We revisit the Star Wars Prequels, exploring what may hold up and what might be worth revisiting or salvaging. We look forward to reading all of your hate mail.
I like Star Wars. These days, that statement alone is about as controversial as saying “I like pizza.” But then, saying that you like the prequels is kind of like admitting that you like pineapple on pizza. It’s still recognizably pizza, a thing that people tend to like, but admitting that you like this particular kind of pizza has a tendency to garner quizzical side-eyed glances accompanied with that age-old question, “ew, why?”
Well, the prequels came out during a formative time in my life: they were the first Star Wars movies I had ever seen, and I was ten years old when Revenge of the Sith came out, probably the optimal age to be a budding life-long Star Wars fan. And sure enough, sixteen years later, I still love that movie. Indeed, I have a deep fondness for the entire trilogy, even if I view them through the lens of extremely thick nostalgia goggles. Am I here to tell you that these movies are good, actually, and that you’re wrong for disliking them? No. They have very clear and blatant flaws that have relentlessly been picked apart for over twenty years at this point.
But I’ve learned to love them for what they are, and, for this Star Wars Day, I wanted to spread some positivity and present ten good things about the prequel trilogy!
 That being said, I unironically think Revenge of the Sith is an objectively good movie, and I will not be taking comments at this time.
 Though, on a serious note, the bullying that goes on this fandom is disgraceful. We should be ashamed for what we put Ahmed Best, Jake Lloyd, and Kellie Marie Tran through. There are some Star Wars movies that disappointed me too, but that’s no excuse for cruelty.
Say what you want about these movies, but you can absolutely tell they were made with a singular vision in mind; a vision with consistent ideas and themes that weave their way through all three films. As the trilogy was made concurrently with the 9/11 attacks and the US’ war with Iraq, there is a strong anti-war motif that spans the trilogy. Additionally, each movie discusses political corruption, and how some people in positions of power can wield that power in a selfish and dangerous manner all in the name of personal gain. Not to mention we get to see how elected leaders and civilians alike can be either coerced or misled into supporting evil.
In fact, I think Rian Johnson himself summed up this particular point quite nicely: “Lucas made a gorgeous 7 hour long movie for children about how entitlement and fear of loss turns good people into fascists, and did it while spearheading nearly every technical sea change in modern filmmaking of the past 30 years.”
Even if the prequels’ plotting, pacing, and dialogue could have benefitted from another draft or two, there’s no denying that Lucas had a vision in mind when creating these movies; one that not only connects all of three films through shared concepts and ideas, but one that is also shaped by the world in which the prequels were made.
EWAN MCGREGOR AS OBI-WAN-KENOBI
Ok, so who didn’t see this one coming? Yes, the acting in the prequels is a contentious subject, and indeed one that has been discussed and mocked to death in fan circles. But even still, I have never heard anyone complain about Ewan McGregor’s portrayal of the young jedi master. He does an excellent job of taking the wisdom, composure, and subtle mannerisms and speech patterns from the character created by Alec Guinness, and adds the youthful and droll qualities that makes his interpretation endearing and fun.
McGregor’s performance is good enough, in my opinion, to add an extra dimension to Guinness’ original portrayal of the character. Quiet moments of distress in Guinness’ face become more impactful as we, the audience, know what the old warrior has gone through in his youth; the people he lost, the adventures he had, and the turmoil he experienced. McGregor’s Kenobi is generally cheerful and quick with the sass, but that plucky element is gone from Guiness’ Kenobi. This all works to create a picture of a man who has gone through the immense trauma of war and betrayal, coming out the other side still recognizable as Obi-Wan Kenobi, but clearly changed forever. McGregor’s upbeat exterior that he maintains even in life-or-death situations comes crumbling down his final confrontation with Anakin, not only highlighting the severity of the situation, but also signalling to us that this version of Kenobi that we had seen in the prequels is truly gone.
Honestly, I think Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi was one of, if not the, best casting decisions in the entire Star Wars saga, and I am beyond excited to see him reprise the role.
