Lingering Excuses: An Open Star Wars Question to Walt Disney

To that end, I’d say that very little of the aesthetics of the Original Trilogy look like those of the Prequel Trilogy. Of course, different time frames can have different artistic palettes, but as others have pointed out these worlds didn’t appear to exist in the same universe. Sure, we visit a few places again, and maybe there was some mild fascination in that. Still, this time around Tatooine looked cleaner, healthier, and vastly more populated than audiences were ever led to believe in 1977 or 1983. Tatooine – once deemed by Luke to be the planet farthest from the bright center of the universe – became “civilized” in Lucas’s own historical revision. In fact, the only place from the Original Trilogy that even remotely resembles anything from the Prequel Trilogy was Bespin’s Cloud City, a place I’ve long argued was used as the prototype for any Apple Store. Most of Cloud City never felt quite right for me, except for the torture chamber, Chewbacca’s brig, the Ugnauts junkyard, and the carbonite freezing chamber. Otherwise, much of it seemed far too sterile for a place deemed a ‘mining colony.’

I mean … have you seen Pennsylvania? Hello? Coal country?

Above: Star Wars mining colony; Below: real mining colony

Of course, there are those who say that certain aspects of my argument are built-in to the stories of the Original Trilogy. “Those rebels were in hiding, they were always on the run,” they say. “They’d never make it if they went to big cities ‘cause they’d be instantly recognized.” Really? You accept me to believe that the Rebels couldn’t have hidden out on Coruscant, of all places, where even the Emperor-in-the-making himself hid? You’re telling me they couldn’t blend in or hide-out there? Have you seen Coruscant? It’s China without that whole ‘one-child-per-family’ rule. It’s the Little Ol’ Lady Who Lived In A Shoe times ten trillion times ten trillion. On Coruscant, Mace Windu couldn’t feel Palpatine’s Sithness from the other side of the room, yet, somehow, Luke Skywalker would’ve stuck out more than Princess Leia wearing white after Labor Day, right?


Sure, for most of us, Star Wars is much like sex – we’ll gladly take the good with the bad so long as that means there’s another attempt in the offing. And, heck, we’ll even wait three years between sequels (if we must). Aesthetically, the Original Trilogy had far more going for it than George Lucas would have you believe. It was the classic tale of Good Versus Evil, but it was set in a universe that was as much a real and present danger as the all-powerful Sith were. For my tastes, that means something.

Okay, Walt Disney … what are you gonna do about that?


  • Ozzy

    Interesting article, I never realized it before that the environments in the original trilogy felt so much more unique and real. Its crazy that even with the upgrades in technology Lucas was not able to create more interesting planets/environments (yes I know they may have looked “prettier in the prequels).

  • E. Lee Zimmerman

    @Ozzy: Methinks you’re hitting on a major point: technology has the added effect of removing us from Nature while instead granting us “an all-new Nature, now 30% more vibrant!” I don’t mean to sound like I’m ragging on CGI b/c I’m not. It’s that Lucas doesn’t seem to be using CGI to enhance his stories, just his visuals. Thanks for reading & sounding off!

  • Heche

    “there’s one striking similarity to all these worlds:”

    They are all geographical impossibilities. No planet could ever be one giant type of biome, the topography wouldn’t allow it. The planets would all have to look roughly similar to Earth in their distribution of swamp, desert, snow and whatever else.

  • Aaron

    I’m pretty sure that every human being in the Star Wars universe is a “gas-breather” – oxygen being a gas and all.

  • David R

    This is actually an interesting – and somewhat novel – take on the difference between the two trilogies. Thanks for not going the traditional route here.

    That said, I DO seem to be the resident Prequel fan…

    The Originals are certainly more sophisticated than their surface adventures would imply, but so too are the Prequels. They’re just about different things, and go about it in different ways.

    Higher stakes are also simpler stakes. While the Prequels do lack an immediate emotional connection (at least, when compared to the Originals), they make up for it IMO by their complexity, their satire, and their “skullduggery.” The less-immediate stakes in that trilogy ALSO allows the Originals to up the ante on the Prequels, which is absolutely essential to maintaining the structural integrity of a six-part saga like this. In the PT, the world falls apart due to corruption and disrepair, and in the OT the Rebels have to fight for their life to get it back.

