In my imaginary world where people actually read my blog, and my opinions are discussed as relevant, life changing tomes of knowledge, I always get asked one question in particular:
“Hey Manuel, despite the evidence of your incredible levels of intelligence and thought, why do you like the Star Wars Prequels at all? Why does it seem you even prefer them to the originals???”
Well i’m going to set this one straight right here:
Yes, when i finally get around to reviewing the damn things you will see by and large that i do not give the prequels the usual scorn that it seems everyone else does when talking about them. Because quite frankly they really were the movies that left more of an impression on me in my youth than the originals. Yes you read that right, it seems unlike everyone else that writes about these films the original trilogy is not a shining pedestal of my youth. The reason being quite naturally my personal viewing experiences of all of the movies.
I can’t remember the first time i saw my first Star Wars movie, if i were to guess it would be around the ages of 5-7. What i can say for certain is i did not watch them in the proper order. The first Star Wars movie i watched was a VHS of Return of the Jedi, that i borrowed (and never returned) from my cousin’s. I always remember being confused as it was actually contained in the case for The Empire Strikes Back, that i assume was lost sometime before it came into my possession, and i was always confused by the fact that this was listed as episode VI. Also as a side note the VHS itself felt very heavy to me compared to others in our collection (funny the little things you remember…).
I loved the movie of course, for its space battles, for the father son reconciliation at the end, and yes for the Ewoks. For what seemed like years i thought it was the only movie of Star Wars to be had, and even when i did find out there were two other movies in the story i never sought them out, and honestly why would I? Return of the Jedi had everything i wanted to see and it was also the end of the story, it really just wasn’t that important to me. I was young enough to not be too bothered by the lack of subtext, or back story, or motivations, i could just sit down and watch the movie and take it as it is; and i indeed did just that and watched that movie many times.
When i was about 8 or 9 I had the chance to watch A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. I remember my mother’s long time partner was very eager for my sister and i to watch them as he was about my age when it came out in the theatres, and is one of the many of people that count it as a hall mark of their youth. Although eager and curious to finally be able to watch them it just wasn’t a big event for me. We rented and watched movies often during that time and this was just another night where we did so. Now i did indeed like A New Hope but it was tempered by disappointment and confusion. I already knew how things would end, so there really wasn’t any tension to be had as i knew that Luke would eventually prevail. I was also too young to appreciate the events as to “how it happened” and not “what happened”. In fact the movie just flat out didn’t cover what i found to be most interesting to me in TROTJ; I wanted to know more about Vader’s past, and i wanted to see more interaction between Vader and Luke, but the film provided neither as that wasn’t the story it was telling.
Also i remember being quite disappointed by the film’s dated special effects (and no the original and special editions of A New Hope’s special effects have not aged well, they hold up better than say TRON but if you want special effects that have stood the test of time, the second and third movies hold that trophy) the ships didn’t move as smoothly as they had in Return of the Jedi, all of the sets, models, and costumes had a clunky/junky feel to them. I noticed things like Darth Vader’s chest piece didn’t light up like it did in ROTJ. I asked myself why was Vader’s helmet and C3PO’s body so greasy and dirty looking? Or why did the Storm Trooper’s helmets have slightly more angular eye holes? I will also say that even as a kid i thought the lightsaber duel between Vader and Obi-Wan was absolutely wretched and an embarrassment to watch.
So it is indeed safe of me to say that i wasn’t in awe of A New Hope. I didn’t see what was the big deal with it, as i had already in my mind seen better. As a result to this day i haven’t watched this movie anywhere near as much as any of the other ones in the series, and it ranks as one of the lowest in terms of my picks for favourites of the series.
