Disney Star Wars Never Lost Sight Of The Prequels
When Disney purchased Lucasfilm and began work on the sequel trilogy alongside a selection of original-centric spinoffs, it felt like the prequels were being consciously swept aside. This was only seven years after Revenge of the Sith wrapped up the decade-long enterprise, and while The Clone Wars and advancing Expanded Universe material (including Legacy of the Force, a story centered on Han and Leia's son turning to the dark side) had moved the narrative beyond Anakin Skywalker, they were still the dominant aspect of Star Wars discourse in a near-unanimously negative light. Why would Disney even glance with this? The expectation was that the era was dead.
But it wasn't. Disney hasn't gone that far back in any of the movies, but they've certainly incorporated elements: The Force Awakens references a Clone army; Rogue One brings in Mustafar and Jimmy Smitts' Bail Organa; The Last Jedi has Luke Skywalker's exile motivated by discovering of the Jedi's ills from Episodes I-III, even citing Darth Sidious (a name first given in The Phantom Menace). Beyond, though, they've been as important as something sixty years before the current crop of movies could be: Star Wars Rebels evolved into a sequel to The Clone Wars, Forces of Destiny is trilogy-agnostic, and Star Wars Battlefront II marketed itself on a skirmish between Battle Droids and Clone Troopers on Naboo.
The methodology seemed to be to keep the prequels present, if not overly integrated, maintaining a section of the brand that prevailed for over a decade and provided an entire generation with an entrance into Star Wars. As time has gone by, they've taken bigger steps, and it's landed mostly well: the announcement Battlefront II is adding Clone Wars content met a mostly positive reaction.
The latest step has certainly the most audacious, with Darth Maul having a small-but-impactful cameo in Solo: A Star Wars Story. While in canon that is, of course, as much a TV appearance as it is a character from the movies, to most audiences he's primarily known for (and hitherto assumed dead following) The Phantom Menace. That he can appear and any backlash against it comes from greater concerns says a lot about how perception has shifted.
Indeed, it's often overlooked how much of the prequel-only aspects have been accepted. That the Jedi wear Tatooine robes is so ingrained that it's now a little-cited plot hole, while fans want a kiwi Boba Fett and Ewan McGregor to reprise his role in the Kenobi movie as if they are Star Wars firmament - because they are. Of course, all of this played into a bigger picture, and that's where the change gets interesting.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019