Prequels Better Than the New Trilogy?
January 8, 2020
(The Channel Awesome logo and opening titles are shown)
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. Well, some time has gone by since the release of Rise of Skywalker, and not surprisingly, there's been a lot of reactions to it.
(Footage of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is shown)
NC (vo): Some love it, some hate it, some are halfway, which, given the Star Wars climate online, is not that shocking. But there has been one argument coming up when talking about the new Star Wars trilogy...
(Cut to footage of The Phantom Menace)
NC (vo): ...and that's praise for the Star Wars prequels.
NC: (throws up arms) Where did this come from? I thought there were rules!
(Cut to a clip of the original film, showing Han Solo shooting Greedo dead)
NC (vo): Han shot first...
(Cut to a clip of the lightsaber battle between Rey and Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens)
NC (vo): ...it's hilarious we thought "lightsaber game" would be the biggest problem with the new trilogy...
NC: ...and the prequels suck! There's just some things I thought we all agreed on!
(More footage of the prequels follow)
NC (vo): With their wooden acting, lame dialogue, over-reliance on CGI, and inconsistent stories, how are these suddenly being seen as good?
NC: Are they the worst thing ever? No. In fact, I even did (Image of the following is superimposed...) a video praising the good elements in them. (becomes confused) But we're gonna use the G word when describing these?
(Cut to a clip of Anakin Skywalker's infamous confession to Padme Amidala)
Anakin (Hadyen Christensen): I don't like sand.
NC: (confused) These?
(Cut to a clip of Jar Jar Binks)
Jar Jar: More did you spake?
NC: (more confused than ever) These?!
(Cut to a clip of a young Anakin (in The Phantom Menace) addressing Padme)
Anakin: Are you an angel?
NC (vo; sighs): Well, here's the funny thing: after completing this new trilogy, I was forced to look at the prequels again. I mean, it is three new films in a now-nine-film lineup. Most people know the original trilogy very well, but when you see a character enter the new trilogy that was not only in the original, but in the prequels, too, it's hard not to think how all of these films might work as one narrative, what flows in the long run, but not in the long run, and vice-versa. In doing so, I'm seeing more and more arguments pop up that there was something important in the prequels that wasn't in the sequels...
NC: (face twitching in frustration) ...a part of me kinda sorta maybe knows a little bit what you're talking about. (beat, then quickly, in frustration while holding up index finger) But probably not!
NC (vo): Sure, I've had my ups and downs with this new trilogy, but there's none of them I hate, and parts of them even gave me goosebumps that I can't remember feeling in Star Wars since the original trilogy.
NC: However, and I can't believe I'm saying this...there was something missing that the prequels seemed to have.
NC (vo): It wasn't until I saw the conclusion, Rise of Skywalker, that I finally felt this, but I did feel it: that being...an emptiness, a lack of passion, a feeling that this isn't being made to delight the imagination anymore.
NC: But... (sighs) the prequels had that??
(Footage of the prequels are shown)
NC (vo): They weren't empty?
Obi-Wan Kenobi: I have a bad feeling about this.
Qui-Gon Jinn: I don't sense anything.
NC (vo): They didn't lack passion?
Anakin: (to Padme) You're so beautiful.
Padme: It's only because I'm so in love.
Anakin: No, it's because I'm so in love with you.
(The scene of Dex's Diner in Attack of the Clones is shown)
NC (vo): They were made to delight the imagination?
WA-7: Someone to see you, honey!
Dexter Jettster: Obi-Wan!
Obi-Wan: (coming in) Hello, Dex.
NC: Well, I argue, yes. Not done well, but I did still nevertheless get that feeling from them.
NC (vo): Okay, to better explain what I'm talking about, we have to go over the trilogies really quick. I'm aware you know them inside and out, but to get a better idea, we really do have to recap them.
(Footage of the original trilogy is shown, starting with the one that started it all, naturally)
NC (vo): The first Star Wars took the world by storm, but as many have pointed out, even the actors, it was the imagination and effects that drew everybody in, not necessarily the writing. At least with the dialogue.
(Cut to a clip of the movie)
Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher): (to Governor Tarkin) I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board.
