It is for me – at least for the Prequel Era stuff. Now, I’m 33 years old. I grew up on Star Wars, and thanks to the novels of the 1990’s and 2000’s, I’ve enjoyed a lot of stories set in the galaxy far, far away. In fact, there are a few novels that I consider superior to even the original trilogy – Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy comes to mind, as does the Jedi Academy trilogy by Kevin J. Anderson and most of the books in the very long New Jedi Order series. These novels stand up well against the original movie trilogy.
I’m a big fan of the original movie trilogy, so it should be no surprise that I find the prequel trilogy lacking in a lot of ways. Star Wars fans tend to go one way or the other. I don’t think the prequels are completely worthless; there are redeeming qualities in all three flicks.
Episode One was dragged down by the Gungan-who-shall-not-be-named and the notion that audiences really care that Darth Vader used to be a cute little blond-haired kid. But it also had John Williams’ excellent Duel of the Fates score over the kick-ass final battle between the Jedi and Darth Maul (the first in the long line of silly Darth names).
Episode Two featured the wooden yet whiny teenage Anakin and Natalie Portman looking uncomfortable in black leather. But it also had an awesome Jedi arena battle and Yoda showing what a bad-ass he really is.
Episode Three had fewer flaws than the first two installments, but let’s be honest, that first space battle and the rescue of Palpatine was ridiculous. The showdown between Palpatine and the four Jedi Masters was ludicrous. Let me get this straight – four Jedi Masters are in the room, and Palpatine takes out three of them in two seconds? Masters! Not padawans! Utterly ridiculous. But the final battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan was great (if a little gruesome). I’ll show my kid the original trilogy when she’s 8 or 9 – she won’t see Episode Three until she’s at least 12 or 13, I think. I’m not showing a little kid Anakin amputated and burned alive, thank you.
The script in each prequel was weak, the characterization was secondary to the special effects, and the plot was generally overreaching and even slightly confusing at times.
The books haven’t been much better (I don’t read the kids and young adults books, just the adult novels). Some of the books have been rather enjoyable – I liked Death Star by Michael Reeves and Steve Perry, and Matthew Stover’s Shatterpoint was pretty good. Most of the books have been entirely forgettable – I can’t tell you what The Cestus Deception or Labyrinth of Evil is about. A few of them, too many really, have been quite bad.
Okay, granted, The Black Fleet Crisis trilogy was nothing noteworthy, and Darksaber wasn’t exactly award-winning, but at least I finished reading those books. It’s very rare that I stop reading a book, and it’s never happened with a Star Wars book until the publication of the Medstar series last year.
I tried to read Medstar I: Battle Surgeons and got a few chapters in before giving up on it. It was just so boring and I couldn’t bring myself to care about any of the characters. I didn’t even try to read Medstar II: Jedi Healer (this is one of the few adult Star Wars novels that I’ve intentionally skipped, and the only one for the reason that I wasn’t convinced it would be worth reading). Previous to that, I was only ambivalent toward the more mediocre novels. Medstar is where it started going downhill from there.
A few months ago, I picked up Coruscant Nights I: Jedi Twilight, by Michael Reeves. I lasted a chapter-and-a-half. The characters were flat and the plot uninteresting. A 1940’s detective story – they actually use the phrase “hard-boiled reporter” in the promo text – set in the Star Wars universe? No, thanks. I won’t be buying the next two novels in the Coruscant Nights series.
More recently, I tried to read the novelization of the new Clone Wars animated movie. There’s no way for me to be kind about this… if I never see the Clone Wars animated movie or the upcoming Cartoon Network show based on it, I will die happy. Oh, I’ve seen the previews and the various clips. I’ve heard about the flaming gay Hutt and the spunky yet annoying 14-year-old padawan. I read a commentary online that suggested the novel expanded on the story and made the whole thing palatable.
I got a few chapters in and gave up. I don’t lay the blame on Karen Traviss, who I think is a pretty good writer, because she was working from an established script and could only try to fill in the holes as best she could. The plot, revolving around a kidnapped baby Hutt (Jabba’s offspring, who has never been mentioned, by name or otherwise, outside of the Clone Wars movie/novel), was laughable. The characters were dull, up until the introduction of Anakin’s padawan (whom we’ve never heard of before; you’d think his having a padawan would be pretty noteworthy) when the characters got annoying. I got as far as the infiltration of the droid army and put the book back on the shelf, never (probably) to be read again.
That brings us to the most recent novel – the adaptation of the Force Unleashed video game. Here we have another of Anakin’s (okay, Darth Vader’s) apprentices that nobody ever knew about. Okay, granted, no source – to the best of my knowledge – ever specifically said that he never had a padawan or apprentice, but by the omission of such an idea, I think it was pretty well accepted that he never had one. Still, that’s a pretty minor thing. So far – and I’m only about 20 pages in – it reads like a summary of the video game that it’s based on. I find myself at somewhat of a loss for interest, but hopeful that it will get better. Remembering the quality of the Shadows of the Empire novelization (the last time LucasArts did a big multimedia event), I’m going to reserve judgement on The Force Unleashed until I get further in.
That’s about it, though. The clones and the clone wars do not hold my interest at all. Lucas keeps trying to shove it down our throats at the expense of the characters we grew up on, and I’m just growing more resentful of the whole thing. I will not read novels that center on the clones, like the Republic Commando series (also the offspring of a video game). The Empire’s stormtroopers were terrifying (okay, that might be an exaggeration, but that’s what Lucas was aiming for) because they were nameless, faceless killers. Back that up by 20 years and look at the clones – the original stormtroopers. They have names like Rex and Cody. They have personalities. They’re not scary in the least. They’re just a bunch of guys wearing armor – and doing superhuman things if the Clone Wars cartoon series and the new movie are to be believed.
I don’t think I need to write another treatise on how the new prequel-era works are drastically different in message, tone and substance from the original movie trilogy (or even the subsequent post-movie novels). There have been more than enough words written elsewhere on that very topic. Suffice to say, yet another person who grew up on Star Wars has given up on new material set in the years prior to the original trilogy. To paraphrase another popular sci-fi franchise: it’s dead, Jim.
Items mentioned in this article include: