Not everyone sees eye-to-eye. You might love something that’s reviled by most others. When we at PoP! feel like that, we make an argument In Defense Of…
It’s no secret that I’m a huge Star Wars nerd. I grew up watching the original trilogy and spent my teenage years reading and rereading every Expanded Universe novel that came out. So it pains me to hear people talk about how the prequel films suck. I’m not saying they’re perfect, not by any means, but there are redeemable qualities there. You’ve just gotta sift through some bantha poodoo to get to them.
Okay, I’ll admit, most of The Phantom Menace does suck. Jake Lloyd’s performance, Natalie Portman’s woodenness, the introduction of midi-clorians, Jar-Jar Binks; all of that is pretty bad. But there’s still some cool stuff there. The podrace, while admittedly a bit long, is a lot of fun. Liam Neeson is great, but that’s hardly a surprise; he’s great in nearly anything. Ewan McGregor is more restrained than usual as the young Obi-Wan. I’ve heard some complaints that he was too restrained, but I think he’s perfectly in character when compared to Sir Alec Guinness’ portrayal. And bitch all you want about how he went out, but Ray Park’s Darth Maul and his double-bladed lightsaber has been seared into both the geek and public consciousness. I also believe that after so many years and so much hype, no film could live up to the expectations that had been built up for Episode One.
Attack of the Clones is much better. Yes, Manakin Skywalker earns his nickname and the “romance” bits nearly put me to sleep. But then take into account the presence of Christopher Lee, more Sam Jackson, the Kenobi/Fett and Yoda/Dooku battles, the old-school Harryhausen-esque beasts, and the Coruscant chase scene, and the good outweighs the bad.
Revenge of the Sith is the best of the three. Now that Portman’s an Oscar winner, even after that laughable “You’re breaking my heart” scene, I’m more convinced than ever that George Lucas is horrible when it comes to directing actors. The battles are awesome, especially Anakin vs. Obi-Wan, and we finally see what we’ve been really waiting for as Anakin succombs to the Dark Side and becomes Darth Vader. It also has the arguable best performance by an actor in any Star Wars film, Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine. His fantastic acting job throughout the series nearly single-handedly redeems all three prequel films. Palpatine is a perfect example of a Magnificent Bastard, and McDiarmid’s talent and charisma are on full display. His speech at the opera about Darth Plagueis still gives me chills. Throughout all the prequels you can see the gears turning in his head as he rises from Senator to Chancellor to Emperor, turning everything that happens to his advantage. I’d be lying if I said that by the end I wasn’t almost rooting for him. That’s the mark of a great character, and viewing the prequels as centering more on “the rise of Palpatine” instead of “the fall of Anakin” makes them much more enjoyable.
I know I’ll probably be dropped in the rancor pit for this piece, and likely made fun of for a good while as well. That’s fine with me. If you need me, I’ll be in a galaxy far, far away.