You don’t have to have a high midi-chlorian count to sense a disturbance in the Force ever since Disney bought up Star Wars back in 2012.
I felt it again at the D23 Expo this past weekend, walking among the handful of Star Wars booths on the show floor at the Anaheim Convention Center. Even with the various toys, posters, costumes, books, props, video games, trading cards and other paraphernalia, I was acutely aware that all of this merchandise and hype didn’t represent the full Star Wars experience, at least to someone my age.
More from Editorial
- How animation changed Star Wars: Ewoks and Droids
- The Acolyte might change Star Wars storytelling
- No Star Wars for Feige, and I’m ok with that.
- 3 major ways the Star Wars Holiday Special changed canon
- If Jon Favreau remakes the Holiday Special, it needs to star Peli Motto
I was 8 years old when I saw Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. I remember being blown away by the podracer scenes and the three-way lightsaber fight at the end, but the rest of the movie didn’t stay in my memory very long. I remember even less of Attack of the Clones, which I saw when I was 11. It wasn’t until I saw Revenge of the Sith in 2005 with a friend that I actually felt compelled to return to the theater to see it again.
But even though Sith helped to neutralize the somewhat bitter taste the entire prequel trilogy left behind, Disney would probably prefer that the films sink into obscurity rather than be remembered at all. That’s the impression I got this weekend, and it’s a sentiment that’s been in plain sight ever since the marketing machine began for The Force Awakens.
The Mouse’s strategy for selling fans on the sequel trilogy is as much about distancing itself from the prequels as it is about reinforcing its ties to the original trilogy. Everyone involved in the new Star Wars projects, from J.J. Abrams to Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy and numerous other cast and crew members, have talked our ear off about the emphasis on practical effects, minimal CGI, authentic props and costumes. It’s not enough that the original three leads are returning. Disney wants to assure us that its blue milk came from the same cows as the original trilogy.
And it’s hard to blame Disney for adopting such a logical approach. Even though the prequels represented George Lucas’ unfiltered vision for Star Wars, it’s not one that the fans necessarily agreed with. The films have been universally derided since the moment they’ve hit theaters, and they’ve attracted plenty of vitriol toward the actors and actresses involved.
It’s not enough that the original three leads are returning. Disney wants to assure us that its blue milk came from the same cows as the original trilogy.
But the fact remains: They are Star Wars films. Despite ridiculous rumors that Disney is seeking to remake the prequels (which is almost as ridiculous as people actually supporting the idea), Episode I, II and III are part of the Star Wars canon, for better or worse, whether Disney likes it or not.
But even if Lucas’ films are onboard Disney’s mothership, they’re still being handed the coach treatment while their predecessors get the first-class cabins. The only mentions of the prequels in the ad campaigns for the films mocks them for their worst parts, with even Abrams taking a shot at Jar-Jar Binks.
Meanwhile, other media are sidestepping the prequel problem as well. The new Marvel comics all take place in the era of the original trilogy, with only one series, Kanan: The Last Padawan, set in the prequel era, albeit around the same time as the second half of Episode III. Star Wars Battlefront, the upcoming video game by EA and DICE, is all about the classic battles from the original trilogy as well, with no sign of levels set on Geonosis or Naboo (although DLC content may fix that).
That’s not to say Disney has totally abandoned the prequels; after all, it would be very difficult for them to. The upcoming Han Solo spinoff will have to be set in that era, although judging by the aesthetic of Rogue One, I don’t think it would be fair to compare either spinoff film with the aesthetic of the prequels.
Instead, Disney is focusing on another property to help them squeeze the juice out of the prequel era without alienating any fans.
Next: How Disney Solved the Prequel Problem