In Defense of the Star Wars Prequels

Contrary to popular criticism, the prequels of the beloved saga, Star Wars, particularly The Phantom Menace, are brilliant pieces of art. They are masterpieces in their own right. The prequels enhance the original trilogy and in some ways The Force Awakens in more ways than one. Before getting to why, it is only fair to take a look at some of the hard work that went into this masterpiece, in the form of a music video of the ‘Duel of the Fates.’

It’s an unpopular opinion these days, especially with The Force Awakens newly released. More and more fans assume that the prequels are cut out of the Star Wars chronology entirely since The Force Awakens hit cinemas. Building from what some esteemed colleagues of mine wrote, I would like to deliver an outright defense of the prequels, from their dialogue to the annoying side characters to even the plot itself and the Universe building. I will go further to say that the prequels are not bad but inherently brilliant to their core. Not only that, but since the prequels are held in godly regard, I will also point out inherent flaws in them to show, once and for all, that all movies are created equal, flaws and all, and the best of classics are no exception. My thesis: Make no mistake, the Star Wars prequels are brilliant masterpieces. Now, before readers close the window in distaste, hear the argument.

Part of what it is to love something is to acknowledge the good and bad. While the prequels are not perfect (at all), they are not wholly horrible either. And while the original trilogy is not perfect, it’s not wholly brilliant as some like to say. First, let us look at the common arguments against the prequels: Horrible acting, contradiction to the original trilogy, and JarJar Binks.

Acting – It’s Coarse and Rough and Irritating and it Gets Everywhere

A lot of critics despise his acting and perhaps for good reason.
It’s all Lucas’ fault! He’s overly critical, he never listens!

One of the things critics point to is the horrible acting by some of the actors. There is Jake Loyd who played young Anakin Skywalker and who is reported to have grown up hating the role he played. There is also Samuel L. Jackson, for whom George Lucas is reported to have especially made the character of Mace Windu. As if that were not enough, Hayden Christensen butchered Anakin’s role further in the later prequels. This is perhaps the biggest of all mishaps George Lucas engineered: the failure of portraying Anakin Skywalker the right way. Even worse, the chemistry between him and Natalie Portman just fell apart and dashed the hopes any old fan had of seeing Anakin portraying his fall to the dark side in a relatable way.

Perhaps this is what really angers fans about Hayden Christensen. It is not his acting individually but his two-way chemistry with someone who is supposed to play his romantic partner. It is difficult to portray any chemistry on screen, especially when the two characters suffer from a significant age gap. Padme is already something of a teenager, if not a mature adult in Phantom Menace. How she became democratically elected Queen of Naboo at such a young age is never explained, and the age gap between her and a young child makes it seem a lot less legitimate. If we had more information on Padme’s past, the chemistry may have been better served. Fans watched hoping for a story of star-crossed lovers, ready to see what was alluded to in the original trilogy, the mother of Luke and Leia and the descent of Anakin to the dark side.

Of course, such age gaps are not absent in the original trilogy. Leia is about seventeen, and she ends up with a matured adult man who has to be at least middle aged. That’s probably a bigger age gap than what we had to sit through in the prequels. Some may insist Han’s age is never mentioned but someone who is an experienced pilot, someone who ‘made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs,’ someone who won the Millenium Falcon off gambling with an old friend who is already very established on Bespin, someone who has been from one side of the galaxy to another cannot possibly be younger than his thirties. If Phantom Menace is set thirty years before A New Hope, and Attack of the Clones takes place ten years later with Revenge of the Sith three years after that, Luke is exactly what Vader coined him, just a boy. His twin sister then will be the same, just a girl. And that ‘girl’ married a middle-aged Han. How is that fair, but a young man marrying an older woman is not?

People will respond that the age gap presents more problems too. Padme being older than Anakin made Anakin look like an inferior, whiny brat as opposed to the great Jedi Knight we were told of in the original trilogy. This is not a bad thing though. In fact, this can easily be turned around to point to Anakin’s strength as a character. Fact is, he did have an inferiority complex. That’s what motivated him to become a great Jedi. As a child, all he wanted was to be a Jedi and see the planets. But as a nine year old child taken from his mother and placed down the path of a celibate monk, this will almost definitely be the effect. Without a mother figure to nurture him, he turns to the closest thing he has to a mother and marries her: Queen Padme Amidala. He is a Freudian case if ever there was one which goes further to give Anakin a plentifully justified psychological background. Add to that, he is a skilled Jedi Knight and does train a skilled apprentice.

Another point people wage against Anakin’s character is how whiny he was in opposing the Jedi, people he supposedly wanted to be like. This of course is a fallacious argument. Anyone taken at the age of nine where his mind is already on a developing path and told to become a celibate monk and take one certain path as opposed to the fantasy path he always imagined will have those problems. He was not molded from babyhood like all the other Jedi were. The Jedi were born into this world, Anakin had to adapt and he had to reconcile the fantasy Jedi he imagined being and the real Jedi he was. That is a tall order, and the Jedi make is clear that he is too old to begin the training. Yoda said the same of Luke, but Anakin presented dangers and risks the Jedi preferred not to take. They might not have if Qui-gon hadn’t given a dying wish and this present yet another psychological background to Anakin Skywalker and in this case, Hayden Christensen’s flat performance suddenly feels justified. Because Anakin is meant to be a flat character, at least in terms of the prequel trilogy.

Anakin is Darth Vader, and the whole point of Anakin’s character is to show the other side the coin that was Darth Vader. Since the prequels are meant to show only one side of the coin, of course he’s supposed to be flat. It’s only one side we’re seeing, with only hints of the other side. It’s this side that makes what Vader was so incredible. It gives him a whole new perception. As argued in The Lost Path of the Jedi, Anakin turned on the Jedi order because they lost their original path, they were not who they were meant to be and Palpatine was simply the better of two evils. This gives Vader’s ultimate desire to ‘destroy the Emperor’ so much more meaning. In conclusion, though Hayden’s performance may not be the best, if he portrayed Anakin in a flat way, he did his job.

Contradictions – There is a Great Disturbance in the Force

Ok, so he had a different take on the Force, it didn't change anything.
“Midi-chlorians are microscopic lifeforms that reside within all living cells and communicates with the Force. We are symbionts with them. Life forms living together for mutual advantage. Without the midi-chlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force. They continually speak to you, telling you the will of the Force. When you learn to quiet your mind, you will hear them speaking to you.”

Some common arguments made against the prequels are the so-called contradictions between them and the original trilogy, thus destroying any credibility they had. Of course, this is not necessarily true. When taken all together, one could argue you practically need the prequels for a clear story. Very little in the prequels contradicts the original trilogy. When people and fans start getting together and explain how the prequels should have gone and what decisions should have been made we’re just splitting hairs. Anything can be made to look bad with that logic. No movie is a good movie with the logic that some characters didn’t make the right decisions. In reality, it’s just not a fair criticism to make.

Many complain that the existence of midi-chlorians contradicts the idea of the force being the powerful energy field that penetrates and binds the galaxy together, basically as some sort of deity. Of course, when really thought about, all this really contradicts is how the fans themselves imagined the force. Not what it actually was. What do we know about the force?

Well, the Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together…

“May the force be with you.”

Taking it as a sort of deity figure ties right in with what we’re given. But what the Force is, what it actually makes up, is not clear. From there, Lucas took liberties. Han thought it was an all powerful force controlling everything. It’s not, though. It’s just a living energy field Jedi can feel flowing through them. The fans saw it as that. Then, Qui-gon came and spoke of midi-chlorians.

The deity figure, the Force, is now established to be both. It surrounds, penetrates and binds all life forms together. Some life forms are sensitive to the force, those with midi-chlorians, and those life forms are taken in as Jedi. Those Jedi are taught to meditate, basically what Yoda was teaching Luke to do in Empire Strikes Back, to hear the will of the Force through them. Now, some take this to mean that the Force plays favorites. Well, unfortunately, the Force playing favorites is present from the original trilogy, when Yoda tells Luke straight out, The Force runs strong in your family. If that’s not playing favorites to the Skywalker family, nothing is.

Let’s remember Yoda’s memorable lines in Empire Strikes Back:

My ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.
“My ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.”

There he says, life creates it. Life, which is host to midi-chlorians is what gives the Force its power. The Force and the Jedi with midi-chlorians show a symbiotic relationship, a circle of life and death, where one returns to the realm of the force and continues to give life to other luminous beings. This gives a whole new take on the Force itself. Really, there is nothing inherently wrong with midi-chlorians or what they are. They simply give Jedi a gateway to the force, and these Jedi are born with them. Babies born with them are sensed, and taught about the living Force, and later become Jedi themselves. It really is that simple.

It does not stop there, however. Contradictions know no bounds. A common one people point to is the lackluster uselessness of the Clone Troopers as opposed to how good they were at killing Jedi in Revenge of the Sith. Indeed, in A New Hope, nobody dies in the infiltration of the Death Star. They all escape. The only death was Ben Kenobi and he practically planned this. Of course, even this has an explanation. It really does. It was stated by Moff Tarkin that they literally let the rebels escape with a tracking device on the ship to track the rebel base. This was their plan, so of course the Storm Troopers were going to fail. They wanted to fail. The plan nearly worked too, because when they did track them, they were seconds away from wiping the rebellion out and it all came down to a single pilot, because all the other rebels died by- you guessed it- Storm troopers. In ships, granted, but ships that were being piloted by those so-called useless Storm Troopers.

