In Defense of the ‘Star Wars’ Prequels


It is generally accepted that the “Star Wars” prequels are not a patch on the original trilogy. To be fair though, the anticipation that built up around “Episode I” was so ridiculous that even if it had been as good as “Episode IV: A New Hope,” it wouldn’t have seemed like it. But I am writing as I have seen the prequels in a new light over this past week.

Being the uber-geek that I am, I wanted to “educate” my 4-year old son in the ways of the Force, and by that I mean “Star Wars.” So over the last week or so, we have watched all six films in numerical order, Episodes I through VI. I am of the opinion that the entire saga should be viewed this way anyway, although most people I speak to seem to view the series by when it was released.

To watch it with my son has given me a different perspective on it. Now this might seem obvious to you, but I promise if you watch it in chronological order, it is almost a completely different experience.

To begin with, let’s start with the big one: Darth Vader. If you watch the original trilogy first, your general impression is of a pantomime villain. Yet, when watching Anakin’s rise from a humble podracing slave, to a battle-hardened Jedi and then ultimately his succumbing to the Dark Side as Vader, the story becomes even more tragic. Ultimately, the prophecy comes true as he brings balance to the Force eventually, by killing the Emperor, but what alot of heartache is caused by his actions before that.

The biggest point to me though that hit home is the fact that, even though he knew it was Darth Vader on the screen, my son always referred to him as Anakin. And he was always hoping the he would become a good person again. Now be honest, if watching the original trilogy first, you would be looking forward to the time when Luke was powerful enough to defeat Darth Vader. Yet, my son was hoping he would become the Anakin of the prequels again. Therefore the payoff at the end in “Return of the Jedi,” when his “ghostly” form (as Hayden Christiansen) appears next to Yoda and Obi-Wan in the Ewok village, is a powerful moment and almost a reward for the viewer for going through the “journey” with him.

Also, when watching the original series first, you see the Empire as the bad guys. You are rooting for the Rebel Alliance, simple as that. Yet, while watching the prequels, you are on the side of the Senate — the Trade Federation and the Separatists are the bad guys you think. Yet, it is gradually revealed that actually the Senate, controlled by Darth Sidious/Palpatine, which you thought were the good guys, are the seeds that will become the Galactic Empire.

Yoda, in episodes V and VI, seemed to be an eccentric old hermit living in the wastes of the Dagobah system. Yet, to see his “journey” from wise (and kick ass) Jedi Master to a broken and humiliated one by Palpatine to the crotchety, old (but still wise) loner in “Empire Strikes Back” is a sad and poignant story. Again, my son was sad to see this little alien who made him whoop with joy (almost as much as I did) when he unleashed on Count Dooku in “Episode II,” die peacefully in “Episode VI.”

I notice too that scenes have more relevance in context to the prequels. George Lucas has said the two trilogies mirror each other to an extent. This is made clear in a scene in “The Empire Strikes Back” when Luke, whilst training with Yoda, sees a vision of his friends in danger. This causes him to abandon his Jedi training and fly to Cloud City to save them — ultimately leading to his first confrontation with Darth Vader, when he his obviously not powerful enough to face him.

Yoda and Obi Wan warn and even plead with him not to go. It may seem like a simple scene, but when you put it into context with Anakin’s story, in the prequels, it takes alot a bigger, more ominous tone. Anakin had visions of Padme dying in childbirth and was so focused on finding a way to stop that from happening, that he fell under the influence of Darth Sidious and eventually turned to the Dark Side. After watching that and then seeing Luke have the same trial or temptation in Cloud City, his refusal to join his, newly discovered father, has a sense of relief when the credits roll on Empire.

Another point is that at the end of “Episode III,” Yoda tells Obi Wan that he has some training for him and that QuiGon Jinn has “materialised” and that Obi Wan can learn to commune with him. A simple plot point to give Obi Wan a semi happy ending you might think? But no, this also explains why when Obi Wan dies in “Episode IV,” he is able to gradually make contact with Luke again so soon after dying.

There are a number of other moments, plot points and character arcs that can be found in the entire saga that make the two trilogies intertwine and both equally indispensable. The epic battle on Mustafar between Obi Wan and Anakin, and then the rematch on the Death Star in “Episode IV” that sets the rest of the entire trilogy in motion to name but one.

And to see my 4-year-old son’s wonder and amazement at the new worlds and creatures that are opened up to him, reminds me just how special the “Star Wars” series is to me. Original and Prequel trilogies alike.

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8 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. 1

    OK, Ben. You have inspired me. I will finally watch all six in numerical order.

  2. Cam Smith #

    Really fun article. You and I should do a fan vs. fan debate piece on this type of topic one day or something. Could be fun.

  3. Josue Sanchez #

    This is one of my favorite articles I have read in a while. Although most of my friends would kick my butt….I agree with what you say. Most sci-fi fans trash the new Star Wars movies and are all very opinionated of how Lucas could have made it. But the fact is, it is his movie and he can do whatever he wants!

    The new movies are flawed, but definitely tie-in to the old ones when watched chronologicaly!

    Thanks Ben! great article!

  4. chris #

    Great insights (although I’m not entirely convinced that the prequels are worthwhile).

  5. moviefan #

    the star wars series is one of my fav series of all time including star trek, back to the future, and indiana jones. I do preferably like the original triology more. I grew up with them as a kid/teen/ and now young adult.

    They are some of the reasons i am into the whole scifi/fantasty/action genre of films and tv shows. As for the prequels they do have their place in the whole scheme of the star wars series. They have their high and their low points too. Visually the prequels look great, and the cgi and special effects are top notch for the age of the 2000s.

    The originals from the 70s/80s still hold up great to in my opinion. As for the prequels preferably i like episode 2 and 3 more. episode 1 i thought was the most kiddish of the whole series. But i have enjoyed the series. Even though the prequels are not as great as the originals.

    They do have their charm and characters i do like. So all in all Star wars is one of my all time series.

  6. 6

    Thanks for the comments. Those of you who are gonna go watch the saga in order, make sure to come back here and post your thoughts on it.

  7. Jon #

    I really agree with the assessment of Darth Vader’s character. The prequels really did add another dimension to an already great character.

  8. H Solo #

    I think I’m going to watch some Star Wars today.

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