Tag Archives: Star Wars Prequels

“He’s radioactive, but can we keep him?”: BRIAN TRENCHARD-SMITH by Kent Hill

With a filmography as long as the tentacles of the giant octopus in It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955), and a life just as rich, cycling in tandem, Brian Trenchard-Smith has allowed his love for the movies to carry him off on a grand adventure. Along the way he managed to help shape the peak of genre film-making here Down Under. But, taking his magic kit with him across the pond, BTS would continue with a long and diverse career tackling, as Brian himself says, every genre known to man. And even setting a benchmark for a few new ones.

Ozploitation, the rise and fall, has been captured most deliciously by filmmaker Mark Hartley with Not Quite Hollywood. While this is an important document showcasing the exploitation boomtown we once were, it only scratches the surface of those dedicated few with the courage to commit the preposterous to celluloid. But, with Adventures in the B Movie Trade, BTS gives fans, aspiring directors and even casual movie-goers a glimpse into a life spent in the pursuit of following your dreams.

Brian has worked alongside industry luminaries, told the Colonel he liked his chicken, been replaced in the director’s chair and even convinced a room full of suits with his natural visual flare, his wry sense of humor and his eloquent, gentlemanly grace to have an ALIEN homage, like no other, be the catalyst for one of a great IN SPACE movies one could wish to share a beer and pizza with.

The book is a fully customizable experience. The early chapters are dedicated to family history, Brian’s formative years, and best of all, the beginning of his romance with the cinema. From there he takes us through the films, genre by genre, sharing wonderful anecdotes and behind the scenes details which cineastes, cinephiles, or just an average, movie-lovin’ nerd like me, can rejoice in. You can hear him, if you’re familiar with Brian’s cadence, recount these trials and triumphs in a vivid splendor that is at once both enticing and enrapturing.

It’s probably clear that I am a fan, and I do LOVE this book, still, I highly recommend it as spectacular celebration of all things B Movie, obsessing cinema, film-making as self-expression, and if you never give up, have a little luck, surround yourself with those who share the dream, you may just find yourself happily manifesting visions whilst enchanting audiences as Brian has continued to do with his out and out genre gems.

So, listen along as the elder statesman of the B movie pantheon regales us with a taste of what’s contained on the pages of a book that could crush walnuts and kill flies. But, like Brian, I really hope you’ll have a read of it first, enjoy the majesty of the journey, and tales from the maelstrom in which cinema, the likes of which we may never see again, is born. At least until Brian is back in the director’s chair once more.

In Defense of the STAR WARS Prequels

Dear Simon Pegg, The Hollywood Reporter and everyone else who goes out of their way to degrade and dismiss the STAR WARS prequels.

You’re not a real STAR WARS fan.

If you can’t accept the STAR WARS prequels for what they are, flaws and all, STAR WARS does not mean nearly as much to you as you pretend it does.

If you love the original trilogy, that’s great. But don’t act like STAR WARS is important to you. And if that’s you, please do us all a favor and own it. The constant shaming of George Lucas, and the STAR WARS prequels has become this relentless and bandwagon circle jerk that those of us who love, embrace, and accept all of the STAR WARS cinematic universe have to endure and hits us in a very deep and personal place.

I, as anyone who loves the prequels can fully admit, they have flaws, some of the films have deeper flaws than others, and they are not as good as the original trilogy, but the bottom line is, they are STAR WARS films and they are fantastic. There are a couple of fallback arguments any prequel shamer will telegraphically always pivot to. Jar Jar Binks, the “overuse” of CGI, Hayden Christensen, Jake Lloyd, and poor dialogue.

All of those pivot points have their merits, I can fully admit it. Look, I used to be somewhat dismissive of the prequels too, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that my appreciation and love of the prequels grew from the Cartoon Network/Netflix show STAR WARS THE CLONE WARS, and from different video games, novels, comic books and merchandising that flushed out more of the rich story that lies within the prequels.

The “overuse” of CGI in the prequels is the one pivot point that drives me absolutely crazy.

First of all, the CGI in the prequels is absolutely pristine and looks better, to this day, than most CGI induced films that have come out since. The use of CGI and moving to the digital format completely changed the film industry, for better or worse. The “overuse” of CGI is a poor pivot point for prequel bashers, due to the fact of not nearly as much CGI was used as they think. George Lucas used a lot of practical effects and built a lot of sets for the prequels. You know how I know that? Because I educated myself by watching the supplements on the STAR WARS blu ray suite, read articles with Lucas, Rick McCallum (the producer of the prequels), and others from Industrial Light and Magic.

