Prequel Trilogy,  Revenge of the Sith

Ewan McGregor: “The Star Wars Prequels meant a lot to the generation that were kids then”


From Vanity Fair:
“Sometimes, all it takes is a single scene to change moviemaking for good. (“Rosebud . . .” comes to mind.) And while many of the last quarter-century’s films have awed, inspired, and offered up iconic entries into the cultural canon, only some—and particularly, only a few individual moments—have genuinely influenced how future films were made. So, what makes that list? To mark the 25th edition of the Hollywood Issue, Vanity Fair’s film critics pinpointed 25 film scenes since 1995 that changed the industry, the art form, and even the culture, and our reporters spoke to the performers and filmmakers who made them happen. […]

Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith
(2005) […]


Ewan McGregor, “Obi-Wan Kenobi”

“Episode III was all green screen: they had us on green disks on a green floor with a green background, and a guy on the floor rotating us like chickens, as we lunged at each other with lightsabers. What keeps you emotionally grounded is the other actor. Episode II, I was on my own, speaking to thin air. But this scene was harrowing for Obi-Wan. I lose Anakin, and we see the danger of what it might lead to in Episodes IV, V, and VI. For all my moaning about green screen, I did enjoy playing Obi-Wan and this link to Alec Guinness. George Lucas wanted to do something very different with the prequels. That’s why people felt cheated. It was upsetting when people would laugh and joke about it. Now, many years later, the prequels meant a lot to the generation that were kids then. So from smirking, cynical opinions, now I’m getting feedback from the kids they were made for. I’m really happy about that.” —As told to Joanna Robinson”


  • archdukeofnaboo

    Wow. Just wow. I open up an article expecting to read some nice things about one of my favourite scenes in the whole SW saga – this is “25 most influential movie scenes of the last 25 years” for crying out loud – and instead I’m treated to an an old fashioned Prequel-bashing rant. Clickbaiting? Subverting my expectations? Or perhaps someone just can’t let go of their hatred?

    Congratulations Vanity Fair, and Richard Lawson, on your toxicity – you are no better than the worst SW fans.

    • archdukeofnaboo

      I appreciate the kind comments from Ewan to my generation though. I only wish this could have been the main focus of the piece :/

    • Cryogenic

      @ Arch Duke:

      Yep. And Ewan himself, unfortunately, slightly adds to the toxic atmosphere:

      ““Episode III was all green screen”. No, it wasn’t. There were miniatures and actual sets. Mustafar was even realised with a complex flowing lava rig (food colouring and cork lit from below and tilted on a recirculating rig). Granted, pretty much all the sets used green-screen extension, and there were some parts that were basically all green-screen, but Ewan’s remark is still untrue.

      Then, subjectively speaking, not to fall into the obvious hole of conflating green-screen with regrettable artificiality and diminished realism, a lot of the green-screen work in ROTS is, in my opinion, up to a very high quality — and composition and lighting of CG elements is extremely solid, while scene tableaux and action kinematics are second to none.

      Also, hipster rag Vanity Fair has done nothing but bash the prequels and puff up the Disney films for the last half-decade or more. Revealed their opinion is.

      That said, the article has nice presentation, and it was great to scroll through some fantastic films like “The Big Lebowski”, “American Psycho”, “Lost In Translation”, and “Children Of Men” — fantastic films, I mean, that aren’t the prequels.

      • Stefan

        Maybe Ewan mainly remembers the all green screen scenes, or rather means “much more green screens than in other movies” (or both).
        Personally, I think that the way people look at the green screens use in the PT mainly depends on their view of the movies. Did they work for them? Then they will normally not care how the scenes were composed. Did the movies not work? Then they will (too long and too often, I fear) complain about the special effects and how they were misused.

      • Cryogenic

        @ Stefan:

        Yes, but as one of the principal cast members and the actor with the highest billing, Ewan should be able to recall a few actual props and sets. As your response shows, a reader has to spin away his remark, since he makes an absolute statement that, at face value, is false. Funny because: “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.”

        You also invoke a good Obi line from the Original Trilogy, and I agree that people’s perception on this matter is informed largely by their broader “point of view” of the movies. So perhaps Ewan’s remark says something, if not about the movies, per se, then about the way he looks back at his time spent making Episode III; which, in turn, might be informed by his attitude regarding the progression of effects work across the PT — and maybe his own ambivalence (tinged with disappointment that it wasn’t quite as he expected it to be) toward the undertaking as a whole.

        It’s telling, I think, that Ewan admitted the following in an on-stage interview for the Hollywood Reporter in 2016:

        “I remember going there meeting George [to Watford, London, for Episode I] and being allowed to read the script. So I had to read it in the producer’s office like literally being almost locked in with the script, so that it doesn’t get leaked and then being shown around the sets with George and walking around and I remember we looked. There was a great big submarine thing that I end up in with Liam and Jar Jar Binks. And then I remember looking at these props, this art department guys sort of carving this huge polystyrene thing into the submarine and there was a cockpit. And I looked at it and I went will be go under? He looked at me and went, “What?” I said will we go underwater with it. And he looked at me like I was insane. [LAUGHTER] He said, “None of that it’s real, you know.” And I went oh, yeah.”

        From the same interview, there are also these remarks:

        “The first one I remember more sets. And there was like an environment to work in and as we got into episode two and three, they moved the shoot to Australia and we were shooting in Australia in the studio there in Sydney. By that point, it became more and more blue screen and green screen. I thought it was a shame.”

