anghraine: from the 2005 p&p: darcy standing at a piano while georgiana plays it (twins [laughing and half-divine])
[personal profile] anghraine
While I've been mulling over this one for awhile, I didn't sit down to write it until last week, when I really needed to cheer myself up. Everything's better now, so here we go:

Ten things I don't hate about the prequel trilogy

(Warnings: don't hate doesn't mean love or even like. I do talk a little about things I hate to explain the things I don't. There's the occasional spasm of fannish glee, plenty of SHRIEKING IN ALL CAPS [or italics], and lots of rambling. I ended up meandering past Red Letter Media, Greek mythology, and my fannish worship of Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher. Also, TV Tropes. Okay? Okay.)

(1) Returning to Tatooine

I've seen complaints about how shoehorning OT stuff into the PT makes the galaxy seem smaller and less amazing, and -- I largely agree with that. However! A New Hope strongly implies that Anakin was (among other things) living on Tatooine when he headed off on his adventures. So while the plot twists that brought everyone there smacked of railroading, it made perfect sense that they'd have to find him there.

(2) Palpatine

The Emperor in the original trilogy is creepy, but not really impressive. He reminds me a little of Otha from The Elenium, who has massive amounts of power but is too stupid and lazy to use it productively. OT!Palpatine is more effective than that, of course, but ... not by a lot.

Chancellor Palpatine, on the other hand, is highly capable, even if his schemes are ridiculously complicated. He suffers the same plot 'n dialogue problems as pretty much everyone else, but his manner is so avuncular and kind and shades-of-Uncle-Badtouch that he ends up every bit as creepy as he's supposed to be. The speeches to the Senate, in particular, are so gloriously manipulative and OTT that they cross into hilarity.

I honestly can't say I enjoy him, even as a character, but I think he's a good one. Better than the rather dim Emperor in Empire and the blindly self-sabotaging one in Jedi.

(3) Anakin being born into slavery

Okay, it's depressing as hell, the way it's dealt with is either peculiar or nonexistent, and it completely ignores everything we're told about the Owen-Anakin relationship in ANH. But. I do think it works as an overarching theme and adds pathos to watching Anakin get passed from master to master to master to master. It even works with the original trilogy, in a way, as it provides this enormous contrast with his children, demanding their freedom at any cost.

(4) The music

Okay, yes, there are a few pieces that I don't love quite as much as everything else, but honestly? The music is awesome. And my favourite themes may be from the original trilogy (Luke's Theme, Princess Leia's Theme, the Force Theme, Darth Vader's Theme/the Imperial March, and Luke and Leia), but the prequel trilogy's music still kicks ass in every possible way.

There's the occasional diehard prequel hater -- er. I should probably clarify that, since I'm almost certainly one myself by most people's definition.

I don't mean people like "Mr Plinkett," who hates the prequel trilogy because he wanted to love it, and explains his objections at length, complete with framing device and (horrifying!) persona. His principal crime appears to be caring too much - seriously, almost every single criticism of him I've ever seen is some variation on Shatner's "get a life!": "what kind of loser would waste seventy minutes complaining about a Star Wars movie" or "lol he needs to get out of his mom's basement" or "they're just movies." (You'd think the point at which you get kudos from Roger Ebert would take you beyond that, but apparently not.)

No. I mean the rabid haters who do little more than scream about Jar-Jar, refuse to acknowledge even the possibility that every single thing in the PT mayn't have come straight from the bowels of hell, say nothing in particular but insist that every single thing about it is completely worthless. I've seen them complaining that the costumes aren't good enough, the special effects aren't good enough, even the music isn't good enough. Like --

"Duel of the Fates seemed okay, I guess, but it was really dramatic."

In other news, water is wet.

Seriously, people, I get hating on the PT, but HELL NO. The music is gorgeous and if you have a problem with melodrama, you're in the wrong franchise.

