The first time I saw a Star Wars film was in 2002 when my father took me to see Attack of the Clones at the tender age of nine. I had been deemed too young for The Phantom Menace in 1999 and have only recently, after many sleepless nights, decided to forgive my parents for that. When in 2005 Revenge of the Sith rolled into the cinemas I was the first of my friends to watch it, repeatedly. What I’m trying to say is, I’m very much one of the Prequel-generation. Star Wars has been a part of my life since I can remember and I watched the films before I could speak English or even read the subtitles. But it never truly became “mine” until the Prequels came and reinvigorated Star Wars for a whole generation of me’s. Since then a lot has happened. The Prequels have fallen in disfavour with a small yet vocal group, we were given one great animation film and an even better animated TV series (followed by a great second one), there have been books, games, toys, etc. And now I realize we have come to the point where us of the Prequel-generation are becoming part of the Old Guard and have to take a step back and join the Originals generation as a new crowd discovers Star Wars.
Star Wars has always cast a spell over youngsters, opening up whole galaxies of possibilities for them filled with aliens, Empires, bad guys, romance, and the Force. The Originals did this for teenagers and children in the 70s and 80s and the Prequels did it for us in the late 90s and 00s. So far it has usually been the Prequel fans which had to defend themselves and their passion for the Prequels, and Star Wars as a whole, against other Star Wars fans, the media and, worst of all, fake fanboys. As a consequence we have grown rather passionate, standing up for the Prequels whenever we need to (and occasionally when we don’t have to) and desperately wanting the rest of the world to see how great they are. In some ways I have found myself echoing what I know my father said when defending Star Wars against his own peers when they didn’t understand. You see, Star Wars is like poetry, it rhymes. One generation of fans follows and mirrors the next, falling in love with Lucas’ creation and making it a part of who they are.
When the Sequels were announced I was beyond excited. Finally, Star Wars was coming back and we were going to, once again, show everyone who’d forgotten how fully operational the fandom was. Pretty soon grumblings started here and there, as of course the Sequels were going to follow on chronologically from the Originals, hence requiring a tight tying in with that trilogy. After years of defending the Prequels I definitely felt wounded by off-hand comments every now and then, and as one of my posts expressing that is amongst our most popular posts I know many of you felt the same. I have slowly, over the months, started to realize though that this is probably exactly what it was like for the Originals fans when the Prequels came out. Heaven forbid, I almost understand them.
You see, the Prequels hardly had anyone from the Originals in them. Yes, there was Obi-Wan but that was not the Ben Kenobi everyone knew. Darth Vader definitely wasn’t Darth Vader yet and who even was Palpatine? The Prequels were a complete departure, in many ways, from the Originals because they had to be. You have to start at a to get to b, because if you were to start at b again you’d just be going in circles. This narrative need to start fresh has led to some people completely ignoring the Prequels, pretending they are the worst thing ever or don’t even exist, just so they don’t have to accept that their story has moved on. Because that’s what most of the Prequel-hate is really about: people incapable of letting go what they knew when they were young. The Star Wars films we grow up with become a part of us and as a consequence there is a sense of loss when the story then moves on. It’s not your childhood anymore, there will be no Obi-Wan pulling beautiful battle poses and there won’t be a Jedi Temple on Coruscant. Because that was a and we are now moving on to c.
In the way that Revenge of the Sith tied in with A New Hope and the other Originals, referencing it both through small details and major plot developments, so The Force Awakens will be echoing parts of The Return of the Jedi etc. because the saga needs to be continuous. Since the Prequels are a natural part of the Star Wars story there will, undoubtedly, be links as well but they won’t be as near to the surface as the links to the Originals and we might even have to wait for those links till EpVIII. And that’s OK. Because this new trilogy isn’t just for us, the way that the Prequels weren’t just for fans of the Originals. Each new trilogy reflects a different decade, a different time and tells a different story. We as the Prequel-generation have now come to the point where we will have to let the franchise develop on its own. Similarly a big part of the Originals-generation will have to accept that despite having Han Solo, the Sequels will not be ‘Originals 2.0’. Partially this shift is already happening, with little girls discovering Ahsoka Tano or Hera Syndulla and little boys finding a role model in Ezra. It’s time for a new generation to discover that Star Wars has a story to tell them and the Sequels will become theirs the way the Prequels are ours.
That absolutely does not mean that the rest of us Star Wars fans don’t get to enjoy the Sequels. Or even that someone like my father, who grew up on the Originals, can’t love both the Prequels and the Sequels as well. Or that someone like my little sister, who was almost too young to feel the hype in the 00’s, can’t now truly start to feel like she is a part of Star Wars while still loving the whole saga. You can also expect me to be crying with happiness come midnight on the 16th. If we do this right, we will walk into our cinemas hoping for Star Wars and walk out deliriously happy. And we won’t walk out angry because there was no trip to Naboo or no name-dropping of everything we love from the Prequels. If we do this right, we won’t go home and tell everyone who discovers Star Wars through the Sequels that they’re not real fans because this is nothing like what we found.
Remembering, and still experiencing, what the Prequel-hate can be like, I am beyond determined to not be like that. The Sequels will not be like the Prequels or the Originals because, if everything goes right, they will be their own creation with new characters and stories. Although I’d love to see Hayden Christensen back on my screen as Force-ghost Anakin, I’m not willing to sacrifice the integrity of the Sequels for it. As I’ve been reminiscing about the way I grew up with the Prequels, the excitement that came with having Star Wars for myself, I am determined to make sure the new generation of fans gets to have the same experience, minus the mindless anger of us “old ones” about how it’s not like it used to be. Just like the world, Star Wars keeps turning and that’s a good thing because it means it’ll never have to come to an end.