In 1993, Star Wars fans around the world lost their minds when it was announced that George Lucas, was planning to create a new trilogy of Star Wars movies, ones that would tell the story of how Anakin Skywalker became the “baddest” man in the universe – Darth Vader. While financially the prequels were an undoubtable success, critically the films fell flatter than the Rancor after Luke dropped a door on his head.
There are many aspects to complain about in the prequel trilogy – midi-chlorians, Jar Jar Binks, or the fact that they turn Darth Vader into one of the scariest villains of all time, into a whiny teen – but in reality, they were not terrible films, they just had the impossible task of living up to the expectations set by the original trilogy. There were actually some good parts of the prequels– not just specific scenes, but aspects that actually enhanced the originals by expanding on the universe and story.
So if you are a hater of the prequels, or you just can’t remember anything redeeming from Episodes I – III – here is a list of 15 Things from The Star Wars Prequels that Didn’t Suck.
15. The Birth of Darth Vader
As mentioned in the intro, the potrayals of Anakin weren’t great. Whether you want to blame bad direction, horrible dialogue, or Hayden Christensen’s wooden acting, the portrayal of the character left a lot to be desired. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t cool to see to see how Vader came to wear the bio-mechanical suit.
Despite the flaws noted above, Anakin’s plight was simple, effective storytelling. A young man, who struggles with guilt following the death of his mother – who he abandoned to seek a better life – will do anything to prevent his visions that foreshadow the death of his wife from coming true.
Once Anakin knelt before Palpatine to swear his allegiance to the dark side in Revenge of the Sith, the whining turned to anger and the transition had begun. Granted it was all a bit rushed – one minute you’re watching a weird floating water bubble with your surrogate Grandad and the next you’re murdering kids to save the woman you love – but seeing Anakin go full-on rage mode was a joyous experience.
14. The Expanded Universe
The Star Wars expanded universe is a vast library of books, comics, and video games. Unsurprisingly – before The Phantom Menace was announced – the majority of these were based on the original trilogy or set during the aftermath of Return of the Jedi. Then the release of the prequels gave authors and developers a new timeline in the Star Wars universe to explore.
Many aspects of the prequels were expanded upon in these books, comics and games. Pod-racing got its own video game, and Darth Plagueis The Wise, who – despite only being mentioned briefly by Palpatine in the films – got his own novel explaining how he came to take Palpatine as his Sith apprentice.
13. The Space Battles
Space battles are a staple of the Star Wars films – it is called Star Wars after all. The interstellar dogfights displayed in the original trilogy were revolutionary for the time, where Lucas used plastic models to replicate old World War II footage.
By the mid-nineties, the use of CGI was commonplace in movies and while there is a valid argument that the prequels used the technology a little too much, the space battles were an area where the use of CGI really shone. By utilizing computer rendered graphics, Lucas was able to create fully realized space battlefields on a titanic scale – creating the illusion of thousands of ships locked in an epic war.
12. The Ship Designs
There is no doubt that the ships in the original Star Wars trilogy are amongst the most iconic spaceships of all time. The Star Destroyers, the Millenium Falcon, Tie Fighter, X-Wing, A-Wing, B-Wing, and Y-Wing (George Lucas was clearly a fan of Sesame Street) all had very unique designs.
While maybe not quite as memorable, the ships in the prequel trilogy were just as impressive. Highlights include the distinctive yellow N-1 Starfighter – piloted by a young Anakin Skywalker in Episode I, the silver J-type Nubian Royal Starship – Queen Amidala’s ship also in Episode I, and the Delta-7 Aethersprite-class light interceptor (with external hyperdrive) – piloted by Obi-Wan Kenobi on his trip to Camino in Episode II: Attack of the Clones. At a push, you could also include the pod-racers – they did float in the air – with their distinctive chariot-inspired design.
