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Hitman322 said on June 29th, 2010 at 3:08 am

I’ll just say what I told a friend who eventually succumbed to the “Lucas raped my childhood” ideology; I asked him how he felt about the movie while walking out of the theater or during the drive home. He said he loved it. In fact one of my friends took the day off and saw every showing from midnight to late afternoon when I arrived. Again, he loved it until the group think of Star Wars hating took hold.

Bottom line – they’re entertaining. Not as entertaining as the OT, but there are sequences in the prequels that stomp the shit out of the OT. But looking back, there were plenty of annoyances or lulls on the OT. Stupid Ewoks for one.

All in all – Lucas has created an unsurpassed sci-fi cannon. And yes, nothing will surpass the experience of seeing Empire for the first time in theaters, but I do enjoy the prequels as part of the whole, and I look forward to exposing my kids to the fantastic fantasy world that Lucas has created for us. They already love playing with R2 and my light sabers.

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magnuskn said on June 29th, 2010 at 4:23 am

Just found this quote and thought I’d share it:

“The Jedi are trained to let go. They’re trained from birth. They’re not supposed to form attachments. They can love people- in fact, they should love everybody. They should love their enemies; they should love the Sith. But they can’t form attachments. So what all these movies are about is: greed. Greed is a source of pain and suffering for everybody.”

-George Lucas, The Making Of Revenge Of The Sith; page 213

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John, it’s an interesting theory, but I think it’s a stilted reading of the text. The first prequel movie is called “The Phantom Menace.” The only “phantom” is the guy who appears in the movie as an incorporial holigram: Darth Sidious. That sort of gives the game away, doesn’t it?

It seems to be that the Jedi Order’s biggest flaw is that they are 1. complacent and 2. overly dogmatic. Complacent might be understandable since at the time of the prequels they are supposed to be a hybrid law enforcement/diplomatic corps (I think Lucas used the Texas Rangers anaolgy) and haven’t been a military force for a thousand years. The Order, or at least the Council is certinly overly dogmatic, but I’m not sure how far that extends throughout the rank and file. The Jedi we see most in Episode I is Qui-Gonn, who is manifestly not dogmatic.

And Yoda is mostly correct. In Episode II when Yoda feels Anakin through the Force he says Anakin is in great pain. That pain is caused by the horrible death of his mother, and is causing him to, you know, murder women and children. So maybe Yoda’s philosophy is a bit austere or severe, but that might be appropriate for a group of near-unstoppable superpowered killing machines.

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Oh, and for the record, the only of the Prequel movies that I actually don’t like is The Phantom Menance, because it’s a mess of the movie (I think the Duel of the Fates is really good, however). IMHO, the middle third of Attack of the Clones is really enjoyable (from when Anakin and Obi Wan split up until the clones actually arrive), if you discount the ‘falling in love’ drek on Naboo (and there are a couple of fan edits I’ve seen that reduce this and make it a substantially better film). Lucas needed someone willing to take his story, script and film under the knife, and clearly he was too successful to warrant an editor (see also: Stephen King).

But I still don’t think your reading of the Prequels holds water.

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Dan Coyle said on June 29th, 2010 at 11:26 am

Magnuskin: that’s interesting, and a little sad, because I read the unintentional subtext of Revenge of the Sith as ANY human attachment was inherently bad and doomed to drive you crazy, as it did Anakin.

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For what it’s worth Phantom Menace is my least favorite movie as well. I’ve said before that one of my favorite parts of the original trilogy is the three way battle at the end of RotJ with its cuts between the various battles and the simultaneous rising and falling action of the various fronts.

Phantom Menace deliberately tries to invoke that same conflict with the Battle of Naboo, and a direct comparison shows that the RotJ is much better the Phantom Menace.

1. Ewoks vs Stormtroopers>Gungans vs Droids. This is partially because the cute fuzzy killing machines are more interesting than the Gungans, because Lucas focuses on the very individual tragedy of that one Ewok who is killed on the battlefield, and because the battle is just generally more creative, with guerilla warfare tactics providing a variety to the fight that Phantom Menace doesn’t really have.

2. Rebel Alliance vs Death Star>Naboo Pilot vs Death Star Prototype thing. Mainly because Anakin-sue is so annoying, while the Rebel Alliance battle while mostly annoying has a bit of Narm Charm via Ackbar and Londo.

3. Han/Leia infiltrating the Empire force field station>Padme capturing Trade Diplomats. Technically a subpart of 1, but worth mentioning since Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher are actually interesting.

