bidbic

The Star Wars Prequels: What Did George Lucas Get Right?

Page 2 Of 2
Continued from Page 1

Iconic character design

George Lucas used “a figure from your worst nightmare” as the inspirational design brief for the look of Darth Maul when he was in conceptual stages. The original design was reportedly rejected, but designer Ian McCaig’s second tweaked visage of the Sith Lord combined face painting, Rorschach experimentation and a “flayed flesh face”. The result: a distinctive bad guy whose face ended up burnt into the memories of fans and Episode I-related toy packaging alike.

XXX

Pinhead by way of Star Wars.

Episode II boasted some of the coolest character designs of the prequels, with a myriad of baddies, clone troopers and bounty hunters. The design of the clone trooper helmet was arguably cooler than the familiar stormtrooper helm, while Jango Fett’s revised Mandalorian armour mixed a silver and blue undercoat of paint with a Wild West leather-belt motif to put a spin on the galaxy’s most notorious bounty hunter, Boba Fett. Even the annoying, “Roger, roger,” droids present in the prequel trilogy had a distinct visual flair that was right at home in the Star Wars universe.

XX

So many needless droid deaths.

Lucas saved one of the best designs for Episode III with the cyborg leader of the Droid Army, General Grievous. In some respects, Grievous acts as a precursor to Anakin Skywalker’s transformation from fleshy human to a being that’s more machine than man. Beyond this, the General is a towering force to be reckoned with, whose realistically rendered hate-filled eyes are complemented by the option to double his two-arm count and enough lightsabers collected from defeated Jedi to have one in each hand.

XXX

A mandroid that understands that more lightsabers = better.

The characterisation for these characters wasn’t just visual, either. Maestro composer John Williams returned to provide pitch-perfect Star Wars melodies for new and returning characters with spine-tingling tracks across the prequel trilogy. Duel of the Fates is as aurally memorable as anything from A New Hope. Across the Stars is still a better love story than Twilight and Attack of the Clones combined. Battle of the Heroes is a brilliant backing track for the long-awaited faceoff between Obi-Wan and Anakin that’s as epic as the monk-chanting of the showdown track that complements Luke’s final fight against Vader in Return of the Jedi.

More Star Wars mythology

The prequels may have created more questions than answers in terms of the original trilogy, but they also expanded the Star Wars mythology in interesting ways. We got to see the sparks that would lead to the Clone Wars (originally mentioned in A New Hope) in The Phantom Menace, which became the actual war at the end of Episode II, which ended with the fall of the Republic in Episode III. The Clone Wars didn’t disappoint, either, with epic encounters between Republic and Separatist forces across the galaxy, most impressively the battle above Coruscant that served as a visually arresting opening to Revenge of the Sith.

XXX

...and debris rained down over Coruscant for days.

We saw that the Jedi Order was more than just the guardians of peace and justice: they were accomplished warriors and military strategists, too. There was a prophecy of the One who would bring balance to the Force, which turned out to be more confusing than enlightening, but also added to the history of the Jedi Order and their religious-like belief system. Running with the religious motif, it was also interesting to see the Jedi Order buck at the idea of separation of their church and the Republic state.

In Episode III, Lucas provided some strong reasons why Jedi Knights (like Anakin) or Masters (like Dooku) might become disillusioned with the Order, particularly when Master Mace Windu requests that Anakin spy on his friend and confidant Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. Sure, it’s not enough motivation to slaughter all of his old Jedi pals, but there were more than a few cracks in how the good guys were handling things.

Anakin's angry teen phase got a little out of hand.

Anakin's angry teen phase got a little out of hand.

On top of this, Lucas went on the record to say how he wanted to push the idea that the technology in the times ruled by the Jedi was cleaner and more visually attractive. That’s why everything is so damn shiny in Episodes I–III and dirty pieces of junk in Episodes IV–VI.

But wait, there’s more...

That’s just the broad strokes of what Lucas got right in Episodes I through III, too. You can hate on Episode I, but that podrace is a fantastic racing sequence, more so if you can ignore the ridiculous commentators.

You can hate on Episode I, but that podrace is a fantastic racing sequence...

Episode II might not be The Empire Strikes Back of prequel films, but angry Anakin seeking retribution against an entire tribe of Tusken Raiders, then confessing his dirty deeds to Padmé, is as dark as anything in Episode V.

Episode III may be clunky in parts, but it has some of the best sequences of the prequels: newly renamed Darth Vader marching on the Jedi Temple; Yoda versus Palpatine in the senate; a first-person shot of Vader’s helmet as it drops over his head.

XXX

Destroy you I will.

The prequels are far from perfect, and they’re certainly not what a lot of fans hoped for. It’s refreshing to acknowledge the bits they got right, though, if only to buy into the belief that the Star Wars mythology is still ripe for storytelling come December 2015 and, hopefully, well into the future.

Were there any other elements you loved about the prequels? Let us know in the comments.

Nathan Lawrence is a freelance journalist and massive film nerd, based in Australia. He also likes to defend Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Pirates of the Caribbean. You can chat with him on Twitter here.