I’m going to tread on dangerous ground today. It’s likely to garner more dissension than anything I have posted about heretofore. Mired in controversy and known to provoke extremely emotional responses, I am already bracing myself for the backlash that will likely result from this post, and others to follow on this same, touchy subject.

It’s not abortion, nor same-sex marriage. Nor is it school prayer or the role of government in society. No, this is something much more polarizing and tempestuous. Today I’m posting about Star Wars.

Interestingly, I actually was going to publish a post on the current status of gun control; but Star Wars, I fear, will produce even more vitriol and ire, into which I shall now dive.

Here it is: Simply put, the Star Wars Prequels suck.

And I don’t just mean they’re bad, I’m mean they are so tremendously horrible that they have now successfully poisoned my 35-year enjoyment of the Original Trilogy (Episodes 4-6).

There! I said it. God that feels good! Why, now, am I making this proclamation? Glad you asked.

A little over a year ago I completed a long-dreamed-of home project and finally installed a home theatre system worthy of my overwhelming adoration of the cinema. On a modest budget, having saved here and there for over seven years, I rewarded my thrift with a decent front projector, quality screen, and full 7.1 Surround Sound all meticulously installed for optimum viewing in a dark, dedicated room, away from other domestic distractions. Really, it’s great. And I truly enjoy having it.

But what does this have to do with Star Wars? Bear with me.

I disliked all of the prequels when I last watched them. Sure, sure, I was as amped up as any lifelong Star Wars fan to see them originally, after waiting over 15 years since the last installment, and that enthusiasm certainly made me initially watch them in as positive a light as I possibly could. But even prior to The Phantom Menace, after George had lovingly destroyed the Original Trilogy (OT) with his “touch-ups” in ‘98, I had lurking fears that the small disfigurations of the OT were, in fact, a chilling vision of things to come.

Sadly, I was right. And after three viewings of Phantom Menace in the theatre in 1999 (I know, I shouldn’t have supported it that much, but I really wanted to like it. At least they were matinées!) my fears had been confirmed; it was crap.

Embarrassingly, three years later I thought a little better of Attack of the Clones and a little more so of Revenge of the Sith, but both still left me groaning at miserable dialog, gagging over emotionless scenes between the characters, and bored with the offensive over reliance on special effects. I’ll quote the George Lucas of 1978, “A special effect without a story is a pretty boring special effect.” Sorry George, same goes for three-dimensional characters and believable dialog.

So after a viewing or two of each in the theatre, and a few months later on DVD and a small screen at home (this was pre Blu-ray), I was fed up with them. They disgusted me. And with little internal conflict, I deemed them unworthy of acknowledgement and decided to omit them from my Star Wars lexicon. In essence, I decided they never happened. The OT existed; the Prequels did not.

But a year later or so when I sat down to watch and enjoy the magnificence of the OT again, especially The Empire Strikes Back, I found they had somehow lost much of their luster! It was like I had seen too much of what supposedly came before, and knowing what had occurred in that shameful history had poisoned the beloved films of my childhood!

I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Why? WHY?! Why would I let the abominations that are the Prequels affect my love of the OT? I think my friend John, a fellow, lifelong OT devotee, put it best, “Star Wars is ruined for me forever. And it’s because part of what made the OT so great was its villain, Darth Vader, the most powerful, terrifying, and ominous figure ever to darken the screen. I feared him, yet I couldn’t keep my eyes off him. His voice both paralyzed and captivated me. His actions? Ruthless and cunning. And now every time I see him, I can’t forget that I know that under that threatening mask and booming voice is an annoying, whiny, little bitch who destroyed the galaxy all because he was scared he’d lose his girlfriend.”

Sadly, he’s right.

Ok, so what does that have to do with my home theatre system? Gesu, what the heck am I talking about here?! Well, I was just getting to that.

Over the past few years I’ve had several discussions with generally reasonable Star Wars fans that consistently, if halfheartedly, defend Episodes II and III based on the merits of the incredible battle scenes and amazing special effects. By no means do these fans suggest these movies are anywhere near the same echelon as the OT, but they have chosen to not dismiss them entirely. Not Episode I, of course, only the most brainwashed, deluded, blind-following, George Lucas-worshipping sheeple will bother to defend that puddle of colonic secretion. We’re just talking about Episodes II and III here.

I’ll admit, the space battles are one of my favorite aspects of the OT. And the battle on Hoth will forever generate a swell of childhood awe in my heart. There’s something about those scenes of exceptional eye candy and arm-gripping action that still keep me riveted. So I got to thinking, maybe I had acted too soon. Perhaps I needed to give the alleged technical magnificence of Ep. II & III one more chance, on an adequately sized screen, and with a quality full surround system.

Then about a year ago, I was introduced to a new concept regarding the Star Wars “Sextology” (or rather “Quintology,” as you’ll see) called the “Machete Method.” Basically, it’s a proposal for watching Episodes 2-6 in a certain order to get the most out of the story as a whole. It is also, purportedly, an ideal way to introduce children to the Star Wars movies. It goes like this, first you watch Ep. IV A New Hope (aka “Star Wars”), followed by Ep. V The Empire Strikes Back. Now you’ve met and come to love Luke, Leia, Han, and Yoda. You know Obi-Wan’s story and you’ve just found out that Vader is Luke’s father. So instead of watching Ep. VI Return of the Jedi, you instead jump back to Ep. II Attack of the Clones. This introduces you to Anakin in the days of his training with Obi Wan. You see the origins of his relationship with Padmé (horrible dialog and all), and you get your first glimpses of Anakin’s willfulness.