The Storm Troopers had a numbers of successes. They captured Han in Empire Strikes Back, they nearly had Leia and Lando taken before they escaped. Even in Return of the Jedi, they succeeded in capturing Han and the rebels when they were discovered. The only thing they failed at was shooting a bunch of Ewoks. However, since the Ewoks are tiny they did have a certain advantage over the Storm troopers who were more likely to deal with rebels than little bears. In the very end, the rebels were outnumbered and it all rested on the duel in the Death Star itself.

There is also what seems to be a contradiction in how long the Republic existed. Palpatine said in Attack of the Clones that it has stood for a thousand years where Ben stated in A New Hope that it was a thousand generations. Of course, many forget that Ben was referring to the Jedi’s role, not the Republic itself. And the Jedi have indeed been the guardians for a thousand generations. Nothing ever contradicted that. The rest of the problems are what-should-have-been’s and why one decision was not a good one. In the very end, everyone does need to understand that this level of attack can be used against literally every single story ever told.

But why focus on possible contradictions? Many of the best works have some contradictions within the story but that never made them less enjoyable. The creators, after all, are imperfect humans just like us. Let’s focus on the good points of the prequels.

Dialogue – We Must Rely on Negotiations

At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi, at last we will have revenge.
At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi, at last we will have revenge.

The dialogue gets a lot of beef for being pretty bad in the prequel trilogy. The Phantom Menace in particular gets most of the blame. This may be a matter of opinion, but it can certainly be argued that the opposite is true instead. In fact, it could be argued that of all the prequel movies, The Phantom Menace has the best dialogue the prequels have to offer, the best lines, the best- well- just about everything related to speech. Again, we have to bring up the original trilogy and compare the prequels to them and their dialogue. One could see it really is not all that different and if some lines are lame, well, the original trilogy is not perfect itself. In some ways, the prequel trilogy can enhance the dialogue in the original trilogy. Yes, you heard me, it enhances the dialogue.

At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi. At last, we will have revenge.

This line speaks volumes of so much to come. The Sith, those who were beaten by the Jedi a millennia ago, are back and they want vengeance. The scene in which this line is spoken shows Darth Sidious and Darth Maul overlooking the skies of Coruscant. Darth Maul had tracked the Jedi and the Queen down to Tatooine and intends to find them take out the Jedi guardians. It speaks of the Sith’s return to power, implies their coming victory we all know happens due to the original trilogy. That line speaks what fans know already. That the Sith will have their revenge. The Jedi Order will indeed be wiped out and now we have a small idea of who exactly instigates this.

You refer to the prophecy of the one who will bring balance to the Force. You believe it's this... boy?
You refer to the prophecy of the one who will bring balance to the Force. You believe it’s this… boy?

Anakin, as we know from Shmi, was conceived immaculately. There was no father, he just appeared and she can’t explain why. Qui-gon passes this knowledge to the council, and we learn why he takes such an interest in Anakin. Because of a prophecy, a prophecy speaking of someone who will one day bring balance to the force. A lot of fans argue this point, wondering if it was Luke who was the prophetic child Lucas was speaking of, and not Anakin. However, it most certainly was Anakin. This line enhances both the prequels and the original trilogy. When Anakin kills Dooku, he takes his place as Palpatine’s apprentice. He wipes the rest of the Jedi Order out except for two, Obi-wan and Yoda. Due to Anakin’s betrayal, the Sith and Jedi are equal in balance. In the prequels, Obi-wan dies, Luke takes his place but Yoda dies next, so there must be one Sith left as well. That is when Vader starts turning on Sidious. In the end, it is Anakin who defeats him.

This is probably one of the more underrated pieces of dialogue in the film. The conversation between Mace Windu and Yoda:

"There is no doubt the mysterious warrior was a Sith." "Always two there are. No more no less. A master and an apprentice." "But which was destroyed? The master or the apprentice?"
“There is no doubt the mysterious warrior was a Sith.”
“Always two there are. No more no less. A master and an apprentice.”
“But which was destroyed? The master or the apprentice?”

Both wonder and warn that if there was one Sith, there must be another. Qui-gon warned them, and when Qui-gon died, they knew that the only being who could kill a Jedi with a Lightsaber is a Sith Lord. This also gives new meaning to Return of the Jedi when Darth Vader and Darth Sidious make a personal appearance. The rule of two applies to them as well. Each time one Sith is defeated, another takes his place. This also explains why Sidious was so intent on seeing Luke defeat Vader, so Luke may take Vader’s place by the Emperor’s side instead. Without this line, Sidious strikes one as some arrogant villain who thinks he only needs one apprentice because he’s so powerful by himself. Now we know he’s smarter than that, there was philosophy behind it.

Even Attack of the Clones, a movie many fans consider worse than Phantom Menace, has lines that just scream the truth to you, a truth the Jedi have become too cluded to see for themselves.

What if I told you that the Senate was now under the control of the Dark Lord of the Sith?

You cannot help but feel goosebumps at this mention, the knowledge that Palpatine, the man Padme trusted so much, is in reality the main villain the Jedi are after. Nonetheless, they did use logic and intellect and suspected Palpatine in Revenge of the Sith. With no proof, little can be done.

Going through all the lines in Phantom Menace would be long, even the good lines. It’ll take longer to go through the good lines in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Sometimes, fans don’t want good, meaningful lines. They want epic lines, lines that prelude some epic fight in the skies that will determine the fate of the galaxy. Say, a line like:

Wipe them out. All of them.

They want wise lines. Lines that make the watcher pause and think carefully about it. Yoda had lines in Empire Strikes back, which easily falls into the fan’s favorite of the original trilogy:

You do or you do not. There is no try.

The original trilogy is not all the movies were intriguing lines, though. Let us remember his lecture to Anakin in The Phantom Menace:

"Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering."
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”

Many criticize this for making no sense, saying interchangeable emotions cannot lead to one emotion. Fear could lead to depression, it could also lead to hate. Really, though, it ties quite well to what Yoda was saying in Empire Strikes Back.

Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will…

Yoda was not speaking of one emotion specifically leading to another. Taken as a whole, with both lines considered, he really means that fear simply leads down the dark path. It is synonymous with anger and hate, for the two are closely are related. What Yoda means is that the close relation between such emotions lead a Jedi down a dark path from which there can be no return. Anakin showed fear, but it did not lead to anger, his mother’s death led to anger. His hate came from the betrayal he felt from the Jedi Order, not from his anger. If Yoda had indeed meant it the way people take it, then the story would have gone very differently.

Your focus determines your reality.

Feel, don’t think. Use your instincts.

Those lines mean so much, to a Jedi and to a human even. Instinctual humans who take pride in their instincts and immediate emotions. They advise that with more focus comes a brighter future. Fans, however, also want lines with passion and emotion, to show the character is human, to show that the actor playing the character is revealing that emotion. A line like:

You were my brother! I loved you!

Whatever line a fan wants, there is a little for everyone in the prequel trilogy.

Duels – Wipe Them Out… All of Them

Qui-Gon & Obi-Wan Vs. Darth Maul - The Phantom Menace

It’s rarely acknowledged that the Star Wars prequels have some of the best sword fights in cinematic history. The fight between Qui-gon and Darth Maul on Tatooine is one such example of this but in The Phantom Menace, it gets better. The lightsaber fights in the prequels, at least when it comes to choreography, are far superior to their original trilogy counterparts. The best fight would have to be the final battle on Naboo. The acrobatic stunts of Darth Maul easily made him the most loved villain in the prequels. So much so, that even the critics find little to complain about Darth Maul. Most wish he lived. The pumping action of Obi-wan when he got himself in the one-way duel with Dark Maul and defeated him was great, but the beginning when they took him together is what started it.

A common complaint of the duels in the prequels is that they lack meaning. Lucas went for style over substance here. It’s worth noting that in this case, there’s too much to live up to. People compare those duels to Empire Strikes Back and the big reveal of Vader being Luke’s father. They compare it to the internal clash within Luke as he faces his father in Return of the Jedi. What many forget is that the prequel has meaning. The beauty of Star Wars is its ability to have meaning without words. Showing Luke’s face half-lit as he hid from Vader had a very clear contrast within himself, and then the dark side won over and he defeated Vader out of anger. It was only afterwards when he shed that side of him and stayed a Jedi. They didn’t need words.

It might be a lighting issue but it tied so well with Luke's inner conflict between light and dark.
With each passing moment, he made himself more Palpatine’s servant!

The same holds true in The Phantom Menace. As Qui-gon and Obi-wan duel Darth Maul, John William’s orchestra plays in the background. Its music is familiar, the same and widely loved. It’s the ‘Duel of the Fates.’ This represents the first clash between Sith and Jedi in a millennia, it represents the true revenge of the Sith finally starting and the first casualty is Qui-gon. It’s another clash of light and dark but this time personified, shown between Jedi and Sith, two users of the force with very different ideals and plans for the galaxy. A clash between two ideals is indeed befitting of the name ‘Duel of the Fates.’