With the Empire Strikes Back however i can say that it was my absolute most hated Star Wars movie for a very long time. It was fucking boring, as a kid i didn’t appreciate all of the subtleties within the narrative. I expected to see a climactic space battle and what i got was a walker attack at the start of the movie, that took place in a winter wasteland that looked like the snow drift mired fields that prevailed for most of the school year in Edmonton. It was about as far from “exotic scenery” as a movie could get, if the camera panned over to show some kid watching the battle unfold while waiting at a bus stop, I wouldn’t have been shocked at all. Also Leia kissed Luke… I have a sister, do you know how absolutely repulsive that thought of kissing her is to me?
Once again the movie disappointed me, although the production design and special effects were head and shoulders better than in the previous film, i still wanted to know more about Vader’s past, i got to see more interaction between Luke and Vader, but i had to sit and watch a love triangle that i already knew the ending to play out, or suffer through what i found to be an eternity of time spent on Luke learning from Yoda. All just to get to the reveal that i already knew would happen. My opinion of this film would indeed change over time as i smartened up and saw why it is considered the best of the series, but as an impatient child it was a chore every time i forced myself to watch it.
My experience with the original movies wasn’t the “traditional” one i suppose. Since i started from the end, my expectations were focused on different things that just weren’t in those films’ agendas. My thoughts of them ranged from ”good” to “Meh” to “I hate that movie” and stayed that way for a long time.
Which is why when The Phantom Menace came out it didn’t disappoint me as much as everyone else. I only had to wait about four or so years for a new Star Wars movie instead of almost thirty, and my expectations weren’t astronomically high as i had already been disappointed by the ones that i had watched previous to it. I remember that it promised to satisfy all of what I most wanted from a Star Wars movie: to learn more about Darth Vader’s past. My feelings of watching it in the theatre was i assume just about the same as when kids watched A New Hope for the first time. I was in awe of the scope of the special effects, i was amazed at the film’s visual design and score. Jar Jar Binks was annoying at times but I was still young enough that he and the film’s plot holes and contrivances didn’t stick out as bad as they do now. I remember coming out of that movie thinking it was great (also i remember it chiefly as it was one of the opening movies of the brand new “Phase Four” Silver City Theatre that had just opened in West Edmonton Mall). My opinion on it didn’t change very much with repeated viewings for a long while after. Which is why it has been always to my eternal confusion why it is so absolutely hated.
Although my opinion of it has changed, i thought Attack of the Clones was an even better movie than The Phantom Menace. As it once again filled that basic want of me just wanting to know more about Vader’s past. I enjoyed watching the dots connect in how the Empire was formed, and how Luke and Leia were born. Although i now see that there is very little chemistry between Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen (and dear lord in heaven is their acting awful), i liked watching their love story evolve as although i knew it couldn’t end well i didn’t know exactly how it would end. Once again i was also young enough not to see all of the worst parts of the the film (its lack of an engaging narrative and over reliance on digital effects), and again i really just wasn’t disappointed by it all, as it delivered on my own modest expectations.
I was 17 when Revenge of the Sith opened, and finally after waiting for 5 years I would get to see how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. This is when my expectations were finally put to extremely high levels, and to my absolute delight they were fulfilled. I got everything i loved about the series in one movie: tons of awesome lightsaber duels, a huge space battle, a tremendous score, and a great story of a good man succumbing to his deepest fears. I was a hopeless romantic in high school (meaning i was a loser with no girlfriend) so i could relate to some of the strong emotions that Anakin felt and understand why he went to such lengths to try and hold onto the woman he loved. Although i cannot argue seriously that it is the best of the series, Revenge of the Sith remains my absolute favourite movie in the franchise and stands out as one of my most memorable theatre experiences.
And there it is, my reason for liking the prequels and honestly not getting the worship of the originals is because i experienced the whole thing backwards. I’m not ashamed of this fact either, i know the stigma that goes along with liking the prequels and quite honestly it feels like i’m completely alone in doing so. But you know what? Fuck it, i’m saying right here and now that despite their flaws, i like the Star Wars Prequels. As they honestly satisfied my want for more stories of that ”Galaxy Far Far Away…”