In addition, you’ve entirely skipped over the sewage of Ep. I The Phantom Menace. No Gungans, no midichlorians, no virgin birth, no Qui-Gon (the most useless character ever written), no Jake Lloyd, no couldn’t-care-less Naboo storyline, and a dramatically reduced amount of the atrocity that is Jar Jar Binks, into the bargain.

So continuing the machete method, you next watch Ep. III Revenge of the Sith and watch the rest of the fall of Anakin. After which, you finally jump to Ep. VI Return of the Jedi for the conclusion to both of the main protagonists’ stories, Luke and Anakin. Luke turns his father back, Anakin is redeemed, the evil Empire is defeated, Han and Leia are in love. Everyone is happy. Aaaaand scene.

Machete method. Makes sense. I threw that in the pile with the “technical excellence” argument and let them stew for a year. Finally the last piece fell into place when a friend acquired the six-disc Blu-ray set of the Star Wars movies. Now I finally had the missing component, an HD version of all those much-heralded battle scenes that were going to carry me through Ep. II & III.

So this past winter I recanted my earlier decree, hardened my stomach, and set myself to re-watch the five films, using the machete method, on my new home theatre system, in all of their technical HD and THX splendor. I sat down and watched Star Wars, doing my best to see past the “touch-ups” (and grimacing, of course, as Greedo shoots first), but a sure-fire winner nonetheless.

Next came the crème-de-la-crème, the far superior and clear favorite in the franchise, The Empire Strikes Back.  Being the best of the six by far, it is important to note that ol’ George has neither the “Screenplay By” nor the “Directed By” credits on this masterpiece. No chance. George couldn’t write this masterful dialog on his best day with David Mamet and Woody Allen hitting the keys for him. No, fortunately George’s involvement was limited to creative direction, of course, and a mere concept-level “Story By” credit. Thank the fates!

Now I was perched atop the precipice. I’d just watched the best of the lot and enjoyed every moment of that 1080p, native DTS 6.1 experience. I’ll admit I was nervous. Would the promises of the thrilling CG and massive land battle at the end of Attack of the Clones, finally unleashed on a technically superior setup, be enough to carry me through this previously held smudge on the Star Wars universe? What would my verdict be at the end of my first viewing of this episode in nearly a decade?

Excrement.

Holy cow, what a turd. Not only did the special effects (on my new setup mind you) not improve my experience, but I actually hated the movie even more after watching via the Machete method and I think the reason is twofold.

First, stacking this monstrosity right up against the grandeur of Empire is like following up a lap dance from Scarlett Johansson with a rub down from Joan Rivers. The transition from Han and Leia’s eloquent and powerful building romance to that soppy, regurgitative awfulness between Anakin and Padmé (poor Natalie, having to act against that no-talent ass-clown) was just too abrupt. I found it absolutely laughable and could not believe that these two films came from the same mind.

Second, I think I always gave too much credit to Ep. II because I would watch it shortly after The Phantom Menace. 1950s Public Service Announcements would look good immediately following that smegma. Now that the precursory dread of Ep. I was not there to compare it to, the true vileness of Attack of the Clones shines anew. Even Natalie Portman’s glorious abs couldn’t offer enough glow to help this grimy heap of whatnot.

By the time the huge, CG-o-rific battle came at the end I had already endured the weak attempts at suspense and danger in the exposition, the (again) nauseating and contrived “romantic” escalation between the loveless lovers, and the mindless mystery-solving of Obi-wan and the clone army. At that point you could have topped the Normandy landing from Saving Private Ryan and I still wouldn’t give you more than two stars.

In the end, I once again found myself regretting the 2+hour waste of time and depressed by the fact that this fecal stain does, in fact, exist and has desecrated my beloved original trilogy.

To be honest, I’ve not yet watched Return of the Sith again (I probably will tonight) and I do still plan on finishing with a hopeful uplift from Return of the Jedi. But that episode, itself being a bit of a let-down from its predecessors (if you’ve never read Dan Vebber’s and Dana Gould’s scathing essay “Fifty Reasons Why Jedi Sucks,” first published in The Unauthorized Star Wars Compendium-1999, I highly recommend it. You can read the full text of it here).

I really am quite depressed by my failed experiment. Sure, I may still watch the OT again every few years, for old-times’ sake, but I don’t know if it will ever feel the same to me like it did before the Prequels despoiled it.

I know a lot of fans are jazzed about the prospects of a Disney-controlled sequelogy; the first installment set to squeeze out in 2015. I remain cautiously optimistic now that George’s grubby mitts have been bound by the iron-clad legal department at Disney, but I doubt it will be enough to redeem the franchise in my eye.

I fear that until someone either entirely erases all knowledge of the Prequels from my memory (à la Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) or acquires the rights to the prequels and takes the time to redo them right, with a story and dialog that are written intelligently, skillfully, even sanely, I may have to officially accept that I have seen a significant part of my childhood wonderment be adulterated by a madman, wither, darken, and die.

It saddens me.

Darth Vader
1977-2005
R.I.P.

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