This music made itself known in Revenge of the Sith too. The duel between Obi-wan and Anakin was the climactic battle everyone had been waiting for. The fight between student and master, between brothers, and between friends and comrades, and the entire while, the ‘Duel of the Fates’ egged them on. While the first duel saw the victory of the Jedi, the final duel saw the victory of the Sith, and one of the two fates clashing had finally won. Everyone knew it had to come to this eventually and it did so in a moving way. Even haters of the actors acknowledged the emotion in that scene as Obi-wan yelled his sorrow at Anakin, and Anakin screamed his hatred as he was left in the lava pit to die.

As for Attack of the Clones, some may claim that the duel between Yoda and Dooku lacked the meaning they looked for. In the very end, that duel was made especially for Yoda to show off his strength, for everyone to know just what made him a Jedi Master to begin with. Who didn’t want to see Yoda fight? And the acting by the late Christopher Lee just made those scenes better to watch. Of course Yoda is going to show his powers off- we need to see it. In the original trilogy, he was just a lone hermit who died of old age. Now, we see he’s twenty years younger in Attack of the Clones and we see everything we’ve been hyped up to see. Expectations were met and exceeded.

Kids – Not Even the Younglings Survived

In the end, Star Wars was made for kids. When fans first saw the original trilogy, they were kids. So, when The Phantom Menace was released, Lucas released it not to the older fans but to a new generation of kids, which is completely understandable. Judging by the wide critical acclaim for the prequels in the eyes of those younger fans he targeted, he certainly did his job too. In the end, the opinions of the veteran fans of the original trilogy did not mean as much to him as the opinions of the kids he wanted to draw into his universe.

What did he do? He introduced us to JarJar Binks, a clumsy oaf of a Gungan. JarJar is the comic relief of the show and probably the most hated character. In fact, he’s become the icon of hate for the prequels. Well, except for the younger fans who fell for him hook, line and sinker. The only thing everyone is grateful for from him is that he had limited appearances in Attack of the Clones and almost nothing in Revenge of the Sith. Still, JarJar, though hated, is limited in his overall role. The only major impact he had was leading the Gungan army to defeat when fighting the droids in Phantom Menace. He means little in the prequel trilogy. At least the gungans were better than the Ewoks. And some did die, unlike those invincible Ewoks.

Face it, they're better than the Ewoks. By far.
Theysa got a grand army. That’s why yusa no liken them mesa thinks.

Still, to attack an entire movie based primarily on him… why not attack Return of the Jedi based primarily on those childish bear-like creatures called Ewoks? Once again, Lucas always intended to gear this toward kids. As kids, fans loved the original trilogy, Ewoks and all. And as kids, fans love the prequel trilogy including JarJar Binks. Logically, there’s just no reason to hate the prequels based on a character like that, especially when his impact in the bigger picture is next to nothing. The only thing we could hold against him would be that he gave emergency powers to Palpatine but by that point, everyone had fallen for his act, it hardly seems fair to focus blame on JarJar. Palpatine was just adept at disguising his identity.

There are Easter eggs for the older fans too though. Anyone caught Jabba the Hut and his henchmen in Tatooine? Anyone else noticed Panaka naming someone called Antilles from Malastare? Or the mention of Alderran? Antilles is a rebel commander, Jabba is everyone’s favorite earthworm, and their mention and appearances are great to see for someone who watched the prequel trilogy first. It could be said that giving Tatooine about half the movie meant so much too, because we all know Tatooine, but we all know Mos Eisley. Now, we’re in Mos Espa, another settlement on the otherwise barren desert planet, and pod race gave us the scenery of that planet, focusing as much on the scenes as it did on the race itself and Anakin’s knack for piloting.

Without this scene, we'd have very little on-scene proof of Anakin's ability. SO he can fly a ship, ANYONE can do that, not just anyone can race pods.
Now THIS is podracing!

While many criticize the podrace, it’s worth mentioning the importance of showing Anakin’s piloting skills. After Ben Kenobi said he was the best star pilot in the galaxy, we were due for this and seeing Anakin fly around and taking the droid control ship down, or winning a podrace as a nine year old boy were infinitely more important than showing adult Anakin flying a starship when any adult his age was shown to do the same. It’s his prodigious skill as a boy that made this so apparent. The podrace, though disregarded as filler by a lot of veteran fans, was important for that reason. We never would’ve understood Anakin’s prodigious skill without it.

The Attack of the Clones had a very significant Easter egg. The Clone Wars has begun. The Clone Wars was mentioned back in A New Hope by Ben, Luke and Leia. It was the precursor to the Galactic Empire. Even the Imperials refer to an old Galactic Senate that had finally been dissolved. Leia was supposedly a member of the Imperial Senate like her mother before her. Knowing her mother now, as Pamde Amidala means so much, knowing what her future daughter became (though even the original trilogy fails to explain properly what exactly makes her a Princess.)

Showing the Senate and the Clone Wars was so significant to the prequels, it keeps the original trilogy on its feet. Let’s face it, in the end, A New Hope makes as little sense as anything else. Basing it all on some fabled war that took place so long ago with no explanation to back it up is not a coherent plotline. All we know without the prequels is that there is a big evil Empire who wants to destroy the rebels. Why? What is their motive? We don’t know anything about the Empire except that they want to destroy the rebels? Which government in power wouldn’t? What makes the Empire so special? What makes it evil? All we know is Ben trained the evil villain Darth Vader during some fabled conflict called the Clone Wars and he’s fighting him again where he dies with no explanation.

The Empire tracks the rebels down and it comes to a climax. Imagine if Harry Potter was just Book 7, with the events beforehand only referred to. Would that make much sense? We’d know that the big bad noseless villain is evil, but not much else. Just like we know that the big bad Empire is evil and it must be destroyed. What if I want to challenge the assertion that they’re evil? Maybe they’re good because they united the galaxy. At least the prequels explain this. No, it’s what Empire Strikes Back does afterward that makes it important. It builds on it, prolongs their struggle, and finally reveals some more backstory.

A New Hope was originally meant to be filmed as a standalone, and its success propelled Lucas to tell the rest of his story. Had it not met the success it had, it would’ve been a very poor, and overrated movie indeed. Then, you get to Return of the Jedi which is as boring as critics accuse The Phantom Menace as being. They sexualize Leia with Jabba and ruin our image of her as a feisty girl forever, they have a drawn-out fight with Jabba, a long discussion about Rebels and backstory, and then we’re forced to sit through an hour of Ewoks celebrating and C3PO and his monologue in a different language as he tells the entire story we already know. It doesn’t get interesting till the fight and let’s face it, we’re far more interested in Luke than the Ewoks at this point.

Villains – The Force Shall Free Me

Vader, Maul, Dooku and Sidious.
Turn to the prequels… it is your destiny.

Star Wars is known for having the best villains in modern cinema. This goes for prequels and originals alike. No villain is badly done. Darth Vader and Darth Sidious started this all, particularly Darth Vader for his iconic mask and ominous breathing. The prequels gave rise to Darth Maul and Darth Tyrannus (we will know him better as Count Dooku), and that’s not counting General Grievous, and, for those who watched the Clone Wars TV Series, Dooku’s assassin Asajj Ventress. They are all unique in their own way and serve the franchise in different ways.

Darth Vader is known for being the iconic face of the evil Empire. He is one of the first faces fans see in A New Hope, his force choke grip is widely feared and he’s one of the few characters who believe fully in the power of the Force. There is his ominous breathing, his robotic black suit, his red lightsaber and his urges towards the dark side, all are incomparable. Even his underlings like Grand Moff Tarkin are fantastic villains in their own right, running the battle station, tracking the rebels down, destroying Alderran, and living in constant fear of Vader’s displeasure. The Imperials are all just men working for the Empire, like military soldiers.

Darth Maul was also a great villain. Many fans truly got displeased that we lost him so early in the series, knowing he could’ve made a fantastic villain in his own right. His double-bladed lightsaber, his red and black skin-tone, and multiple horns on his head and his deep voice and acrobatic way of fighting made fighting him a pain. With acrobatics come maneuverability, and maneuverability along with the Force and a lightsaber with two sides made him a difficult enemy to beat. Indeed, the fans lost a lot when he was beaten at the end of The Phantom Menace, hence why the Clone Wars TV Series brought him back.

Compared to Darth Maul, Count Dooku, or as Sidious called him Lord Tyrannus, was measly. He was helped mainly due to his ability to use Force lightning like his master, something Darth Maul did not seem able to do. He was also helped due to the actor playing him, as Christopher Lee is well known for being well able to play a villain’s role stupendously. Count Dooku was even able to go up against Yoda and live to tell the tale. However, what really makes Cout Dooku memorable is the role he played as the leading side of the Separatists during the Clone Wars. This role, on top of being the subordinate of Chancellor Palpatine, is what made him unique and what gave Palpatine ultimate victory.

