Why the 'Star Wars' Prequels Are Better Than the Original Trilogy
February 11, 2012 at 10:44 pm #23660
Haven’t read this all the way through yet, not sure if it’s simple trolling or well-supported arguments, but I thought y’all might enjoy it.
Why the ‘Star Wars’ Prequels Are Better Than the Original Trilogy
The thesis is that “the first three episodes in the saga of Anakin Skywalker are deeper, better structured, and more politically astute than the final three. Not only is that why the prequel is superior, it is also a pretty decent elucidation of the original trilogy’s greater popularity.”
Whuck?February 12, 2012 at 11:26 pm #23684
Mark Lee OTI Staff
I really want to be open to this argument, but the Red Letter Media reviews of Episodes I-III have so utterly eviscerated those movies that I cannot take it seriously. The title that article reeks of shameless link-baiting/trolling, and as such, I’m not going to reward it with a pageview.
I will, however, point everyone to RLM so that they can be rewarded with pageviews: http://redlettermedia.com/plinkett/star-wars/February 13, 2012 at 1:26 pm #23697
I’ve seen those before, Lee, and I have to say, I’m in agreement 100%. RLM has also tainted my love for the Star Trek movies.February 13, 2012 at 8:34 pm #23707
Rambler The Full Harvey
He makes some points that are kind-of interesting, about elements of the story in I – III fitting a modern world view more closely.
But he’s cherry picking to the degree that his article would be better suited as a fan edit than a review.
BUT he, or rather YOU, did do one awesome thing. You prompted me to look for the link to FanEdit.orgs Star Wars page
and now I’m excited about a recent release “Star Wars 30s Serial Edition Part 1.February 14, 2012 at 9:29 am #23713
Rambler, thanks for sharing that. I wasn’t aware of fanedits.org, have to browse around there. I’ve done a little remixing and mashing, but my gimmick is to try to find scenes from old movies that visually or narratively match up with newer or different movies. For example, Big Trouble in Little China 1936; Logan’s Run 1936; Phantom on the Darjeeling Limited (recasting Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Telly Savalas from Horror Express as the 3 brothers on the Darjeeling Ltd); using Italian sword & sandal movies for O Dysseus, Where Art Thou?, etc. Not full length fan edits, just parody trailers. Currently on the drawing board is *The Serpent’s Peg* — Ingmar Bergman’s depressing exploration of 1920s Berlin, portrayed by the cast of Square Pegs.February 16, 2012 at 3:37 pm #23838
Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff
You do interesting work! Anybody who is that big a fan of Big Trouble in Little China is a wise man indeed. Reminds me of one of my first YouTube projects, The Spider House Rules:
Hey, you can probably filter the new footage so it looks more similar to the old stuff. Add a little grain, a tiny bit of blur, maybe make it flicker a bit. I’m sure other people have figured that effect out.
– MattFebruary 17, 2012 at 10:58 am #23846
What the author is really saying, is that the Star Wars prequels are better thematically, rather than cinematically. What I gather from this “RedLetterMedia”, is that they just slaughter the Prequels for what they are, which is: terrible. I get that, but what probably makes the article seem to pale in comparison to RLM is that he drags other great films down with Star Wars. I think he should leave stuff like Lord of the Rings alone and focus on comparing the two trilogies. He does have a very good point about the Black-and-White original trilogy and how there are deeper layers under all the politics of the prequels. It’s been overthought multiple times that the Jedi are terrible people, but in the desperation of war, they have to take the Clones, especially after the Jedi army was decimated on Geonosis. That twist really does paint these events as an actual war, and points out the desperation of the opposing sides, their desperate bids to do whatever it takes to win. The original trilogy really didn’t have that much actual wartime make-or-break tension that the prequels thrive on. Because the pace of the movies are so slow, we don’t really see it this way. It’s all just filler before the battle to us. I think that if you give this article a chance, it is right, and demonstrates it’s point clearly. I recommend the article.February 17, 2012 at 8:11 pm #23853
Rambler The Full Harvey
Sorry to lead us back off topic… but “O Dysseus, Where Art Thou?” is REALLY great. My favorite part was how well “Stay out of the WoolWorths” synced up.
Hope you enjoy fanedits, I certainly have.
Back on topic:
The more I think about it the more I object to some of this article’s points.
“The difference is that the original trilogy appealed directly to the simplistic moral perspective of an America above reproach and always on the side of right in global geopolitics, whereas the much more subversive prequel trilogy stands in defiant counterpoint to the much more dangerously simplistic moral absolutism of the Age of Bush.”
I don’t see any defiant statements in the prequels. In fact you could just as easily (and with the same degree of accuracy) say that the prequels are making exactly the opposite points.
1 – Overlook the flaws of the chosen ones ( the complacency argument )
The moral perspective shifts from Black v White to Black v Grey; good becomes relative while evil remains absolute.
The net effect is saying “Yes we (Jedi/Bushites/whomever) are incompetent, insufficient, and bastions of 1 percenter cronyism… But we’re fightin’ evil and we’re the best you got. Four more years!”
2 – Overlook the flaws of the chosen ones ( the extraordinary powers argument)
Much more of the movies are dedicated to the weakness of democratic process than the ills of totalitarianism.
The senate is pointless, counter-productive, easily manipulated, and unredeemable.
… so yes this is all true. BUT what solution is offered?
There is no indictment at all of the consolidation of power on one individual, the narrative situation in fact seems to demand it… all blame goes on choosing the wrong guy.
Contrast this with Shakespeare’s Julius Caeser, where tyrannic ambition itself is a sin deserving death. In the prequels we are left to lament that Mace Windu or Yoda didn’t have the stones to take absolute power to solve the problem the right way.
