I had a response back from one of my friends in regards to my last post where I referenced Star Wars. Although Star Wars was mentioned and was included in the title of the post, the post was not about Star Wars. I mentioned that I did not think that the new movies were good and hurt the series in general. However, my friend suggested that I looked at what those movies did right. Another friend commented that he would like to hear why I didn't like the new movies. So, for the sake of that along with the fact that the bulk of my posts for the last while are very whiny, angsty and generally emo, I figured one that I lay out a little bit of the other side of me which is the whiny, nerdy, and generally emo media commentator. Originally, the bulk of this post came from my response to the first friend on a Facebook message. He was stating some of the good things he saw in the films and my response to them. I will also expand upon my thoughts to include a wider scope of my thought on the films.
I am trying to be even handed in this response, admitting what was cool about it (which is minute in the face of the craptasticness of it all) and giving my reasons for why those cool aspects do not help and in fact, may just be one of the distractions that are hurting the films. I know I've harped on my other friends for what I felt was an unfair evaluation of Avatar, so I would hate to be hypocritical and simply ignore the aspects I did like. And here we go...
The diamonds you have mentioned are more in the design realm which unfortunately you can't prop up a series with. Were there cool things about the prequels, sure, but it was like George sat there and said "You know what would be awesome? A fight over lava! Yeah! How about a Sith with a double lightsaber! No, a guy that wields four lightsabers!" And in the process forgot what the point of having fleshed out characters was. Sure, maybe the writing in the old movies weren't super fantastic, but they had so much more quotable lines that came out of character's personality instead of mere conveying plot points.
It just seems like George was throwing together this whole thing haphazard in all the wrong ways. For instance, in the old movies, he had a thought out story that was consistent and logical and the problems that came up were because of the difficulty of the shooting with the technology. In a lot of regards, Lucas and Spielberg are better when they have to be creative with their film production and it forces them to truly think about the story they are telling. Unfortunately, Lucas now just has the ability of putting the first idea down into CGI without considering the potential flaws in the story. So when R2 gets stuck on one side of the factory and George has no idea how to get him over to the other side, he just goes "Oh, jet boosters! Bam!" even though there is no previous use of them (and there was time that would have totally helped to have jet boosters). In the old movies, technical problems forced Lucas to really buckle down and create a fantastic movie, but he didn't have to worry about those problems and so it was like he put out the first draft of his story and glammed it up with special effects.
It just seemed like for every good idea, it is surrounded by bad ideas.
For instance, I admit, the pod racing was awesome and was definitely one of the highlights of Episode 1, but the reason for the race was mired in a bizarro bet that made little sense for a part of a spaceship that could only be found at this tiny dealer that happened to be the first one they go to. In addition the apparently moral, wise Jedi is going around with a strange sense of morality that involves lying and cheating at which point, why doesn't he just steal the part if he's willing to go through this ridiculous plan. Yes, pod racing: awesome, but story-telling: butchered for the sake of some flashy CGI.
Slave I in action: awesome and fantastic, introduction of Boba Fett: painful.
Seeing wookiees: sweet. Seeing Death Star: alright? But I don't watch Star Wars to see references to old movies, I want to see those characters and things in action telling a story. It would be cooler to see the Death Star blow up something or threaten to instead of Darth Vader just sort of looking at it.
All this aside, to me, the biggest flaw of all is the characters. By far. Try to describe to me the characters of the prequels without mentioning what their job is and more than half of them would hold the quality "stoic". Think about it. Qui-Gon, Padme, Mace Windu, Chancellor Valorum, etc. The personality (and not the neat powers they have) of a character should be the primary distinction and that's what leads to interesting interactions with other characters.
The interactions aren't interesting. They are there simply to move the plot along. For instance, the interactions of Padme and Anakin in the second movie are pushed along awkwardly and seemed to be there simply because they have to eventually have Luke and Leia, so we need to go through the motions of boy meets girl ten years ago, boy for some reason still has an obsession with girl that he only interacted with for a total of two days (maybe?), boy says dark, creepy things to girl, girl is totally not listening to anything he says, girl falls for the least romantic lines talking about deserts and water and a floating pear, boy slays a whole tribe single-handedly with no reaction from girl, boy and girl marry, girl gets pregnant, *phew* we got this far, now it's ok that girl realizes boy is clearly evil, dies during childbirth.
By the way, has anyone noticed that you probably could have done away with the Phantom Menace and you are not missing any part of the story? You could've easily started the prequels with Anakin already the apprentice of Obi-Wan and have given the first movie to showing his good qualities and develop the love between him and Padme and then use the last two movies to show the fall of his character. But no, we have to have him as a little kid, doing little to advance his character and then realize that oh, crap we have to cram a terrible, romantic storyline and his complete transformation from being a good guy to embrace the dark side all in the same movie and then make that there is more space for a few more lightsabers.
I want to like the new movies. I like the idea of Star Wars being a story about Anakin fall and redemption, but it's not. It is two separate series. One was about the mythical hero's journey and the other is about how many lightsabers can we put on the screen. Three of them? Shut up, this is Star Wars, make the bad guy alone have four and maybe his tail can hold a fifth. What? He has no tail? You're fired!
However, you look at the old movies and they had characters that you learned about and were distinct and interesting. The great moments of the movies come from those events where the characters connected despite their differences. Leia pecking Luke on the cheek and wishing him luck. Luke confronting Han about sticking around to help the Alliance in their impossible fight on the Death Star. Han showing his courage and true compassion for his friend by heading out onto the snowy plain to find Luke despite the fact he was trying to save his own hide from those who hunted him. Luke impatience with Yoda on Dagobah and Yoda sensing that the boy isn't fit for the role of Jedi. Vader clearly holding back in his attempt to bring Luke to his side and revealing he is Luke's father and you can see it in the way the fight plays out. Leia finally realizing that she loves Han just before he is frozen. Vader's struggle with seeing his son being tortured by his master and realizing the error of his ways.
These character moments are not executed nearly as well in the new movies, because all the polish went to the design, the effects and as much crazy crap that can be cluttered onto the screen instead of the point of the films which is it's humanity.
I'm sorry, but I cannot concede the good points of the film without being reminded that those good points came at the expense of what made the old movies fantastic. Sure the old movies had problems and they show their age now, but they are still better movies than all the lightsabers in the world. It pains me to see these new ones are so majorly flawed and have hurt what used to be my favorite series of films. *Single tear*.