I’ve realised something – I think that the prequel trilogy is more Star Wars than the sequel trilogy.
I’m not a fan of the prequel trilogy for all kinds of reasons, but I don’t switch them off when they’re on. In fact, recently I’ve sat down and watched them again and there’s plenty to like, even love, about these movies. I understand now, and probably realised back then, that these films were never going to grab me the way the original trilogy grabbed me; I was 8 when I first saw Episode IV: A New Hope and I was 28 when I saw Episode I: The Phantom Menace. I was two totally different people.
I was 44 when Episode VII: The Force Awakens hit the cinema. I enjoyed it because I entered the cinema prepared, I shed myself of the expectations I had when I went to see Episode I and watched it for what it was. It was a new, fresh take on the saga and was exciting, fun and emotionally charged. Then I saw Episode VIII: The Last Jedi and I felt severely let down; the rules appeared to have changed and characters were flat and a little lifeless, even the original trilogy characters I grew up with. Then Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker hit and it was fun but… well, let’s just say it wasn’t the ending I would have chosen, and spectacle appears to have taken the place of story and drama, which was a problem I had with the prequel trilogy. I’m not a huge fan of the sequel movies – apart from The Force Awakens – as it feels very disjointed to me, with a lot of things thrown in to serve the action with changes made to the Force and what it’s capable of that, quite frankly, pulled me out of the saga and made no sense to me.
Anyway, I was watching the prequel trilogy again and I realised that even though they have what I think are flat scripts and some special effects that have not dated well, they felt really Star Wars. The world was rich and vibrant, detailed and really well defined. The locations were huge and really evocative and there were some really good world-building moments.
Then there’s the other movies and the new TV show; Rogue One, Solo and The Mandalorian. As these were depicting characters and events that had no bearing on the overall saga I liked them, loved them in the case of Rogue One and The Mandalorian. They were taking the galaxy in a different direction and they could explore other aspects of the universe, so the expectations were different or, in the case of The Mandalorian, simply not there so you could watch fresh and exciting new material. Also, the background is either already established, such as with Rogue One and Solo, or it was properly explained, as it was with The Mandalorian. They, too, felt very Star wars to me but in a very different way.
I didn’t get any of that with the sequel trilogy. I didn’t know much about the events between Episode VI and Episode VII, wasn’t sure what the First Order was about or why they were doing what they did, and didn’t fully understand why the Resistance was fighting without the help of the New Republic, or the Galactic Alliance, or whatever they were calling themselves. It just felt like the Big Bad Guys were still around in their big pointy warships, flying their TIE fighters and wearing white armour. It felt like the events of Episodes IV, V and VI were for nothing.
The worldbuilding was dropped in favour of spectacle and the movies suffered for it; if I had no understanding of the conflict, or had any idea how or why the conflict was taking place, then why would I care what was happening? I felt all three sequel movies suffered from this. I understand that there’s a stack of source material that explains all this, but… I paid my money to watch a movie that should have explained it, and I shouldn’t be trawling the internet or buying extra product to enable the movie to make more sense. It’s like downloadable content, or a ‘Pay To Win’ game. You want the full experience? Let’s see the cash. That’s really unfair, especially to the casual cinemagoer.
Also, the main characters from the original trilogy were being used as throwaway characters in the sequel trilogy, characters who you know are important and have a history but they’re only there to move the main characters forward – a line of Ben Kenobis from Episode IV, if you will – and they felt underused and a little wasted considering their pedigree. Why do I mention this? Well, perhaps, that’s another factor as to why these movies don’t feel very Star Wars to me, because the trilogy characters simply felt so, so different (apart from Han Solo, for the most part). I honestly feel they would have been better movies if these main trilogy characters had been left out.
The prequel trilogy, however, explained everything, however badly I felt it was written or however clunkily I felt it was acted. Everything you needed to know was on screen and, even though I was somewhat confused as to why certain things happened – especially the whole Sifo-Dyas thing – that was more the plot not making sense to me the first time. I didn’t need to research, purchase or otherwise search out the reasoning behind what was happening on the screen. I knew what was happening and, in some ways, I cared.
So there you have it. This probably makes more sense to me because I know how I feel, but I thought it was something worth sharing.