        So Ewan’s opening remark in the Vanity Fair article just perpetuates the false notion that Lucas shot everything in front of a green screen and added in the effects later. Disney weaponised this misunderstanding/ignorance of the production process of the prequels by making out that their films would be a return to “the old way” of doing things, and, per Kathleen Kennedy’s early words in 2013 (with a great deal more of this nonsense to come), they would be using “every tool in the toolbox” to realise their films — as if Lucas didn’t already do exactly that.

        But Ewan’s remark fits the disdainful nature of the article. The author clearly thinks the prequels are a lesser specimen of film. Maybe his original remark was even misreported and simplified into what the author wanted it to be. Ewan must otherwise realise he misspoke on some level. If he thinks there was *too much* green screen, that’s fine. The man is entitled to his opinion. Just a bit sad he would launch with a false assertion about Episode III — and, by extension, the prequels as a whole — while ostensibly defending them.

  • Cryogenic

    Take-home remark for me from Ewan:

    “For all my moaning about green screen, I did enjoy playing Obi-Wan and this link to Alec Guinness.”

    Wish I could slot that into some conversations with a few anti-prequel/pro-Disney concern trolls on a certain Star Wars message board.

    He enjoyed (some might even say relished) playing Obi-Wan. Much as Liam really enjoyed playing Qui-Gon and getting to be part of Lucas’ amazing universe.

    That meet-up back in 2015, at the 4th Annual Los Cabos International Film Festival, at the Closing Night Gala, in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico (what an apt name) should have told us something.

    Haters, get over it.

    It’s also nice to see Ewan acknowledge that Lucas was going for something “very different” with the prequels. Unlike Disney — i.e., not OT 2.0, but a visionary expansion, deepening, and flowering of the rather crude founding document he started with.

    And on Ewan’s other remarks:

    “Now, many years later, the prequels meant a lot to the generation that were kids then. So from smirking, cynical opinions, now I’m getting feedback from the kids they were made for. I’m really happy about that.”

    I was sixteen when TPM came out. Depending on your definition, I was a kid or a young adult. Loved the prequels even more in time. They deepen with age.

    But perhaps being younger helped. Lucas himself said that his marketing department had discovered a polarity between the under-25s and the over-25s with regard to the prequels (with the “unders” generally loving and the “overs” generally hating).

    It sort of goes to other remarks of Lucas’, and the themes of his saga, wherein he pronounced, “Don’t trust anyone over the age of 30.” Actually some truth in that when it comes to accepting new things; especially new things that seem to go against or challenge the worth/standing of older things.

    • Keith Palmer

      The “division at twenty-five” gets my attention. Over the years, I’ve considered how I saw the original Star Wars for the first time in a movie theatre during one of the post-TESB re-releases and was at least aware of the lead-up to Return of the Jedi, and had graduated from university before I saw The Phantom Menace with the thought I really did like it… but I was still under twenty-five then. On the other hand, I was over twenty-five by the time Attack of the Clones opened, and I liked it as well.

    • archdukeofnaboo

      Mostly replying to your own reply to Stefan.

      Being young certainly helped me too, there’s no denying that, but the same can equally be said of IV-VI, as much as its fanboys are in denial. The childlike outlook of the droids in a New Hope are a prime example.

      It’s important to take Ewan’s comments about green screen in context. The PT filmmaking was a journey into the unknown, to unheard of levels of technological innovation in cinema, and it wouldn’t be unnatural for an actor to feel confounded by some of this. He did come from an indie-film background, which is so far apart from your standard blockbuster culture. The author of this hit piece is simply cherry-picking a minor gripe from McGregor in order to fit his own trite, anti-PT narrative. The oldest trick in the book.

      Did you ever see his two motorbike BBC travel documentaries with Charlie Boorman? If you haven’t, you must – they were fantastic. One of the things that most stood out most for me, and I don’t mean this in a negative way either, was finding how much his personality differs from his on-screen character. While Obi-Wan was wise, calm and sympathetic, the Scot is the kind of person who doesn’t mind getting things off his chest. If there’s a little thing that bugged him, he might just exaggerate it sometimes. So I don’t for a minute believe he was caving to the prequel-bashers here, just an honest expression of the challenge he found in working with the new technology. It’s not his job to stand up for every technical decision made – that’s the filmmakers duty. If McGregor was complaining about the writing of his character, now that would have been serious!

      I find it bizarre that Vanity Fair would pick on Episode III as the victim to unleash its extreme opposition to modern visual effects on (it smells a lot like the recent Rotten Tomato story reported on this site: the ‘no prequel is redeemable’ mantra) . CGI as a criticism, rarely, if ever comes up in discussions surrounding the film. And why? Because it holds up so well against anything produced in the 13 years since. The space battle over Coruscant – an episode from the Clone War, no less – still looks incredible in 2019 and the skylines of Coruscant, particularly from Padmé’s veranda (night) and the Jedi High Council chamber (twilight), are as stunning as ever. There were huge advances across all of computing and electronics in the early to mid 2000s, and ILM were no strangers to this, achieving so much in Lucas’ concluding picture.

    • Cryogenic

      @ Keith:


      I was speaking very generally and just reporting back on what Lucas himself said. Here’s a source for those remarks:

      And I’ll present his remarks in full because the link doesn’t actually work anymore. I can’t even locate an alternate that has the full set; just cut-down versions. Sadly, not even the Wayback Machine has an archive version. This link worked fine in 2016, because I entered it into a conversation at that time and pulled the remarks straight from there. Good thing I did, otherwise they wouldn’t exist now. Anyway:

      “I see it all as one movie, so I don’t pay much attention to people who prefer one chapter or another chapter. But we’ve discovered that we have two fan bases. One is over 25 and one is under 25. The over 25 fan base is loyal to the first three films and they are actually in their 30’s and 40’s now, so that they’re in control of the media, they’re in control of the web, they’re in control of everything basically. The films, which those people don’t like, which are the first two, actually are fanatically bored [adored] by the other two. And if you get on the web and you listen to these conversations, they are always at each other’s throats and the devotion for each group is pretty equal.”

