Yesterday, a good friend of mine made me aware of this article: Watching the Star Wars Prequels on Mute: An Experiment.
Much has been said about the Star Wars prequels. Most of it negative. The internet loves talking about how awful they are, how much they missed the mark, how the writing’s no good, and what the heck was George Lucas thinking anyway?
Actually, I’m more annoyed with how Lucas has altered the old films than by the prequels themselves. It always seemed apparent to me that he was really trying even if he was also really failing.
Or did he fail after all?
This post looks at Star Wars as visual art. By watching the movies on mute you take away the terrible dialogue and the awkward delivery of said dialogue. Remove the ham-handed scripts and these films become all about the imagery and what that communicates.
Film has so many aspects to it and not all filmmakers are great at wielding every element. For some, their strength lies in writing, plotting, and working with actors. George Lucas is infamously bad at all of those things. But the man has proven himself to be a master of visuals.
We can debate his focus on innovation over proper storytelling, sure. Did he go too far with GCI? Absolutely. Did it make the films terrible? No. It gave them a different aesthetic. We may like it or hate it, but I can’t deny that there’s a certain power in the visuals of Star Wars – even in the prequels.
Like a lot of Millennials, I saw the original trilogy growing up. I watched them on VHS for the first time in the mid 90s and then saw the special edition re-releases in theaters. I was absolutely psyched when Phantom Menace came out.
I was also nine years old so I enjoyed it and thought it was good.
After the prequels ended in 2005 with Revenge of the Sith, I started hearing the negative talk about the movies. As I listened to the criticism and my artistic and critical sensibilities grew and matured, I began to turn on the prequels as well. I saw them as terrible movies made by a man who had lost his way.
But I could never hate them. I could never bring myself to actually dislike watching them. They were still Star Wars to me – even if a sloppy, less-than-perfect Star Wars.
Reading this article reminded me why there’s definitely still some artistic merit to these movies. There are legitimate reasons to not write them off completely and to enjoy them for what they do well.
I’m probably not going to try the exercise of watching Star Wars on mute myself. I don’t really have the time for that. But by reading this post, I have gained a bit more of an appreciation for movies that I dearly wish had turned out better. It even helped me regain some respect for George Lucas. Despite what he’s done to the films in re-releases, the man is still a visionary and he’s gotten an immense amount of hatred for something that doesn’t really make an eternal difference to anyone.
Now if J.J. Abrams makes a bad Star Wars movie…
Just don’t, J.J.