Star Wars: How The Prequel Trilogy Enhances The Force Awakens

WARNING: All Spoilers Ahead! Do not read if you have not seen The Force Awakens yet.


When it was announced that a brand new Star Wars film, as well as a new series of Star Wars episodes, was going to be released in the very near future, many people speculated that these new films would try to distance themselves from the last Star Wars outings in order to return to form, and to please the fan-base as much as possible.

Star Wars Episodes I, II, and III–ubiquitously known simply as “The Prequels,” due to their notoriety for being “bad”–are loved and appreciated by some, but are seen by others as a stain on the good name that is the Star Wars franchise: a franchise that means so much and has influenced so many things for so many people over multiple generations. So, as if it were a strict requirement, the general consensus at first–due to the fan rumor mill–was that this new Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, not only would avoid the prequels, but would renounce them as canon and move forward without much regard for what occurred in their stories.

However, this is not the case at all.

This article intends to explore the factual references towards “The Prequels” made within Episode VII, The Force Awakens, and to consider their significance in terms of what these references serve within the context of the film, and how the events of those films strengthen the overall history, mythology, and storytelling weight of the Star Wars franchise.

The Legend of Anakin Skywalker

About a third of the way through the film, hung above the doorway to Maz Kanata’s pirate bar, there are a series of flags strung from wires. These flags have been confirmed to mostly consist of Podracing Flags, seen in Episode I: The Phantom Menace, when young Anakin Skywalker enters the race to win the prize money that Qui-Gon and company will use to fix their ship, and move on out towards Coruscant. In fact, Anakin’s own flag can be seen among the others, with its blue and white design of what can be described as criss-crossing keys. It is at the top left side of the flag cluster, and is actually used twice: once upright, and once on its side.

This inclusion is very subtle, but it was also directly confirmed by director, J.J. Abrams. In an article for Rolling Stone, Abrams expresses that he actually did not want as many references to the first prequel in The Force Awakens, but ended up with them in the end.

“The flags are designed to drive superfans nuts with references to the earlier movies, but Abrams tells Guyett that too many of them allude to the first of Lucas’ prequels: ‘I don’t want to be too about podracers,’ he says. ‘I’d rather come up with our stuff.'” — Brian Hiatt & J.J. Abrams 1

Star Wars

When Abrams’ says that he didn’t want to be “too about podracers,” that could be a further reference to a junked podracing engine which can also be seen in the background on Jakku: when Rey, Finn, and BB-8 are running away from the First Order TIE-fighters. It would seem he did get more than he intended. This element of Anakin’s flag, however, is particularly interesting–since it was allowed to stay in the film–because throughout The Force Awakens, there is never once a mention or an acknowledgement from anyone of who Darth Vader strictly was, or what he used to be before he turned to the dark side.

As is explained more clearly in The Force Awakens novelization, Kylo Ren is aware of Vader’s early life, and is told by the omnipresent Supreme Leader Snoke, about his redemption at the end of Return of the Jedi; when he was saved and made whole again thanks to the bravery and the steadfastness of Luke Skywalker, his own son. However, because Snoke and Ren both believe this to be a deeply regrettable “failure” on the part of Vader–having failed to convert Luke to the dark side and having failed to remain on the dark side himself–Kylo Ren chooses intentionally to ONLY recognize and call to the dark spirit of Vader. Darth Vader: the most evil, calculating, and intimidating officer of the former Galactic Empire. Darth Vader: the Sith Lord who struck down the Jedi Order, and was the apprentice to the former Emperor, Darth Sidious. Darth Vader: Kylo Ren’s (true) grandfather. Ren considers Vader’s spirit a hard rock, a central point of inspiration from which to train himself to forego the light side of The Force, because Vader is such a renowned figure among the Sith Lords of old. Because he renounces the lighter side of Vader, and because every other character in the film only knew Vader as his darker form (Leia, Han, C3PO after his mind wipe, Rey when she peeked into Ren’s mind), the name, “Anakin Skywalker,” is never once uttered or written anywhere.

Therefore, the only thing that alludes to or acknowledges Darth Vader’s former life as the innocent Anakin, or indeed any of his strictly better natures, is that podracing flag. This then is the first instance where the echos of “The Prequels” within this film really kick in. This inclusion adds dimension. This inclusion adds history. It shows that the deeds characters have done linger on in small but noticeable ways. Especially when many past events aren’t as well looked upon by most of the characters.

Young Obi-Wan Kenobi

At the half-way point of The Force Awakens, there is a very beautiful and haunting sequence that occurs where Rey slowly finds her way towards a creaky old box in Maz Kanata’s cellar. Inside this box is unmistakably Luke Skywalker’s old lightsaber: the one that he lost when Darth Vader cut off his hand, and it fell into the abyss of Cloud City’s inner workings, perhaps even out into the gaseous clouds of the planet Bespin below.

As Rey touches this saber, she is instantly dropped into an intense series of visions, depicting images from when Luke confronted Vader on Cloud City, with the long trapezoidal corridor, images of Kylo Ren surrounded by dead bodies and closely followed by the other Knights of Ren, a mournful Luke Skywalker kneeling next to R2-D2, and an image of Rey herself as a young girl being dropped off on Jakku, with what appears to be her parents flying away in a small space-craft. All throughout these visions are voices from the past. Voices of those individuals who are strong with The Force, and are now part of it, calling to Rey through this saber. The clearest voice we hear is Yoda, saying “It’s Energy… surrounds us, and binds us.” However, we also hear Obi-wan Kenobi: but, not just Alec Guiness, Ewan McGregor was there too.

