Bashing the Star Wars Prequels has almost become an art form on the Internet. There are lengthy, (and quite hilarious) video reviews that eviscerate the films, and even entire websites dedicated to mocking the much-maligned Episodes I-III. As a life-long Star Wars fan, I decided to try to counter all this hater-ade drinking by taking on the challenge of compiling a list of at least ten genuinely awesome things about the Star Wars Prequels. I actually came up with a whopping twelve scenes/moments, before trimming it to the aforementioned ten. So without further ado, after the jump, here are the Top Ten Good Things About The Star Wars Prequels!
10.) Anakin Becomes Vader
All right, so the moment where Vader frees himself from his binds, clunks around Frankenstein’s Monster style, and lets out the now-infamous NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! wail, is laughable – but the sequence before that, when the charred face of Anakin looks up in horror as he is entombed in the visage of Vader – is haunting and iconic. The brief sequence is made even more unnerving by the pressurized “THUNK” as the helmet slides into place, using the classic sound effects from Vader’s private chamber in The Empire Strikes Back. It’s a chilling few minutes that seals both Anakin’s body, and his fate – inside an iron prison of his own making.
9.) Obi-Wan Vs. Anakin
Star Wars fans waited almost 30 years to see the fateful duel between Master and Pupil over a blazing pit of lava, and though it was much different than many folks imagined, it still delivered the goods. Anakin and Obi-Wan traded venomous verbal barbs, intense Force-pushes, and hundreds of punishing lightsaber blows, until the crushing final moment where Anakin’s anger and hubris gets the best of him. Anakin’s legless body engulfed in flames is one of the series’ most haunting images.
8.) Liam Neeson
Let’s forget for a moment that the character of Qui-Gon Jinn was wholly unnecessary, and focus on the awesomeness of Liam Neeson. In the face of bumbling CGI Rastafarians, a precocious child actor, and having to perform in a green screen wasteland; Neeson lent the proceedings a sorely needed credibility. When he spoke in his commanding, yet wise voice, he projected all the necessary qualities of a venerable Jedi Master, which arguably saved the film from being completely unwatchable.
7.) The Pod Race
This sequence gets a bad rap thanks in part to a grating “play-by-play” from an annoying announcer, and some campy alien racers, but I’ve always felt that it was an exhilarating, tense action set piece. Lucas is a long-time speed demon; he loves fast cars and racing, so he made sure Industrial Light & Magic infused the Pod Race with a truly convincing sense of speed for the audience. This thing is fast folks, and filled with spectacular crashes, feuds among racers, treacherous twists and turns, and a nail-biting photo finish. It even has Sand People shooting at the racers! The one aspect that truly makes the Pod Race a classic, however, is the sensational and immersive sound design by longtime Star Wars sound-effect genius Ben Burtt.
6.) Anakin Butchers The Tuskens
In what is arguably the darkest scene of the Star Wars saga, John Williams’ intense score swells up around an enraged Anakin after he finds his Mother brutalized by a tribe of Sand People. As she dies in his arms, Hayden Christensen displays a terrifying look of anger and vengeance, then gives himself over the Dark Side of the Force for the first time -brutally slicing down two Sand People. We later discover that he murdered the entire tribe, women and children included.
5.) “Don’t Look Back…”
The Prequels are full of stilted dialogue and wooden, bored performances, but occasionally there are moments of genuine emotion – such as this heartbreaking moment, where Pernilla August’s Shmi Skywalker sends her little boy off to his destiny and sets in motion events that will alter the galaxy forever. (Go to 6:44 into this video to watch the scene)
4.) Chewbacca Gives Yoda A Piggy-Back Ride
Though it was sort of arbitrarily included, The battle on the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk in Revenge of the Sith features one of the greatest moments of the saga as Yoda, fleeing from “Order 66”-brainwashed Clone troopers, must climb up Chewbacca’s extended arm for a piggy-back ride to a waiting escape pod. It’s a fun little moment between two beloved characters that had never interacted onscreen before. (Scene occurs at 4:22)
3.) The Emperor
Whether he’s simply cackling hideously, or feeding the Jedi and Anakin lies from his acidic tongue in order to carry out his Machiavellian schemes of galactic domination, The Emperor is simply a joy to watch in these films. Ian McDiarmid oozes evil from every pore in his performance as both the hooded master of doom Darth Sidious, and the manipulative Senator Palpatine.
2.) Obi-Wan & Qui-Gon Vs. Darth Maul
This lightsaber duel is possibly the best of the entire saga, and that’s no mean feat. It’s a dialogue-free test of wills that rages across perilous reactor shafts, Jedi and Sith alike nimbly flipping onto ledges while their lightsabers clash and spark. When Qui-Gon kneels to meditate behind the force-field, and Darth Maul paces like a starved wolf waiting to pounce – the anticipation to continue the battle is palpable. The end comes sudden and swift, leaving only one combatant standing. Epic.
1.) John Williams
Star Wars without John Williams is like peanut butter without jelly. Separately they are great, but when combined, it’s undeniable magic. Williams’ brilliant music injects life and majesty to just about any scene, transforming images of robots and guys walking around spaceship corridors into senses-shattering space opera. Hell, without Williams, I’m not sure we even have the term “space opera”. The man is just that damn good. Duel of the Fates, with its epic vocal chorus, is the signature cue of the Prequels and one of the best pieces of music in the entire saga –period.