I had the flu a while ago. The one good thing about it was that I got to watch all the Star Wars movies in one sitting. And when I say ‘all,’ I mean three.
Once I had finished watching three of the greatest films ever made, I was left with an insatiable desire for MOAR STAR WARS. And, in my fevered delirium, I made the decision that watching the prequel trilogy would be a good idea.
I feel this decision of mine deserves a Cliff Huxtable level of disdain.
In fairness to myself, I did have a fever. Plus, I hadn’t seen the prequels in years (mostly because they are terrible), and I thought “Well, yeah, they’re not good movies, but are they really that bad?”
While I was watching them, my fever got significantly worse.
I don’t think that was a coincidence.
To make myself feel like I wasn’t completely wasting my time, I broke out my trusty notebook and pen and took notes on everything as it was happening.
Which ended up being kind of pointless, since I found many of my feverish scribblings to be nearly illegible and also totally lacking in originality and complexity on later reading.
The cultural scourge that is the Star Wars prequel trilogy made me start thinking about the fact that within a couple of years, we will have MOAR STAR WARS and they will either be a similar pestilence upon the land or they might actually be good. I’m personally holding out for ‘good,’ simply because I can’t bear to be disappointed again.
While I was in Internet Land doing obsessive “research” on the impending Star Wars: Ep. VII, it came to my attention that a significant number of people wanted Joss Whedon to direct. And apparently, Joss Whedon totally would have done it. Alas, he’s a bit preoccupied at the moment working on a little movie called ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron.’ Insignificant project, really. You’ve probably never heard of it.
So naturally, I combined my trains of thought and began thinking about Whedon and all his attributes coupled with the loathsomeness of the prequels. I imagined an alternate universe in which Whedon wrests creative control out of George Lucas’ hands before any of the films have a chance to premiere, and remakes them himself.
And this is what would have happened:
1. Balance between practical sets and CGI.
One of the things that was really great about the original Star Wars trilogy was the fact that the special effects were limited. Filming took place mostly on-location, either outdoors or on a physical set, which gave the films a very real, accessible vibe. Much like a Western, the sets included a sketchy bar, a remote ‘ranch’ (Luke’s home on Tatooine), and a rickety-looking spacecraft (the Millennium Falcon). Everything was kind of dirty and looked as if it was actually used on a regular basis, which added to the realism.
In the Star Wars prequels, however, there was very little on-location filming. The actors ended up spending most of their time in front of a green-screen. Now, I don’t have a problem with using CGI as a tool, but when you digitally create every environment the characters interact in, we (the audience) can tell it’s fake. Because we’re smart.
Nothing in this shot looks real. Especially Ewan McGregor. AGE, DAMMIT.
‘Firefly,’ Joss Whedon’s oft-mourned prematurely canceled space western (partially inspired by the Star Wars OT), is a perfect example of what could have been. Lee Stringer, who worked on ‘Firefly’ and the subsequent film ‘Serenity,’ has posted these photos from the set of ‘Firefly’ on his Flickr page.
Imagine if the prequels had sets like these. Some practical effects would have been nice too, so that the alternate title in my head for ‘The Phantom Menace’ doesn’t have to be ‘Look At All The Ridiculous CGI Creatures We Made.’
Excuse me while I flap my face fat.
Why didn’t Obi-Wan remember R2-D2 and C-3PO? How could Leia remember her mother if she died while giving birth to her? How did a nine year-old boy manage to perfectly replicate a mass-produced droid when building C-3PO? If the remaining Jedi were trying to hide Luke and Leia from Vader and the Emperor, as was established at the end of ‘Revenge of the Sith,’ why did they place Luke with his own extended family (without even bothering to change his telltale last name) and Leia with a prominent political family? WHY DOES NOTHING IN THESE MOVIES MAKE SENSE?
Clearly, Georgie Lu neglected to re-watch his own original movies before making the prequels, because many things in the original trilogy have been rendered nonsensical by the events of the prequel trilogy.
Now, most writers/directors (I hope) would be able to manage something as simple as good, solid plot continuity, but Whedon deserves a little acknowledgement, here. When his show ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ started airing in the late 90’s, most television shows aired exclusively self-contained episodes. Other than soap operas, BtVS was one of the first shows that relied heavily on episode continuity and story arcs.
When working on BtVS, Whedon would have series/season arcs worked out years in advance, so he wasn’t making everything up as he went along *cough cough LUCAS cough cough.* There are even some fun little details that Whedon doesn’t forget to either resolve or reference in some way later on in the series.
3. Straight-forward plots that actually make sense.
WHAT IS HAPPENING
Can anyone explain the plot of the prequel trilogy to me? Seriously. Because I had NO idea what was going on.
Overall, I know that they are supposed to be about Anakin Skywalker’s fall from grace and the rise of the Emperor, but what about the details? You know, the events that actually led up to these climactic happenings?
Okay, so in ‘The Phantom Menace,’ there’s a trade blockade, or something? And the Trade Federation is refusing to trade with Naboo? Because…why?
Oooh, right, because these two nincompoops are being influenced by Palpatine. Because…why?
