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Top Twenty Mistakes in the Star Wars Franchise

Tuesday, May 24th 2005

(7 comments)

Okay, so I finally saw Revenge of the Sith. Yes, it was better than Lucas's other more recent efforts, but it can't hold a candle to the original trilogy. So now that I've seen all six movies, I've got a few things to say. Here follows a list of what I see as the top twenty mistakes Lucas made when creating the prequel trilogy. Warning: many of the items are about episode 3, and so may be spoilers.

20. General Grevious
Okay, overall I think General Grevious was a good idea, or at least had the potential to be a good idea. He was a man, but was almost entirely remade with a droid body. Seems like essentially he's just a brain in a box. His advantage over a normal droid is that he can (at least to a certain degree) use the Force. This gets weird. The only indication we have that he has any Force affinity is that he uses a lightsaber. No force pushes, jumps, or anything else. Plus, he coughs! I see no indication of a respitory system! I understand they wanted to portray him as a sickly man, hideously remade into a machine - a sort-of precursor to Vader, but come on! But what really bugged me was how poorly he fought given that he was using four light sabers. They could have done a much better job.
19. Padme's Invulnerability
We first saw this when she fell from a speeder going 500mph in Episode 2. She rolled down a dune, appeared to be unconscious for a few seconds, and then when a clone trooper came over to check on her, she said she was okay, got up, and ran off. When I was first in the theater watching the movie, there was actually laughter at this part. The second time comes when she's eight months pregnant and she breaks into a full sprint, running faster than I probably could. I can buy this stuff when the Jedi do it, but not from Padme.
18. Where have all the battle droids gone?
In all three prequels, battle droids are everywhere. I fully expected Lucas to come up with some technological means to easily defeat droids in battle, thus negating their usefulness by the end of episode 3. This would explain why there is not one battle droid in the original trilogy. But no. Plothole!
17. The Neimoidians' Accents
I can understand wanting to create unique voices, but the atrocious faux-Japanese accents that the Neimoidians' used were just plain horrendous.
16. Battle Droid Speech
The only need battle droids should have to speak is for when they address living beings. And there should be no need for rank amongst them. So when a commander droid tells another droid "Check it out", and the response is "Roger Roger", it makes me want to cry. What's with the slang?
15. Yoda's Speech
In Episode 2, Yoda's speech bordered on normal. In Episode 3, it was so overdone as to sound contrived. One line I remember is "Now, the time is!" At times, I nearly expected him to shout "On, bring it!"
14. The Emperor's Acrobatics
Perhaps I should have merged this with #4, but it's not nearly as bad. When Palpatine charges the Jedi, rather than run or jump forward, he dives through the air, spiraling crazily. There is no need for this, and it looks downright stupid. Personally, I'd have denied Palpatine a lightsaber entirely.
13. Gratuitous Foreshadowing
Lucas should have tried to make new movies rather than using SO many elements from the original trilogy. Continuity is one thing, but we didn't need to see the Death Star plans. Boba Fett's family didn't need to be involved. Owen and Beru certainly didn't need to have a place in the movies. I know that Luke needed to go to them, but heck - just Owen alone would have been fine, perhaps introduced much later. And the droids were way too central to the overall plot. R2D2 saving the day in Episode 1 was painful to watch. The scene where Padme did up her hair like Leia was just plain dumb. And including Chewbacca in Episode 3 was an insult to Star Wars fans everywhere.
12. Convoluted Politics
I understand the need to establish Palpatine as an insidious (ooh! Catch the play on words?!?) manipulative politician of the worst kind, but the plot reads like a plate of spaghetti, and holds together just about as well. As I see it, Palpatine first needed to be elected Supreme Chancelor. So he worked with the Trade Federation and imposed a blockade on his own planet of Naboo. He created a situation which forced Naboo's Queen Padme to vote the old Supreme Chancelor Valurian out of office, and ensured that he would be elected as a replacement. That was Episode 1. Episode 2 gets even stickier. To further increase his political powers, Palpatine needs to create a crisis, which he's been planning for some time. He encourages the separatists, who have a droid army, and sees to it that the Republic has a clone army. He uses Padme and Jar Jar to accomplish all this, but I've forgotten the details, as they're a bit too complex. Who was Master Sifo-Dyas again?
11. The Pod Race
From the cheezy two-headed announcer, to the badass biker Sebulba, to the Jedis' decision to risk it all on a kid they just met, the Pod Race was a supreme waste of movie time. It showcased special effects, but was inane and failed to move the plot forward.
10. The New (old?) R2D2
Whomever made the decision to allow R2D2 to spring out of his slot on a starship and land neatly on the ground, and to (aargh) fly should be shot. Probably Lucas. Any explanations as to why he couldn't do this in episodes 4-6 are lame. I hated the scene in Episode 3 where he beat up two battle droids.
9. Bad Droid Antics
This refers mostly to Episode 2. Once Lucas figured out that Jar Jar was no good as comic relief, he tried to use R2D2 and C3PO. But he did it wrong. Damn wrong. The worst part is the assembly line scene that has R2D2 push C3PO off the ledge and fly (fly!) after him. This culminates with C3PO's head being welded to a battle droid body and C3PO muttering "I'm so confused!". What happened to clever humor like "they're behind you!" when C3PO is strapped to Chewy's back? (sigh)
8. Coincidental Luck
This is a huge gripe of mine, and a large part of what made Episode 1 suck for me. Little Anakin hides in a ship while the adults go off to fight, and while helping by blasting some destroyer droids, he accidentally activates the autopilot, which was for some reason set to fly to the droid control station in orbit. While up there, ("Let's try rolling, that's a good trick!") he accidentally flies into a hanger and accidentally destroys the station. Stupid. I suppose the explanation is that he's the chosen one and that somehow fate or The Force is intervening and causing all this. Stupid. That's not how The Force works. And it's made worse when we see Jar Jar win the land battle the same way. He ducks and hides and a blaster tangles around his foot, killing all nearby enemies. Then he unhooks some big cart, unleashing a bunch of electro grenade globe thingies, which destroy a bunch of droid tanks. Stupid. And it invalidates the notion that The Force was involved in Anakin's victory.
7. The Death of Darth Maul
Darth Maul, while not as complex as Darth Vader or as ominous as Darth Sidious, is the most intimidating villian in the Star Wars franchise. He's not about plotting, he's not about conquest. He's about kicking your ass. And he's very good. The final lightsaber battle in Episode 1 was the best in the entire Star Wars franchise, due largely to Ray Park. Those weren't CG flips - what he did was real, and that's why it looked so good. But when he stood still and watched while Obi Wan flipped up and over him, landed, and then cut him in two, it just wasn't believable. Worst bad-guy death ever. The same problem reappears in Episode 3 when Sidious kills the first few Jedi - they just stand still while he kills them. They've got lightsabers out, but don't move to defend themselves.
6. Midi-Chlorians
The Force used to be an ancient religion. Now, it's in your blood. Stupid.
5. Anakin Constructing C3PO
Deciding that it was Vader who actually constructed C3PO was a horrible move. He's now not just some droid who happens to be where all the action is, he's now the creation of the Dark Lord of the Sith. Dumb.
4. Yoda's Acrobatics
A lot of people loved this, but I thought it ruined the character of Yoda. Yoda is a wise seer and mentor who dispenses council and instructs young jedi. As soon as he pulled out a lightsaber, it ruined the character for me. He should never have been a physical character. He's more of a general, and generals shouldn't be on the front lines. His acrobatic fighting looked fake and unrealistic. If it was necessary to have him fight, he should have used a style that more closely resembled something you'd see an 80-year-old martial arts master using, emphasizing skill over speed and maneuverability. Same holds true for Sidious.
3. Padme & Anakin's Love Story
I've heard some people complain about the actors, and some claim that it was poor direction on Lucas's part. I'm sure the writing also hurt things. In any event, the love scenes were terrible. Zero chemistry.
2. Episode 1 for First-Graders
Phantom Menace looks like it was written as a kids movie. The focus on Anakin, who should not yet have been a pivotal character, really hurt things.
1. Jar Jar
Need I say more?

