… or should you just stick with the originals?
Franchises are tricky things. Like Marvel or Star Trek, the bigger they get the more rich they can become. However, you also run the risk of having some not-so-great entries that expand the story and setting in many ways but are best left forgotten.
Some would argue that that perfectly describes the Star Wars prequels.
We certainly don’t blame people for thinking that. After all, the prequels have problems and signified a rough patch, which is one of the many reasons why people are so excited for the sequel trilogy, which is decades removed from the events of The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith.
But, if you’ve been reading the new books and comics you may have noticed that the new story material isn’t ignoring the prequels. There have been references to the events of those films in several books including Lost Stars, Tarkin, and Shattered Empire… which means knowing the prequels could improve your enjoyment of those stories.
So… is that the case with The Force Awakens?
Word on the street is that this is not in fact the case. Aside from a passing mention or two, the prequels really aren’t referenced in the film. There are a few reasons for this. In universe, it’s been decades since the Clone Wars ended and the Galactic Civil War has probably been destructive to the point where many records of the past have been lost.
Just look at Rey, who grew up isolated on a desert planet full of wrecked ships. She only has a snapshot of the past to piece events together. Furthermore, there are only wrecks of a certain era of ships and none before. We wouldn’t be surprised if she had only heard of the Clone Wars in passing.
As for Finn, he’s a First Order stormtrooper who’s been fed propaganda for who knows how long. He, like Rey, only has access to an incomplete picture of true events.
And who’s their mentor? Han Solo, who only has had a street level view of history. He’s no scholar and can only tell it like he sees it. These are our characters in the film, and none of them would have much access to the history of the Old Republic. They’d only talk about it in generalizations… and as such… seeing the prequels isn’t too important.
Is there a real life reason for all of this?
Well, despite the books and comics embracing the prequels, it’s pretty obvious the filmmakers know about the reputation the second trilogy has among fans and moviegoers at large. It makes sense they’d want to distance themselves from those films in order to have a fresh start.
As for whether those elements will return… we’ll just have to wait and see in Episodes VIII and IX. But for now, you’ll be just fine watching A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi in preparation for The Force Awakens.