(Cut to another clip)
Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill): (to his uncle, Owen, having gotten C-3PO and R2-D2) But I was going into Tosche Station to pick up some power converters.
NC (vo): The film is masterfully edited, though, to incorporate the best elements and leave out...
(Cut to a clip of a deleted scene, showing Biggs Darklighter addressing Luke)
NC (vo): ...this shit.
Biggs: You know they've already started to nationalize commerce in the central systems?
(Cut to another deleted clip, also featuring Biggs and Luke)
Biggs: I may never come back and I just want someone to know.
NC: The fuck...?
NC (vo): ...giving us the best production you could get from such a creative mess.
(Now cut to footage of the next movie, The Empire Strikes Back)
NC (vo): In Empire Strikes Back, more chances were taken, and they learned from what worked and what didn't, so they knew what to take risks on and what not to. And this proves Star Wars wasn't just a lucky break; there was a continuing talent behind it.
(Now cut to footage of the third movie, Return of the Jedi)
NC (vo): Return of the Jedi was kind of a combination of the two: returning back to what was once popular in the first films, with the kid-friendly creatures and blowing up another ball, but it also incorporated some of the darkness from Empire.
NC: Not perfect, but a pretty damn good beginning, middle and end.
(The prequels now are shown, starting with The Phantom Menace)
NC (vo): When the long-awaited prequels came out, everything that was edited out of the first Star Wars was now put dead center: a lot of trade talk; a lot of scenes that went on too long; putting too much comedy in one character, leaving no personality for the others. Fans went through different stages of accepting that, after all these years, they got something that could be bad.
(Cut to a shot of a movie called The People vs. George Lucas)
NC (vo): There's even been films made about their different levels of denial.
(Now cut to the next prequel film, Attack of the Clones)
NC (vo): The next film, Attack of the Clones, scaled down some of the comic relief and trade talk, but not much else. The plot was still confusing, the dialogue still awkward, and the energy from the actors still on autopilot. In my opinion, this is the worst one, because it's not even a "so bad, it's good", it's just dull and lifeless.
(Cut now to the final prequel film, Revenge of the Sith)
NC (vo): But at the very least, the next one, Revenge of the Sith, did generate a lot of life.
Padme: (embracing Anakin) ...so long ago, when there was nothing but our love.
NC: (cringes and hesitates) ...In certain parts.
NC (vo): There was more focus on the villain, who's always been a ton of fun in these movies. It felt like there was conflict that, while clumsy, you could still follow. And it did take the darkest risks out of all the movies.
(The infamous moment where Anakin enters the Younglings' room is shown)
NC (vo): I mean, yeah, this boy says this line weird...
Sors Bandeam: Master Skywalker, there are too many of them! What are we going to do?
NC: (as Han Solo) Great read, kid! That was one in a million!
NC (vo): But he's dead the following scene. You never see that in the original trilogy.
(A brief clip of Ewoks being blown up in Return of the Jedi is shown)
NC (vo): Kentucky Fried Ewok, sure...
(Cut back to the scene of the Younglings' dead bodies as Obi-Wan and Yoda look over them)
NC (vo): ...but a kid, let alone kids?! Yikes!
(Now cut to the climactic duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan)
NC (vo) A lot of people say this is the closest prequel to feel like a legit Star Wars film.
NC: But that's the word: "closest".
NC (vo): The prequels were still seen by many as a huge letdown. Slowly, over time, critics and audiences were seeing the chinks in the armor and realized this wasn't the epic comeback they were expecting.
NC: (holds up index finger) There is one group that surprisingly enjoyed them, though: kids.
NC (vo): (sounding hesitant) Yeah, I can't say I'd be into trade talks and Senate meetings, but a lot of children still got sucked into the swordfights, the ship battles, and yes, even the comic relief.
NC: I guess I can compare this to when I was a kid and hearing...
NC (vo): ...all the political talks in (Image of the following appears in the corner...) Batman or the archaeological talks in (Image of the following appears in the corner...) Indiana Jones.
NC: It was the (makes "finger quotes") "grown-up" stuff you waded through to get to the action.
