Stalvern wrote:They are as labored as they are incoherent, and their central figure is completely insufferable.
I was a kid when The Phantom Menace came out. I somehow missed it at the theater, but my parents bought the VHS to go with our copy of A New Hope. I can say damn near every line in A New Hope from the many times I watched it back then, but with The Phantom Menace, I eventually just fast-forwarded from the big fish to the podrace to the lightsaber fight because there's nothing else in that movie that I could possibly care about, then or now. It doesn't even work as a setup for the other two prequels, being set so senselessly far before them.
Attack of the Clones is basically two movies until the end. Anakin's is flat-out irredeemable, and while Obi-Wan's is fun to watch the first time around, it's impossible to not see how incredibly stupid every single detail of the "mystery" and his "investigation" is when you revisit it. That leaves the final act, where even that insipid factory sequence can't ruin the awesome land battle, which is the single time that the prequels live up to their epic aspirations.
The Revenge of the Sith is the least bad, mainly because Anakin seems almost human here instead of the Family Circus character that he was in the first movie or the unbelievable creep that he was in the second. It's still too cluttered and stilted to be actively good (Obi-Wan's detour with General Grievous is the biggest waste of time in the series), but I'll take its clunky melodrama over its predecessors' complete failure to articulate emotion at all.
What made the original trilogy good was its combination of urgency and levity - urgency being a consequence of emotional investment in the films' tension, levity being a simple awareness of the lightweight blockbuster fun that it was. With the prequels, there's practically none of the first (even if a single actor besides Liam Neeson and Ewan MacGregor managed to sell the awful dialogue enough to be sympathetic, the films practically go out of their way to downplay the tension that should drive their scenes), and the second is sucked out and segregated into jarring spurts of "comic relief" against the deadly serious grandiosity that is left as the films' true character.
People can harp on the prequels all they want for the midichlorians or the unexplained new technology or any number of discontinuities with the originals, but that's just beating around the bush without addressing how bad they actually are on their own terms as movies. George Lucas shouldn't be faulted for aiming high in trying to make a different, more ambitious kind of movie with the prequels, especially after so many years. He should be faulted for making it terribly.
Just wanted to say I agree with you entirely. They're bad movies just as movies. So much bureaucracy, really, really, really boring dialogue, and craptastic pacing. Nothing will happen for 45 minutes and then suddenly there is a massive way, way over the top light saber while doing something insane style sequence. Lucas only actually directed the first of the original trilogy, which is great but is clearly the weakest of the original 3. Lucas direct all 3 of the prequels, and he just doesn't know what he's doing anymore. (Not really since 'Willow' but I digress.)