I don’t think I’ll be breaking anyone’s heart when I say that I firmly believe George Lucas is a whore for money. And why shouldn’t he be? After all, he’s remarkably successful, and it’s only natural that he would want to continue being successful. But it doesn’t change the fact that Star Wars has gotten progressively worse since the release of Episode I.
The original trilogy took a lot of risks in its production, and they paid off, though many were sure they wouldn’t. People didn’t think the movie would sell, but it did, and it gave us a beautiful story with amazing characters. I can’t even remember a time when I didn’t have Star Wars. I’ve been watching these movies my entire life. And the one character I latched onto immediately was Darth Vader. Darth Vader made Star Wars. Really, the story’s about him, but it’s just told through Luke’s point of view.
As a young girl, Darth Vader fascinated me. From the first second he walks through that doorway on Leia’s captured ship, I loved him. He was just so amazing, so awe-inspiring, so kick-ass, with his black cape and black suit and black breathing mask. I don’t even care that he’s a complete ripoff of Dr. Doom; I still love him. Darth Vader is a character that invokes passion, and his story was so intense and emotional. He’s this broken man in a body suit, a man of power, but physically he has none. A brilliant Jedi people tell stories about who got seduced by the dark side of the Force, presumably after his health’s decline with the promise to give him back what he had lost. I couldn’t help but be drawn to him.
I discovered Vader during a time when Disney was shoving all its princesses down my throat for me to gobble up like some very bad candy. I was a girl who liked dolls and anything pink—with the exception of Transformers and Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles, which I utterly refused to admit I liked because they weren’t girly—and hated boyish things. Even at the age of six, I knew Darth Vader was my favorite character ever, and though I tried and tried to convince myself it was Leia, because she was a princess and the only girl in the series outside Mon Mothma who barely had a role to begin with, I just couldn’t.
Even up to this day, I have never come across a fictional character that I enjoy nearly as much as Vader. Severus Snape and Loki come pretty close, and dare I say it, so do Murtagh and Morzan (unfortunately), among a myriad of characters from other novels, TV shows, movies, etc. But thus far, none have been able to compare.
And I know I’m not the only one who was so captivated by Vader. Hell, the Docomo Cellphone Company that I was introduced to in Japan loves him so much they use him as a mascot. Check out their advertisements:
Then, to top that, I actually met the Docomo Vader outside a train station with Tsunderin in Sapporo. And he posed for me, a filthy gaizin. I seriously almost died in supreme joy. It will be a memory I’ll cherish always.
Now, outside of Vader, Star Wars was just an all-around fantastic story. We had an evil empire with its ruler in the shadows pulling Vader’s strings, we had rebels risking everything to stop them, we had a princess who watched her home world destroyed because she was so committed to the cause, we had a smuggler falling for her but also being tempted by the prospect of money, and we had our main protagonist, a boy turned Jedi trying to follow in the footsteps of his righteous father only to discover the horrible truth. And all of these characters together made for one amazing tale.
One thing that made the ending so great was that Luke could never defeat Darth Sidious, and he knew it, Sidious knew it, and Vader knew it. Sidious was not our main antagonist. That honor goes to Vader, because although Sidious is in charge, the Rebels spend most of their time fighting or running from Vader. A New Hope doesn’t paint Vader as the leader of the Empire, but more as an extremely important grunt man. Nevertheless, we knew he wasn’t in charge, but Emperor Palpatine wasn’t introduced until the next movie due to the possibility of the first one not selling. Though, I do have to say, the first trailer for Star Wars makes the series look as though it falls into the horror genre than it does fantasy/science fiction. Though, I probably only think that because of the floating droid with the needle.
Anyway, it’s because of Palpatine’s smaller role as the man in the shadows that makes him a villain, but not the main antagonist. He isn’t even really a character, but the embodiment of evil. We know nothing about him other than that he wiped out the Jedi Order and sanctioned the destruction of heavily populated planets. Does he care that all of Alderaan gets blown up? No. In fact, he’s so impressed with the destruction that he plans to do the same thing to a populated moon in order to kill the remaining Rebels.
And not only does this guy have no empathy and an entire galactic empire behind him, he’s a master at the dark side of the Force. Darth Vader may have been my favorite character and the kind of person I wanted to be when I grew up—I promise, I was not disturbed as a child, so don’t worry—but seeing one blast of the Sith lightning from Sidious made me want to be him too.
Okay, maybe it is a little odd that my childhood role models were Darth Vader and Darth Sidious, but if it makes you feel better, so was Sailor Moon.
