If this new era of Star Wars is going to flourish, it’s important to embrace all of the movies… not just the ones that suit us.
There’s no denying that the release of the prequel trilogy was a complicated time for Star Wars fandom. There was really no way that The Phantom Menace, let alone the other two, could live up to the expectations fans placed on them… but it’s safe to say that the end product was legitimately disappointing overall.
We don’t need professional analyses or Mr. Plinkett reviews to tell us The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith aren’t very well executed movies. However, that doesn’t mean that Star Wars needs to ignore them going forward. Because even though the execution of the films and their characters isn’t good… the ideas behind them expanded the Star Wars mythology in fascinating and subversive ways.
In concept, the prequels are actually really interesting… and maybe that’s where they deserve to stay. So, it makes us quite happy that we’re seeing the new Star Wars continuity not shying away from the era… because at the end of the day it really did add to the mythology substantially.
What concepts in the prequel films are good?
The politics of the prequels, despite being executed in the most boring way possible, are actually well thought out and take a lot of notes from the Weimar Republic and Industrial Japan. The last days of the crumbling Republic and its Jedi expanded our views of the universe a great deal, giving context for a world we could only imagine vaguely before. Furthermore, how Palpatine manipulates that Republic to create the Empire is honestly brilliant when thought about in broad strokes.
The Clone Wars themselves were interesting in the fact that no one expected the clones to be the genesis of the Stormtrooper corps, nor did they think they Jedi would be fighting along with them. The Clone Wars show proved that that the ideas and world building of the era are great, especially when they’re executed well.
Lastly, the general arc of Anakin’s fall is brilliant. Yes, the dialogue, direction, and writing didn’t do the characters or actors involved justice, but the idea that Anakin fell because he was afraid to lose the ones he loved (only to cause it himself) is fantastic. We think that, going forward, if the prequel era version of the character and his fall are referenced in those general terms, it could actually work quite well. It’s one of the reasons we actually wouldn’t mind seeing Hayden Christensen appear in Episode VIII.
How is Disney embracing the prequels?
Well, Star Wars Rebels is integrating many characters and plot threats from Clone Wars into its narrative, essentially making it a sequel show. The Clone Wars era is also being wrapped up via books based on unproduced work from the show. Lastly, we’re getting an Obi-Wan and Anakin comic set between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones.
And, most recently, the post-Return of the Jedi comic series Star Wars: Shattered Empire Princess Leia has returned to her mother’s home planet of Naboo. There, she not only senses the lingering Force echo of Darth Maul, but she and her comrades pilot old Naboo starfighters against the Empire. It’s a fantastic mash up of old and new which you may have noticed isn’t sullying the original trilogy events or characters at all.
So, what’s the best way to integrate old and new?
Really, the golden rule is to call on the prequels when it makes sense for the story you’re telling. If The Force Awakens or Rogue One needs to reference Count Dooku or Kamino because it’s the best way to tell its story… then there’s no reason to be afraid. After all, the prequels themselves taught us execution of ideas counts for a lot.
So, while we know a lot of people would prefer if we pretended that the prequel films never existed… we feel it’s good to embrace them and redeem the era. Were they a missed opportunity? Absolutely. But they don’t have to be a lost cause. One day, we hope to get Anthology films based in the era to really show how other filmmakers tackle the material.