      These remarks come from the ROTS world premiere held at the Cannes Film Festival on May 15th 2005.

      “Bored” is obviously a typo from the page, hence the square brackets. The text is otherwise copied straight from that page, when it was still accessible.

      I don’t know if there’s possibly a recorded version of Lucas making these remarks on YouTube. Interview clips exist from the event, but I don’t recall anything along those lines from the available footage on YouTube. Might be fun to check again. 🙂

      Lucas’ remarks there are pretty funny. For one thing, while he claimed not to pay too much attention to people who like one chapter over another, he did manage to work in the odd passing dig at TESB over the years, since he was clearly aware of that film’s popularity among fans; which even the back of Rinzler’s “Making Of” book from 2010 acknowledges. Then there’s his reference to the Internet at the end, despite claiming in later interviews that he never bothers logging on and that it’s all one giant circus. Though, in the case of the latter, perhaps his children or someone at Lucasfilm showed him a few examples, and that was good enough.

      The split that Lucas is talking about there was probably a mixture of real and perceived. Real in the sense that younger people, on the whole, were kinder to the prequels and even loved them, while older people, quite as Lucas said, were loyal to the older films and generally much harsher toward the prequels. But there are also many in both camps that defy Lucas’ simplistic dichotomy — older people who got hooked on the prequels and younger people who preferred the earlier movies; and younger people who initially liked the prequels but then went off them when they get older.

      Though, the latter, in some regards, suggests young people coming under the influence of their older peers, who Lucas indicated were in control of the flow of conversation because they called the shots in the media and the entertainment world. Lucas is well aware of the mechanism of culture — i.e., first and foremost, that it is a machine, of sorts; and that who is in control (control being a big theme in the saga) more or less defines how people think and feel, and certainly what they feel safe saying/not saying.

      As I mentioned before, there is a kind of Overton window in mass culture, and in all spheres of human discourse: a shifting spectrum defining the range of conversation and debate, even thought and imagination, ranging from “radical” and “unthinkable” at the fringes, to “sensible” and “popular” near the accepted centre. This, if you like, in analogical terms, is a bit like the Star Wars galaxy turned inside-out: The OT, which is basically set at the frontier/fringes of the galaxy, is actually the accepted “bright” centre; while the PT, which focuses more on Coruscant and the central “elite” of the galaxy, remains confined to the fringes or the Outer Rim.

      However, in recent times, that spectrum has begun to shift, and we’re now seeing the prequels move a bit more toward the centre — perhaps in concordance with the corollary of Lucas’ remarks, which suggest an inevitable shift in opinion once older people are displaced by a generation that grew up on the prequels, allowing the conversation on them to adjust and take on a more positive orientation.

    • Cryogenic

      @ Arch Duke:

      “Being young certainly helped me too, there’s no denying that, but the same can equally be said of IV-VI, as much as its fanboys are in denial. The childlike outlook of the droids in a New Hope are a prime example.”

      Good observation. I have another Lucas quote here that I think is insightful:

      “There is a group of fans for the films that doesn’t like comic sidekicks. They want the films to be tough like Terminator, and they get very upset and opinionated about anything that has anything to do with being childlike.”

      “The movies are for children but they don’t want to admit that. In the first film they absolutely hated R2 and C3-PO. In the second film they didn’t like Yoda and in the third one they hated the Ewoks… and now Jar Jar is getting accused of the same thing.”

      “It’s important to take Ewan’s comments about green screen in context. The PT filmmaking was a journey into the unknown, to unheard of levels of technological innovation in cinema, and it wouldn’t be unnatural for an actor to feel confounded by some of this. He did come from an indie-film background, which is so far apart from your standard blockbuster culture.”

      Very true. But I did try and acknowledge Ewan’s discomfit — even, if you like, his ignorance of the process of making high-concept blockbuster cinema — in my earlier response to Stefan. For instance, back at the time, Ewan actually seemed to think the submarine (or “bongo”) in Episode I would actually be going underwater, with the actors inside! I wasn’t taking a bash at Ewan, but using that quote to illustrate his naivete regarding the production/effects process. And, of course, the prequels were extraordinarily heavy on special and visual effects, so it was likely a big shock to him, indeed.

      Alas, I haven’t seen his motorcycle documentaries, no — maybe half an episode or something like that. I remember them being on TV. And yes, according to people who have worked with him, that is very much Ewan’s personality, in a nutshell. He even had some choice words for “fans” (i.e., not actual fans) pestering him after a play, at the stage door, for his autograph, just so they could sell it to a real fan at a massively inflated price. Lucas, too, while more restrained and mild-mannered in his responses (but no less firm), was shown being pestered by such people a couple of years ago in some TMZ clips on YouTube.

      Ewan, I think, can definitely be, well… aggressive; or, at least, pretty blunt. Rinzler actually wrote in one of his blog entries under his short-lived series “The Rise and Fall of Star Wars” (almost certainly pulled after the threat of legal action from Disney) that, when he approached Ewan for the first time on the set of Episode III, Ewan shouted back to him, very loudly, that he would “let him know” when he could interview him. Rinzler never did interview him for the book. What’s more: Rinzler quickly edited the entry and expunged that revelation. But I think it gives you some indication of how intense Ewan’s personality can be.