This is perhaps the most telling of all the allusions to “The Prequels” that The Force Awakens has. The podraceing flag of Anakin is one thing, and it can easily be added in either through the props department or the CGI animation department at Lucas Film and ILM. It’s getting an previous actor back–an actor that has had his fair share of fan bashing from his past Star Wars experiences–that’s the tricky part. Yet, it seems that in the aftermath of a recent Star Wars film announcement hoax–where an Obi-Wan film was suggested to begin production after Episode IX–Ewan McGregor said on Twitter that although the plans were currently a fake, should the plans for an Obi-Wan film ever come to fruition, he’d be happy to don the cloak again.

Ewan-McGregor-Tweet_01

It has also been confirmed by a recent interview with J.J. Abrams that Ewan really did make that come-back (much earlier than expected), doing a quick voice-over recording at Bad Robot studios, directly speaking to Rey as the young version of Obi-Wan. Then, with the use of clever audio editing of sound bites from the late Alec Guiness, the voice of the older Obi-Wan can also be heard speaking directly to Rey, telling her what she needs to do and needs to begin understanding. This concept of using both a young and old version of a voice is something that Abrams and the marketing team already did for the 2nd Teaser Trailer to The Force Awakens, and it is something that directly enhances the mythology of The Force and the history of the films.

For the second teaser–which presents us with a voice-over of Luke (originally assumed to be speaking about somebody in the new film)–the marketing team took audio of Luke speaking to Leia about The Force being strong in his family (taken from Return of the Jedi), rearranged a line or two to make it read as it does, and then they brought the current Mark Hamill back in to do a dub-over track where he says the exact same lines, but in his current aged voice. Then they used that new track as a soft but haunting echo underneath the original dialogue: in essence, allowing the voice-over to “transcend” the decades that had passed between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.

Young-Obi-wan_01

So to see this same concept of “transcendence” be utilized in the film itself–especially with an arguably much more mythical and wise character such as Obi-Wan–is a monumental inclusion, one with numerous story and world-building implications. The most important of which is that the voice, the portrayal, and the appearance of Obi-Wan–as originally performed by Ewan McGregor (and later by voice-actor James Arnold Taylor)–is still the official young Obi-Wan Kenobi. The Force Awakens didn’t get a replacement. They didn’t ask someone else to come in and play the young version. Abrams simply asked the person who had already been cast in the role by George Lucas: allowing continuity to be maintained.

“Here’s the cool part. We asked Ewan McGregor to come in and do the line. And he was awesome and we were very grateful. He was incredibly sweet and handsome, and all that stuff. Then he rode off on his motorcycle. Literally the coolest voice over actor ever.” – J.J. Abrams 2

The meaningful thing about this “transcendence” idea, is that although the use of it for the trailer with Mark Hamill could have always happened, it could not have with Obi-Wan. Without “The Prequels,” we could still have a young Obi-Wan (perhaps later on in the new trilogy), but it would only be a “fun” or “cool” inclusion. Computer graphics could have de-aged Alec Guiness, and a voice-actor could have done a youthful imitation of his voice. However, with “The Prequels,” and The Clone Wars TV series, and the performance of Ewan McGregor, the use of a young Obi-Wan has meaning.

If “The Prequels” had never been made, there would not be an established history for who or what Obi-Wan was like before the events of A New Hope. Fans would never have had an on-screen actor cast in the younger role. Movie-goers would never have seen or felt his anger, disappointment, or sorrow with regards to the loss of his padawan, Anakin. Furthermore, audiences would never have learned about Qui-Gon, his former master: who holds such an important place in his heart, and in his conscience, guiding him with his lingering wisdom. Without all of this canonical history, there would have been no way to show a link between different times in the distant and recent past within this Force vision that Rey experiences. Nor would there be an opportunity to use similar ideas of “time fluidity” within The Force later on in the new films to the same effect.

The Original Lightsaber

Anakins-Lightsaber_01

Near the end of The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren has just killed his father, Han Solo. As Rey and Finn are making their way back to the Millennium Falcon, Ren catches up to them in the snowy forest of the Starkiller Base and confronts them head on, despite a bleeding stomach. After Ren Force-chokes Rey and throws her into a tree, Finn pulls out Luke’s old lightsaber, which angers Kylo Ren. At which point he demands “That lightsaber… it belongs to me!” Finn then responds, “Come get it.”

Kylo-Ren_VS_Finn_01

Now some viewers may not have picked up on why Kylo Ren demands that Finn give him the blue lightsaber that belonged to Luke Skywalker. Originally it belonged to Anakin Skywalker, and in the former canon of the expanded universe, it eventually was used by both Mara Jade Skywalker (Luke’s wife), and Ben Skywalker (Luke’s son). This could indicate that if a form of Mara Jade still exists in this new canon, then during Kylo Ren’s former training under Luke, he may have already seen this saber. He may recognize it by sight, and may have even used it himself, which could denote a desire to have it back. Or, he might even want it because his own lightsaber is a poor facsimile of what a saber actually looks and acts like, meaning that a “proper” saber would be far more effective than his current one. However, this latter explanation does not entirely hold up.

