Obi-Wan is tragically forced to fight his pupil to the death…
3) A fall-redemption story.
Anakin and Vader. The hero Anakin rises, falls, becomes Vader, and is ultimately redeemed—thanks the to the spark of goodness/love in him finally actuated by his son Luke. (Obviously this is wrapped up in Return of the Jedi, but we spend most of our time with Anakin in the prequels.)
In a nutshell, for me, the prequels simply failed to tell any of these in a believable, impacting way.
Story #2 (Anakin and Obi-Wan) was somewhat redeemed by the heart-wrenching, beautifully rendered duel on Mustafar, given an extra special dose of mojo by Ewan McGregor.
My kids, watching alongside me, had the same impression. Most of the time, I found myself wondering: “Wait– Wha– Huh? Why is he doing that? Why would anyone do that?” These were roads paved by completely unconvincing setups and payoffs. It seemed like George Lucas dreamed up a bunch of really cool scenes, and then yanked the characters on and off the stage to string the story together with wooden exposition.
But even the not-so-awesomely told stories aren’t enough to justify my negative feelings toward the prequels. And I’m not here to bash them anyway. On the contrary, I’m here to “let go of my hate.”
Finally, I had the sense to ask myself: “Tom, if you don’t know what these feelings ARE, then what are they LIKE?”
“Good question, Tom,” I responded to myself. “Basically, I feel like I lost a best friend.”
I was on to something. For so many years before the prequels, Star Wars was my pal. Yeah yeah, they’re just movies, but go with me here for a second. Think of a movie or book or piece of art or piece of pecan pie that you really really love—something that connects or comforts or inspires you.
Like a good friend, Star Wars accepted, reflected, and celebrated so much of what was in my kid-to-teenage heart. We had a lot in common—sense of adventure, sense of humor, love of spaceships, politics, spirituality, imagination, ideas about what made a hero and what redemption was about, the certainty that an obscure kid could grow up and save the galaxy, a love for all things lightsabery. And it was all made “real” by characters and events who existed in a consistent—if fantastical—universe that really existed as long as my frayed Beta tapes existed. More than that, because everyone else seemed to love Star Wars, it was a bridge to the rest of humanity. Here was a non-threatening set of values, art, characters, stories, and sundry coolness that I had in common with millions of other people around the world! I could unabashedly parade around using the Force without getting made fun of, because it was dang cool.
I trusted Star Wars to always be there for me.
(Is this getting too weird?)
For that great gift, thank you George Lucas.
But with the prequels seemed to disavow so much profundity (midi-chlorians, etc.), mangle the basic mechanics of human relations (epic love story based on whining, etc.), and confuse manic depressive paranoid schizophrenia with a character development (pretty much anything Anakin does in relation to the emperor and Padme). (I know, I know, there are prequel defenders ready to bury me in tomes of expanded universe explanations!)
Star Wars—my friend—had suddenly turned its back on me.