Anyway, the end result is that Vader’s the main antagonist. And the great thing about antagonists is that they’re not villains. Antagonists still have good in them. They’re not necessarily evil, though they do bad things and oppose the protagonists. They have motivations, believable backstories, and normally a sense of right and wrong. The dark side isn’t evil; it’s just another aspect of the Force that tends to attract evil people, but not everyone that uses it is terrible beyond redemption. Vader used to be a good person at one point, and this is something Luke understands. Luke wins, not by killing Sidious himself, but by appealing to the good still in Vader. As I said, Luke could never hope to defeat Sidious. He’s a poor farm boy with almost no training compared to an evil emperor with decades of experience. Vader’s the only one capable of stopping him and bringing balance to the Force, and even then, he gives his own life to do so.
And this is probably the biggest reason why I and so many other people are in love with Star Wars.
Naturally, due to the franchise’s success, sometime in the 90s plans were made to launch a prequel series to give us Episodes I, II, and III to explain the backstories for Episodes IV, V, VI. And, right away, due to the fact the first episode made was numbered four, it just creates confusion that the fourth episode made was numbered one, but what the hell?
And so in 1999 we had Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. And I’m trying to be fair. This movie could have been a lot worse than it was, and I enjoyed it. It could never be as bad as some Star Wars features out there. I remember growing up and watching all the animated versions of Star Wars. And some of them were really bad, like the one with the Ewoks trying to use magic soap to hide a bunch of berries. Clearly, Star Wars is not new to people milking it for all it’s worth, though nothing could possibly be as bad as its holiday special.
For those who don’t know, Star Wars Holiday Special is probably the movie George Lucas is ashamed of the most. If you haven’t seen it, don’t. He’s gone out of his way to make sure as few people as possible know it exists, and considering that he’s ashamed by this and not the prequels, it really makes me wonder just how bad The Phantom Menace could have been. Trust me, when it comes to Holiday Special, just do yourself and George Lucas a favor by not watching it.
Though, Lady Geek Girl disagrees. It’s so bad, it’s good. It’s about a Wookie Christmas Life Day, for those of you who really want to know.
Getting back on track, there is little to nothing in Episode I and the two that followed it that I’m willing to defend. I enjoyed the prequels so much, but I’m not going to pretend they’re anything other than what they are. These were George Lucas realizing that he could make more money off Star Wars with the least amount of effort possible. Watching the prequels just really puts into perspective that George Lucas either forgot the canon of his own universe, or that he just wanted an easy buck. The best way to describe the prequels would be to say that they’re an alternate universe to the original movies. They fail as prequels, because they don’t logically lead into A New Hope. The blatant out-of-characterness would be bad on its own, but then they went ahead and added as many plot holes as possible. And these are not just plot holes separating the prequels from the originals; they’re plot holes that just destroy any continuity the prequels hoped to have within each other.
On top of that, the story is overblown and makes no sense. It’s one of those stories where the audience really has to read between the lines to figure out what’s going on, and while this may work in some stories, like the ones that just put the audience through psychological mindfucks, that is not the case here. Like, what was the point of the blockade in The Phantom Menace? Well, I guess it was to get Palpatine into power while wasting enough time as possible on completely pointless things and using enough special effects to rival Avatar. Just really basic questions that should be answered never are. Instead, the movies focus on an impossible romance that would never work between a complete bitch and a creepy stalker asshole, both of whom have no reason to like each other, other than Luke and Leia needing to be born someday.
For as grand as they tried to make the prequels, these movies could never compare to the epicness of the originals.
In the original trilogy, we have this sense of awesomeness between the Rebels and the Empire and real-life characters reacting in the way any sentient being would to the situation. But the same emotional attachments we had to them and their battles just don’t show up. And why is that? Well, it’s probably because just about every battle now takes place between expendable robots fighting expendable clones. What happens when a robot gets killed? Just manufacture another. What happens when a clone dies? Grow another. And as for the characters themselves, they do things for the sake of doing things. If you removed Obi-Wan from half the scenes he’s in, it would change nothing. Why is he there? Because he’s Obi-Wan and he was in the originals.
But despite all the problems wrong with the prequels—of which there are so many, I could never hope to talk about them all in one review—the movies did so well that we got an animated series based off them. Star Wars: The Clone Wars was first preceded by an animated movie before being launched on Cartoon Network. Both take place between Episode II and Episode III, and not only do all the problems of the prequels show up here, but the show gives us quite a few of its own while continuing to add to all the plot holes.
The plot holes are everywhere. I’ve compared holes in stories to Pennsylvanian roads before, but this would be like if the road had so many holes in it nothing was left. You’d be driving on a mixture of dirt and asphalt trying desperately to create an imitation of a road, while some guy’s throwing chucks of concrete on top of them and thinking they’ll fit. And where does this road go? Well, who the hell knows, because you’re too busy trying not to blow your tires.
