This is it. This is my major post. This is everything. Anytime somebody posts anything anti-I, II, III, or anti-GL, or anti-Star Wars in general, I will simply reply with a link to this very post. I warn any longtime readers that I will repeat myself in this manifesto, but it's good to have all the information here.
Also, this post will be very very VERY long. However, if you really care about this subject, then you'll read the whole thing. A response of TL;DR will only show me that I have no reason to take you or your arguments seriously on this matter, since the hate machine has been on diatribes this long or longer for years and I'm merely now fighting back.
Haters, prepare to take the left-hand evacuation procedure as I lay some truthiness down upon thee.
Common Complaints About The Star Wars Universe, Recent Additions In Particular, That Are Complete And Utter Crap
1. George Lucas Doesn't Get Star Wars
No, my friend. George Lucas created Star Wars. If anyone knows it, it's him. You don't have to like all his decisions, but never be so arrogant to assume that you know the world in a person's head more than that person.
This is different if you were to say, for example, that Peter Jackson doesn't get "Lord of the Rings". Whether or not I disagree (I do), it's still a valid argument because Peter Jackson is not JRR Tolkien and therefore is certainly capable of not getting it. However, if you were to say JRR Tolkien doesn't get "Lord of the Rings", we'd have the problem we're having here. If there's a discrepancy between what the creator thinks it should be and what you think it should be, then you are the one who doesn't get it. And that's fine. So you either learn to get it, or decide you don't care and kindly leave the fandom.
But, okay, so what is Star Wars actually? Well, I'm not going to presume to 100% know for sure because I am not George Lucas. However, using my own sense of deductive reasoning and film comprehension, and basing my thoughts on what Mr. Lucas has explicitly said numerous times as well as my multiple viewings of all six films, I think I can safely say that Star Wars is this:
Star Wars is, in a nutshell, an action fantasy story in Sci-Fi clothing. It is a deep treatise of mythological Campellian archetypes buried underneath the most ridiculous, ham-fisted, 30's serial melodrama. It's a look at how a person or even a government can become corrupt under the best of intentions and yet can still be redeemed, if even at the last moment. It's a saga for the young and the young at heart, a way to bring families together.
And as confident as I am in this analysis, if George Lucas were to call me up in five minutes and tell me I'm flat out wrong, I'd be flat out wrong. Because George Lucas created Star Wars, and only George Lucas can completely 100% "get it".
2. Star Wars Belongs To The People
No, no it doesn't. It belongs to the creators (and now to Disney, but you can bet Lucas protected his art). Yes, we bought the tickets and the merchandise and made it a pop-cultural phenomenon, but that's because we liked it. Your money only paid for a chance to see a film, or own a replica of a character or prop. That's it, done. George Lucas owes you nothing else, and you owe him nothing else but to let him go about his business and either give him (and Disney) money for things you like or stop giving him (and Disney) money for things you don't. Nobody is opening up your wallet and stealing your cash.
3. The Acting and Dialogue Is Terrible/Plot Points Make No Sense
Yes, some of the dialogue is clunky, some of the plot isn't explained very well on the surface, and some of the performances are acquired tastes - in all six films! This is the key here. Most people bandy this one about in regards exclusively to I-II-III while giving IV-V-VI a pass. No no no no. This has been a "problem" since 1977. I say "problem" because it's actually one of the reasons we still love Star Wars, whether we'll admit it or not.
As far as the dialogue is concerned, like I said this is 30's melodrama. It's supposed to sound big and epic and totally awkward. Carrie Fisher has gone on record several times regarding how hard her dialogue was to say. She laughed in George's face with the line "I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board." Every line, love it or hate it, in all six films are of that caliber. Personally, I love it. If you don't, that's cool. Art is subjective. Just go away and let us Star Wars fans like Star Wars.
Acting? While there are plenty of characters who the actors imbibed with a readily-obvious personality (Han, 3PO, Jar Jar, Watto), many others played it relatively close to the chest. (Luke, Leia, Qui-Gon, Padmé). Indeed, for some it takes some time to get what they're really about, but it's in there. For an example, I'll admit that I found both Leia and Padmé rather bland for most of my life until I started studying the characters and really seeing their motivations. This is true for most of the main characters in the entire saga.