According to fan theories and multiple experiments based on existing ancient weaponry, Kylo Ren’s saber is actually a rather good weapon for a person like him to wield. It’s still true that it was likely built incorrectly and has a rather rudimentary housing with outward facing wires (potentially meaning that it is either a very old design, or a very uneducated design). However, its shape is far more effective than a regular saber for three reasons: 3

One, the hilt does indeed protect the hands of the user, because it does not allow for another saber to slide down past the hilt and slice the hands or wrists. Two, the hilt can and is used in the film as a dirty tactic to burn the shoulder of Finn when he and Ren have locked their sabers in place. In previous lightsaber battles, this sort of underhanded move would not have been possible. Three, the ancient sword this saber is based on is the Bastard Sword, which was intended to be most effective against heavily armored enemy troops, which should make the Kylo Ren saber all the more menacing.

It has also been shown that the hilt does not pose any immediate danger to the user of the weapon, so long as the user is skilled enough to wield it properly, which Kylo is (at least enough). The video below outlines these and other details. 4

Why Kylo Ren's Lightsaber Works (Because Science w/ Kyle Hill)

So, if it is extremely unlikely that Kylo Ren would want Luke’s old saber in order to replace his own, what else would he want it for? If Ren simply wanted the saber to replace his own, or to take it because he knew it belonged to Luke, he might have simply said “give me that saber” or “hand over that saber.” Instead, he specifically says “That lightsaber… it belongs to ME,” denoting a sense of rightful ownership. Of course, who else owned that weapon? Anakin Skywalker.

The strange thing is, it was established in the original film from 1977 that Obi-Wan said “Your father wanted you to have this when you were old enough, but your uncle wouldn’t allow it.” Which would mean that Anakin had given Obi-Wan the saber before he became Darth Vader. This would then mean that the saber isn’t directly tied with the exploits of Vader, thus why should Kylo Ren want a saber that has only been wielded by a Jedi? However, when writing “The Prequel” films, George Lucas wasn’t much of a personal researcher when it came to keeping things consistent between the original three films and his new prequel trilogy. As a result, Anakin never did tell Obi-Wan to give Luke that saber. In the now established canon, Anakin actually used that saber all throughout the events of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, when he was Darth Vader. 5

It’s the saber that he used to cut off the head of Count Dooku. It’s the saber that he used against Mace Windu, when Chancellor Palpatine showed off the full strength of his Sith powers, and then pledged his allegiance to Palpatine (Darth Sidious). It’s the saber that Anakin used to kill all of the Jedi in the temple, as well as the padawan younglings up in the Council meeting room. It is also the very saber that he used when he dueled against his master, Obi-Wan, atop that mining platform on the planet of Mustafar, renouncing everything that was Anakin Skywalker, and becoming one of the greatest Sith Lords ever known.

Battle-of-Mustafar_01

These established facts–which would not have existed in the modern official canon without “The Prequels”–means that the saber we see locked away in that chest when Rey discovers it, the very same saber that Obi-wan pulled out of that box at his home and handed to Luke, the same saber that Luke used to confront his Father for the first time on Cloud City, is also the saber that Anakin Skywalker used to destroy the Jedi Order, and renounce his allegiance to the light side of The Force.

Not in the whole of the Star Wars film and TV franchise has there been a single item with more blood, more sorrow, and more history locked away inside it. This lightsaber is a troubled object. A weapon of justice that was used to commit despicable acts of violence and destruction. And yet, when wielded by the right spirit, when held by the right hands, and when swung by someone who can differentiate between the light and the dark, it is no less useful, and can be a powerful ally. All of these things may be why the saber is so important. This may be why Rey is at first scared of it, but also why she is able to take down Kylo Ren as well as she did once she tapped into The Force. Furthermore, this is likely why Kylo Ren wants the saber so badly: because it may contain some sort of lingering presence of the furry, the rage, and the heartless and ruthless nature of a Sith Lord deep inside of it: at least as far as Ren is concerned.

Curiously, this dark history of the saber could also be why when Rey climbs the steps to meet Luke at the end of the film, we don’t hear the Luke Skywalker theme (at first), but a slow and mysterious rendition of Vader’s theme. Some might not even notice this musical inclusion, or at least not notice its significance. However, it would appear, based on all that has been explored here, that rather than suggest that Luke has turned to the Dark Side, or is conflicted in someway between the dark and the light within himself (thus his chosen exile to this remote location), the use of the Vader theme might actually suggest that this is the theme of the Saber, the looming shadow, the lost and forgotten echo of the horrible deeds and atrocities committed by Anakin Skywalker as he became Darth Vader, as well as the moment where Luke lost Ben Solo to the Dark Side, thus becoming Kylo Ren (especially if Kylo had held the saber during his training).

To Luke, perhaps more-so than us, this saber might seem like a cursed object–a weapon which holds the memories, the turmoil, and the despicable acts of men torn from those that they loved, and twisted into something that they should never have become. Now this fabled blade has found its way back to its second master. The power and presence of Vader lives on, and Luke may not be sure if he’s ready to confront it once again.

“The Prequels” Live On

These references to “The Prequels” that can be found in The Force Awakens could easily be seen as just fan-service: simple Easter eggs meant to appease the fan-base on both sides of the prequel love/hate debate. Yet, it seems much more than that.

Despite all of the fake looking CGI environments, the stilted dialogue, and the cringe-worthy characters: whatever George Lucas did that was wrong, ill-conceived, or downright careless (with regards to continuity between the two trilogies), at the end of the day, one cannot deny that his efforts still yielded something special in “The Prequels.” There’s an essence… a voice… something that speaks to the enduring power of not only The Force, but of the legacy of Darth Vader, the eternal conflict between light and dark, and what this whole cosmic story of family, brotherhood, friendship, love, and all of its eventual betrayal ultimately amounts to.