That said, what was good about the new trilogy? Well, it's a shorter list.

5. Episode 3's use of Droids
I saw some very cool things in episode 3 that may have eluded some people. There were unmanned space fighters, amongst other things. And I loved the droids that landed on Obi-Wan's Fighter and began systematically destroying key systems.
4. The Death of Jango Fett
Mace Windu unceremoniously marched up and beheaded him. No nonsense, no drawn-out fight. Very nice.
3. Bail Organa
He was a very minor character in the original trilogy, but Lucas worked him in nicely, and Jimmy Smits did an excellent job with the part.
2. Darth Maul
Ray Park is a god. To repeat what I said above, Darth Maul, while not as complex as Darth Vader or as ominous as Darth Sidious, is the most intimidating villian in the Star Wars franchise. He's not about plotting, he's not about conquest. He's about kicking your ass.
1. Obi-Wan Kenobi
Ewan McGregor is as much Obi-Wan as Alec Guiness ever was. As such, he's the best new actor in the new trilogy.
Comments on Top Twenty Mistakes in the Star Wars Franchise
 
Comment Wednesday, May 25th 2005 by pmd
Granted, 3P0 is a total waste of parts... but give the little R2 unit some credit where credit is due. This little droid has seen it all unfold from the beginning and saved everyone's lives countless times. I don't think any character has seen more action than R2 in the whole story. I don't even think you could tell the story WITHOUT R2. Also, for being a beeping garbage can... he's got an amazing amount of character. Yea, maybe he shouldn't be able to fly... but I don't think he's ever been over the top silly. Granted, he has one advantage most of the other characters don't... no lines, just beeps. Anyway, R2's all good in my book.
 
