Friday, June 19, 2009

Star Wars: Episode 1 Ten Years Later

Star Wars: Episode 1 - Ten Years Later

It's May 19th, 2009, and as Star Wars Episode I was released on May 19th, 1999, that means that the Star Wars prequel trilogy had been part of our lives for a complete decade and is now officially retro. Just realize that ten years ago you were more than likely waiting in line for what will result to a shitty movie. Way to go. Oh wait, right now you were in the movie theater with your popcorn and your lightsaber on your belt clip (cause you know you ordered one of them son bitches) and the screen starts to flicker... A long time ago in a galaxy far far away....

Happy anniversary! Everyone celebrate by destroying millions of dreams!

Even by the standards of the old Star Wars movies - which weren't great shakes for dialogue or acting - it was a bad movie. The lead was played by a bad child actor saying and doing dumb things for long stretches of the film. Jar Jar is terrible, making Wicket the Ewok look like fucking Snake Plissken. Even the incidental aliens are terrible for the most part (e.g. Watto the Flying Space Jew, Nut Gunray of Fu Manchu).

None of this is news, but I don't think history will suddenly turn a 180 and declare the prequels joyous classics or something. 10 years later they just look dumber and the quality of the CGI doesn't have the shock value it did when they were new.

I feel like Qui-gon and Darth Maul were the only good things about that movie. They were both mysterious, badass characters and I would've rather seen both live and Darth Maul become Vader's nemesis or something. Then again, I really, really hate Darth Maul. ARRRG, I AM EVIL! JUST LOOK AT MY FACE!

The midichlorians destroyed a lot of the fantasy, but I think we can all I agree on that. Oh, the Force isn't all that special, and you have the same chance of being autistic as being force-sensitive. Okay, gee. Thanks a whole fuckin' lot there. Such a waste and killing my childhood dream of moving pencils with my mind.

I can't help but thing that the film could have been saved some by simply getting an older Anakin or even a different actor. The whole relationship between Padme and Anakin was creepy to say the least. The kid looked like he was playing with his crayons and Padme comes in robbingt he craddle. Then agian, let's just run through the list of the shit that this film piled on us.

-The character of Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader couldn't possibly have been done more of a disservice by this movie and the prequel trilogy as a whole - in performance, in writing, in his arc to become Vader, and by his absurd backstory (virgin birth???).


-An overreliance on bland special effects at the expense of storytelling. True, a lot of it was impressive at the time, but it has aged rapidly and a lot of it now looks like mediocre PS2 cutscenes - the robot/Gungan battle on the plain comes to mind, and the hilariously awful effect of Qui-gon grabbing Jar Jar and pulling him down near the beginning of the movie. Fellowship of the Ring is nearly as old and it still looks great. And let's not even discuss the flat-out insulting CGI stormtroopers in Episode II and III, as if George Lucas didn't have the fucking budget to get a few dozen stormtrooper outfits and extras to wear them.

-A cringe-inducing love story.

-Tedious action scenes like the pod race.

Of course, it is worth acknowledging that there were a few things that DID work:

-Qui-gon Jinn is maybe the only legitimately cool character introduced in the prequel trilogy. This is probably less because of George Lucas's script and direction and more because Liam Neeson, bless him, is actually trying to act through the blandness, but unlike the rest of the new Jedi he actually evokes the Jedi cool of Obi-wan in the original trilogy.

-I do really like the overall arc of Emperor Palpatine across the trilogy. Not every moment works, but his overall plot is genuinely well-told and interesting, and he is the only character whose appearance in the original trilogy is actually enriched and deepened the way the prequels should have done for all the characters. It gives dimension to what was in Return of the Jedi a menacing but extremely shallow cipher of evil.

-John Williams always delivers. Duel of the Fates was great. And on that note,

-Admit it, the Darth Maul lightsaber battle all blew our minds as kids. Even if Ray Park is paying his bills on the 20 buck convention photo and whatever silly movie will hire him for his stunt coordinating.

It's kind of a bittersweet time for the tenth anniversary, because not two weeks ago JJ Abrams showed us with Star Trek what nearly everyone agrees is the way a prequel to a beloved franchise should be done - with energy, excitement, genuine humor, and the proper balance of tributes to the classic series without it being nerd jerk-off fodder. As a lifelong Star Wars fan who had never seen anything Star Trek until last month, I never thought I'd be admitting that, but there it is.

What I hate most about the prequel trilogy is that, similarly to the Harry Potter films, it's so anxious to get the plot details across it forgets to make the characters likeable or even remotely interesting. How, for example, Lucas managed to get such a wooden, dull performance out of McGregor is baffling - it's almost an Olympian accomplishment. As a result the movies are the worst combination of goofy, childish action and dialogue and an excruciatingly dry stroy presentation, similar to a really horribly done political thriller.

They were all shit movies, I don't know which one was worse, 1 or 3. Ep. 1, with all of the stupid ass hijinks, or Ep. 3, which actually tried to be serious and failed so, so miserably. I thought Ep. 2 was the best, in that it was just a bunch of action scenes with mindless filler that I don't remember placed in between.

I still remember laughing in the theater (couldn't help myself) at the end of Revenge of the Sith, first when the robot doctor is like "she died of a broken heart" or some other drivel, and second the end with Vader, "nnnnnnNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooo!" Oh man that was precious. Looking back The Phantom Menace really was a huge waste of time because almost nothing from it is actually carried over into 2 and 3.

Fight Club is also going to turn ten years old this year, but I'll write a blog about that in October.

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