      And although you wrote that Obi-Wan is “wise, calm, and sympathetic”, one of the more fascinating dimensions of the PT is how Obi-Wan is depicted across the trilogy. In TPM, he is actually shown to be somewhat snide, bookish, and dismissive. For example, when he chides Qui-Gon for his little side quests on Tatooine, and the fact they’re about to get a new travelling companion in the form of slave-kid Anakin: “Why do I get the sense that we’ve picked up another pathetic lifeform?” And in AOTC, while Obi-Wan exudes a measure of patience and sympathy for his difficult charge, there is shown to be a good deal of tension and a gulf of understanding between master and apprentice. One telling detail is how Obi-Wan’s “Jedi mullet” is shaped rather a lot like the contours of Vader’s helmet.

      And then, in ROTS, while Obi-Wan and Anakin are now more relaxed in each other’s company, Palpatine’s meddling drives a fresh wedge between them when Anakin seethes about being denied the rank of Master, opening up old wounds. But despite this, Obi-Wan does privately defend Anakin to Mace and Yoda, who are now very doubtful about Anakin, while Obi-Wan is full of faith — an inversion of the scene in AOTC where Obi-Wan worries that Anakin isn’t ready for his first assignment on his own, while Mace and Yoda take a more chilled-out and pragmatic view. In both scenes, the prophecy is mentioned, with Mace and Yoda flipping in their regard. But still, even here, in ROTS, Obi-Wan doesn’t completely grasp the stresses and strains that Anakin is under; even if some measure of progress has been made since their earlier “master and padawan” days.

      The point of all that:

      Obi-Wan is almost an “anti hero” himself; especially in Clones. Again, that mullet and the suggestive shape of it says a lot!!!

      And no, Ewan doesn’t have to stand up for every technical decision, but it plays straight into the basher’s code (then again, Obi-Wan is a stickler for the Jedi Code, through most of the PT), to say that Episode III was “all green screen”. As I articulated previously, it’s the “all” I have some problems with. It wasn’t all green screen; even if there was a good deal of it. How about “mostly green screen”, or “almost all green screen”? Why simply “all”? Ewan has to know that isn’t true. The “all” is basically a green light (no pun intended) for people to bash the movies some more, which you see the author of the piece on ROTS wasted no time doing. Then again, as I said before, perhaps they distorted Ewan’s remark.

      Indeed, many of the effects in ROTS, and the PT as a whole, remain striking and formidable. The opening “waterfall” shot of ROTS doesn’t seem to have aged a day. It’s the One Ring!!! But seriously: It still looks fantastic. While he was the model maker on ROTS, Lorne Peterson still praised the digital-ship-dominated opening battle (and some of the other visually-dense sequences) in one clip I’ve seen, effectively equating it with chromoluminarism and pointillism:

      “It’s like looking at the simplest of Pablo Picasso’s paintings on one side [ANH] and the most close-up of Seurat painting [ROTS], y’know, and it’s just dots and it’s things, and stuff is happening all the time in Sith.”

      The film is an amazingly impressive technical achievement: a real tour-de-force (again: no pun intended). But better than being merely a dizzying effects reel, everything going on is hitched to something deeper: a genuinely captivating and enrapturing story that is exquisitely balanced between its epic and intimate components, with high-wire drama, and things occurring that actually matter, leading to serious, long-lasting consequences. Basically, ROTS is the perfect end to Lucas’ more-than-three-decade Star Wars/high fantasy/cinema-changing odyssey, and a remarkable thunderclap of technical virtuosity and artistic rigour to go out on. Vanity Fair might not get it, but other people do.

      And yes, it is crazy to see what ILM achieved in the roughly ten-year span between the inception of the prequels in 1993/1994 (effectively inaugurated by “Jurassic Park”) and the crowning glory of ROTS in 2005. That was an incredible expanse of movie-making; made possible by enormously-rapid technological development. Since then, to me, it seems more like a paradigm of evolution, rather than revolution. No other film series has a tenth the visual richness, technical brilliance, or thematic wallop of the PT. King George had his time to shine — and it was a heck of a ride.

      • archdukeofnaboo


        The folks who like to latch on to Ewan’s edgier comments as a justification for their prequel bashing, are being ridiculously selective. It’s as if to them, no actor in their beloved OT ever had the slightest complaint to make. To borrow from Han Solo, “That’s not to the way [filmmaking] works”.

        As someone who has been involved in the production of short films in the past, I’m all too aware that creative differences can and do happen, even on-set. It’s not to imply these are meltdowns, it just means that two individuals (or more) have a conflicting vision on how to achieve something. Maybe it is the shot selection, maybe it’s whether or not a character should be killed (I’ve had some heated rows in this department), or maybe it is the breakdown of the budget.

        It’s well known that the late, great Alec Guinness had issues. The aforementioned killing-off of his character is one from production (where he almost quit), his initial hostility – or misunderstanding – to the concept of a Force Ghost is another, while there’s also his frustration with fan obsession in the years following the films. It was not that he was ever ungrateful for being a part of a pop cultural phenomenon, he was simply a more private person who wanted to be known for the full spectrum of his work. If I were a professional actor, I’d feel the same.

        MacGregor echoes a lot of his acting idol’s experience. I love those comments where he likened a particular group of self-entitled SW fans to “parasites”! Sometimes one just has to be blunt, and tell it as it is.

        To the best of my knowledge, the cast of the prequels have always been firmly supportive and proud of the films. Unfortunately they can’t all be highly knowledgeable of the lore like Sam Witwer, the voice of Darth Maul in the Clone Wars is – and we all need to understand this – but they sure can reminisce about their experiences.

