Why The “Star Wars” Prequels Were Ahead Of Their Time

Matthew Loffhagen
Lucasfilm
(Photo: Lucasfilm)

With “Solo: A Star Wars” story just around the corner, it’s time for us all to take a deep breath and decide to accept the obvious Ephant Mon in the room. The “Star Wars” prequels were ahead of their time.

This isn’t to say that they’re good per se, or that they’re enjoyable works of art. While I have my own (somewhat forgiving) opinion of Episodes I-III, I’m not going to try to convince you that these movies are amazing if you really hate them.

Instead, my argument is this: “The Phantom Menace”, “Attack of the Clones”, and “Revenge of the Sith” feel like movies of the current decade. They’d fit right in.

I feel that part of the reason why these movies weren’t appreciated at the time of their release is because the world was more excited by dark, gritty universes.

Attack of the Clones Bar
Source: Lucasfilm

“The Matrix” was the big movie of 1999, while “The Phantom Menace” made a generation of aging “Star Wars” fanboys sob. The big complaint was that the movie was too lighthearted, childish, and silly.

Fans had expected “Star Wars” to grow up with them, but instead, if anything, the film series seemed to have regressed.

Now, look at the big movie releases that top the box office in any given year – especially anything from Marvel.

Prequel Cheese is In Vogue

“Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Thor: Ragnarok” are both recent examples of fun, bright, colorful space operas that audiences love. Our collective culture is finally emerging from a period of dark, gritty storytelling, and we’re all desperate for films that feel an awful lot like the “Star Wars” prequels.

Thor Ragnarok Crowd
Source: Marvel

Heck, a lot of “Star Wars” fans have made it clear that this is the kind of movie they’re hoping for! After downer films like “Rogue One” and “The Last Jedi”, approximately half the fanbase is eager for a new movie that’s lighthearted and energetic.

For this reason, I suspect that “Solo” could be a pretty big crowd-pleaser, so long as everyone can get over the fact that Alden Ehrenreich is a terrible choice for Han Solo.

Of course, modern movies that carry the “Phantom Menace” aesthetic do have solid acting and writing as well as pretty visuals. It could be argued that George Lucas’ most recent three “Star Wars” movies lack these qualities.

That said, I feel like these films were instrumental in creating a climate where “Guardians of the Galaxy” seemed like a good idea. The Prequels were trend-setters, unappreciated at the time, but earning a fantastic following that’s changed the course of science fiction.

Or, maybe I’m just talking a load of bantha poodoo. That’s equally possible.

We’ll have to wait and see what the reaction to “Solo” is before we can decide this one way or the other.