Why I Like the Star Wars Prequels
Let’s face it: the Star Wars prequels are the redheaded stepchild of the Star Wars universe. They are almost universally despised with few redeeming qualities. Ah but those pesky redeeming qualities mean that I like the Star Wars prequels. Well, I like them sometimes. “Blasphemy!” is shouted is my direction. I believe that the prequels should not be entirely cast aside and I will stand by my affection for them.
There are four major reasons that the prequels hold meaning for me personally. While these may not be important to most people, they are important to me. First of all, the costume design is outrageously beautiful. The costumes in Phantom Menace, Clone Wars, and Revenge of the Sith are what led me to start making costumes. From the luxurious fabric choices to ornate details to interesting silhouettes and seam lines, the costuming is beyond stunning. I have had the opportunity to see Star Wars costuming in person twice, first at FIDM and then at the EMP in Seattle, and there’s something special about seeing on-screen costumes in person. You can see detail that escapes the camera, admire textured fabric choices, and, if you’re a cosplayer like me, scrutinize the seams and closures in case you want to recreate said costume.
Reason number two is named Padme Amidala. I love Padme’s character development, especially when thinking about her peacemaking politics and professional espionage. Catrina Dennis wrote a fantastic defense of Padme Amidala for MoviePilot that I highly recommend you all read. She outlines Padme’s strengths throughout the series before making sense of Padme’s absolutely nonsensical death. Padme was a fourteen-year-old queen who engaged in literal combat in order to help her people. When no longer queen, she becomes Senator Amidala and continues to engage in diplomatic pursuits that will aid the people she led. Luke and Leia are dual images of Padme more than they even could be for Anakin. Luke is Padme’s warmth and compassion, unending belief in Anakin’s goodness. Leia is Padme’s ambition and leadership, fighting the good fight to protect the people.
Following Padme is the one and only Obi-Wan Kenobi. Ewan McGregor loves Star Wars and he tries so hard to make the rest of us love the prequels too. In an interview with Magic Radio earlier this year, McGregor shares “I was very happy with them, I’m very happy to have been in them. I like that they were films that children could watch.” McGregor does his best with the scripts he was given (yes, even I can acknowledge that those were not the best scripts), inviting the audience to get to know Ben Kenobi before he became Ben. Plus, McGregor plays with lightsabers just as much as the rest of us and, yes, he did make the noises too.
Perhaps the most important thing to me is how the prequels let a new generation enjoy the franchise in theatres. I was seven years old when The Phantom Menace came out in theatres. Bright lights, action packed sequences, silly lines – all of these things were very fun for me as a kid. I got to wait in line and bounce with excitement because I was seeing Star Wars in the movie theatre! I had seen the original trilogy countless times but this was new. This was for my generation. Are the prequels the best Star Wars films? Of course not. Did they let a new generation build anticipation? Absolutely. With the new Star Wars films coming out, I’m seeing the same thing happening. Children who weren’t alive for the prequels are bouncing in line, much like I did. My six-year-old niece looks up to Rey and points to Star Wars merchandise when we’re out. Whether or not you like the prequels or the Force Awakens era, Star Wars is a legacy, planting seeds in generations after generations.
Now, I do have a few other reasons to like the prequel trilogy. For starters, people are allowed to like whatever media they want to and they don’t always have to like “good” movies. We don’t police other peoples’ interests and, if someone likes the prequels, just let them because it doesn’t hurt you at all.
Though now considered “Star Wars Legends,” the prequel trilogy tied into the expanded universe. One of my college friends loved The Phantom Menace specifically because of how it worked with the EU. Despite the decision to shift the EU from canon to legends, the prequel trilogy is still connected to the EU. Whatever your Star Wars canon, there are aspects in the prequels that help make sense of convoluted components. Except Jar Jar Binks. Nothing makes sense of Jar Jar Binks.
I love the original trilogy. It’s what I think of as quintessentially Star Wars (obviously). The prequel series sets up the trajectory that gets us to the original trilogy. Though some plot discrepancies are larger than others (how did Obi-Wan age from Ewan McGregor to Alec Guinness?), the prequels do provide missing context. With Rogue One coming out this winter, I imagine that we’ll see that happen again.
Looking at all six films together (original and prequel trilogies), we get to watch the compelling story of Anakin Skywalker’s rise, fall, and redemption. Is any villain more iconic in Western media than Darth Vader? The prequel trilogy provides the story of a promising young recruit pushed into the life of a soldier and ultimately corrupted by his own fears, while the original trilogy showcases a powerful villain who seemingly kills without remorse – an irredeemable man. Yet Luke Skywalker believes that there is still good in his father (much like Padme did) so he casts off the dichromic vision of Jedi versus Sith to offer love and compassion to a dying man. Rise, fall, redemption. Just watch these films and try to contest that.
Besides, Darth Maul is pretty badass.