        I’m not sure about you, but I have a lot of time in particular for Liam Neeson and Hayden Christensen. The former has starred in several of my favourite films, even playing my country’s greatest political hero (Michael Collins) and having to deal with a personal tragedy of his own, he hasn’t had it easy. Christensen has a near identical demeanour to myself, to judge from Celebration 2017 and a few other interviews I’ve seen. His character is also the only one who looks remotely like me (in other words, I look nothing like your typical geek, ha), so it’s always been straightforward for me to empathise or identify with him.

      • Cryogenic

        @ Arch Duke:

        Oh, yes. Ewan is definitely Sir Alec’s successor.

        I argued in a similar vein to you, a couple of years ago, that Alec Guinness had expressed his own share of disdain and unease toward the films, starting with the dialogue, compounded by age/generational differences, during filming in Tunisia in 1976 — later snowballing into a more general dismissal of the films, or their impact in popular culture, as a whole. Starts here and runs for a page or so:

        People can be extremely selective at the best of times. Today, we’re meant to believe that none of the actors expressed any frustration or contempt about or toward the original films, or their involvement with them; when the historical record paints a grainier picture.

        Heck, most of the camera crew were against Lucas and mocked the original film during production, and poor George also had to put up with his share of ribbing from principal cast members — even, during a rough-cut screening, from some of his filmmaking peers, who broadly judged the film to be a clunky disaster. Spielberg was the only one who offered support and strongly felt the film was going to be a big hit; not even Lucas’ wife, Marcia, shared his optimism.

        And, to pseudo-quote Anakin, the more you dig, the worse it gets. The post I just pointed to also indicates that even Lucas’ mentor, Francis Ford Coppola, thought that the original, via an early cut, was a “tad repetitive” (one assumes he was being tactful), and that even the late, great John Barry thought that the actors were “very dull”. Similarly, some film critics hit out at Lucas’ dialogue and the actors’ performances, proclaiming the film to be cardboard; albeit, enjoyable cardboard, with the general energy and spectacle of the film taking precedent over, and perhaps helping to disguise, areas in which it was otherwise, in their judgement, a little lacking.

        Again, however, all of that, in my opinion, is qualitatively different to Ewan making an assertion like “Episode III was all green screen” — when, plainly, it wasn’t. I feel he should know better than to say something like that. Not a biggie. Even if I’ve made it seem otherwise. I just like to argue!

        You do touch on something else there; concerning the psychological dynamics that lie behind these sorts of double standards: Where OT actors disparaging the films or aspects of them are downplayed or disavowed, while prequel actors’ every negative word is gleefully circulated and all but printed on posters, t-shirts, baseball caps, etc. And that’s how context is shorn away.

        If an OT actor quote is presented for balance, a prequel basher tends to quickly try and rationalise it as something relatively innocuous: transient, limited in scope, trivial, and ultimately irrelevant, because “everyone loves those films so it doesn’t count.” Conversely, a PT actor quote will be taken at face value, and even inflated into something more indicting and grandiose.

        I have a lot of respect for Liam and Hayden, in particular, myself. Good guys. Liam has always really seemed happy and proud to have been given the opportunity to work on Star Wars and bring a wisened Jedi Master to life. He really embodies that character! And I barely have any less of a regard for Hayden. He also seems very shy and humble in interviews. Quite a private person.

        And, like you, I also have an affinity for Anakin. I don’t entirely look like Hayden (more similar in appearance to Adam Driver — and the same year of birth), but I was Anakin’s on-screen age when AOTC came out (ditto, of course, for ROTS). So that might have made it a little easier for me to relate. In my case, though, I think I suffered from a sort of arrested development (though who doesn’t, these days?), and didn’t really feel those adolescent blues until my mid-20s. I guess that’s when the prequels really began clicking for me. Also, my dad very much looked like Obi-Wan in AOTC when he was younger; and my relationship with him has not been greatly dissimilar to the one between he and Anakin in that film.

        I’ll add that, temperamentally, I’m probably a blend of AOTC Obi-Wan and AOTC Anakin (we start to become our parents a bit — against all delusions to the contrary; one of the most Star Warsian of themes!), with a bit of Jar Jar thrown in — whatever the heck kind of a twisted dork entity that makes me. In any case, relating to at least one of the characters is probably paramount for enjoying these films (and the vast majority of films) over the longer term, and if people are unable to feel much sympathy or connection, I guess the prequels will never work for them. Luckily, there are plenty of movies to go around. And I am very grateful for these ones, indeed.

      • archdukeofnaboo


        Pull up a chair and grab yourself a cup of coffee – eh, I mean tea, you are English, after all. I’m about to dive a little deeper into what the PT really means to me.

        That’s interesting that you were the same age as the two leading actors in Episodes II and III. It undoubtedly informed your viewing, marking you out from the older, 35+ cynical types who balked.

        I was, of course, more close to Llyod’s age from TPM, so I didn’t quite figure out Sidious = Palpatine until RotS came along, believe it or not. I recall having a suspicion, but I wasn’t fully convinced.

        For all the stick the prequels get about Jar Jar and being only for children, the plot is, ironically, a lot less straightforward – more complex, if you will – than it was in the OT. Might I even dare to say more relevant to adults?

