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Analysis / RedLetterMedia

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Their Analysis of the Star Wars Prequels

Criticism of the Star Wars prequels can normally be written off as easy (as well as being a bit behind the times), but the Phantom Menace review was widely spread around the internet and was even tweeted about by celebrities such as Damon Lindelof and Simon Pegg. Plinkett's reviews, while often containing borderline dark and tasteless humor, offer many insightful explanations as to why the prequels pale in comparison to Lucas' original trilogy — and these explanations don't involve Jar-Jar (he's barely mentioned throughout all three reviews, dismissed as "a cartoon rabbit that steps in the poopy").note  Some key critiques of the prequels include:

  • How much exposition is given through dialog and talking heads when compared to simple visuals from the original works. (Note how long the discussion of events of extravagant battles that are never shown to the viewer in the establishing shots of Revenge of the Sith are.) Also the fact that despite this, core concepts like who the Trade Federation is and what the original dispute is about are never explained and so nothing really makes sense. He also strongly criticizes the use of supplemental tie-in material to explain these story gaps.
  • The lack of anything resembling an empathetic everyman character for the audience to relate to (including the complete lack of a central protagonist in Phantom Menace—even ruling out Anakin due to him appearing late in the film and having no real control over what is going on around him). In the Phantom Menace review, Mr. Plinkett gave four separate people the task of describing four characters (Han Solo, C-3PO, Queen Amidala, and Qui-Gon Jinn) without mentioning their appearances or actions — while they each were able to expound greatly on the first two, they all fumbled for words for the prequel characters.note  He later claimed (begrudgingly) that the only characters he felt any real emotional connection with in the film were the Gungans when the droid army was handing their butts to them.
  • The extravagance and over-reliance on special effects and blue-screen filming to create a fantastic world in lieu of actual story. (At one point, Plinkett calls back to a much-younger George Lucas, who once said special effects were a means to an end.) Plinkett also observes that having the actors perform their roles almost entirely in front of blue/green screens gave them nothing to interact with, so their performances suffered. Actors would stand around awkwardly during dialogue scenes because they had no physical sets to perform in, and they wouldn't react convincingly to alien characters who were added in later with CGI because the actors had nothing to act against. Additionally, the films' cinematography and editing suffered because Lucas had no sets that required him to physically move his camera around in to get shots, resulting most of the movie being shot in boring, flat, Shot Reverse Shot camera angles with unimaginative editing.
    • Compare with Titanic, a film written by a man as limited in developing his characters as George Lucas, which is arguably the last 'Golden Age' movie made with practical effects and real sets, reserving its CG visuals for special circumstances.
  • The "dissolution of tension" in nearly every scene that should be exciting, mainly because viewers either don't care about or don't understand what's at stake in the scene (e.g. the fight scene with Darth Maul), don't understand what's happening (due to poor storytelling and/or cluttered visuals), or can't project ourselves into the outlandish events that happen (e.g. the overly long lightsaber duel over an erupting volcano in Revenge Of The Sith). The other issue Plinkett expresses are the Boring Invincible Hero aspect in which every problem is solved with a lightsaber.note 
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  • Reusing imagery and concepts from the original trilogy without understanding why such scenes worked on their own in the first place. (In the Attack of the Clones review, Plinkett compares Leia's desperation at losing Han Solo to Boba Fett at the end of The Empire Strikes Back — and the audience's emotional investment in those events — to Amidala's weak retort at failing to capture Count Dooku.)

While there are a few overly-nerdy jabs at continuity and nitpicking at illogical story elements, much of the commentary is given from a filmmaker's point of view, which made the reviews enlightening for numerous viewers. A number of Star Wars fans disliked the approach — and one fan even wrote a 117-page rebuttal of the Phantom Menace review (which Plinkett scoffed at). The style of the Star Wars reviews (and the reviews which followed those) are similar in style to his earlier Star Trek movie reviews (though those reviews nitpicked even more, mostly about details and inconsistencies between the movies and the show).

Their Commentary on the Disney-era Movies

Afterwards, Plinkett did a review of The Force Awakens, although more than half of the review focuses more of the culture of Star Wars than the actual movie, as well as dismantling "The Ring Theory" one fan wrote that attempted to justify the recycling of imagery and plot in the prequels. Of the film itself, Plinkett liked it and considered it an improvement over the Prequels, feeling it succeeded in making an emotional connection with the audience and had engaging, if generic, characters, with his main criticism being that the plot was basically a rehash of A New Hope.

He also did a mini-review of Rogue One (along with a follow-up video responding for comments on it), where he considered the film a complete failure on every level, feeling the story was boring and that without the Star Wars label and context, it would just be a generic science fiction movie where people are just sent on a fetch quest to get a MacGuffin (the Death Star plans) so characters in another movie can blow up the thing the MacGuffin is about, robbing the film of a satisfying ending, and that the film had bland, unlikable lead characters with confusing motivations who you knew weren't going to appear outside of that one film and felt more like over the top action movie heroes than underdog characters you truly rooted for, and that the film never really got you emotionally invested with them despite attempts at humor and drama (he felt that the character Galen Erso, the designer of the Death Star, had more potential as a character than any of the leads, including his own daughter).


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