Saturday, April 18, 2015

Re-Examining The Star Wars Prequels From A Father's Perspective

My brother Robert Day (not the Robert Day who directed Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in Hammer's 1965 movie SHE) has written a guest post on which he gives a new way of looking at some of the most famously maligned films of all time--the Star Wars Prequels.

I have been a Star Wars fan for as long as I can remember. I was born in 1978 and grew up watching the films with my older brothers. The majority of my fondest childhood memories are tied to George Lucas' galaxy far far away. So naturally when I grew up and had kids of my own, I passed my love of the Star Wars franchise down to them.

My eight-year old daughter Emma has been a fan for several years, but my three year-old son Jackson is just now getting into the fray. The age of three seems to be a magic number for Star Wars to take hold of a young mind. I was about that age when I began my journey, and so was my daughter. Recently, my son, along with his Dad and big sister, have been watching the new Disney XD animated series "Star Wars: Rebels". So with that in mind, the time seemed right for our family to watch the entire film saga together again, starting with episodes 1-3.

The first trilogy of the Star Wars saga, also known as the "prequels" are a controversial series of films to say the least. I was in my late teens when THE PHANTOM MENACE was released, and I was extremely excited to see Star Wars return to the big screen. That excitement, however, quickly turned to disappointment once I actually saw the movie....three times to be precise. Why was the plot so boring? Who thought this Jar Jar character was a good idea? What happened to the "used universe" look of the original trilogy? There were a few fun moments for sure, but all things was kind of a letdown.

Two more films were released, and they got a little better each time, culminating with a pretty solid REVENGE OF THE SITH in my opinion. But the overall reaction among Star Wars fans was to nitpick, critique, and trash this new version of Star Wars. George Lucas somehow went from the man we all praised, to the object of may Star Wars fans ire. Fanboys everywhere, emboldened by the faceless voice of the internet tore these movies to shreds.

Now that some time has passed, I was interested to revisit episodes 1-3 with my children. What would they think of these much-maligned films? How would they react to the onscreen magic that failed to resonate with so many of us grown-ups? After watching them over the course of four days, I can tell you in no uncertain terms that my kids really enjoyed them. They not only liked them, they hung on every minute of them. My son sat through all of them in their entirety, and he normally can't sit still for five minutes! I knew he was hooked when he turned to me at the end of Episode Three and tried to lift me off the ground with his "force powers".

Children have the uncanny ability to see the good in anything. They laughed at every corny sight gag, and gasped at all the action filled moments. As the resident Star Wars expert of our household, I was there to answer all their questions, and trust me, their young minds had plenty of them! As I sat and watched these films with my kids, I began to view them through the lens of their innocence. Then, something crazy happened, I slowly started to enjoy the films too! I began to take notice of the wonderful performances of Ewan McGregor, and Liam Neeson. I was impressed by how awesome the lightsaber duels were, how great John Williams' score was, and how epic in scale the space battles were. I began to realize this trilogy introduced us to some great new characters too! Heroes like Qui-Gon Jinn, and Mace Windu. Villains like Darth Maul, Count Dooku, and General Greivous. And let's not forget the crusty junk dealer from Tatooine, Watto. (He's always been a favorite of mine for some reason.)

Watching these films with my kids gave me a new appreciation for them. Because let's be honest with ourselves, it's the young and the young at heart who are the target audience. The generation of little boys who grew up playing with Star Wars action figures have all grown up now. Many of them have replaced the sense of wonder they once brought to the movie theater with cynicism and criticism. Seeing my children enjoy these movies for what they were, with no unrealistic expectations to live up to, made me realize that maybe they weren't as bad as I thought they were. Maybe, just maybe the problem was me. My childhood memories of the original trilogy are so strong, that no other film will ever meet their standard. And frankly, that's a pretty unfair expectation for almost any film to meet.

So I strongly encourage you to give the "prequels" another chance. Episodes 1-3 may not be great films, but they're not nearly as bad as we've talked ourselves into believing. Especially when you watch them with a child.

--Robert Day

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