Top 10 Surprises Of The Prequel Trilogy

Eps IV-VI delivered some surprises for those who saw the films as they were released. When the prequels were in production, some naysayers wondered how a set of films with a predetermined ending was going to have anything surprising. But the prequels certainly delivered some curveballs of their own.

10. The connection between the Fetts and the clone-eventually-storm troopers. Forget recent retconning a moment and think back to a time when Lucas originally conceived of Boba Fett as a Stormtrooper gone rogue. There was certainly an intention to connect Boba Fett’s roots with that of the Empire’s men in white. But this background info wasn’t at the forefront of my thinking when I first saw AOTC. Of course it would make sense to clone a ruthless killer into an army of them eventually meant to take out the Jedi Order.

9. Chewbacca the Clone Wars veteran. I’m not surprised per se that Lucas finagled a way to sneak in crowd favorite Chewbacca, but it was surprising to me he was an active part of the Clone Wars and that he and Yoda had met.

8. Padmé The Original Cougar. This is a little thing but in Hollywood, usually the man is the cradle-robber (see Han Solo). It’s almost unheard of for the female love interest to be older than the guy.

7. Anakin wasn’t the first Jedi to go bad. I had thought prior to the prequels that no Jedi had ever really turned evil (Tales of the Jedi comics notwithstanding) until Anakin became Vader; Count Dooku proved me wrong.

6. Artoo knows everything. Poor Threepio got his memory wiped at the end of ROTS or at least was about to, but apparently they let Artoo be since he can’t talk and spill the beans. Who knows how many times Artoo was beeping and booping “Hey, Luke, that guy is your father” or “Dear God, that’s your sister!”

5. The not-so-perfect Jedi Order. Obi-Wan/Ben Kenobi sure had his rose-colored glasses on when he regaled Luke with the past glories of the Jedi Order. Well, we didn’t exactly know that until the prequels came out. The Dark Side had clouded the vision of the Jedi, plus several centuries’ worth of peace, respect from the galaxy’s citizens, and no real threats to the order kind of made them complacent and stuck in their ways. Yoda kvetched about arrogance among the Jedi. Their entanglement in the Clone Wars chipped away at their values and left them completely vulnerable to attack from their “troops.” The Sith took over the galaxy right out from under their noses. They completely mishandled Anakin. Need I go on?

4. The brutality of Order 66. We all knew the fall of the Jedi would factor in here somewhere but when the time came, ROTS didn’t hold back. Not only are beloved cult characters killed off onscreen, even children are not spared.

3. Anakin’s mystical origins. I don’t know what I expected from Anakin’s background but his “virgin” birth and his destiny as the Chosen One meant to bring balance to the Force surprised me. The OT gives no indication that Anakin was particularly special beyond his abilities as a pilot and as a warrior. One could say (retroactively) that Yoda and Obi-Wan had given up on the prophecy or they didn’t want to puff up Luke’s ego in a way that would make him dangerous to train. But this revelation not only raises the stakes for what Anakin meant and for his salvation later on, it establishes the Skywalker lineage as distinctive and important. Bonus points: it’s matrilineal. Who knew a humble slave woman would be the matriarch of this clan of awesome?

2. Troopers were once good guys. I admit, this was a pretty shocking thing to see in AOTC. I was so used to associating guys in white armor with the villains, it was surreal to see them fighting alongside Yoda.

1. Darth Vader turned to the Dark Side for love. Ever since it was known Vader was a fallen Jedi, observers of the saga had wondered what exactly turned him from just another Jedi to the galaxy’s second most evil guy. Fear, a craving for power, and anger sure did factor into it but what generated those emotions? As it turned out, it wasn’t a crazy ambition to be king of the galaxy, a desire for money and a big mansion full of bikini-clad groupies, or anything banal like that. It was for a human and entirely understandable reason: to save his beloved Padme from death. I never would have predicted anything like that in 1977.


25 Responses to “Top 10 Surprises Of The Prequel Trilogy”

  1. Jacobesico Says:

    It makes me laugh when some “fans” say we don’t need the Prequels because “we already know what happend”.

    Seeing HOW it happened was the greatest thing about watching them.

    The fact that Darth Vader turned to the dark side for love isn’t “pathetic” whatsoever. It shows that he’s human.

    • Keith Palmer Says:

      A part of me fears accusations of “the prequels being unnecessary” springs from a simple refusal to accept the explanation offered. (At the same time, I have the nasty suspicion the seemingly important backstory of Han, Leia, and Luke messing up raising the next generation is to be treated as a fait accompli to be corrected by the new characters, or at least Rey, because the management is convinced “it was better when they had to use their imagination…”)

      So far as “using your imagination” goes, I could argue there are at best hints as to why Dooku might have turned to the Dark Side; you could even speculate about whether Palpatine ever had a choice before him. It could be more a matter of Vader’s ultimate redemption being harder to brush by when background offers some more detail to that as well…

    • Helen Says:

      That’s how I feel. Seeing *how* is all happened is/was the best thing about the PT. The OT made more sense because of the PT. George got it right.