4. Luke vs Darth/Emperor is roughly the same as Maul vs Qui Jon/Obi Won. From a technical standpoint, Maul vs Qui Jon/Obi Won is a better fight. But Luke vs Darth/Emperor was never about technical merit, but the emotional struggle about whether Luke would succumb to the Dark Side and if he could save Vader, while Maul vs Qui Jon/Obi Won is only a mindless brawl with no possibility for subtlety or much emotional resonance.

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Thok, I’d argue that the reason that Alliance vs Death Star > Naboo vs Trade Federation Flagship is that the Rebel pilots knew what they were doing and their destruction of the central core was a purposeful act, whereas Anakin got lucky by accident.

And while the Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan vs Maul fight looks freaking cool, you’re right about Luve vs Vader vs Emperor having more weight because of the stakes being emotional and ethical rather than physical.

But mostly, I’m posting to this thread because nobody else linked to the Jedi Pit Theory yet.

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[…] A half-hearted defense of the Star Wars prequels. I agree with his assessment of the attitudes of the Jedi in the prequels, but I’m not […]

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Re: John (and no, I’m not arguing with myself):

You’re right, the Jedi we see most in Episode I is Qui-Gonn, and you’re right, he’s manifestly not dogmatic. He’s also portrayed as out-of-step with the Jedi Council (“You’d be on the Council, if you didn’t keep arguing with them…”) and a very atypical Jedi. Yoda is unhappy with his decision to train Anakin, he’s unhappy with Obi-Wan’s decision to follow in Qui-Gonn’s footsteps, and he’d much rather…do whatever very unspecified thing they do with people who have Force powers that aren’t Jedi. Isn’t it awfully funny that we never see a single one anywhere, ever, in the six-movie series?

Don’t get me wrong–I agree that Darth Sidious is the “phantom” in “The Phantom Menace”. But that doesn’t mean the Jedi are morally pure, just because they’re fighting Crazy Electrocution Guy.

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Well reasoned, and I’ll admit to liking the prequels as well… What? Who said that?

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John (and I’m not arguing with myself either. Although I do have a goatee, so I’ll be evil universe John for purposes of this discussion), you seem to be switching back and forth on what evidence can be used and who has the burden of proof in this argument, which is causing a lot of frustration in the thread.

I don’t think it is “awfully funny” we never see a non-Jedi (or non-Sith) force user in the prequels. That’s mostly because we have a very limited view of the Star Wars universe to base implications on (Sidious had to come from somewhere, though. And I recall that Lucas had mentioned in some material that he intended to have at least one bounty hunter to be a force-user, but she turns up in like 6 frames of episode I and never shows up in the films again, so that probably doesn’t matter).

There’s also no evidence of mindwiping parents. Aside from “he would have been identified early” comment from Gui-Gonn there’s never any discussion of Jedi-trainee recruitment.

Also Qui-Gonn is the ONLY Jedi we spend any time with who isn’t on the council, maybe they’re all like that. Maybe the Council gets chosen because they’re no fun at parties.

My point is that if the 13 or 14 hours of screen time is a pretty small window on a galaxy-spanning civilization. So if you say “the only things included for purposes of this disucssion are things that happen on screen” you cannot then turn around and say “nothing that happens on the screen contridicts my arguement, so my arguement is valid for the purposes of this disucssion” without some pushback. I mean, hell, maybe sub-Jedi class force users are all given scholarships to medical school.

I will agree with you that between Obi-Wan’s “holy crap” face and Mace’s “fuck you” reaction to Qui-Gonn’s petition to the Council to train Anakin that Qui-Gonn is willing to push the Council further than most Jedi. I will agree that “he’s too young to begin the training” is a cop out (but the kid HAD been a slave, and clearly had a temper and that’s probably not the best emotional platform to base a decade of very dangerous training with a lightsaber on). I will even agree that the Jedi being too sterile and remote played a role in their downfall. It’s the fact that they’re TRYING to be too morally pure that cuases the problem.

But I simply disagree with your fundmental premise that the Jedi are co-villians of the prequels. I think you’re mistaking ham-fisted writing wtih subtext.

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On the Boba Fett subthread: another thing that the Prequels do is make Boba Fett make much more sense. Every one of his scenes is improved when you realize that he could really care less about Han Solo, who’s just a paycheck, and that his real agenda here is to kill Luke. From the potshot that he takes at Luke to prematurely spring Vader’s trap [which way always meant to capture him], to the reason that he’s hanging around Jabba’s court, and all the way to his death, where he spends the entire fight trying to get a clear shot on Luke and doesn’t even consider Han to be any kind of threat at all. Han may have knocked him in by accident, but a few seconds later and he’d have had enough sight to do it on purpose and Boba still wouldn’t have bothered with an off-hand kick.

