For the Love of Prequels: Why I Would Party With Jar Jar Binks
A long time ago, in an elementary school far, far away, I was but a little youngling spending my time with my friends dreaming of starships and lightsabers as we scurried around the playground of our school during recesses.
It was a simpler time back then; there were only three Star Wars movies, everyone was convinced that Owen Lars was Ben Kenobi’s half-brother and Anakin Skywalker was just some blue glowie at the end of ‘Return of the Jedi.’ But 1999 saw the release of ‘The Phantom Menace,’ and Star Wars history would forever be changed. The subsequent releases of ‘Attack of the Clones’ and ‘Revenge of the Sith’ brought Star Wars to a new generation of children, but not without causing some collateral damage on the way.
Let me start off by saying that I am a Star Wars fan — a huge fan. I don’t get to keep up with it as much as I used to, but let me just say this: I own six lightsabers. I probably have over 1,000 Star Wars CCG cards (complete sets of Hoth, Dagobah, Cloud City, missing one card from Jabba’s Palace, among many others). I played Jedi Knight: Jedi Outcast/Jedi Knight Academy on the same server for about five years (Legion of Swordsmen for life), as well as suffering through Star Wars Galaxies for about a year. And naturally, I’ve read my fair share of Star Wars books, comics and Wikipedia pages, so I consider myself well-versed in the subject. And let me say this: I would party with Jar Jar Binks. That is to say, I feel like I fall into the small group of those who actually enjoyed the prequels. Why? Because they were good, damn it. All the naysayers need to pack away the hater-ade and stop complaining.
Let’s take a look at ‘The Phantom Menace,’ as the first of the prequels seems to draw the most criticism. A lot of people complained about the acting in this one, but all I can say is, Liam Neeson was terrific as Qui-Gon Jinn. Plus, no Star Wars film has ever had great acting. It adds to the fantasy of the story. Also, look what the universe got out of the first film: pod racing, double-bladed lightsabers, Natalie Portman, lots of Jedi, the best lightsaber duel in any of the six movies, the song “Duel of the Fates” and Darth Maul! I think Darth Maul alone makes up for any perceived failings of the movie. If you want to complain that he was killed off too early, that hasn’t stopped people from making over 9,000 references to him in any sort of Star Wars-based medium.
But what about Jar Jar you say! Look, he wasn’t the witty-funny character that Han Solo was, but you know what — I found myself laughing at his hijinks. He was a character created to help fill a void of childish entertainment that R2-D2 couldn’t do on his own. Maybe a lot of us found him a bit annoying, but I know tons of little kids who couldn’t get enough of him, which is a major point in itself because these movies are really for kids.
I think a lot of criticism comes from older fans building up some idealistic image of the franchise, and when the prequels failed to live up to their impossible standards, they screamed blasphemy (see also: Watchmen).
The other two movies are not without their merits. ‘Attack of the Clones’ saw the always-wonderful Christopher Lee join the Dark Side and a battle-damaged outfit on Natalie Portman. The introduction of Jango Fett almost rivaled the previous fanboy excitement of Darth Maul, and we finally got to see why Yoda and Mace Windu were Jedi Masters (apparently Mr. Windu’s lightsaber handle has the same inscription as the wallet Jules carries in “Pulp Fiction,” shut yo mouth!). Plus, can you really say the all-out Jedi fight near the end didn’t give you goose bumps? I know I was immersed in a nerd-euphoria the likes of which I had never known.
‘Revenge of the Sith’ did not disappoint either. It did an awesome job of paralleling the events Anakin’s son would eventually face in ‘Return of the Jedi,’ finally brought the epic battle between Obi-Wan and Anakin to the screen and did a pretty impressive job of wrapping up the loose ends binding it to the original trilogy. The only depressing part was watching Natalie Portman pass away. I knew it was coming, but it didn’t help soften the blow.
So many people have their own perceptions of what Star Wars should be or could be, but they need to take a step back and look at what it is. How often do we find a movie of such social importance that both parents and children can have it figure so greatly into their lives? And if nothing else, consider the fact that now most kids will grow up knowing the Star Wars story from movies one through six, as opposed to us older folks knowing it was four through six, then one through three. I wonder, when watching Obi-Wan Kenobi duel Darth Vader in the hangar bay of the Death Star, if they’ll ask why the two Jedi Masters are just standing in place, after seeing the exhilarating duels of movies past. Remember, the Force will be with you, always.