Look, I love Star Wars. I’ve seen each of the Original Trilogy, perhaps, hundreds of times each (yes, I mean hundreds literally and in the plural). But the the Prequels just weren’t as enjoyable. In fact, they’re maddening.
It hurt me when John Boyega said that Episode I was the first Star Wars that he saw as a kid (the only upside being that the movies perhaps got better as he saw II through VI). The movies just don’t hold up visually – too much CGI. The stories are lacking (though we should be honest, the Originals had big plot issues too). Jar Jar was offensive, even if meant to be lovable. There have been a lot written about their shortcomings; I may add to the frey eventually.
In many ways, we want to treat them like Rocky V or Star Trek V and disregard their stories entirely. And just like Spock doesn’t have a brother, we don’t want to ever mention metichlorians again (and haven’t in Rebels thus far for example).
But the Prequels aren’t terrible. They’re not. You have to just keep telling yourself while you’re watching or thinking about them to realize it. But it’s true. There’s so many really good individual things that were really great. In particular, the music and the sounds which are epic. We got to see a shot of Alderaan which was kinda cool.
There are many things that really added meaningfully to the Star Wars Universe. There are many, but here are a few things that I think really move the story forward.
Darth Maul is arguably the most interesting character to emerge from the Prequels. Darth Sidious / The Emperor was already pretty well known to us. But Darth Maul had the pressure of being compared to Vader. And this character delivered. He was evil, fast, skilled, and had a double-bladed light saber. It was everything we wanted from a new evil character. While the biggest detraction from the Sequels is arguably that Maul was killed. But he was so good, they brought him back in The Clone Wars and subsequent legacy content.
Perhaps most importantly, the Prequels gave us a great glimpse into Obiwan Kenobi’s character. We got to see him at critical points of his career – as a Padowan, as Anakin’s Master, and as a General in the Clone Wars. And there was action. Some of the best action sequences involved Obiwan. It’s such that the only way to make room for Anakin to show his strength was to somehow harm Obiwan rather randomly (think the two battles against Dooku). But it’s through the Prequels (and Clone Wars) that we learn to have a new appreciation for Obiwan Kenobi’s power and insight that we never really had when watching the Original Trilogy (unless you were an infant like me and I didn’t know any better).
Fett vs Jedi
We never got to see much of Boba Fett in action – just that brief stint on Jabba’s Sail Barge. But Episode II gave us what we wanted. One of the best sequences involved Jango Fett taking on Obiwan on Kamino. It was a great sequence (albeit, a bit too structured for my taste). There was light saber action; Jango flying with his jet pack; we saw that rope… thing. And it was raining. And Boba Fett was in Slave I firing on Kenobi. It was a great sequence though it could have been better.
One thing we ever thought we would get see is Master Yoda using a Light Saber. But i Episodes II ad III, we are treated to some fantastic fight scene with Master Yoda – the first with with Count Dooku and the second with Darth Sidious. We get to see his acrobatics ad mastery of Force Pushes. Though I took issue with the endings of both interactions (Yoda’s 0 for 2 against Sith Lord’s), they were some of the best action scenes of all six of the films.
Subtext for The Clone Wars
Perhaps the best contribution of the Prequels is that they provide the backdrop for the Star Wars The Clone Wars series. In many ways The Clone Wars are the Star Wars that we always wanted. It was beautifully produced, well written, and intensely exciting. There were amazing character and story lines that pushed the limits of where Star Wars could go thematically. Even Jar Jar Binks had tolerable episodes. We’re introduced to new characters such as Ahsoka Tano and Captain Rex, . We also learn more about characters shown only in glimpses from the films such as Masters Plo Kuhn and Luminara. It’s a series that will be as timeless as the rest of the Star Wars saga.
So the Prequels aren’t terrible. For all the flaws that they have, there’s so many good things about them that we can’t really ignore them. It’s really the execution more than the overall story that I take issue with (even Jar Jar). It’s also true that The Clone Wars really saved these stories providing a better appreciation for the characters, events, and overall plot. So we’re stuck with them. And that’s not a bad thing.