How Did I Not End Up A Prequel Hater?

I’ve written in the past about why I love the prequels and why I think other people don’t (given they were fans of Eps IV-VI). Today, I have another question. Why did I, part of the “original” generation of Star Wars fans who saw the first set of films just as they were released, not drink the haterade and embraced Eps I-III as part of the saga?

To answer that question, I have to think back on what my attitudes toward Star Wars were and how they might have shaped my perspective. Here’s what I’ve discovered:

I Had No Complaints About Eps IV-VI

As a kid, I thought everybody liked Star Wars. Knocking Star Wars was un-American as far as I was concerned. Then years later I realized there were people who didn’t like Star Wars, but I dismissed them as morons, trolls, and quite possibly baby-eating devil-worshippers.

When I started writing fan fiction and subscribing to fanzines in the early ’90s, it was great to find other people who were as die-hard about Star Wars as I was. Especially after the so-called “Dark Ages” of the mid-late 1980s. For a long time I was convinced I was the only living Star Wars fan left on Earth. On the other hand I was baffled by the attitudes of some of the fans I encountered. I never watched the Star Wars films with an eye toward criticizing them so I was surprised to find people who did, especially ROTJ. Or for that matter, Lucas himself. To me they were awesome films and that was that.

Nostalgia’s Good, Mythology’s Better

I’ve Always Trusted Lucas To Tell HIS Story And Viewed Star Wars As His Work

I Viewed Contemplation As Guesses, Not Holy Writ

I Was Cautiously Optimistic 1997-1998 & Kept Expectations In Check

I Had An Idea Of What We Were Getting

As far back as the early 1980s, Lucas described the prequel trilogy as being about castle politics, maneuvering, and betrayal. He said it wouldn’t be quite like the first set of movies, even describing them as less commercial. He reiterated that in the early ‘90s when he was just starting to think about returning to Star Wars. I don’t know how that escaped so many of these fans, or maybe I was just a crackpot who eagerly read any interview Lucas did in that era. I looked forward to it because to me that sounded interesting. Living in the shadow of Washington, D.C. in the ‘90s heightened that interest. And it’s exactly what we got.

I Gave TPM Every Chance

While there were many geeks determined to hate TPM for whatever reason, I don’t doubt many others wanted to love it and were horribly disappointed when they didn’t. What did they want? They wanted to be blown out of their chairs. They wanted to weep tears of ecstasy. They wanted the greatest cinematic experience ever, something to rival their first memories of seeing ANH if not surpass it. After all that’s what Star Wars is supposed to do, right? Others not quite so hardcore demanded a movie that justified the hype. When they didn’t experience those overwhelming feelings of explosive love and joy, they blamed the film—and of course Lucas—for not delivering.

The only thing is sometimes when you first hear a new album by your favorite band, it doesn’t grab you. You don’t think it’s as good as previous efforts. You might even think it’s bad. But then if you hear it some more times, the tunes start to grow on you. And then you start to love it. I can tell you that there are acts I love now that I didn’t like at all when I first heard them. It might take a single song or something to break through and make me go, “Hey, what was I thinking?” When I watched the pilot for “The X-Files” I thought it was boring. I might have watched an episode or two of the remaining first season, but lost interest after that. A friend called me shortly after the second season started and asked if I watched the show. When I told her I didn’t care for what I saw, she said, “You have to start watching it NOW. It’s awesome!” The following Friday night I did and I was hooked. Hey, I even stuck it out to the bitter Mulder and Scully-free end!

Watching the first few minutes of TPM for the first time was kind of unfamiliar. New characters, new settings, and while it didn’t take long to rev up the action, it didn’t have that same opening as ANH that everybody remembers. But I stuck it out to the end, trying to take in the movie as it is. I came out really interested in seeing what was going to happen next. The next time I saw it was three days later and that time, I enjoyed it even more. And then I saw it eight more times in the theater. To me it was Star Wars.

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22 Responses to “How Did I Not End Up A Prequel Hater?”

  1. peacetrainjedi Says:

    Interesting article, the album analogy makes the most sense to me.

    “I Gave TPM Every Chance”

    This to the 100th degree. Unfortunately, after the internet explosion many are now seeing TPM for the first time after being told “it sux dude, Lucas iz a hak.” Just pretend it didn’t exist when you watch Episode VII.” It’s hard to go in with an open mind after cultural/geekthink osmosis seeps into the brain promoting unswerving Boba Fett fanaticism and closed mindedness. (Don’t get me wrong though, I love Boba Fett, just not for the reasons most do. I like his origin story and relationship with his father. What can I say? I’ve always loved a good origin story…)

    I’ll admit, it took me a while to warm up to the theatrical The Clone Wars film, but it has a certain kinetic energy and quaint charm when compared to the later series more serious, developed approach. It all really depends on your own point of view.

