Dear Mr. Lucas,
I hope this finds you well. Up front I’d like to apologize for being yet another Star Wars fan coming along to complain about the prequel trilogy, but please persist as you may find my take on this a little different from what you’re likely used to.
Let’s first mention that the prequels, in my opinion, were terrible. I really liked episodes I and III in the theater, but upon seeing The Phantom Menace on VHS, and after a few months to think about Revenge of the Sith, I realized just how awful and poorly put together they were. For posterity, I’ll mention that, though I didn’t want to admit it to myself, I thought Attack of the Clones was awful while I was in the theater. Seeing THAT one on VHS a year later only confirmed my feelings and I’ve not seen it since.
I’m not completely convinced that you and many other people out there really understand how big of a deal it is that those movies were so bad. I loved Star Wars as a young child, and upon entering my adolescence discovered that nothing could have been cooler than spaceships and lightsabers. I read several expanded universe books (the one I remember the best is The Truce at Bakura, if you happen to know that one). I ate up the comic series Tales of the Jedi, which told stories of Jedi 4000 years before Luke Skywalker was even born. It was really cool. I watched the original trilogy so many times . . . I’d rather not try to count. It’s easily over 100 viewings for each movie, and I’m completely serious. I can still quote entire scenes from memory, and watching them even today I can’t help but say the lines right as or right before they happen, like listening to a song I’ve known for years.
“Darth Vader! Only you could be so bold. The Imperial Senate will not sit still for this; when they hear you’ve attacked a diplo–”
“Don’t act so surprised your highness, you weren’t on any mercy mission this time. Several transmissions were beamed to this ship by rebel spies; I want to know what happened to the plans they sent you.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m a member of the Imperial Senate on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan.”
“You are part of the Rebel Alliance and a traitor! Take her away!”
I could keep going with that scene without even having to pop the DVD in or looking it up online. All the way through the part where Threepio cries out to the Sandcrawler from the Dune Sea. “Oh-vah hee-uh!!! Hey! Heeeeeey! Help! Pleeeeease heeeelp!” I hear the music intensify and see the screen wipe as I type that.
You could ask me anything about those movies, and to a degree about the expanded universe, and I could answer without hesitation. And if someone said I was wrong, then I kindly informed them that their information was off–and even now at age 31 I say with all confidence that I WAS right in those situations. I KNEW those movies. I KNEW those characters. I KNEW that story.
Now, I noticed pretty early on that the 1977 Star Wars was numbered “Episode IV,” and that this meant that there MUST be three more movies on the way. I’d date this discovery on my part at around age 12, or 1992-1993. And then the prequels were announced. It was right around the time that the original trilogy was remastered with THX and re-released. The magazine article I read mentioned that the titles at the time for the three movies were “The Clone Wars,” “The Wrath of Darth Vader,” and “Fall of the Republic.” Granted, this was like 1994 or 1995 (putting me at age 14), and I understand that early in the creative process of film making titles are thrown around, but those names shaped what I was expecting from the future movies. I spent lots of my free mental time daydreaming about the plots and the scenes and the emotional climaxes, and how certain story elements can be used to “set up” the original trilogy so that all six feel like a single unit. I’m not kidding–I spent a lot of time thinking about it and internally getting giddy with anticipation.
Come early 1997 when the special editions were released, people loved to talk to me about how there are three NEW Star Wars movies coming soon, and I’d tell them, “Yeah, I’ve known for years.” I was a pro, George; make no mistake about it.
Star Wars, and by connection the anticipation of the prequels, defined a very large part of my adolescence.
And now . . . well. I don’t need to nit-pick what was wrong with them here. If you’re still not sure, Mr. Lucas, get right over to Red Letter Media’s site and watch the three reviews there. He sums up everything and says it all better than I could have hoped to.
Do you see the problem here? I am someone who spent countless hours not only watching your classic movies and reading the books, but discussing the trivia and in-universe hypothetical situations with other fans (and plenty of non-fans). Then you answer every childhood dream I could have ever had by moving forward with those three new movies to complete the story, and everything seemed perfect in the world. Everything that I said my adolescence was like prior to the Fall of 1998 when the first trailer for The Phantom Menace was released–first online and then before the Will Smith/Gene Hackman spy thriller Enemy of the State–was intensified exponentially, day after day, until I cheered with the crowd at the 12:01 showing (at which I was 3rd in line, by the way) at the top of my lungs when those yellow letters appeared on the screen and a few seconds later we saw words scrolling that we had not yet seen before in that context, except in our oldest and wildest dreams . . .
And then the movie, George. The movie. Like I said, I liked it at the time, but it had no lasting power. Each subsequent movie punched the fanboy in me in the gut a little harder. Now here I am, six years after the last one came out (has it really been that long?) and I couldn’t really give two hoots about Star Wars. Oh sure, I can still discuss it, but I like nerd and pop culture trivia discussions. I can still sit through the old movies once in a while, especially with friends, but I like good movies (and they really are good, George). I still like many Star Wars video games, but that’s really just because I like video games and a decent amount of the games based on or inspired by your film. I plan on someday finally reading the Timothy Zahn book trilogy, but at this point that’s because I like reading and I own them. But the true excitement that Star Wars gave me all those years ago is completely gone. There were other things I loved back then, too, and coming across them or discussing them still give me warm feelings. But not Star Wars. Star Wars is essentially dead to me.
It was those movies. Those movies and then that last kick-in-the-balls The Clone Wars animated movie. That’s what did it. So much of what was great about the original movies was knowing that the story of episodes I-III was going to be completely amazing, but what we got was pure crap. And the part that hurts the most is not that “it turns out the story wasn’t that great after all,” but that the story COULD had have been great if you’d just TRIED to make it make sense instead of filming your first drafts.
Do you see? YOU ruined it for me, George. Everything that Star Wars was to me is now nearly completely lost. The blood is on your hands. You made those movies, you completely ran the entire creative process, you have no one else to blame for their awfulness and their devastating impact. My Star Wars fandom and obsession is GONE.
Thank you so much. I’m so glad it’s over, and if it took three terrible movies to finally snap me out of my daze, so be it. I’m on the other side now and I’m loving my freedom. I’ve seen guys over 30–heck, over 25–that despite everything are still completely in love with Star Wars, and it’s pathetic. I’m not one of them anymore. Sure, I can still carry on a conversation with them, but I’m not one of them. Star Wars is officially just a “thing,” something that exists. I cannot say with confidence that had you done the prequels well that I would be where I am, but things as they are, I know what got me here, and I’m glad it did.
You’re not entirely off the hook, especially after Indiana Jones 4, but I felt you should be given some recognition for inadvertently rescuing this deeply obsessed geek. Once again, thank you.
Now quit making movies.