Monday, April 23, 2012

Star Wars Through a Kid's Eyes: The Prequels

The experience of sharing Star Wars with my daughter has been delightful; now that she’s about the same age I was when the first film came out.

(That’s Episode IV to you whippersnappers who think the films have always been in numerical order.)

As planned, we started with Episode I in the theater, and have been watching the others at home.  Reactions have been varied and in some cases surprising.


First of all, the 3D effects were definite enhancements. Nothing came out of the screen into our faces, but during the Pod Race and Starship fight, my daughter was gripping the chair rails yelling, “WOO HOO!” and lurching back and forth. 

On the other hand, I was holding the chair rails and trying to fight back the nausea, and my wife had to close her eyes for similar reasons. (And thanks to Mr. Lucas continually extending the Pod Race, she had to keep them closed for such an extended period, she fell asleep.)

The greatest effect of the 3D was making the incredibly dull senate scene exciting by adding a wild sense of motion…and some more nausea.

Her reactions were the same as the gangs of kids I’d seen this film in the theater with before. She found the whole film fun and exciting, Darth Maul was cool, and Jar Jar was funny.  It is definitely her favorite of the prequels, and Qui Gon remains her favorite Jedi.


Seeing the The Phantom Menace finally got my little girl excited about watching the Star Wars saga…

And Episode II neatly killed the excitement - stone dead.

The return of Obi Wan, Jar Jar and Amidala leading into the speeder chase scene (“This will be AWESOME IN 3D.”) started things off well, and then she completely tuned out.  I had to remind her to watch several times when things finally started to happen, and eventually brought her next to me as General Douglass McYoda flew in telling her it would be nonstop action until the end, which finally caught her interest again.

I would have tried to re-engage her earlier in the film, but I was napping, and my wife was too busy reading, checking the computer, and basically doing whatever she could to ignore this snooze fest to help out.

Maybe that’s the reason the Clone Wars cartoon series is set in directly after this episode. It is a valiant effort to create interesting and engaging Star Wars content for this period.

There was one point of note: I woke up long enough to notice in the scene following Anakin’s avenging his mother on the Sandpeople.  As he unloads all his grief and rage on Padme, there is a shining glimpse of why he was cast to play the chosen one who falls to the Dark Side.

The shine was then re-buried under the unbearable excitement of clunky romance, senate negotiations and a whiny, sulking Padawan.  Even with the action packed ending, and the Yoda fight at the climax that had my daughter and me whooping it up, she switched us back to rewatching the Matt Smith Doctor Who seasons before she was interested in continuing Star Wars at all.

Another bonus point:

I think all of us over a certain age know EXACTLY how Yoda felt after completing his gymnastic battle, and then painfully picking up his cane and limping away filled with thoughts of how sore he’d be tomorrow.


My daughter claims she liked Episode III the least of the prequels, but it held her attention far better than the previous part did.  The reason for her dislike, I believe, can be summed up in the following understatement:

“Anakin is being so mean!”

If choking one’s spouse and slaying a school full of children counts as “mean”, I shudder to think what her definition of evil is.

She knew his heel turn was coming, but seemed confused as to the reasons behind it.  I think that may be a fundamental problem with the Episode.  Since it was made as a prequel, the fact that Anakin turns to the Dark Side is a given going in.  Without drama and suspense surrounding,

“Will he or won’t he turn?”

there is an added responsibility in the movie to deliver a truly compelling reason for the turn. 

We all know the WHAT (the turn is coming) the WHO (Anakin) and the WHEN (before the movie ends).

It falls to the reasons WHY and HOW he turns to carry the viewer’s interest. 

For the target age group, it isn’t all that clear. 
And for us older fans, it’s clear –
He’s an arrogant twit with mommy issues.
 – but kinda stupid.

Apart from problems with the main point of the film, and the whole “mean” thing, she did enjoy all of the action scenes, partially because they are insane, and partially because she was reliving the hardest levels we’d been through so far in Lego Star Wars.  

She, also, thought Obi-wan and Artoo were really cool.

Not as cool as Qui Gon, though.  

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