In Defense of the Star Wars Prequels

(Spoiler Warning: If you haven’t seen the star wars movies, and you intend to, this article contains spoilers.)

Ever since George Lucas relinquished control of the Star Wars franchise, I’ve noticed a number of fans re-assessing both him as a creator, and the movies that caused the rift. Granted, the divide started with the special editions of the original trilogy, but I’ll designate that as a separate debate. But I wanted to note that the special editions hold a special place in my heart, simply because they allowed me to see the original trilogy on the big screen (I grew up in the 90s). I feel this is important to mention because Episode 1 was released in 1999, when I was 14 years old. Being more of a kid, and less of an angsty teen, I enjoyed the movie. So much that I returned the VHS copy twice because it had little blips that meant my copy wasn’t perfect (I had to have a perfect copy).

I think my favorite scene was probably the lightsaber battle between Qui-gon, Obi-wan, and Darth Maul. Particularly when Obi-wan has to step up and battle the sith on his own. To this day, it’s still one of my favorite lightsaber battles and it set off a long lasting love for Obi-wan as a character and Ewan McGregor as an actor. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the Obi-wan from the original trilogy, but in those movies he was firmly rooted in the mentor role. Seeing him younger not only brought him closer to my own age (at the time) but it also reframed him as an exceptional side character. For all intents and purposes, Anakin and Luke are the main characters of the Star Wars movies, which means all Obi-wan ever was, was a supporting role. I’m not sure why, but seeing the extraordinary things he does, while not being the main character, has made him more endearing to me. Similar to Wedge from the original trilogy, who had the distinction of not dying in any of the space battles, despite not being Luke or Han.

My second favorite scene from Episode 1 was the pod race sequence. Not only was it a high adrenaline moment, but the special effects rose above the capabilities of the original trilogy. As a comparison, many of the ship explosions in episodes 4-6 were just that, explosions. The pod race really introduced us to ships that came apart at the seams. Pieces flew off, parts burnt out, and hunks of metal were sent spinning with the impossible momentum of these machines. They felt very real despite being total fabrications. And, in light of George Lucas admitting he is more of a visual storyteller than a writer, sequences like this make more sense and, I feel, deserve more appreciation.

If I had any issues with episode 1, at the time, I’ve since forgotten them. I was too young to recognize any racial stereotypes with Jar Jar or adequately judge the acting ability of Jake Lloyd. Interestingly enough, when watching the movie now, the thing that bothers me most is why Naboo would elect a 14-year-old queen (since later movies seemed to imply it wasn’t by birthright). But younger me would soon discover, as I got older, that the collective will of the fans would change everything.

As part of my fan obsession I crafted two lightsaber hilts (with the help of my dad) out of plumbing parts. Obi Wan's (Ep1) and Luke's (Ep6).
As part of my fan obsession I crafted two lightsaber hilts (with the help of my dad) out of plumbing parts. Obi Wan's (Ep1) and Luke's (Ep6).

Attack of the Clones arrived in 2002, when I was 17. By then, the episode 1 hate was in full swing and I was old enough to know about it. So I joined the mass of hopefuls going into episode 2 with a sense of optimism that it would be ‘better’. Never mind that I liked the first one, I still felt as if this one had to make up for it in some fashion. But, interestingly enough, Attack of the Clones is my least favorite of the prequel trilogy. I liked that Obi-wan got his trademark beard, and Anakin was old enough to be a jedi now, but a lot of episode 2 felt like exposition for a different movie, which it was. It served as a set up for episode 3 as well as two different clone wars television series. It had to explain how the clone wars started, where the clones came from, who would be fighting in the war, and why Anakin and Padme fell in love. The latter of which was probably the weakest part of the movie. This epic love story that birthed Luke and Leia felt like a hokey high school play. I almost feel like a one-night-stand would have been a better explanation than the awkward secret marriage they ended up with. That, and Jango Fett went out like a punk. To be fair, so did Boba Fett in Return of the Jedi, but come on, they’re mandalorians!