Look, the prequels needed CGI. General Grievous, Yoda, the Senate Chamber, all the Clones needed Temuera Morrison’s face, the MagnaGuards, the epic space battle above Coruscant in EPISODE III, an 80 year old Christopher Lee fighting, and the plethora of exotic planets HAD to use CGI.

What, are all of those going to be miniatures? Or puppets? Puppet Yoda in the original trilogy is amazing. Love it. I don’t even think he’s a puppet. Remember puppet Yoda in EPISODE 1? It was AWFUL. Because in the prequels, Yoda servers a far different and bigger purpose, he’s a warrior, a general in the Clone army. He has to actually fight, and we get to see why Yoda is the most powerful Jedi.

General Grievous, the general of the Separatist army, the cyborg Jedi killer who fights with four lightsabers. Would it have been better if there was a man in a ridiculous suit with arms controlled by puppeteers?

Should there have been a massive scouting effort for people who looked identical and have the same physique of Temuera Morrison? Or prosthetic face molds?

If you’re so hung up on the “overuse” of CGI, you surely must RAGE when you watch a Zack Snyder, Christopher Nolan, Michael Bay, or a Steven Spielberg film, and surely you must HATE any and all of the Marvel/DC films, right?  Oh, and those LORD OF THE RINGS films, Peter Jackson is an idiot, he should have made those films without CGI.  Same goes for GAME OF THRONES.  Man, WATCHMEN should have used nothing but practical effects. INTERSTELLAR?  Don’t even get me started.

Yeah, do ANY of that without an abundance of CGI.

Hayden Christensen. Yes he’s miscast, but stop acting like he’s the first actor to miscast in a film ever.

Poor dialogue? Valid point. Lawrence Kasdan must have been busy.

Jake Lloyd? Anakin Skywalker wasn’t born as Darth Vader. He wasn’t born evil. He’s a kid playing a kid.

Jar Jar Binks? Jesus Christ. Get over it. The best part about Jar Jar is that Lucas owns the hatred of that character, and uses Jar Jar to make the move in the Republic Senate to give Supreme Chancellor Palpatine complete and total control at the height of the Galactic Civil War.

There are so many shining moments in the prequels.

We get to see the beautiful and vibrant universe pre Empire, before the dilapidation and worn universe we’re used to seeing in the original trilogy.

Liam Neeson.

Liam Neeson.

Liam Neeson.

Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine/Sidious. Easily one of the best acted roles in the entire saga.

Ewan McGregor is absolutely terrific as the younger Obi-Wan.

The Duel of the Fates battle between Qui Gon, Obi and Maul is one of the best lightsaber battles in the entire saga, if not the best. And it is accompanied by a magnificent John Williams track.

The Republic Senate scenes are masterfully created and designed, and perfectly sets up a principle understanding of how and why Palpatine becomes the Emperor of the Empire.

Christopher Lee is incredible. One of my favorite characters in the entire universe.  The dissention of Yoda training Dooku, Dooku training Qui Gon, Qui Gon training Obi and Obi training Anakin makes so much sense, how and why Anakin is who he is.

The full-out Jedi and Clones vs Geonosians and Battle Droids in the climax of EPISODE 2 is terrific. That’s a moment a lot of us have been waiting for, a full out Jedi battle.

We get to see the Jedi Council in action, see the plethora of Jedi, as opposed to the three we see in the original trilogy.

EPIC saber battles, as I mentioned before with the Duel of the Fates, but we also watch Yoda battle his former student, Dooku – watch him go toe to toe with Palpatine himself, watch Palpatine take down four Jedi, and see the brutal and heartbreaking final battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan.

I could continue, but I won’t. I’m sure a lot of the points I’ve made will go over a lot of the prequel basher’s heads because they don’t catch the references. Because they’re not STAR WARS fans. Bottom line, get off your high horse and shut the fuck up about “George Lucas ruined my childhood” or that the “prequels don’t matter”. The worst part about all of this, is that George Lucas has admittedly been shamed for making any more films. This guy is bigger than STAR WARS, he’s responsible for AMERICAN GRAFFITI and THX 1138 which is one of the best science fiction films ever made.

To quote William Friedken, “STAR WARS is a religious experience.” STAR WARS means so much, to millions and millions of people globally. There are very few things that can match that kind of passion. Without George Lucas, you’d have absolutely nothing to bitch about in the first place.