COUNTDOWN TO STAR WARS WEEK: FRANK MENGARELLI WRITES AN OPEN LETTER TO SIMON PEGG
(Sorry, Simon..Frank pulls no punches.but then..neither did you against George Lucas..plus you are loaded now with cash and star status and Tom Cruise and JJ Abrams are your best buddies so frankly you can handle it, right?).
Dear Simon Pegg, (+ The Hollywood Reporter and everyone else who goes out of their way to degrade and dismiss the STAR WARS prequels).
You’re not a real STAR WARS fan.
If you can’t accept the STAR WARS prequels for what they are, flaws and all, STAR WARS does not mean nearly as much to you as you pretend it does.
If you love the original trilogy, that’s great. But don’t act like STAR WARS is important to you. And if that’s you, please do us all a favor and own it. The constant shaming of George Lucas, and the STAR WARS prequels has become this relentless and bandwagon circle jerk that those of us who love, embrace, and accept all of the STAR WARS cinematic universe have to endure and hits us in a very deep and personal place.
Sure: these films have flaws, some of the films have deeper flaws than others, and they are not as good as the original trilogy, but the bottom line is, they are STAR WARS and therefore fantastic. There are a couple of fallback arguments any prequel shamer will telegraphically always pivot to. Jar Jar Binks, the “overuse” of CGI, Hayden Christensen, Jake Lloyd, and poor dialogue.
All of those pivot points have their merits, I can fully admit it. Look, I used to be somewhat dismissive of the prequels too, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that my appreciation and love of the prequels grew from the Cartoon Network/Netflix show CLONE WARS, and from different video games, novels, comic books and merchandizing that flushed out more of the rich story that lies within the prequels.
The endless complaints about “overuse” of CGI in the prequels is the one pivot point that drives me absolutely crazy.
First of all, the CGI in the prequels is absolutely pristine and looks better, to this day, than most CGI induced films that have come out since. The use of CGI and moving to the digital format completely changed the film industry, for better or worse. The “overuse” of CGI is a poor pivot point for prequel bashers, due to the fact of not nearly as much CGI was used as they think.
George Lucas used a lot of practical effects and built a lot of sets for the prequels. You know how I know that? Because I educated myself by watching the supplements on the STAR WARS blu ray suite, read articles with Lucas, Rick McCallum (the producer of the prequels), and others from Industrial Light and Magic.
Look, the prequels needed CGI. General Grievous, Yoda, the Senate Chamber, all the Clones needed Temuera Morrison’s face, the MagnaGuards, the epic space battle above Coruscant in EPISODE III, an 80 year old Christopher Lee fighting, and the plethora of exotic planets HAD to use CGI.
What, are all of those going to be miniatures? Or puppets? Puppet Yoda in the original trilogy is amazing. Love it. I don’t even think he’s a puppet. Remember puppet Yoda in EPISODE 1? It was AWFUL. In the prequels, Yoda serves a far different and bigger purpose, he’s a warrior, a general in the Clone army. He has to actually fight, and we get to see why Yoda is the most powerful Jedi.
General Grievous, the general of the Separatist army, the cyborg Jedi killer who fights with four lightsabers. Would it have been better if there was a man in a ridiculous suit with arms controlled by puppeteers? Should there have been a massive scouting effort for people who looked identical and have the same physique of Temuera Morrison? Or prosthetic face molds?
If you’re so hung up on the “overuse” of CGI, you surely must RAGE when you watch a Zack Snyder, Christopher Nolan, Michael Bay, or a Steven Spielberg film, and surely you must HATE any and all of the Marvel/DC films, right? Oh, and those LORD OF THE RINGS films: Peter Jackson is an idiot, he should have made those films without CGI. Same goes for GAME OF THRONES. Man, WATCHMEN should have used nothing but practical effects. INTERSTELLAR? Don’t even get me started.
Yeah, do ANY of that without an abundance of CGI.
Moving to the human dimension, though. Yes ok the prequels lack the sheer buzz and soul of the originals. Hayden Christensen. Yes he’s miscast, but stop acting like he’s the first actor to miscast in a film ever. Poor dialogue? Valid point. Lawrence Kasdan must have been busy or he gave the series a miss.
But Jake Lloyd? Anakin Skywalker wasn’t born as Darth Vader. He wasn’t born evil. He’s a kid playing a kid. Jar Jar Binks? Get over it, ffs. The best part about Jar Jar is that Lucas owns the hatred of that character, and uses Jar Jar to make the move in the Republic Senate to give Supreme Chancellor Palpatine complete and total control at the height of the Galactic Civil War.
There are so many shining moments in the prequels. We get to see the beautiful and vibrant universe pre Empire, before the dilapidation and worn universe we’re used to seeing in the original trilogy.
Oh and if you HAVE to look at casting /actors / the lack of a Harrison Ford etc..
Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine/Sidious. Easily one of the best acted roles in the entire saga.
Ewan McGregor is absolutely terrific as the younger Obi-Wan.
The Duel of the Fates battle between Qui Gon, Obi and Maul is one of the best lightsaber battles in the entire saga, if not the best. And it is accompanied by a magnificent John Williams track. The Republic Senate scenes are masterfully created and designed, and perfectly sets up a principle understanding of how and why Palpatine becomes the Emperor of the Empire.
Christopher Lee is incredible. One of my favorite characters in the entire universe. The dissention of Yoda training Dooku, Dooku training Qui Gon, Qui Gon training Obi and Obi training Anakin makes so much sense, how and why Anakin is who he is.
The full-out Jedi and Clones vs Geonosians and Battle Droids in the climax of EPISODE 2 is terrific. That’s a moment a lot of us have been waiting for, a full out Jedi battle.
We get to see the Jedi Council in action, see the plethora of Jedi, as opposed to the three we see in the original trilogy.
EPIC saber battles, as I mentioned before with the Duel of the Fates, but we also watch Yoda battle his former student, Dooku – watch him go toe to toe with Palpatine himself, watch Palpatine take down four Jedi, and see the brutal and heartbreaking final battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan.
I could continue, but I won’t. I’m sure a lot of the points I’ve made will go over a lot of the prequel bashers’ heads because they don’t catch the references. Because they’re not STAR WARS fans. Bottom line, get off your high horse and shut the hell up about “George Lucas ruined my childhood” or that the “prequels don’t matter“. The worst part about all of this, is that George Lucas has admittedly been shamed for making any more films. This guy is bigger than STAR WARS, he’s responsible for AMERICAN GRAFFITI and THX 1138 which is one of the best science fiction films ever made.
To quote William Friedken, “STAR WARS is a religious experience.” STAR WARS means so much, to millions and millions of people globally. There are very few things that can match that kind of passion. Without George Lucas, you’d have absolutely nothing to bitch about in the first place.
FRANK MENGARELLI is the co-host with partner in crime NICK CLEMENT at PODCASTING THEM SOFTLY:
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