Back in the 1970’s, a young director named George Lucas set out to create a little space drama called Star Wars. From there, everyone knows what happened: The franchise was a smash hit and went on to spawn 2 sequels, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. After Return of the Jedi was released in 1983, it is rumored that Lucas lost his mind and was committed to an insane asylum for 14 years. Or at least that is the only logical reason for what was to come after. Upon his release (or escape), the Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition was released followed 2 years later by the first chapter of the prequel trilogy, The Phantom Menace.
This was the beginning of the end of the Star Wars franchise for many fans. (In retrospect, for many the series began its downfall back in 1983 when the Ewok race was introduced. But back then, the previous 2 movies and the first half of Return of the Jedi were enough to make fans forgive Lucas for his choices and Kenner Toys for their meddling.) The Phantom Menace was a tremendous letdown for fans. The following 2 movies felt as simply further nails in the coffin of the Star Wars series. Even the most forgiving of fans felt doubt in their love of Star Wars after taking a step back and looking at what it had become. Most people now look back fondly at the original trilogy and completely disconnect themselves from the quagmire that is the prequel trilogy.
That being said, there are a scant few Star Wars fans out there who actually like the first three chapters of Star Wars. And even those who do are forced to regard their enjoyment as a guilty pleasure and endure the never ending bashing from people around them. As you can tell from the title of this article, I myself am one of those people. I’m well aware that I’m in the minority. For the longest time, I literally felt shame for liking the prequels, and many of those around me would say that my shame was the product of a rational mind trying to expel an irrational thought.
Not long ago, I had a conversation with someone who was of a like mind as me who also got to be the butt end of a great deal of abuse because he liked the prequels. After our chat, and after hearing the literal wall of arguments as to why our opinions were wrong, I spent a long time wondering why exactly is it that I like the Star Wars prequels when the majority of those around me harbor such animosity towards them.
First off, let me make this clear: I am not a prequels apologist. I can understand why people don’t like them and I do not fault anyone’s choices. I’ve seen many a review of the movies and heard all the arguments as to why they are bad films and can agree that every point made is valid. I do not think that they are examples of good film making. I admit that most of the movies were just a bunch of scenes cramming in as much CG prettiness that the human eye could see and then some. In regards to George Lucas, I can echo the opinion that his nullifying argument of “they’re for kids” is very much him turning his back on the fans that supported and helped make his empire what it is today. I don’t invoke how he revolutionized film making, nor do I think that his past accomplishments should automatically shield him from present criticism. I don’t care about George Lucas and George Lucas sure as Hell doesn’t give a rat’s ass about me. I care about Star Wars and Star Wars was never about George Lucas for me.
I was a kid when I saw A New Hope on video for the first time. I saw it back when “Episode IV” wasn’t even in the title scrawl. And damn was it cool. It was a world of space battles, aliens, a dark powerful empire and laser swords. I ran around my back yard with my brothers swinging sticks around making those “vrrrmmm!” “kshhhh!” noises. We were in seventh heaven.
The second film I saw was Return of the Jedi. That’s right I saw the films completely out of order. In fact, I never even made the connection in my head that the movies were a continuous story until a year after I saw The Empire Strikes Back 2 years after seeing Jedi. I knew they shared the same universe and the same characters kept showing up, but for some reason, my little addled brain just didn’t match up the ends together. I was too busy thinking of how cool it would be to pilot an X-wing fighter or to be a Jedi. My brothers and I would make up all kinds of crazy stuff when we played.
For the longest time I was firmly convinced that the color of one’s lightsaber was directly related to how powerful a Jedi they were. My older brother who really liked Greedo (you know, the green guy who gets blasted in like 3 minutes) pretended that he was Greedo’s older brother, a bounty hunter Jedi (Not a bounty hunter who hunts Jedi, a Jedi who is a bounty hunter) with a mechanical hand (‘cause mechanical hands were, you know, cool) who, in the Star Wars world of our back yard, was cooler than Boba Fett. And that was Star Wars to me. Yes, there was the story of the young farm boy who saves the universe from an evil empire and rescues his father from the clutches of evil, but that was just a neat story within a playground of my imagination.
For me, Star Wars is a box of Legos. (Yes, I am aware that there are Star Wars Legos out there. Bear with me here.) You get a Lego set and you’ve got a bunch of different pieces that can be put together and arranged into whatever happens to be on the box cover. But that isn’t the point of Legos. The true magic lies in using your imagination and creating what’s not on the box. If what’s on the box was all that was important, then it would be easier to just get a completed diorama set. But Legos are for people who like taking an adventure into their own imagination. And that is what Star Wars is for me.
Which brings me to the prequels. The prequel trilogy is just another box of Legos. Yeah, the sets are pretty lame overall, but they contain certain unique pieces that work in the Lego world of my mind that is Star Wars. They are flawed as Hell as films and they introduced a lot of elements that didn’t feel quite right, but the prequels also expanded the Star Wars universe that already existed. And hey gave me a bunch of new possibilities to work with in my mind. And that is the fun of them.
This is not a universal treatment as to why people do or should like the prequels, nor is it excusing the many terrible judgments on the part of George Lucas. As the title of this article states, this is why I like the prequels. I watch the prequels and it’s basically me watching George Lucas playing in a giant sandbox. He’s playing make-believe in a world that’s much bigger than him. And he’s enjoying himself. Not in any malicious or vindictive manner as some might think. I get the feeling watching the prequels that George Lucas is genuinely having fun. And as a result, so do I. All the plot holes and details that ruin the movies for most people feel like the product of a childlike mind playing without a care in the world. Again, this does not excuse the existence of plot holes, nor does it make them right. But for me, I look past such problems and see a kid truly in love with the Star Wars universe playing by himself, and saying “and wouldn’t it be cool if this happened!”
I guess technically I’m calling George Lucas a retard, but I call him that with all the love and respect in the world. If George Lucas is retarded, then so am I. Because the part of me that fell in love with the Star Wars universe so many years ago, and used to think a Jedi’s power level determined the color of his lightsaber, never grew up. And that’s why I like the prequels.