With all the things episode 2 had to do, it lost the contained arc format that we got from A New Hope and the Phantom Menace, instead opting for something similar to the Empire Strikes Back. And, while Empire is often touted as the best in the series, I wouldn’t say it was my favorite growing up. Had you asked me then, I probably would have said Return of the Jedi because of memorable moments like the Rancor battle and the Sarlacc pit. Plus I had an unusual fascination with Luke’s green lightsaber (it’s cooler because it’s green).

So, while I was disappointed by episode 2, I don’t think it had the kind of negative impact on me that episode 1 had on fans of the original trilogy. And I was one of the people who actually enjoyed the battle between Yoda and Count Dooku. It finally explained how older, seemingly decrepit, Jedi masters could still kick ass. This would set the stage for how Darth Sidious could be as formidable as he is, despite also being older.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Seasons 1-5
Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Seasons 1-5

The Clone Wars television show proved to be an entertaining extension of the prequel trilogy. Not only enhancing existing characters, but giving birth to memorable new ones.

 

Finally, Episode 3 was released in 2005, when I was 20. As with before, I entered the theater with the hope that this one would be better than the last two, letting fan opinion sway me more than my own. What followed is what I would describe as my new favorite Star Wars movie.

Now, Revenge of the Sith has its own issues. Padme’s sendoff is the first thing that comes to mind. There are so many better ways they could have ended the story of Luke and Leia’s mother, but instead they went with ‘she just gave up’. That’s oversimplifying it, but for a character that is supposedly as strong as her, to lose the will to live doesn’t make any sense. Sure her husband turned evil, but shouldn’t her motherly instincts be kicking in? Shouldn’t she want to live so she can protect them? And, of course, Darth Vader’s now infamous “Noooo!” was another low point.

But anyway, the great moments outweigh the bad. Standouts for me include the opera scene between Palpatine and Anakin, because of the not-so-subtle manipulation and Ian McDiarmid’s performance. The lightsaber battle between Anakin and Obi-wan (again my favorite side character shines). Darth Vader’s first breath, and the final shot on Tatooine that ties together the two trilogies. Part of the reason episode 3 works for me is because it serves as the climax for the entire Star Wars series. It depicts the creation of its most memorable villain, births the hero son that will save him, ends the clone wars and establishes the galactic empire. It finalizes the entire foundation upon which the original trilogy was built, which was no small task, and it does so while still delivering the visual flair the series is known for.

The People Vs George Lucas
The People Vs George Lucas

This documentary perfectly sums up the rift between fans and George Lucas. Including its origin and the generational divide.

 

But, beyond that, it also represents the climax of George Lucas’s career. An older director circling back around to where he began. Unless something crazy happens, George Lucas will never make another Star Wars movie. And, while some might celebrate that fact, no fan can deny its significance. Considering the fictional and non-fictional weight placed on the shoulders of episode 3, it’s a miracle it didn’t collapse in on itself.

The reason that I decided to revisit the prequels is because I recently watched the Clone Wars television series, which originally aired on Cartoon Network. Say what you will about a 30-year-old man watching a kid’s show on Netflix, the show was an instant nostalgia trip. But, not for the adventures of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, rather it was for Anakin and Obi-wan. In case it wasn’t obvious, the prequels grew up with me. They followed me during those crucial stages of life that shape us into who we will become. Just like children of the 70s who grew up with the original trilogy. Now I’m an adult and a writer, trying to make my own stories that will have the same impact on others that Star Wars had on me. Older fans may disagree, but George Lucas inspired a whole new generation. He did for us, what he did for you, even if you didn’t always agree with it. Are the prequels perfect? Of course not; neither are the originals. But I, for one, am sick of the prequel hate. For the longest time, when someone asked me what my favorite movie was, I would say Star Wars. When they asked which one, I would say that I couldn’t choose. But that wasn’t entirely true. Fans demand you say Empire Strikes Back. But for me, my favorite will always be Revenge of the Sith. And I thank George Lucas for sharing those stories with us.

More by this Author


Comments 8 comments

Coopacabra profile image

Coopacabra 18 months ago from Georgia

I agree with a lot of this. I adamantly hated the prequels until I had the time and distance to try them again.

They aren't Empire, but they aren't the Holiday Special either.


