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By Pete Vonder Haar | March 28, 2005

I found myself fast-forwarding through “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” a while back, trying to focus on the non-suck portions of the movie. They were, as you might expect, few and far between (any action scene featuring Obi-Wan, basically), but at least more numerous than in “The Phantom Menace.” The latter can be safely viewed in 20 minutes, if all one does is watch the opening scene and the climactic three-way duel. While rewinding the Obi-Wan/Jango Fett fight for the nth time, it finally dawned on me why the two prequels, to date, have been so disappointing to so many people. It was so obvious, I could’ve pulled the ears off my own gundark for not thinking of it sooner.

But let’s back up a bit. You’ve heard the criticisms since “Episode I” came out: Lucas’ scripts are worse than an amalgam of Jackie Collins and John Grisham; Lucas is drunk on power and no longer listens to the wise counsel of former confidantes like Gary Kurtz; Lucas should hand the writing/directing chores over to someone else; Lucas experimented with trepanation and lost his mind some time in the early 1980s. The howls of protest went up well before the end of that first midnight screening in 1999, and have scarcely abated since.

Is there validity to these claims? Sure, to a point. Even the films in the original trilogy, which most of us still remember through the hazy and idealistic prism of childhood, were written in a stilted and ponderous fashion. Really, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” can only be tossed out so many times. And the best line in the trilogy, Han’s “I know” to Leia right before being frozen in carbonite, was ad-libbed. Look at the facts, though: Lucas directed both prequels, sure, but “Return of the Jedi,” the movie that allowed a handful of Teddy Ruxpin’s country cousins to defeat the Imperial military, was directed by Richard Marquand and co-written by Lawrence Kasdan, who also co-wrote “Empire.” Obviously, quality is not wholly incumbent upon who sits in the little folding chair.

So what’s the real problem with the prequels? Is it that they lack the loveable rogue character Harrison Ford supplied in the OT? Possibly, though Ewan McGregor has allowed a bit of the swashbuckler to seep into his portrayal of Obi-Wan. How about the antiseptic CGI? Could be. And it doesn’t help that any sense of wonder one felt from the earlier movies’ special effects is certainly lost when better work is evident in most Pixar releases.

All these avoid the heart of the matter, however. Lucas makes being a fan of his films something akin to work, as we struggle to find the one elusive nugget of gold in an otherwise endless river of silt. He continues to up the difficulty factor by refusing to release the original versions of the first three movies on DVD. He champions the inclusion of Jar Jar and makes Anakin Skywalker less a tragic hero than a petulant bastard we care nothing about. So why is he doing this?

It’s because he wants us to hate these films.

The story continues in part two of THE STAR WARS REPORT: THE HATE IS SWELLING>>>

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