When Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was released in 1999, fans were in denial. Fans were very excited for a brand new Star Wars movie written and directed by George Lucas with all new effects and all sorts of new characters including a young Darth Vader. The movie was released and fans were in denial of the subpar quality of the movie, that they heralded it as the best Star Wars movie. People in lines dressed up as the characters praised the movie to be the the pinnacle of the series, when in reality, most fans will come to realize that the Phantom Menace is incredibly flawed and has many problems in many areas.
Two more prequels were released that were written and directed by George Lucas, with them each getting slightly better, but the bad taste of the Phantom Menace is still lingering in the mouths of Star Wars fans 20 years after the premier. The disdain for the prequels grew and grew throughout the years, especially with the over-saturation of Star Wars merchandise in every corner of every supermarket in America. There were Jar Jar Binks t-shirts, Darth Maul lunch boxes, Mace Windu action figures, and all sorts of promotional food items. I even remember when the Revenge of the Sith was released, there was a huge promotional event in a tent in the parking lot of of a hotel. Inside there were all sorts of candy, Cheetos, toys, video games, plush Yodas, t-shirts, hoodies all celebrating the “end” of the saga. At the time I thought it was really cool, as I was only 7 years old at the time, but now it was a huge marketing ploy to get people to see a below average movie that also happened to have the name Star Wars slapped on it.
The movies themselves are not anything groundbreaking from a film making standpoint. In fact, I think that the choices made were borderline comical, especially in the acting and dialogue departments. The deliveries are not good and the words they are saying are not believable at all, making the actors really look like they are not trying their best. The CGI was good for the time they were released, but has aged poorly, and the action scenes took me out of the moment considering they were all computer generated and not practical. A really good series on the prequel movies and how they are not good is the Mr. Plinkett reviews on the Red Letter Media YouTube channel or website. The movies were a far stretch from the original trilogy and do not share the same passion and creativity that those movies had.
I love the prequels. Not for the movies themselves, but for the culture that they created. I actually enjoy parts of the movies, but that’s not what comes to me when I think of the Star Wars Prequels. I think of the lines that are so bad that they’re good, I think of the lines I quote regularly like “I hate sand”, and “This is where the fun begins”. The internet memes are endless and frankly wonderful, as there is a whole subreddit dedicated to prequel memes. Behind the scenes clips are hilarious considering almost all of it is shot on a blue screen and the Jedi actors are waving around plastic sticks that will eventually be digitized into light sabers. The costumes are outrageously flamboyant and arguably stupid. At one point in time it was considered mainstream and taboo to hate on the prequels, but nowadays that idea has completely flip-flopped.
My first Star Wars movies were the prequels, and my earliest memory of going to the movies was with my parents to see Attack of the Clones, so the prequels may have some bias in me because that was the first Star Wars memory I had. The prequels are not good, but at the same time they are great, everything that has come from the prequels has led up to the Star Wars we have today. The Disney Star Wars movies are definitely different and pay homage to the original trilogy to a nauseating degree, but there was an era of Star Wars where the wacky, stupid and charming aspects were going light speed.
I actually liked the prequels to an extent. Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of things I hate about them: The focus on politics, the Sand scene, JAR-JAR. Truth be told, the only good things about Episode 1 were Liam Neeson, Pod-Racing, Darth Maul and Duel of the Fates.
But some good things did come out of that mess! We got Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and all the characters from that, and the battle droids.