See, Chancellor Palpatine, widely known as Darth Sidious, was a genius and the prequels show him and how he played his cards to gain victory. He used Padme’s trust in him to become Chancellor, using his connections in the Senate to nominate him. Then, he gained an apprentice named Count Dooku who led the Separatists to split from the Galaxy. There, Palpatine is in the best position possible. No matter which side wins in the war, he wins in the bigger picture. His apprentice would theoretically be acting as his puppet ruling the Galaxy, or Palpatine himself uses Anakin, Padme, the Jedi and the Senate to sway things in his favor and consolidate power even more. No matter how the war went, he would’ve won. The only risk (what plan is without risk) is banking his fortunes on Anakin. It paid off and he took over.

So, we need the prequels. They enhance the Star Wars universe, including The Force Awakens, a point a fellow contributor made. They told the story we needed and that’s what’s important, because they give the original trilogy back story. Inherently, there is little wrong with them. Yes, poor acting decisions were made and yes, Lucas could’ve used more critical hands on deck, and maybe there were a few problems in the coherency department, but many of the usual lines of attack are invalid or can be explained. In the end, we must remember they were made for kids and no movie is perfect, and Return of the Jedi can attest to that. So, A New Hope has an incomplete back story Empire fails to fill, Return of the Jedi is boring, and the prequels all suck, what’s left of Star Wars to like? Even without the prequels? And… whoever doesn’t like Star Wars… well…

It's treason then.
It’s treason then.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. I feel like it’s pretty obvious by now that the sole reason George Lucas has been so vehemently opposed to releasing the original trilogy theatrical cuts in HD is that it would make it too easy for people to ‘seal off the contamination’ and just pretend the prequels never, ever happened.

    Which is exactly what I plan to do if that ever comes to pass. Although, I could definitely imagine something in the contract when he sold Lucasfilm to Disney that makes sure they can never release the original cuts in HD… because that just seems like the type of shit he’d do nowadays.

    • Adnan Bey

      I don’t think that reason is likely. Many people may have reasons for not releasing theatrical cuts, especially for something that happened so long ago.

  2. Finally, a sane piece about the Prequel Trilogy.

    Thanks for writing this. I enjoyed it greatly, and it was well-written and analyzed.

  3. The prequels are not good movies. They did some good things: one of Lucas’ most enduring legacies is as a technological innovator rather than as an artistic one, and with these movies he certainly ushered in a lot of changes to how movies are shot. This includes increased greenscreening, CGI and digital filmmaking. Those haven’t been universal positives, but it’s hard to imagine that we’d be watching things like ‘The Avengers’ today if not for Lucas.

    • Adnan Bey

      While I agree that Lucas did revolutionize how movies are shot, I disagree with the notion that the prequels are not good movies. They’re as good as the original.

  4. Tijerina

    Here’s the thing: Usually, when one person likes the newest installment of a property more than the critically acclaimed first installment I sometimes imagine their thought process as Maaan, these films are good. The old ones are all outdated and boring and theses ones are hip! But I simply don’t understand how one can apply that logic to Star Wars. The original trilogy isn’t boring, highbrow shit. The original trilogy is just 10x more fun than the prequels. If you’re making a space epic just please, don’t make it boring. The issues with the prequels go FAR beyond Jar Jar. I can deal with plot holes, character inconsistencies, etc. Just don’t bore me. And honestly, the original trilogy just looks better than the prequels. They were made more than 20 years prior but they look better. Sit a kid in front of a TV. Have em watch the originals. Have em watch the prequels. My mind can’t fathom the kid liking the prequels more.

    • Adnan Bey

      That’s the thing. I’m ‘not’ applying that logic and I don’t know anybody who does. People who like the prequels tend to like it all, original and prequel trilogy. I’m saying the two are just as good, that where the prequels had some shortcomings, so did the original trilogy. Plus, 10x more fun? Podracing was fun, way funner than that weird hoverbike in Return of the Jedi. The droids are at least better shots than the storm troopers making for more tense battles, the star ship fights are funner because the choreography is top-notch, only reason the prequel trilogy has a stain is the political implications in Phantom Menace, which I don’t recall bothering any kid, which is who Lucas was aiming at anyway.

  5. Good things about the prequels:

    the lightsabre battle at the end of Phantom Menace, which was easily the best thing in the trilogy; epic score, suspenseful, featured an unexpected death and there was some great physical choreography+acting from McGregor. Also dug the bit where he knelt down to meditate while Darth Maul paced like a caged animal. great stuff!

    Ian McDiarmid’s good-hammy performance and particularly the scene with he and Anakin in RotS mentioned in the above article.

    the ‘changling’ bounty hunter bit in AotC.

    I also give Hayden Christensen’s performance a bigger pass than most; he was meant to be unlikable – the dialogue sucked, but he was plenty petulant, his implied Sandpeople slaughter was nicely done, too.

    the rest was unmitigatedly mediocre-to-unneccesarily-bad.

    • Adnan Bey

      So, you disagree with some of the more common complaints against Star Wars but still think they’re bad, most probably for other reasons. I’m curious what those other reasons are.

      • David Lambkin

        Podracing was just jammed into the plot so that George could have a “race scene” in his film. There are numerous other ways in which he could have obtained parts for his ship or a new ship, but these were overlooked so that we could have a kid win a race. I found the podracing actually really cringe-worthy, rather than fun. The speeder bike scene in ROTJ isn’t my favourite, but at least it serves a realistic purpose in the plot.
        The droids are better shots than the stormtroopers, but they are still killed so easily that it takes away any potential tension in the scene. At least stormtroopers were intimidating.
        The starship battles in the prequels were boring because there was no reason to care about any of the pilots. When the Rebel pilots are being picked off one-by-one during their assault on the Death Star, your head begins to sink a little more each time until only Luke is left and you feel he has no chance to succeed, making his ultimate success that much more fulfilling.

  6. I absolutely find them very disappointing. There are dozens of different stories they could have told, what they ,did tell should have been done far better.

    • Adnan Bey

      Thing is, I don’t like arguments that basically say ‘this is how it should’ve gone.’ It doesn’t seem worth the fight, and it doesn’t lead anywhere. It’s basically complaining about reality. Fact is, I’m afraid, Star Wars did go the way it went… and it worked because last I checked, it was a big success with the audience Lucas wanted to draw in.

  7. I have been saying something like this for years. I am glad that someone with a broader critical vocabulary was able to expand on my thoughts and also revisit the prequels without the layers of contempt added over the years.

    That said, I rewatched Eps 2 and 3 over the weekend, and it’s become a bit harder to defend the second. The third remains a generally intelligent and well done action film with elements of great drama and philosophy, much as the first remains a lighthearted and energetic wild ride that overcomes many of its flaws. But the second is dragged down severely by one of the weakest courtships in movie history. For some reason, once Anakin and Padme are married, it works. But watching her succumb to his wiles – or maybe his Jedi powers? – is painfully dull and free of chemistry.

    Otherwise, I remain a big fan of the prequels. Great movies? Not really. Fun movies? Definitely.

    • Adnan Bey

      I sort of agree, the romantic story in Clones does seem very weak. Somehow, Han and Leia work better, even if Han is middle aged compared to a girl. And I mean girl, not woman. Makes her sexualized appearance in Jedi cringe-worthy. Only disagreement: I think they ‘are’ great movies.

  8. I remember 1977, and the first Star Wars. Great popcorn movie – which is the point.

    Popcorn movie. Not secular religion.

  9. Episodes 1 and 3 had several entertaining moments, like the Darth Maul light saber fight, or Anakin killing all those little kids, but the prequel trilogy was garbage, as a whole.

    • Adnan Bey

      What about the pdorace, the overarching storyline, the birth of the Clone Troopers, the Trade Federation, the deception of Palpatine, the Jedi Order itself, and visiting of so many different and unique planets, man I could go on…

  10. You are a brave brave man for writing this and you have my respect for it.

  11. The premise of this article isn’t bad: yes, the Star Wars prequels shouldn’t be hated in such an extreme fashion. They are still technically well made in the sense that they’re a product of Hollywood polished shine. But you cannot ignore the clucky, often offensive, writing, the poorly paced non-action scenes, the bad acting, the diminishing returns on the. same. story. beats. over. and over. and over. and over. Star Wars has never been a new story, even when the first movie came out.

    • Adnan Bey

      Truth is, originality has been very hard to come by for a very long time. It depends how it’s executed. If we agree that the preuels executed the old story in the right way, then great! 😀

  12. John Williams was the only person involved in the PT who actually put any real effort into it. Can’t fault the score at all.

  13. Lucas’ big mistake was to start with a child Anikin. If we met Anikin as a young man and a little more effort was put into the Padme /Anikin romance it might be better. Cut out Jar Jar and make the Jedi less Zen so they have some sort of personalities you might have had a successful prequel trilogy.

    • Here’s how you make the trilogy almost work.

      Combine Phantom and Clones into one movie. Cut out The trade Federation entirely and replace them with the Separatists, make Anakin a teenager when he gets picked up, have Qui-Gon killed by Dooku or Maul halfway through the story ala Obi-Wan in ANH.

