5 Ways the Prequel Trilogy is better than “The Force Awakens”

January 3, 2016


Well, by Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been released to near-universal acclaim and a box office haul roughly on par with whatever the Visigoth’s made off with when they left Rome in the rear-view mirror. It was as if on December 18th, the world let out a collective sigh of relief that the Star Wars franchise could once again be associated with a quality movie. But this does somewhat of a disservice to the prequel trilogy. I mean, they weren’t all bad, right? There was some stuff they did pretty well, and–I daresay it—better than The Force Awakens. To wit…

Nigh-incomprehensible plots: The plot of The Force Awakens can pretty much be summed up in one sentence: Rey meets Finn and BB-8, who has a secret map to Luke Skywalker’s location, and must run from the sinister First Order to get the map to the Resistance. Easy one. Now try and explain the plot machinations of Attack of the Clones. Ha! How many sentences did that take you? Probably a full paragraph, I’ll wager. I mean, you got assassination attempts on Senator Amidala, a mysterious bounty hunter who’s also providing genetic fodder for a clone army, Count Dooku, who is in league with some cockroach aliens who are building a robot army, plus the stalking subplot burgeoning romance between Anakin Skywalker and Padme. Also, Anakin really doesn’t like sand. Now that’s a plotline. I mean, who needs this silly, straightforward story when you can have a good half-dozen plotlines stuffed into a two-hour movie. I mean, I could understand everything that was going on in The Force Awakens, which must mean it’s not a very smart movie, because Lord knows I’m not very smart.

If you can diagram the plot that led to this event, FermaLab will hire you on the spot.

If you can diagram the plot that led to this event, FermaLab will hire you on the spot.

More politics: The Force Awakens glances on the topic of intergalactic politics. There is a Republic—presumably reinstituted after the fall of the Empire—and a resurgent Empire now known as The First Order. Standing against The First Order is the Resistance, which the Republic supports. The relationship is between the Resistance and the Republic is never made clear, and here is where The Force Awakens really falls down. Director JJ Abrams and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan miss a huge opportunity for some political discussions. I mean, it’s bad enough we never get to see the Senate chamber—that iconic location form the prequels—but we never even get any scenes of politicians arguing or voting or making back-room deals. Instead, what do we get? A lot of laser gun fights and spaceship battles, and human drama. I mean, it’s like the filmmakers don’t even know what Star Wars is.

More filibustering! More!

More filibustering! More!

Far less flashy acting: You know what’s distracting? When you’re trying to enjoy a perfectly good political debate about trade routes or tax representation, and some very accomplished actor or actress keeps making it all about them by putting in a great performance. In The Force Awakens it’s like every friggin’ person is played by a good actor doing a great job with their performance. The prequel trilogy smoothly avoided this issue by casting the likes of Hayden Christensen and Jake Lloyd—actors who couldn’t turn in a decent performance if it meant the firing squad—as well as doing some kind of voodoo to drain all the life and vitality out of decent performers like Natalie Portman, Ewan MacGregor, and Liam Neeson. I mean, how are we supposed to appreciate the awesomeness that is General Greivous if I’m distracted by how human-sounding Natalie Portman sounds. Yeah, we never had that problem with the prequels.

Stop it! Stop making me believe you as characters!

Stop it! Stop making me believe you as characters!

Racism: When I saw that John Boyega had been cast as one of the leads of The Force Awakens, I have to admit that I felt some trepidation. I mean, the prequel trilogy had taught me to expect a certain amount of coded racism in the guise of CGI aliens. I really wasn’t sure how well it would go over if they were just blatantly insulting the black guy. Imagine my surprise then when The Force Awakens turned out to have no racism at all. That’s not what I’ve come to expect from modern-day Star Wars. I mean, in The Phantom Menace alone we have a CGI Stepin Fetchitt character, a CGI Jewish moneylender, and practical effect “yellow peril” aliens that sound like a more racist version of Charlie Chan. The Force Awakens? No CGI racism, no racist voices from the 1930s radio serials, nothing. It’s like the filmmakers went out of their way to be inclusive with this movie. WTF?

One of Jar Jar's less offensive scenes.

One of Jar Jar’s less offensive scenes.

They were almost female-free: The original trilogy had probably the biggest gender-imbalance of a popular series since, I dunno, The Rat Patrol maybe. Now this great when I was five years-old and still in my “girls are icky,” phase, but little did I expect George Lucas was going to be good enough to extend this sensibility to the prequel trilogy, with Padme Amidala taking the Leia role “only woman in the galaxy.” The Force Awakens has women pilots, women leaders, even a woman lead character! The hell? Say what you will about the prequel trilogy, but they understood that a woman’s place in the Star Wars universe is either to be a love interest or sacrificed to Tuskin Raiders.

Gross! Stay out of my space fantasy, you harpy!

Gross! Stay out of my space fantasy, you harpy!

So, I think you’ll agree that the prequels aren’t nearly as bad as their reputation would suggest. As a matter of fact, the prequels are actually better than The Force Awakens in some ways…provided you’re a weird, anti-social, sexless, emotionally-stunted male.

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