By Jeff Groat [Entertainment Bureau Chief]
In May, 1977, moviegoers were stunned with the release of George Lucas’ Star Wars and its beautiful characters, music, and storytelling, not to mention its special effects. Years later, we would all find out that the first release of the series, Star Wars (later named Star Wars: A New Hope), was actually the fourth instalment in the Star Wars story. The release of the first prequel would come in the spring of 1999, recreating much of the hype and excitement for my generation that the original did in 1977. Unfortunately, it didn’t deliver.
The main character was a nine-year-old kid with a bunk haircut and a propensity for being way too nice to people. Anakin Skywalker, who we know to be Darth Vader, the evil incarnation of the father of Luke Skywalker, was actually just an annoying child-slave who had good reflexes. The plot hinges on a substantial chunk of the story in a ten-minute Pod-racing scene—never mind all of the lead up—where Anakin wins his freedom and the parts necessary to fix his new friends’ ship, while every other racer crashes in one of many ways embellished by computer graphics. It’s out of place and may have been a sad excuse to make a video game.
Republic credits were no good? Whatever, Watto.
It doesn’t help Anakin’s case much that his friend is the creature called Jar-Jar Binks, a seven-foot-tall, frog-voiced piece of comic relief who is clumsy, not intelligent by any means, and has way too many lines.
Episode I: The Phantom Menace had so much potential. It had the villain Darth Maul, who wielded a double bladed lightsaber with amazing acrobatics and skill, and wore badass looking red and black face paint on his multi-horned head.
Episode II: The Attack of the Clones didn’t improve much on its predecessor, either. Although Lucas was wise to drastically cut the appearances of Jar-Jar Binks in these later episodes, the villains are nowhere near as cool as Darth Maul. Count Dooku is mostly an arrogant prick, and General Grievous is some sort of robot that has a bad cough. Sure, General Grievous has four arms with which he wields lightsabers he has stolen from slain Jedi Knights, but in no way does he compare to Maul, Vader, or the Emperor in the evil factor. In Episodes two and three, Anakin Skywalker is played by Hayden Christensen who doesn’t capture very well the inner torment, disagreement and overall moodiness that Anakin is supposed to be feeling bound up in the strict Jedi teachings. Of course, Mark Hamill wasn’t the best of actors, either, but what Hamill lacked in skill, translated into the farm boy naiveté of Luke Skywalker. That leaves us only one more go at it.
Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith finally got it right, mostly. The story is solid, the acting is better, the moments where we are supposed to feel tension, we aren’t swearing as Jar-Jar Binks ruins the moment by tripping over a log or getting tied up with a battle-droid. But like its two prequel partners, it still lacked in spirit. There are no Han Solo scoundrel-types to grin with, no “Yee-haws,” no odds-calculating moments that lend A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi their defining moments.