Fanboys Are Whiny Babys, Pt. 2
Here it is Caitlin. I've decided that I'm going to attempt to reply to some of the issues that you raised in your post here.
1. One of the things that made Star Wars great was the entire context that made the far, far away galaxy so rich in meanings and rich in history. There was a past that was hinted at, but not known. The fall of the old Republic and the clone wars, which we had some inkling of, but no real knowledge of, made Lucas's Star Wars Galaxy real to us. When we are step-by-step shown the history that was hinted at, it loses the mystique that made it so intriguing. Tolkein had the same trouble with Middle Earth. The Silmarillion could never succeed the same way that Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit did, not only because it was written like an academic history, but also because it was the mystical beginning that had made the novels so tangible.Well, that's certainly true. The Prequels don't have the same "mystique" that the original trilogy had. But can one really fault the films themselves for this? This is a part of the nature of what they are, which is the back story to the other films. Like you said, The Silmarillion also suffers from this, and for that reason it will never be as popular as The Lord of the Rings. However, Silmarillion is an incomparable work of myth making, that even Tolkien's novels didn't reach the level of. For what they are, the Prequels are equally interesting. But lets face it, for the people that didn't really care to know what happened before, I guess the Prequels are that interesting. And again, this isn't really the fault of the films, but of the prior conceptions that fans brought into the films with them.
2. Another thing that made the originals great was the perfect balance between profundity and comedy. Luke's intense experience at Degoba with Yoda is offset by the comic sexual tension between Han and Leia. Han's getting frozen in carbonite is made more bearable by C-3PO's inappropriate and ridiculous chattering. The new franchise is just too damn serious. Right now, I can only think of two spots in both episode I and II when I laughed out loud. (Greg Proop's narration of Anakin's race in Episode I, and Obi Wan forcing a lowlife to make something useful of himself in a bar in Episode II)
Again, this makes your criticism somewhat different from the complaints of the "whiny fanboys." The fanboys always criticise the Prequels for being too goofy, too much slapstick, too childish. I ask myself, what about Jar Jar? Isn't he possibly the most humourous character in any of the films? I know a lot of people are going to attack me on this one, but seriously, Jar Jar is a character that fits into a long history of humour.
Many people compare Lucas's Star Wars films to Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress. Now sometimes I wonder if any of these people have even seen Hidden Fortress, because the two farmer characters who are the comic relief in the film, and have often been called the precurssors of Artoo and Threepio, are actually far more similar to Jar Jar Binks. They act totally silly, totally cowardly, and are a constance source of annoyance for the princess and samurai (Toshiro Mifune) who they are accompanying.
Also, consider the non-explicit references that Jar Jar is similar too. Jar Jar's pratfalls and clumsiness is uncannily like the work of Buster Keaton, or Danny Kaye. Check out Kaye in The Court Jester in the scene where he is fighting the soldiers in the castle, and compare it to Jar Jar battling the droids at the end of Phantom Menace. Some of this is identical, such as when Jar Jar and Kaye both accidently take out their enemies. The new Star Wars films are full of humour. It's just innocent and far removed from the snarky, cynical humour that so many of us crave. Sometimes the way the fanboys talk, they just show their own ignorance of film history.
3. Where are the swashbuckling characters? The main characters in the originals all had minor flaws so that no matter how right they were about something or how good their plans were, they were always sort of bumbling through things the best way they knew how. Frankly, Luke Skywalker gets bloody annoying in Episode VI and in the novels because he's so freakin' wise. In the new franchise, people are seemingly perfect except for some gross hamartia that is as subtle as a smack across the face with a limp cod fish. I love the characters, but I don't like them very much. Where's the charming arrogance of Han Solo? The self-important temperamentalness of Princess Leia? The ridiculous puppy dog loyalty of Luke Skywalker? The comical anger of Chewbacca?