Plot? There are some holes, but again, it's in all six films. And we have to suspend our disbelief over a bottomless pit in these kinds of films. You're going to sit there and tell me that Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Jar Jar travelling through Naboo's apparently unmolten core is any more ridiculous that Han, Leia, and Chewbacca walking around in (what they think is) the cold vacuum of space in nothing but a little oxygen mask?
These issues exist in all six films...if you only watch each film once and don't do any more research. So why do people seem to see the depth and value in IV-VI and not the depth and value in I-III? Because people who grew up with IV-V-VI watched them until the tapes wore out, and bought all the supplemental material that helped explain what was going on, and bought all the action figures which is one of the only places you can learn the names of even some major characters. A lot of these people didn't give I-III the same chance. I, on the other hand, ate everything up. Bought all the figures. My VHS of "Phantom Menace" is blue I watched it so much. Do what you did with IV-VI: read, investigate, study - and from positive sources, not hateboy propaganda. Learn what the thought going into it was like with the older ones and everything WILL make sense. Well, most of it (you're in a VACUUM for crying out loud! Why do you still have eyes?!)
4. Hayden Christensen is Whiny and Wooden
Whiny yes, wooden not at all. This is a continuation of the previous point, but it's so specifically pervasive that it deserved its own.
Christensen plays Anakin for what he is: extremely emotionally unstable, not to mention tortured and, in Clones at least, hormonal. I also have a personal theory that Anakin Skywalker is on the autism spectrum. I have Asperger's syndrome, and I work as a job coach for other Aspies and people with other spectrum disorders. I must say that the behavior patterns of Anakin Skywalker (Christensen, Lloyd, AND Prowse/Jones) bear an uncanny resemblance to what I've seen in both myself and my clients. If you consider also that, as the Chosen One conceived by the midichlorians, Anakin only has one set of human chromosomes, this theory makes a lot more sense. But I'm not Lucas, so I don't know. What I do know is that the proper emotions certainly come through and "wooden" is the last thing I'd describe it as.
Christensen also does his homework by putting some subtle Vader-isms into his physical performance. Seriously, compare the way Christensen and Prowse move. I'll wait.
While I'm on this subject, I'll also defend Jake Lloyd. Yes, I counted perhaps four lines where his delivery was actually cringe-inducing. But aside from these four, his performance is decent at worst and moving at best (especially the goodbye scene with his mother). Add him to my autism theory and the fact that he's, y'know, a SLAVE and Anakin's character arc suddenly comes much more into focus.
Does any of this change the fact that Anakin Skywalker as played by Hayden Christensen is whiny? No, but I'll tell you about another Star Wars character who was ungodly whiny: LUKE SKYWALKER. Seriously, watch "New Hope" and "Empire" again. Luke, as played by Mark "Sorry, Heath, He's Still The Best Joker" Hamil, does almost nothing but whine and complain except in a few certain moments done to specifically illustrate how he is different from his father. Also, Luke mostly grew out of it by "Jedi", but again that's the whole point, This is why Luke is able to resist the Dark Side and Anakin is not: because somewhere along the way, Luke learned how to just shut the hell up and let things go. Anakin did not. This is AWESOME juxtaposition. This explains EVERYTHING about BOTH characters. The entire theme of the saga becomes clear.
I love Hayden Christensen. I didn't use to, but I do now. I'd love to see him come back as a Force Ghost in Episode VII. He is the perfect Anakin.
5. Jar Jar Binks is Useless
Kind of the point. He illustrates Qui-Gon's philosophy in the Living Force: That all life, no matter how seemingly useless has a purpose. And again, nobody in-universe seems to like Jar Jar. His own people want him dead. But as I illustrated here, almost everything in the Skywalker Saga comes to pass because of Jar Jar's bumbling. No, you don't have to like him. I love him, but art is subjective. But you can't deny that he has a purpose in these films.
6. Jar Jar/X Character is a Racist Caricature
Haaaaaaave you met Ted?
Okay, I did kind of guilt you into reading this long thing already. Basically, the above post describes my thoughts on this matter, which boils down to a "Are you !#$ing kidding me?!" but much more intelligently debated.