      Then take the plot of Sith and make it into two movies, so we actually see the fucking Clone Wars for one film and then the fall of Vader.

      • Adnan Bey

        And here’s how to make the original trilogy work: Cut the Ewoks, Jabba’s whole drawn-out scene in Jedi, combine whats left to Empire, fill in the blanks with back story explaining what the Clone Wars werr and what the Jedi were, and make the fight between two supposedly great Jedi masters like Ben and Vader into something more real. I can’t feel any emotion about the Jedi coming back without the prequels cause I honestly can’t care about something I’ve never met or anything about what made them so awesome. Honestly. They ‘need’ each other.

    • Adnan Bey

      If we go by basis that Anakin and Padme’s romance was weak because of their ages, then why the heck is Han and Leia ok?

    • Anything to save us from that whole Anakin-as-fighter-pilot-savant sequence at the end of The Phantom Menace would be A-OK with me. We go from the terrific Jedi dueling, to “Spinning! That’s a good move!” – Hate.

      • Adnan Bey

        What’s so bad about Anakin as a fighter pilot? We heard from the prequels he was a darn good one, what better way to show that than a child flying a ship and blowing up the control ship?

  14. They fail miserably on a filmmaking level – the directing is flat, uninspired and lazy, the world is sterile, lifeless and dull on a visual level, the characters are also flat, ill-thought out, poorly-developed and some are just painfully stupid. The pacing is a joke, Lucas completely and utterly misunderstands tone, and has a terrible time trying to juggle the goofiness with the serious.

    • Adnan Bey

      The characters are brilliant, imo. Windu, Yoda, Palpatine, Qui-gon, Obi-wan, even Dooku. In fat, their villains like the Viceroy and the Jedi are brilliant. And characters give a movie life, so we can’t call it lifeless, and with the intricate storyline tying it with the original trilogy, it’s certainly well thought out.

  15. NurseManhattan

    Always happy to see some pro-prequel discussion. Contrary to popular belief, and by popular belief I mean middle-aged men on the internet, the people who didn’t like episodes I-III are actually in the minority of movie-goers. Great article! Looking forward to reading more from you.

    • Adnan Bey

      You know, I actually do know that, but I didn’t mention it because I don’t have official sources to back it up. But yes, you are correct.

  16. Emily Deibler

    While I’m not the biggest prequel fan, I admire how thorough this article is and how it looks at different nuances in the movies while not being afraid of admitting certain narrative pitfalls. The entire tone of your article came across as knowledgeable and confident. I can also agree that Return of the Jedi was the weakest (or at least the least interesting) installment of the original trilogy, barring certain elements. Excellent work here!

    • Adnan Bey

      Haha, well, thank you. I’m glad I at least put a good argument up even if I convinced no one. It’s one heckuva topic to get into. Yes, I do believe RotJ is the weakest, (though still good) film in the trilogy, imo, the whole saga.

  17. Thank you! I’ve been saying for years that the prequels are no sillier than the original trilogy. I like all the star wars movies.

  18. Malcolm

    I do suddenly remember MAD Magazine’s 2003 “year in review” issue with the joke of “George Lucas sending the Wachowskis a thank-you note for the Matrix sequels replacing the Star Wars prequels as the biggest sci-fi disappointment ever.”

  19. Cintron

    I seriously would have loved to have seen Jar Jar doing the funeral oration in the last movie because that would have been hilarious.

    • Adnan Bey

      Mesa loved Pamde so much, with moi moi humility, and shesa gave mesa chance, where mese muffled it up by giving emergency powers to the supreme chancellor!

      Yay, vote now! Vote now!

  20. Skanten

    The prequels are certainly dung, but there’s a moment in Phantom Menace that’s probably my favourite in the whole series: Darth Maul furiously pacing back and forth as Qui-Gon Jinn meditates on the other side of that timed laser barrier or whatever the hell it was. Perhaps it was the sudden appearance of any emotion in a film that was almost completely bereft of it, but that moment briefly made the film come violently alive. Lucas clearly doesn’t understand the importance of having a villain who isn’t expressly morose and aloof.

    • Adnan Bey

      Well, Sith tend to show and embrace anger and wrath. As opposed to the Jedi, who usually keep their emotions in check. There’s a good reason the film appears emotionless, it’s supposed to be that way.

    • That entire duel sequence is quite possibly the only redeeming scene of the entire prequel trilogy. It is brilliant. It’s terribly unfortunate that the rest of the story is so flimsy and poorly written.

    • Yeah, that moment is badass, and probably the reason why I prefer Episode I over II.

  21. I envy those that enjoy the prequels, I wish I did. But I try to re-watch them every once in a while and just get bored.

    • Adnan Bey

      That’s fair, if you just get bored.

    • That’s because they are boring. I was unemployed in 2002, and hiding that fact from my family by watching Attack of the clones repeatedly in theaters. It didn’t improve with multiple viewings.

      • Adnan Bey

        Boring is relative though. I personally saw them, especially TPM, as very fun to watch. Especially the podrace.

    • Well, we’re also not 12 years old anymore.

      • Adnan Bey

        You don’t need to be 12 to enjoy Star Wars. That’s like saying you need to be 12 to enjoy a good Disney movie.

  22. I think this argument was doomed from the start because you can’t defend the prequels as a whole with one thesis. They’re each terrible in different ways. And this article is being generous to examine the ideas behind the prequel storylines without the requisite regard for how they fail to communicate them properly due to failures in basic storytelling.

    • Adnan Bey

      I am sorry you feel that way. I meant to address the prequels as a while, in general, to defend their concept against common arguments against them in general. It wouldn’t be hard to defend each other them individually but the article would admittedly be insanely long.

  23. Upon seeing the trailer for the recent sequel, my mom said: “Oh, wow, I hope they’re not as bad as those last ones.” “The prequels?” I asked, “Yeah, I fell asleep during all of them,” She said. “Me too,” I replied.

    • Adnan Bey

      My brother and I had different reactions. It was more like ‘I hope this is as good as the other six.’

  24. lizideal


    I don’t mind folks hate it, that’s their right. I just loathe this whole elitist mentality of “if you don’t loathe these movies, you can’t be a real Star Wars fan.” I’ve lived this since I was two years old, love it totally, don’t tell me I can’t be a “real” fan just because I find these good.

    Kevin Smith really hit it: “Have any of you watched the Original Trilogy lately? Bad acting, bad dialogue, plot holes, it’s all there too.” Yes, there’s rough stuff but there are gems like the bit in Episode III of Anakin and Padme gazing across the cityscape. How you see Palptaine’s brilliant chess game turning the Republic into the Empire under everyone’s noses. The action, the world building, a much bigger galaxy than the original films, there is really great stuff and I hate people just go “It all sucks” without giving it a fair chance.

    • Adnan Bey

      My God I hate that holier than thou attitude. I’ve been told before I wasn’t a real fan of something, I just learned to ignore it. I’ve watched Star Wars since I was ten years old, and I started with the prequels. If it doesn’t make a true fan to like these movies, than I honestly don’t ‘want’ to be a true fan. If living with standards and predetermined opinions of films before we’ve even seen it is the new norm, I’m out. That’s basically my point too, everything people criticize the prequels for is present in the original trilogy.

  25. Moffett

    I think the Originals have their flaws, and I’m no fanboy (although, Empire is a genuinely fantastic film), but they are well made adventure stories that understand tone and character and whilst the writing isn’t impeccable either, it’s shot through with genuine wit and heart, not to mention some genuinely fine filmmaking.

  26. Bohannon

    The prequels all feel like we’re watching a story outline written on a cocktail napkin.

  27. Adnan Bey

    To me, they feel like I’m in for a wildride, and when the podrace comes, I can’t help but feel they delivered. I was a kid after all.

  28. Yamamoto

    Hatred of the prequels? No. Indifference? Yes.

  29. Helsing

    I’ve been working sporadically on a total rewrite of the prequel trilogy for the past few months. My intent is to tie it in with Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy and essentially create a nine-episode canon for my own personal enjoyment.

    It’s possible that I have completely lost my mind since my wife moved out. On the other hand, I may simply love Star Wars too much to let George Lucas and Disney ruin it for me.

  30. The Phantom Menace is still really really bad no matter which way you put it. I like Revenge of the Sith though.

    • Rountree

      Revenge of the Sith is best because it contains what the entire plot of the trilogy should have been in one movie, so while it’s shit at least things are happening.

    • Adnan Bey

      What about Attack of the Clones?

  31. I always interpreted that the Force was as mysterious to the Jedi as God is to humans in our world. With that said, I sort of take the “midi-chlorians” at face value. That’s the way the Jedi choose to explain the Force. This is a language issue. The Jedi order, particularly those higher up and Qui-Gon, simply are trying to add more meaning to the Force as scientists do. Just a theory I guess that helps me like the prequels a little more.