  2. Nariel Says:

    I could never understand why some people thought that the reason for Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side was a disappointment. In my opinion, it’s much more interesting, and more tragic, than if he did it solely for power or something like that.

    And I suppose Yoda and Obi-Wan probably had given up on the Chosen One prophecy by the time of the OT.

    I also like the fact that Shmi is the matriarch of the whole Skywalker family 🙂

    • Heidi Says:

      Because in an odd way, turning to the darkside for the love of some else appears selfless, where as for power and money etc. it’s completely selfish.

      I’m not saying Anakin wasn’t selfish it’s just his motives in the beginning where greatly motivated by his love for Padme.

      • Nariel Says:

        Good point – I think it makes his character more complicated (which is a good thing in my book).

  3. Kim Says:

    Great list! I was surprised Anakin built 3PO.

  4. ladylavinia1932 Says:

    The not-so-perfect Jedi Order.

    This wasn’t much of a surprise to me, considering what Luke had learned that both Obi-Wan and Yoda had lied to him regarding Anakin’s true identity. Or that Obi-Wan tried to encourage Luke to kill his father in the name of “the greater good”.

    • SWPN Says:

      They didn’t lie to him. They were going to tell him once he was ready for the truth (which was when his training was complete). Instead he rushed to Cloud City, letting his emotions and attachment cloud his judgment. He nearly died, and instead of saving his friends, they were the ones who had to save him.

  5. SWPN Says:

    It’s sad to see that the concept of “blaming the Jedi” is present in here as well.

    “Stuck in their ways”, as in the Jedi way? What’s wrong with following the ideals and tenets that makes them who they are? Tenets that Luke learned and was meant to pass on.

    And “they completely mishandled Anakin”? Have we watched the same movies? So they are to blame for Anakin’s own failures and problems? Because Anakin knew that what he did and was doing was wrong but did it anyway. Anakin could cite the Jedi way, what was right from what was wrong. But his arrogance, fear of loss, and greed was what made him fall. And the Jedi didn’t promote any of that.

    • Kim Says:

      I don’t think it’s “blaming the Jedi” to think they mishandled Anakin. He is ultimately responsible for his actions, but once the Jedi Council approved his training despite their initial misgivings, there was a responsibility to be flexible with regard to their approach because his situation was different from the usual trainee. He had a mother that he loved and none of the Jedi cared at all about her fate apparently. When he went to Yoda seeking help, all he got was the incredibly unhelpful advice to let go of what he feared to lose and rejoice when someone you love dies. Easy to say, not so easy to practice. Yoda didn’t seem so joyful when the Jedi were murdered. When Mace faced Palpatine, he echoed Palpatine’s line regarding Dooku about “he’s too powerful to be kept alive” and intended to kill him, so Palpatine’s assertion that the Jedi and Sith were very similar appeared to be based in truth. Anakin made the wrong choices, for sure, and he suffered the consequences; so did the Jedi. Doesn’t mean I can’t still appreciate all involved.

      • SWPN Says:

        He had a mother that he loved (nothing wrong with that) but feared to lose. Anakin, as a Jedi, needed to be selfless and let go of that fear. That’s what the Jedi taught him. He wasn’t able to.

        As for the Jedi not caring about her fate: the Jedi don’t play favourites. And Shmi is out of their jurisdiction. Their numbers are limited so why should they divert resources to free a single slave just because it’s Anakin’s mother. Qui-Gon did what he could to free her while he was with her, but he was unable to. They both agreed that what was more important was Anakin’s freedom. She accepted her fate.

        Regarding Yoda’s advice: Wow, what a way to completely discard and downplay the wisdom provided in that scene. Yoda doesn’t say that he should rejoice when a loved one dies. He says that despite the loss, he should rejoice that they live on as part of the Force. As a Jedi, he shouldn’t be attached and passionate about the people he holds dear. He should be compassionate to everyone. And yes, as a Jedi, he should train himself let go of what he fears to lose. It was the fear of loss that brought the galaxy and the Force into darkness.

        As for Mace, no, he wasn’t in the same position as Anakin. Anakin had disarmed Dooku. He had no hands, there was nothing he could do. He killed him anyway, out of hatred and revenge. Mace tried to kill Sidious because he was still dangerous, powerful and controlled the justice system. He tried to do what took almost 30 years for Anakin to do.

    • jayoungr Says:

      For what it’s worth, I agree with you. But I’ve decided that I’ll enjoy this site more if I don’t argue story or characters with other commenters, so I’ll just leave it at expressing my support.

      • SWPN Says:

        Thanks. Although I see nothing wrong with a bit of discussion about these great movies.

      • jayoungr Says:

        Oh, there’s definitely nothing wrong with it! It’s just a personal decision I made for myself a while back.

    • lazypadawan Says:

      The first thing they did when Anakin walked in the door was kick him to the curb. A kid isn’t going to just shrug that off, that’s going to stick with him. They made their mistrust and fear of Anakin known almost right away. Imagine having a family where no one trusted you your entire life. The other thing is they dumped Anakin’s training on a Jedi who had just become a knight. Obi-Wan insisted on it due to his vow to Qui-Gon but I think the Council should have been a lot more hands on with a kid who’s clearly not like the others instead of having the noob deal with him. They let Anakin hang out with Palpatine.

