film that showed how good they both could be.
Amen, brother of mine… Amen… *a quiet, gentle sob escapes his lips*
“I don’t get it. Why did you post pictures of the girl from The Professional and that kid from The Virgin Suicides? Were they extras in this movie or something? Where are Heath Ledger and Anne Hathaway? This was the first film that showed how good they both could be.”
Mlawski, I was wondering the same thing!
[[And that’s just harsh! Like lemon juice in a paper cut!]]
Fan fiction on a Monday morning?
I love the Original Trilogy as much as the next fan… but the major stinkbomb of Episode One was 11 years ago. Can’t fans let the Prequel Trilogy go? I have…
If only, if only…
Thinking back, who would have thought, at the time that some unknown movie called the Matrix would have owned Episode 1?
We are now in the age of Bad Ass Sci-fi, and Lucas forgot, his demo at the time were adults not kids.
And here I thought I was done hating Lucas.
Happy Birthday Mr Kurosawa!
As part of the Star Wars Saga, I thought Episode I didn’t fit.
Episode II-VI were the grim parts of the universe. The dirt. The falling apart Empire. The Jedi’s on the run, the princess in hiding, the galaxy at war, the rebels striking and digging their nails in.
Episode I was the shinning Galaxy. The Jedi Council right before the fall, the crest of the wave. The Royal Hiness in her flowing robes and gleeming spaceship.
I’ve read several people who rationalize Episode I as a prelude to the storm – akin to The Hobbit before The Lord of the Rings. I would have loved it to be Episode 0: The Phantom Menace, Episode I: Attack of the Clones, Episode II: Galaxy at War, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. But alas, we have what we have.
Seriously? 11 years later you people still can’t let it go? I don’t see you as a multi-millionaire with people lining up for blocks to see your movies, so maybe give some credit to the guy who does. Episode 1 was a great movie, and the entire saga fits together perfectly. You people put the original movies on a pedestal so high, no sequel or prequel could ever match up no matter how good it may be. I lived and breathed the original trilogy in my childhood, and still do…and I place the new movies right up there with them. If you stop over-analyzing the prequels, and realize that the OT had just as much corny dialogue, stilted acting and hokey plot devices as the PT, you’d be a lot happier. Long live Star Wars…ALL of it.
Oh and Bob, you said Episode 1 doesn’t fit because it was “the shining galaxy”…um, that was the idea. Episode 1 was in the glory days of the Republic…Episode 2 was the beginning of the downfall, and things got progressively darker and “dirtier” looking from there…it was a perfect transition. And Harold, what makes you think Lucas’ target demographic was adults, because you’re an adult now? The movies made a bazillion dollars at the box office because he hit the nail on the head…it was meant for the new generation of SW fans, the same as the originals…KIDS and the kids in all of us. The problem is all the kids who loved the originals forgot their wonder and imagination and want “gritty drama”. That was never Star Wars, and never will be. Go watch Star Trek or Battlestar Gallactica if you want that.
@Bryan – I’m glad to see another passionate Star Wars fan here. I understand that was the job of Episode I – showing the ‘Glory days of the Republic’, however many people hated it because it is so different then the rest of the Saga. In defending it (Like I was apparently clumsily trying to accomplish here), I’ve explained to many of my friends to look at TPM as if was a ‘Prologue’ then Attack of the Clones was the true start of the story, that way they could appreciate TPM for what it is.
I feel I’m in the minority who, 11 years later, still liked Episode I (I spent the 10 year anniversary meeting Kyle Newman, director of Fan Boys). But I can also see the transition was anything but perfect. However, I don’t blame TPM for it, I think its more a flaw in AotC’s.
Also, I do not put the OT on a pedestal – I think that RotS is either the 2nd or 3rd best movie and TPM is 4th. But I can love Star Wars without loving everything about it. No one loves EVERYTHING about their spouse, and sometimes the flaws are what make it endearing.
