Most fandoms tend to condemn people that are overly critical of their precious show/game/film franchise (as people watching The Walking Dead right now will surely know). Speak out against a particular thing you donít like about it too much and youíll be branded a ďbadĒ or ďnot realĒ fan of the thing itself. The Star Wars fandom, however, is quite backwards in this respect. That is, itís more or less universally accepted that everybody hates the prequel trilogy, and itís commonplace for people to metaphorically crap all over it. Itís only natural for fans of anything to be somewhat divided in their opinions, but Star Wars fans especially like to insist on particular films being either good ones or bad ones. It seems like thereís only a small minority of people like myself that enjoy the franchise as a whole, appreciating all of its parts for what they are, and this doesnít seem right. The original trilogy isnít perfect and the prequels arenít the monstrosities theyíre made out to be. There has to be some grey area, some way of bridging the gap. After all, only a Sith deals in absolutes.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has been praised for doing exactly this. Bridging the gap, I mean, not dealing in absolutes. It feels like a piece of a puzzle you didnít know you were missing until you found it, and now once you have, you appreciate how much it ties the whole picture together. Rogue One smacks you in the face with the Star Wars people have loved since the release of A New Hope, but also includes prequel references and helps to highlight things about the prequels that people are usually quick to disregard. For example, the epic Vader scene at the end. People loved this scene a lot, and it was much more reminiscent of the Vader we saw in Revenge of the Sith than it was any of his somewhat slower paced appearances in the originals. In Star Wars forums and comment threads, I often see far more people admit to really liking episode 3 in particular than anyone really acknowledges, probably because itís the most Vader-centric, and despite a little stiff acting and awkward dialogue, has some extremely memorable scenes, like the one at the end of Rogue One. That Vader appearance was such a contrast to all of his actions in the film until then, and to most of his scenes in the originals, that it almost feels out of place given how close it is to them in the franchise timeline. Being someone that saw Revenge of the Sith in cinemas for my birthday as a child when it came out, I felt like that scene was a tribute to the vengeful, ruthless Anakin Iím nostalgic for, as opposed to the one fond of force-choking generals.
One of the biggest hangups (or summaries of their criticisms) that people have about the prequels always seems to be that they just arenít, or donít feel like, Star Wars. The thing that always bugs me about this is it doesnít take into account that it completely makes sense, plot wise, for them not to feel like the OT. The original trilogy (and Rogue One and The Force Awakens, which bookmark either end of it) is set during a rebellion against a galactic dictatorship, but the prequels take place in a completely different political climate. Of course a set of films telling the story of the Emperorsí rise to power arenít going to have the same spirit to them as films that tell the story of how his Empire falls. Rogue One, while only being a small part of the overall narrative of the Star Wars saga, feels like a crucial aid in easing the transition of the story from point A to point B, when so many fans have trouble reconciling the two.
When The Force Awakens was released last year, it was commended for being ďfinally a GOOD Star Wars film,Ē ďfeeling like Star Wars,Ē and ďbringing back the Star Wars people love.Ē However, it also fell under fire from critics, myself included, because even though it was an enjoyable film, the plot was extremely similar to that of A New Hope. It felt like it had deliberately distanced itself from the prequels so much that it was basically a remake of episode 4, designed to placate diehard fans of the original trilogy after the prequels a decade ago upset them so. Unlike The Force Awakens, Rogue One didnít shy away from associating itself with either trilogy, and the result was something new that captured the very essence of ALL existing Star Wars films. It feels like it acknowledges the generational gap between fans of each trilogy and pays tribute to them both, without judging anyone for liking what they like, which is extremely refreshing. A film that includes both Bail Organa and Grand Moff Tarkin was not what anyone expected, but it works perfectly, and retrospectively redeems the prequels by helping them not feel so isolated from the originals.
In summary, I love Star Wars. All of it. I hate the unnecessary division within the fanbase between those who hate certain films and those who donít, and think people are far too quick to disregard the fact that lots of fans are nostalgic for episodes 1-3 just like they are for episodes 4-6. Itís natural for people to be somewhat wary of any new addition to an existing beloved franchise, but maybe instead of being overly harsh to anything that isnít what we wanted it to be, we can simply be enthusiastic about there being more new stuff of the thing we love. By being open-minded and appreciating the franchise as a whole, with all its strengths and pitfalls, we can accept that sometimes there will be letdowns like The Phantom Menace and sometimes thereíll be nostalgia-filled new starts like The Force Awakens. And sometimes thereíll be amazing films with themes of sacrifice and hope, with characters old and new, tying together everything we love about Star Wars in an utter blessing that everyone can enjoy, like Rogue One.
Do you want to re-evaluate the prequel trilogy? You can buy it from one of these retailers...
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