    • lazypadawan Says:

      The internet groupthink does make it difficult for someone to approach with an open mind. This 16-year-old fan brat on Huff ‘N Blo, er Huffington Post Teen, wrote something about Star Wars and referred to the OT as the “real trilogy.” Where did this fan brat get that idea? A kid who was still pooping in her pants literally when TPM came out?

  2. Morgan Cherney Says:

    Wonderful piece. I have similar sentiments. I was born in 82, and of course grew up with the original trilogy, and was totally psyched when the prequels were coming out. However i wasn’t let down like the Hateboys, because i wasn’t going in expecting a re-hash of the originals. I was EXPECTING new stuff. That, and much like Kyle Newman, i got ahold of whatever reading material i could on it, from the novelization to the Illustrated Screenplay. Jar Jar i found to be an achievement in digital acting (until Gollum came alone). Was he grating? Sure. But you can tell Ahmed Best has having a ball with the role, and as i say, he was a technical achievement. And if threads didn’t make sense, I affirmed that by the end of the trilogy, they would (tho a FEW still don’t, it still allows fans to try to piece things together). Also, look at critical review. Until the 3D rerelease (where hate bandwagoners got a new bite at the apple), it had a Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, even from Roger Ebert. Would you believe his review was actually flooded with jerk commentors saying “Ebert, what’s WRONG with you?! how can you like this filth?! How much did Lucas pay you?!” Ugh

    Man, i really rambled on, didn’t i…? Sry bout that…

  3. Eddie Says:

    Good stuff, LP. This explains so much, and it applied to me as a kid, too: “I Had No Complaints About Eps IV-VI” . Complaining about Star Wars is like whining that ice cream melts…it’s still ice cream, isn’t it?!? There’s a whole culture of geeks™ who mistake the artless ability to rip things apart for being insightful–most artists know the flaws within their own works before they even let them out into the world, they don’t need some callow twit with a blog, webcomic, or a youtube account and a flimsy gimmick to point them out. These people seem to believe that their acts of destruction–their screeds, their videos, whatever–are somehow evidence that they’re “creative” themselves…it’s a kind of pathetic filter to view reality through, and it comes out of deep insecurity. Make something, build something, love something–that’s the only way you can create anything worthwhile. Otherwise, you’re just a monkey screaming and hurling his own feces at a wall in an attempt to rile your fellow monkeys into doing the same…and in the case of people like RLM, it works!! (no offense to monkeys!)

  4. obi-rob-kenobi Says:

    One of the most frequent things I have ALWAYS heard people of all backgrounds say for YEARS is that they weren’t AT ALL even aware of ANY of the hate (not even the jar-jar hate!) until they got computers and internet and that they were completely dumbfounded when they got online and saw this whole world of nit-picking and complaining and endless fanboy wars of stubborn fans determined to “take down” the thing they claim to be “the original true fans” of.

    Until they got on the internet they never knew ANY of the now classic debates and forced hate memes and “controversy”. People to this day will talk about how their whole family’s and friends were completely fine with jar-jar or indifferent to him until they got a computer in the house.

    Thats the truth. Its not any more complicated than that. It became more about pretentious angry young males (aka little punk bitches on the internet) “winning” by smearing George Lucas and LFL by any means necessary by making anything related to Lucas or LFL synonymous with hate, rage and controversy/confusion. It became more about hateboys “winning” than it was about Star Wars.

    It was insecure, young angry pretentious males on the internet that TAUGHT people to hate ANYTHING SW that was made after the year 1980. They were and still are the reasion why we cant have nice things.

    THEY are the ******* book burners and elitist Nazis and ***** covering up their tracks and weaseling their way around any/every argument in defense of SW and George Lucas.

    THEY are the ones who NEED the hipster hype machine and the “hip-to-hate” trend to STAY ALIVE.

    They are the ones whos only reason for being is to STEAL SW from the artist who created it and change it to the “perfect” way THEY WANT it.

    They are the ones trying to STEAL STAR WARS! They are the ones trying to dissolve Star Wars.

