Happy May the fourth aka Star Wars day! Today most Star Wars fans will try and carve out sometime to watch at least one of the 11 Star Wars films, myself included. This year I wanted to celebrate the prequel trilogy, my favourite trilogy. Throughout this post I will be exploring the importance of the trilogy, the popular notion that they are 'bad', 'hated' films, the growing support, and the lack of inclusion of the trilogy in current marketing and merchandise. Last year I wrote an overview post of Star Wars, looking at the greatest scenes, the female characters and statistics so if you want to check that out CLICK HERE. I hope you enjoy this post; let me know your feelings on the prequels in the comments below.
Are the Prequels 'Good' or 'Bad'?
All things are subjective, what one might love another might hate, this is true for all movies, including Star Wars. So, I can't really tell you to like the prequel trilogy because I do. But I would encourage everyone to give them another watch, especially if you haven't watched them for a few years or since their release, I would also encourage you to watch them with an open mind - let go of all the negativity. Let's look at how successful the prequels were in regard to box office takings and reviews. Box office takings: The Phantom Menace (1999) made over $924 million during its initial release, Attack of the Clones (2002) made $653 Million and Revenge of the Sith (2005) made $868 million. All were huge financial successes - this is nothing new for Star Wars films but disproves the opinions held by some that these films were flops. Onto the critic scores - I am looking at Rotten Tomatoes. Revenge of the Sith comes in with an 80% score, Attack of the Clones 65% and classed as rotten is The Phantom Menace with a 52% score. Not bad scores by critic standards, comparatively the worst scored Star Wars film is The Rise of Skywalker (2019) of the sequel trilogy. Looking at fan ratings on IMDB Revenge of the Sith holds a 7.5/10 score, Attack of the Clones and The Phantom Menace both hold 6.5/10 ratings again these are not low. So, combine the box office takings with the critic/fan scores and you have what should be called good films. In fact, all Star Wars films score very similar. Yet there is a trend to pull up the prequels as terrible. Why is that?
The Trend of Disliking the Prequels:
This notion that the prequels are terrible is something I see regularly on social media. From memes to article taglines, there is not a week that goes by without a big company be that a magazine, TV station or entertainment site making a snide comment on socials about the prequels. But why is this? This week I asked my Instagram and Twitter followers their feelings regarding the prequels. Here are some of the responses:
- 'It has its problems, but it was "different" as much as the sequels just copied the originals. It also created a huge, amazing world for other future stories.'
- 'I grew up with the PT so they'll always have a special place in my heart. It's my favourite SW trilogy. I just love the bigger scale, the characters, the visuals.'
- 'The prequel trilogy embodies my childhood. Attack of the Clones was my go-to SW movie growing up and I remember crying in theatres when Padme died. It'll always have a special place in my heart.'
- 'I never understood people's hate for them. All three I still enjoy watching today. Which is more than can be said about other movies from that time.'
- '100% better than the latest films'
All the responses I received were positive. Now, I should highlight that due to my age a lot of my followers also grew up with the prequels and thus were introduced to Star Wars through The Phantom Menace which is something I noted in responses. So, perhaps those in their 20s and early 30s have a more favourable opinion. I have a theory about this, my age group didn't spend over 20 years waiting for the next Star Wars film. During that 20 years people probably built-up expectations, expected a sequel etc and when they watched The Phantom Menace it didn't quite live up to their nostalgic expectations. But from the responses I received and from the growing amount of prequel support I have seen on Twitter and in Facebook comment sections recently, it would seem that Star Wars fans on the whole actually love the prequels. So why do we still see so many posts about 'why the prequels are bad'? Well, I have another theory. It has become the standard, with all publications holding the same opinion as if it is cool to hate the prequels. When I was younger, I admit I felt pressure to agree that they are bad films, how many others felt the same way because everyone was telling you that they are bad films? Fast forward a few years and I proudly state that I love the prequels. Mocking the prequels is an outdated and annoying stance to take - one that has lost popularity, increasingly so with the release of the sequel trilogy.
Sequel Trilogy Impact on The Prequels:
This change in opinion seems to have coincided with the release of the sequel trilogy, now this maybe a coincidence. Perhaps the release of new Star Wars films inspired people to revisit the prequels, upon re-watching many decided they liked them. But I think it's more complex than that. I think that the messy sequels actually pushed people to realise the prequels are actually great movies. Think about it they have a linear, well thought-out narrative - unlike the disjoined unplanned narrative of the sequels. The prequels where also original unlike The Force Awakens (2015) which is almost a copy of A New Hope (1977). So, perhaps the disappointment of the sequels drove people back towards the prequels. Moreover, with the media's and people's attention on the sequels, the pressure to hate the prequels was eased and that I would argue allowed people to embrace their own feelings. Moreover, those of us that grew up with the prequels were adults with the release of the sequels. As a result, we started to voice our positive feelings towards the prequels - adding a new wave of voices to the discussion, eliminating some of the negativity. But our voices have clearly not been loud enough or have been ignored because the sequels tried their very best to ignore the prequels in the same way Star Wars marketing and Merchandise has.
