I’ve been rewatching the Star Wars prequel trilogy while working this week. That I own them on DVD tells you I have a better opinion of them than most people my age. I do think the hatred of the movies is, in some sense, a Gen-X thing. They failed to live up to expectations. I’ve noticed older viewers and younger ones tend to think they’re almost as good as the original trilogy.
I think the thing that frustrates most people — and frustrates me on occasion — is that you occasionally glimpse the great movies buried within just good movies. The prequels were not very far away from being outstanding. The direction — at least the visual direction — is great. The F/X are spectacular and, more importantly, imaginative. John Williams music is up to par. If the movies had just done a few things differently, they might have been great. Specifically:
Accelerating Annakin’s descent into villainy would have done well too. Cast as a teenager in movie 1, he could have shown the ruthlessness and impatience that makes him fall. Movie 2 could have seen him growing more disgusted with Jedi restraint and more convinced that only a firm hand can destroy the Sith, culminating in hims executing a defenseless Dooku on Palpatine’s orders. By movie 3, he would be spinning out of control, unable to harness his own power, paranoid to the point where when Palpatine says, “kill the Jedi”, he does so without thinking.
Casting someone other than Hayden would have been a good idea as well, although I’m not convinced that was a Hayden-sucks-as-an-actor problem and not a Lucas-can’t-direct-actors problem. His spell as the evil Annakin at the end of Movie 3 was quite good.
What’s amazing, watching the movies, is how well parts of it work. Obi Wan works. The fights work. Yoda works. What drags things to a screaming halt is the forced arc of Annakin.
Notice I haven’t suggested any radical changes. Just tweaks. Simplify, accelerate, amplify. Star Wars does well with clean story telling. It’s a pity Lucas forgot that. Because instead of three good movies we could have had three great movies.