Comment Wednesday, May 25th 2005 by tagger
You guys knew I'd be here, right? :-)

When I saw "Episode IV" in Phoenix, back in 1977, my perspective was that of a hard-corps hard SF fan from the 1950s and 1960s who was pushing 30 and had resigned himself to the idea that most cinematic SF just wasn't. With the exception of films like "Destination Moon" (1950), "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951), George Pal's version of "The War of the Worlds" (1953) and a handful of others, no one was making 'real' SF movies. What they were making was "I was a Teenage __(fill in the blank__)" and westerns with spaceships instead of horses. The only two actors in the movie I had even heard of in 1977 were Alec Guinness and Harrison Ford (Ford, only because I had seen "American Graffiti". As for the rest of the crew, we had guys from the "Muppets," model makers and John Williams -- the guy who wrote the theme music for virtually every Irwin Allen stinker ("Time Tunnel," "Lost in Space," et. al.) on TV during the 1960s. I had to be dragged to this movie, no kidding!

After seeing the movie, all I could think of was what we used to call "Space Opera." If you're not familiar with the genre, check out anything by E.E. Smith, or just about any pre-John W. Campbell Jr. pulp magazine story. When I was in my teens and twenties, I _loved_ Space Opera, but I knew it wasn't SF. "Star Wars" wasn't SF - that much was clear - but it was a lot of fun. So, naturally, I went to see it three or four (or five, maybe - lost count) more times, usually at a midnight show. The special effects got to me, of course -- they got to everybody. John Dykstra and the gang from ILM pretty much reinvented the whole optical effects side of the business. To a kid who grew up watching movie serials, where even a three year-old could see the wires holding up the spaceships, "Star Wars" was - excuse the word - awesome. The story was secondary, to me at least.

There were also elements of the old time movie serial there, right down to the plot recap at the beginning of the thing. I remember the last of the serials as a kid, and kept wondering why the damned thing was starting in the middle, with Chapter IV (more on that later).

By the time "Episode V" came along, I had moved to L.A. where I found myself working for a company that included a "movie group." If you're interested, the company was called Information International, Inc., and their movie group's credits included "Westworld" (1973) and a bunch of TV commercials. The movie group went away, right after . . . you guessed it . . . "Star Wars."

All of a sudden, _everybody_ was doing it - TV, movies, everybody. The models got better (compare the 1978 "Galactica" with Kirk's first "Enterprise" in 1966), the effects were cleaner and people actually started spending money on faux-SF. All because of "Star Wars."

While working at Triple-I, I met a guy who used to work at 20th Century Fox and we got to taking about why the thing started in the middle, with "Episode IV." He told me that Lucas had written - or at least blocked out - the entire six chapters, but produced the one he thought would sell the best to get things rolling. When I asked him about continuity, he told me -- get this -- that the only characters who would be in all six films were R2D2 and C3PO. He told me that in 1978, so I guess if I ever bump into him again, I owe him an apology.

IMO, Episodes IV and V were clearly the best of the lot, with V edging out IV for having a better story. I did miss Alec Guinness, one of my all-time favorite actors, though. Episode VI came out in 1983, right after I moved back to the east coast, and Yoda made the cover of _Time_ (or _Newsweek_ or one of those). Episode VI was OK, but I could have done without the Ewoks.

Fast forward about 20 years.

The remake (sorry - "Enhanced" version) of Episode IV didn't manage to ruin it, so I had high hopes for the new films. Silly me. Episode I was a let-down, but played into some of my technology nit-picks -- like, why is the earlier technology the more advanced? Some of that can be chalked up to losing things due to war, but the whole timeline seems to be less than a century, so how much could you forget, especially with computers and the resources of multiple planets to draw on? Episode II was a waste of film. Episode III was better, but exposed some holes in the timeline and some inconsistent characters. I'm not going to beat this to death - it's probably impossible to produce a seamless product when the middle was written and produced 30 years before the beginning.

E.E. Smith published a serial in _Astounding_ called "Galactic Patrol" in 1938 - 39, that wound up being "Episode III" in a six (or seven - depends on who you talk to) book set. You'll see similar inconsistencies and holes in Smith's stuff. BTW - "Galactic Patrol" is _classic_ Space Opera.

If you're a teckkie nit-picker, as am I, and you got bored enough with the story line, you started asking other questions as time wore on. For example, why do these people design warships with the bridge in the most exposed part of the ship? Model builders have been doing that for years - look at Enterprise and Galactica.

These people clearly have anti-gravity (or something so much like it that it might as well be). Why, then, do they need all the rockets, jets and other reaction-type drives? And what are they using for fuel? They seem to go a long way on a little gas.