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Hey John,

This post was better the first time you wrote it, on your own blog.

<3,

me

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More to the point, this is a good post when you bill it as an explanation of how George Lucas fucked up, and a bad post where you bill it as an excuse for how George Lucas didn’t fuck up.

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You’re right, John 2.0. 🙂 There’s no evidence of mindwiping parents, killing washout Jedi, or exiling Jedi-Mind-Trick-resistant races to the Outer Rim so as to make it easier to oversee the Republic. (Well, actually there is evidence of that last one…)

But what there is evidence of is a Jedi order, as seen by its spiritual as well as political leaders, that views caring about individuals as “bad” and advocates a sort of general compassion for people in general. That encourages you not to care too much when the people you love die, because grief is a “negative emotion” and inexorably leads to evil. Those things tell me that Jedi aren’t going to say, “Wait! We can’t kill this ten-year-old kid just because he washed out of the Jedi training program! That’d be cruel!” They’d calmly, dispassionately, emotionlessly suggest that it serves the greater good, and humanely terminate him without cruelty to prevent him from becoming evil.

Now of course, I’m not saying, “This is what happened, prove me wrong!” That’d be silly. I’m saying that it’s actually a pretty logical inference from what we see on-screen. (I also have some fun things to say about the Jedi as unreliable narrators when it comes to the Jedi/Sith conflict, and how we really never see if the Jedi Republic is better, from the average citizen’s point of view, from the Sith Empire.)

This is all just speculation, not some sort of new canon. But isn’t it fun to speculate?

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John 2.0 said on June 29th, 2010 at 5:41 pm

I’m still unconvinced. And I think I’d still argue the finer points of what Yoda actually believes and teaches. It’s not telling you that you should not care when someone dies because it’s a negative emotion, but because that person has rejoined the Force (and that probably means a lot more to someone who can actually feel the Force). Obi-Wan clearly feels grief, but he doesn’t let it overwhelm him, and he fights to control his rage and be centered in the Force(that shot of him behind the “laser gate,” or whatever it is, is my favorite in Episode I). The Jedi have a memorial service for Qui-Gonn, so clearly the Jedi aren’t a bunch of Vulcans.

But I take your point about speculation. As and long as I’m speculating I’ll speculate that some of the EU gets it right and those who don’t make Jedi go off to the Republic’s Agriculture Corps where they help feed and heal the planets of the Galactic Republic, since they learned the lessons of duty and a desire to help others.

I’m just offering a semi-coherent response to your half-hearted defense.

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Thing is, one could argue that even if Lucas was just being a ham-fisted writer and didn’t intend this potential reading of the Jedi to be there- that doesn’t mean it’s insupportable. Death of the author and all.

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John 2.0 said on June 30th, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Evan, I don’t want to beat this dead horse much more, but John (1.0) says explictly says that “this is a feature not a bug” that Lucas intends the Jedi in the prequels to be creepy and unsympathetic. That’s what I’m disputing.

You can have whatever interpretation of the motivations of the Jedi you would like. “This is my reading” is fine. “This is my reading, and I believe my reading to be what Lucas really intended” is something completely different.

I can say I believe that ‘Star Trek: The Undiscovered County’ is a analogy for the end of the cold war and I can back up that statement from numerous sources as being what is intended. I don’t believe Bass’ reading’Star Trek: Nemisis being was what was inteded, but do think that it’s pretty awesome.

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That’s it exactly, John 2.0.

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Well said, John 2.0.

This, for me, is the rub in the review. I can totally see a reading with the Jedi and the Sith both being villains; I cannot see Lucas deliberately putting that in. It’s one thing to take a postmodernist stance and throw out authorial intent; it’s another to contradict the author’s stated intent and say he intended otherwise. So, it’s incorrect to say that Lucas didn’t accidentally make a Jedi code that made his heroes seem unpleasant, he deliberately made the Jedi just as absolutist and unsympathetic as the Sith, only from the other direction. Given Lucas’s own history with personal relationships, I somewhat suspect that he might even agree with Prequel-Yoda’s philosophy on personal relationships… but that’s speculating a long way out, isn’t it!

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joshbrown said on July 1st, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Bravo.

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So Star Wars fans have less of a problem with “the Jedi come off that way because Lukas, being a shitty writer, fucked it up”?
Cool.

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Dude, nice fucking job. And here I thought I was the only prequel defender.