  32. Really fantastic article. Perusing the comments, it seems like those who hated the Prequels still hate them, but those who love/like them now at least have a good defense of them. I fall into the latter camp. I love all of Star Wars, and they all have their problems, but I just love the world-building backstory, the politics, of the Prequels much more. The Originals are a bit too simplistic for my tastes, though they did get better after A New Hope. New Hope and Attack of the Clones are tied for weakest in my book: the former for the aforementioned simplicity, the latter for the godawful “blossoming love” of Anakin and Padme. They’re fine movies outside of that though.

    The line of argument about some of the Prequel dialogue lending weight to the Originals was eye-opening/so true. I’d always been bothered by Palpatine trying to get Vader and Luke to fight to be his apprentice, and never put it together till your article. Also, Anakin and the prophecy–holy shit! He DID bring balance to the force, just not the way the Jedi (or the audience) were expecting.

    Great all-around. Too many good things to mention. Again, well done!

  33. Jason052714

    Yikes! I can’t believe someone tried to make this argument. I am not at all coming from an objective point of view. And nor do I mind. These films essentially validate Theodor Adorno’s sentiment about art’s failure as a commodity. These films (all of them) represent how damaging to originality that the concentrated ownership and inordinate control over promotion, distribution and production of the media industry can be. What makes them worse, is that they were created by a man that started his career resenting that very system. They are, like all art, valid and can assume some space within our popular culture. But simultaneously they represent how economic constraints force independent voices, ideas and stories to the fringes and well funded CGI driven (and will eventually look painfully dated) trash dominates the discourse concerning mainstream film.

    • Robert klein

      your wrong Lucas carved his own path and gained independence as a director and film maker. The Star wars prequels were some of the most important films ever made. Why? Because of the political ascension of power that Palpatine took. It was about our own time and how they use false flags and phony wars to maintain and gain power. I think that if anything The Disney movie The force awakens validates Adorno’s sentiment since it is a nostalgic cash grab made by a huge corporation. Its because Lucas achieved independence as a film maker the we got such a different kind of film.

  34. Michael

    Ugh…No, making the argument that the prequels somehow enhance the original trilogy is silly, it’s like saying that panning for gold 30 miles downstream of a successful goldmine is an equally lucrative business.

    Before the prequels we had a general knowledge of what happened, things were alluded to, and while the prequels did show us those events they can hardly be lauded for doing that.

    Yes, the acting is horrible, which is almost certainly the result of terrible direction, all of these actors in the hands of a different director have been successful there is no excuse for them ALL being so flat all the time.

    Dialogue. Even the best dialogue spoken poorly is still a failure, and this isn’t the best dialogue and it’s spoken very poorly. Half of the characters speak like tonely mute english professors and the other half speak with outrageous accents, it’s either too little character differentiation or almost an insulting amount. The flat performances exacerbate this problem, it’s like The Room, where every character is speaking like Tommy Wiseau but using their own voices.

    “You cannot help but feel goosebumps at this mention” Really? Because I certainly didn’t, that level of emotional connection only happens when you are engaged and concerned with the story being told and the Story. Was. Awful.

    What the hell is palpatine doing? What are his on screen goals and what means does he use to achieve them? His goal is to get control of the senate. How does he do this? He blockades Naboo hoping to force a vote of no confidence in the senate, how he’s going to do this is never mentioned, but every order he gives the trade federation fails and yet his plan still comes to fruition. The only motivation for palpatine we see in the first film is him doing “evil things”; “kill the jedi” “process the prisoners” “talk about revenge”. He has no stated plan or objective, he’s central to the conflict, Naboo is in danger (and we care about naboo?) and later the rise of the empire and yet his engagement with the plot is being a shadowy figure that tells people to bad things which fail.

    You can absolutely say that those saber duels are the incredibly choreographed, but you get the same as if it was a youtube video that you happened upon. There is so little emotional impact in that fight. You can’t release your expectations because they had a lot to live up to. The Force Awakens can prove this and it had it’s own problems and the same legacy to live up to and it shows that you can have emotional components to a fight after knowing the characters for 90 minutes, it’s no excuse for the sterility in that fight and Revenge of the Sith is only a bit better by comparison.

    The podrace, okay fine, I can live with that, it does set up the inquiry into his force abilities. The fact that he has built more and better machines than anybody in the history of everything is just so silly, why do we need that? The Federation Mothership, I can’t agree, we’ve already seen his ability with the force and in piloting and his whole romp through the finale ruins every last shred of tone that could have been in that finale. He accidentally blows up the biggest ship in the fleet and it’s done with all the care of Babies Day Out, same with JarJar actually, and all the while you see pilots being blown up and Qui-Gon getting stabbed, it’s absolutely manic. At least in Jedi the tone shifts, you see things going well, there’s a little comic relief, then you see a teddy bear all but murdered in front of you and leia gets shot, there’s a sense of flow between the emotions in each scene.

    Imagine if Yoda didn’t fight and still won, how much of a badass would he have been then? I can all but guarantee that not showing Yoda dueling would have been a stronger choice for the character. He’s the philosophical core of the ethos of the good guys, harmony over the Sith’s conflict, making him resort to physical combat for yucks wasn’t a good choice.

  35. I think this article is really important. So often we are quick to dismiss the prequels (sometimes with good reason). It’s hard to ignore that squirming sensation we get when jar jar is given a lot of screen time, or the knee-jerk response to roll our eyes at Anakin’s always-saucy eyes and whiny tongue. However, there is a lot to admire here too. Even if we’ll always pop in Empire over Phantom, it’s necessary to look at what Lucas has right in the prequels. Thanks!

  36. The prequels definitely aren’t as good as the original trilogy. However, I do agree that Episodes I-III did an excellent job of expanding the Star Wars universe. As someone who grew up with the prequels, it’s hard to imagine the Star Wars galaxy without all of the other characters or planets like Naboo, Coruscant, etc. That being said, I still think the prequels are awful, but not just because they’re poorly written and directed and overwhelmed with CGI. It’s because they’re disappointing. They had so much potential and they just fell flat.

  37. MattyMayham

    I preferred the original trilogy but am baffled by the hate for the prequel they are good movies, and a lot of people forget that they were very well received when they first came out

  38. Interesting article indeed. I agree. I never understood why there was so much hate for the prequels.

  39. LilyaRider

    This article is absolutely fantastic! I am a huge fan of the prequels, and totally agree with your perspective. I really liked the way you introduced the hate and then explained why it really shouldn’t be there. A thoroughly enjoyable read. Thank you!

  40. Karyn Little

    Thanks so much for writing this! I’ve always loved Episode 1, and it’s great to see people stand behind the prequel trilogy. I feel like it has always received unnecessary hate for no reason. Great read!

  41. I’m really glad to see someone else have a positive view of the prequels. Whenever I tell star wars fans that the prequel trilogy is, in my mind, the best part of all 7 films (particularly Revenge of the Sith) I get rolled eyes or shocked faces.

    But to be honest, there’s just so much stuff going on here that people don’t often appreciate. Like you said, some of the best fights in Star Wars came from the prequels. And the political dimensions and subterfuge add another, more interesting layer to the complete story. And then there’s Ewan Macgregor’s Obi-Wan! He’s awesome!

  42. I regard the first two prequels as mildly entertaining, nothing like the catastrophic blights on the franchise that some say, and I’m a big fan of Revenge of the Sith. I feel you could almost just start watching Star Wars with RotS and go on from there!
    Kudos for going against the grain with this article.

  43. I really do agree on the point with Jar Jar Binks. I was 11 when I first saw Episode 1. I didn’t have an issue with him as a kid, and it has continued on to my adulthood.

    Lucas, with his keen sense of history I always imagined trying to tell the fall of a Galactic Roman Republic into Empire. However he did fall short if this was in his mind.

  44. Cate

    While I definitely agree that they had their merits, I personally didn’t like them for a lot of the reason that you defend, actually. I just found them to be extremely disorganized and not really sure of themselves, and I think if GL had maybe focussed a bit more on the story rather than selling toys (which he has talked about himself, though I can’t find the article now – sorry!), then they would have been a lot better.

    I will say though that I actually enjoyed them more as they progressed. I despise I, tolerate II for the clone storyline, but I really love III. They got down more to the meat of Star Wars in III that really hammered Vader’s story down more.

  45. Great read! I never truly understood people’s vehement hate for the prequels. While not great at all, they are still integral to the story, like you said. Without the prequels, we wouldn’t have had the original trilogy. Like I’m sure most people have mentioned already, the reason the prequels are as bad as they are is because of George Lucas’s poor handling of it. So whereas I still don’t completely like the prequels, I accept them.

    That being said, more of a personal note, even though I don’t have a seething hatred for JarJar as almost everyone else does (I still don’t like him, mind you..,), I would take Ewoks over him and young Anakin. Any day.

    • David Lambkin

      How would we not have had the original trilogy without the prequel trilogy? The original trilogy had been out for 14 years before The Phantom Menance came along…

  46. David Lambkin

    “Imagine if Harry Potter was just Book 7, with the events beforehand only referred to. Would that make much sense?”
    You do realise that the entire series of Harry Potter books is EXACTLY like the original trilogy of Star Wars, right? There are characters in the OT and HP who witnessed the events of an earlier conflict (Clone Wars / The First Wizarding War) and are present in the films / books who help the new hero who was not around during the initial conflict (e.g. Obi-wan / Sirius Black).

