By: Tesla Nikator
For someone in their 20s, such as myself, recent news of “The Hobbit” – both the announcement of its being a trilogy, and just the general excitement surrounding the project – brings conflicting emotions to mind. The original “Lord of the Rings” trilogy arrived at what may have been the perfect time in my life, with the first movie being released during middle school and the last during high school. Essentially, I grew with the story. But I’m not going to talk about “The Hobbit” both because Jimmy Simpson already did that and because ultimately, I don’t have any insight on it. Instead, I’m going to talk about Star Wars.
See, around the same time (give or take a few years) that “Lord of the Rings” was being released, so were the “Star Wars” prequels. Except where the “Lord of the Rings” rose the the occasion, the “Star Wars” prequels simply broke my tiny nerd heart.
While the severity with which any given person despises George Lucas’s lithium-baby of a “Star Wars” prequel trilogy varies, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who claims them to be a tonal match for the original trilogy. The new trilogy is the Wal Mart to the the original trilogy’s Target – an inbred simulacra punctuated by offputting lighting.
Revisiting the prequels as something like an adult, though, I noticed a few things that make them – to me, at least – a bit more understandable. The prequels have a kind of half-cocked depth that doesn’t really have any business being there, and that ultimately doesn’t excuse CGI Yoda , the dialogue, or Hayden Christiansen’s greenscreen-stunted acting. But hey man, it’s better than nothing.
Allow me to start with a pre-emptive “calm yer tits” – I believe the scientific term is a “disclaimer”. In no way do I mean to say that this is what George Lucas intended. I mean, he might have. I don’t know the guy.
Star Wars is the Hero’s Journey. This information is as old as I am. Joseph Campbell said it, your mom said it, probably even Jay Leno said it. If the prequels were any kind of spiritual precursor to the O.G .Trilogy then they, too, would be a self-contained Hero’s Journey – but they aren’t. Anakin isn’t the hero, he’s the villain, and you know it from the start. The Star Wars prequels aren’t the story of Anakin Skywalker, they’re a parable about hubris.
The Jedi Order, at the opening of Episode I, is an ancient and near-infallible collective of elite warriors. They don’t go unchallenged, necessarily, but it’s fairly hard for any government to truly pose a threat to an organization predicated on the possession of magic powers. They’re pretty high on themselves. Also, some political things are happening. Stuff to do with them being a republic, it’s not important, you’re just supposed to know that there is VAGUE POLITICAL UNREST. So Qui-Gon Jin finds this magic prophecy kid, and the Jedi Council and everyone around him pretty much say, “Yeah, don’t train that kid”. Obi-Wan agrees with the council at this point. But then Qui-Gon dies and the council’s like, “Okay whatever Obi-Wan, just follow your heart”. And he does, but it turns out his heart is stupid. He trains Anakin, who grows up to be everything they were concerned about, and it leads to the destruction of the entire Jedi Order. In between all of this, much like how Rome contracted Barbarian mercenaries to fight their wars for them, the Jedi contract a clone army. This fails because, as the Romans learned, paid mercenaries will ally themselves with the highest bidder. It’s like “merc 101″ people.
Obi-Wan goes into exile knowing that he failed at the only thing he had to do, which was not let that kid grow up to destroy everything. When we meet Obi-Wan in “A New Hope”, he lies to Luke about who he is and what happened to Anakin. He’s a guilty old man. Ugh.
So that’s about it. My thought of the day. The prequels don’t feel like ‘Star Wars” movies because they tell a completely different kind of story from the one in the original trilogy – and if you were considering going back to watch them again, don’t – they’re still terrible.