What Really Needs To Be Done (Commentary)

Inverse posted an interview with the director of “The Prequels Strike Back” and it occurred to me a kind of new narrative is taking shape concerning the films. It’s not the dominant geek/media industrial complex’s narrative yet but I’ve noticed it becoming more common. That narrative is the prequels were ambitious, had good or at least interesting ideas, and creative but (and there’s always a “but”) they weren’t executed all of that well.

I think this narrative is arising due primarily to two factors:

1. The effect of Mike Klimo’s Ring Theory. Since it was posted in late 2014, numerous people have come to recognize the many cogs and wheels that make the saga work together.

2. TFA’s effect on perceptions of the prequels. Those who spent years disliking the prequels but still found fault with TFA needed a new take on their arguments. The old arguments that the prequels were entirely created on computer have been debunked to all but the willfully ignorant; in fact Slashfilm revealed in an interview the other day that there was no model work at all in TFA and it had far more CG shots than TPM.

Now after all of this time I suppose you might find it encouraging there is starting to be concession that the prequels have some value. However I don’t think it’s good enough. They are still holding on to the idea that the movies are “bad” or at least greatly inferior to the OT. It’s still repeated over and over in the media that the prequels are terrible and universally-hated. We still have a long way to go to reach the point where the prequels and we as fans get the respect long due.

It is certainly a positive development to see stuff like the Ring Theory out there and others delving into the meaning of the prequels, what they did to deepen the mythology, and what they can teach us. They’ve been helpful to those open enough to read or listen to those analyses. The problem is that analysis of the story is one thing, but the quality of how that story is expressed is another and it’s that aspect of the prequels that gets attacked the most. What’s really needed to help the prequels is to put forth the idea that they are exceptionally well-crafted, well-executed films.

One person who has done this is Camille Paglia in her book “Glittering Images.” But there needs to be more people out there with the courage to say these are deserving works of art and can express why. I have been doing that series “Great Scenes of the Prequel Trilogy” for this very reason: I write about why I think the acting, the score, the cinematography, etc. work in a particular scene. There’s also the prequel frames Tumblr. Such takes on the films need to be full-throated and without apology but also without a defensive tone.

Of course not everyone is going to be convinced but we can start to turn the bandwagon around.

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32 Responses to “What Really Needs To Be Done (Commentary)”

  1. Jeff Bradley Says:

    The key thing will be, in this new trilogy, if there’s an element or SOMETHING that just admits the Republic era trilogy HAPPENED. There’s a few subtle echoes in Episode 7 of this – and that may be why there’s a “softening” of the stance of completely disowning Eps 1-3. If something in the progression of the saga, at this point, simply makes the statement it is NOT apologizing for those episodes and take ownership of them to effectively advance the overall epic narrative, that will distinctly establish the legitimacy of that trilogy

  2. andywylde77 Says:

    I still laugh at how Disney and LFL fooled all the clowns with the whole “practical effects” campaign! After the film came out people were praising all the practical effects on screen. LOL! So they were looking at CGI the whole time and calling it practical? What a bunch of dummies. Disney saw these idiots from a mile away. It is even funnier watching and reading all the backtracking going on.

    But the sad part is, TFA is just the tip of the static iceberg. When TFA came out, I saw a lot of people say “SW is back!” or “This is how SW should be” These kind of remarks piss me off. So if we get another trilogy of rebels vs. empire that is fine by some? So two trilogies back to back that will be virtually the same is what “SW is all about”? What is it with with some folks that constantly feel the need to have everything remain the same? I don’t get this mentality. These are the selfish fans. They think of themselves and only themselves. Because I am the type of fan that likes to see things explored and creativity pushed to the max. And I also realize that not everyone likes/dislikes what I do. For me SW “feels” a lot of ways and conjures up many great emotions too.

    When looking at the PT, it is amazing how much material and content spawned from it. How can anyone NOT appreciate what it brings to the table? There is something for everyone to enjoy.

