This is a Star Wars rant about the Star Wars prequel movies. There are some spoilers here for the first six Star Wars films, so if you haven’t seen them yet, go watch the original trilogy (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi) and feel free to skip the prequels (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith). Incidentally, if you do see the original trilogy, then there are fewer spoilers for the prequels. It’s complicated.
I’m getting pumped for The Last Jedi to come out (I got my tickets for this Saturday at noon). To get me in the mood, I decided to watch all the Star Wars movies leading up to The Last Jedi, sans Rogue One. This meant re-watching the prequel films, a task I may never take up again.
I used to be a bit of an apologist for the prequel trilogy (PT). I always knew they were worse than the original trilogy (OT) but I wasn’t as against them as most people. For instance, I don’t mind that disputes over trade routes is the cause of everything. Why wouldn’t politics be at the center of a civil war? I also used to like the idea of watching Obi-Wan being crushed at the end of Revenge of the Sith only to sacrifice himself in A New Hope as an act of redemption.
Re-watching them all, I’ve changed my mind! There are a lot of obvious reasons that the prequels ruin cool stuff from the OT. It spoils the three biggest surprises: an aggravating little alien being Yoda, Vader being Luke’s father, and Luke and Leia being twins. Maybe other stuff, too! These never bothered me that much because I had seen the OT before there ever were prequels. That still leaves future watchers with it ruined for them but there’s nothing I can do about that. Every parent should be aware that they need to show their kids the OT first (and again, maybe never the PT).
Anyway, here’s my new gripe: at the beginning of A New Hope, the audience is dumped right into the thick of things being bad for the good guys. Princess Leia’s ship is captured, Luke is bored, real peril. We’re also left to assume that the people in the universe know things should be better. That’s what they’re fighting for after all. In the opening crawl we learn about a civil war, we see Darth Vader choking people out, storm troopers are scary, and everyone is carrying guns or swords with them all the time.
We’re introduced to Tatooine. Tatooine is a pit, a wasteland. Luke cannot wait to get off that planet! Jawas will steal your droids if you’re not careful, people are getting incinerated, there’s too much sand and not enough water parks! Well, that must be the Empire’s fault, right? Luke hates the Empire. Everyone hates the Empire. But wait, according to the prequels, Tatooine was always awful. It was a planet with no Republic presence, they wouldn’t take Qui-Gon Jinn’s money, and—this is a big one—there was slavery! Prequel-era Tatooine is actually WORSE than A New Hope-era Tatoonine.
We know Luke is a petulant little baby but I want his hatred for the Empire to feel real. I want him to be oppressed. I had accepted, “the Empire made things bad” as the reason he doesn’t like the Empire but the prequels actually make this harder to assume. Seeing all these movies again so closely to each other, I found myself less emotionally attached to Luke’s plight in A New Hope and I never want to feel that way again.