Star Wars: The Prequel Trilogy Review

starwarsunifiedpostersGiven the cinematic footprint that George Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy has had for well over three decades, he would have had to make some ridiculous decisions even if he deliberately wanted to sully the reputation of those three undisputed classics… OK two classics and a very, very good third.

Something along the line of three films filled with blatant merchandising, characters that range from bland to unlikable, and plots bogged down with politics and filler.


star-wars-episode-1-i-phantom-menace-movie-posterStar Wars Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace

After well over a decade spent wondering what Star Wars might look like with advanced movie-making technology, it’s perhaps ironic that the single biggest thrill in this film comes from the familiar music and up scrolling intro credits.

The Jedi’s ‘return’ as we meet Qi Gon Jin (Liam Neeson) and his young apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), wearing the timeless disguise of a hoodie to slip past the tight security of some stubborn alien race hell bent on bringing disruption to the galaxy.

Although you might not know it yet, it only takes 15 minutes to encounter two of the main factors responsible for the failure of this prequel trilogy. The first is politics. There’s a reason why most films set in the political arena appeal to no-one under 60… they’re boring. This is stranger still once you realise that this trilogy, and most especially this first film, are targeted directly at pre-teens.

Which brings me neatly to the second deficiency. The babbling, clumsy and plain annoying Jar-Jar Binks, a tall gangly creature with googly eyes, a voice like Roger Rabbit and a speech pattern of a three year old with a case of ‘moron Tourettes’. With his first “Exsqueeze me” and “Mesa sorry” my heart sank.

Even finding that Luke and Leia’s Mum Padme Amidala was a dead set (future) MILF couldn’t raise the spirits. Even the elaborate hairdos and costumes – none of which seem for public appearances – couldn’t do it. Although it did lead me to ponder if Amidala owns a pair of ugg boots and tracky dacks for weekends off…

We meet Vader after well before his Dark Side balls have dropped. He is but a precocious (being kind) and perhaps annoying (being accurate) child, a slave to an opportunistic businessman on a remote planet. When Qi Gon realises that his midecheloreon count is ‘off the charts’ (don’t ask), he feels compelled by some… Force, to free this child and take him along.

Somehow though he never thinks to take out the lightsaber and simply slay Watto, which justifies the pod race that follows, with the winner taking custody of one young Anakin Skywalker.

While the pod race itself is perfectly adequate and often thrilling, it too falls victim to Lucas’ drive to sate the entertainment palate of every ten year old. So we get annoying commentators blathering along where we should be allowed to be swept up in the movement and visceral energy.

There is one decent fight featuring hands down the coolest looking and best equipped (double sided lightsabers yo!) Darth Maul, who of course gets killed within minutes. And for the rest of the time The Phantom Menace is a disappointing character study of disappointing characters. Liam Neeson has never looked so uncool, nor has he seemed so flaccid. I kept expecting him to drag a doobie from his dressing gown pocket and tell Obi Wan to ‘chill out’. Obi Wan for his part is similarly restrained by the lack of action, and some of the lamest dialogue going round. Let’s just say he isn’t the only one with ‘a bad feeling about this’.

The Phantom Menace is a triumph in costume and set design, matte painting and star wipes. But a bloated story and weaker than weak characters were way too much to overcome. More Darth Maul may have helped. More violence and ‘saber-metrics’ sure wouldn’t have hurt. Ultimately though this film needed an anti-Jar-Jar, a Han Solo type to grab the attention. Instead all that they could summon is a slacker-Neeson, a charisma free Christensen, and a shackled McGregor working an accent more than a weapon.

The problem with making a film packed with kid friendly moments is that it they are crammed in between lengthy scenes featuring political manoeuvring and portentous moments for long time fans – none of whom are children anymore.

The issue with most of these Star Wars ‘episodes’ is that the subtitles, suffixes, whatever mean so little. ‘A New Hope’, ‘The Phantom Menace’, ‘Revenge of the Sith’. I mean WHAT? So for this trilogy I will provide them with a subtitle that actually denotes with some certainty what these films are actually about.

Star Wars Episode 1 – Indoctrination: Lucas Corp markets back.

After this I am not as worried if the Force is with me, I am more concerned if the Will to Continue is.

Final Rating – 6 / 10. In trying to please everyone George pleased no-one. In fact he infuriated many. No film in the Star Wars universe should be ‘just a movie’.


Star Wars Episode 2 – Attack of the Clones

With the galaxy in chaos and rumblings of war, the various leaders and key figures in the good guy’s camp all look to 20 year old Senator Amidala. Unfortunately so do the bad guys. And at least one of them is actively trying to kill her.

With ten years having elapsed since Anakin was merely an annoying young boy, we meet him again a Jedi apprentice, full of Gen Y energy and a premature sense of self-importance. His common sense is as low as his ego level is high. And don’t get me started on those teenage midechelorean levels!

He is obnoxious. He is unlikeable. He is… Anakin Skybieber.

And somehow despite the obviousness of his douchery, Skybieber manages to catch the eye of Amidala. This is made all the easier when he is assigned as her personal bodyguard, with the pair whisked away for a beautiful all expenses paid getaway to peaceful and idyllic Naboo. All that was missing was the taped interviews prior to their departure about how ‘amazing’ it was sure to be and how excited they were.

