Let me begin by saying that I don't think the Star Wars prequels were dreadful. The nostalgic kid in me actually enjoyed them, to an extent but the rebirth of the new Disney-flavoured Star Wars has highlighted to me exactly why the prequels received such widespread derision and here is the reason they were considered a "fail" by the "keyboard warriors" of the World Wide Web.
Wasn't it a bit political?
Yes, yes it was. The first of the prequel trilogy especially was so mired in creating a climate of political dissent, there were several chunks of dialogue that were extraordinarily yawn-worthy. Internet geeks wanted to know about the rich history and lore of the galaxy far far away. But even they failed to tolerate a film that was basically a two hour exposition dump interlaced with a mammoth special effects budget: Which brings me to my next point.
All that glitters isn’t a vampire.
The Star Wars prequels called heavily on CGI special effects, sometimes to good effect. I mean look at Yoda. Compare him to the “pre-Lucas-interference” puppet used in The Phantom Menace and you can’t help but be thankful there are CGI artists in the world. The flip side of this is that the CGI overtakes the movie. A lot of the ships are far too “shiny” giving the appearance that the technology prior to the fall of The Republic was actually superior? How does that work? Ships looked un-scuffed and pristine, jarringly so if you ask me (and by reading this, you have!)
Okay, so Ewan McGregor was actually pretty damn good in the films in my opinion. The movies biggest flaw? Hayden Christensen. Does he look the part? I think so, he’s athletic, good looking and a very good physical actor. He actually brought never before seen energy to lightsabre battles. It is this energy that made Ani’s final dual with his mentor so epic. So why be critical of him? Unfortunately when it came to voice acting he was, too put it mildly, underwhelming. It wouldn’t surprise me if Christensen attended the same acting school as Kristen Stewart and you can read into that comment whatever you want!
So why is The Force Awakens any better?
It simply did a lot of these things right. JJ Abrams used a slightly updated twist on the very familiar plot from the original Star Wars movie. He used models and not CGI for the dogfights between X-wings and Tie Fighters and the payoff was incredible. Suddenly there were once again ships that looked real on the screen – it was a thing of beauty. Gone were the political undertones that so easily became overtones, replaced with a lightweight plot full of swashing and buckling in equal amounts.
And finally the acting: for me Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren had some nice quirks but lacked the menace factor when compared to Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor in the new Batman Vs Superman movie, but it was a strong turn never-the-less. And then there’s the show stealing bromance that began to blossom between Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron and John Boyega’s Finn, not to mention Daisy Ridley springing to prominence as Rey. This youthful cast could be the face of the franchise for a decade. It’s a shame they weren’t around in the early nineties!