In a Galaxy Far, Far Away, the Star Wars Prequels are Actually Good: Why are there so many plot holes? - Part 1
Who hasn't heard of Star Wars? An epic born out of themes of courage, of rebellion, of inner strength. With revolutionary yet at the same time somewhat corny graphics, it paved the way for Sci-fi fans of many ages and generations and cemented itself as a classic film. If you haven't watched it, how dare you. Go watch it.
Wait, perhaps I should be more specific. Watch Episodes 4, 5 and 6 (the first 3 films made in the late 70s and early 80s).
As for Episodes 1, 2 and 3, avoid them at all costs! I kid you not, it will ruin your experience of everything that the first three films represent.
You're probably thinking "Ah you're exaggerating! There's no way the prequels can undermine everything that the original Star Wars stood for! George Lucas couldn't be that crazy!", and to that I say, you're right - to an extent.
I can certainly understand why you think I am exaggerating in saying that the prequels suck. They have renewed graphics (for the most part) and, more importantly, answer some major questions originating from the first films. The fight scenes are better coordinated, and it rejuvenated interest in Star Wars. In some ways, the prequels were a success.
That does not mean they were good films, or even mediocre ones. Not that the quality of prequels has to even be good. Most of the time, sequels or prequels are not as good as the original. Take a look at The Matrix, Jurassic Park... heck even the original Star Wars trilogy has its faults. I'm looking at you, Ewoks.
But what the prequels manage to do, as I've said, is completely undermine the entire point of the first Star Wars; the themes, the plot, even the characters themselves are undone simply by the poor, contradictory storyline of the prequels.
Episode I: The Phantom Menace
It was in 1999 when Star Wars Episode 1: A Phantom Menace came out in theaters. Having grown up with the first three films I was very eager to see what this prequel brought to the table. Sadly, I was disappointed, but being a kid at the time I didn't know I was disappointed until many years later. The lightsaber battles were more than enough to make me happy.
I realized how much this movie sucked and how poorly written it was when I watched it again and actually paid attention to the plot. Combined with the second and third prequels, it becomes downright disturbing that George Lucas had the balls to make this.
The Beginning: Tax Regulations and Meaningless Events
It starts off with a blockade by the Trade Federation on the planet Naboo due to some tax regulations. We don't know who the Trade Federation is or why they're aggressively blockading a planet in response to them taxing routes, although we can infer. Maybe they're a greedy corporation that's using the current turmoil of the Republic to their advantage. Maybe they're just following orders. Why do they even have a droid army? Maybe they're just incredibly wealthy and like having a droid army.
Anyway, two Jedi are sent to try and find a diplomatic solution, but that doesn't work and the Trade Federation begin attacking them. I don't know why they let the Jedi board in the first place if they planned on killing them. Why not just shoot them down as they approached the blockade? But whatever.
The Jedi, Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, escape and the Trade Federation land their ships and begin their assault on Naboo, where they capture their Queen, Amidala. The two Jedi meet a creature named Jar-Jar Binks.
Jar-Jar leads them to the secret underwater city of his species, where the Jedi unsuccessfully ask the Gungan leader for military aid. They are given a ship and reach the capital city of Theed, where they rescue the Queen. Using her personal ship, they escape the blockade but are forced to land on the planet Tatooine for repairs.
So far, this has been really uneventful, almost boring, but at least the events are somewhat plausible, if poorly explained. I mean, aside from protecting your captured Queen with like 5 droids when you have a giant army at your disposal. But at this point, things start getting really stupid.
Tatooine: Boring Desert where Slavery Still Exists
The ship is damaged and they need a new hyperdrive generator to get off the planet. They meet Watto, who has a hyperdrive generator in his junk shop.
Unfortunately, Watto doesn't want any Republic credits and the Jedi don't have anything they can barter with. I mean, aside from their authority as Jedi. If they were to suggest Watto to give them the hyperdrive and later pay him back in double, would he refuse? Why would he...? They're Jedi.
Anyway, they meet a kid named Anakin Skywalker. He and his mother are slaves to Watto and work in his junkshop. Don't ask me why slavery is still widely accepted in Tatooine. They have advanced technology and robotics in the Star Wars universe.