I’m sure other things were going on as this film unfurled. But believe me all I recall is Skybieber’s douchery wrestling with Skybieber’s creepiness for the title of his most abhorrent trait. At one point Amidala suggests that he ‘stop looking at me like that’, and somehow doesn’t follow the statement up with a restraining order. Or a lightsaber to the eye…

While the galaxy threat level is rising, the entertainment level lacks the same momentum. Sure we have the ‘X-Men: Origins’ tale of Boba Fett (with the associated awful acting of the poor young kid who was cast as Toddler Fett) and the arrival of the future Storm Troopers V1.0. there is even a protracted sequence in a factory that could have been lifted straight from the official Star Wars video game – I kept looking down at my empty hands and wondering just who kept pressing the X button at the right time. Small mercy also for the diminished screentime of Jar-Jar Binks. However no combination of those things can elevate this film even beyond anything in John Carter

So with the very legacy of Star Wars at risk, it is up to the smallest member of the Force to ditch the cane momentarily and step up, which is where this edition earns its subtitle:

Star Wars Episode 2– The One where Yoda finally gets bizzy.

A little sad then that the actual fight itself is but one minute from over 140. Sadder still that this one minute single-handedly justifies a higher score than The Phantom Menace.

Saddest of all is that almost five hours in to the much anticipated Prequel Trilogy, that most of the so called ‘best bits’ are actually references to characters and events in Episodes 4-6, and not the characters and events themselves.

Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. So far this trilogy could have been made by a George Lucas fanboy. I think the moral so far is that any ‘origin story’ is like a meat pie – sometimes it’s better not to know how the thing came to be.


Star Wars Episode 3 – Revenge of the Sith

The upscrolling preamble declares WAR! in the Republic. About time says I.

Thankfully while war might be a disheartening and perilous reality, its arrival in Revenge of the Sith brings the best 25 odd minutes in the trilogy. In that brief span we see a cool space ship battle featuring cool space ship and cool space ship moves. We see a good battle aboard one of those cool space ships featuring cool weapons and cool moves – and for the first time since Darth Maul’s all too short reign a cool villain in the form of General Grevious, an asthmatic multi-limbed robot.

The logical dilemma created by a machine with respiratory issues aside, this first nearly half hour is, for lack of a better term – cool – as close to the glory days of the original trilogy than anything across these three films.

Alas it couldn’t last, before the running time passes the thirtieth minute, proceedings have already bogged down with the entertainment kryptonite that is politics and relationships.

This combination brings out the worst in all the characters that we have come to know and loathe. Skybieber can only barely be tolerated when in battle, when he is sharing his feelings and acting with his eyebrows he is a whiny little bitch. A brat with the emotional range of a toddler with a skater’s haircut and Jedi togs.

By this time Anakin has visions of his now wife Amidala in peril. In George Lucas’ clumsy hands it takes almost forty boring minutes to prove that he is concerned about his pregnant wife and will do anything to save her. Now how long would it take Anakin to merely say as much? Ten seconds? Twenty? Let’s be generous and allow for an eyebrow acting tour de force and say five minutes. Regardless of how long, if you excise twenty or so minutes in this film’s flabby midsection, it starts threatening greatness.

With the message relayed, George finally gets to closing off a few character arcs, some of which have been stumbling along for three films. With the bonus being that we already know that anyone not appearing in the 1977 film is likely to be offed at some point.

Like the first 25, the film’s last 25 minutes are also classic stuff – at least those before the too many unnecessary endings and overlong credits. Lucas finally acknowledges that while Star Wars can be kid friendly, it needs to please the adults that have lined his pockets for over a third of a century. Anakin’s final transition from unlikable kid to straight up evil Darth (oops! Spoiler alert!) is well handled and satisfying. Something all too rare and a little too late to save the trilogy for the case of ‘alsoranitis’ that it was afflicted with.

Star Wars Episode 3 – The Overdue Full Stop… please?

Final Rating – 7.5 / 10. The best by far in the ‘becoming naughty’ trilogy, even though it only vaguely reminds you of the original.

Trilogy Summary – 6 / 10. Perhaps George thought that advances in technology would overcome scripts heavily padded out with politics and forced relationships between unlikable characters. In this series we are expected to believe at an annoying 7 year old boy and a composed and mature 18 year old girl are impelled to be together on the strength of a few brief encounters. Han Solo and Leia sparred verbally between battles, with the ‘love’ developing over time.

Unfortunately the moments worthy of the first trilogy are very brief, with only Darth Maul and his double ended lightsaber and some matte painting backgrounds to be extracted from the first pair. Revenge of the Sith at least had a couple of sequences, with the opening and closing sequences being worthy.

Ultimately though, if you ask any fan whether they would be happy with three films where the best bits might justify inclusion as a DVD extra on the original series, they’d likely suggest ‘don’t bother’.

This was the first time I’d seen any of the prequel trilogy since their release in 1999 through 2005. Doing so certainly justified my reaction where the DVD store check out girl said “you know you can get all six films for less” upon seeing only the original blu-ray trilogy on the counter. My derisive snort now feels more relevant than ever…


About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
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