    In the Prequels, danger is “ellusive.” A phantom menace, if you will. Intentionally so, I’d argue. Yoda, I sound like for some reason. With RotS, it comes into the light, and it is the heroes of the story who must scurry around in the shadows, if they want to make it out alive.

    Yin and yang, to borrow a phrase from your article. The PT enriches the OT along with telling its own valuable stories.

    A couple of other notes on locations in the PT:
    -Naboo is idyllic; the perfect home for humans. Appropriate to show us paradise at the beginning of this series before it gets taken from us by evil, and also appropriate to bookend the saga with “green” planets.
    -Kamino (my favorite of the Prequels) brings us a Bespin-like floating city, only this time over water. The structural echo to Empire is nice, but it works subtextually, as water has an association with things that are hidden/submerged. Also love the metaphoric visual of the spartan, glowing interior with the storm raging just outside.
    -Mustafar basically speaks for itself, but is probably the most blatantly allegorical location of the series — except for maybe Cloud City, the heaven that hides hell within it.

    Basically, I note the differences outlined in this article, but I think they largely work in the service of the story as opposed to against it.

  • RBourn

    So, just on the mining thing, you know it’s Tibanna gas they are “mining”, not coal?

    You can’t exactly dig into a gas giant anyway.

    Otherwise, great job about the environments thing, I had never heard that pointed out anywhere else. Congrats on being original

  • Mr B

    Tattooine looking ‘healthier’ in the prequels could be explained easy enough, indeed the whole look of the prequels compared to the originals (AKA the why doesn the ‘past’ look more advanced than the ‘future’ argument).

    Its not always a given that the future is going to be more advanced/better. Look at our own history-what followed the glory of the Roman Empire? The Dark Ages. Not until after the medieval period could it considered that our civilisation got more advanced in architecture, medicine, culture etc than the Romans.

  • E. Lee Zimmerman

    @Heche: you’re absolutely right, and that’s what I was getting at when I said that there are elements of the OT that almost required stylistically the choice of these environments (or something similar).

    @Aaron: D’oh! I should’ve said “Tibanna-gas breathers”!

    @DavidR: to be perfectly frank, I don’t dislike the PT. To the contrary — like I said toward the end of the piece — even bad sex is still sex, and that’s never a bad thing. If I had more time & space, I would’ve gone on to say that I firmly believe that the aesthetics of both versions of THE CLONE WARS feel much more in sync with the OT. You make some solid points, though, as to how the PT balances the OT. Certainly, there’s no dominant ‘villain’ visually in the PT, and, you betcha, that definitely contributes to the nebulousness of the pieces.

    @RBourn: oh, yeah. I knew it was Tibanna gas, but, having never been into a Tibanna gas mine, I went with the sarcastic coal mine analogy. (I’m so Earthcentric!) Like I said, Cloud City just felt too clean to me … except for the places I mentioned. I grew up working in some steel fabricating plants with my father, and the industrialness of it rubbed off on me.

    @Mr. B: true enough; however, the timeframe between the OT & PT was only 20 yrs … not much of a Dark Age if it was only 20 yrs apart … but I do understand & for the most part agree with your sentiments.

    To all: thanks for reading & sounding off. Seriously. Much appreciated.

  • Look at it this way, as regards Cloud City. Han, Chewie and Leia are Lando’s guests, so most of what we see is up in the administrative levels. Of course that part of the city is going to be clean. Even as dirty as coal mining is, I pretty much guarantee the executive board room of the corporation that owns the mines is going to be clean and stylish.

  • Shiki

    Mr. Zimmerman, I must say this was a great read! And your comparison with sex was spot on :-)))

  • Gotta say, I agree with you completely on this… I mean, the original trilogies worlds were far and beyond more intimidating, and ‘Real’. Though a lot of the Prequels were indeed pretty, they didn’t really draw that never-ending feeling that everything was out to get the heroes. That being said, the logistics of the situation on Tatooine is one of those things that get’s really interesting if you dive into the extended universe. Tatooine went even further downhill than it already was. At the time of the prequels it was at one of it’s strongest points in hundreds of years, but with the rise of the Empire, even Tatooine seemed too open for many criminals, who fled to darker corners of the galaxy.