Star Wars is a franchise that thrives on spectacle, even from its inception: spaceships, lazers, space wizards, dogfights, immense set pieces, and giant explosions are all implemented to look awesome and make the audience go “wow;” and that’s just in A New Hope! This dimension of spectacle continues in the prequels, and is showcased very well in the fight scenes. While most of the fights may not have the same narrative heft as Luke and Vader’s confrontations in Empire and Jedi, they make up for it by delivering visually arresting and exciting battles, showcasing the acrobatic athleticism of the combatants. It’s fun to watch Darth Maul flip around while wielding a double edged lightsaber. It’s exciting to watch the fast and intricate swordplay between Obi-Wan and Anakin while they try to avoid getting burned in lava. It’s cool seeing how a cyborg with four arms would wield so many lightsabers. Even if some of these fights only exist for the spectacle, they do a damn good job of it.
THE BATTLE OVER CORUSCANT
No joke, I think this whole sequence from Revenge of the Sith, starting with the opening space battle all the way to the crash landing on Coruscant, is some of the best Star Wars to be put on the big screen. For the first time in the trilogy, the movie begins with immediate high stakes, and this whole sequence keeps the pace moving along at just the right speed while keeping the sequence both gripping without being too much at once.
It opens with a well-made long tracking shot giving an intimate view of the battle above the planet, and then delves into what’s easily the best space action in the trilogy. Then comes a tense rescue operation that allows us to see not only how these characters act during a stressful situation where the plan keeps getting messed up and they have to make quick hairpin decisions, but we also get to see Anakin and Obi-Wan interacting like friends. We’re offered a chance to be invested in their relationship as we get to see them actually act out the mentor-pupil/bros-4-ever dynamic that is supposed to make the end of the movie so much more emotionally impactful.
It also gives us a significant character moment when Anakin kills Dooku. Yes, we all know about the Tusken Raider scene from Clones, but this particular scene also opens the floodgates for the rest of the movie’s plot: first of all, this the first time in the trilogy where he kills a human (a named main-cast character at that), which is arguably the next step down the dark path from killing the Tuskens. It also confirms to Palpatine that not only can Anakin be convinced to kill if he’s led to believe it’s the right thing to do, but also that he will follow orders, and is malleable to Palpatine’s demands. Killing Dooku demonstrates to Palpatine Anakin’s potential as his new apprentice. This action alone alters the course of Anakin and Palpatine’s relationship, instigating what will be their dynamic all the way through Return of the Jedi.
JANGO FETT’S SEISMIC CHARGES
You know the scene in Attack of the Clones when Obi-Wan is following Jango Fett to Geonosis, resulting in a space brawl in an asteroid field? Well, while I like the rest of this scene fine, the best part is Jango dropping the seismic charges that cut out all of the sound for a split second before delivering a satisfying “BWAAAA” noise as it destroys the giant rocks floating in its wake. Seriously, the sound designer deserves a pat on the back for this because I think it’s a really cool feature that’s hard to describe in writing. Go look up this scene and crank up the bass on your speakers. Trust me, it’s fun.
THE MOS ESPA POD RACE
This is another scene that nicely fits into my thoughts regarding Star Wars and spectacle. This time, however, we’re given a plot point with clear and high stakes; something more than just “well, it’s the end of the movie, time to have a lightsaber fight”: Anakin’s freedom, as well as the fate of the queen’s ship and everyone on board, are all on the line as everything rests on the shoulders of a child who has never actually finished a podrace. So, now that we have a clear-cut reason to be invested in this race, let’s look at the race itself.
It’s true that a lot of the CGI in the prequel trilogy does not hold up particularly well, but this is an area where it is surprisingly alright (not amazing, just alright). It helps that the Tatooine scenes in Phantom Menace make heavier use of actual prosthetics, costumes, and physical set pieces than a lot of other spots in the trilogy. You also get a fast and objectively exciting race complete with obstacles such as malfunctioning equipment and Tusken Raiders, as well as life-or-death situations as other competitors bang and crash their way through the course. It’s certainly a welcome and fun sequence that breaks up the monotony in Phantom Menace’s uneven pacing, and it gives us some early insight into Anakin’s development as a pilot and a person.
Yeah yeah, I know the CGI in these movies doesn’t hold up. But I’m not talking about the execution here, am I? I’m talking about the design itself, because franky there are a lot of cool visual ideas here! From the enormous monsters lurking in Naboo’s planet core, to the dense and Blade Runner-esque streets and alleys of Coruscant’s underbelly, to General Grievous’ skeletal exterior complete with talons and the little bits of rotting skin you can still see around his eyes, the imagination and conceptual framework for these films are there! Even if they were not realized as well as they could have been, the actual visual ideas in these movies are great and should be commended.