First and foremost, I should tell you that the animated show and its movie are filler. Not just some of it, or a little bit here and there. All. Of. It. They’re not needed to the overall arching plot, and the series would make just as much sense—or lack thereof—without them. Episode III came out in 2005, three years before the launch of the cartoon, making everything in it unnecessary. Now, considering that the show’s filler, though it’s trying so very hard not to be, it just makes the episodes designed to be filler that much worse. Watching the filler episodes in The Clone Wars is as bad and abrasive as watching entire filler arcs in Naruto and Bleach. And those episodes by themselves are not the worst. The worst of the series is saved for the filler episodes based on Jar Jar Binks and C3PO, of which there are many.
Yeah, the show introduces some new characters—some interesting characters, I’m tempted to say—but it adds nothing. Star Wars: The Clone Wars can best be described as a documentation of how the war progressed, and what kind of struggles the characters had to overcome to get to where they are at the start of Revenge of the Sith, and it just creates problems because the characters all develop in different ways, and those developments don’t add up to the third episode. Much like the clones, who are built up to being best friends with the Jedi, and hell if they can’t shut up for two minutes about honor and loyalty. The clones in the animated show, for example, cannot possibly be the same clones that go to slaughter the Jedi in the sixth third movie. They just can’t be.
Unless, of course, they were genetically programed or something to betray them. If so, I haven’t gotten that far in the series, and though it would be incredibly stupid and cheap, I can’t think of any other way to explain them willingly turning on the Jedi. So unless that’s the case, they’ve kinda written themselves into a hole there.
Now, there are some good things about The Clone Wars. As I said, the show’s a documentation, and therein lies both its strengths and weaknesses. It’s weak, because so much of it is filler. But at the same time, it has numerous opportunities to further explore the universe, and it doesn’t waste them. Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka may be our main characters, but they don’t appear, cameo, or even get mentioned in a good number of episodes, in order for the show to spend some more time with other characters. The very first episode is about Yoda and a couple clones, actually, facing off against Ventress. Unfortunately, The Clone Wars doesn’t explore all the other characters nearly as much I wished it would in some cases, and in others, it doesn’t even feel the need to build the characters up before acting as though we give a shit about them.
A good example of this would be the clones, again. The show does an immensely good job of portraying what this universe would be like from the perspective of someone who was grown for the sole purpose of war. They all have numbers, but they like names, so we get clones like Rex, who is possibly the clone we spend the most amount of time with and who gets developed the most, and we even have an episode where we find a clone who defected and hooked up with an alien chick and started a family, because he felt he didn’t have choices in life until he met her due to his upbringing.
But then we get episodes like “Clone Cadets.” This episode is particularly bad, and it’s the first episode of season three, meaning they didn’t wait before trying to pile the worst of the entire season on us. Had I not owned the series, and had I just been watching it on the TV when it aired, this episode alone would have made me stop watching the show. I should mention that every episode begins with a fortune cookie phrase, and the quote for “Clone Cadets” is “Brothers in arms are brothers for life.”
“Clone Cadets” is about a bunch of clones trying to pass the final test of their training so they can join the war and not be stuck as janitors on Kamino. It’s interesting in a way that’s really not. Unlike other filler episodes, this one has nothing to do with the war. At all. It doesn’t impact the war, and we never see these clones again outside the following episode. I suppose I could say that the episode is inspirational, as it features the worst cadets ever learning to come together as a team and becoming the most amazing fighters in existence in the course of two days, while being coached by a hunched-back janitor clone. It’s totally realistic! But I digress.
It has about four or five clones as our main characters—not sure of the number because I refuse to rewatch this episode—and Jedi Master Shaak Ti overseeing their training. The episode is so boring, that Shaak Ti talking politics no one cares about is a godsend whenever it cuts to her. These clones have so little worth in the series, that sometime between the first and second episode of the season, half of them die. The show shoves them on us for a full episode and tries desperately to make us like them, then kills them off screen.
So, yes, while it thankfully delves into characters that the movies didn’t, the show unfortunately doesn’t know when to stop.
As this is a TV series with numerous characters and episodes so bad they deserve multiple pages of review on their own, I can’t talk about everything in one post. It’d be way too long. So I know this was a long intro, but by now, I hope you all have a basic understanding of what this show is like, but here’s the stopping point. I’ll get back to all of you with future installments for this series.
Until then, enjoy this review I found for the movies:
You can find his other videos here.