The idea that a child born of The Force itself is taken from his home at a young age, trained by someone who feels more obligated than personally vested, who then slowly grows impatient, resentful, power hungry, and murderous, eventually becoming the instrument of doom for all Jedi in the galaxy; is a truly striking concept and series of images. All of which is occurring at the same time the Galactic Republic falls, and the Galactic Empire rises, with Chancellor Palpatine–the Emperor himself–at the seat of it’s power.

If one simply looks at “The Prequels” in this way, the story is exactly what it needed to be, and did everything it needed to do. It is only the fluff and the lack of certain compelling performances that made “The Prequels” a tough sit, but it is these core story elements which the new Star Wars films are likely to allude to. Story points, plot points, and character backstories which are essential to the history and the legacy of both The Force, and the Skywalker family.

It’s also hard to deny that the music created by John Williams for “The Prequels” has a lot of lasting power as well. “The Duel of the Fates.” “The Droid Invasion.” “Battle of the Heroes.” These are emotional and heart-pounding scores that stick with you, even if you can’t hum them as well as original trilogy tunes. “Duel” in particular is so thematic, that it was reused in each of the subsequent prequel films at key moments of tension, and could find its way into Episode VIII or IX, should director Rian Johnson want to make that sort of musical reference.

Duel of the Fates Music Video

So, did “The Prequels” really enhance The Force Awakens? It would seem so, depending on how important one considers that enhancement to be.

The Force Awakens, at it’s center, is about history repeating itself. It’s about the Skywalker family–and hopefully other characters–discovering the legacy of The Force within the universe, what it has done, and what it is capable of doing in the hands of those who wish to discover its secrets: for good or for ill. All seven Star Wars films contribute to this lexicon of knowledge and history. They bridge a span of time between when The Force was strong in the light, when the Jedi were at their peak, and a time when The Force was strong in the dark, where the Sith and the Ren now seem perpetually in control. The audience now knows about many former Jedi Masters who used to serve and protect the Republic, the audience now knows how Yoda used to train his students, and how he used to fight in his prime, and the audience now knows how The Emperor came to power, and seduced Anakin to turn to the dark side, which led to everything that occurred afterwards.

With all of this collected information, the power and presence of the “original lightsaber” is rendered all the more important, awe-inspiring, even frightening, because now we know where it’s been, and what it’s been through. The saber has a great journey ahead of it, and we may yet see more of its backstory and importance explored in the upcoming Episode VIII and Episode IX.

Works Cited

  1. Hiatt, Brian. “‘Star Wars’ Strikes Back: Behind the Scenes of the Biggest Movie of the Year.” Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone, 02 Dec. 2015. Web. 24 Dec. 2015. <http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/features/star-wars-strikes-back-behind-the-scenes-of-the-biggest-movie-of-the-year-20151202>.
  2. Breznican, Anthony. “Obi-Wan and Yoda Are Secretly in Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Exclusive.” J.J. Abrams Reveals Obi-Wan and Yoda Are Secretly in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Entertainment Weekly, 20 Dec. 2015. Web. 24 Dec. 2015. <http://www.ew.com/article/2015/12/20/jj-abrams-reveals-obi-wan-and-yoda-are-star-wars-force-awakens>
  3. Star Wars: Episode VII Lightsaber Crossguard Tested – Is It Dangerous? Perf. Thrand, Eldgrimr and Marquez. Thrand and Eldgrimr’s Well of Remembrance, 2014. Youtube Video.<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLzvznM2dDo
  4. Why Kylo Ren’s Lightsaber Works (Because Science W/ Kyle Hill). Perf. Kyle Hill. Nerdist, 2015. Youtube Video.<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_9YtySWlqA
  5. “Anakin Skywalker’s Second Lightsaber.” Wookieepedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Dec. 2015. <http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Anakin_Skywalker’s_second_lightsaber>.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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66 Comments

  1. Groove
    1

    I think you hit it on the nail. Great piece.

  2. perry
    0

    My feeling has always been that long-time fans of the old films, who were children when they first saw them, sort of refuse to acknowledge the fact that they liked them because, at the time, they were kids watching movies for kids, and they’re now adults who still retain fond memories of those same movies, despite their shortcomings.

    The prequels, not benefitting from this veil of nostalgia, weren’t cut the same slack by those same adult fans watching what were still, essentially, movies for kids: it’s as if they were saying “I’m an adult and I like Star Wars, therefore Star Wars is for adults”. It’s not. You can’t be offended by Gungans because they’re puerile, but at the same time not be offended by Ewoks.

    I’m not saying that the prequels are as good as the original trilogy; they’re definitely not quite up there. I’m just saying that there’s a lot of good and a lot of bad in both.

    • JLaurenceCohen

      I think a lot of the most hard core Star Wars fans were not kids, but teenagers when the original trilogy was released. Since the films came out over a six year period, most people who were kids when A New Hope came out were teenagers or older when Return of the Jedi came out.

    • I spent a few years going “Oh yes, prequels, those were terrible,” but that was rewriting my own history a bit. I was about 10 when Episode I came out, and I loved watching it with my family… along with the original trilogy, which I was practically raised on. The thing is, I can be critical while still acknowledging some of the pain points in the original film. The assumption that children needed an on-screen child to connect with wasn’t quite right: I was always cheering for either Padmé or Obi-Wan.

      Force Awakens did a great job of harkening back to A New Hope, without throwing away the good things that DID come out of the prequels. And I’m quite pleased that the Rogue One trailer indicates we’ll still see some elements of the video game continuity, as well!