7. Having The Force Be Microscopic Organisms Destroys the Mysticism
This would be true if this is actually what was going on. However, listen to what Qui-Gon actually says about the midichlorians:
"Midichlorians are microscopic life forms that reside in all living cells...and we are symbyionts with them...lifeforms living together for a mutual advantage. Without the midichlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force. They continually speak to us, telling us the will of the Force."
What this means is that the midichlorians act like Babel Fish for the Force. They are translators, not generators. The Force itself remains as delightfully mysterious as always.
But why include them in the first place? Well, obviously it's to give Anakin a power level and bring up the prophecy of the Chosen One. But in-universe it would make sense that if the Midichlorians love the Force so much many more would congregate in a being with whom the Force is strong. Thusly, a midichlorian count is a perfect way to measure Force potential.
8. The Jedi in I-II-III Don't Act Like The Jedi in IV-V-VI
That's the point. The Jedi Order around the fall of the Republic are too invested in their own dogma to see what's in front of them and it costs them dearly. It's no accident that not only is the one Jedi who acts like the Jedi we were familiar with Qui-Gon Jinn, but that he is considered somewhat of a heretic. Both Obi-Wan and Yoda were very by-the-book Jedi until Order 66 and Qui-Gon's Force Ghost (sadly never shown) show then what a mistake it is to hold the Unifying Force over the Living Force. And even then it's difficult for them to break their habits. While training Luke, they're far more knowledgeable about the Living Force but are still afraid of Luke repeating Anakin's mistakes (both his actual ones as well as what they feel his mistakes were, and they aren't all the same).
The theme to this is that Anakin may have grown up differently with Qui-Gon as a master, but was stuck with by-the-book Obi-Wan and had to look elsewhere for "real" understanding - an opening Palpatine exploited.
And by the by, Yoda's proficiency with a lightsaber does not contradict his sentiment in Empire that "War does not make one great." If we view the films in internal chronological order, the line is even more powerful because by this time he's learned this from experience.
9. Star Wars Became Too Kiddie
There are two ways to answer this one.
a) Oh yes, Anakin slaughtering a villaige of sand people is total Saturday Morning fare. Maybe they'll show the second and third acts of "Revenge of the Sith" on Nick Jr. Ooh, you know what had the infants smiling? Darth Maul brutally impaling Qui-Gon Jinn on his lightsaber before being bisected himself.
b) Oh yes, because everything with R2 and 3PO was soooo brooding. Jawas? Right out of Schindler's List. The Ewoks deserved an R-rating all on their own.
Seriously, do we need to get the jaws of life to remove your cranium from your rectum? There's always been a balance between dark and light in all six films. Empire and Sith swayed dark because of the points in the story where they take place. The rest were even-handed, but they're all meant to be family entertainment in the end. You guys can have "Boba Fett and Darth Maul's Killing Spree and Goth Poetry Slam" if you leave the rest of us "Gungan and Ewok Game Night With Special Guest C-3PO."
10. There is Too Much CGI
I will give someone this one IF and only IF they are the kind of person who hates CGI no matter what. Gollum bothers them, Pixar bothers them, CGI in general bothers them. If this is the case, then yes I-III will be difficult because of the amount of foreground CG in those films.
Notice I said "foreground."
The fact of the matter is that, at least where Phantom and Clones is concerned, a majority of the background characters/landscapes/effects are still good old-fashioned practical effects (not sure where Sith stands in this, since there wasn't a practical effects featurette on that DVD). The majority of far-shots of the podrace stands? Miniatures filled with painted Q-Tips. No lie.
As for the CG that is there, it's still relatively good CG, especially for the time it was made. Most of it holds up pretty well. Plus, this was a very ballsy move. Nothing to this scale had ever been done before. You think Weta and Andy Serkis were pioneers with Gollum? They were just perfecting what ILM and Ahmed Best already created for Jar Jar.
So yeah. If you hate CG unconditionally, I won't argue with you. Otherwise, you're a hypocrite since most modern blockbusters use as much if not more CG to varying degrees of success.
11. Technology Feels Newer in the Chronologically Older Films
I find this is usually brought up with Phantom Menace in particular, about how prequel-era tech looks shinier and spiffier than IV-VI's "used future" aesthetic.
