Last chance to back out and save the last shredded remnants of my sanity. Not going to take it? Of course you’re not. Once you’ve started and all that crap, eh? Let’s get on with it, even these introductions are tiring me out now.
We can now slyly poke that steaming pile of faecal matter that is Attack of the Clones under the bush for the next dog walker to deal with and move on to Revenge of the Sith. This one gets off a little lightly thanks to the flood of cholera-induced effluent that came before, but only a little. Well, I say that now, but judge for yourself when I’m done. Our prelude this time is a quick note about General Grievous. Between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith there was an animated series called The Clone Wars. No, not that one. This one was 2D and mostly consisted of five minute chunks of people in badass fights. Grievous first appeared in this and was a monstrous killing machine. However, near the end, a Jedi used the Force to crush the chest cavity of his biomechanical armour and did a serious number on the squishy organs contained therein. This is why, in subsequent material, he’s a wheezing robotic Quasimodo who feels like his really missing his Dick Dastardly moustache. He is, in a word, a punk. He is, in two words, a worthless punk. I could continue, but instead I’ll jump back to my favourite two words to describe the prequels and leave it there: wasted potential.
Revenge of the Sith opens with a space battle. This is much more like it. That is until the Bantersaurus waltzes in with a special delivery of shoehorne-in “wit”. I know this is meant to show how great friends our heroes are and probably be a little bit hip with the kids, all whilst dripping in hints of the war these two have been fighting since the last film. But really it just detracts from the Star Wars space battle, a battle that gets swiftly relegated to backdrop status. Now, I know I’ve complained before about the lack of focus Star Wars has developed in regard to its big set pieces and this is much tighter. In fact, it’s too tight, choking the joy out of the big space battle as we just watch our two Jedi in their little fighters zip through it in order to land on a ship and forget about the giant space laser fight. This might just be an overcorrection. I’m more inclined to think, however, that this battle wasn’t an important part of “the vision”, so sod what the audience wants to see.
We then have the two-man-army raid on the good ship Penetrator (that isn’t it’s name, but look at the damn thing and tell me you can think of any other name for it). I say two-man, but R2-D2 comes along to provide some comic relief with those zany battle droids. Whoever made the emotionless war machines a joke rather than threatening is a tool, by the way. So the two work through the bowels of the Penetrator, rescue Chancellor Darth Sidious, who then eggs on Anakin to outright murder the defeated and relatively helpless Dooku. So much for developing that character. Then they all get their asses captured. Jog up to the bridge and introduce us to General Quasirobo for, for most people, the first time. Then casually crash the battleship into the planet-sized metropolis from orbit without a single casualty and we’re good to get on with the film. I suppose if you’re expecting people to come in with a critical eye, overload their bullshit-o-meters in the first few scenes and leave them speechless and apoplectic so that they might miss the rest?
Next up, we waste a bit of time – not the film’s, which is a bloated, overwrought monstrosity, but the audience’s. We find out that Padme’s pregnant, I suppose, but I struggle to recall anything of actual significance until Obi-Wan runs off to hunt down General Grievous and leaves Angstakin to fret over himself and hand with Sidious Chancellor Palpatine. No, really, that’s all I remember, and that’s not because I’ve been writing this for god knows how long and it’s past 3am. It’s because it’s only just hit me how empty this vacuous goop is. No joke, let’s think it through. They crash land on Coruscant, time is filled, Obi-Wan goes off to fight The Hunchback of Damn Shame with a lizard and the final evolution of the Pokémon based on the Segway. Obi-Wan gets his arse handed to him by Grievously Asthmatic and then shoots him with a blaster, totally validating Han Solo’s opinion from A New Hope. A quick aside on General Breathing Problems: he was a total waste of screentime. Supposedly, he’s some great looming antagonist, a great strategist and fearsome single combatant, a lurking monster just beyond the grasp of our heroes throughout the Clone Wars. Only we see none of that. He is the embodiment of how to cock up the cinematic maxim of “show don’t tell” and I sincerely hope his portrait is held up in screenwriting courses at the beginning of a cautionary tale.
Before Obi-Wan gets back, the plot happens. That’s right, we’re most of the way through the film, the protagonist is away and we’re just getting to the plot. That’s right, I maintain even now that Obi-Wan is the protagonist. As a collective, the six films tell Anakin’s story, but taken as separate trilogies, he is a supporting character and the prequel trilogy is Obi-Wan’s story. If only the writers had realised that the films would have been a lot less messy and confused.
So, the Boy Who Stayed Emo starts, or rather continues (because relevant plot points happened between the end of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, another abominable sin that wheezes the words “wasted potential” as it eternally and agonisingly lingers on the precipice of death, alone upon the baking tarmac of Hell’s own car park) to hang out with Supreme Chancellor Not Evil. Cue an attempt at corruption as ham-fisted and awkward as Anakin’s creeping on Padme from the last film. The attempt doesn’t work. Until it does. In theory there’s a long build up to Anakin’s fall to the darkside, but on screen it’s sudden and jarring – like a treasured friend casually mentioning they vivisect small, furry woodland creatures in their basement lab for fun.
It’s also at this point that the film throws its hands up and declares: “Bugger it, I can’t please you so I’m not going to try anymore” and properly goes ham and chews the scenery like a starved termite. From Palpatine’s “UNLIMITED POWER” to the newly christened Vader’s infamous big “NOOOOO”, to Padme dying in a magical future hospital during childbirth because she lost the will to live. She lost the will to live? Losing the will to live isn’t a fatal condition or nobody would have left Attack of the Clones alive to see this one. Even the trashiest, mushiest stock romance from the bargain bin in an airport wouldn’t try to pull that bollocks. It’s just shit. It’s just really, really shit. Let’s finish this up because I just don’t care anymore. You’ve beaten any shits, fucks or damns I could give out of me prequels. Huh, I guess it did pay off for them Cotton.