    Always remember: THEY were the ones waking up every morning running back to the key board to fight against people who liked and defended Star Wars. WE were the ones defending it, and what a surprise here we still stand.

    • lazypadawan Says:

      Edited for language. PLEASE re-read the rules.

      Oh and “Nazi” is a little strong, even for this crew.

      • M. Marshall Says:

        Actually obi-rob, before the internet took over it was printed media that served up the hate: EW, Electronic Gaming Monthly (as well as almost every video game magazine in the country) and Newsweek were doing constant “Menace” bashing months after the film was released. Even some of my high schoolmates voiced their hate (I had to stop hanging out with some of them because of it.).

  5. Keith Palmer Says:

    I suppose I was just barely part of “the original theatrical generation,” having seen a re-release of Star Wars in the early 1980s (but having missed out on TESB and RotJ then), and this might give me the same chance to plumb my own reactions.

    Thinking back, “apprehension” might best describe my own run-up to “Episode I.” I think I deliberately tried to avoid speculation of any sort until the trailers appeared (and then I had a theory or two that didn’t work out, but I got over it). It might be, though, that the first flurry of negativity days before opening night actually inoculated me against similar reactions. Too, I remember reactions in 2002 well enough to be struck by an impression of negativity being whipped up in the months after opening, which makes me rather less inclined to think of it as “inevitable.”

    It was, perhaps, discovering a nucleus of other positive fans five years after TPM (just barely in time to enjoy the DVD release of the old movies) that let me fit things together and refocus on the movies as a “character story” after a period of keeping a cautious yet miserable distance, which may make my “personal narrative” one with an interesting, satisfying “plot arc.” In the end, too, I think the all-encompassingness of the complaints (even back in the “attack on RotJ days”) made negativity seem so unpleasant I just decided I wasn’t interested in joining in.

  6. Jim Raynor Says:

    This is a great post. It’s important to keep in mind that a lot of the online criticism comes from a VERY vocal minority. Growing up in the 1990s, everyone I knew loved the Original Trilogy. ROTJ was even the consistent favorite among all the people at my school, because the Battle of Endor just blew everyone away. It was only when I went online that I discovered that fans supposedly didn’t like ROTJ. Sure, some fans might not have. But apparently ROTJ was the disappointing kiddie movie, and TESB was the “correct” choice for geeks to claim as their favorite.

    When the prequels came out, almost everyone I knew in real life liked them as well. But again, the online fans chose to speak for us all and claim that everyone hated those movies just like they did.

    You really hit the nail on some of the root problems in SW fandom. The inflated, overly specific expectations and lack of healthy detachment are really at the heart of this. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen someone online claiming that Lucas should’ve made the prequels in accordance with THEIR personal fanfiction, that they dreamed up as a teenager with zero experience in scriptwriting. And of course, whenever someone actually posts their ideas, the results are consistently brief, vague, and worse than what Lucas actually came up with.

    As someone who actually writes as a hobby and tries to study the craft (dreaming of publishing a novel somewhere down the line), I can say that even a great idea is nothing without execution. Writing an entire novel or movie-length story from beginning to end is hard work, that goes way beyond vague ideas and outlines. Professional writers, even ones that take a lot of flak, operate on a level that fans don’t even come close to. A lot of these fans don’t understand that.

    I’ve noticed a phenomena, where fans might keep an open mind and praise a movie if they have low expectations, but bash it to hell if they go in expecting the best movie ever. The fanboy-mainstream divide, and the negative revisionist history perpetrated against successful films, doesn’t apply just to the Star Wars prequels.

    For example, The Dark Knight Rises. Very successful commercially, along with an 87% Rotten Tomatoes score from critics and an “A” CinemaScore grade from audience polling. But no, it wasn’t quite AS good as its predecessor The Dark Knight, so vocal fanboys claim it sucked.

    Another example is the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise. It is is indisputably successful, both critically and commercially. But go on a superhero movie forum and you’ll see a shocking number of people claiming that the ONLY good movies in that series of seven films so far are the first Iron Man, and Avengers.

    Iron Man 3 just made well over a billion dollars, with 78% on Rotten Tomatoes and a solid “A” CinemaScore. I saw the movie twice on the big screen. I knew it was a total crowd pleaser, as evidenced by the reactions of everyone else in the theater with me. But then I checked the forums, and saw a completely different picture. Some of the fans said it was absolutely terrible, and couldn’t talk about anything other than the changes done to the Mandarin character.

