Specifically I wanted to speak to a few of the points raised in the first post, and speak to them from the point of view of someone who came to the fandom via the prequel trilogy. Many of the criticisms of Lucas's style have to do with what he did in the prequels, so I think it's only fair that I, as a prequel lover first and foremost, get a chance to address them.
Italics are from both posts. Authors will be indicated before the italicized passage.
lazypadawan: Let's take our buddy Hayden Christensen. Forget about the robotically-repeated stuff about him being a wooden actor. I'll give you the real reason why some critics and internet wags don't like him. They wanted a tough guy to be Anakin/Vader.
But Lucas doesn't always play to those types of expectations. His vision of Anakin was different; he wanted people to understand Anakin's fall comes from being consumed by his emotions. You're not going to get that from a macho guy who hides his emotions.
I could probably fill a book with the amount of criticism that has been lobbed Hayden Christensen's way for his role in the prequels. But here, I agree with the OP. It would have been so much easier to hate Anakin if he had acted like a terrible person from the start, wouldn't it? Imagine if the Anakin we were introduced to in Episode I was a terror of a child, lying, stealing, cheating his way to the podrace win - or refusing to help the Jedi in the first place? Then we could have nodded our heads and said, "Well DUH, he's going to turn into Vader. Of course he's going to be a bad seed."
Anakin isn't portrayed that way, of course. Instead, Lucas paints him as a kind and selfless child, and later a teenager who is trying to do the right thing and please his Master. Of course, I put the emphasis on trying, since he doesn't always succeed. Anakin doesn't turn to the dark side because he was born a criminal. He turns to the dark side because circumstances force his hand (pardon the pun).
You may think I'm trying to make excuses for him. Believe me, I'm not - I think his actions are utterly reprehensible, and he is ultimately responsible for them. But if you're going to take that viewpoint, you also have to consider the outside circumstances that contributed to his fall. There's always outside circumstances, unless the subject is inherently evil. And I believe we've already established that Anakin was not.
So what were those outside circumstances? Anakin wants what every human being has wanted since the dawn of time: to be loved. He is able to reap the benefits of his mother's unconditional love for nine years before being separated from her, and once that separation happens, no one steps in to give him that love. Sure, the Jedi Code preaches against attachment, but for someone like Anakin, who is accustomed to receiving affection, that's just not going to work. He tries to seek it from Obi-Wan, but finds the latter cold and aloof. Obi-Wan, at the point he took Anakin on as a Padawan, was probably cursing himself both for getting too attached to Qui-Gon and for mourning Qui-Gon's death. After all, a Jedi is supposed to be completely emotionally detached, right? But Obi-Wan got attached to Qui-Gon, eventually coming to see him as a father figure, and he wants to spare Anakin the pain he endured should Anakin lose him.
Unfortunately, this turns out to be exactly the wrong thing to do. Anakin craves love like a thirsty plant craves water. Since Obi-Wan is not providing that love, Anakin turns naturally to the one person who did treat him with compassion after Qui-Gon's death: Padmé. He is in love not only with Padmé the person, but Padmé the person who will love him back. And when the nightmares of her death in childbirth come along, Anakin panics. In his mind he is about to lose the only person (aside from Palpatine) who treats him with compassion. Naturally, he is going to take extraordinary measures to make sure he continues to be loved, and can continue to love her.
Anakin was motivated by circumstances. He was motivated by his upbringing. He was not an inherently bad person, but many people will act in ways that could be considered bad while justifying it to themselves by saying they are trying to help their loved ones.
Given all of the above, I think Hayden Christensen's portrayal of Anakin was spot-on. Anakin isn't some big macho guy. He is first a boy and then a man who has an inherent desire to be loved, and to show love in return. Such people are not hardened, emotionless automatons. They do get angry. They do cry. They do wear their hearts on their sleeves. Anakin is portrayed in this manner, and that is precisely what, in my opinion, makes the portrayal believable.
imadra_blue: But, ultimately, the dialogue is what it is: stilted and banal. However, it's also part of Star Wars's charm.
I couldn't agree more. And to tell you the truth, when I first came to the Star Wars fandom, I hardly even noticed the dialogue. It was the "Oh, wow!" factor that drew me in, and the way the characters spoke and acted was very much secondary. Oh, sure, nowadays I watch the ROTS love scene and I cringe inside at the crappy dialogue. But, like Jax, I can also accept that this is just a part of my fandom. Without it, Star Wars just would not be Star Wars.
lazypadawan: Ditto for A/P's romance. Most movies currently depict "romance" in one way: boy meets girl, girl's clothes come off, boy humps girl, the end. Lucas admitted in the book Mythmaking that he went for corny in some of those scenes but don't people in love say rather corny things to each other all of the time?
imadra_blue: Anakin/Padmé is not the point of Star Wars, believe it or not. It's a romantic subplot (an important one), and the results of their romance tie into the main plot.
One of the things that bugs me most about Anakin/Padmé shippers is when they try to pretend that the A/P romance was the entire point of the prequel trilogy. Look, I'm sorry to have to be the bearer of bad news, but it just ain't so. Anakin/Padmé is, at its purest form, a means to an end. Realistically, of course, it's much more than that. It's the story of two young people caught in impossible circumstances, trying to do the best they possibly can. As Jax said, it's an important subplot. But to haul off and say Anakin/Padmé is the point of the entire SW saga?
I'm sorry, but NO.
Look, if you're a regular reader of this journal you'll know where I stand on the A/P ship. I am not ashamed to admit that I love it. I am also not ashamed to admit that I adore Obi-Wan/Padmé as my OTP, or that I also go nuts for Anakin/Obi-Wan. If any of those opinions makes you feel that I'm not qualified to comment on this, go ahead and click the Back button right now. Really. It's a free country.
Star Wars is about more than just Anakin/Padmé. It's the story of a brother and a sister, and of a son's attempts to redeem his father. It's got kickass battles and a message about trusting your instincts. And yes, it has Anakin/Padmé. But I wish sometimes that some A/P shippers would stop acting like their ship is the be-all and end-all to the movies, and therefore immune from criticism. Because it's not. Obi-Wan/Anakin isn't immune. Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan isn't immune. Everyone and his grandmother and her DOG knows Obidala isn't immune! So why should A/P get a free pass?
It shouldn't. And if you're looking for that free pass on this journal, please point your browser elsewhere, because I criticize all ships equally. XD
Further to that point, I'm not trying to insinuate that SW should be immune from criticism. Oh no, far from it. I would just like to see all criticism (and praise!) justified, as opposed to randomly tossed out. It's all about backing up your opinions with facts, no matter how those facts might be slanted. We learned that in school - have an educated opinion.
I really wish more people would apply that principle to fandom.
More may be added to this post tomorrow, but right now I can't keep my eyes open. Heh. Feel free to debate away in the comments. ^_^