(5) This is more of a Narm Charm thing, but I actually like the whole thing about Anakin being conceived by the Force. Of course, the original trilogy implied pretty strongly that the Skywalkers were just (or "just") a line of immensely Force-sensitive humans, not that the Force was literally in their family. But it ends up being kind of hilarious cool if you think about it.

I mean, if the Force (somehow) caused Shmi to conceive on her own, then Anakin would have all his genes from her and should be a tiny Shmi-clone (yes, also a girl). Except he isn't. (Duh.) So obviously he has genes from somewhere else -- maybe all of them, maybe half. Since the other ... uh, contributor ... to his conception is the Force, then presumably it is that somewhere-else. That's why he has so many midichlorians dancing through his veins -- not, despite my headcanon, from Shmi: from the Force itself.

So he's essentially the child of this cosmic power that's worshipped as a deity across the galaxy. Wait, wait, this means...

That's right: Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia are demigods.

I ALWAYS KNEW IT.

They're totally the GFFA's divine twins. I have an icon to this effect [see above!] which I use as often as possible (thanks, [personal profile] lotesse!). Hm. Luke is pretty and golden and launcher of every-which-way yay, and while he has some of the superaccuracy, his powers are increasingly dominated by foresight and general clairvoyance. Leia is tough and dark and tends more towards miraculously hitting everything she aims at than the fuzzier powers. Aside from her intense relationship with her twin, she falls for a dashing, superhot fighter guy. Who then gets frozen into ornamentation and sent away -- thanks, in an odd way, to her brother.

So ... GFFA!Apollo and Artemis! Which should make Vader Zeus, but that fits Palpatine much better. Creeptastic, seductive, and inclined to silence debate with lightning bolts from his fingertips. Vader can be Hades, ruling under the authority of Zeus!Palpatine. Ooh, would that make Padmé a sort of Persephone? It makes a strange amount of sense. Naboo is Aphrodite, making Jar-Jar . . . Eros? *glee* I could do this all day, because the lulz are endless, but moving on.

Oh wait, there should totally be fic where Luke and Leia have quasi-divine powers without realising it. Not Force Storm-level stuff, just ... like ta'veren IN SPACE! So minor reality warping: the odds go their way, their enemies make stupid mistakes, Ewoks don't get slaughtered (though one does get shot after Luke slips off), and pretty much nobody ever manages to land a hit on them unless their father is around. And any story they happen across immediately starts revolving around them.

(6) Little!Anakin

Some of the lines are horrifically bad, yes. (Dear God, if I never hear yippee in a SW movie again it will be too soon.) He has very little resemblance to his teenage self. He's kind of bland. So on and so forth. But I think the character does accomplish something very important.

Honestly, I think a lot of people didn't even want to see Anakin at all; they wanted a young Darth Vader. There is very little of Vader in baby Anakin, and what is there seems to consist mostly of mannerisms.

Oh, the Council talks about him being full of rage and fear and blah blah blah. But he isn't, really. He gets annoyed over being treated as less than a person. He's slightly worried about his mother, which would be normal in any situation. In his situation, it doesn't mean that he's an especially clingy, attachment-prone child, it means that he's a little boy, his mother is a slave on Tatooine and he has some entirely justified concerns about what might happen to her. (Which, oh yeah, actually do, because Tatooine.)

Maybe his portrayal is too schmaltzy for a lot of people, and yeah, my teeth rotted a bit too, but the thing is this: Anakin Skywalker is a nice boy. He is generous and helpful. He's kind, with a streak of ordinary, childish self-interest. He has confidence, a well-developed sense of self, and a strong, clear mind. He appears to be perfectly well-balanced and healthy, and generally even-tempered. He's handed over to the Jedi and the next time we see him, he's a mass of dysfunctions on the point of committing mass murder.

Okay, it's kind of faily that we still don't know how he got from Point A to Point B, but I think it's important that he didn't start as Darth Vader. He was a little boy who loved his mother and wanted to help people, very little different from what Luke and Leia must have been at nine. And that is entirely in line with the original trilogy's presentation of Anakin as a paragon of virtue who crashed and burned, even if the timeline is wonky.