As badly as the prequel trilogy is a waste of potential and ruins some elements of the story (midichlorians, anyone?), Star Wars: Clone Wars (the 2003 animated TV/mini series) stands out as a shining example of how good things could have been. And in defence of TPM, though too little too late, Darth Maul was pretty badassed.
@Bryan – I think you’ll find that on a site called “Overthinking It”, there is not much that the folks here will let go.
Also, TPM is in no sense a great movie. I realise that this may be one man’s opinion but trying to speak objectively the movie as a whole cannot be considered great. Good, maybe. But definitely not great. The trailer was great (Every saga has a beginning), but the movie itself was not.
Yes there are a plenty of corny lines in the original trilogy, but they were delivered with enough skill and good humour to make them enjoyable. I always got the impression that the actors’ tongues were firmly planted in cheek during those performances. The prequel corn was delivered so seriously that any sense of fun disappeared. At least it did for me.
The beauty of the originals was that they appealed and still appeal to children and adults alike. The new movies, not so much. Making a movie that kids will enjoy does not equate with good movie making.
We didn’t forget our wonder. We came prepared to be awed. We came ready to fall in love with a galaxy far, far away.
So Perich, were you, perchance, inspired in this endeavor by Mr. Plinket’s efforts to thoroughly eviscerate The Phantom Menace? Ever since seeing that review, I’ve been thinking about what might have been… this article was tangibly closer than my daydreams, so thanks for that, anyway.
We are now in the age of Bad Ass Sci-fi, and Lucas forgot, his demo at the time were adults not kids.
Y’know, I hear that argument all the freaking time, and honestly, it doesn’t hold any water at all. Of course Lucas wasn’t going to suddenly start writing “for adults” any more than he was writing “for children” in the first place. The original Star Wars trilogy appealed to children and adults alike, because it was relatable, exciting, intriguing, fun, and fresh. The prequel trilogy could have been the same, if Lucas had had a little more faith in his characters, a little less faith in CGI, and if he had maybe outsourced some of the more important tasks (like the dialogue) to more competent writers. Instead we got a turd of a film that was too childish for adults, too boring for kids – a nonsensical tale poorly told and woodenly acted.
@Jon Eric: I had the Seven Samurai plot outline in mind for a while, but pushed it to the back of my head long ago. The 70-minute Phantom Menace review definitely got me thinking about it again.
@Bryan – I am actually one of that small minority of fans (I think there may be about 10 of us across the globe) who did like TPM. No, it wasn’t great, and it wasn’t necessarily what I’d hoped and expected. I didn’t mind Jar Jar (much), the midichlorians didn’t bother me, I loved the relationship between Qui-Gon and Obiwan, and man, that fight between Darth Maul and Obi-wan made up for a LOT (like Jake Lloyd’s awkward acting and the kind of creepy romance start between Anakin and Padme). THAT was what I wanted to see–jedi kicking butt and taking names. There were elements of the downfall of the jedi already seeded–they’ve discovered there’s Sith around, and all they do is wonder what to do about it? Too complacent. They’ll turn a kid away because he gets upset when they basically taunt him about how scared he is? Waaay too arrogant. I didn’t mind the shiny stuff, because yeah, it was the shining glory of the old days. Plus…lightsaber fighting! Yay!
Unfortunately, it became more and more difficult to suspend my “what the heck?” reactions as the trilogy continued, because the things that didn’t add up not just increased, but did so exponentially. The dialog got, if anything, worse, as did the acting for some of the main characters. It became harder and harder to suspend not only my disbelief, but the sense that, if these movies didn’t have the Star Wars tag, I wouldn’t bother watching them.
And yes, Lucas can laugh at our criticisms all the way to the bank. Heck, he probably owns the bank! But that does not mean that there were not flaws with the trilogy. This site has torn Avatar to shreds, and it’s the highest-grossing movie ever. The fact that a story makes money doesn’t mean it’s got no flaws in execution. (Look at Twilight or the DaVinci Code.) Yes, you can still enjoy it, and yes, people will pay for the privilege, but there’s no reason not to say, “Well, it was fun, but it could have been better.”