    No, the equivalent analogy would be if J K Rowling decided to realise a new series of books about the First Wizarding War that were really terrible, contradicted information in the original books and changed the way everyone felt about the original Harry Potter books.

  47. First of all, hats off to ya for defending such a hated prequel trilogy. This has to be THE strongest argument and defense I have ever seen for anything period. It made me a believer, I was already accepting of the prequels, but after reading into your defense, I am much more compassionate towards them.

  48. First of all, hats off to ya for defending such a hated prequel trilogy. This has to be THE strongest argument and defense I have ever seen for anything period. It made me a believer, I was already accepting of the prequels, but after reading into your defense, I am much more compassionate towards them.

  49. Kenny Connally

    I definitely would agree that there are some redeeming features in Episodes I and III. Ep. I has terrific original music by John Williams, and if you can get past the the poor acting, unrelatable characters, Jar Jar & the Neimoidians, and the fact that the plot makes no sense whatsoever, I think you could enjoy it as a special-effects extravaganza space adventure movie. The pod race, though I don’t think it works as a scene in the film, is a great idea in principle (taking a scene from Ben-Hur and moving it into a sci-fi setting, just like how the cantina scene and dogfights in the original film are space versions of scenes from classic Hollywood Westerns and WWII movies), and the look of the different podracers feels both very “Star Wars” and very new at the same time. Though I personally think they look tacky, like video game cutscenes, nowhere near as good as the effects in the original trilogy, the special effects were cutting-edge for their time.

    While I can’t take Ep. III seriously as a drama for a second, which I think was the intention, I think it actually works pretty well as an unintentional comedy, largely thanks to Ian McDiarmid’s all-in performance as Palpatine. You have to enjoy a cringey kind of humor (like the British The Office) to get into the romance scenes between Anakin & Padme, but for the right kind of viewer those can get big laughs with lines like “Hold me Ani, like you did by the lake on Naboo!”

    The only one I find hard to enjoy on any level is Ep. II. That thing is just chloroform on film: a nonsense plot, dreadful romance scenes between Anakin & Padme that seem to drag on forever, great character actors like Samuel L. Jackson and Christopher Lee given nothing interesting to do or say, and an anticlimax featuring a battle between clones and robots and a depressing lightsaber duel between Yoda and a man named “Dooku.” You might argue that the fight between Obi-Wan and Jango in the rain, though it adds nothing to the story, is a bright spot because seeing a Jedi fight (basically) Boba Fett is something fans have always wanted. But as somebody who grew up loving the Boba Fett I knew from the original movies and the EU, the fact that they bulldozed his character and made him yet another annoying little kid really soured me on that subplot.

  50. As much as I dislike several things in the Star Wars movie-verse, the prequels are not one of them. I believe the rise and fall of the allegedly most powerful Sith Lord is an important part of the series. Do I wish they had done things differently? A bit. But c’est la vie.

  51. KKillian

    I grew up with the prequels, so I’ve always been in the minority that always genuinely enjoyed them. As I got older, seeing the barrage of hatred for them was more than a little disquieting. People seem to attack these movies as a free-for-all without remembering that they’re only movies. They’re only supposed to provide a few hours of entertainment, that’s it. It’s possible the prequels were a victim of Lucas pulling a JK Rowling, continuing to pile on information that nobody asked for, but it’s even more likely, I think, that they’re just a victim of narrow, fanboy minds and overly heightened expectation. Were they priceless pieces of cinematic art? No. But they served their purpose, they provided us with backstory, and they represented huge strides in the CGI industry, too. For whatever they are, they’re not worthless.

  52. I think the one of the biggest benefits of growing up with these films is getting to view Star Wars as a 6-film saga, rather than individual trilogies. I grew up viewing Star Wars as a grand mythic saga, one to rival the Greek myths of old. While the prequels do have issues, mainly with George’s struggle to write dialogue and direct actors (particularly young ones like Hayden Christensen), they are overall interesting, worthy additions to the saga, and watching the series as the story of Anakin Skywalker’s fall and redemption is a very satisfying and emotional journey.

  53. ivanly

    I grew up with the prequels and I still find them to be disappointing messes.
    They are different and chock full of creativity, but that doesn’t stop them from being the bizarre snoozefests they still are(Mostly I & II)
    Just for entertainment value I’d recommend the Mr. Plinkett reviews online. The new TFA review even provides a rebuttal to articles like these.

  54. This made me look at the prequels in a completely different way. Though I disagree with the pod-race being necessary, given Anakin does end up showing his piloting skills at the end of Episode 1, I do understand the argument on why Anakin’s character is the way he is in the prequel trilogy. The age difference between Han and Leia also flew over my head, as I’m sure it does with many people who dislike the age difference between Anakin and Padme. Nicely written.

  55. I think that the prequels are what tell the true story. How would any of us know of Obi Wan’s beginning as a Jedi or how Anakin was introduced to the Force. The prequels reveal so much of what the original trilogy is built on that they are, in a way, vital to the series as a whole.

  56. I commend you for taking on such a controversial opinion and arguing for it as well as you do. Like many others here have already commented, I grew up watching the prequels as well. That’s how I got into Star Wars in the first place so the prequels serve their purpose in that respect. I agree with much of what you argue here. As I got older, I definitely noticed the prequels’ flaws (the stilted acting, lack of chemistry, etc.) that I was oblivious to as a child. I think a lot of fans were upset at the prospect of having one of the hallmarks of their childhood be ruined. However, I’ve never really understood the amount of hate the prequels get. They’re sometimes mediocre, but they’re not horrible. They certainly weren’t masterpieces, but neither were the originals. The fluidity of the fight scenes in the prequels was an improvement for me. I also liked the fact that in the prequels we get to see sides to characters we never expected to see. Anakin’s impatient and immature moodiness as a young man is such a striking contrast to the fear-inducing authority figure of Darth Vader. That worked for me. It made sense that the man he becomes isn’t exactly the same as the boy he once was. A bit of him has always been tied to the dark side, but his character has also been warped and twisted by his changing attitudes and experiences. Anakin’s tragic downfall at the end of Revenge of the Sith is still pretty moving.

  57. The book “Star Wars: Bloodline” by Claudia Gray is another example of a Star Wars story enhanced by Prequels. The book follows Leia’s path in the Galactic Senate six years before the events of The Force Awakens. The Senate has a prominent fear of becoming a Dictatorship and being overturned in the same way Palatine did in the Prequels.

    It’s also a great book I’d recommend for any Star Wars fans.

  58. This just seems like a lot of excuse making. You list every issue that people have with the films, and then try to offer a point as to why they’re not that much of an issue? All of these issues compound to make bad films.

    However, liking them is your business! Lot’s of people do, and that’s good. There’s no reason that you should feel like you need to defend something that you like. It intellectually stimulates you! The film is not a real thing that is being picked on. it’s a piece of media that does not satisfy a large portion of its intended audience.

  59. Shannon Kelly

    Adnan, thank you!! This article is everything I’ve ever wanted to say about my love for Star Wars and I am definitely using this to back myself up next time someone tries to challenge me. As a current young adult who grew up watching the prequels as they were released in cinemas, my passion for the original trilogy is just as strong as my love for every bit of the prequels (yes, even Jar Jar). Fans need to realise that the world-building and overall franchise George Lucas has created is brilliant, but coming from a critical standpoint, the original trilogy and prequels alike are not the best filmwise. However, this certainly does not diminish my adoration for them, nor should it anyone else’s.

  60. Holy crap! I saw this article on the side as a recommended one. Read through the whole thing and started perusing the comments before I saw my name pop up. I had completely forgotten that I had read this, and my comment was like it was written by another person. Freaky!

    That said. Prequels FTW!

  61. I also grew up watching and enjoying the prequels as they were released in the cinema so it’s interesting to see some consideration amongst the usual vitriol.

    You made some great points such as the hypocrisy of the age-gap arguments and the reason for Anakin’s general sullen attitude.

    While I am a huge fan of the series as a whole, I appreciate the individual movies for different reasons. When watching the prequels again as an adult, I can understand some of the criticism such as an over-reliance on CGI, issues with some of the dialogue, acting and pacing, however my inner-child will always love the universe of the series and take away the best parts of the whole experience.

    A key area deserving of praise is John Williams’ wonderful score. ‘Duel of the Fates’ is powerful, epic and haunting. It captured my sense of awe as a child watching the climatic battle of Episode I and the fearsome imagery of Darth Maul as a dangerous foe.

    While there is much debate around the depiction of Anakin and Padme’s romance in Episode II especially, ‘Across the Stars’ remains one of my favourite pieces of music from the entire saga. It is beautifully bittersweet and captures the essence of star-crossed love.

    While not necessarily my main focus whilst watching the prequels as a child, the machinations of Palpatine from Senator to Supreme Chancellor and eventually to Emperor form an interesting backstory to the villain and highlight the character’s skill and ambition whilst manipulating the lives of the main characters.

