A Prequel Rant

I’ve neglected this blog. I know I have. I feel just awful about it. Well, not really, but I ought to pretend I do.

I don’t want to abandon this blog. Yes, I write columns and such for the Deseret News, but I can’t let loose there the way I can here, and I don’t want to give this up. So how to get excited about writing here again?

Simple – I need to get a few good rants out of my system. That ought to be fun. (For me, anyway. Not sure if anyone else wants to read them, but you’re here, and no one’s holding a gun to your head. )

In my latest column, I compared “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” to the execrable Star Wars prequels, which I do not consider to be Star Wars movies. I called these films “miserable failure[s]” and dismissed the whole prequel trilogy as a “joyless, plodding mess.”

My column produced several comments, some from those who agreed with me, but also some from prequel apologists.  “Bennett was a little harsh me thinks on the Star Wars movies… All in all they were pretty good… Sure made a lot of money for being failures,” wrote goosehuntr from Tooele, Utah. Someone named vangroovin said “I like all six Star Wars movies. And I still enjoy watching them. I think the prequels were not as fantastic because you already knew the end result.” And Mike Johnson of Stafford, Virginia said “Interesting, a movie (Phantom Menace) makes over half a billion dollars and is called a ‘miserable failure.'”

Boy, those would be great blurbs on movie posters, wouldn’t they? Instead of “two thumbs up!” or “five stars!”, the posters would say “not as fantastic!” or “pretty good!” or “well, they made a lot of money, so, you know, that’s something, right?”

No. No, it isn’t something. They made a lot of money because there is an almost inexhaustible well of good will left over from the original trilogy, and everyone desperately wanted the prequels to be good or at least palatable.  With each new movie, everyone held out hope that the next prequel wouldn’t be as horrid as the last. And each time, those hopes were dashed, and now, in hindsight, it’s clear that there is nothing good about these movies.

I repeat: there is nothing good about the Star Wars prequels. Nothing. Nothing at all.

There are no redeeming features. There is no silver lining. There is nothing but missed opportunity, crushing disappointment, and Jar Jar Binks.

I will now argue with a straw man who disagrees.

“Oh, Stallion, but what about the cool lightsaber battle in Episode I between Darth Maul and Obi-Wan/Qui-Gon?”

It was bad.

“No, it wasn’t! It was so much cooler than anything in the original trilogy, where they couldn’t do all the flips and kicks and double-bladed saber stuff. ”

You’re right, they couldn’t. The very first lightsaber battle in “Star Wars” – I hate calling it “A New Hope” – featured an aged Alec Guinness up against Darth Vader, and nobody flipped once. In terms of pure gymnastics, it had nothing going on – but it was infinitely more compelling than a cluttered, noisy battle between cipher characters that didn’t matter. When Obi-Wan died, it meant something. When Darth Maul died, it only meant the movie was almost over – which was the best something that “Phantom Menace” had to offer.

“But what about all the cool visuals? The space battles? So much better than the originals, no?”

No.

The original rebel attack run on the Death Star – pre CGI-cluttered Special Edition version – was fairly simple and straightforward, but you cared about the outcome, so you were on the edge of your seat the whole time. Compare that with the Episode III opener, which is a wildly complex, visually oppressive CGI assault on the senses with no other goal than to show how nifty it is. I don’t even remember what was supposed to be going on.

The prequels are nothing but visuals without context in the service of plots that don’t matter.

Allow me to illustrate with an illustration:

AsiaPyramidPoster_Dean
This is an album cover. It’s got all kind of weird images in it. Neat, huh? Well, maybe, if you like that sort of thing. None of these images are connected to any ideas that matter to me, so I don’t really care about them much. Why does the pyramid have eyes? Because it’s supposed to be cool that a pyramid would have eyes. Yeah, whatever.

All the prequel visuals come from the same self-indulgent hubris that produced this album cover. Funky ships and weird landscapes and quirky aliens are supposed to be applauded for their own sake, not because they matter.

Because they don’t matter. And neither do the prequels.

“Oh, but Stallion, you’re just put off because Jake Lloyd/Hayden Christensen/whoever wasn’t a very good actor.”

Really?

Anakin Skywalker: You are so… beautiful.
Padmé: It’s only because I’m so in love.
Anakin Skywalker: No, it’s because I’m so in love with you.
Padmé: So love has blinded you?
Anakin Skywalker: [laughs] Well, that’s not exactly what I meant.

What pair of actors, living or dead, could make that scene work? Go ahead – I’ll wait. But I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating, and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here, everything is soft and smooth.

Fact is, the dialogue in these movies was impervious to talent. Whenever anyone quotes a Star Wars movie, they quote from the original trilogy – unless, like me, they’re trying to mock the prequels.

“Oh, but Stallion, the Clone Wars TV shows/novels/other crap are really good and have enhanced the prequel story.”

No, they haven’t. The plotline of anything connected to the prequels is doomed from the outset. The Clone Wars – the fictional wars in question, not the shows that use that as the title – were all a ploy by the Emperor to grant himself unlimited power. The outcome, then, is completely irrelevant – if either side wins, Palpatine wins regardless.  Battles in a pointless war are pointless themselves.

“But what about…”

Oh, shut up, straw man. I have defeated you utterly, and my defeat of you is even more significant than anything connected to the Star Wars prequels, which are not good and filled with badness. I’d rather breathe the bottled farts of a thousand eskimos than sit through “Attack of the Clones” one more time.

Well, that was fun. Next rant will be political, which may not be as fun.

Dear Hank
An Anti-Clinton Rant

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