The Prequels get a really bad rap for superficial reasons: The wooden acting, the green screens, etc. Few people actually take the time to watch those movies to figure out why the things are the way they are. If you listen to the dialogue in some of those scenes (I’ll admit, some of it is just bad) you’ll see that it’s chock full of symbolism and foreshadowing; it’s pretty awesome.

I for one would much rather have the Prequels as they are than have them be cheap copies of the originals. While they may not be as good, at least they’re something different.

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Pete Butler said on July 2nd, 2010 at 12:46 pm

John, your thesis is plausible only because Lucas has devolved into such an incompetent hack as a director. The notion that the Jedi-as-badguys element was the intentional work of an unappreciated genius simply strikes me as silly.

Having said that, it is one HELL of an interesting thesis, and a fascinating thought exercise into what might have been if Lucas were both good at his job and had the cojones to screw with one of the fundamental assumptions of his universe. Thank you very much for sharing it; I’ll definitely have it in mind when Red Letter Media releases its review of Episode III. (I was going to say “The next time I watch those movies,” but, damn. I’m not sure that much tequila actually exists.)

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Your theory is an interesting one. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call the Jedi sociopaths or the like, but they were very very flawed as an organization. I think the idea of bringing balance to the Force relates to this. The Jedi couldn’t give in to their emotions because if they did, they’d fall to the Dark Side, so they trained themselves not to feel much of anything. If being a Jedi means your emotions have to be suppressed or you become, almost immediately, pure evil, then the Force itself is very much out of balance. I always found the common theory that bringing balance meant creating even numbers of Jedi to be kind of silly, and hence I never saw Anakin as the Chosen One at all. It makes a whole lot more sense if you consider that Luke was the Chosen One. He refused the Jedi way by going back to save his friends, which was the right thing to do, ultimately, and then he refused the Sith way by not allowing his emotions to turn him into a monster. He used love, fear, and anger to achieve his victories, and he managed to keep some level of self-control through it all. Hence, he brought balance by finding the proper middle path, where passion and serenity keep each other in check, rather than fighting for dominance. I’ve read almost none of the expanded universe stuff so I have no idea if Luke’s new Jedi Order are any better than the old one, but it would make sense that they should be, if my theory is correct.

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DaveKan said on July 5th, 2010 at 4:14 pm

The fact that you have to put this much effort and creativity into defending the prequels is evidence enough that George Lucas did not put the same effort (or talent) into writing the stories in the first place.

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John 2.0 said on July 21st, 2010 at 4:23 pm

There is an only kinda related, but still awesome article over at the Onion AV club that touches a lot of this:

http://www.avclub.com/articles/the-big-questions-should-artists-lives-or-opinions,43349/

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[…] A Half-Hearted Defense of the “Star Wars” Prequels […]

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Rob Martin said on March 10th, 2013 at 6:06 am

I am a middle aged scifi fanatic who reads as much hard scifi as I watch mainstream scifi. I am a huge supporter of the prequels and Jar Jar Binks. The backlash against the prequels exists mainly because it became hip to do so back in 1999. Classic generation fans were basically angry that Lucas had kicked over their sandcastle by trying to inject some level of scifi world building and political intrigue not contained at the same level in the classics unless one read the tie-in novels to fill in the gaps. I could go on for pages regarding detailed analysis of why this is but I am sure it has been done elsewhere . Classic Star Wars was groundbreaking for its time so anything coming after it would be considered derivative. At its basic level however is a simplistic fairy tale with as much wooden acting and dialogue as the prequels, Sir Alec Guiness aside, only Harrison Ford has had a successful career while the prequels have produced Natalie Portman, Ewan McGreggor, (Liam Neilson , Samuel Jackson) . Jar Jar became a media punching bag that haters could really dig to find fault with as the scapegoat to launch the hater’s revolution. Jar jar is essentially no sillier than Chewbacca or an Ewok aimed at a children’s toy market. live with it. The prequels work better as a trilogy unto the,selves than the classics. One moment Leia and Luke are kissing then they are brother and sister…lets just wing it while the Dewey eyed world looks on in nostalgia. There are campaign efforts out there for Disney to dump CGI in favor of stop motion puppetry, which while the best that could be done for its time, is no more realistic looking than a current day Gollum or Caesar. Just because we may enjoy the quaintness of a Model T doesn’t mean we all need to drive PT cruisers. Lucas could do no right other than stop after episode 6. His prequels could have been Citizen Kane and the masses would have complained about a cgi rosebud. Take a better look at the prequels. There is a lot more there under the cgi surface than meets the candy eye.

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