The Star Wars Prequel trilogy gets a lot of hate. In fact it's the cool thing to do these days to hate on those movies. Their full of Jar Jar Binks, midichlorians, and a whining, hormonal Anakin Skywalker. Not to mention various plot holes, flat character development. If you want to point out all the flaws of those movies don't worry, I've already done some of that work. (See companion article)
But here's the thing. I'm a huge Star Wars fan, and I've seen those movies dozens of times. My fandom started before George Lucas was unleashed on the world with all the powers of CGI that ILM could produce. My introduction to the universe was through my dad's 1995 VHS box set. The one with Vader's face on the side (See Example)
All that to say, I have appreciated Star Wars before the Prequel movies were a thing, and I appreciate them afterwards. And I even appreciate the prequel films themselves. Here's why:
George Lucas made his legacy as an Independent filmmaker. He had a distaste for the studio system and all the rules that directors had to follow to make their films. He wanted more control over every aspect. Star Wars has one of the most iconic opening sequences of all time.
"A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...." fade out. stay on black screen for dramatic effect.
And then before we know what hit us John William's music is blaring and the words "STAR WARS" are plastered across the whole screen.
It's an epic opening. One of the most iconic openings a movie has ever had. It's become a staple of the Star Wars Saga films. There's only one problem with it.
George Lucas broke the rules.
He was insistent the opening be dramatic and not feature opening credits. Because of that he had to pay a fine, and he was an outcast from the DGA (Director's Guild of America). The reason this is important for a discussion of the Prequel trilogy is that you can't forget the Indie millieu that these films arose out of. As the new films were premiered they looked a lot less like a major Hollywood blockbuster and more like an over-funded independent film project. George Lucas just got lucky and made millions and billions off of his original idea. That enabled him to self-fund five of the six films.
Independent films take risks that Hollywood studios would never allow. They aren't reporting back to a room full of shareholders, and they are interested far more in the process of storytelling than moneymaking. The Prequels are indie, expensive indie yes.
When we first met Obi-Wan in Episode IV he was an old hagard man in the desert. He spoke of the Jedi Knights and gave Luke a weapon befitting such a prestigious person. But that's all we got in IV-VI. Just stories of what the Jedi were. By the time we met Yoda he was close to death and did not have the powers and abilities to show what the Jedi were capable of (From a physical standpoint. Clearly, he was still able to do quite a bit with the Force). The Prequels finally let us see what the Jedi order looked like in it's hayday. Some things are best left to mystery, but there are other things people want to see. Watching the Clone Wars start and the Jedi fill an arean and fight shoulder to shoulder is exactly what fans had wanted to see ever since they heard the Jedi weren't just two old guys in hermitage but once they were an entire order.
Granted, there were some weird things in there. We saw a lot more Jedi commitee meetings than I think any fan was expecting. But we also saw a vast temple where they were trained. And we finally saw how central this group had been to the running of the entire galaxy. Jedi in the prequel are not the wilderness outcasts hanging out where they won't get noticed. They are front and center, respectable members of the galaxy being maintained in order.
Like I said earlier: there are some things that would feel better left to mystery. But there are just some things that are cool to see. Since 1977 people have wondered what exactly happened between Obi-Wan and Anakin. Part of that arc was developed throughout Episodes V and VI. But none of that had the drama and spectacle of seeing it unfold on the screen. Obi-Wan standing on the banks of a lava river, Anakin looking up at him and figuring out the best plan of attack. Friends that had become bitter enemies