Basically, I always respond to this criticism like this. So basically, you don't like the films because there's no Han Solo? That's pretty much the main thing. Each of the new characters has their own characteristics. Also, none of the new characters are really perfect. Anakin, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon all have faults and uniqute personalities. Sure none of them is like anyone in the original trilogy, but do we really want that? We already have that. This is a different story. I understand where this argument comes from, but it's a bit like criticising an fine red wine for not being sweet enough. That's not the nature of the beast, and to criticise it for being something it's not, seems to me, silly.
4. Who the hell made the decision to switch to presentational acting from representational? The only people who pull this off at all well in the movies are Liam Neeson and Ewan MacGregor. Most of the rest of them just look like poor actors. This isn't the case at all; Natalie Portman and Samuel L. JAckson have been brilliant in other roles, but the director made choices about their acting which did not exploit their natural talents.Firstly, congrats for knowing that they are actually using a presentational style of acting. That alone gives you bonus points. However, I think that you're view of the acting in the original films is kind of rose coloured. Both trilogies have their stand out actors (Ford and Guiness in the originals, MacGregor and Neeson in the current trilogy), but most of the acting isn't outstanding, but nor does it have to be.
Also, let's face it. Lucas isn't an "actors-director." He never has been, and he never will be. But he has an idea of what he wants and a vision of how his film should look. You have to also realize that Lucas wanted to fashion the acting in the new trilogy after the acting in the Saturday afternoon adventure serials that he watched as a kid. And the acting in those isn't Shakespearean in quality.
5. Who the hell edited this thing? Did we need ten minutes of Anakkin nearly dying in the android factory (or whatever it was)? Yes, we get it. Nice CG. I bow down to your technical knowhow. But frankly, by the end of the sequence, I wanted Anakkin to die because I was SO fecking sick of him being almost killed.FYI, it was edited by Ben Burt, who also did the sound design for the original trilogy as well. But I mean, this argument could be leveled against the original trilogy (the Death Star attack run is painfully drawn out). If you watch the commentary on IAttack of the Clones, Lucas remarks that this sequence was added late in production, but not because they wanted to do more CGI, but rather he felt that pacing wise, it was needed. Without the sequence, Lucas felt that the entire approach and attempt to rescue Obi-Wan was too easy, and too quick, and that their needed to be a sense of recklessness to Anakin's rescue attempt. So, that's one answer.
6. A redemption plot is in general much more appealing to a Western sensibility than a plot about a fall.
Again, see my response in one. This isn't really a fault of the audience. Anyway you cut it, the Prequels were going to be about Anakin's fall. You admit this later in your post, and that it would have been more satisfying coming before the original trilogy. Well, that's possibly true, but I know an awful lot of people who are also looking forward to Episode III precisely because they want to see Anakin fall. And fall hard!
Also, I need to take some time to answer the critics of CGI. Yes, CGI can be used badly, but I really don't think that too much time is spent on CGI instead of traditional effects. The way some people talk, you'd think that "traditional effects" would improve story and things like that. In many ways, CGI actually frees a filmmaker up to spend more time on story and composition and things like that, rather than technical problems.
If people would watch the making of documentaries and read about the making of the original films, they'd realize how much time and effort went into just making certain things work. Story was sacrificed for the effects. It was the nature of the beast. CGI is a tool (and just that a tool) that has allowed filmmakers to do things that they couldn't before. Jackson's Lord of the Rings couldn't have been made without CGI. Spider-man wouldn't have been convincing (or would have looked as bad as Christopher Reeve against the blue screen in Superman) without CGI. What the technology does to a good director is allows them to do things that they couldn't do before.
Also, CG is used in films that most people don't even realize are. Take Master and Commander. Lots of CGI. Digital compositing. That movie wouldn't have been possible without CGI. Or even certain transitions and camera movements aren't possible without CG technology.
Anyway, if people want to know more about the FX work in the new films, I'm more than happy to talk about it and explain to people what's actually going on in different scenes. So please, before you tell me that the ships in the new trilogy look too "fake" because they're CGI, stop, because they're actually models.