So Anakin goes ham on some Younglings and the clones turn on the Jedi because they’re pre-programmed androids rather than people, a fascinating turn of sci-fi that the prequels, of course, ignored. Order 66, to be fair, is by far and away the best sequence in all of the prequels. It is beautiful shot and the sound work is gorgeous, from the moment Obi-Wan hits the water to the moment Yoda pulls out his lightsaber, which thankfully reminds you you’re watching a poorly made, inconsistent turd. It really is the crowning glory of the prequels. Just the way the Jedi look on in confusion or disbelief as their long time companions who they’ve come to see as human turn on them without word or thought, without emotion or regret is wonderful. Watching that clip just now also reminded me that Yoda goes to Kashyyyk for reasons. Pointless side plots ahoy, it’s a bit late to start trying to show us the scale of the Clone Wars now guys.
Filling time, Anakin murders the CEOs to prove that, yes, they were stupid to the end. More filling time. Then Padme and Obi-Wan rock up on happy lava world for some counselling. Reasonable Anakin goes mental, chokes his heavily pregnant wife half to death and goes ape at Obi-Wan. If anyone should be going ape here, it’s the Jedi. Obi-Wan now has irrefutable proof that Padme’s children are Anakin’s, which means they’ve been porking and means Anakin broke some pretty serious rules. But then I suppose he has just seen prime footage of Youngling Murderfest ’99 (with another tasteful fade to black) so the secret banging was hardly at the top of the priority list. But, then again, Treebeardless the Jedi and his emotionally warped Waifu weren’t exactly subtle. You’d think his best mate would notice something going on and this would have come up before. ARGH I DON’T CARE! This is stupid, thinking hard about this film is stupid because the people who made it so obviously didn’t. Where’s that cat? We need to calm down again.
Right, so where were we? Oh yes, lighsaber lava fight. The protagonist wins, obviously, and the plywood cut-out gets too close to the lava and burns up into the pickled egg back from a harsh tour in ‘Nam we love from the original films. Other stuff happens so that all the players can be in the right place for the good films and we can get on with our lives away from this waking nightmare. Are we done now? I don’t have to talk about the prequels again? I don’t have to think about them again? What do you mean criticism for criticism’s sake is as worthless as these films? How would I improve them? That’s a whole other kettle of fish, and we’ll need a fresh paragraph.
If you ask me, which you obviously just did – I’m not talking to myself here – The Phantom Menace has good potential as a Star Wars film, but serves no purpose for Anakin or Obi-Wan’s story. Leave it as a spin-off with Qui-Gon, Darth Maul and some different flavour and it would mostly be fine. Start the main trilogy with Obi-Wan as a fresh Jedi Knight and start the Clone Wars in the first film. Introduce Anakin as his padawan once the film gets rolling and have the plot of the first film follow almost a “buddy cop” formula, with two disparate personalities learning to rely on one another and become friends, as well as settling into their mentor and student roles. By the second film, the Clone Wars are well underway. Here we have the opportunity to show Obi-Wan growing from his younger self to his older, forged in war as those about whom he cares suffer and die and as his best friend slips away from him. Here we begin Anakin’s descent into the darkside. It’s the impotent rage of a man trapped in a futile war that drives a man to darkness and he finds comfort not in the arms of his friend and mentor, but in the arms of a woman. Padme. The third film is where we wrap up the Clone Wars and defeat the Sith apprentice working under Sidious, who has been the same throughout the three films. Pick whichever of the three you want. My personal preference is Dooku, but with a lick of polish and some character development, any of Maul, Dooku or Grievous could be compelling. It is now where we can leave Anakin out of this final assault and give him the opportunity to leap that last hurdle to the darkside as the trauma, rage and fear of war and his secret affair burn inside him. Then, at the climax, the Republic’s great victory, we execute Order 66. The prequels don’t have a happy ending. Those are the bones I’d use. The flesh, well a lot of that is salvageable from the films we actually got. Utapau, Mustafar, Geonosis, Kamino – I may mock them, but the locations and setting we see are good. Very good. How about some of those shots we see in the Order 66 sequence? The jungles of Felucia are a mighty fine choice.
But really, when it comes down to it, Disney have already delivered the new Star Wars film I wanted. It just wasn’t set in the universe I love. You’ve seen it, even if you haven’t guessed what it is yet. Think. No? Okay, I’ll tell you. Guardians of the Galaxy. Really. It’s starting to dawn on you isn’t it? With the exception of a compelling villain, Guardians delivers on the promise of Star Wars in a way the prequels never did. It’s a band of misfits adventuring through space to wonderful locations to fight something so much larger than themselves. It even threw in some well-written humour to boot. If The Force Awakens takes its cues from Guardian’s successes, rather than the prequel’s failures, I will be singing its praises with my fellows here at LUNKHEAD. If not, well we’ll see. I mean, even the literal tree in Guardians with literally one bloody line on repeat had a greater range and got me more emotionally invested than Plank as Anakin. And, with that my friends and readers, I leave you. It’s been a hell of a ride. Goodnight and good morrow.
So we’re finally done. Now get out of my cell and leave me in peace. You wore out your welcome three articles ago. Bye now. What do you mean The Force Awakens? Oh good gods no. This had better be good.
If you liked this article-come-freak-of-nature, let me know in the comments, along with what I should tongue-bathe and/or eviscerate next. If you fancy hearing any of this monster in my dulcet tones, email my editor so the appropriate papers can be filed. Possibly with the county courts.
WORDS: JAMES ARNOLD