what it is: Star Wars
what category: movies
vantage point: actors
There seems to be a great deal of confusion surrounding the Star Wars saga. For instance, many fans of the original films hate both the new prequel films and the fact that George Lucas has repeatedly gone back and "tampered" with those original films, believing both to be entirely unnecessary actions that have damaged the original impact they fondly remember.
First of all, unless you can alter memories, you can't do that. Secondly, don't be ridiculous.
Maybe it helps approaching approaching the saga from a different point of view. It's easy to think of Star Wars for all the pop cultural references and the giant impact it made, right from the start, about Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, the Force, the Rebellion, and the Galactic Empire.
Yet you also have to remember that Old Ben Kenobi himself, Alec Guinness, thought his role was a joke, that Lucas had scripted his lines horribly, and if you look at his performance that way, you'll see how stilted it is. You never really think of Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher that way, but they were working with the same material. There's a good reason why they didn't become stars and Harrison Ford did, because he understood the material and what he could bring to it, whereas they merely filled their roles.
What I'm saying is, if you look at the original films from an acting perspective, you may see them differently. They're not perfect. Many fans seem to think they are, but they aren't. I'm not just talking about Return of the Jedi. They're really good, really imaginative, but they're not perfect. They're not so different from the new films as some fans would lead you to believe.
Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen, and Ewan McGregor, aren't so different in the new films as Hamill and Fisher (though Portman is the closest to Ford that these films get, and Christensen did Shattered Glass, and hey, McGregor is a longtime star of indy films). It's the vision Lucas has and the visual splendor that makes these films what they are.
James Earl Jones and Ford brought the real charisma to the original films, just as Liam Neeson and Ian McDiarmid do in the new ones. They're supporting players who bring outsize personality to their roles.
When Lucas goes back and tries to make the visuals better in the older movies, it's to try and keep them relevant, not for existing fans, but newer ones, the same ones who are more likely to view the prequels the way old fans fell in love with the old films. Stop me when this makes any sense, because chances are either you understand what I'm saying or I'm making you see Star Wars for the first time.
Stop viewing Star Wars as Star Wars, is what I'm saying. Alec Guiness was not Kenobi in the same sense that Ian McKellen was Gandalf. Maybe that'll clarify things.