The Star Wars prequel trilogy had its problems. We can all agree on that.
However, the movies still had certain things they did extremely well.
Here’s a look at three good things in the Star Wars prequel trilogy:
1. Groundbreaking Special Effects
Makezine contributor Gareth Branwyn noted people often criticize the prequel trilogy for its CGI effects.
Certainly, there are moments where the CGI doesn’t work.
But the prequel trilogy still pushed boundaries of what filmmakers could do with digital technology.
For example, Jar Jar Binks is certainly a poorly written character, but the special effects that went into creating him were revolutionary.
You can say similar things about the pod racing scene, and the version of C-3PO we meet in The Phantom Menace.
At the time, most filmmakers either didn’t know that level of special effects was possible or were moving in that direction but hadn’t released any films yet. For example, Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films also pioneered motion capture technology, but The Fellowship of the Ring didn’t come out until two years after The Phantom Menace.
Visually, this movie and the later ones pushed the boundaries of what you could accomplish with CGI technology.
In doing so, the prequel trilogy really showed the things that CGI can (and sometimes can’t) do. Their use of special effects has directly influenced many films today.
2. Balancing New Stuff and Old Stuff
One of the most difficult tasks anytime you make a sequel or prequel is how to give the audience enough of the things they enjoyed in the previous story while still telling a new story.
The prequel trilogy does this very well.
Every movie ends with a lightsaber duel and has several high-paced chase scenes in them.
Vimeo user whoispablo showed that various scenes seem to be set up so they echo moments from the original trilogy.
However, the prequel trilogy doesn’t push the echoes so far that it goes over the same old territory as the sequel trilogy.
The scenes show us new places and give us new information about the Star Wars universe.
For example, the pod racing scene in The Phantom Menace feels like the spaceship chase scenes.
But it takes place on a planet as opposed to in space, and even though it takes place on Tatooine (which we already saw in A New Hope) it shows us a side of that planet we didn’t experience at all in previous films.
We get to explore new places and new situations while still getting the adventure elements we expect from a Star Wars film.
This is very different from what J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson did in their sequel films: there, many scenes don’t just echo the original films, they look extremely similar to those scenes.
The final fight in The Last Jedi shows a bunch of rebel forces in a planet that looks like Hoth, making battle formations like the ones the rebels made on Hoth, and then fighting a battle that looks like the Battle of Hoth (except that the snow on this planet is actually salt).
So, what we really get in that scene is a homage or spoof of what we saw in the sequel trilogy. We’re not really discovering new territory, we’re retreading the old territory under a thin disguise.
3. Stories that Mirror Each Other
George Lucas commented on several occasions that the prequel trilogy mirrors the original trilogy – and it seems to be true.
There are scenes that foreshadow elements from the original trilogy.
There are also story elements that mirror each other.
Carl Sunstein, author of The World According to Star Wars, notes that Anakin’s story arc in the prequel trilogy parallels Luke’s story arc in the original trilogy, except for a crucial difference.
As Sunstein explains, Luke and Anakin both meet with Palpatine (Luke in Return of the Jedi, Anakin in Revenge of the Sith) and in those meetings, both men feel their loved ones are threatened.
Luke hears Vader telling him if he doesn’t go dark, his sister Leia may submit to the darkness instead. Anakin hears Palpatine reminding him if he doesn’t go dark, his wife Padme may die.
Both men get angry, but in the end Luke decides to step back from the darkness. Anakin chooses to embrace it.
So, we have parallel journeys that diverge at the very end.
There’s actually another way Anakin and Luke’s stories parallel, earlier in the movies.
Anakin and Luke both see their parental figures dying unjustly (Luke in A New Hope, Anakin in Attack of the Clones). When that happens, both of them have someone who essentially tells them they need to accept they couldn’t have prevented those deaths.
Obi-Wan tells Luke there was nothing he could have done had he been there when the stormtroopers killed his uncle and aunt.
Padme tells Anakin that even though he wishes he could have fixed his mother to keep her from dying, there are some things no one can fix.
Luke realizes this advice is true and decides to move on, build a new life and find new people to love.
Anakin, however, decides to dig in his heels and get power so that he won’t lose anyone again.