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5 Great Things About Episodes I-III

The prequels really aren't that bad.

By Rob Vaux     September 13, 2011

 The prequels are undoubtedly the red-headed stepchildren of the Star Wars universe: scorned, belittled and mocked at every turn for dragging the franchise into depths from which it can never recover. Nobody doubts that Episodes I-III could have been better. The dialogue clunks, the performances are wooden and… yeah, there’s Jar Jar. But not all of us believe that those flaws are fatal, and maintain with fierce conviction that undue Prequel Hate disguises some of the truly great elements present in I-III. They bring honor and depth to the Star Wars saga, and ignoring them is just as bad as excusing the flaws. Here are five fantastic things about the prequel trilogy: things that all the “NOOOOOOS!!!” in the world cannot hide.

 

5. The Pod Race

Sure, there’s that annoying two-headed announcer, cracking bad jokes and basically making everyone feel dirty and used for even buying a ticket. But look at the rest of the scene: the white-knuckle editing, the zipping landscapes, the deliriously awesome notion of strapping a seat behind a jet engine and hitting “afterburn.” Add to that a few marvelous touches like the Sand People taking potshots at the racers, or Jabba starting the race by biting off a frog’s head and spitting it at a gong, and you have everything the fans were hoping to see when they stepped into the theaters.

 

4. Lightsaber Duels

For all the complaining about The Phantom Menace, I’ve yet to hear anyone say “boo” about that lightsaber duel. Before then, the duels were all a little stiff: fought between old men and untrained youths. Here, we get a front-row seat to what three fully-trained Jedi could do. The buzz from their climactic struggle might have helped a number of people overlook the film’s flaws for a time, and while Episodes II and III couldn’t quite match it, they still uncorked regular helpings of laser sword-y ass kicking for our enjoyment. (We’ll give second place to the showdown between Obi-Wan and General Griveous in Revenge of the Sith.)

 

3. The Soundtrack

George Lucas likened the Star Wars movies to silent films – not surprising considering his awful dialogue – and cited the music as their emotional lynchpins. Hard to argue with that. John Williams’ gorgeous compositions delivered all the beats that the actors couldn’t: true to the original music while adding fresh new pieces that each film could call its own. I maintain that “Duel of the Fates” is the best Star Wars music ever composed, and “Battle of the Heroes” in Revenge of the Sith is the only thing keeping the landscape from swallowing Anakin and Obi-Wan whole.


2. Great Jedi

Ewan McGregor deserves some kind of medal for making a compelling character out of the hash he was given. The actor consistently holds our attention, does honor to Alec Guiness’s iconic turn and even brings the odd twinkle in his eye just when things look their bleakest. He’s not alone. How about Sam Jackson as the baddest Jedi in the whole damn universe? Yoda in crack-addled death Muppet mode? And the whole plethora of weird and wonderful Jedi beneath them: seen best in the climax to Attack of the Clones, but popping up here and there throughout the trilogy. They help convey the scope and breadth of the Star Wars universe… while kicking all kinds of butt to boot.

 

1. Great Villains

Okay, so Anakin’s pretty whiny and those Trade Federation guys skirt way to close to the “racist caricature” line for comfort.  But it’s not like the prequels have a shortage of truly awesome bad guys. Darth Maul goes without saying – he became an audience favorite almost before he stepped onscreen – and Ian McDiarmid’s  measured, calculating turn in Revenge of the Sith holds that film together. (Keep hiring the Scotsmen Geroge; they do good work.) But don’t forget Grievous, Star Wars’ Richard III clone who keeps a collection of lightsabers from all the Jedi he killed. Or Count Dooku, giving Christopher Lee a marvelous opportunity to bookend Peter Cushing’s appearance in A New Hope. Even Sebulba – the podracer with whom Anakin crosses engines in The Phantom Menace – looks like nothing we’ve ever seen before, a weird and fascinating creation of the sort that Star Wars produces without a second thought. Pound for pound, the prequels have delivered more first-rate villains than any ten other films combined… so many in fact, that it’s easy to overlook how cool they really are.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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doublec 9/13/2011 12:26:10 AM

