Just in time for May 4th, we started re-watching the Star Wars movies. I’ve been pushing my niece to watch because I just can’t fathom how anyone can miss out on such a phenomenon. After months of bullying, she finally gave in, on the condition that I watch all the Marvel movies too. (That’s for another post.)
The first question was: in what order do we watch? Because even though I like to pretend that the prequels don’t exist, unfortunately they do, and must be dealt with. I was all for watching it as nature intended, that is, from Episodes IV through VI, then Episodes I-III. I thought this would make all the in-jokes and references in the prequels resonate that much more. But the internet taught us that the best way to approach it is to watch the prequels first, with the logic that since they sucked sooo much, we would appreciate the original movies better. If we were to watch the prequels after the masterpieces of A New Hope, Empire and Jedi, it would be such a letdown.
And I’m glad we followed the interwebs. Because after watching I-III a second time (yes, I never watched it again after seeing them in the cinema), they were still awful. You would think that putting some distance between yourself and the movies would help, but not this time. They were still clunky and dragging. Does anyone seriously remember the plots of those films? Anakin becomes Vader, The End. That is it. And watching them again just emphasized how painfully bad Hayden Christensen’s acting was. Even the best villains have to be understood, but we got nothing from Christensen except some moody teenage angst. I think he thought all the glaring he did was supposed to convey the tortured soul of Anakin. There was a glaring lack of chemistry between him and Natalie Portman, and their scenes together were just cringe-worthy.
And the rest of the cast was no better. It’s like they were all awed at being involved with Star Wars and they tried so hard to be worthy by overdosing on forced gravitas (I’m looking at you, Samuel L. Jackson). It just did not work. Everything was so cold and sterile, and there was hardly any emotion throughout. The only good thing about those movies was Ewan McGregor. But though he successfully channeled Alec Guinness and captured his spirit, it just wasn’t enough because there was no one else in the movie that he could spar with.
I am now filled with a new love for the originals. By the time we finished Revenge of the Sith, we all felt like we deserved a medal. And watching A New Hope right after felt exactly that – that it was a new hope for Star Wars and that those prequels were just a bad dream. The humanity that was sorely lacking in I-III was present in spades for IV-VI, along with moral conflict, complexity, and emotion. To this day I still don’t know how George Lucas got Alec Guinness to play Obi-Wan Kenobi but thank the Force he did.
I will never forgive George Lucas for those prequels, but at least I can always skip them after this. But I think the most egregious thing he did was altering the ending scene of Jedi and replacing Sebastian Shaw with Hayden Christensen. I seriously have no words for the hate I feel for you, Lucas.
I’m still going to see The Force Awakens, though. (I don’t mind saying that the trailer featuring Han Solo and Chewbacca brought a lump to my throat.) Why, I don’t know. Maybe I’m a masochist. Maybe it’s going to be way better with Harrison Ford back. Maybe it’s like that thing they say about childbirth, that people would never have children again if they remembered the pain that goes with it. Who knows.
May the Force be with us.