Tyler Keating: The marketing blitz for “The Force Awakens” has focused on the original trilogy and pretended that the prequel trilogy never existed, which makes sense; I get it. But to hate on the prequels as “Star Wars” movies is to be blinded by a forceful wave of nostalgia is simply unfair.
The prequel trilogy has many of the elements that made the original trilogy so exhilarating: stunning foreign worlds, inventive alien creations, sweeping orchestral compositions, exciting action scenes and more. Sure, Jar Jar Binks is an embarrassment, but is his existence much more of a goofy misstep than the Endor-dwelling Ewoks? George Lucas has simply never been able to resist the allure of merchandising.
The narrative of the prequels is a step back from the original trilogy, but it is strongly anchored by the transformation of Anakin Skywalker to the Dark Side, which provides some of the series’ most powerful moments. The dialogue is a significant shortcoming, but the original trilogy wasn’t exactly contending for the Oscar in that department either.
Edward Pankowski: The craziest thing about the prequels was never Jar Jar Binks, though he basically represents everything wrong with the prequels. The real reason that the prequels are so bad is that Darth Vader is just not an interesting enough character to have three whole movies revolve around him and his fall to the Dark Side.
In the first movie, "A New Hope," Vader was basically a dude in a mask. He didn't need more characterization than that, because he was a menacing villain with mysterious powers. He was also never worshipped the way he seems to be in the prequels. One of the grand moffs even made fun of him to his face.
Did we need a bad child actor for the first prequel film, a forced, awful romance in the second prequel or a child-murder in the third? Is that what "Star Wars" is really about? To quote Darth Vader himself, "Nooooooooooooooooooooo."
Tyler: I can’t defend Anakin in “The Phantom Menace,” but despite Hayden Christensen’s inconsistent performance, Lucas was still able to churn out memorable scenes in the second and third prequels. Anakin’s revenge on the Tusken Raiders, his conversations with Palpatine, the final lightsaber duel on Mustafar – these are well done scenes! It also helps that Padme is nowhere to be found.
And really, aren’t the great moments part of what made “Star Wars” so likable in the first place? Thanks to the advances in computer graphics technology, by the time “The Phantom Menace” rolled around in 1999, Lucas could create stunning displays of action as compelling as the Battle of Hoth. How could you hate that movie after the incredible four-part climax featuring Darth Maul? Maul is arguably a cooler villain than Vader himself, but never gets his due because he is unfairly lumped in with the rest of his surroundings.
Edward: Hayden Christensen was never the problem with the prequels. The acting is not the problem, but rather the script. Thank you for bringing up the Tusken Raiders revenge scene, by the way, because it's yet another example of a scene that does not belong in "Star Wars" and is meant to appeal to the edgy crowd. Torture and suggested rape should not serve as themes for a space adventure film.
And you know what else? Computer graphics technology made "Star Wars" worse! Find for me one person who prefers the extended addition of "A New Hope," with all the garbage shoved into scenes. The Darth Maul duel is actually a perfect example of how Lucas messed everything up. In the fight between Vader and Obi-Wan on the Death Star in episode four, they're talking to each other, testing each other and really engaging the audience even though there's not a lot of action going on. The Darth Maul duel is endless, practiced fight choreography, and loses all meaning because of it.
George Lucas did his best to ruin "Star Wars," and it is only through the sheer quality of the original trilogy that it remains a cultural force today. "Star Wars" already survived one body blow from Lucas, but let's hope we don't have to find out if it can take another hit from JJ Abrams.