Even if you don't care about the sanctity of another sentient being's life, clearly robots are better suited for labour than humans, especially the robots in Star Wars. It makes no sense to have slavery exist.
Speaking of robots, Anakin has made a few and is incredibly gifted with technology and equipment. He shows Qui-Gon that he's made a protocol droid (C-3PO), a podracer, and a scanner that detect the explosive implants all slaves have, which detonate if the slave tries to escape (hint: robots don't run away).
Also, for some reason Qui-Gon can't simply deactivate the implant with the Force, or even locate it for removal. You can control minds, but you can't deactivate an implant.
Now back up a minute here. Anakin, an 8 year old slave, somehow had both the time and resources to make three complicated pieces of equipment all by himself. How did he get the parts? As a slave, how did he have that kind of freedom to make all of these devices?
And worse, why does he make a protocol droid out of all things?
I don't even care that he magically has the knowledge to make all this stuff in the first place. I'll say that was the Force that allowed him to quickly learn from observation as a junk shop slave. Yeah, sure, that works.
But how the hell did he even know what protocols are? Did the Force magically give him knowledge of protocols and a list of them to program to this droid? Why would an 8 year old care about protocols?!
Damn that one is almost impossible to swallow. Obviously Lucas just felt the need to give C-3PO a cameo appearance.
Before I forget, Anakin says something very crucial to the later aspects of the story. He says: "I had a dream I was a Jedi once. I came back here and freed all the slaves." This is very important to note, as I will explain later on.
Podrace and a Bunch of Other Crap
Since these Jedi are clueless and have no idea what to do as they're stranded, naturally they don't come up with any solutions and resort to getting advice from the 9 year old boy. Anakin suggests he race his podracer so they can win the parts they need for the ship. At this point Qui-Gon finds it strange that the boy is capable of building complicated equipment and is naturally able to fly podracers.
He decides to take a blood sample (apparently he just carries a blood sampler around), and it is here where Lucas kills a vital aspect of Star Wars in a single blow. He asks Obi-Wan to check for his "midi-chlorian count", which is higher than any Jedi, even Master Yoda. We later learn midi-chlorians are symbiotic microorganisms that connect all living beings to the Force, and that you need a certain amount to extend your Force abilities and become a Jedi.
And to that I say...WHAT?!
In the first three Star Wars films, we are told that the Force connects all living beings to each other and that it is a sort of strength that comes from within - a spiritual phenomenon. Now with these midi-chlorians, that's clearly not the case.
Instead of the Force being a mystical strength born of determination and of following an ideal, the Force becomes nothing more than a selected trait from evolution and natural selection.
Actually not even that, because there doesn't seem to be any selective pressure to get more midi-chlorians and Jedi can't have relationships (i.e. they can't have kids to pass on their super midi-chlorian genes) and worst of all, in Anakin's case it was just sheer randomness.
Why? Anakin's mom explains to Qui-Gon that Anakin never had a father. She kind of just woke up one day and was like "oh, I'm pregnant" and didn't think much of it. Apparently the midi-chlorians themselves conceived the boy.
Okay Lucas. Do we really need a parallel of Jesus being born of a virgin Mary in Star Wars? What does this add to the story or to Anakin's character? Nothing, literally nothing. And besides, that's as comparable as it gets to Jesus. We don't see Anakin as an exemplary being in the later films - much the opposite. But we'll get to that.
Anyway, Qui-Gon also manages to bet Watto that Anakin will win the race - apparently Watto doesn't have much confidence in the boy. And with good reason; Anakin has never even finished a race, let alone won any. Qui-Gon is unfazed because his beard is filled with midi-chlorians and it assures him that Anakin will magically win this time.
He bets his podracer (which is really Anakin's) in exchange for Anakin, assuming Anakin wins the race. And he does, against all odds and despite another racer, Sebulba, cheating his ass off throughout the entire race. That's what midi-chlorians are for.
He leaves the ever useless C-3PO for his mom and promises that one day, he'll come back and free her. Real soon, probably. Not 10 years later.
Finally, before they leave this stupid planet they get attacked by a hooded figure with a red lightsaber. Cool! Finally a lightsaber battle! Does that make up for the hour or so of boring stuff leading up to this scene?