(7) Obi-Wan is heroic, but also kind of an asshole

I do have objections to his characterisation in other respects. Many objections! However, this is not one of them. OT!Obi-Wan was kind of an asshole too. Mostly in retrospect, but still. In fact, the original trilogy even suggested that Obi-Wan's hubris played a significant part in Anakin's fall. Yes, the hubris takes a distinctly different form in the PT -- OT!Obi-Wan says that he insisted on being the one to train Anakin instead of Yoda (!), when PT!Yoda obviously had no intention whatsoever of training Anakin and only permitted him to be trained by someone else under considerable duress.

Still, the basic idea is there. Obi-Wan is a good guy in the PT. Really. But he can also be a colossal jerk (check), he's painfully hidebound (check), he makes bad decisions that could have appalling consequences (CHECK), and it's pretty strongly implied that Anakin would have done better with a wiser, more mature teacher (check!). So I'm cool with all of that.

(8) Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker

No, I don't love him. I don't think he's a particularly good actor. But I don't think he's a particularly bad one, either. He had horrible dialogue, little direction, and apparently very little in the way of visual cues. Patrick Stewart couldn't have made it less than painful. However, I have discovered that his acting miraculously improves if you just mute the television.

Also, he looks quite a bit like young!Mark Hamill, which automatically wins points in my book. In fact, I suspect it played a significant part in his casting -- big blue eyes, high angular cheekbones, large mouth, dark blond hair, cleft in the chin. Somehow, he also looks a bit like young!Carrie Fisher (I think more than Natalie Portman does, apart from colouring), which also wins massive points, even though Carrie and Mark didn't look much like each other. I don't think?

(I ... might have massive squishes on Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher. They're just so awesome, and I can't even recognise his voice and that's THE BEST THING EVER and she's so smart and funny and fierce, and they're both up there with Felicia Day in my fannish pantheon. Also, I kind of love the recordings where she's shrieking about Harrison Ford writing their script behind her back and he's shrieking about people letting him do thumb-breaking stunts, just because. <3)

For the last also, I ... I don't mind Hayden Christensen's Force-ghost in the Extended Editions. *ducks tomatoes* Yes, I've heard all the complaints about how him appearing in his youth, rather than the age at which he died, erases his adult life. And I see that!

However, I tend to think that falling to the Dark Side is in many ways a cessation of self, allowing yourself to filled and used by this malevolent evil force and losing what made you who you were. ROTJ strongly implies, I think, that Vader was once Anakin Skywalker, but that at present Anakin is a small submerged part of the entire Darth Vader package. Anakin sacrificed his own identity to be Vader, all the way down to his speech patterns, but some remnant of Anakin remained amidst ... everything else.

That's what Luke tries to resurrect. As I've blathered about elsewhere, I think that OT!Anakin/Vader finally realises that the utopia doesn't justify the means, that there are some things that aren't worth sacrificing for any cause. His son. Himself. In the end, his daughter. With that realisation, he's able to resurrect himself: it's as much a victory for him (= Anakin) as for Luke.

So all of this is to say that, while I see the objection about erasing his life as Vader, because of the (maybe slightly torturous) way I see him, it doesn't bother me much. But that's not actually the biggest reason I don't mind.

The biggest reason is that, by that reasoning -- that Anakin should appear at the age he was when he died -- Sebastian Shaw's Anakin is no more accurate that Hayden Christensen's.

I'd always thought the original ghost!Anakin looked a bit old (even before the PT, we knew Vader was "a young Jedi" when he turned), so I went and checked. Sebastian Shaw was born in 1905. Anakin is, what, twenty-two or twenty-three when he turns? According to the script, Luke is eighteen in A New Hope; Empire is maybe two years later, and (appearances notwithstanding) Jedi has to take place pretty soon after that. Anakin Skywalker can't be much more than forty-five when he dies.

Sure, if he hadn't turned, presumably he wouldn't have died in what should have been the prime of his life. He'd have lived to a comfortable old age, dying as the kindly, elderly man we see at the end of original!ROTJ. That's how he'd have liked it to happen.