I said this and been pillloried for it before and I'll say it again: ALL the complaints about the sequels are just as true in the originals, but the originals have 35 years of fan worship as deoderant. The only criticism unique to the sequels is that they have "too much" CGI, but seriously, back in the day the originals were criticised for being overly dependent on SFX too. 35 years, again. The originals are still probably the  better films but the sequels are fine films too, it's just become PC for fanboyz to whine about them.

audioslave69 9/13/2011 12:32:48 AM

 I somewhat agree with you Doublec

MrJawbreakingEquilibrium 9/13/2011 1:45:17 AM

The two main things that I hated about this trilogy is that everything looked way more futuristic than they did in the previous ones even R2D2. I feel like they could have been clever and done the opposite but didn't.

Also, Darth Vader compared to Grievious and Maul and even that old guy - not the Emperor - was a pussy. I never understood why Vader is considered the greatest villain in many lists. He really didn't do anything all that great except have mystique and looked cool as hell.

Darkknight2280 9/13/2011 4:15:40 AM

Doublec: You took the words right out of my mouth brother! Finally someone else gets it!!! I love all of star wars (except for Jar Jar!) Cannot wait to pick up my copy of the complete saga on friday!!!

MRJAW: Vader is the baddest of them all. You need to read about the things he did in between Episode III and IV. He pretty much wiped out the remaining jedi single handed! He hunted them down like dogs. He killed more jedi then Maul, Grevious and dooku combined!

Darkknight2280 9/13/2011 4:16:35 AM

Almost forgot..Thanks Rob for publicly defending The Prequels with this VERY fine list you put together sir!

Dazzler 9/13/2011 4:35:01 AM

When you order a pizza, you don't eat the pizza that has rat droppings, or boogers that's only 1% of the pizza.  Lucas delievered a pretty bad pizza.  And three times to boot! 

axia777 9/13/2011 5:06:03 AM

Really Dazzler?  Then pretty much every movie ever made qualifies under your conditions.  A little bit of every movie you can possibly bring up sucks a little.  Don't throw stones in glass houses.

jedibanner 9/13/2011 5:13:15 AM

Interesting list...but I would've put the # 1 as the last one in my view.

The vilains in the prequel are not as developted as I hope they would be, Greivous has way too much CGI, Darth Maul is only present a few seconds in the movie (and litterally says maybe 15 words total), Dooku is ok but could've been better (but Lee isn't to blame for that).

 

Down the road, they are still fun to watch and can't wait to see them in blue-ray but, the prequels are nothing compared to the originals.

If the prequels were made with the same innovation and coolness as the Clone Wars cartoon, then it would be awsome but man...it still hurts.

peak37pt 9/13/2011 5:16:51 AM

Though I enjoyed the prequels, and agree with a lot of your points as to why they are not bad movies (I'm excited about the Blu-Ray release!), they were a dissapointment for me, not because I loved the originals so much, but that there are story elements and plot points that actually NEGATE the story that was presented to us in the original trilogy. 

To me, the new trilogy seemed to go out of its way to stomp on the philosophies and the heart of the original trilogy, pretty much what made the original trilogy so loved in the first place. Making the force based in Science with the midichlorians, for example. Also, much of the script and dialogue were bad. I know, the original had its cringe-worthy moments of dialogue, but when you have a multi-million dollar budget, a script-doctor is pretty cheap. 

I enjoyed them, a lot actually, but the dissapointment for me was the weak dialogue/story alongside the idea changes that were against the "spirit" of SW for me. 

Hobbs 9/13/2011 5:25:49 AM

Noooooo!

doublec, you are making excuses for the prequels.  If you can't see that the originals are far superior films it's because you choose not to...the only one I might give you some credit for you is Return as we started to get a little too cheesy with the Ewoks thing but there is a reason why Star Wars and Empire still rank as one of the top sci-fi movies of all time.  The prequels will never ever make that list.

Now all that being said I will agree with this list.  If I had to look at positive things in this prequel series it would be the five listed...and I say that hating the prequels.

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