See, you just answered your own question there. "Used". It can't be "used" until it has been put to some use for a while.
Phantom Menace was an older time. A lot of the technology was new and built more by artisans than an assembly line. That's just what happens with tech and vehicles in the real world. New tech is all spiffy but as time goes on it becomes more uniform. And you notice things getting back to "normal" through Clones and Sith, as the Clone Wars rage and war machines have to be built quickly. This was a conscious design effort and makes the most sense.
Although, I dunno, you can't look at a Podracer and tell me it doesn't look as dingy or cobbled-together as the Millennium Falcon.
12. New Films Contradict Established Expanded Universe Stories
The EU was always merely entertaining apocrypha. Only the movies are truly Canon, and what they say goes above anything else. Get over it. Ooh boy, are you going to be disappointed by VII-IX...
13. Han Shot First
Not since 1997 he didn't. Again, George Lucas' art, he decides how to edit it. Haven't you ever felt you made a mistake and needed to redo something? At least Lucas does something about it.
Do I agree with all his SE editing choices? Actually...yeah I do. In theory at least. I think some of the added effects feel tacked on and needed more polish, but I agree with the concept of why the changes are there. As far as the specific scene is concerned, I like it best in its latest incarnation: there's too much smoke to tell who shot first. I like Ian McDiarmid and Teumera Morrison in "Empire", though I wish the effect were more polished. I like Hayden Christensen in "Jedi", though I wish the effect was more polished.
Yeah, I would like to see George return to the editing room one last time and spend a good deal of time just making the additions match the look and era of the films more. But, if he doesn't, it's no skin off of my nose. He doesn't owe me anything, after all.
14. It's a Cold Fact of Nature that The Prequels Suck, and You Have No Taste if You Like Them
This isn't a specific criticism as much as it is the end result of all the falsehoods I have heretofore mentioned. This is why I am militant in my fandom. For 13 years saga fans have had to put up with this (15 if you count the SEs). This is just plain wrong on so many levels.
First of all, art is subjective. You can not like something, but that doesn't make someone else bad for liking it. Best you can and should do is explain your view the best you can while being respectful, and hope the other person does the same, and then maybe learn something you hadn't before (whether you change your opinion or not).
Second of all, I-II-III are by no stretch of the imagination "bad" movies. Do they have flaws? Sure, what doesn't? But a lot of good, hard work went into making them. Watch any of the making-of specials on the DVDs. People worked hard, had fun, and that hard fun work shows.
Here's the real truth of the matter: Every single Star Wars movie, from "A New Hope" in 1977 to "Revenge of the Sith" in 2005 had the Exact. Same. Reception. Extremely mixed critical reviews and through-the-roof box-office numbers. Each film was amongst the highest grossers of its year. Even re-releases do well (in spite of limited advertising, the 3D version of "Phantom Menace" gained quite a bit of revenue and became the first SW film to top $1 billion in box office). And those critics that reviewed the films negatively? It's the same complaints from 1977-2005: acting, dialogue, plot, what have you. People tend to revere "Empire Strikes Back" as the best film in the saga (it's my second favorite after "Phantom"), and yet many reviewers, especially those that wanted to seem "cool" with the geek culture at the time, absolutely blasted the movie on the exact same points that I-III are now.
The only difference between then and now is that with the advent of the Internet, the haters have a larger megaphone. Looking squarely at ticket and merchandise numbers, I-III were just as successful as IV-VI, especially with the target audience: families with children. In fact, if you step away from the internet and the media and just walk up and ask people, you'll find more people will say they at least enjoyed I-III if not loved it. Real Die-Hards just need to debunk the cries of those who claim to be fans but really show they don't like Star Wars after all. We need to take back the discussion from the bullies who wanted something they should have known they were never going to get.
That's why I spent 2+ hours writing this. I love Star Wars more than most things. I just want to make sure that history remembers all these films as the classics they deserve to be, regardless of specific tastes (I didn't like Goodfellas, for example, but I recognize why it's a classic).
For more and better discussion of these points and others, visit A Certain Point of View, The Star Wars Heresies, and then, if you feel the love too, join the Star Wars Prequel Appreciation Society. If there are other arguments I somehow missed, tell me in the comments and I'll address them there.
May the Force Be With You, Always.