That brings me to another point. Never mind that there are a ton of plot holes in this first half of the movie alone, but even if there weren't this first half was incredibly boring.
There just doesn't seem to be much at stake and there is very little character development. It looks like Lucas just wanted to add a bunch of special effects and name a few characters from the past films and that's about it.
I do commend Lucas for the character of Qui-Gon (or perhaps Liam Neeson's interpretation) as I thought that was uniquely suited to the series; a Jedi that is more passive towards some of the strict rules imposed by the Jedi order. But even then, Qui-Gon clearly hasn't been impressive with getting them off Tatooine and these rules by the Jedi are kind of stupid to begin with.
And the other actors? God are they terrible. I can't believe Natalie Portman talked like a drone for the entire movie, and Ewan McGregor was left as a background character that occasionally made a comment. These and other characters were incredibly weak and contributed almost nothing to the story. But I digress.
Coruscant, Corruption and Lack of Common Sense
We now learn that the Trade Federation has been corrupting the Republic by bribing the bureaucrats which weakens the control and unity that the Chancellor can exert...or something. But apparently the Trade Federation is part of the Republic, which is odd because all I see from them are droids and a few alien rulers.
The Queen of Naboo explains to the council of floating chairs that they've been attacked and blockaded by the Trade Federation. The Trade Federation vehemently objects and demand an assessment by the council before any real action is taken.
You'd think that there'd be images or video recordings or reports or something of the event - heck couldn't they get a telescope and just stare at the planet and see if there's a blockade? And finally, why not get the Jedi to testify that the Queen's statements are true, that they had to rescue her and bring her to Coruscant in the first place? Are Jedi just not trustworthy in Star Wars?
Any of the above would take like two seconds, but no an assessment needs to be made. Right. She also pushes for a vote of no confidence to elect a new Chancellor, but they're taking too long so she wants to go back to Naboo to do something. I really don't know or care because at this point it's painfully obvious Lucas is just trying to force these plot points down our throats, regardless of whether they make sense or not.
Meanwhile, the Jedi council evaluates Anakin and finds him to be fearful of his mother's safety, which could lead him to the dark side (hint hint). Oh, well I guess there's nothing the Jedi could do to help him except save his mother from the life of slavery she is bound to in Tatooine. And the other slaves while they're at it. It seems the Jedi care more about tax regulations and sitting around than real problems.
They also judge that they will not train him because he's too old. 9 years old is too old for a Jedi, apparently. You need to be taught as soon as you come out of the womb.
And finally, the Jedi council start talking about the prophecy of "The Chosen One", which strangely was not mentioned in any of the previous Star Wars films. And I start to see a pattern.
First, Lucas brings a scientific explanation for the Force with the introduction of the midi-chlorians. Then he creates a parallel of the birth of Jesus by the virgin Mary. Now he adds in the element of Anakin being "The Chosen One" to bring balance to the Force.
Endosymbiosis, biblical tales and prophecies of a savior are too many plot lines for one movie and are clearly just used because Lucas thought they were cool and figured he would just clump them all together in this movie. Besides, they don't even fit with Star Wars. None of this stuff was even mentioned in the previous films, and even if they were it still doesn't add up.
In short, he's been pulling crap out of his ass.
Ending (AKA the one part I actually enjoyed because I am easily distracted by lasers, explosions, heroics and more lasers - but it's still pretty stupid)
The Queen decides to go back to Naboo and the two Jedi are sent to protect her. The Jedi council seems to think that two Jedi are more than enough for a powerful and mysterious adversary on a planet completely overrun by the Trade Federation. The rest of them decide to sit on their asses and do nothing, or perhaps mull over on some tax regulations.
Anakin also tags along, for no reason. You'd think they'd leave him in Coruscant or something, but no they decide to take him along on their little trip. Why the hell would they want to bring a kid to their mission? Oh and why did the Queen decide to go back and not bring the evaluating committee with her to gain the Chancellor's support? It's just overwhelmingly stupid.
Moving on, the Queen asks Jar-Jar for help from his people, and it is revealed that the Queen is not really the Queen; she's a decoy and the real Queen is Padme.