    Also worthy of admiration is the creativity in design. To those who like myself grew up with the prequels, Queen Amidala’s elaborate costumes and the tattooed visage of Darth Maul are as iconic and synonymous with the series as Leia’s infamous hairdo in A New Hope.

    I also found the underwater city of Otoh Gunga’s beautiful art nouveau-esque design and the sunkissed quasi-Mediterranean city scenery of Naboo a welcome contrast to the other more frequent desert and space locales. They both begin as peaceful settings and while cited as some as ‘boring’ they are perfect for the calm before the storm and the start of the Skywalker storyline and foundation of the Galactic Empire.

  62. I think this is one of those battles you’re never going to finish fighting, but in saying that, it’s super refreshing to see this take being made and supported so loyally. As someone who grew up as the prequels were being made (despite being introduced to the originals first by my dad), I’ve never really understood the bandwagon of hate for the prequels. I hold the Star Wars franchise very dear to my heart and choose to find the positives and strengths in each individual film, otherwise what’s the point of being a ‘fan’? You tear any film/story a part, like you’ve already stated, and you’re going to come up disappointed. And really, if it’s such a big issue to you, just don’t watch the ones you don’t like as much as your favourites – it’s as simple as that!

  63. Thank you, first, for writing about such a controversial topic! I have been arguing for the prequels since I saw them several years ago. I believe that while Hayden Christensen’s performance may not have been the highest of the high, it was exactly true to Anakin’s character. As you had said, Anakin was a child with a certain lens of life and of the Jedi. Training was not going to morph his mindset as much as those born into the way of life.
    And perhaps it was my childhood perception, but I loved Anakin and Padme as a couple, and I did not feel as if their chemistry was off.

  64. This is a really Jedi-courageous argument that I thought at first was going to be tongue-in-cheek, it is so hard to imagine anyone making seriously.

    I mean, take the horrible names that no one can take half-way seriously, like Darth Sirious and Darth Maul (bad guys?), or Jar-Jar Binks (there is no way to save that character or his name), or even Count Dooku (Dorku?).

    I don’t think we can blame the fans, who rebelled at the sloppy job done already with Return of the Jedi, where according to the scuttlebut Lukas took the original Wookies and turned them into cute cuddly Ewoks so he could make more money on toys. Even if the background is not true it is in fact what he did in that movie, plus even worse acting in many important scenes. Still, even with such flaws, that movie has some of the best dialogue in the original trilogy, and the Emperor is amazing.

    Then when you look at the first reissue you see that Lukas was already going even more in that same direction; places that were cringe-worthy in the originals were not improved, or became embarrassing. Why have Han Solo let Greedo shoot first? So, the writing was on the wall and at least in retrospect the prequels are no surprise.

    Yes, the original trilogy is far from perfect in many ways, but when Lukas launched the prequels he took the short, steep road downhill, to the point that they are for me unwatchable.

    Thanks for making the argument, though! I needed to read the article to realize the depth of my dislike for the prequels.

  65. Yes. Thank you.

  66. Being very young when I first watched them, I remember the prequels very fondly. Taking something as complex as a film and labelling it entirely bad or good I believe is an oversimplification. I commend you for taking this unpopular stance and finding beauty where others might be unable to.

  67. ValleyChristion

    Finally, a rational argument in defense of the prequels. I have always loved them, and never quite understood why they received so much criticism. Fantastic article.

  68. This was a fresh, well thought out, and intriguing piece (finally) in defence of the prequels.

    I never considered the potential mother complex you pointed out between Padme and Anakin… but I cannot forget it. I’d love to see a Freudian analysis of the prequels, further in depth. Even if Freud wasn’t entirely on his salt, you can’t deny it’d be interesting.

  69. I agree with some of your points – pretty much all of the second part, parts of the third and fourth – but there are a few too many times you use the “the prequels did it too” position. I get what you’re trying to say, but if you’re going to be arguing for the inherent quality of the films, then pointing at the negative stuff and saying that the negative stuff appears in the prequels too doesn’t automatically approve the quality of those decisions. In fact, in some ways, it compounds them.

    I think the reason people point to the acting and dialogue so much as negatives is that, well, they’re just bad. Sure, there are probably pieces of the acting and dialogue that really fit the characters, but it all seems unintentional. It feels as though the actors are trying their best with what they have but it isn’t enough. There is such a wide disconnect of what the audience is supposed to understand about the characters and what is often portrayed.

    I agree on your points about how good some of the lines though – can’t forget the classic: “Only Sith deal in absolutes,” which I think is a great line that has a lot of double-meanings behind it. But sure, we can point to some good lines here and there, but that does little to quell the rest of the dialogue, which is largely lacking and stiff.

    I come at this as a big Star Wars fan, by the way. I love the prequels for their visuals and how they expand the universe, but I can’t ignore that, as a film trilogy, they are sorely lacking.

  70. I totally agree that the prequels are undeserving of the hatred they get. So much of it is tied to older fans who idealize the original trilogy and consider it to be “actually Star Wars,” as if the newer additions aren’t equal extensions of the story. Nostalgia probably plays a factor in this, with people remembering the feelings they first had watching the series, but film has progressed way beyond the simple story telling of the era when A New Hope was released. The prequels adapt to that, and maybe they aren’t entirely successful by telling the story people want to see, but it fills in what I considered lacking in the originals. Not to mention, the thematic and story setup for the sequel trilogy is important.

  71. I think we can all agree that many people get too wrapped up in and too invested in fandoms such as these. No doubt the dialogue is clumsy but in the original trilogy, the dialogue can be awkward at times. And yes it is made for kids. However, Jar Jar will never be forgiven.

  72. fhlloyd

    The Star Wars prequels are what actually got me into Star Wars. I thoroughly enjoy them and still do to an extent. Though I agree with many of the criticisms, the films are good in their own rights and they are entertaining. Perhaps it was not done as well as it could have been done, but I liked how the Jedi were portrayed as extremely flawed and how they ultimately brought about their own downfall.

    One of the biggest pieces I feel like they touched on really well was the whole idea of “attachments”. A lot of the themes were borrowed from Buddhism and spiritual practices of minimalism, but the Jedi took it too far and deemed emotion as an attachment. The Jedi’s fear that other Jedi could not handle emotions healthily led them to ban emotional attachments. Essentially, they let their fear of attachments (which is an attachment of itself) lead to them forbidding attachments.

    It’s a contradiction cruelly ironic, and self-fulfilling. The fear of attachment leads to a catch 22 situation: you avoid attachments for fear of being attached, but you eventually become attached because you are human and feel emotions, but now you are worried that you have become attached. You only really have two choices: to keep denying your feelings (which will undoubtedly come out at some point if they are buried deep enough) or to give in to those feelings (but you likely will feel incredibly guilty for breaking the rules.) In this way, Anakin’s fall makes perfect sense.

    There’s a lot more I could write about on the themes the prequels presented, but that would likely be an article on its own. Star Wars already showed that the world is not black and white, but the prequels really show that.

  73. I can praise this article’s ambition, but I can not claim it is successful. It barely argues the prequels are good movies, let alone a “masterpiece.”

  74. I’ve found it interesting just how deeply in conversation The Phantom Menace is with A New Hope in its third act. Vader vs. Obi-Wan with Luke witnessing the sacrifice, Maul vs. Qui-Gon with Obi-Wan witnessing. Lucas has always been obsessed with technology vs. organic matter, and the prequels are all about the non-dualism that is at the heart of the religions in which The Force is based upon. Maul is a very obvious riff on Christian Satanic imagery, and Qui-Gon is the noble zealot fighting off the “bad”, and this is a visual representation of the simplicity of the Jedi Order’s thinking, and organized religion’s thinking in general. “Good” vs. “bad” is revealed as a false premise. Obi-Wan witnesses this false duality and takes it with him, until the entirety of the system he lives in is torn apart.

    His arc across the prequels beautifully inform his sacrifice in A New Hope. There is no battle between “good” and “evil”. It’s much more complicated than that. Vader being a perfect synthesis of tech and organic matter, of good and evil. Instead of fighting this man who would be perceived as a walking contradiction if looked at through a dualistic lens, he refuses to fight. He illustrates non-dualism to Luke, which Luke will only understand later.

    In my opinion, the prequel films are much more thematically complex than the original three, and their existence enhances the texts of all the installments that chronologically come after them.

  75. Joseph Cernik

    A good essay. I always enjoy all the Star Wars movies, keep waiting for more, and never knew there was criticism about the acting, which seems odd to me.

  76. I believe Honest Trailers summarized all of the critiques of the prequels into one comedic movie trailer.

  77. I’ve always adored the prequels, the way they expand on the Star Wars universe, and the way characters grow and develop, as well as the moral ambiguity of the Jedi, the Republic, and the Separatists. Given the unique motivations of each faction, it’s a lot more open to interpretation, I feel, than to say one side is wholly good or evil. That said, I can understand the critiques, for example some people may find the politics can definitely feel slow. Personally, though, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I find those themes are what I tend to enjoy watching in a film. I suppose at the end of the day it comes down to personal preference, that and the fact people tend to gravitate toward films they grew up with.

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