NC (vo): Where in those films, though, the adults could see how they connected to the story and characters' journey, these films, they couldn't. But if you were a child, what did it matter? There was more color and fast imagery and poop jokes to entertain you. Eh, fair enough. If you enjoyed these as a kid and hold fond memories of 'em, rock on. A lot of children, as they got older, though, did see the problems with them that adults had for years, but nevertheless, many still hold on to their nostalgia and enjoy watching them. So, one of the major questions becomes, is nostalgia the only benefit of the prequels?
NC: (looking thoughtful) Well...let's look at the new trilogy to figure it out.
(But first, we go to a commercial break. Upon return, we are shown a collage of a myriad Star Wars entertainment: books, video games, etc.)
NC (vo): After several spin-offs in TV, games, books and God knows how many other avenues...
(Now cut to a shot of George Lucas meeting Bob Iger, the current head of The Walt Disney Company)
NC (vo): ...Lucasfilms was eventually bought out by Disney, with plans to keep George Lucas, the creator, but also to some the destroyer of their beloved series, out of it.
(Now footage of the newest trilogy is shown, starting with The Force Awakens)
NC (vo): With the release of Force Awakens, there was no doubt a return to several elements that people have been missing from the prequels. On top of great acting, charming dialogue, and more balanced humor, practical effects were utilized more, the look in tone was more rugged and familiar, and even characters from the original came back for another go.
NC: A lot of fans, including myself, found this almost a little...too familiar.
NC (vo): The biggest criticism is that it was basically the original film all over again, with a poor youth in white battling a bad guy in black, trying to get a droid to an underground army to defeat another giant bowling ball. While many had issues, there was this understanding that, well, it just wanted to show it could do Star Wars like the good old days, the version everyone seemed to like the most. A lot of us gave them the benefit of the doubt and said, "Okay, you get this one, but now you have to do something different."
NC: (shrugs) And I guess that's what we got with...
(Footage of the next sequel movie is shown...)
NC (vo): ...The Last Jedi; divisive, to say the least. The same elements some hailed as deep and challenging, others saw as shallow and backstabbing. When I first saw it, I remembered being super-invested and intrigued by some of the new directions they were setting up. But like many of you, the more I thought about it, the more I did see a lot of problems. So much was wrapped up that the previous film was clearly establishing to be resolved in two movies as opposed to one. And even what did wrap up seemed to subvert expectations, but not really replace it with anything epic. Sure, one or two surprises that don't give you what you're promised is fine, but this is kind of like doing...
(Cut to a shot of...)
NC (vo): ...Endgame without having Thanos or giving the characters back; there's just some things you know you have to follow through on.
(Another clip of The Last Jedi follows)
NC (vo): But this is all good; this is a franchise that's inspired...
(A pile of a bunch of Star Wars books is shown)
NC (vo): ...tons of books that took finished stories and continued them in the most brilliant of ways.
(One more clip of The Last Jedi is shown)
NC (vo): They can still turn this into something.
NC: (shakes head) Well, Rise of Skywalker was something all right.
(Footage of The Rise of Skywalker is shown)
NC (vo): Again dividing a lot of people, though I don't think as much as Last Jedi, the film tried to introduce both old and new elements, combining familiar tropes from the original trilogy with the tropes of this new trilogy in the hopes of ending on a strong yet familiar note. From what I've gathered, even the people that like this film don't love it. And the answer why is very clear.
NC: (shrugs) It just didn't feel like this was planned from the start.
(A clip of The Last Jedi is shown)
NC (vo): Where Last Jedi almost seemed to retcon some ideas from Force Awakens...
(The footage of The Rise of Skywalker resumes)
NC (vo): ...Rise of Skywalker seemed to retcon ideas from Last Jedi. Despite the director of...
(Another snippet of The Force Awakens is shown)
NC (vo): ...the mostly crowd-pleasing Force Awakens coming back for this one...
(Cut back again to The Rise of Skywalker)
NC (vo): ...people just didn't feel the same excitement for this conclusion. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there's crowds that applauded and liked the movie a great deal, but I get the feeling it's not the same level of excitement that people felt...
(Cut to yet another clip of The Force Awakens)
NC (vo): ...in The Force Awakens, when so much was possible and on the horizon.