        This was something that hit me like a brick when I reached adulthood, and rewatched the PT for the first time in maybe 4 years; it was like viewing with new eyes. I had actually been a bigger fan of the flashier TPM as a kid, and couldn’t fully understand the air of conspiracy and political intrigue that hovers all over AotC. I still enjoyed ‘Clones’, but as with romance, I couldn’t grasp its implications. Nowadays, however, I’m a film noir fan, and the nods to both the genre and one of my favourite films of all time, Blade runner, via the Obi-Wan mystery plot, just delight me.

        We all develop our special interests and niches in our teenage years. For some guys its cars, for the less scrupulous among us its underage drinking, for even fewer of us, it might be political history. I was obsessed with Ancient Rome and classical civilisation as a young kid, spending a lot of my free time reading about and drawing pictures of the era. At 12 years old – if you’ll believe it – it buggered me to no end that a TV documentary could refer to communism or a certain communist, and I couldn’t get it. Eventually of course I did, and loads more with it. I didn’t go on to study history at university, but some of my friends are still under the impression I did.

        The story of the United States, to be simplistic, is a heroic one, of a small little patchwork of English-speaking colonies who go to become masters of the world. Notice how perfectly the OT perfectly reflects this; King George might as well be a stand-in for Sidious with Vader representing key loyalists who eventually turned rebels.

        The PT, on the the other hand, is very, very different, and perhaps – for the eternal optimists out there – shockingly, even nauseatingly, so. It mirrors a really different type of country. Countries who were, nevertheless, once upon a time every bit as real as today’s US. It is no coincidence that the leader – the head of government – of the Galactic Republic is titled ‘Chancellor’. Neither is it any coincidence that the democratic makeup of the GR more closely resembles the parliamentary system of a typical European nation, than, for the main American audience at least, the familiar presidential one.

        It’s all because Lucas wanted to allude to one of the greatest tragedies in recent history: how the burgeoning Weimar Republic, one of the most technologically advanced and sophisticated societies of its time, morphed into the evil Nazi Empire. The election of the führer was, and it makes me shiver to say this, met with precisely the same “thunderous applause” Padmé rebukes in ‘Sith’. It is, in my humble opinion one of the most important lessons in all history – how democracy was not simply stolen, but willingly handed over. That the cheesy, unrealistic, fairytale space fantasy trilogy of the 70s and 80s could turn to such a brutal, hideous, depressing, yet utterly true part of human existence for inspiration is something I will eternally be grateful for.

        At surface level, the prequels are about how Anakin found a black suit and became the iconic villain of the OT. Dig a little deeper, however, and there is so much more going on. Admittedly, there is tonnes of exposition, but that is precisely the point: the prequels are about exploring fabulous, otherworldly places and meeting exotic new creatures. The impressive worldbuilding isn’t done for the sake it, and it’s not there to turn the focus away from our protagonists either. It is simply a device used to inform what the PT is fundamentally: tragedy. Without beautiful, memorising planets to care about, how can we truly grasp the implications of what it is to seize control of an entire Galaxy? What is the famed Republic of Obi-Wan’s reminisces in ANH, but a mere abstraction if everything takes place in the endlessly deserted vacuum of space?

        Not everyone enjoys tragic storylines. And as far as I can conjure, it wasn’t something a lot of fans were craving in the late 90s – a time, let’s remind ourselves, where many in the West were still celebrating triumph in the Cold War. That’s not the experience of most nations in history though, and it most undoubtedly isn’t that of my own. I was brought up in a culture with a long and very rich tradition of ‘caointeoireacht’, or lamentation, in its native poetry and music. It is an expression of keening for the dead, of regret and sorrow for the once mighty, but invariably fallen fabled heroes of old; nobody lives happy ever after. It is indeed a deeply Irish thing, mirroring a lot of our early modern history, and yet it is the lens I interpret Lucas’ 2nd space fantasy through. When I debate the endless ‘could have’, ‘would have been’ scenarios of Sith I often find myself reminded of the bards I studied in our literature.

        Is it any surprise then that ‘The Great Gatsby’ is my favourite modern novel? Or that I devoured the high drama of Shakespeare in high school? Probably not.

        I don’t care if Lucas’ romantic dialogue was weak at times, or that Jar-Jar Binks isn’t as serious as he might have otherwise been. No writer or director is or ever will be flawless, and it is foolhardy, even dishonest to expect anyone to be so. His faults are, to put it more poetically, but a grain of sand in a vast, vast universe of so much good.

        Not everyone will come to the films with the same outlook as me, and that’s fine. But the bashers need to understand that for many people like me, there is so much in the films we see that they, sadly, never will.

      • Cryogenic

        @ Arch Duke:

        Ah!!!! Damn…

        Your posts keep provoking the essayist within me. So many branching points! Really, a great response, and one that deserves a fuller response in kind.

        And I *do* desire to give a deeper response to your post than the following — maybe tomorrow. But for now:

        Yes. A thousand times, yes. I can’t sum up, let alone expand on, the things you wrote in a few lazy sentences (it’s killing me already), but the prequels are very different to the OT, while sharing that magically obvious-yet-elusive b-movie poetry (that deep sense of stylisation and off-the-cuff brio that only Lucas can bring).

        It is clear that Lucas wanted to explore, explore, and explore in the prequels. And he achieved that by enormously expanding and deepening the geologic canvas — many, many layers of sediment were laid down in every shot. Every shot is art; every shot has thousands of things going on. There is something very elevated, bold, random, janky, and discursive about the entire prequel cosmology.

        Oh, man. Look. I’m gonna have to take notes and formulate a bigger response. Yikes. This could become a whopper. But you have successfully articulated some key design and story features. The thematic tapestry of the prequels is brilliant — and hyper relevant to our modern age. And yet: So few people see it!!!