You may have noticed I didn't even mention Padme up until this point because that is about as much of a mark that she has left on this film. She talks to Anakin and flirts with the 8 year old for a bit, talks to Anakin's mother about slavery (and never does anything about it in later films) and that's about it. But she's the Queen, so, there you go.
I don't think I was ever so indifferent towards a plot twist so much. Except maybe in M. Night Shyamalan's Signs where the water is deadly to the aliens.
She convinces the Gungan people to help her by bowing to their leader and thus showing her inferiority. The Gungan leader is pleased by this and decides to be friends, because your first instinct when finding someone inferior to you is to befriend them and do whatever they want.
He agrees to help her by creating a distraction while she goes out to capture the viceroy leaders of the Trade Federation. I don't know what good capturing them would do. Would that somehow convince the council that the Trade Federation had an army occupation on your planet?
At the same time, a team fliers will get fighters and attack the droid control center that is hovering over the planet. I don't know why the Trade Federation decided to power their droids with a control center instead of giving them individual power sources. It doesn't matter though, the control center is protected by a shield and nothing short of a miracle/sheer dumb luck (emphasis on dumb) will break through their defenses.
The Jedi and a small group of troops break in to the main hangar and secure the fighters to attack the droid control center. Suddenly Darth Maul appears (the mysterious hooded figure that attacked them earlier) and Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are forced to fight him. I wonder if they had a few more Jedi to help out if they would have had as much trouble against him. I'm sure all the other ones were very busy though!
The droid army begins overpowering the Gungans and they are forced to surrender. Luckily, Anakin inadvertently starts the auto pilot on the ship that he is hiding in and saves the day by pure accident.
Doing stupid shit like spinning somehow leads Anakin to the inside of the control center, and there he unwittingly shoots the power cells of the station and blows it up from the inside.
At this point, Queen Amidala gets captured by destroyer droids and she exclaims that "they win this round". The destroyer droids can't be damaged by normal blasters and are pretty deadly themselves - just one of those things would completely overwhelm their troops. Knowing this, any villain with half a brain would just keep those destroyer droids around and the Queen would be screwed. Instead those droids just disappear and never return, allowing Queen Amidala to access a bunch of hidden blasters and overpower the Viceroy.
Speaking of these destroyer droids, you have to wonder why they don't just have an army of those instead of a droid army. It doesn't seem like they can be destroyed with normal blasters, so why not?
And last in this tri-fecta of simultaneous events, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan face off against Darth Maul. While I like the fight scene because it's better choreographed than in previous films, it's still painful to watch both Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon spinning around instead of just striking Darth Maul down. Fine, you can spin around if you want to when it's 1 on 1, but spinning around while the guy has his back towards you?!
If you think I'm exaggerating, just watch it. Obi-Wan makes two dumb spins with the lightsaber while Darth Maul is distracted by Qui-Gon. Most of us focus only on Darth Maul performing some amazing feats of skill, but if you focus on either Qui-Gon or Obi-Wan you can see what I'm talking about.
When the battle is one on one, they still spin around but they make it look convincing and it becomes a lot more smoother. But two on one, they have to make the two Jedi stupid by making them spin around slowly and have them strike Darth Maul's lightsaber and not Darth Maul.
Later in the battle Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon get separated by some energy shields that turn on and off periodically (who the hell designed this?). Qui-Gon is forced to take on Darth Maul alone and gets killed. I thought it was a stupid death but an even stupider death is about to come up.
Obi-Wan and Darth Maul then face off and Obi-Wan gets pushed into a giant vent thing (who the hell designed this?). With his opponent now unarmed and at his mercy, Darth Maul then proceeds to slash at the ground, which predictably does nothing.
Obi-Wan then leaps out of the pit, gets Qui-Gon's lightsaber and slashes Darth Maul in two while he looks on and does nothing. If I thought Qui-Gon's death was stupid, this one was borderline retarded. And it doesn't come close to being as stupid as some of the other deaths in the prequels. It's still a good fight scene though because at the very least it's enjoyable, unlike the rest of this movie.
So the droid army is shut down, the Trade Federation leaders are captured and they free Naboo from capture. Tatooine is still suffering from slavery and the mysterious dark Jedi is a sign that the Sith have returned. But I'm sure they'll solve these problems in the next films.