The Star Wars prequels suck. Or do they? Yes. But what if they didn’t?
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, American filmmaker George Lucas gave the world the gift of Star Wars. A few years later, he’d let someone else direct a Star Wars film, and the Empire Strikes Back was met with much critical acclaim. After that, he returned to the director’s chair once more for Return of the Jedi. The film had a few flaws, like the way-too-fuzzy ewoks defeating the Galactic Empire’s best troops in combat—but these flaws could be shrugged off as minor blemishes on an otherwise perfect movie trilogy.
Fast forward to 1999 through 2006—we get Jar Jar Binks, romantic scenes involving Hayden Christiansan fumbling about in a field with giant cow-ticks, and A LOT of computer generated hackery. Frustratingly, the best aspects of the prequel films are often severely underplayed. Darth Maul gets cut in half after an abysmal 12 minutes of screen time. General Grievous is portrayed as a coward. Christopher Lee’s Dooku character is never given anything interesting to do or say. In fact, nobody is given anything interesting to do or say. All three films just kind of sweep by without really attempting to form a compelling, or even coherent narrative. We don’t care about the characters because we’re never given a reason to.
Cramming every shot in a film with CGI madness might pass as art to the absurd Camille Paglia, but no such defense can be made by anyone who appreciates film as a medium which must succeed, first and foremost, at telling a story. The prequels are a text-book case of failing to do just that.
Enter the Star Wars fandom. If there’s one thing you can leave to geeks, nerds, and buffs of all sorts, it’s identifying the flaws in the Hollywood film-making process—when you live and breath a fictional mythology, you understand telling these stories in a satisfying way. The prequels have also given students of film a chance to demonstrate their cutting-room chops by turning Lucas’s lemons into sweet (albeit not sweet enough) lemonade.
The Star Wars Prequels: Re-Cut
Of the myriads of re-cuts Lucas’s films have spawned (The Phantom Edit, Topher Grace’s version, etc.) few really succeed at removing the most damning elements of the films. There isn’t much one can do about the completely flat dialog, for example. At best, an editor can do some damage control—remove the most cringe-inducing elements and keep the Lucas Brand Cheese down to a minimum when possible.
There are some cuts, however, that get pretty close to turning these turds into a compelling story. Star Wars: The Blackened Mantle may have a terrible title, but it’s also the closest thing you’ll get to a prequel series that’s semi-watchable. Instead of re-cutting each film, the editor (who goes by the YouTube handle Darth Lunar) crammed all three into one 2 1/2 hour spectacle. The dialog problem is fixed through the use of a Japanese voice-over with English subtitles. This allowed Mr. Lunar to completely re-write the films—and the end result is nothing short of spectacular. Had Mr. Lunar been allowed to re-write Lucas’s original scripts, we’d be left with a prequel trilogy that’s much more satisfying to fans and casual movie-goers alike.
The cut falters, however, in its use of flashbacks to tell the story. Starting from the “present” in Episode III, Lunar’s jumps between episodes I and II can be somewhat disorienting. The film is also completely bloated, and Lunar could have easily trimmed another half-hour of fat.
That said, The Blackened Mantle works in a way the original films simply don’t. You feel more of a connection to the characters—turning the mindless CGI action scenes into something with a little more heart. One thing, then, becomes clear: a total re-write is the only way to save these movies. But therein lies a dilemma: there’s only so much an editor can change, and a complete narrative overhaul would do the films even more good.
Never fear, there’s a YouTube video for that, too.
The Star Wars Prequels: Rebooted
Belated Media, a YouTube channel dedicated to movie news, reviews, and trivia (in other words, my Saturday night), posed the question “What if Episode I was good?” way back in 2012. People loved that take on the film so much that Belated Media released two follow-up videos, the last of which (“What if Star Wars Episode III Were Good?“) came out just in time for the premier of the (thankfully good) Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Check it out for yourself:
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