  3. Hoggle Says:

    I don’t like the big hubba dubba about the ‘ring theory’. I don’t deny it’s got some validity, but it’s a third degree story telling element, no matter how well done it is at times, it remains in the technical artistry realm where it’s purpose is to be an un-noticed embellishment of the story telling. So i think it’s a distraction, & also more fodder for the PTs being a wacky creation or curiosity piece alone. GL in the AotCs mythmaking book, paraphrasing, addresses such techincal viewpoints, in saying that he’s not interested in his films being techinically flawless, but about the conveying of their narratives.

    There are a type of narrative issue to each PT (that grow progressively worse in diverging from their shooting scripts) although it is all ultimately subjective to a sig. degree.

    For a guide to the Prequels, & GLs SW 1-6, i would say watch them, particularly the PTs first, with this what i call their central thematic narrative construct in mind, both on the micro and macro level as relates to characters, groups and story:

    Code-Actions-Feelings
    Code-Feelings-Actions

    Feelings-Actions (hint: dark Jedi, AotCs Anakin arc, fav episode)

    Feelings-Actions-Code
    Actions-Feelings-Code (extra nice hint: Darth Vader 4-6)

    Anyhow, watching sw 1-6 through that narrative thematic is a consistent, epic, artistic & interesting cinematic experience to be had. There are quite a few other interesting threads in the movies, but that is complete & complex center of gravity option in which to view them all the same. That would be my main, not so much argument, but well, if you watch them with this in mind, you might find an cinematic story experience you were missing rather fun to watch.

    Other ting i would say, is once Anakin executes Dooku, Palps has telepathic access to Anakin, in regards to filling him with fear (Sith emotion). Anakin then personalizes that fear with regards to Padme. As this fear gets more personalised for Anakin, which Palps is able to feed, it starts becoming the future, which both Palps & Anakin can see. That’s why Anakin ends up becoming crazy in RotS over Padme & against the Jedi. Anyhow, this is also why it would have been very difficult for Luke, if he had whoped Vader, in not becoming a Sith in one way or another.

    💣

    Or if you are lucky enough, i’d say, find genuine fandom blogs of what you like instead, they are more fun and rewarding than lame’o hate trains.

    • SWPN Says:

      “I don’t like the big hubba dubba about the ‘ring theory’. I don’t deny it’s got some validity, but it’s a third degree story telling element, no matter how well done it is at times, it remains in the technical artistry realm where it’s purpose is to be an un-noticed embellishment of the story telling. So i think it’s a distraction, & also more fodder for the PTs being a wacky creation or curiosity piece alone.”

      Exactly! It’s something to be noticed (and appreciated) on a subconscious level, not the flag of the PT’s greatness. That’s my fear with things like The Prequels Strike Back and the like. That they are going to miss the point and the bigger picture just to focus on how the “ring theory” changed everything and it’s evidence of the movie’s quality.

      • B.B. Klingon Says:

        I have similar feelings about the ring theory. It’s interesting as a curiosity and there are some elements that ‘ring’ true, but in a lot of ways it’s very reminiscent of a conspiracy theory. If you over-analyze anything your brain will start to make patterns out of it.

        It also comes off as one of those things that makes it ‘ok’ to enjoy the PT for those who felt socially uncomfortable doing so (not unlike the unfortunate sith-Jar Jar “theory”). Of course many of us never needed a convoluted (pseudo-)intellectual analysis can make the PT legit.

  4. piccolojr1138 Says:

    I completely agree 🙂

  5. madmediaman Says:

    I think a LARGE part of it is the younger fans who grew up with the PT are becoming more and more the “voices” of geekdom. They are now the 20-sometgings who run a lot of these geek websites and podcasts. The older OT only fans will become more irrelevant as time goes on.

  6. flamepanther Says:

    “in fact Slashfilm revealed in an interview the other day that there was no model work at all in TFA and it had far more CG shots than TPM.”

    Could I get a link to that? Slashfilm is posting Star Wars interviews pretty much constantly, and I’d really like to be able to reference this tidbit.