  3. Yamamoto
    2

    The reason all those early LucasFilm projects worked so well was exactly due to those people who embraced Lucas’ legitimately great ideas, slapped down his awful ones and rewrote his screenplays into workable films.

    • Harla
      0

      No one ”slapped” anything.
      People were hired to improve the drafts.

  4. Eric
    0

    There are some great moments and connecting bits in all of the Star Wars universe.

  5. PushLate
    1

    As someone who recently gave the Prequels a second chance an discovered some good films, I find this article refreshing. Probably the main reason I hated them was that I expected things to play out a certain way. I was 15 when The Phantom Menace came out and by the time Attack of the Clones rolled around, I’d had far too much time to speculate what the film would be about. I was 100% sure we were going to get a Knights of the Round/Arthurian Legend story where Padmé is married off to Obi-Wan for political reasons and really loves Anakin (the Lancelot-type). The whole No Attachments thing really threw me, and by the time Revenge of the Sith came out, I was done with the trilogy. Before last year, I’d only seen Episode III 1.5 times (rage quit the DVD rental). In the quest to make “better versions” by trimming the fat, I watched the Prequels three times each to hunt down each second that bothered me. In the process, I found that I actually liked them quite a bit.

    • awesome
      0

      I admit that the first time I saw Episode 1 in the theater I did kinda feel like George Lucas took a big steaming dump right on my childhood. After several years of the prequels sinking in I kind of understand the story Lucas wanted to tell.

      • Jonathan Leiter

        I don’t think Lucas ever intentionally wanted to hurt the fans’ feelings, or completely change anyone’s perception of his space opera. It’s simply that he has so much passion and deeply rooted intentions for his work, that they outweigh rationality when it comes to continuity and accuracy. He wants to innovate, he wants to evolve and advance, both in the visuals and in the technology of his films, even if things never match up perfectly. This is why it is so important that showrunner, Dave Filoni, and his crew, on both “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels” have been doing all of the writing and world building they have for the events between Episodes II and III, and between Episodes III and IV. Without their dedication and creative problem solving, there would no be as coherent a transition between these different stories, but now there is: as good as one can get anyway.

  6. sietx
    0

    I actually went to see Star Wars for the politics. The Prequel Trilogy was released when I was a kid so I grew up with it, and I have always liked politics, which made me like Star Wars much more. I enjoy the Original Trilogy, but I always wish it had incorporated more political scenes.

  7. Tenney
    0

    My issues with the latest 3 are that they make everything very religious. Anakin is basically Jesus is what they are saying.

  8. I really enjoyed the part about the lightsaber and how in depth the analysis was. I think you could do another article focusing more on the significance of them in the films.

  9. limit
    0

    i loved all three prequels and force awakens.

  10. Teodoro
    1

    Great article and topic. I’m just another guy who prefers the originals to the prequels. Call it nostalgia if you want but that isn’t the whole reason I consider them superior – I had no expectations of the prequels going in, but I know what makes a great movie, and usually it begins with characters and story. The prequels had horrible scripts, poor acting, the “tone” of the movies was all over the map, you’ve got fart jokes in one scene and then serious Jedi prophecy talk the next, come on. Put simply, Lucas is a genius storyteller but cannot write dialogue or scripts. He should have put his vision out there and trusted a screenwriter like Kasdan and a solid director to bring his films to life. Instead they work best as backstory filler and CGI demo reels, good to see once or twice but very little shelf life after that.

  11. hunch
    1

    I do love good stories and the original trilogy is a great one but I can see that they prequels hurt the logic of that story. That’s my problem with them.

  12. Laweless
    0

    I think a lot of people are rediscovering them, especially with new films on the way. My thought is that many of the worst haters only ever saw them in theaters and spent the next 10 years spewing hatred based on one or two biased experiences. I’ve watched them at least once a year since 1999, love em to death.

  13. March
    0

    The points the prequels and the additional expansion they tried to give to the original blueprint just failed us all…. These movies are not horrible by any means but they are just not up to the original standard…

  14. Sam
    1

    Going off topic here, and no huge fan of the prequels, but no hater neither… however, clone wars was the best thing that ever came from the prequels. I’d say 60% of it was fantastic! 30% good, and the rest appalling and jar jar filled. but mainly seasons 1 and two. there is a lot of cool stuff that goes down however, some fantastic build up the the OT, great ideas thrown in, and lots of prequel character build up that outdoes the films. even early Tarkin stuff is interesting, clone wars did more to fix the prequels than anything, infact i wish the prequel movies were remade as clone wars episodes. Anakin was a 1000 times better than he was in the films. i highly recommend giving it a full binge watch, but be prepared for some episodes you’ll want to skip. wish theyd release a serious bluray version without those kid friendly episodes. they should be seperate. oh, and some episodes that are good are still very out there for many.. ie sith witches/magic and weird elf looking characters that pop up. but when its great its amazing!

  15. Dominic Sceski

    I must say, this is one of the most thorough examinations of Star Wars I’ve ever seen. I didn’t realize how much of a role the prequels played on The Force Awakens. And yes, I totally agree that The Force Awakens is about history repeating itself! The movie really has that “feel” to it.

  16. dan
    0

    The movies are fine pieces of popcorn space adventure.

  17. Leal
    0

    Some passages in the prequel trilogy are pretty boring, and the writing (and acting) is often awful, but in no way does all that not apply to the original trilogy, too.

  18. Indead
    1

    I’ve always felt that the prequels did add SO MUCH of substance to the Star Wars universe and the overall story of the films. They stumble in execution quite often, but they’re still a blast to watch because of a combination of snazzy action, stylish design, and the way in which they are still, quintessentially, Star Wars. They may be inferior in execution to 4, 5, and 6, but the prequels have a lot of good to them.