        This comment, however, immediately tweaked my brain:

        “The PT, on the the other hand, is very, very different, and perhaps – for the eternal optimists out there – shockingly, even nauseatingly, so. It mirrors a really different type of country.”

        I know you were speaking half-way between literal reality and metaphor, but the word “country” has an awesome array of allegorical meanings: i.e., Shakespeare’s metaphor of death being “the undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveller returns”. And you instantly reminded me of the following quote, which is the opening line to the novel “The Go-Between” by L.P. Hartley:

        “The past is a different country: they do things differently there.”

        I think Lucas really captured something of that in the prequel era. The movies look and feel, and convey a mood and a sensibility, that is suitably different from the “future” (the OT), which is also, weirdly, part of the “past” itself. The glib understatement of Hartley’s opening line functions as a kind of bait/lure; as if it were a force field pointing to yet protecting and sealing off a much stranger, and in some senses, unreachable and uknowable, “past” — some place, some “where”, that perhaps can’t make sense and can never be fully penetrated or inhabited by the intellect alone.

        But anyway, I’ll leave it there, for now. The prequels are simply their own beast; and no-one can quite deal with them. So Sarlacc in the OT, so Senate in the PT. The Sarlacc may just digest your body, but the prequels have come for people’s souls. They’re like a singularity in the mechanism of cinema. They glow so brightly because that’s all the in-falling matter on the surface being heated up. But once you pass that event horizon…

      • archdukeofnaboo


        Thank you for those kind words. I went for it on that one – no spite, all reverence. But there is more to come.

        I thought about adding in Natalie Portman for a while, but felt it would be out of place with subjects of tragedy and political history at hand.

        Because, you know, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit she was a huge part of the prequels for me. Probably my first celebrity crush – though anyone whose read a half dozen of my comments has long since inferred that by now! 😀

        Look at the way she responded to a question concerning Jar Jar Binks in a recent interview (I’ve linked below). The interviewer tries to bait her into ridiculing the character, but she politely, but firmly turns the question on its head and addresses the real issue: the abhorrent treatment of Ahmed Best – her friend. The snarky interviewer can do nothing but mutter “Yeah. Yeah!” and switches topic.

        YouTube had been pestering me to watch that video with a few weeks now (It knows too much about me). So I’m glad I did. She went beast mode and showed what a callow, heartless creature that interviewer really is. Which leads me to one of my favourite Obi-Wan quotes.

        “You are strong and wise [Natalie] and [we] are very proud of you.”

      • joey pieper

        so kevin smith no longer likes the prequels? did he even like them in the first place? he is along with the wachowskis one of the most overrated filmmakers in the history of film how many of his movies have won oscars? anyone who thinks he’s up there with the likes of hitchcock capra ford wells huston scorsese wilder altman lumet minnelli stevens wise chaplin coppola spielberg and lucas is delusional

      • Cryogenic

        @ Joey:

        It’s impossible to pin down his real opinion, and I think he likes it that way. The last I heard, he kind of liked them again, after all. But whatever. He’s an okay guy. But a relatively small-time filmmaker/cultural commentator, at the end of the day. Definitely not someone to worry too much about in retrospect.

  • PrinceOfNaboo

    I may be wrong, but isn’t the groundbreaking green screen work – which allowed the combination of CGI, miniature, and real footage etc. – the reason that ROTS even made the list? Because that “influenced how future films were made”?

    We shouldn’t always and immediately get defensive when the Prequels’ green screen comes up. The way and to the extent it was used, after all, is a great asset.

    • Cryogenic

      @ Prince Of Naboo:

      “We shouldn’t always and immediately get defensive when the Prequels’ green screen comes up. The way and to the extent it was used, after all, is a great asset.”

      But that isn’t the tone the entry takes. It casts Lucas’ heavy use of green screen as regrettable and something of a negative in the filmmaking industry. This is how the entry for ROTS begins: “Not all the films on this list have influenced Hollywood in a positive way.” The next sentence then calls the prequels (i.e., this movie is part of a unit and let’s treat it as such) “seriously misguided” — and a later one deems them “fan-loathed messes”. In other words, let us make an exception for this set of movies (the prequels) and bash them and lament their very existence, in accordance with the Sacred Hollywood Geek Media Basher Code.

      I skim-read a few entries, but the one for ROTS is the *only* one I can see that actually *bashes* the movie (and the prequels as a whole). Even “Twilight” — ripped to shreds on the Internet, if anything, even more savagely than the prequels — gets a positive write-up. This article is proof positive that the prequels consistently get singled out and made an example of, and didactically framed in terms of what a “bad” movie (or set of movies) looks like, and an illustration of what “not” to do when telling a story in the medium of cinema.

      It’s foul and absurd. I actually like several of the other films in the list. “Lost In Translation”, in particular, is one of my all-time favourite movies. And I love the write-up it received. So it’s certainly possible to like, enjoy, and admire a range of films and not see them as an example of everything wrong and unholy with modern cinema as we know it.

      Leaving an additional sour taste in the mouth, the ROTS entry mentions the Disney transition at the apex, boasting of TFA’s box-office takings and crediting Disney for “course-correcting the film series”. The only other entry that mentions money or a numerical figure directly is the entry for “Titanic”, and even then, it notes the James Cameron film’s extraordinary budget (for the time), and says nothing of its takings.

      Also, Gollum — and by extension, Andy Serkis, Peter Jackson, and Weta Digital — are praised under the entry for “The Two Towers” in the following way:

      “Funny, creepy, and dazzling, the scene helped convince the rest of the industry that not only could motion capture and other digital performance be viable on a technical level, but that, done in real time on set, it could capture a depth of feeling that’s of crucial emotional value to a film. Whether you love or loathe what this scene spelled for the art form in the years that followed, this lonely aria is a thing of true, lasting power.”