  7. Mark Says:

    Many people just cannot be reached. Years ago I found a VHS copy of the interview Lucas did with Bill Moyers in the run-up to Ep. I. It centered on the mythological underpinnings of the Saga. It was so great to see Lucas discuss at length the timeless/spiritual aspects of Star Wars. Anyway, I showed it to some of my good friends (all of whom were big SW fans who grew up with the originals). I was amazed by their lack of interest in the subject matter. These people would go on to dislike the prequels and love Ep. VII.

    • lazypadawan Says:

      I’m convinced there’s a large number of fans who are in it for the cotton candy of their youth and they don’t pay attention to anything else.

      • Mark Says:

        I think you are exactly right. I just do not know how someone can really like Star Wars while not appreciating the depth. They miss so much. By the way, I do not mean to pooh-pooh your efforts. I think you do a great service here and the tide is turning.

  8. Michael Says:

    I agree of course. The knee jerk conditional praise of the prequels is aggravating and drives me all kinds of crazy.

    But I also feel like what we’re witnessing here are prequel fans poking their heads out of the closet and hoping no OT purists are standing there with a bloody axe.

    Sure, they should Jedi up and grow a spine, stand up for what they believe in. But that’s not always easy, especially considering how rabid and vile the haters can act towards anyone they sense dares to speak out in favor of the prequels. That’s blood in the water to those kind of monsters.

    I counsel patience with these folks. Their minds have been clouded by the Dark Side and it’s no easy task to cut through that haze and start thinking for yourself again.

    I’m generally optimistic because the more of these articles we see the more we’re likely to witness some new brave souls going all the way and not couching their praise with negative counterpoints. It will be a thousand little cuts rather than two or three big ones that will eventually destroy the illogical hatred of the prequels.

  9. fundhund Says:

    I don´t like these “we all know the prequels were flawed (or poorly directed.. or whatever), BUT..” remarks at all.
    One thing that really helps [at least in my perception of things] is when people assume an out and out positive attitude towards these movies, like Camille Paglia did about ROTS, or like Frank Oz did on behalf of Jar Jar Binks.
    I think we need more of this, since it shows the world that it is not a self-evident fact that the prequels are flawed and inferior to the other SW movies, but that there are actually people out there who stick up for those movies and like them lock, stock and barrel.
    Sorry for my english 😉

    • B.B. Klingon Says:

      Ya there is something powerful about hearing/reading an unapologetic statement about the PT (outside of PT fandom).

      • jayoungr Says:

        I have to say that it was an impassioned rant by an Anakin/Padme shipper that made me re-examine that part of the story and gain a new appreciation for it.

  10. Mike Jones Says:

    By the way lazypadawan, this article of yours reminds me of an article you posted back in 2013. It’s a great reminder that this matter is still relevant today:

    https://starwarsprequelappreciationsociety.wordpress.com/2013/04/03/dear-pro-prequel-sites/

  11. Keith Palmer Says:

    What seems the typical “anti-prequel” rhetoric seems so overblown that I have somewhat pondered more carefully constructed “alas for reach exceeding grasp” laments. If they really are coming to pass, though, I’m not quite sure what to make of them either…

    I don’t think I “needed” the Ring Theory when I saw it, but I’m willing to suppose it might have caught a few or even more than a few people off-guard, almost, by seeming something other than what might be construed as point-by-point counterarguments. I suppose I did also contemplate some people just shifting their weight of contempt to “production” and “post-production,” though; Mike Klimo did mention he would move on to address that in turn, and maybe some of the posts to his Twitter account (however far back in the stream now) were part of that.

    One thing I often find myself thinking is that the more some people insist on “prequel denial,” the vaguer they get about what makes the “original trilogy” so “perfect” that they’ve had to facet some hypothetical initial allergic reaction into a weapon over the past fifteen years. It can seem to devolve these days into “used universe” and “on-set material,” and somehow that just doesn’t seem worth it in the first place to me…

  12. jayoungr Says:

    I’ve noticed this shift in the discussion too. I’m hoping it’s just a “baby step” on the way to a more positive view of the prequels in the larger cultural view, but I agree that it is tiresome. At least it will make it a bit easier for prequel fans to say positive things about the prequels.