    • Jason Geek
      1

      Exactly. The fight with Maul & even the Jedi battle in AOTC are some of the best scenes in Star Wars along with Hoth etc & I find Episode 3 probably the one I watch most these days. When my son is a little older, I plan to let him see them in order, see which he prefers from that stand point. Hope JJ doesnt ignore the prequels in E7, otherwise no point it being Episode 7.

      • Jonathan Leiter

        I take it you haven’t seen the new movie yet? Also, it’s not officially called Episode VII. That’s just what the media has coined it. The official title is just “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” And Episode VIII (8) will only be called Episode (8) until it has it’s own title, and then only by the media afterwards. Lucas Film is officially not continuing with the Episode label on the movies or posters themselves. But no, I don’t think anyone wants to ignore the prequels. That’s why they’re working so hard to make Star Wars: Rebels a great transitional tv series between the Prequel world and the world of the original trilogy.

    • Theome
      0

      I wholeheartedly agree. It’s nice to see other people that don’t think the prequels are the absolute worst thing in the world.

  19. CoolRunnings
    0

    They didn’t have much in the way of stories, our beloved force was reduced to glowing bacteria and Aniken Skywalker commits mass murder, because of a bad dream. The only redeeming portion of the entire set of prequels was the last 10 minutes of the Revenge of the Sith, when Obi Wan cuts of Aniken’s remaining limbs, thereby indadvertently creating the titular villain we came to know and love in the original 3 movies.

    • booooooom
      0

      Looks like it’s time for you to watch the movies again, because you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    • Jonathan Leiter

      The Midi-chlorians are not The Force itself. Like Qui-Gon says, they are “microscopic life-forms that thrive within all living cells.” This simply means that they are a conduit between living things and the energy field, which is The Force. It’s just like Radio waves and Radio transmitters. Or Televisions and Television signals. We wouldn’t be able to tap into these signals without something other than ourselves to do it. You can still say it demystifies The Force and lends favoritism to those who have an abundance of midichlorians, which Anakin did. But then again, from the start, George Lucas said that the Star Wars films were about the Skywalker family. And since Anakin was a child born of The Force itself, he is meant to have a very high count of Midi-chlorians, thus a very strong connection with The Force, and thus all of his offspring will too.

  20. Haag
    0

    Wow. A positive article about the Prequels. I never thought I’d live to see the day. Nice to see someone put their opinions aside to do an unbiased article.

  21. muir
    1

    Ack… the prequels. There is a lot more good about them than bad.

    • Bigelow
      1

      I agree. I understand how people can be frustrated by some poor dialog or regrettable characters (I’m looking at you, Jar Jar), ultimately they add a l lot to the overall story and are pretty entertaining on their own.

  22. Brady
    0

    What prequels? In my universe they don’t exist. They were that bad.
    Perhaps, now the Disney owns the franchise, they could be redone with competent plotting, dialog, direction, and casting (save Ewan McGregor, Ian McDiarmid, and Frank OZ).

    • Jonathan Leiter

      They’re not going to do that. I’m sure when handing over Lucas Film, George had a clause in the contract that stated they couldn’t remake any of the films that already existed. Nor do I think Disney would want to, considering all 6 have been around so long now, and there are die-hard fans on both sides of the Prequel fence. The new continuity and canon has also been very well established now, especially with the introduction of both “The Clone Wars” TV series, and “Star Wars: Rebels.”

      Does no one appreciate what they’re doing with those TV shows. Does nobody watch them? Because they honestly fix a lot of the problems the Prequels introduced. And frankly, if you want to skip the Prequels entirely, save for “Revenge of the Sith,” you can do so, and just watch the animated shows. It’s really all you need to get caught up on pre-New Hope history.

  23. Adnan Bey

    What a lot of people seem to be forgetting is that there is one line spoken that can allude ONLY to the prequels. When Maz Katana recalls the past struggles of the galaxy, she mentions the Sith and then the Empire. This alludes to a chronological set of events, how the Sith came to power once and then the Empire. The Sith were never, ever mentioned in the prequels, the Sith are a thing purely of the prequels and Maz mentioning them alludes only to them. This, if anything, even alone, shows that the prequels are not being disregarded.

    • Jonathan Leiter

      The word Sith was created and used in the novelizations for the first film back in the late 70s, to refer to Darth Vader as a “Dark Lord of the Sith.” And the backstory to the Sith was mildly explained in expanded universe novels. But the term was never formally explored in the films until “The Phantom Menace.” So you’re partially right.

      • Adnan Bey

        Interesting bit of trivia. I didn’t know that about the EU, never read the books, but to be honest, even if we do consider the possibility that Maz was referring to the EU as opposed to the prequels, I would point to the recollection of events. She mentioned the Sith first, as a separate entity than the Empire which came afterwards according to her. Plus, in the original trilogy the problem was the Empire, the Sith were hardly needed. In that context, it almost certainly points to the prequels and nothing else.

        • Jonathan Leiter

          I would say so. They are not trying to discount the prequels at all. The TV series “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels” are doing a massively impressive job of cleaning up the continuity and historical issues with the Prequels vs the original trilogy story. In fact, the 2nd half of season 2 for Rebels has a new trailer that reveals a ton of amazing story developments, one of which involves Anakin’s padawan, Asoka, facing against Vader, realizing who Vader is, and that something of Anakin still lives inside him. They even show holograms of Anakin fighting at the height of his Jedi skills, as well as a 15 year old Princess Leia, who will be brought in for a specific episode. So they are really tapping into both prequel stuff and original trilogy stuff there, in order to more clearly bridge that transitional period of 18 years.