11. Obi-Wan and Anakin’s Relationship
Little about Obi-Wan and Anakin’s past relationship was revealed in the original films. Before the prequels became a thing, all we knew was that – in Obi-Wan’s words – Anakin was a pupil of Kenobi’s, before he was seduced by the dark side. We were told nothing of their history before that.
The prequels expanded on this, showing us that Obi-Wan took on Anakin as his Padawan – against the wishes of the Jedi Council – to fulfill a promise he made to his own master, Qui-Gon Jinn. The relationship evolved over the three movies and the role Obi-Wan played in Anakin’s life progressed from teacher to father figure, to the person who took on the responsibility of stopping him once his transition to the dark side was complete.
It put a whole new perspective on the confrontation at the end of A New Hope. What was once a scene in which two old enemies clashed one last time has become the resolution between an old master facing his biggest failure and the student who blamed him for the loss of everything he held dear.
10. The Movie Posters
The first Phantom Menace teaser poster to hang on the walls of theaters was the epitome of simple but effective. It showed a young boy whose shadow takes the shape of Darth Vader, against a familiar backdrop – literally foreshadowing the child’s fate.
While the rest of the posters never quite hit the same notes as the first, they were still epic. Created in the classic “painted effect” Star Wars style, the featured a collage of images from the film. The one in this style for Episode I was most memorable for the very back layer of the collage, which showed the imposing image of Darth Maul’s eyes – who many incorrectly assumed was the titular “Phantom Menace.”
9. Darth Maul
Since the moment the first promotional posters showing Darth Maul were released, the character has been popular among fans. Granted, his inclusion was over prematurely – although he was brought back for the expanded universe – the character’s impact on the franchise was massive. Red-skinned and with a crown of horns, Darth Maul was covered in tribal tattoos from head to toe – a distinct look which screamed”bad-ass.:
Not only did he look great but his fighting style was intense. Played by Ray Park – a practitioner of Kung Fu, kickboxing, taekwondo, and wushu – Darth Maul produced a more martial art-inspired combat, in contrast to the slower, classical sword fighting techniques displayed in the original trilogy. And let’s not forget the double-bladed lightsaber – the zenith of cool – which enabled him to take on a Jedi Knight and his Padawan at the same time.
8. The Lightsaber Choreography
One of the few aspects of the prequels that actually surpassed the originals was the lightsaber duels. While the duels in the prequels may have lacked the emotion of the original trilogy duels , the choreography was breathtaking in its execution.
In contrast to the originals – where the lightsaber battles were reserved for the final third of each movie – the duels in the prequels were a fast-paced, aggressive but eloquent dances which were plentiful throughout the trilogy. From the first saber-on-saber encounter between Darth Maul and Qui-Gon on Tatooine, to the showdown on Mustafar and the climax of Episode III – the skirmishes never failed to deliver.
The best choreography of all was, without a doubt, the three-way dance between Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, and Darth Maul – with the best part occurring when an anguished Obi-Wan takes on Darth Maul after Qui-Gon Jinn is slain by Maul.
There is a point in Revenge of the Sith where the performance of the Emperor becomes hammier than an episode of Happy Days – and let’s not mention the lame way in which the Emperor became disfigured. Up until that point, the portrayal of Palpatine was an interesting look at the man who sat upon the throne of the Empire.
Played delightfully by Ian McDiarmid – who reprised his role from the original trilogy – the character was shown to be a malevolent puppet-master who perfectly orchestrated the fall of the Jedi and the Republic, and the rise of Empire.
Sensing the potential of Anakin – or creating him, if you believe that theory – Palpatine groomed the fragile boy, planting the seeds that would lead Anakin to turn his back on the Jedi Order and turn to the dark side. At the same time, Palpatine ensured his own rise up the political rankings and into a position of great power.
6. The Expansion on the Sith
Many people do not realize that the term “Sith” was never mention in the original trilogy at all. The term did appear in the novelizations of the original films and in the original script – where Vader was described as a “seven-foot-tall Dark Lord of the Sith” – but the word was never once used in the movies.
