In honor of Star Wars Day (May the 4th be with you!) here’s a Star Wars list.
First of all, I should say that I don’t define what a “real fan” is and I only really speak for myself. But I can say that I have interacted with many dedicated fans over the years–I’ve been to Star Wars Celebration twice, along with a slew of lesser cons–and in my experience the most dedicated fans who have the most genuine affection for the series (e.g. those who save up for a year to travel halfway across the country/world to attend Celebration) rarely do anything but express their devotion to ALL of the films.
In fact, at Celebration VI there was a panel that occurred multiple times throughout the con called “Why We Love the Prequels.” And then there was the sneak preview of Attack of the Clones 3D that drew enough fans to fill the second biggest auditorium for each of a few different showings. Not to mention the lines for prequel actor autographs never lacked warm bodies.
My point is that all of this prequel hate seems to either only exist on the internet or come from a broader category of “casual fan” who just goes with whatever the popular opinion is. I think it’s a little of both, personally.
Which is why I made this list. I don’t love the prequels in general, though there are specific parts I am really fond of. I do, however, like them, and I know I’m not alone in this. Hopefully this helps give a perspective that is grossly underrepresented in today’s online fandom, with article writers eager to cater to populist opinion. Maybe it can even get some of you to stop perpetuating so much hate about an epic saga we all love.
1. It’s new Star Wars!
In a more civilized age perhaps I wouldn’t have to go beyond this point. I mean, come on, who wasn’t excited about getting three new feature-length Star Wars films? It meant we no longer were restricted to the hit-or-miss EU books and comics for new Star Wars material. You need look no further than the box office numbers to know that I wasn’t the only one excited enough about all three films to pay to see them, in some cases multiple times.
When Episode I came out, Star Wars had new, official, non-EU canon for the first time in 15 years, and I thought then and still think today that this is awesome. Were they as good as the Original Trilogy? No. Does that mean they are unwatchable garbage? Absolutely not, especially considering you would have to make quite some film trilogy to ever hope to even come close to the originals. Obviously the prequels were never going to be as good, or even come close. Get over it. When you rant and rave about them you tend to sound like a whiny basement-dweller.
2. Political intrigue
That’s right, I’m calling it what it is. Many fans have criticized the prequels (especially Episode I) for the endless boring “trade negotiations” and that sort of thing. What I see is not boring at all but rather engaging political intrigue that adds a whole new layer of realism to the universe, and something that was obviously lacking in the OT.
These films were made for an aging fan base. Adult fans were meant to appreciate tricky diplomacy, two-faced politicians and commentary on corrupt democracy. Was it always expertly done in these films? Maybe not, but it’s a big part of what makes these films enjoyable for me when I watch them as an educated adult.
3. Anakin’s Story
Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker is by far one of the more complex characters in the relatively black-and-white world of the OT. In the three original films we see him go from being a ruthless, evil villain, to wanting to cast down his master and rule the galaxy with his son, to being hopelessly enslaved to Palpatine, to eventually sacrificing himself to save his only son.
As George Lucas’s early notes show, this story was always about Anakin’s corruption and redemption. And while the character may not always be well-acted in the prequels, the rich story told in the films makes his corruption completely believable, and it makes his redemption make a whole lot more sense at the end of Return of the Jedi.
4. Ewan McGregor
This one should be pretty obvious, considering I’ve heard some of the staunchest anti-prequel crowd praise McGregor’s performance as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the trilogy. Not only was he completely believable as a younger version of Sir Alec Guiness’s beloved portrayal of the character, he added a totally new dimension to the character that made him an instant fan favorite. In films where the acting and writing were not always top-notch, Ewan shone through and turned Obi-Wan into one of my favorite Star Wars characters ever.
5. Fantasy becomes science fiction
This is probably the most controversial one, but I think it’s also the most important. The Original Trilogy is fantasy. That’s all there is to it. Some will argue, but if you replaced blasters with steam cannons, hyperspace with teleportation, and space ships with space-dwelling domesticated monsters there would be no question. I mean, there’s magic and spirits in it, after all.
As a kid I loved this aspect of the old movies. I loved the simplicity of the Good vs. Evil struggle and the easy-to-grasp archetypal characters. As I have grown, though, I appreciate these bland tropes less and less. Star Wars is certainly an example of well-done fantasy, but I think the saga needed the dose of science and grey realism injected into it via the prequels. Really, the transition to sci-fi started in the 80s, with the EU novels; George Lucas merely followed the example set by the likes of Timothy Zahn and Kevin J. Anderson, even borrowing some of the EU material. I know people don’t like having the Force scientifically explained or seeing the Good vs. Evil struggle downgraded to more of a power-over-weakness one, but for me this shift away from fantasy tropes and toward sci-fi themes makes watching the entire saga a richer experience.
So there you have it. I know my reasons for liking the prequels may not be the same as yours, and I know there are still lots of people out there who will think this list is crap. But this is a sincere perspective from a real fan. As you are reading the countless prequel-bashing articles popping up on the Internet today, just remember that it’s okay to like the prequels. The real fans are out there and we are numerous, despite the absurd unevenness of the online forums and pandering articles.
And to those Star Wars fans who continuously and vulgarly trash the prequels, ask yourselves: Can you really be fans of a film series when you hate half of its films?
Happy Star Wars Day.