How do they get spaceships in a vacuum to handle like winged aircraft (Lucas has lots of company here)?

Medical science in the SW universe has clearly chosen to make cyborgs rather then attempt repair damaged biological systems. I suppose there is something to be said for that approach if the technology is there. It was clear to all that Darth Vader was a cyborg, even back in Episode IV (Kenobi's remark about Vader being "more machine than man" but I have to go with Greg's comments about General Grievous. Also, it seems unlikely that Yoda and Kenobi survived all those battles with their original compliment of parts.

With AI as advanced as it is, why risk human pilots in combat at all? And why keep building humanoid robots to operate machines designed for humans when it would probably be easier just to build an AI into the machine in the first place?

"The Force" was always a confusing concept, to me at least. In order to use it, is some genetic component necessary? Can anyone learn to use it, or does one have to have the right DNA? Kenobi knew Luke was Anakin's/Vader's son, so if anyone would have the right DNA it would be young Skywalker, right? I suppose the concept of Jedi as religion is credible - there are parallels in our own history, but it is confusing. Again, this may be another result of producing a single story over a 30 year span.

As for the politics, this is a part of the story I found interesting until the Obfuscation Factor set in. All successful political setups seem to have three legs - The Congress, The Judiciary, The Executive -- The KGB, The Army, The Premier, and so-on. The idea is that if one of them gets out of line, the other two gang up on it (although the way things are going here in the U.S. right now, we may find ourselves rethinking that plan). In SW, we have The Senate, The Jedi and The Chancellor. I'm at a loss to understand how the Chancellor found it so easy to get control of the Senate and eliminate the Jedi, unless the system was unstable to start with, or the Jedi just plain incompetent. We're not talking about Fidel in Cuba here - this is supposedly a republic comprising hundreds of races and worlds, scattered across a galaxy. If it's like most ancient earth empires, 99% of the people in the boondocks don't even know the current Emperor's name. Oh well, what do I know?

There's a rumor flying around, denied by Lucas, that another three episodes are on the way. All I can say to that is, I have a bad feeling about this.

Finally, I have to say -- Sorry, Greg -- I'm with PMD on the subject of R2. He (it?) was always my favorite. As for '3PO, everybody comedy act needs a straight man, or a kvetcher.

 
Comment Wednesday, May 25th 2005 by Greg
I wasn't saying that I disliked R2D2, I was just saying that the flying and jumping were a bad idea. The bad droid antics were mostly executed by C3PO.
 
Comment Wednesday, May 25th 2005 by tagger
OK - that last comment regarding R2 I'll agree with. It is sometimes difficult for writers or special effects people to know when to leave well enough alone.

One more thing, though - concerning the final battle between Kenobi and Skywalker - I don't think, having been forced into a situation where I had to slice my best friend up with a light saber, I'd leave the guy to die on his own. Enough is enough - finish him off. Of course, then where would we have been for Episode IV?
 
Comment Tuesday, May 31st 2005 by tagger
I don't know if the following belongs on any "mistakes" list, but it just hit me that one major difference between Episodes IV - VI and Episodes I - III lies in the stories themselves.

The original three stories were pretty simple - Space Opera, as stated earlier. Just entertainment with a lot of action. The final three chapters, on the other hand, featured plot lines that were downright Byzantine. Some writers do well with this approach (A.E. van Vogt is the best example I can think of off hand), but for a movie aimed at a young audience with a short attention span, I don't think this is the best way to go.
 
Comment Monday, June 13th 2005 by Greg
This one deserves a link
An Open Letter to Luke Skywalker
 
Comment Sunday, June 19th 2005 by BlaBlaBla
General Grievous - He does indeed has a respitory system...when obi wan opened his chest armor he had a heart and a pair of lungs...how he freakin coughs is beyond me..with all that technology he shouldn't be able to cough...as to why, its cause in the Clone Wars cartoon mace windu force crushed his chest when he attempted to stop him from taking palpy..

Battle Droids - They were all shut down and sold as scrap as per Palpatine's orders....so no battle droids in the original trilogy

R2-D2 - I think he's the smartest character of all...maybe cause he never got memory wiped....And think about it an astromech droid designed to repair and fix ships in vacuum space wouldn't be very good if it didn't have the means to be able to sustain itself in flight for short periods would it?


D Maul - Agreed on Maul's death...what a waste...he could have been a little faster to prevent his death. He could have just thrown his damn lightsaber at obi wan while he was clinging and ended the trilogy right there...lol...there is an explaination of obi and sidious using the force to cloud their minds but i donno whether its true

Yoda - he is the master of the Ataru form which emphasizes on jumping around...he uses it cause hes small and his lightsaber cant reach as well as other jedi...He's the only character besides ffrom obi wan who survived the purge...dont think he would be able to do that if he didn't fight at all
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