  24. Toner
    1

    I think The Clone Wars and Revenge of the Sith added immensely to the universe, and Rebels is well on its way to doing the same. Episodes I-II, on the other hand, should be thrown in the trash alongside Droids, Ewoks, the Ewok TV movies and a certain holiday special.

    • Jonathan Leiter

      I will always appreciate the look of “The Phantom Menace,” and the feelings I had as a kid watching the trailers, reading the behind-the-scenes info, looking at comics, buying the toys, and seeing the film in theaters. I definitely don’t like the story, the writing, or the acting (from Natale Portman especially). But the music, the design, and the visual direction still stand up a lot better than the fully CGI environments of the latter two Prequels.

  25. Jone Pauley
    1

    I confess that being the second generation of Star Wars lovers, I relate more to the prequel trilogy given its fast(er) pace and familiar faces. But still there’s no excuse for Jar Jar Binx!

    • Jonathan Leiter

      What do you mean by Second Generation? I’m only 23, but I grew up on the original trilogy first because my mom had all the movies, and I watched them when I was 3-5, just before “The Phantom Menace” came out. So I actually was excited to learn the story of how Anakin became Darth Vader, rather than going in completely blind.

  26. Eladia
    1

    Refreshing! Great article.

  27. Brandon T. Gass

    Great insight on storytelling and how the lives of the characters of star wars have collided and impacted each other throughout the series.

  28. Holley
    0

    I think you can easily argue the prequels – due to deficiencies in writing, acting, and directing – failed to “deliver the goods” on these potential “improvements.”

    • Jonathan Leiter

      In what way. I’ve simply explained that certain facts and details presented by the prequels enhanced the historical weight of the new film and future films. Those same facts could have been a part of a different but better story just as much as they were part of the sub-par one that we got. Whether or not the prequels were good has no bearing on what I’ve laid out here.

      • Tigey

        True. Carrie Fisher “mailing it in” doesn’t take away from the points of your fine article.

  29. Joseph Manduke IV

    There certainly is a great deal to hate about the prequels. Even so, some aspects of the Star Wars spirited were involved. For as much as they irritated the fandom, the franchise is stronger than it ever was.

  30. Stephen Matthias

    Excellent article.

  31. Aaron Hatch

    Very well-made article, and you certainly show your love for the Star Wars universe. I do agree that Obi-Wan was one of the consistently good characters in both the prequels with Ewan McGregor and original trilogy with Alec Guinness

  32. Jaye Freeland

    Really interesting read!

    I didn’t even notice Anakin’s podracing flag. I feel sad that I never really noticed the hidden things in Star Wars–I always thought the films were more straightforward, until recently. There’s really so much to discover. The character development is through the roof.

    I like that you brought up Kylo’s lightsaber. Whereas at first glance one may say, “Wow! His lightsaber looks insane! It’s a new generation! This is so cool!” Kylo’s desire for Anakin’s lightsaber poses a lot of questions. Many and most of which I’m pretty sure you asked and answered. I’m looking forward to seeing how things turn out in the upcoming films.

    • Jonathan Leiter

      Star Wars Rebels is actually going to confirm that Kylo’s Lightsaber is based on an ancient saber design that used a cross-guard. But what makes his lightsaber so messy and violent looking is because he built it with incomplete specs, and a cracked Kaiburr crystal: which gives the saber another reason why it needs the cross-guards as vents for the escaping energy out through the cracks in the crystal itself. So it’s actually a layered design with multiple reasons for why it exists: including being a reflection of Kylo’s inner conflict and personality.

  33. X-Man
    1

    You handled it pretty well: acknowledgind what the prequels intended to do but stating the mistakes of the movies that nobody can deny. I like that because it allows for debate and respecting different opinions, instead of just bashing like fanboys.

  34. Correa
    0

    I personally enjoyed 1-3 because I was raised in that time and I saw them first.

    • Jonathan Leiter

      I enjoy many aspects of them as well, and I grew up with them when they came out. However, I also saw all three originals when I was 5 years old, just before Episode 1 was released in 1999.

      From this perspective, the main issue with watching the films in “Episodic Order” is that the original films were designed so that each introduction to a character would be a mystery, since they were all brand new to the audience at the time.

      For example: we had no idea who Darth Vader was when he first appeared in Episode 4, which gave him a mystique and a more intimidating presence, as there was no backstory to him, nor any familial connection to Luke. This then allows the reveal that he is Luke’s father to be more surprising when you go to Episode 5, along with the reveal that the Great Master Yoda is a small green alien rather than a tall and muscular looking person or figure. The Emperor is also more fascinating and creepy when we only know of him from Episode 6. But then watching Episodes 1-3 enhances his character after the fact. But, if you watch the films in order, the Emperor seems much more to age until all he can do is shock you with lightning and not much else. He can’t even leap out of Darth Vader’s grip or stop him from throwing him down that shaft, when just 20 years earlier he would have been able to.

      These and many other reasons are why I think it is still wise to watch the films in order as people born in the before the Prequels had: you watch 4-6 first, because it allows the suspense and mysteries set-up in those films to be maintained, and then you watch the Prequels to get the backstory and blanks left by the originals filled in, as it had for those of us who DID watch them second.

      Just because George Lucas says that Episode 1 is the first episode, that doesn’t mean one has to approach them that way.