  13. Hunk a Junk Says:

    Hey, LP, over on starwars.com, the new episode of “The Star Wars Show” features an interview with Trevor Noah from The Daily Show and he speaks GLOWINGLY of his love for TPM and, specifically, Jar Jar. He proudly says Jar Jar is “the coolest thing ever” and the Lucasfilm host says, “We have a soft spot for Jar Jar here.” Whaaaaa???? Are we in some alternate reality???

  14. Jonathan vd Sluis (@Natusaurus) Says:

    The prevalent view on the prequels might not be the one you and I agree with, but I think it’s a good thing that apparently, it is hard to come to some kind of consensus about these films. This means we’ll be talking about them for a long time. Compare it to the reception of the Lord of the Rings trilogy: consensus is that these were very well done but they’re just not as relevant today as the SW prequels.

    • Anthony Echevarria Says:

      Well, the LOTR movies were a one-shot thing, weren’t they? They were one and done. The SW movies are ongoing, so there’s always more material to talk about them. Although I remember this one guy desperately trying to prove that “The Return of the King” was a terrible film, while everyone else laughed at him, on a Tolkien message board, because he didn’t like some of the changes made to the Tolkien story details. His avatar was one of Cyclops, when Cyclops was at his stupidest costume wise – fitting for the user.

      And I was like, “Dude, really?” The acting, the cinematography, the beautiful settings for the shots – none of that matters, because they didn’t get these story details right? “That’s your complaint?” Nice to know where your priorities are, if you value getting some minor details 100% right over the quality of the film.

      I think it depends on the extent of the fandom. Prequel haters are many and widespread. Many of them don’t even know why they hate the prequels, other than somebody else hates them. LOTR fans who are critics of the movies are a smaller minority, who are obsessed with certain details and worship a man who hates them (Tolkien’s son, who has said his father never should have shared the stories with other people; he feels they were meant solely for him. *disgruntled expression*) So they are never going to get the traction that prequel haters get, especially with the rich acting available in the series. When your series has won an Academy Award, it’s a lot more difficult to argue the movies are utter crap. 😛 Whereas George has left himself open on several more occasions (by not doing what they wanted), thereby making it easier to attack him.

      Star Wars has Ian, and several others that can be mentioned, but they haven’t been formally acclaimed the same way that several of the Lord of the Rings actors have. A shame, obviously. :-/

      *shrugs* I don’t like it; I think it’s crap, but I can see where they’re coming from, and why prequel haters gain a lot more popularity, that LOTR haters do not. Personally, I think both series are a gift to filmmaking. But, I’m rational, and mature. Prequel haters are neither.

      (And I’m a fan of Cyclops, so don’t think I’m bashing him. It’s just that that hooded look he had for a while doesn’t do him any favors. I like my Scott Summers with flowing, freely unbound locks of brown reddish hair. :-P)

      • jayoungr Says:

        Re story changes. When a film is an adaptation of a book, it is fair to evaluate it on how good an adaptation it is. It might be good as a film and yet bad as an adaptation, and it is absolutely okay to criticize it on those terms. People who love the original story have a right to feel upset if the story they love isn’t done justice, *even if the replacement story in the movie is still good.*

        But in the case of Star Wars, there is no adaptation. Lucas’s story goes straight to the screen. So no one has to watch them through the filter of comparing them to something they already love, but on the other hand, they don’t start out with the built-in goodwill of audiences knowing they’re based on a story they already like.

        (P.S. Re Christopher Tolkien, I cut him some slack because he was born long before the age of the internet and the easy sharing of discussion and fanfiction. I can understand him being a little taken aback at a fan culture that he didn’t grow up with and never could have foreseen. Even his dad was a bit freaked out when the 60s counterculture embraces his books.)

    • Anthony Echevarria Says:

      True, but it wasn’t even over major details. It was over minor stuff, and minor stuff that if it was included in the films, would have made the films terrible. Like not including Prince Imrahil at the end of ‘Return of the King’. I’m thinking, “At this point, we’re already three hours into the movie, and people are already wanting to get out of here. If he stops to introduce a brand new character and another small army at this point, people are going to lose it.” Even Peter Jackson himself said it on the commentary, that they just didn’t have time at that point to introduce a new character and weave him into the story. And if he had tried to do it throughout the story, the movie would have ballooned to four hours long. Which, when combined with the Extended Edition, would have meant a five or five and a half hour movie.