      It’s obvious Anakin is a change agent and Qui-Gon had the vision to recognize it. He also recognized rather quickly that the Sith had returned. The Council didn’t really believe Qui-Gon about the Sith at first and it regarded the change agent with fear, suspicion, and skepticism. The Sith were operating right under the Council’s noses and influenced the Senate, while the Dark Side had clouded the Jedi’s vision. Everything was changing around them and they were too slow to keep up with those changes. This is a big theme in the prequels.

      I’m not a Jedi hater and I’m not absolving Anakin of any of his responsibility. But they did screw up.

      • SWPN Says:

        They refused to train him due to the emotional attachment he already has. They don’t mistrust or fear him. They are simply aware of the consequences of training someone with his level of attachment and fear of loss. In the end, they are proven right. As for Obi-Wan, as a Jedi Knight he’s able to train a padawan. And while he’s still a “noob” as far as teaching goes, it wasn’t his training that led to Anakin’s fall.

        Qui-Gon recognized Anakin’s potential, but Anakin was the one who decided to go with him, and Qui-Gon did warn him that Jedi training is not easy and the Jedi way is a hard life.

        While some on the Council were skeptical of the Sith return, Yoda was open to the possibility and the Council as a whole decided to investigate it further. So they didn’t ignore or dismiss Qui-Gon’s report.

        The Sith were smart though. It’s not like did nothing and pretended everything was fine. They can’t investigate someone they don’t know, without any lead to go on. Only near the end did Palpatine’s plan started to reveal itself and as soon as they saw it they tried to end it.

  6. Keith Palmer Says:

    I know that at a certain point I decided speculating too much about what would be happening in “the new movies” seemed to run the risk of “setting myself up for disappointment that my mind hadn’t been read” (and as many complaints as we have to deal with, I know at least some people have made a big deal of some comments in the Return of the Jedi novelization not having been hewed to), but even so I can think back and remember things that did leave me surprised.

    Beyond the matter of Anakin being younger to begin with than I’m sure a lot of people had in mind, it was surprising to see those extra links in the chain of Jedi training in the persons of Qui-Gon and later Dooku. Beyond the surprise that Owen really did have a family connection (even if by marriage) to Luke, it was unexpected for marriage to be forbidden to the Jedi. I do have to admit I had imagined after Attack of the Clones Anakin and Padme wouldn’t see each other at all in “Episode III,” not because of the complaints of anyone else but just from another bit of the RotJ novelization, but more than that it was surprising Anakin had tried to report Palpatine (I had been wondering if some apparently clever argument of Palpatine’s could be pulled off so that anyone wouldn’t just reject it straight off) and that Padme attempted to confront her husband instead of just “writing him off” and fleeing; as much as complaints about Padme’s fate are one of the few things that can trouble me and leave me trying to counter them, it feels somehow right to me that she had the same feelings Luke would have later.

  7. Hoggle Says:

    Nice Post 🙂

    In General, the role of clones/storm troopers to the Jedi & also one which missed the list but a biggy to me, that the Jedi were actually working with the Emperor for two of the movies.

    I think there’s a strong case for Padme to be a mystical character in the movies, as relates to Anakin & the force which will leave for another post sometime.

    Re Anakin’s turn, in tESB, Luke in the force cave strikes off Vader’s head. Then after he has dream/vision of cloud city & losing his friends. After he knows truth of Vader, Vader can initially telepathy with him directly in voice. Emperor Palpatine is supremely confident that if Luke kills Vader in RoTJ, he will ‘magically’ become his new apprentice.

    RoTS, after Anakin whoops Dooku, he has dark dreams/visions of Padme, his true love. Once he knows the truth about Palpatine, he initially hears his voice directly via telepathy.

    The biggest surprise for me maybe, that while enriching the OT in many ways that they would also eclipse the OTs by such a big margin as related to a general interest, appreciation & definition of what the Star Wars galaxy was 👾

  8. ladylavinia1932 Says:

    When was it confirmed that Obi-Wan and Yoda had planned to tell Luke the truth about Anakin?

  9. Brian47 Says:

    Great list, these were all the great surprises that I often admire about the PT and mention to others in conversation. Numbers 1 and 2 are really brilliant subversions of any expectations audiences might have had going into the new movies, whether or not they liked it.

  10. Captain Rex Says:

    Nice list, but one thing is false.
    Stormies and clone troopers are different. Clones are genetically engineered super soldiers who can actually aim.

    Stormtroopers on the otherhand are recruited cannon fodder who couldnt hit a dead blue whale.

    • lazypadawan Says:

      ROTS makes it clear the first enforcers of the Empire were the clone troopers. Over time I guess they were replaced with recruits as the original clones aged out.

  11. Michael Says:

    Terrific list, LP! I think what’s so brilliant about the saga is that no matter which way you decide to watch it (I-VI or IV-VI/I-III), you’re bound to be surprised. Not an easy trick to pull off, and I think the reason it works is that it truly expands the scope of the galaxy and tells its own independent story from the OT. Sure, it connects in beautiful and poetic ways, but it never ceases to be an original work.

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