But it didn't. So as far as I'm concerned, they're equally "la la never happened" and generally inaccurate for forty-something Anakin Skywalker. So, eh. Six to one, half-dozen the other.

(9) Jedi here, Jedi there, Jedi everywhere

In the entirety of the original trilogy, there are six Force-sensitives: Vader, Leia, Luke, Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Palpatine. It's a rather disparate crew, but there is one thing they all have in common.

Kicking ass.

They're all super-cool in different ways. Well, slightly different ways. Only four are full-blown Jedi, and unsurprisingly they're the ones whose badassery is front and centre. Even those, however, are obviously shadows of what the Jedi once were -- Obi-Wan is getting too old for this, Yoda is near death, Vader is a deranged cyborg, and Luke is, at best, half-trained. (And also a cyborg.) So we only had one vague idea about what old-school Jedi should be: cool.

Yes, I agree with those (like Mr Plinkett) who find that the constant presence of ignited lightsabers makes them less cool than when it only happened every once in a while. I mean, when Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader took out their lightsabers, you knew they meant business. If Qui-Gon Jinn takes one out, he might mean business, but then again, it might just be a stiff breeze, or ten o'clock on a Tuesday or something.

But. But still, it's pretty awesome. These Jedi are smoother, faster, shinier. It even makes a weird kind of sense that they'd be almost careless about lightsabers, and unnecessarily flamboyant. The PT is about decay into impotence. When PT!Jedi fight, they look like they're dancing. OT!Jedi look like they're trying to kill people.

PT!Jedi also show an easy mastery of their other powers. While this takes away a lot of the suspense, it does succeed in showing Jedi at the top of their form. Qui-Gon casually flings droids about with his mind, where the much more powerful Luke needs considerably greater effort and concentration to carry off anything similar (... except the Force-choke, which, ah, comes naturally to him). Do the PT battles interest me? Not really. But they are impressive.

The PT shows a fully-fledged Jedi Order, with cool costumes, lots of lightsabers, a massive and very elegant temple (emphasizing the warrior-monk aspect that's always been there), and prettier everything. We see the enormous influence it exerts, and we see that it's nourishing the seeds of its own downfall.

Sure, I'd have liked to see them actually guarding peace or justice for once, but it ... kind of works. That's what they were they were supposed to be doing, and they fell because they weren't. The moment they transformed themselves from guardians into soldiers, they were set on the path of their destruction. That is kind of cool, in a depressing way.

Aside from that, the PT!Jedi do fulfil their function (being cool), so they work, and this is one of the few cases when the PT informs the OT for the better. Sort of. When I go back to the OT, I remember the polished, casually powerful Jedi of the prequels, and Luke trying to do the work of several thousand Jedi with a fraction of the training that just one of them would have received. It's not just his father's legacy on his shoulders, it's the entire Jedi Order's, and he not only has to live up to it, he has to -- purify them, in a way, to take the weight of Anakin Skywalker and the Jedi, and do something with it that neither could do for themselves.

And while I don't necessarily think this was the best way to approach them, anything that (1) makes sense, and (2) makes Luke Skywalker even more awesome, is acceptable by me.

(10) The end of Revenge of the Sith

I'm not one of the people who think the first two were bad but the last one was really awesome; I'm one of the ones who think the first two were bad, and the last was much better, but still rushed, incoherent, jumbled, oddly staid at times, bizarre, inconsistent with previously-established canon, and crammed full of wooden, painfully bad dialogue. Oh, it's far and away the best of the prequels, but in general it had just about everything I don't like about Return of the Jedi, shinier special effects, and less emotional resonance.

