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.
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 beautiful—different 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.)
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.
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.
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:
star wars twitter, i’m putting something together and i need your help! please reply (or quote) with what you love about the prequel trilogy/clone wars—even better if you say why. is it the characters? the visuals? the story? padmé’s outfits? i want to know!
— bea (@sailor_Iuna) November 10, 2019
As I expected, some people praised the visuals and the overall aesthetic:
If nothing else, the prequels set out to tell their own story. Whether you think they succeeded or failed, they did it on their own terms.
Also, the aesthetics of the ships is A+. From the opulent Nubians to the heavily WWII-inspired Clone Wars starfighters. https://t.co/0Qr9to3t0r
— Captain of Raspberries (@TaberiusRex) November 10, 2019
I love the visuals of the prequels b/c they weren’t afraid to be big, bold and sleek and they weren’t like anything we had seen yet in Star Wars when they came out.
I also loved being able to finally see the Jedi Order.
And seeing the tragedy of a hero’s fall was interesting. https://t.co/udlvrIl3Fv
— 🍁Obi-Done Kenobi🦃 (@thetorontokid) November 10, 2019
Visuals for sure are some favorites that vividly stick to me. Anakin & Padmé’s wedding on Naboo? Excellence. The sad, tumultuous burning of Anakin in III after fighting Obi Wan? Masterpiece. The entire build up of Chancellor Palpatine? Wow. Purple lightsaber? Samuel L. Jackson 😎
— Matthew J. Sánchez (@MatthewJSanchez) November 10, 2019
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:
there is only one answer and it is obi-wan kenobi https://t.co/W3hmLhZJXW
— ham yoyo 🚀💫 (@scifibis) November 10, 2019
The prequel setting is my favorite setting, and I mean that very broadly. The planets, the time period and associated conflicts, the different set pieces (Jedi Temple, Geonosis factory, etc).
Also Ahsoka, Ventress, and Maul are the best part of everything
— Maclunky shot first (@Cisnerd) November 10, 2019
For the Clone Wars, it’s everything great about the prequels with truly wonderful characters. Ahsoka adds so much to the story, I care about all the clones, and it’s both amazing and troubling to get a closer look at the Jedi Order.
— Thomas (@ThomasEli) November 10, 2019
Some went a step deeper into the politics weaved into the series:
Re the prequels, the scores are impeccable. The important questions they raise- the Republic vs. the Separatists, the ethics of cloning, the flaws of the Jedi Order. The tragedy of Anakin. Also Obi-Wan/Ewan McGregor ❤️ https://t.co/ogKsyO0lHu
— Georgie (@gxcons) November 10, 2019
I’ve always thought the storyline about how institutions can so easily fail us and how no democracy is impervious to rot from within is extremely valuable.
Also, “Duel Of the Fates” slaps.
— Julia Maclunkey ⬆️🌌🚶🏽♀️🔜 (@spaceoperatic) November 10, 2019
What I love most is the moral ambiguity. In the OT and the ST, the enemy is clearly coded as fascist as immoral. In the PT, because Sidious is playing both sides against each other, there is no clear good and bad side. The Jedi are caught up in this as Sidious exploits them.
— Werner Herzog is in Star Wars (@BeepsHappy) November 10, 2019
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.
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.