  35. Honestly, if Rey does end up being a Skywalker (and most of her story throughout TFA seems to be leading up to that point – notably the use of Luke’s Theme during the lightsaber incident at the end of the movie), then her story resonates so much more after seeing both Luke’s and Anakin’s stories. There’s still depth there if we only consider the originals, but I do think we’re missing something if we fail to take the prequels into account as well. Kylo Ren’s focus on Darth Vader – and his inability to grasp that Vader always had Anakin in him, that Anakin is a part of Vader – seems to be central to what the new movies are working with, and ignoring Anakin’s history before he became Vader makes that less meaningful.

    I don’t know. I personally don’t have that many bad feelings about the prequels – I think they could’ve been handled better, but they’re hardly the shitstorm that fans tend to paint them as. And, as you’ve pointed out so thoroughly, they’re absolutely essential to understanding the journey our new batch of characters is going on, just as they added depth to the originals when they first came out.

    • Jonathan Leiter

      I don’t think the use of music, in this film’s case, means to suggest anything specific as familial ties. Rather it suggests or alludes to story themes and concepts that we are already (most likely) aware of.

      The film uses mostly new themes as a way to differentiate itself from the previous 6. However, when it does use past themes, it uses them to an understandable and nostalgic effect.

      We hear portions of the Vader theme (which was actually called “The Imperial March:” which is why it isn’t always used as just a theme for Darth Vader, but also a theme for the Empire as a whole) in two specific instances: once when the last few bars of the theme are used as Kylo Ren steps down from his ship at the beginning of the film, and again in a very slow rendition when we see Luke at the end of the film. This second usage is the strangest of all uses of previous themes, because it may suggest a conflicting battle of light and dark within Luke, but also the looming shadow of Anakin/Vader/Kylo’s actions from Luke’s past, and how they are coming back to haunt him now.

      We also hear bits and pieces of the Millennium Falcon gunfighter sequence and the trench run, when the Millennium Falcon is first introduced.

      And lastly, we hear the music from when Luke found his home destroyed, and the dead bodies of his aunt and uncle outside, played over the moment when Rey grabs the lightsaber with The Force during the climax. Now you might not have realized where that piece of music came from when writing your comment. But even if you did, thinking about it’s original scene in “A New Hope,” it makes much more sense that this musical score over Rey is meant to suggest that this is the moment when she leaves her past life behind, and embraces the way of The Force, and the path of The Jedi. When Luke saw his home destroyed and the skeletons of his family lying in the sand, that was it for him: there’s no turning back now. It’s all forward from here, where ever the path may take him. And the same can be said for Rey, when that same music is played over her moment, just before duking it out with Ren.

      This piece of music does not directly support a familial connection. If it did, then every time they use it in “Star Wars: Rebels” it would mean that Ezra Bridger is related to Luke, and I very highly doubt that, since he’s a contemporary of Luke and Leia and is the same age as them.

  36. Ben Bouffard

    Nice job! I’m one of the few people who actually has an appreciation (if not a love) for the prequels. Episode I isn’t all that bad if you ask me, but it does have its problems. Episode II is certainly the weakest, but there are some neat moments here and there. Episode III is by far the most underrated of all the Star Wars films. Whereas I an II could’ve used some tweaking, I don’t think any amount of changes would make III any better. Your points about the Skywalker lightsaber are solid. Without the prequels, the mythical quality of the lightsaber wouldn’t really be there.

  37. I’ve seen The Force Awakens twice now, and I’ve never noticed these small details like the flags or Ewan McGregor’s voice-over before, so great catch on these! While I still dislike the prequels a great deal, I think this article is very nice and well thought out in all its points and arguments made.

    • Tigey

      Agreed. I especially enjoyed the Ewan McGregor voice-over section.

  38. You actually cited your sources!!! Good job on that. I also enjoyed this read and appreciated your knowledge of Star Wars lore. Keep it up.

  39. Nice 🙂

  40. Jaylyn Cook

    Interesting perspective!

  41. Matthew Simmons

    The prequels may have not been great films but they did provide us with a lot of necessary history in the universe. I can still appreciate the films because of that despite the poorly written dialogue and weak directing from Lucas. However, it is mention in the article that the prequels have poor CGI backgrounds which is a bit grey for me. Lucas did make a mistake by not using more on location shoots but at the time that those films were released the CGI was incredible.

    I am rather surprised you did not include the line that Kylo Ren says to General Hux near the beginning of the film. He suggests that Supreme Leader Snoke should look into using a clone army which clearly refers back to the prequels. Yes, the clone wars were mentioned in the original trilogy but they were only a mention.

    I also wanted to comment on the lightsaber theory. In addition to what you said, Maz actually tells Rey that the saber belonged to Luke and his father before that, further acknowledging the history of the prequels. As for why Kylo says the line that he does I believe it is solely because the saber was originally Anakin’s. It seems Kylo collects some of Vader’s things already for example the helmet which most likely has some of his ash still in it. I do not believe Ben had used the saber before. If that were to be the case then they would have to explain how Luke ended up finding the saber sometime after Return of the Jedi. However, you do make a good argument about it. I am just torn on whether it would be better or worse for the overall story. If Luke did find the saber it would make sense that he would give it to his nephew. It would also make sense if Ben himself used it to murder someone. Maz’s line about the story for another time would definitely pay off with a story like that.

  42. Great article! I love how you went out of your way to find how the prequels and the new movie connect. I am fan of the prequels actaully, and I think they get a little too much hate. I never knew the pod racing flags showed up in the movie, and I will watch the movie again poking for that

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