So, as I watched it, my thoughts went like this:

-- Hm, objectively speaking, this one seems better. Hurrah?
-- Ian McDiarmid seems to be actually enjoying himself. I'm not sure the other ones ever managed to just go with the whole Star Wars thing and embrace the Narm.
-- ... If it were a bit cheaper and took itself less seriously, some of this could actually cross over into So Bad It's Good territory.
-- I think I understand the plot. That's nice.
-- Wow, that was rather abrupt for something that's been foreshadowed to hell and back.
-- Ooh, the music is awesome! <3
-- I don't think I've ever anticipated wholesale slaughter quite so much. But Anakin finally has a bit of the Vader gravitas now, he can be a badass ... oh crap, it's kids. I can't even enjoy it. Come on.
-- This duel is quite impressive. Just, um, is it ever going to end?
-- What the hell, Obi-Wan?
-- Lost ... the will to live. LOL WUT. Hm, if this trilogy had gone more for the space-fantasy-fairy tale thing, I don't think I'd mind. It's cool for Finduilas. But not Padmé. And how does Leia remember her? Eh, I guess the Force did it.

With one notable exception (WTFWTFWTF), none of this is about being emotionally engaged. I could sit there and observe that one thing seems largely effective, that other doesn't really work but it's not horrifically bad, that's sort of pretty, this actor is putting in a valiant effort and that one's phoning it in, but I didn't care. Not about the story or characters or anything except its position within the wider Star Wars mythos. Honestly, I cared more about the first two, since they were at least aggressively bad.

So I'm blahing my way through this, and finally - thank God - it's almost over. There's Vader next to the Emperor, looking Vader-y and breathing. Yay! There's Padmé's funeral, and it's actually sad, and the flowers in her hair are so pretty and the new queen is trailing despondently behind and, wow, I think I'm feeling something other than boredom, "shiny!" or geeky outrage.

Then there's Bail Organa (BAMF forever) carrying the baby to his wife OMG IT'S LEIA THIS IS ALDERAAN OMG OMG OMG ALDERAAAAAAAAAN and there's Obi-Wan being brown-cloaked and devastated and almost clinging to baby Luke HEY IT'S LUKE IT'S LUKE I CAN'T BELIEVE IT FINALLY LUKE and Owen is refusing to look at him HEY JUST LIKE OWEN REFUSING TO ACKNOWLEDGE HIS EXISTENCE IN A NEW HOPE IT'S JUST LIKE A NEW HOPE EVERYONE IT'S A NEW HOPE, BECAUSE LUKE AND LEIA ARE THE NEW HOPE AND IT'S ECHOING A NEW HOPE ITSELF OBVIOUS SYMBOLISM YAAAAAY.

And the whole time, the music is this completely heartrending cycle of ... everything HOLY SHIT WAS THAT LEIA'S THEME AND I THINK I HEARD LUKE AND LEIA WAIT OMG LUKE'S THEME AND THE FORCE THEME GAAAAAH JOHN WILLIAMS WHY SO AWESOME. Then Beru takes Luke (LUKE!!!) to Owen, and Obi-Wan trails away to skulk around the desert for eighteen years grieving for the Jedi, protecting Luke, and being hated by Anakin's family, and OMG IT'S THE BINARY SUNS IT'S THE BINARY SUNSET EVERYBODY THIS IS REALLY SAD BUT KIND OF HAPPY TOO BECAUSE LUKE AND LEIA AND BINARY SUNSETS OMG THIS IS SO AMAZING.

Then I burst into tears.

This was, as far as I'm concerned, the prequel trilogy's one perfect moment, and I cannot imagine any way it could have possibly been better.

on 2011-03-30 12:36 am (UTC)
lotesse: (starwars_twins)
Posted by [personal profile] lotesse
I'm completely and utterly in denial of the prequels - mainly because I was very ferally fannish about Star Wars as a kid - didn't read the magazine or the EU or have any of the games or other stuff - and so my active little baby fanbrain did its thing and came up with a whole bunch of unofficial backstory. And I've been living with that backstory for long enough that trying to overwrite it with dopey Lucas-style coincidences and twists isn't easy!

but what I actually wanted to say, crotcheting aside, is that I love the centrality of the Skywalkers to your version of this 'verse, and also that reading all this made me happy.

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anghraine: from the 2005 p&p: darcy standing at a piano while georgiana plays it (Default)
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