For a long time, it was near universally accepted, both in fan culture and the general mainstream, that the Star Wars prequels were bad.
After a nearly two decade long wait, in which many fans gave up hope that there would ever be more “Star Wars” films, the anticipation for “Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace” was intense.
And the response was…well, surely you’ve heard.
People jeered the wooden dialogue, the confusing midichlorians business, the often stilted-acting, the over-reliance on CGI and the Jar Jar Binks of it all.
“Star Wars: Episode II- Attack of the Clones” and “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” didn’t fare much better critically or with the fans. Social media was barely a thing when “Sith” was released, but if Twitter had existed, one imagines that mocking gifs of lines such as this would have dominated.
Of course, a massive franchise such as “Star Wars” wasn’t going to remain dominant forever. In an age where intellectual property is the name of the game, Hollywood couldn’t leave one the biggest franchises to ever exist as a completed story or anything.
After Disney purchased the rights to Star Wars from creator George Lucas for a record-setting $4 billion dollars, producer Kathleen Kennedy and director J. J. Abrams went about running as far away from the prequels as possible with 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
Midichlorians? Never heard of ‘em.
So in light of all that, it’s more than a little surprising for anyone with any sort of cultural memory to see that not only are the prequels beginning to get a cultural rehabilitation, but Disney and Kennedy are now willing to acknowledge that they ever existed in the form of its latest TV series “Obi-Wan Kenobi.”
So People Like The Prequels Now? Kinda?
So people have stopped completely mocking the prequels. What happened?
Well, it’s complicated. As younger writers over at pop culture websites such as The Mary Sue have observed, critics and snarky types may have had their say, but if you saw the films at a young enough age, they felt like a part of your childhood.
You might roll your eyes at them if you get a bit older, sure. But what adult Star Wars fan doesn’t admit that, yeah, the holy Original Trilogy also has some very goofy moments? I mean, do you really stand for the Ewoks?
But as observed by The Ringer’s Justin Charity and many others, while “The Force Awakens” was well received, the sequel films were also devisive, and the reaction to them was often racist, misogynistic and toxic in ways that embarrassed Star Wars fans and the franchise itself. (A certain type of toxic fan was incensed that the prequels’s main heroes Rey, Poe and Finn were a woman and two people of color, and the actress Kelly Marie Tran was the victim of intense harassment.)
In retrospect, while Lucas’ skills as a director of actors and writer of dialogue and many other things had deteriorated in his long absence from the screen, at the least the prequels were trying to do something.
They told the story of a civilization collapsing into fascism (a theme many people can find relatable these days) and of a good man giving in to the violence and rage inside of him. (So, Lucas did “Breaking Bad” well before Walter White started cooking meth.)
Plus, as weird and dumb as the prequels could be, they certainly were memorable.
“Not even the most loyal fan nor the most contrarian critic seems prepared to argue that the prequels are in fact good. But they’re quotable, they’re memeable, and they’re fun to rant against and argue about and rally around,” Charity wrote.
So What Is Twitter Saying About “Obi-Wan Kenobi”?
After the generally negative response to “The Rise of Skywalker,” Disney pivoted, and began focusing on making television programs for its streaming service.
While it’s hard to believe that there will never be another Star Wars film again, after the “Game of Thrones” creative team departed a planned film trilogy, movie plans seemed to get put on hold for a while, though recently it was confirmed that director Taika Waititi would have one out next year.
One more note about the prequels. Say what you will about literally any other aspect.
But only the most devoted hater ever said anything bad about Ewan McGregor’s performance as Obi-Wan Kenobi. The man does not miss.
So even before Disney’s first Star Wars series “The Mandalorian,” even launched, Disney began trying to talk McGregor into resuming the role. He agreed, and eventually Hayden Christensen (who took quite a lot of flak for his moody take on Anakin Skywalker, aka Darth Vader) signed up as well.
Though the show was extensively retooled at one point, director Deborah Chow has said they wanted to tell the story of how the broken Kenobi we saw at the end of the prequels became the one viewers were introduced to as Luke Skywalker’s caretaker in the very first film.
Based on how late it’s taken for the critical reviews to drop, it seems there were no advance screeners. But some reviews now have their takes, and people who took the day off (or stayed up until the episodes dropped in the wee morning) have now weighed in.
What’d they have to say?
Consequence says what we all know to be true. McGregor rules.
Variety thinks it solid, folks!
Not surprising, but fan pleasing. We've heard that before, haven't we?
It's not Star Wars without haters, and Deadline is just not feeling it.
The fans think Chow did a good job!
Everyone loves Ewan.