I recently started watching the original Star Wars movies again, and as a result, decided to watch the prequels too. While the originals have dated somewhat, I was reminded of just how inferior the new movies are. Here are some reasons why:
No Han Solo
Every good adventure story needs a swashbuckler. Han Solo is easily the most likeable character in the original series and he is sorely missed in the prequels. What makes him so appealing is that he is a ruffian – a “scoundrel”, as they say in the films, and we like him because he doesn’t give a shit. He is not a goodie-good like Luke Skywalker. He gambles. He cheats people. He takes risks.
There is no character even closely resembling this in the new generation Star Wars movies. In fact, our two main heroes are the exact opposite. Obi Wan Kenobi is portrayed as a saint incapable of doing anything wrong, while Hayden Christiansen’s Anakin Skywalker is a conflicted teenager that belongs more in Dawson’s Creek or One Tree Hill than films about lightsabres and death stars.
C3P0 and R2D2
This duo is fantastic in the originals, but it was a stretch trying to squeeze them into the prequels. In the very first Stars Wars movie, now called Episode IV: A New Hope, the droids randomly fall into the ownership of Luke Skywalker and follow him around on his adventures. They should have left it at that. To suggest, as they do in the prequels, that both C3P0 and R2D2 were once the property of Anakin Skywalker is terribly lame. If you were to follow the series chronically, from Episode 1 to Episode 6, the coincidences that result from this seem almost impossible. It would mean that the same droids that followed Anakin Skywalker in all his adventures – droids that had their memories erased and were shipped off to a distant part of the galaxy – somehow ended up being with his son in all his adventures too.
Dialogue in movies is something you only notice when it’s bad – and damn is it bad in the prequels. It is especially bad in the romantic scenes between Anakin and Padame. People criticise Hayden Christiansen’s acting, and while I agree that he is about as convincing as a Judge Judy contestant, to give the man credit, his lines totally sucked to start with. Nothing that any of the characters say sounds like it would be said by a normal person. It just sounds wrong. Longwinded. Contrived. Cheesy. It’s supposed to be Star Wars – not a Van Damme movie.
Most people vaguely remember the original Star Wars plot. There’s a big empire led by Darth Vader and it is evil. A small band of rebels is trying to overthrow it and they are led by Luke Skywalker. The prequels are a lot more complex. The fundamental idea is that Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader, but I doubt if many people remember how, why or what the hell else was going on. The slanted yellow writing that customarily starts off each movie only serves to make you more confused. Just who is the Senate? What is the Republic? Who is Samuel L. Jackson’s character? These are never explained. It is just as well, I guess. After sitting through three hours of confusion, you stop caring anyway.
A lack of congruency
Many of things you see in the prequels make no sense and are never explained. Take the armies of androids that feature in the movies as an example. I can accept the concept of an army made entirely of droids, but why would they not have existed in the original movies? We know the real answer: the originals didn’t have the fancy CGI effects for them. Nonetheless, the movies could have at least attempted to explain why past technology in the Star Wars universe radically outclasses supposed future technology.
A lot is said about this, only because it is true. Jar Jar Binks is horrible.
A lot of people blame Jar Jar for ruining the entire first movie and setting a bad tone for the ones to follow. I don’t agree with this wholeheartedly, but the character certainly brought an already sketchy movie to an even lower level.
He is simply too cartoony. It never feels like he should belong in a live action movie. He keeps reminding you that he isn’t real by doing silly things like extending his tongue and walking like a tit. The moment he is introduced into the movies you get the feeling that you are unlikely to see a film like The Empire Strikes Back and much more likely to see an episode of Barney the Dinosaur.
There were others. At one point in Episode 1, the Emperor introduces us to Darth Maul. He steps into the range of a holographic transmitter to mug for the camera. As cool as every eight year old might have thought Darth Maul is, he is as scary a villain as a Chihuahua with a muzzle. Where Jar Jar fails in comic entertainment, Darth Maul succeeds. He looks like he could be a member of Kiss.
Anakin Skywalker is a prick
Anakin goes from being an annoying little shit in The Phantom Menace to being a complete asshole in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. You could say this is excusable – the guy is going to be Darth Vader, after all. But it’s the wrong kind of bad behaviour. The character should have had a bad side to him, not a whiny, creepy, annoying, rude and arrogant one that throws temper tantrums like a five-year-old.
In the first prequel, irritating as he is, the character starts out as a well adjusted kid. You could figure that under the guidance of the Jedi he would become even more stable. Instead, he turns into a total doofus, and it is never explained why. This gives us little empathy for him. You don’t care about the character and his conflict because you think he is an asshole.
The other thing is that Hayden Christenssen is a pretty rubbish actor. You would think that a high profile role like that of Anakin Skywalker would do huge favours for his career, but there have been few movies he has starred in apart from the prequels. You could put this down to typecasting, but I doubt it. No one wants him in their movies because they saw how much of a terrible job he did in Star Wars.