I’ve heard fans of the Star Wars prequels valiantly defend them here. According to them, we purists just don’t get the overarching story of Episodes I-III because it is political, and I guess we’re just too dumb to understand politics. To which I respectfully say, they’re missing the point.
The problem was not that the Star Wars prequels were more political than the original trilogy. I liked that they tried to be political. The problem was that they failed spectacularly at it.
A bunch of stuff happens over the course of the three films, usually involving a couple of dudes wildly flailing their lightsabers around. And it is all portrayed as being really exciting and important to the story, but if you try to actually fit the events together and apply them to the story arc as a whole, most of these occurrences make little to no sense.
Maybe one day, I will write out the plot of these movies and try to make sense of it (spoiler: I will fail), but until then, all you have to do is Google ‘Star Wars plot holes’ and you’ll find what you’re looking for.
4. Smart dialogue.
It goes without saying that the dialogue in these movies was atrocious. And it doesn’t help that the actors deliver their lines as if they’re the droids in this story. Which isn’t their fault, by the way. I will defend every actor in these films (yes, even Hayden Christensen) with the argument that bad direction will make any actor appear incompetent.
Anyway, back to the dialogue issue. Whedon is famous for his trademark fast-paced witty dialogue. It would obviously have to be toned down in this film (as it was in ‘The Avengers’), but I can guarantee that we would definitely have been spared the fart jokes.
Seriously. There’s a fart joke in these movies.
How old does Georgie Lu think we are?
WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE
The biggest flaw in the Star Wars prequels was the utter lack of characters. Oh, there were a bunch of human-shaped things who walked around and sat on ornate couches and said words and stuff, but there weren’t any Real People to be found.
Let’s start with Anakin Skywalker. First of all, his turn to the Dark Side was rushed and ultimately not believable. Also, he was a brat-faced little kid, so even if it had been believable, I still wouldn’t have cared about him.
In ‘A New Hope,’ an aging Obi-Wan tells Luke that Anakin was a great man. Was he? Really? In the prequels, Little Orphan Ani is far from great. Instead, he is a spoiled child. Literally. He spends all his time whining about nothing and disrespecting his superiors. And then the first thing he does once he gives in to the Dark Side is to “kill younglings” (which is a slightly nicer-sounding way of saying HE SLAUGHTERED A BUNCH OF KIDS).
That was the first thing he did? Geez. Any normal person would have to work their way up to something that heinous. But I guess George Lucas thought that making him horrid to begin with was enough character development to warrant him murdering children his first time out as a Sith Lord.
Joss Whedon has a knack for writing flawed, but likable characters. The tragedy of Anakin Skywalker would have been handled much more evocatively had Whedon been at the helm. I mean, look at his track record. ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ alone features at least three characters who “go to the Dark Side.” Their transformations are shocking, but ultimately believable because their characters had evolved to the point where everything that they were doing made sense within the context of their story arc. It felt authentic. It also helped that we really liked them and actually wanted them to be redeemed.
Unlike Anakin Sulky-Pants Skywalker, who goes around being a jerk and making everyone wonder how Padme ever fell in love with him, and then suddenly snaps his fingers, turns to the Dark Side, and begins killing children while his eyes glow creepily.
Speaking of Padme, another thing Whedon is known for is creating strong leading ladies. Under his supervision, Padme could have been a heroine to rival Princess Leia. As it was, she was really only there to be Anakin’s love interest and Luke and Leia’s mother. Her character was kind of promising in ‘The Phantom Menace,’ but in the following two movies she just did a lot of crying and walking around wearing dumb outfits and then she dies because Anakin went to the Dark Side and I guess two newborn babies just aren’t enough to live for.
Imagine if instead, she had been written to be like Inara from Whedon’s ‘Firefly.’
Inara is graceful, refined, intelligent, and motherly. She is shown briefly to be competent with a bow and arrow, as well as other types of weaponry, but this part of her is far from accentuated. She succeeds at being a strong character without having to be a female action figure. Now this is a woman who I could see Anakin wanting to protect at all costs, even if it meant turning to the Dark Side.
Also, anyone who doesn’t prefer Morena Baccarin to Natalie Portman is insane.
Obi-Wan Kenobi ended up being yet another totally worthless character. He’s there to (supposedly) be a mentor for Anakin, but he spends most of his time elsewhere, frenetically swinging his pretty lightsaber around his head. These movies really should have focused on the relationship between Obi-Wan and Anakin, but instead, they focused on Anakin being a little punk and making googly eyes at Padme.
Oh, and don’t even get me started on Jar Jar Binks.
Jar Jar is there primarily for comic relief, which is a horrible idea because Jar Jar is the least funny character I have ever seen. Here is a list of all the ‘funny’ things Jar Jar does:
1. He talks weird.
2. He looks weird.
3. He steps in space-poo.
4. He knocks stuff over.
5. He falls down.
6. He gets farted on by a space-cow.
I’m sorry, but when your character has the same catch-phrase as a character from ‘Full House,’ you should just give up writing forever.
In conclusion, I would just like to clarify that I do know the original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy was not perfect. I also know that Joss Whedon is not perfect.
But this is MY fantasy world, okay?
And in my fantasy world, Joss Whedon made the Star Wars prequels.
Also, Robert Downey Jr. and I are married.
I call him Bob.