    Iron Man 2 gets it even worse. It also had a huge box office, along with a 74% Rotten Tomatoes score and another “A” CinemaScore from audience polling. Yet some fans have convinced themselves that it was absolutely lousy, and now you have bloggers calling it a failure as if that’s an established fact.

    Thing is, Iron Man wasn’t particularly well known before his first movie in 2008. Neither were his teammates on the Avengers, or the team itself. The first Iron Man movie surprised everyone with its quality, so they were expecting a similarly mind-blowing experience when they went to the second one. They didn’t get that, so they exaggerated the shortcomings of Iron Man 2.

    After the “disappointment” of IM2, we got Captain America and Thor. Movies that were successful, but not monstrously so. Because of that, there wasn’t a lot of pressure on Avengers to be the best thing ever.

    Now that Avengers IS one of the most successful movies in years, the pressure is on. Joss Whedon has already said that the sequel will be different, smaller in scale, and a bit “darker.” I can already see the online fanboys sharpening their claws, ready to tear it apart.

    The online fans tend to be rather narrow minded. Once they’re pleased with something, they want nothing but the same thing over and over again. Remember, these are people who tend to watch the same movie a hundred times. And when they don’t get that same old thing that they wanted, they make no effort to accept or understand the newer movie.

    I was rather disappointed with IM2 myself, after watching it for the first time. Some parts of it ARE awkward or unexpected. But then I saw it again (the movie theater I was in blacked out about two minutes from the end, so I got refunded with a free ticket), and the second time was a much better experience. I noticed some of the themes and connections that I didn’t get the first time around, as well as nuances in the character motivations that smoothed over some of the parts that I had originally thought of as stupid.

    When I saw the movie a third time on DVD a couple of years later, I had a blast. I picked up on a LOT of little things, such as character quirks, implied backstory, and how sharp and funny a lot of the dialogue was. It helped that by then, I had begun to study writing. I was really able to appreciate these things on a level that I hadn’t been able to before.

    Basically, I kept an open mind. I gave the movie another chance, I learned more about it, and I tried to appreciate what it did have to give. I didn’t storm out of the theater after the first time declaring it the worst movie ever, and refuse to hear any contradicting opinion on it. Unlike far too many old-school Star Wars fans.

    • Morgan Cherney Says:

      Wonderful speech, Jim, comparing to recent comic book films. I see where you’re coming from and would like to relate my own feelings to them, if i may: In regards to The Dark Knight Rises to Iron Man 3, i found them to be exciting, thoroughly entertaining films. I WILL say that for TDKR, i DESPISED the ending, and for Iron Man 3, as you said, Mandarin. However these are a pair of small aspects of the larger scope of the films. I can complain about them, and admit i’m guilty to already doing so online, but i wasn’t complaining about the films themselves, just the parts i didn’t like. Overall, i very much enjoyed TDKR and IM3 and plan on owning them in future, so i’m obviously am not going to let a pair of aspects i didn’t like ruin my future film experiences with them. 😉

  7. DRush76 Says:

    I was born in the 1960s. I first saw “A NEW HOPE” when it was simply known as “STAR WARS” in the summer of 1977. I have a confession to make. I disliked the movie intensely. Looking back on my initial reaction, I realize that the movie was something so entirely new that my mind immediately reject it.

    I was not that particularly thrilled when “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” hit the theaters three years later. I didn’t completely dismiss it, like I did “A NEW HOPE”. Then again, I was not that thrilled that it ended on a cliffhanger. And the revelation about Vader being Luke’s dad creeped me out. In the end, “RETURN OF THE JEDI” became the first Star Wars movie that I completely embraced. It took me another four years to embrace “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK”. In fact, it eventually surpassed “ROTJ” in my affections. “ANH” also ended up surpassing “ROTJ” within another year or two.

    When I learned that Lucas planned to release a new trilogy, set in the years before the Original Trilogy, I was happy by the news. I looked forward to a new set of STAR WARS movies. But I had no idea how Lucas planned to reveal the downfall of Anakin Skywalker, the Jedi and the Republic. And to be honest, I could not get into the “let’s make assumptions” game. I simply decided to wait and see.

