Sure, the scriptwriting is generally awful. Yes, the majority of the acting is unbearably wooden. And unfortunately, these films introduced us to Jar-Jar Binks, who is seen by many as one of the worst characters in blockbuster history. Yet, despite the many, many flaws of the Star Wars prequels, I still believe that they receive too much hate. In a time of division and scepticism within the Star Wars fanbase, I thought I’d try to add some positivity to the conversation. So, here are 5 reasons why the Star Wars prequels deserve a little more credit than they currently receive.
1. Surprisingly Sophisticated Storytelling
While the scriptwriting and dialogue leaves much to be desired (quotes such as “yousa thinking yousa people ganna die?” shouldn’t exist in any form of media ever), the storytelling is actually pretty interesting. The complexity of the political dynamics displayed in these films demonstrates a surprising level of sophistication from the writing team, with plotlines such as the rise of Palpatine, and his manipulation of democracy, providing a layered analysis of the more cynical aspects of politics; its message striking a little too close to home in the current political climate.
The storytelling also tackles other fascinating topics. One of which is the morality of cloning, with the developments of Attack of the Clones inspiring the TV show The Clone Wars, which involves a deep-dive into the ethical implications of breeding living beings for a particular, and pretty vicious, purpose.
Discovering the backstory of Darth Vader, despite Hayden Christensen having a notoriously poor script to work with, is also interesting. Getting to see the origin of one of the most intimidating and ruthless antagonists in cinematic history – starting with his humble beginnings on Tatooine, winning pod races and flirting with girls who are significantly (inappropriately) older, and ending with his savage dismembering on Mustafar – is equal parts intriguing and brutal, vividly demonstrating how Anakin Skywalker fell from the chosen one to an unrelenting block of walking, talking metal.
If you are able to power through moments of painfully-weak dialogue, there is plenty of quality storytelling to be found.
2. Brilliant Lightsaber Battles
If you wanted, you could skip all moments of dialogue and focus solely on the lightsaber battles – because they are epic. Each film in the prequels has at least one iconic, excellently-choreographed battle that often extends across multiple locations and several minutes of footage.
The Phantom Menace sees Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan face off against the seriously terrifying Darth Maul (who is, admittedly, criminally underused). Attack of the Clones has one of the biggest set-pieces of any Star Wars movie, giving audiences the first and, sadly, only chance to see Samuel L. Jackson’s Mace Windu kick ass in a major way.
Revenge of the Sith has one of the lengthiest, most visually-stunning fight sequences in blockbuster history, as Obi-Wan and Anakin face off on the fiery planet of Mustafar. This particular sequence took nearly two weeks to film and complete, involving delicately-crafted, vastly-complicated fight choreography that spans several different locations – and is an absolute joy to watch from start to finish.
3. McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi (and His Fabulous Beard)
I think it’s universally agreed that the single best thing to come out of the prequels is Ewan McGregor’s take on Obi-Wan Kenobi. Granted, his English accent is less than convincing at times, but overall McGregor manages to put a unique spin on the character while staying true to the iconic performance of Alec Guinness.
Kenobi’s quick wit, charming personality and ability to deliver important lessons in a ruthlessly sarcastic manner quickly made him a favourite character of many in the Star Wars universe.
The prequels also enable audiences to see Kenobi in his lightsaber-wielding prime. Fights such as the aforementioned Mustafar battle, the one-on-one with General Grievous on Utapau and the instant revenge-killing of Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace show that the character is more than just an old hermit with a tendency to vanish, mid-fight, into thin air.
The confirmation that McGregor will be reprising his role as Kenobi for an upcoming Disney+ series is most welcome. Unlike productions such as Solo: A Star Wars Story, this is something that Star Wars fans have wanted for a long time, and the chance to see McGregor once again don his legendary beard and bright blue lightsaber is an exciting prospect.
4. Cool, Iconic Characters
The prequels also introduce a number of new, interesting and iconic characters. In fact, each movie in the prequels produced at least one fresh, noteworthy addition to the franchise.
The Phantom Menace supplies the previously mentioned Darth Maul, whose horned head, tiger-like face and piercing yellow eyes make him one of the most instantly-recognisable characters in the franchise. Ray Park utilises his martial arts background and experience as a stuntman to produce a dynamic, intimidating performance – ensuring his character is memorable for fans, despite his disappointing lack of dialogue.
Attack of the Clones sees the introduction of the ice-cool Count Dooku, who is excellently portrayed by Christopher Lee. With his deep, commanding voice and immense screen presence, I would argue that Dooku is the Star Wars equivalent of Tywin Lannister – and his trademark curved lightsaber is still one of the coolest in the franchise.
Finally, Revenge of the Sith adds General Grievous to Star Wars lore. Grievous is, admittedly, a ridiculous character, with his chesty cough and nonchalant abuse of droids making him seem more like comic relief than a cool antagonist. Yet when Grievous gets into action, there are very few characters who provide fight sequences as entertaining as the big, cybernetic beast. His use of quadruple lightsabers ups the ante for the Jedi, and the enjoyment levels for the audience.
5. Memes, Memes, Memes
Finally, and some would argue most importantly, the prequels have been the source for countless memes and jokes on the internet over the last couple of decades.
The terrible script provides ample material for comedic content, with moments such as Christensen’s infamous utterance of the lines, “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere” popping up on social media platforms since the very beginning. Characters such as Jar-Jar Binks have supplied an easy punchline for countless jokes since 1999. And the films in general have inspired entire accounts dedicated to memes, such as Prequel Memes Droid on Twitter, showing the extent to which these films continue to influence popular culture over a decade later.
With some impressive storytelling, the introduction of several iconic characters and an influence on popular culture that is still felt to this day, it is impossible to deny the importance of the Star Wars prequels. It might be time, almost 15 years since Revenge of the Sith was released, to start easing up on the hate. At least just a little.
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