In the summer of 2005, I threw my then best friend into a movie theater and made him see a film with me. This slight would later be repaid when he forced me to go to a local Twilight-themed prom event despite us both being in college and me hating Twilight. The movie I made him see was Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. I had fallen in love with Star Wars earlier in my high school career, mostly nostalgic takes on the original trilogy which came out before I was born. The 2000s were part of a 30-year nostalgia cycle that meant the 1970s were back, baby and in my Dukes of Hazzard shirt (yes, I did own one) and with all of my bootcut jeans, I embarked on a journey that would take me far across the galaxy. I decided that I liked Star Wars.
Now, Star Wars as a franchise has an interesting history. The original trilogy was, when I came into it, decades old. The fanbase from the start was energized and enthusiastic but since the movies were coming out and thus, information was only coming out as the movies did. We learned about Darth Vader being Luke’s father at the same moment Luke did. We learned about the destruction of Alderaan as Leia does. We learn about how scary Ewoks are as we meet them.
By the time I came into Star Wars, we had expanded lore and canon. And we had time to speculate about how things would play out. We didn’t know who Anakin was as a kid or who Obi-Wan was as a youth. We didn’t see many more planets and we didn’t get to explore some of the bigger concepts that the original trilogy started but just couldn’t answer.
I was a youngling when Phantom Menace came out and thus I have no memory of it as a small one, the same goes for Attack of the Clones. But Revenge of the Sith I remember and I remember loving it. I remember loving the lore, the myths, the characters; all of it. But for me, Star Wars has quickly fallen into the same group as many fan properties I love: I love the lore and the universe but not how that lore is always explained by the creator and/or directors. I’m not here to bash the most recent Star Wars movies because, well, I like having an audience but just know I like porgs; I can mostly respect that The Last Jedi is not great and really for probably none of the reasons anyone would assume. I have no issue with the mean women yelling at men, mostly just that the movie does seem a bit flippant with characters: that isn’t a major deal breaker for me but I’m not crazy about it.
But we’re not here to talk about the new trilogy or the original trilogy: we’re here to talk prequels.
It isn’t original to say the prequels are bad. The dialogue is a mess, the graphics are shotty and it just can’t be satisfying to know that Anakin was a snotty, annoying, creepy dude-bro before turning into Darth Vader.
However, I have a very weird nostalgia for the prequels, so, let’s talk about it.
I remember seeing A New Hope as a teenager and mostly thinking “Wow, these effects are awful.” keep in mind, I was in my teens in the 2000s: so yes, the effects from the original trilogy had in places aged like milk. I thought they were boring, honestly. Which leads me to the number thing nice thing I have to say about the prequels. If you’re going to sell me on a franchise about space samurai having laser sword fights, then the fights have to be epic. By 2005, I had sold my soul to anime and thus I had a big expectation of what fights could be. I don’t have a lot of nice things to say about Phantom Menace but that fight between Darth Maul, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon is exactly how I imagine a space samurai fight would go. I know some have issues with the flips and spins from especially older characters/actors like Christopher Lee of course can’t do a spiral spin like that but you know what? It was epic to see. Each fight in the prequel trilogy felt epic and dangerous and skillful and was so much better than two men lightly tapping light bulbs at each other.
While many had issues with how artificial the backgrounds looked in the prequel trilogy, I will say this: all the worlds did feel alien. While the original trilogy did their best with what they had as far as sets and effects, the prequels did manage to make each world look like “wow, we really have traveled to some far away galaxy and this is a weird underwater Atlantis planet”.
Back story is something I’ve come to appreciate. And I’m also the first to say that sometimes knowing more about a character isn’t helpful. Looking at you, Auntie Jo. And while I will not fight some people who didn’t need to know Anakin was an annoying kid…at the time, I did. I had tons of questions about who Vader was before he became Vader and while the writing was…trash…it was nice to see us go from sweet little Anakin to oh crap, yep, he’s evil. Even seeing Obi-Wan as a teen rather than as just some old wizard…it was awesome. Seeing how we got to the characters we know and love in the original trilogy helped contextualize so much about how we see them even moving forward into the new trilogy. Seeing Luke struggle with anger and violence reminds us that he is, in fact, Anakin’s son. Seeing Obi-Wan be too cautious reminds us that the one time he was impetuous, it was disastrous for him.
I think it’s easier to see the bad when it comes to the prequels and while I’ve mentioned some good, yes, they’re a mess. Jar Jar is an abomination of all things good, the acting is bad, the writing is bad, it’s all bad. But seeing the bit of good I think helps understand fans and fan passions about Star Wars. The most recent movies have been…divisive. And that’s rooted in the fact that we now have so much information now about these characters. We went from just accepting that sure, the Force can do that to “wait, we know what the Force can do and it’s never done that”; and that starts with the prequels and all the media that came after it. Now, that’s never an excuse to be garbage to actors and actresses and really The Last Jedi is not that bad and if you’re angry about women yelling at men, then you’re just wrong.
I love Star Wars and I’m proud to say that I’m Sith and proud to be part of this fandom when its great. When we respect each other, when we make lightsabers and when we talk about being a youngling and having to talk about Jedi texts. We are at our best when we support each other and have loving and respectful talks about who is the best Grey Jedi. That is when we are the best.