@Lisa: Rock on. Way to be.
I’m with Lisa in that I liked TPM at first, and I found the next two to be gradually worse. And I think after seeing TPM again in that context, what doesn’t work for me now jumped out, so I don’t really like *it* any longer. I think I enjoyed TPM because I was young and just wanted to have a good time watching a _Star Wars_ movie- but (and this is important) I was never a fan of _Star Wars_ for _Star Wars_’s sake, I was a fan of the movies in the sense that I thought they were enjoyable sci-fi films, so why not enjoy another film in their franchise? And I suppose, on some levels, I can still think it’s “fun,” but this is one of those movies I watch with more than one brain at a time (if I endeavor to watch it at all). So it’s still okay as a sci-fi movie and fun as an action one, but as a SW film, it’s pretty mangled.
(Another example of a movie I watch on multiple levels: _Batman and Robin_. Hated it as a Batman flick, liked it as a comic flick, thought it was neat as an action flick, etc.)
I think the fact that it’s a _Star Wars_ film is, actually, one of the reasons it has such visceral hate. If there had been some way to make the trilogy of prequels independent from the originals, as in make them their own series (and perhaps make Anakin and Padme closer in age… ahem…) without the SW label, I bet it would have gone over much better with critics and viewrs alike, and could have gained a fan-base that, while not the same as the OT, was at least secure. For better or for worse, so many people have so much love for the OT that they take flaws with the prequels personally, and what would be a minor offense to them in any *other* film is grounds for impeachment in the prequels. They are *fans* of the OT, not just viewers. They don’t just like it, they have something personally invested in the very existence of the films. Not all fans go to conventions, either, but still, there is something unexplainable about the culture around the OT that causes extreme feelings of what I can only call “loyalty” or “connection” to them, and when the OT was “messed with,” a lot of people felt attacked.
That’s just my opinion, though, I’m not speaking for anyone but myself.
So to bring it full-circle, just because it’s a SW film doesn’t make it immune to criticism. I’d argue that, if anything, it makes it more necessary to pick apart. It’s *part* of a massive cultural phenomenon, whether fans of the series as a whole want it to be or not. Its impact on the sub-culture it is a part of, as well as its impact on the overall culture of which its sub-culture is a part, is worth discussing.
And since it’s a movie, its merits as a *film* are fine for criticism and analysis. That’s what culture is. That’s what *popular* culture is. That’s what this *site* is… right?
Several scenes near the end of Ep. 1 (e.g., KayCee’s heartbreaking raid on the slave pens to recover his old Astromech companion, T5, only to find him disfigured and memory-wiped; Saress entrusting Padme to Anakin’s care right before he sacrifices himself to hold the line at the shield generator) effectively invoke both the poignancy of Seven Samurai and the themes of friendship and dutiful self-sacrifice in the original trilogy.
In the final scene, Jar Jar’s blistering rebuke of the ungrateful villagers when they turn to their moisture harvest and fantasy swoop teams without seeming to acknowledge the cost paid by the warriors to defend them from slavery presages the way the apathetic and over-stimulated citizens of the Republic roll over and accept the tyranny of Imperial rule in the later films.
The last episode entitled “Bounty Hunters” was such a homage to The Seven Samurai (Or rip off depending on your side of the argument) that before the opening credits it opens with “In Memory of Akira Kurosawa” on the screen. Very coincidental after this article!
Basically, Obi-Wan, Anakin and Ashoka crash land on a planet that hired 4 bounty hunters that protect farmers from pirates looking to steal their crops. There were many direct nods to Seven Samurai, Lucas probably hurt his neck.
You can check out the episode here: http://www.starwars.com/theclonewars/guide/episode217.html
In my opinion, one of the best episodes of this show.