The Star Wars Prequels are Good, Actually

If you’ve been keeping up with pop culture during the last 20 years, you’re probably aware that it’s a universally known fact that the Star Wars prequels are bad. 

Whenever I would mention being a Star Wars fan, the statement would almost always be met with a variation of “but surely not the prequels, those suck!” and I would agree without thinking twice. Even the people who defended this oft-derided trilogy felt the need to excuse their love for them, usually by explaining that they had first watched them as kids and it was nothing more than nostalgia.

I didn’t disagree with this unquestioned belief for most of my life, even though I’d probably only ever watched about 10 minutes of The Phantom Menace (1999). I didn’t need to watch the films in order to know that Jar Jar Binks was annoying, and that Anakin complains about sand at one point. I thought I was being cool by hating on them, when, in reality, I was only missing out on what ended up being some of my favorite Star Wars content ever. 

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Last year, at twenty-[redacted] years old, I was encouraged by a good friend to give them another chance so I did, albeit reluctantly. I’m still not sure if it’s because I went in with really low expectations, but they were surprisingly not as bad as everyone made had them out to be.

They were beautifuldifferent enough from the original trilogy that it stood on its own, but similar enough that you never doubted it to be the same universe. Even the score was absolutely top-tier. I couldn’t believe it but I actually wanted to know more about Anakin and Obi-Wan’s relationship. I wanted more Coruscant, more clones, more world-building.

After seeing the films, what better source for all of this than The Clone Wars? Arguably some of the best Star Wars storytelling can be found in what is commonly dismissed as just a children’s cartoon. I completely fell in love with the setting, and I learned to appreciate the story for what it is and not for what it tried to be. Yes, I know it’s not award-winning dialogue or even good direction, but the story is there and it is great. (Seriously, do yourself a favor and read the Revenge of the Sith novelization by R.A. Salvatore. You’ll thank me later.)

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As I was finally learning to appreciate the movies, I started to notice a lot of prequel-era content was being released. It felt like a sort of renaissance, so to speak, and one that I had arrived to at just the right time. It was announced to a cheering crowd that The Clone Wars—a series that was abruptly cut short in 2014—was being revived for a seventh and final season during last year’s San Diego Comic Con. We had Maul show up in Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018), which almost felt like a reward for the fans who had watched the series and knew how he was still alive after his supposed death in Episode I.

And we haven’t even gotten to all the prequel goodies released this year.

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This year, we got the young adult novel Queen’s Shadow by E.K. Johnston, which gave us some insight into Padmé Amidala’s transition from Queen of Naboo to senator as well as her relationship with her loyal handmaidens. (Johnson is also writing a second Padmé novel titled Queen’s Peril, set prior to Episode I.)

We got Dooku: Jedi Lost, the first canon audiobook narrated by a full cast (the script was later released in book format), which told the story of Count Dooku’s early days as Master Yoda’s padawan and his relationship with one of the coolest villains the franchise has ever seen, Asajj Ventress.

We got the single-player video game Jedi: Fallen Order which explores how Order 66 affected surviving Jedi and some of the mythos surrounding the time period.

We got a new canon novel (and one of my personal favorites) Master & Apprentice by Claudia Gray, finally giving fans a deeper exploration into the infamous Chosen One prophecy and other interesting Jedi lore. This year’s Star Wars Celebration (which is the biggest congregation of Star Wars nerds in the world) even had a huge panel dedicated to 20 years of The Phantom Menace.

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Suddenly, it was cool to like the prequels again. Don’t get me wrong, I know some people have always loved them, but it was a significant shift in the greater reaches of fandom that was really incredible to witness in real-time. (That being said, it has been a little disappointing to see prequel-era footage and content being consistently left out during all the Episode IX promos.)

So wanting to celebrate the prequel trilogy before the final installment of the Skywalker saga comes out next week, I took to Twitter to ask fans what they love about the prequel era:

As I expected, some people praised the visuals and the overall aesthetic:

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Others showed a lot of love for characters such as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Maul, Count Dooku, Ahsoka Tano and Mace Windu. There was, of course, lots of love for the Chosen One, Anakin Skywalker himself:

Some went a step deeper into the politics weaved into the series:

In addition to the replies, I also received countless messages from fans about what they loved about the prequels and The Clone Wars, and answers included things like Geonosis, seeing the Jedi in their prime, the relationships between characters, and of course, the not-so-subtle political undertones.

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The Star Wars fandom has long had a reputation for being impossible to please. The hateful reception to the prequels back in their day took a toll on many of those who worked on them—and that was before social media even existed.

Even now, when all the sequel trilogy discourse can get a bit exhausting, it was really heartwarming to have fans come together to talk about things they love. Seeing so many of us come together to share nothing but positivity was an incredibly wholesome experience, which can sometimes be a rarity on “Star Wars Twitter” (unless Baby Yoda is involved).

Thank you to everyone who shared their story, and while I couldn’t include every response, know that I read and bookmarked every single one for when I need a reminder of how great the fandom can be.

 

Edited by Melissa Lee
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