      As usual:

      No mention of Jar Jar, Ahmed Best, George Lucas, or ILM. Which underlines what Ahmed himself said about Andy Serkis basically getting all the praise, and his own work and the groundbreaking effects work of TPM being ignored. How fortunate for Hollywood. History was hastily rewritten once LOTR/The Beatles knocked Star Wars/Elvis off its perch and showed everyone what “proper filmmaking/musical artistry” was all about.

      This article is the usual boilerplate prequel bashing we’ve seen a million times before. I don’t think it should evade criticism. Since the author focuses on the Mustafar duel as the prequel trilogy’s grand exit statement (albeit you can barely tell since no real copy is given over to describing it), it would have been nice if the author mentioned Camille Paglia’s glowing take on the whole sequence from 2012. Here are three outstanding paragraphs:

      “Leading up to the interwoven birth scenes is one of the longest duels ever filmed, set against the apocalyptic backdrop of the sulfurous volcano planet of Mustafar. Lucas called this fierce fight between Anakin Skywalker and his Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi “the turning point of the whole series.” Fire provides a sublime elemental poetry here, as water did on the storm-swept planet of Kamino in the prior film, Attack of the Clones. Lucas says he had long had a mental color image of the Sith finale, “monochromatic in its red and blackness.” The seething reds and yellows of the great lava river and waterfalls (based on Niagara Falls) flood the eye. It is a vision of hell. As in Dante, there is an allegorical level: “I have the high ground,” declares Obi-Wan when he springs to the top of a black sandy slope. Hell, as in Marlowe, Milton, and Blake, is a psychological state—Anakin’s self-destructive surrender to possessive love and jealous hate.

      Production of the Mustafar episode, which has 300 special effects, combined cutting-edge, high-definition digital cameras, lenses, and editing techniques with old-fashioned artisanal model making. The phenomenally athletic lightsaber duel was shot against a green screen in Australia a year before the background was filled in at ILM headquarters in California. Computer animation of lava plumes and sprays and falling hot ash was amplified by real-life volcano footage when Mount Etna suddenly erupted in Sicily: Lucas immediately sent a crew to film it. A miniature set (at 1132 scale) of Mustafar’s craggy black landscape was carved out of foam on a massive platform, which was raised so that the 40-foot-long lava river (composed of 15,000 gallons of the translucent food additive methylcellulose, tinted bright yellow) could be under-lighted to glow fiery red and burnt orange. Then the entire platform was tilted so that the river, recycled by a pump system, would flow. Clumps of ground cork simulated floating lava crust, while real smoke was fanned overhead. The result was a collaborative triumph of modern installation art.

      The Mustafar duel, which took months of rehearsal, with fencing and saber drills conducted by the sword master Nick Gillard, was executed by Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor at lightning speed. It is virtuosic dance theater, a taut pas de deux between battling brothers, convulsed by attraction and repulsion. Their thrusts, parries, and slashes are like passages of aggressive speech. It is one of the most passionate scenes ever filmed between two men, with McGregor close to weeping. The personal drama is staged against a physical one: Wrangling and wrestling, Anakin and Obi-Wan fall against the control panels of a vast mineral-collection plant, which now starts to malfunction and fall to pieces. As the two men run and leap for their lives, girders, catwalks, and towers melt and collapse into the lava, demonstrating the fragility of civilization confronted with nature’s brute primal power.”

      You know…

      It is possible to describe the final duel (and every other part of the prequels) in artistic terms — whether you’re talking about mood, themes, choreography, staging, performance, passion, drama, symbolism, composition, cinematography, music, sound design and sound editing, or technical execution. But the Vanity Fair author of the ROTS entry obviously had a different agenda.

      • joey pieper

        course correcting the series? so by treating han luke and leia like crap making them failures at the expense of the new cast and alienating fans of all six movies is course correcting? vanity fair can go f**k themselves

      • PrinceOfNaboo

        You’re right. The introductional piece to ROTS is pathetic and disgraceful. I actually hadn’t read that when I made my first post. Sorry about that, I was solely referring to Ewan’s words.

        Shame on you, Vanity Unfair.

    • Cryogenic

      @ Prince:

      Right. At least you have corrected yourself now.

      Vanity Unfair. LOL!


      Inanity Fair. Blatantly Unfair.

      And that’s the thing: As soon as you read the piece, you realise immediately that it *is* blatant. They don’t hide the fact that they’re going to malign ROTS — and on a celebratory list where every other entry is spoken of warmly and fawned over.

      It’s weird. The prequels get invited to a party and receive nothing less than a VIP pass. Only to arrive and be told that they’re the sole guest — yet again — that must be punched in the face and forced to wear a sign saying “I am a terrible guest” for the rest of the evening.

      • Cryogenic

        @ Arch Duke:


        Hey, wait!

        “Sometimes”? 😉

        If it makes it any easier:

        1) There are plenty of people whose penmanship I also envy. Very badly in some cases. I wish to be far more than I am.

        2) I actually had to think about that final paragraph and how to word it. I was reaching for a more fine-grained analogy, scanning my brain for names of clothing items, drinks, songs, etc., and trying to fashion a more colourful diss with authentic situational texture, but I suck at worldly knowledge, so I had to keep it simple. It gets the point across, but more crudely than I wanted it to. I can’t fake sophistication. But gold? I’ll take that. 🙂

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