Michael O’Connor’s “Power To The Prequels” series at Retrozap takes a look at moral issues in the prequels and how the films introduce ambiguity to the saga:
Lucas clearly intended to tell a different story. If the OT was a romanticized vision of World War II heroics and villainy, the PT is the morally dubious conflicts of World War I and the fallout events that caused its “sequel.” Lucas decided to take his morally pure galaxy and interject a couple of revolutionary questions: What if the enemies weren’t so obvious? What if the good guys sometimes made the wrong decisions?
The Phantom Menace is the first film to introduce this new dynamic of moral ambiguity, and it does so slyly. On the surface, the film is an optimistic, colorful fantasy of a couple of swashbuckling samurai rescuing a child Queen and meeting a gifted slave boy who can help save the galaxy from the slimy Trade Federation and its Sith leaders. But beneath that cheerful facade is a sweatshop of horrors. It is so markedly different from the original trilogy films that even watching it today, it feels like an outlier to the saga. An intentional exclamation point that requires further study. Successive films Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith ditch the happy veneer altogether and connect more visibly with the original trilogy, but they double-down on the moral ambiguity that TPM introduced to the saga.