    I saw “THE PHANTOM MENACE” when I was in my 30s and fell in love with it. I found its style different from the first three movies, but I didn’t care. Being in my 30s, I rather enjoyed the tale, which struck me as more emotionally and politically complex. The complexity rose even further in the next film, “ATTACK OF THE CLONES”, which I absolutely loved. I loved it so much that I got a little teary at the end. Even to this day, I love it as much as I do “TESB”. I also cried at the end of “REVENGE OF THE SITH”. One, it was a sad movie. And two, I thought at the time it would be the last STAR WARS movie to be released. I loved it more than “TPM”, but not as much as “AOTC”. I noticed that the fanboys were more willing to embrace it, due to the fact that in this film, Anakin finally became Vader.

    As you can see, my feelings about the STAR WARS movies sound a little strange. I love all six movies. Despite the differences in style, I was able to see the connections between the two trilogies. And to this day, I find it hard to understand those who prefer one trilogy over the other. I feel they are entitled to their opinions, just as I am entitled to mine. But do to my feelings for Lucas’ six-movie saga, I simply find it hard to understand theirs.

  8. Adam D. Bram Says:

    I want so much to add to this, but everyone has already said everything I could. I’m in that very weird demographic where I was the absolute youngest I could be where IV-VI nostalgia COULD affect me, and yet I think because my first true experience with them was the SEs, I was already in the mindset Lucas wanted me to be in for I-III. So even though I was 13 when Phantom came out – right on the cusp of so-called “adult” thinking – I knew what I was getting into and loved it for that.

    I can tell you, it requires multiple viewings of nearly any film to fully appreciate it, especially anything fantasy-oriented. So the album analogy is perfect.

    • Bob Clark Says:

      Yeah, I was right around in that generational gap myself, being 15 when TPM came out. I grew up with the OT on VHS and loved the SE’s. In fact, I wasn’t terribly excited for TPM at first because SW had introduced me to film in such a big way that I was kinda moving past it– reading about Lucas taking inspiration in Kurosawa, Fellini and Godard whetted my interest and got me into foreign film in a big way, and hearing the stories about Lucas offering the ROTJ directing gig to guys like Lynch and Cronenberg helped me find more mature sci-fi to watch in those years, along with “Blade Runner”, “Akira” and anime in general. It wasn’t until the second trailer for TPM, with its emphasis on action and politics, that I really got interested, and since then I’ve never looked back. And like everyone else, I didn’t really get the hate for TPM until I looked online, and it just never made any sense to me.

      As for the music analogies– well, some people never forgave Dylan after he went electric, and some gave up on the Beatles after they quit doing light pop tunes and started bringing weird mixes and sitars into the studio.

  9. Paul F. McDonald Says:

    You only saw TPM in theaters nine times?!

    • Eddie Says:

      Is TPM the one where Chewie gets crushed by a moon??? 😉

    • lazypadawan Says:

      Yeah, nine or ten times. I rarely see a movie more than once in the theater.

      • oxward321 Says:

        Author described my experience almost to the T.

        With the 3D release I saw TPM 12 times! 🙂

    • Adam D. Bram Says:

      Ahh, to have that kind of cash. The most I’ve ever been able to afford to see any movie in the theatres is 3, and even then that’s rare (I think Revenge of the Sith, Return of the King, and The Dark Knight are the only ones I can remember off the top of my head).

    • Paul F. McDonald Says:

      With the 3D release I know I saw it more than twenty times ….

      • Eddie Says:

        Me too! either 20 or 21. I was grabbing everybody I knew who hadn’t seen it to go with me in ’99…nobody’s ever going to accuse me of having “that kind of cash”, I just did without other things! 😛

  10. DRush76 Says:

    I saw TPM in the theaters, four times – three times in 1999 and once in 3D.

  11. lovelucas Says:

    Absolutely wonderful, LP. Caused reflection and evaluation of my own experience. Always loved Star Wars, always, although from an entirely different perspective – My kids were the perfect age for the OT but I went with them every time and loved the story. The prequels have always resonated with me in a entirely different way – I loved the historical aspect of the PT – Jedi in their glory years, seeing the Jedi Temple = all of those wonderful things that we could only imagine after they were hinted at in the OT. In the prequels, IMO, there is so much more to be learned, remembered and used to recognize what is deliberately hidden in our regular, contemporary lives and here I’m talking not only politics but the politics of greed. They also teach us that history does indeed repeat itself, from the Roman Empire up to the World Wars and even the designation of “Separatists” – I had never heard that term before TPM and now it is part of global history…. The prequels give us what the OT couldn’t and was ever intended: Jedi in that uneasy alliance with corruption – politics of greed again and the power lust. Also the final recognition that Yoda and the Jedi were wrong and blind and arrogant and that arrogance made them weak. Life lessons.

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