The first time “Sith” was spoken on screen was in The Phantom Menace, when the Jedi Council speculated that Qui-Gon Jinn’s attacker was a member of the Sith. The prequels introduced fans to multiple Sith Lords such as Darth Maul, Count Dooku and their master Darth Sidious. The Rule of Two is established when Yoda states: “Always two there are, no more, no less – a master and an apprentice.”
5. The Jedi Order
Although the Jedi are an integral part of the original trilogy, we never got to see the Jedi Order in all its glory. The only information given in the original films was that the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic and that Obi-Wan, Vader, and Yoda were all members of the order.
The prequels show the Jedi Order as a huge religious establishment who act as peacekeepers of the galaxy, by protecting those who cannot defend themselves. The leadership of the order is the responsibility of the Jedi Council, which is made up of the most powerful Jedi Masters – such as Yoda, Mace Windu and later, Obi-Wan Kenobi.
4. The World-building
The locations from the original episodes – such as Tatooine, Hoth, and Endor – are memorable but they were for the most part very desolate and didn’t feel very lived in. The use of advanced technology meant that Lucas Arts didn’t have to rely on real world terrain to create the worlds – making the locations in the prequels much more ambitious in scope.
Where the planets in originals tended to be more remote, the locations in the prequels focused on more populous areas, such as Theed, the Gungan city and of course, Coruscant – which was a visual spectacle. Even Tattooine – featured heavily in the original trilogy – was made to feel like are a far more inhabited planet.
3. Jango Fett
There are a lot of people out there who don’t like Jango Fett – perhaps they feel the character takes a dump on the legacy of Boba Fett, who has a cult following. The reality is that Jango Fett is a superior character. Let’s break it down: Boba Fett made his appearance at the end of The Empire Strikes Back, claims a bounty on Han Solo (who Darth Vader captured by the way), and gets killed in Return of the Jedi, when a temporarily blind Han Solo accidentally makes his jet pack go off, causing him to fall in the Sarlaac pit.
Jango Fett, however, takes on Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi at the Kamino cloning facility (and gets the better of him), has an awesome dogfight in an asteroid field, and shoots a rhino-type alien dead, with one precise shot to the head. He even kept his armor in better condition. Jango’s armor looked nice and polished, while Boba’s looked dull, dented, and rusty.
2. John William’s Musical Score
This one is pretty obvious because let’s be honest, when has John Williams ever done a bad score? The father of the iconic Star Wars fanfare and Imperial March returned to create a new original soundtrack that was both fresh and kept the style of the originals.
While there were many amazing pieces of music throughout the prequels (“The Droid Invasion”, “Across the Stars”, and “Anakin vs Obi-Wan” for example) but the piece that stands out the most is “Duel of the Fates”. This orchestral score that plays out during the climax of The Phantom Menace – where Anakin destroys the droid control ship, Padme leads the assault on the palace, and Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi face off against Darth Maul.
1. Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi
Considering the fact that Alec Guinness wasn’t a fan of Star Wars – describing the films as “fairytale rubbish with lamentable dialogue” – he did a wonderful job as Obi-Wan Kenobi and for many, he will always be considered the true Obi-Wan – but in all honesty, Ewan McGregor was a far superior Kenobi.
Not only did Episode I to Episode III tell the tragedy of Anakin Skywalker but it also chronicled the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi, who evolved from an uncertain young man who needed guidance, to a powerful, wise Jedi Master. The prequels are as much the story of Obi-Wan as they are of Anakin.
Ewan McGregor was an inspired casting choice and arguably one of the strongest aspects of the prequels. Not only did he expertly embody the character which he played but he also successfully emulated Alec Guinness’ mannerisms and posture – and even kind of looked like him – to the point that it wasn’t hard to believe that they were the same person.
Ewan McGregor also enjoyed playing the part so much that he has even shown an interest in reprising the role if Disney decides to make an Obi-Wan standalone movie.