I remember only too well the uneasy feelings I had going into the theatre to see The Phantom Menace in 1999. I had already been thinking about the changes to the 1997 versions of the trilogy and how they just didn't seem like they belonged, they 'felt' wrong somehow.
As I waited in line for my session to go in I looked at the hundreds of other GenXers in the crowd, some in costume, some with their own kids but all with a particular look in their eyes, a far away stare like a kid who can't believe that his parents actually got him what he really wanted for christmas.
I had grown suspicious due to internet talk about a CGI Stepin Fetchit character named Jar Jar who damned near ruins the film but I was still shocked and excited to once more be standing in line for a Star Wars film having seen the originals in their initial runs here in Sydney when I was a wee lad. I remember the excitement of playground Star Wars where we'd each pretend to be a character and act out the film as we remembered it, then later as the toys became more widely available we would play in the forested area of the schoolgrounds having new adventures and loving George's creation.
Flashforward to 1999 and approximately 130 odd minutes later and my excitement had slowly and excruciatingly turned to quiet and then not so quiet disappointment as I have previously written here and continued on the next page here.
Now I know that the excitement one feels as a child and the awe of experiencing something new for the first time can never be recaptured but I was not looking to have my youth back I was merely hoping for some connection to the original films which I had grown to appreciate over the two decades since. The vibe was not there, this was not a film from the same style or mold and it 'felt' wrong.
I have been told, mainly by blinded apologists, that these films are not meant to be viewed critically as thet are for children. Well that may be true of the PT but it was not exclusively true for the OT. My parents loved these films when they came out. They took me to the cinema and I didn't have to drag them along. They saw Star Wars and figured it might be something I would like.
I have since studied these original films academically, like a great many of you, and as we know they do conform to the monomyth of the Hero's Journey and are technically brilliant films presenting a rich lived in galaxy with well defined characters and snappy memorable banter. They are an allegory for the Vietnam war and a corrupt and powerful government ruled by a cruel dictator who is surrounded by 'yes'-men but who ultimately comes undone through his own hubris. The films show over and again that that a willing spirit can defeat technology. The intertextuality of themes, scenes, characters, mythology and plot are many and varied.
In short they are modern classics.
The origins of Star Wars have been well detailed. They were meant, first and foremost to be a fairytale for the modern era cribbing this and that from here and there and making it a unified whole which would appeal to all ages in every country.
Then came the prequels.
Bored actors playing uninteresting characters reading stilted dialogue to hamfistedly advance an overly complicated plot whose only purpose seems to be to show off as many CGI sets and toyetic creatures as possible in two hours. Bleh. Take away Williams' music and the opening crawl and you wouldn't even know it was a Star Wars film at all, and most people wouldn't give it a second glance if you did.
I never saw AOTC in the cinema and I only just recently sat through the whole thing, MF's version thanks to Rikter. Thanks again man. Clearly these are not the films we were expecting after the sixteen year wait.
I had been expecting something more like what John L. Flynn writes about in his essay Looking Back To The Future Of Star Wars. All the information was there in GL's original drafts of The Star Wars so why did he choose to ignore it and tell a tale of taxation and whatever else?
So my question is what did YOU expect from the Prequels?
"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." - Goebbels.
"In times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." - Orwell.