5 things the Star Wars prequels did right


The prequels aren’t perfect. But they’re not the irredeemable atrocities they’re sometimes made out to be. Let’s take a look at the strengths of Episodes I, II, and III.

I’ll be the first to admit the Star Wars prequels have their issues. I didn’t get what the critics had against the movie when I first watched The Phantom Menace as a twelve-year-old in 1999, but over time the blissful tolerance of youth gave way to the cold evaluation of adulthood and I became conscious of the ways in which the prequels fell short, especially in contrast to the originals.

But that’s not to say they’re necessarily bad movies. I won’t fall into the trap of applying negative blanket statements to a work that falls short of some of my expectations. I’m a Star Wars fan, and though the franchise I love has always had its warts (even the ones cloaked by nostalgia) I’d rather focus on the positives. And so here are the areas where the prequels really found themselves on the high ground. (Meme lovers, you’re welcome.)


“Duel of the Fates.” “Across the Stars.” “Battle of the Heroes.” The prequel trilogy represents John Williams at his most formidable. All three movies brought a wealth of memorable new motifs and themes to the table. Remember the menacing Trade Federation theme (The Phantom Menace, track 14), the re-introduction of the Imperial March in earnest (Attack of the Clones, track 13), or the gut-wrenching strains that accompany the galaxy-wide execution of Order 66 (Revenge of the Sith, track 4). Even after all these years, even when I cringe at other aspects of the films, the music still thrills and enraptures me. John Williams, you’re a galactic treasure.

ORLANDO, FL – APRIL 13: John Williams attends the Star Wars Celebration Day 1 on April 13, 2017 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images)

Lightsaber battles

With its inventive use of setting, heart-pounding music, and emotional stakes, the duel between Darth Maul and the Jedi will always rank among the top tier of Star Wars lightsaber battles. Who else felt chills the moment the elevator doors opened and Darth Maul stood there, igniting his double-bladed lightsaber for the first time? My twelve-year-old self nearly passed out from sheer delight. And even though the lightsaber duels in the next two movies grew increasingly absurd (did we really need Yoda flipping around like a hyperkinetic ninja?), they still evoked childlike glee in spades.

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999). Lucasfilm Entertainment Company Ltd., All Rights Reserved

Alien planets

The planets of the original and sequel trilogies stay grounded in reality, a production choice I can respect. The originals didn’t have the technology to show us worlds that looked too different from earth, and the sequels have opted to evoke the same practical feel. But it was fun to see the hanging cities of Cato Neimoidia, the psychedelic greenery of Felucia, and the endless stormy seas of Kamino. In some respects, the prequels were just an excuse for George Lucas to get out his new technological toys and smash them together in a spectacular way. And boy, did he go all out.

HOLLYWOOD, CA – MARCH 08: George Lucas attends Mark Hamill Star Ceremony on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on March 8, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

Unforgettable performances

When you picture Obi-Wan Kenobi, whose likeness comes to mind? For much of the fandom, it’s probably Ewan McGregor, not veteran actor Sir Alec Guinness. With respect to Sir Alec, it was McGregor that really brought Obi-Wan to life for me, imbuing the stern Jedi Master with charm and gallantry in the years before the Tatooine sun hardened him into a crusty old hermit. Liam Neeson brought his A-game to Qui-Gon Jinn. Ian McDiarmid revived the Palpatine of the originals first as a calculating puppeteer and then as a gleefully cackling, full-on supervillain. The prequels are filled with actors who didn’t just visit a galaxy far, far away—they made it feel real.

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005). Lucasfilm Entertainment Company Ltd., All Rights Reserved

Gaining a new generation of fans

You’ve probably observed this curious phenomenon in recent years. While Star Wars fans of the first generation (those who saw the originals in the theaters) and the second (those who grew up on the originals and eventually saw the prequels in the theaters) tend to deride the prequels, the rising generation has no such prejudices. For these younglings, many of whom first experienced Star Wars through the prequels, Episodes I-III carry the same nostalgia others might feel for Episodes IV-VI. I’m fine with that. The prequels aren’t always my particular cup of blue milk, but the galaxy’s big enough for all kinds of palates.

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What do you love about the prequels? Or did you just love everything about them? Tell us in the comments.