Anticipating the Prequels 2
Memories from the front of the line...
First off I'd like to apologize for the severe lag there was between Part 1 and Part 2; although it wasn't a three year waiting period like Lucasfilm likes to subject their rabid fanboys to, it was a lengthy delay nonetheless.
Anyway, if you read the first article you'd know where this one picks up.
Darth Effin' Maul.
Glorious, wasn't it? Do you remember watching the first teaser trailer and seeing this screen shot? He had a double-bladed lightsaber! Although he wasn't the first to wield one, as longtime Star Wars geeks know that was Exar Kun's claim, he was the first to brandish one on screen. Repress the horrible demise he suffered, and just think back to the days where this Satanic looking Sith spawn was a complete and total mystery. How amped were you? Seriously, it was a an epic quest full of hazards and terror just to grab one of his action figures the first couple of months after the release. On a side note, remember when Hasbro tried to make the figures interactive by including the sound cards? Did anyone actually buy the card reader? I didn't know a single person who did.
Anyway, back to Darth Maul...my only original gripe with him was the fact that his double-bladed lightsaber, or DBL if you will, did not come apart giving you the option of him dual wielding. You see, lightsabers were a very slim resource in my house; I was always losing them, and often has to have my action figures share them. I was really hoping for the possibility of taking them apart and always having a spare. A small gripe, but a gripe for sure.
My friends and I began our speculation regarding this new shadowy Sith Lord; was he human with horrible disfigurement, or was he actually an actual Sith? The species dominated by the Sith Lords? Wait,weren't they supposed to look kind of like this?
Well, they both were the same shade of red. He couldn't be just an alien species though; that was what the whole galactic civil was was supposed to be about, peace and equality between human and creature alike. That's why the Empire only had human officers (I won't go into the whole Thrawn story). No, Darth Maul was going to be something incredible, I just knew it!
Darth Sidious...My first thought on this action figure was "God, I hope it's something more clever than just being a disguise for Palpatine." I don't really know where I wanted it to go; maybe Darth Sidious was Senator Palpatine's twin brother, and he had him killed and assumed his identity? Maybe Palpatine was a clone of Darth Sidious? Or maybe Sidious has the ability to "posess" people Linda Blair style? I mean, George Lucas would HAVE to be clever enough to come up with something better than Sidious just being Palpatine with a face concealing hood, right?
Hmm, I guess not.
And who was this odd looking creature? His bio on the figure card said he was a clumsy Gungan from Naboo. How did he fit into all of this? Little did I know I was staring straight at the most hated Star Wars character since the Ewoks yub yubbed there way on screen.
Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace arrived in theaters May 19, 1999...but I arrived May 17th. My Step-Brother and I were third and fourth in line, waiting behind a bunch of nerdy college kids who wanted to be on the news. I slept in my sleeping bag on the side of the theater, cursing myself for not arriving sooner. The theater manager allowed us to hook up a TV, VCR, and an NES so we wouldn't go mad from the wait. Suddenly the college kids and I had the means to stop being strangers and become friends; united in our Star Wars appreciation and the desire to beat Bust-A-Move without a Game Genie. About 9 hours before the Episode 1 midnight premiere, the line was wrapped around the side of the theater, and people were trying to buy and sell tickets to the event of the year. People were barbecuing delicious food, news reporters were interviewing everyone, and a stupid radio dj was asking us easy trivia questions for a free copy of Korn's latest CD. I never knew there was so many people in my town that loved Star Wars this much! This was our generations REAL Woodstock! This movie was going regain the glory Titanic stole from us! This was going to be the best movie ever made since 1980!
and then I watched it.
Look, I'm not going to lie and say I absolutely hated it. It had an amazing lightsaber duel
And the effects for it's time were primo. I left the theater with a giant smile on my face, not really understanding why some of the older kids were complaining and making threats about getting their money back. I still thought that Empire and Jedi were better, and it held my interest more than A New Hope did...but I had a few problems with it.
Why did Yoda look like he had down syndrome? I know he was supposed to look younger, but he just looked off. I thought Frank Oz even sounded a little out of it. Why wasn't there any mention of the Clone Wars? If Anakin was so powerful in the force, why didn't he do anything? I mean, yeah the Podrace took some skill, and blowing up a Trade Federation Droid Control Ship was impressive in it's cartoony sort of way, but The Chosen One just didn't impress me. Obi-Wan Kenobi didn't have much to do, and his first encounter with Anakin Skywalker should have been an epic moment, instead it was just a mere handshake.
To be honest, Jar Jar Binks made me laugh (keep in mind I was barely only 14 years old) and aside from a few lines that made me cringe, I thought Jake Lloyd did alright. Natalie Portman's portrayal of Queen Amidala/Padme Naberrie didn't do much for me. I missed the Stormtroopers, and didn't care for the Battle Droids. I thought the Gungan vs. Trade Federation was pretty cool aside from Jar Jar playing the clumsy comedy relief part. I wish they set something else up for Darth Sidious/Palpatine...that passing line to Anakin about career watching was just too simple. I would have liked to see Qui-Gon survive at the end, or at least fade into a force ghost, but I figured he wouldn't last long.
But my biggest complaint of all was the fate of Darth Maul. He was such an awesome character in both design and execution. He could have been the prequel trilogy nemesis. He deserved more screen time than the Gungans and pod races combined! He could have been the face of the Old Republic's opposition. The face all the Jedi younglings had nightmares about! I would have loved to see an adult Anakin fight Maul to the death for the apprenticeship of the Emperor. His death was the most disappointing character send-off since Boba Fett was defeated by a blind Han Solo way back in Jedi.
My anticipation for Episode 2 was immensely small compared to the wait for Episode 1. Even though Episode 2 came with the promise of the much discussed Clone Wars, and the beginning of Anakin's journey towards the darkside, it almost felt like I already knew everything that would happen next. Anakin would turn on the Jedi and hunt them down, Luke and Leia would be born, the Old Republic would fall, and Emperor Palpatine would take over the Galaxy, etc. Really, if you think about it Episode 2 and 3 didn't have any major surprises. Would the movies have benefited if some kind of major galaxy devastating twist? It seemed like that was the way they were leaning with Anakin's immaculate birth. Why mention midi-chlorians if they ended up serving no purpose aside from gauging the strength of someones connection to the force? Couldn't Jedi sense that kind of power without measuring it down to the force-filled cell? I have this feeling that George Lucas had some big ideas, but the backlash against Episode One caused him to take a safer route. I see the Prequel movies as an enjoyable yet severely flawed part of the Star Wars Saga. There was so much room to tell a brilliant and necessary story, but instead it was a SFX overdosed and predictable. I think a lot of us may have had unobtainable expectations; that's what happens when you've been waiting close to 16 years for your favorite film franchise to return with new stories and characters. I think if you're going to make a prequel you have to make sure it is necessary; make it change the way you look at the previous movies. Make it a part of the continuity, don't mess with things previously established, and make sure the look is consistent.
I'd like to eventually go into more detail with Episode 2 and 3, but I'll wait till it feels a bit more Retro to me. Until then, I hope you enjoyed these articles, and I hope this will open up some healthy discussion on the comments section...oh, and uh...May the Force be with you...not that midi-chlorian BS.
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