Rogue One: Rebelling against the prequel hate

Most fandoms tend to condemn people that are overly critical of their precious show/game/film franchise (as people watching The Walking Dead right now will surely know). Speak out against a particular thing you don’t like about it too much and you’ll be branded a “bad” or “not real” fan of the thing itself. The Star Wars fandom, however, is quite backwards in this respect. That is, it’s more or less universally accepted that everybody hates the prequel trilogy, and it’s commonplace for people to metaphorically crap all over it. It’s only natural for fans of anything to be somewhat divided in their opinions, but Star Wars fans especially like to insist on particular films being either good ones or bad ones. It seems like there’s only a small minority of people like myself that enjoy the franchise as a whole, appreciating all of its parts for what they are, and this doesn’t seem right. The original trilogy isn’t perfect and the prequels aren’t the monstrosities they’re made out to be. There has to be some grey area, some way of bridging the gap. After all, only a Sith deals in absolutes.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has been praised for doing exactly this. Bridging the gap, I mean, not dealing in absolutes. It feels like a piece of a puzzle you didn’t know you were missing until you found it, and now once you have, you appreciate how much it ties the whole picture together. Rogue One smacks you in the face with the Star Wars people have loved since the release of A New Hope, but also includes prequel references and helps to highlight things about the prequels that people are usually quick to disregard. For example, the epic Vader scene at the end. People loved this scene a lot, and it was much more reminiscent of the Vader we saw in Revenge of the Sith than it was any of his somewhat slower paced appearances in the originals. In Star Wars forums and comment threads, I often see far more people admit to really liking episode 3 in particular than anyone really acknowledges, probably because it’s the most Vader-centric, and despite a little stiff acting and awkward dialogue, has some extremely memorable scenes, like the one at the end of Rogue One. That Vader appearance was such a contrast to all of his actions in the film until then, and to most of his scenes in the originals, that it almost feels out of place given how close it is to them in the franchise timeline. Being someone that saw Revenge of the Sith in cinemas for my birthday as a child when it came out, I felt like that scene was a tribute to the vengeful, ruthless Anakin I’m nostalgic for, as opposed to the one fond of force-choking generals.

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One of the biggest hangups (or summaries of their criticisms) that people have about the prequels always seems to be that they just aren’t, or don’t feel like, Star Wars. The thing that always bugs me about this is it doesn’t take into account that it completely makes sense, plot wise, for them not to feel like the OT. The original trilogy (and Rogue One and The Force Awakens, which bookmark either end of it) is set during a rebellion against a galactic dictatorship, but the prequels take place in a completely different political climate. Of course a set of films telling the story of the Emperors’ rise to power aren’t going to have the same spirit to them as films that tell the story of how his Empire falls. Rogue One, while only being a small part of the overall narrative of the Star Wars saga, feels like a crucial aid in easing the transition of the story from point A to point B, when so many fans have trouble reconciling the two.

When The Force Awakens was released last year, it was commended for being “finally a GOOD Star Wars film,” “feeling like Star Wars,” and “bringing back the Star Wars people love.” However, it also fell under fire from critics, myself included, because even though it was an enjoyable film, the plot was extremely similar to that of A New Hope. It felt like it had deliberately distanced itself from the prequels so much that it was basically a remake of episode 4, designed to placate diehard fans of the original trilogy after the prequels a decade ago upset them so. Unlike The Force Awakens, Rogue One didn’t shy away from associating itself with either trilogy, and the result was something new that captured the very essence of ALL existing Star Wars films. It feels like it acknowledges the generational gap between fans of each trilogy and pays tribute to them both, without judging anyone for liking what they like, which is extremely refreshing. A film that includes both Bail Organa and Grand Moff Tarkin was not what anyone expected, but it works perfectly, and retrospectively redeems the prequels by helping them not feel so isolated from the originals.

In summary, I love Star Wars. All of it. I hate the unnecessary division within the fanbase between those who hate certain films and those who don’t, and think people are far too quick to disregard the fact that lots of fans are nostalgic for episodes 1-3 just like they are for episodes 4-6. It’s natural for people to be somewhat wary of any new addition to an existing beloved franchise, but maybe instead of being overly harsh to anything that isn’t what we wanted it to be, we can simply be enthusiastic about there being more new stuff of the thing we love. By being open-minded and appreciating the franchise as a whole, with all its strengths and pitfalls, we can accept that sometimes there will be letdowns like The Phantom Menace and sometimes there’ll be nostalgia-filled new starts like The Force Awakens. And sometimes there’ll be amazing films with themes of sacrifice and hope, with characters old and new, tying together everything we love about Star Wars in an utter blessing that everyone can enjoy, like Rogue One.

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Last updated: 30/05/2018 15:35:29

Star Wars

Star Wars is a science fiction film series created by George Lucas. It debuted in 1977 and the first film was quickly retitled to Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. It was followed by two sequels - The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 and Return of the Jedi in 1983. A trilogy of prequel films were launched in 1999 with The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. In 2015 Star Wars returned to the screens for a new trilogy under the control of Disney with The Force Awakens directed by J J Abrams.

A series of spin-offs were launched in 2016 with Gareth Edwards' Rogue One and 2017 will see the second film in the new trilogy, Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi.

Another spin-off will be released in 2018 - Solo - which tells the story of Han Solo before the original Star Wars film and 2019 will round off the third trilogy with the untitled Episode IX.

A fourth trilogy of films has been announced for release after 2020 which will be overseen by Rian Johnson and they will feature entirely new characters and an entirely separate story.

In addition, there are the TV series The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels and a new as yet untitled live action series due to debut some time after 2020.

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