Erasing the Prequels:
Given that the Sequels continually honour, mention, even recreate the original trilogy you'd think they would acknowledge the prequel trilogy - well you'd be wrong. The clearest example of this erasing is within the final moments of The Rise of Skywalker, several planets are shown - but not one of them are a prequels planet. On the other hand, The Last Jedi (2017) mentioned the prequels and recreated visuals from Revenge of the Sith - but the media tried to erase this with multiple articles highlighting how TLJ was distancing itself from the prequels. So, either Disney ignore the prequels or the press do - who will embrace?
Beyond the movies, you will notice that whilst there are vast amounts of products from both the sequels and originals on sale, the merchandise for the prequels is lacking. Promotion wise if you have Disney plus today you will notice a new May the Forth banner, only prequel villains feature on the banner. One character in particular has been excluded from recent promotional materials and even the Lego Christmas film. Padme Amidala the main female lead of the prequels has been forgotten about, Star Wars has always been a space for strong female characters yet since Disney's takeover Padme has been continually ignored. The Lego Christmas film which featured Characters from every Star Wars era failed to include her which was a real shame. Furthermore, the Disney Plus banner features Rose - a minor character but not Padme - the lead of The Phantom Menace and joint lead in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Padme was the reason I started to like Star Wars and her erasing is very disappointing. I recently wrote about the importance of Padme with a colleague at Future of the Force so please check that article out: The Importance of Padmé in Star Wars - Future of the Force (thefutureoftheforce.com)
I guess my point here is: I want the prequels to be represented to the same standard as the originals and the sequels. Not only because as was proved earlier that they all rank very similarly but because by erasing the prequels Disney is furthering the narrative that the prequels are bad. Which only continues to fuel the fire in regard to memes and fan shaming.
Lets Change The Narrative:
The reasons I hear people use to degrade the prequels continually is poor dialogue, at times awkward acting or just 'they are bad' without explanation. I agree the dialogue is at times awkward, but let's think about the characters especially Anakin and Padme. Their conversations were bound to be awkward, Padme: a queen at a young age, then a politician will lack the ability to talk emotionally choosing a more formal diplomatic approach. Anakin a slave child turned Jedi will lack people skills, the pedestal he placed Padme on would influence the way he spoke to her - character wise the dialogue makes sense.
But now let's look at all the ways the prequels are great: Strong narrative - that was well thought out, allowed character growth, emotional attachment and story progression. World building - we see more of the Star Wars universe than in any of the other trilogy's, the scale is impressive and adds context. Epic romance and epic heartbreak, that between Anakin and Padme and then the relationship between Anakin and Obi-Wan. The lightsaber duels - EPIC. The score - EPIC. The costumes - EPIC. Obi-Wan's sass - EPIC. Simply put the prequels are epic, but they also have depth and a great narrative. Ask anyone what the best and most heart-breaking scene is, they will Say: the fight between Anakin and Obi-Wan, ask what the best lightsaber battle is and they will say Duel of Fates. The positives easily outweigh the negatives - something that does not fit the narrative purported by most outlets that the prequels are 'bad' films. If they are so bad why is Revenge of the Sith in most people's top two Star Wars films? Simply put the prequels are some of the best, well-constructed Star Wars content.
But it's not just the prequels that are great, so is the content they inspired. Some the best Star Wars content outside of the films stems from the prequels. We have The Clone Wars which has a 93% Rotten Tomatoes score. Then there is Bad Batch that stems from The Clone Wars and starts streaming today. There is the Marvel comics which add context to the time between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. And coming soon we have the Obi-Wan series. When the Obi-Wan series was announced the excitement was palpable, then it was revealed that Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christenson would be returning, and fans now wait with baited breath to watch these two have the rematch of the century. The excitement for the prequal characters has grown - a notion that ten years ago people would have laughed at. Yet here we are - the most anticipated Star Wars project features two prequel protagonists. Throw in Ashoka and her recent live-action debut in The Mandalorian as well as the cloning refences and you can see just how influential the prequels have been on the Star Wars Universe.