Appending the rest of the series to this makes for a dangerous message “Just give the president unlimited power and get it over with. Fascism is a legitimate way to get the hover-trains back on schedule, and once the power starts getting abused we can count on it collapsing on itself. Then the ghost of Reagan/Yoda will guide us in rebuilding a cleansed new order.”February 21, 2012 at 6:04 am #23927
The Original Trilogy, or at least A New Hope, is basically a fairytale in space. Knights rescuing a princess and fighting off a dark lord, etc, etc. The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi flesh out both universe and story quite a bit, but they do keep within that simplistic adventure-story/black-and-white morality. They’re also very limited chronologically, so one doesn’t get to see either the causes of the situation, or the consequences of what takes place. As such… it requires you to think considerably beyond what is actually portrayed in the films to come to any meaningful conclusions that can appropriately be applied to the real world. The Expanded Universe does a variable job of making it rather more believable as a ‘realistic’ part of history, rather than a fairy story, but certainly the material isn’t there in the films themselves. So to that extent, the author of that article is right.
However, I don’t believe the prequels are much better. At least, not in terms of the moral/political situation, which is what the article focusses on. The prequels are supposed to show the tragedy of Anakin Skywalker, as he falls to the dark side through his anger and love. Which they do, albeit in a rather heavy-handed manner. But politically? From just watching the movies, I really don’t know what anyone stands for. There’s this incredibly clunky line in Episode 3, on Mustafar, where Anakin suddenly comes out in support of his “new Empire” and Obi Wan replies that he “was fighting for the Republic, for Democracy!”. Needless to say, this came as something of a surprise to me, since it was the first time it’d been mentioned (Obi Wan is also strongly anti-polticians. This is about as far as his political views go).
But aside from the fact that Palpatine wants power for its own sake, and Anakin wants power to protect those he loves, we learn nothing else from the films at all. We see that democracy can be ineffectual, and there’s an early mention in Episode 2 that Padme doesn’t like the idea of a standing army, but that’s about it. If we accept that, watching the prequels, one also knows about the trilogy, then the consequence of this is an evil empire – but it’s well established that Palpatine is evil.
As such, in order to understand or make anything of prequels, I reckon you need to import material and overthink just as much as you do for the original trilogy. Not that I’m against that at all, but when the “depth” and “political astuteness” that article is talking about are grounds for claiming the prequels’ superiority, then I’d be inclined to reject his analysis. The one thing in his favour, I guess, is that, as a traditional, simplistic, black-and-white sort of story, the original trilogy is less likely to make you *think* about it more, than the prequels.February 21, 2012 at 1:24 pm #23933
Regardless of their cinematic quality, the prequels suffer from being thematically incoherent. If I had to guess at what the movies were supposed to be about, it’s tragic fatalism and the notion that things could not but have turned out thus. But that’s undercut by the degree to which everyone makes transparently bad decisions and then, despite all the endless talky bits laying out the mythology, no one ever really discusses why they reach the decisions they do.
For example; I still have no clue how Lucas feels about the clone army. Any ethical questions about a state-controlled soldier caste have to come second to practical questions about how the Republic could possibly trust their future to a genetic construct based on an enemy of the state and whose financially backing is a total black box. Maybe they’re just that desperate to avoid a draft but, if so, we’re never given any inkling of why or that anyone even bothered to do a cost-benefit analysis of the decision in the first place. Forget overthinking, just plain regularthinking is borderline impossible here.February 23, 2012 at 4:26 pm #23981
Matt – Thanks! Spider House Rules was hilarious and I’m making my way through your older ones.
Rambler – Re: O Dysseus, thanks! Another sign that the whole Star Wars series 1-6 favors benevolent dictators is their admiration for royalty (like Princess Leia and Queen Amidala*), and the lone messiahs who save the galaxy almost single-handedly. Luke doesn’t get as many obvious signs of being a messiah, like being born of a virgin (*eyeroll*), but it’s in there.
* I can’t remember if they tell us right away in Ep 1 that Queen is an elected position on Naboo, or if we’re left to assume that it’s monarchy. Either way, the decision to use that term is a hint that they imagine monarchy wouldn’t be so bad.
Weevilbits – “Forget overthinking, just plain regularthinking is borderline impossible here.” Spot on. You win the internet today.February 29, 2012 at 12:57 am #24128
This is going around the internet right now — a new suggested viewing order for the full saga:
It considers the weaknesses of I-III and places them _within_ the original saga in an order that actually makes more dramatic sense, both for old fans and newbies. I’m excited to go back and try it, since it’s very well-reasoned and detailed.February 29, 2012 at 5:03 pm #24133
Mark Lee OTI Staff
@KateGonzo – thanks for sharing that. It was a great read and makes me want to give it a shot. I would definitely go for “Machete order” (IV, V, II, III, VI, skipping I) if I did.February 29, 2012 at 6:58 pm #24136
Yeah, I’m inclined to agree with Machete order for future viewings. I particularly like grouping Episode I with the Clone Wars animated series as they strike similar tones. I’m not quite convinced the exclusion of Episode won’t drive newcomers to distraction.
The issues Machete order raises reminds me of a This American Life segment by John Hodgman:
If you want to skip to it, it’s Act 3 and starts around 46:30. Before Episodes 2 and 3 even came out he already rewrote the story so Anakin starts as a teenager, places the Anakin/Obi-wan dynamic more centrally, and fixes Jar Jar.March 7, 2012 at 11:39 pm #24210
Hold up, Topher Grace has apparently topped this. He also sees much of the prequel material as erroneous, and edited the trilogy down into one 85-minute film. I wish it could be aired in public, but someone who saw the one private screening describes it in detail here:
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