Star Wars is a multigenerational property, so as The Rise of Skywalker heads to cinemas in a week or so, I decided to start the Star Wars journey with the films that were released when I was a child. As twisted as it may seem to some, when I think of lightsabers, stormtroopers, and space battles my mind flits to the prequels.
Starting up The Phantom Menace for the first time in around 5 years was daunting. I watched these films in a time where the pod racing was incredible, and Jar Jar actually wasn’t that annoying. Coming back, I had developed a cynicism towards a lot of films, and spent a questionable amount of time getting myself a film degree, so I was highly aware of the risk of revisiting the much-revered trilogy.
Suffice to say returning to these childhood films was nothing short of a disaster. I did enjoy myself in a sense, but instead of watching with the awe and excitement I had before, I was now doing so whilst shaking my head, laughing when I shouldn’t be and losing interest. The dialogue was genuinely laughable, the acting is over-the-top (even from some seasoned actors), and the general structure of these films is just terrible. There are the odd moments of nostalgia and the occasional cool scene, but I watched with the looming sense that this will be the last I ever spend time with this trilogy.
The story meanders its way through around 7 hours of rubbish through all three films. It lacks focus, and even the elements it focuses on are mundane. Council meetings, talks in hallways, and the most forced romance of all time, result in a dull experience. The biggest contributor to this however, is its lack of character. Character personality is nowhere to be found, besides perhaps Obi Wan, as actors force their way through stilted dialogue. The overuse of CGI is so bland and void of life, which totally negates the fantastic world that George Lucas established so long ago. We see giant Jedi Temples and vast cities but never get any sense of what it is like to walk the streets of these areas – even when they do walk through the streets.
Though it must be said there are parts that I still enjoyed. The climactic fight with Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace is still awesome; the colosseum scene in Attack of the Clones, whilst ridiculous is fun; and the Order 66 montage is likely the most riveting scene in the trilogy. There is also the nostalgia of the sounds and designs, which are undeniably excellent. Yet all of these moments, which I viewed through rose-tinted glasses for so long, are soiled by a standard in filmmaking which wouldn’t fly in the modern era.
I used to be an avid defender of the prequels. Naysayers would be shot down by my arguments of excitable action and interesting world-building, but I can’t help but feel that I was naïve. These are films of their time, and their time has passed. There are interesting elements that bob on the surface of these films, which I’m sure if you dig deep enough are there. But the lack of entertainability rebuts any sense of fun that can be had in a galaxy far far away.