Emily Asher-Perrin is returning to the first six Star Wars movies in anticipation of the newest one. She has some contrarian, and even counter-intuitive, praise for “Episode I,” prior to listing some things about it that she actually doesn’t like, beginning with:
People talk SO MUCH. And I’m not one of those people who hates the political aspects of the prequels, I love those parts, but so much of the talking we are forced to listen to is not relevant. Amidala’s plea to the Senate? Cut that whole preamble where the Chancellor is recognizing people’s chairs and whatever.
I loved this part. It was almost the only part of the movie that I liked. I loved the production design, and the visuals, the way the scene evoked something not easy to define, but essential to what Star Wars’ best self was all about. I wanted to see a movie that was just this scene—of course, expanded to full movie length with some actual content. I wanted to see a movie that was about an empire-or-whatever-it-is that had all these different people in it, and where the ways they interacted with each other somehow realized a dim sense that was being conveyed in the darkness of the Senate Hall and the swooping movements of the Senators into and out of view. I think I have a blog post that I drafted, way in the distant past, where I tried to say this earlier. This was the moment in The Phantom Menace that corresponded, for me, to the half-hour trip around the outside of the Enterprise, near the beginning of the first Star Trek movie.
There were one or two other things that stuck with me—but in ways that had little or nothing to do with the actual movie.
I saw the next two at home on the TV. Attack of the Clones or whatever it was called was just about watchable. Again the excessively cute small boy. Revenge of the Sith was just crazy stupid bad: not original, not persuasive, boring. I rushed to watch the trailers for the new one, but I can’t get excited about it. I’m not really a J.J. Abrams fan, I didn’t like what he did with Star Trek, and I’m not expecting a whole lot. I found out recently about a sequence where you watch the existing six films in the order of IV-V-I-II-II-VI, with I actually optional, and I think I’m going to try that with my daughter. I’ll probably show her episode I mostly because I think she’s at the only age where little kids racing hovercraft is going to be exciting, but the idea of treating that one as an “extra” makes a lot of sense. Though I think the aversion to some of its plot elements goes overboard. Yes, virgin birth and midichlorians are stupid. But there’s no reason not to expose a kid to them, if only from the cultural-literacy perspective where it’s important to be aware of the tropes’ existence, and to know that they’re basically childish.