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 18 months ago from United States Author

Coopacabra - A very good point. The train wreck that is the Holiday Special is one of the few things where George Lucas and fans agree. Thank you for the comment!


Anate profile image

Anate 13 months ago

I am one one of the ones that does not hate the prequels, I really just hate Episode 2. Episode 1 is good for what it is suppose to be. Episode 2 sadly focused way too much on a love story that whenever it went to it maybe me want to walk out of the movie. I will have to argue against the Yoda duel though. Only because it does not fit with what we see of Yoda in The Original Trilogy. The reason he was badass was not that he was a great warrior but that he was a wise Jedi Master.


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 13 months ago from United States Author

Anate - I agree that Episode 2 is the weakest of the prequel movies. I remember watching an interview with George Lucas around the time that it came out, about how he envisioned it (as in the entire movie) as a love story at its core. I think where he went wrong was that he tried to make it both a love story and an action epic. So what we got wasn't really enough of either. A love story can definitely be told in the Star Wars universe, but in order to do so, I feel like he would have had to focus on a much smaller cast and setting, rather than using it as the start of the clone wars.

And I do acknowledge that Yoda's strength, in the original trilogy, came from his mind and training, not from his physicality. At the same time, the lightsaber is a part of being a jedi. So it is reasonable to assume that he was trained with it, even if it wasn't his strong suit. Given his status as a jedi master, wouldn't he have mastered that aspect of the jedi training as well?

Thanks for the comment!


Anate profile image

Anate 13 months ago

The problem with Episode 2 was not that. Empire Strikes Back succeeds with a both love story and an action. The problem was that the love story being told in Episode wasn't a good love story. I have no objection to love stories. One of my favorite works outside of LOTR by Tolkien is the tale of Beren and Luthien. Its a love story. The problem was that Anakin and Padme's love story was not good. The lines weren't good. The delivery wasn't good. The actors for whatever reason had no chemistry in the scenes.

As for Yoda, he should have been trained with the lightsaber, but he should have his own unique strengths aka his wisdom. Instead, George Lucas decided to turn him into the Super Jedi, who is good at everything. Count Dooku is suppose to be an expert duelist, and Yoda beats. Therefore it seems as though lightsaber is his strong suit. When he catches the lightning that was awesome. That is more what their duel should have come down to, a duel of force powers.


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 13 months ago from United States Author

You won't hear me defending the dialogue for Anakin and Padme's love story. George Lucas is a fantastic visual storyteller, but dialogue isn't his strong suit. But, I also wouldn't compare it to the Empire Strikes Back, where the love story was little more than a side plot. Beren and Luthien are similarly delegated to legends told by the characters in the main storyline. The more the romance is brought to the forefront, the harder it is to do right. I think George Lucas's biggest mistake was trying to bring it to the forefront. As I said in the article above, a one night stand might have worked better than the wooden performances we got.

Also Yoda was supposed to be Count Dooku's old master. So again, wouldn't it stand to reason that the Count became an expert dualist because he was trained by an expert dualist? Again, I'm not trying to suggest that Yoda's greatest strength is the lightsaber over wisdom. He does try to use just force powers at the beginning of the battle. And, when it isn't enough, he switches to the lightsaber. I just find it hard to believe that a jedi master as skilled as Yoda would be anything but an expert with a lightsaber.


Anate profile image

Anate 13 months ago

In the Silmarillion, Beren and Luthien is one of the stories, a short story but story all the same on its own merit, and it is one of the few worth reading in the Silmarillion.

As for Yoda, that only depends on how you choose your Jedi Masters. Leaders of a group are not always necessarily proficient in all matters of the group. Also since there is quite a bit of training given before someone becomes a padawan, including lightsaber training as is evidenced in Episode 2, Dooku being expert duelist does not mean that Yoda would be an expert duelist. He might have also continued rigorous training in the lightsaber after becoming a knight.


Benjamin Plazek 9 months ago

he music is also absolutely phenomenonal and in many way rivals the music of the originals. Duel of the fates is one of the most well known scores, besides the main theme. Across the stars expressed the tragic love between Padme and Anakin better than the film itself ever could

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working