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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How Clone Wars Helped Me Love the Star Wars Prequels

Proof that I once found the time to draw.

When "Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace" arrived in theaters, I was as excited as anyone who had fallen in love with the original trilogy.  Yet I left the theater disappointed.  The movie just didn’t affect me the same way the original "Star Wars" film (later retitled Episode 4: A New Hope) had.  With the second and third prequel movies, it was the same: I watched characters and stories (not to mention impressive action and special effects) that left me unmoved.  The prequels seemed more like condensed histories than the carefully crafted narratives of the original trilogy.  And the way the Jedi leapt about, and used their powers, made them seem more like superheroes than real people.  (I won’t even get into how the droid R2-D2 acquires spectacular new abilities, such as the power of flight).  Later, when the movies were released on DVD, I bought them, and watched them occasionally, but I seemed to walk away from each viewing shaking my head, and thinking of all that George Lucas had done wrong with the prequels, and what a terrible shame that was.

I didn’t even bother to see the animated film “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” in theaters.

Then a strange thing happened one December.  I saw the first season of the animated series "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" in the store.  Although I had not watched the series, I was curious how Lucas would craft Star Wars stories into thirty-minute TV shows.  So I put it on my wish list, along with the Clone Wars movie, and a dear family member gave them to me for Christmas.  The animated movie didn’t win me over, but over the course of watching the TV series, I grew to care about the characters.  I found I could understand Anakin Skywalker better, now that I saw him mentoring young Ahsoka Tano.  I also grew to respect him more, as Lucas filled in the years between Episodes Two and Three with more adventures, and I could see him regularly making all the right choices, as opposed to all the wrong ones (as in the movies).  I discovered that there were lots of Jedi Masters who I never noticed in the prequels, but had vibrant personalities, and their own stories to tell, in the series.  I even came to care about the faceless clones of "Episode 2: Attack of the Clones" and "Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith," as Lucas and company worked to individualize them, and explain clone society’s culture and worldview. 

The original "Star Wars" (Episode 4: A New Hope) has always been my favorite movie, and it probably always will be.  Several times each year, it’ll strike me that I need to see it again.  When I mention this impulse to my wife, she immediately agrees to watch it with me.  (The reverse is also true).  This will unleash, over the following days or weeks, an eventual viewing of the second and third movies of the original trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  Sometimes, we even followed this up by watching the prequels.  But since the release of all six films on Blu-ray, we've watched all six films twice.  Both times, we started with Episode 4, proceeded through the original trilogy, and then watched the prequels.  This time we’re working our way through in proper episode order, starting with the prequels.  We even threw in the Clone Wars movie for good measure.  We enjoyed the prequels far more this time than ever before.  This time, when I watched Episodes 2 and 3, I wasn’t a passive observer anymore, but an active participant.  I could be wrong (Okay, I’m occasionally mistaken), but I believe this transformation is mostly due to the Clone Wars TV show. 

In The Inklings, a book on the famous literary club in Oxford, Humphrey Carpenter credits C. S. Lewis as saying that anyone can read a book, but to be truly literary, one must reread.  I wonder what Lewis would say about someone who watches a particular movie, or series of movies, as frequently as I do.

Dragon Dave

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