I think even the most die-hard of prequel haters have to tip their cap to John Williams’ score for the trilogy; personally, I think what you hear in the prequels is some of Williams’ finest work. You have your iconic pieces like “Duel of Fates,” complete with its repeating horn theme over frantic strings, all accompanied by an operatic choir. You have the not-as-famous pieces that are still exceptional, like the epic and emotional “Anakin vs Obi-Wan.” The piece plays over the duo’s explosive final duel, and it has bombastic horns over dramatic and sweeping strings that will subtly reference themes from the OT, perfectly highlighting the scenes’ intended awe-inspiring fight and the emotional heft behind it.
But Williams does more than just epic piece after epic piece; he also showcases his range as a composer, conveying different moods and timbres to accentuate other moments in the trilogy. One of my personal favorite examples is the ethereal and haunting choir swells in “The Swim to Otoh Gunga,” reflecting the wonder and awe of seeing an entire subaquatic city surrounded by the dangers lurking in the depths. Then there’s the downright sinister “Palpatine’s Teachings,” a sonically sparse number relying on a single eerie voice fluttering over a droning pedal tone that perfectly captures how Palpatine’s insidious evil poisons Anakin’s mind.
Honestly, I think the soundtrack is a strong contender for the best thing about the prequel trilogy. Even if you don’t care for the movies themselves, I could still heartily recommend checking out John Williams’ scores on your preferred music streaming service.
The prequels added a lot to Star Wars lore, most of which I think is quite good. We get to see new biomes (Kamino, Musatfar, Coruscant) and alien societies (Geonosis, Naboo, Utapau) that all add to the scale and magnitude of Star Wars’ universe. We get to see how this galaxy, or at least the republic, was run and organized, as well as a glimpse of the legendary Jedi Order, things only hinted at in the original trilogy. Scores of new creatures, planets, architecture, vehicles, weaponry, power structures, and cultures were all introduced in these movies. Were some of them thrown in because they would make for good merchandising opportunities? Yes, undoubtedly so. But they all still contributed to creating a much richer and more interesting Star Wars universe.
EVERYTHING THEY INSPIRED
Even if you’re dead set on hating the prequel trilogy and nothing I’ve said so far will ever convince you otherwise, then perhaps we can at least agree that the prequel trilogy laid the groundwork for other good Star Wars things. The Clone Wars TV show is great, and fills in a lot of the gaps (both plot-wise and character-wise) between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. The show also gives us a lot of new and interesting characters like Ahsoka Tano, Rex, and Asajj Ventress, not to mention bringing back Darth Maul and making his return from near-death canon. The Clone Wars alone had a major role in inspiring other soon-to-come Star Wars content like Ahsoka’s upcoming series and The Bad Batch.
But the prequels’ influence extends into more than just one good show. I’m a firm believer that Star Wars has some of the best movie-based video games I’ve ever played, hosting names like the original Battlefront games, Bounty Hunter, The Force Unleashed, Jedi: Fallen Order, and Republic Commando. Even the Lego Star Wars games are good! And all of these titles were influenced in some way by the prequels.
Not to mention all of the books, graphic novels, fan movies, and other original art all created by the people who’ve grown to love these films. The prequels helped inspire the imaginations of a generation of kids and moviegoers, cultivating special places in the hearts of millions. There’s even a robust meme culture surrounding these movies: as of writing this, r/prequelmemes has over 1.7 million followers! Even if you don’t love them, the prequels have inspired so many people to make art of their own, and to me, that in and of itself makes them a net positive.
Look, we all know the prequels have their issues, I’m not denying that. And there are countless think pieces, articles, and YouTube videos explaining exactly what’s wrong with them with a fine-toothed comb. But I can’t help but love them despite their glaring flaws (though I do typically end up skipping the entire Anakin/Padme romance plot in Attack of the Clones; Even I have my limits). To commemorate a day celebrating one of my favorite franchises, I just wanted to bring a bit of positivity to the table, and share some genuinely good things that may otherwise be overlooked. May the 4th be with you, everybody!