      Nobody is going to sit through a five and a half hour movie nowadays.

      I tried to read through “The Lord of the Rings” back when the movies were released, and some of the stuff in it is just unreadable. Everyone breaking into song every five minutes is just silly, and wouldn’t have worked well at all on the screen. Tolkien taking five pages to describe a valley, and then spending two paragraphs on a major character’s death. Or the Rohirrim singing as they ride down the hill to the Pelennor Fields; stuff like that is just not necessary for a movie. Some of the things that work on the page, just don’t work up on the screen. I get that it was a different era, and people wrote differently back then, but I think that some of this stuff must have been odd even during the 60’s, or earlier; you can tell that some of it was just Tolkien indulging his own whimsies, not caring what anybody else thought. Which is admirable, but it doesn’t make the best material for a movie. There is a good story there, a potent one, but it’s surrounded by lots of distractions and trivialities that sometimes fall flat on their face, and aren’t really necessary for an adaptation. When you’re dealing with an adaptation, sometimes you have to accept that some things are going to be changed, from the very beginning. You can’t always get what you want. 🙂

      The Council of Elrond itself is its own movie, if done ‘correctly’. It’s two hours of people just debating, and discussion of the threat the Ring poses. It just can’t be done anywhere on the screen or on television, except in a miniseries. And even then, people would get bored watching the characters in a discussion about why Bombadil can’t protect the Ring, even though it’s already been proven at that point that Bombadil is practically God.

      The one that always gets me is Faramir. Don’t even get me started on Faramir, I have lots to say about him. 😛

      All right, I’m cutting this short, and getting back on track before lazypadawan comes and kicks me out. 😉

      The thing about Lucas’s story is that they had certain expectations, and some people refuse to let go of those expectations. They expected that the Jedi would be perfect; the Jedi were anything but perfect. They expected that Anakin Skywalker would be a perfect, pure good man, on the level of a saint and godlike, who suddenly and inexplicably turned evil; Anakin is a conflicted, not-so-good man at times, though he’s still generally good. They expected that Han Solo would show up at some point, even though he would be all of 12 years old, and would get his a$$ kicked by novice Jedi or Sith; he11, a two-bit second-rate bounty hunter could kick his a$$ at that point. They expected that the Jedi would be the paragons of virtue and wisdom; it’s jarring when a 19 year old kid points out the deficiencies in their thinking, even though he can’t quite word it properly, and comes out sounding like a brat. 😉 People had these expectations that they had for the movies, all the stuff they had imagined in the 17 years in-between the movies, that had no basis in reality, and when they didn’t turn out to be true, they got mad. 😉

      I think that’s the real issue at heart here: people are holding a grudge against George Lucas, because the movies didn’t turn out *exactly* as they wanted. 😛

      But if they had, then what would be the point? 😉 I like being surprised in movies, as long as it’s well thought-out.

      While we’re seeing George’s unfiltered vision straight on the screen, it doesn’t match with the vision some people had in their heads. :-/ Unfortunately, that’s their problem. The creator has no responsibility to satisfy your Han Solo or Boba Fett fetish, or your desire for a straightforward story that’s wrapped up with a neat little bow at the end.

      So yeah, I come down firmly on the side of George Lucas, in this argument. 😉

      • jayoungr Says:

        Well–I submit that someone like yourself, who wasn’t particularly impressed with the books, will be less upset by changes to them. (And I’m right there with you about Faramir, personally.)

        I don’t think everyone went into the prequels expecting exactly the same thing, but I do think they probably expected the broad flavor of the OT: clear good guys vs bad guys, cool rogueish types even if not Han Solo in person, and romantic byplay that was brisk and unsentimental. In that sense, I can understand how the actual movie was a surprise and not universally popular. But I do think the reaction was overblown and fed on itself until it became the monster that it is today.

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