Star Wars: Prequels vs Sequels

This article provides a general overview of the Star Wars anthology, which is currently spread over eight movies and two television animation series.

Personal Viewing Experience

By the time I was one year old, barely walking and talking, the cinematic release of Episode VI: Return of the Jedi was making headlines. As a child, I had an immersive exposure to the Star Wars franchise. I distinctly remember the board games but when it comes to actual viewing of the original trilogy movies, I have no certainty as to when exactly I did watch them and the order, other than I assume it was sequential:

  1. Episode IV: A New Hope (ANH)
  2. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (ESB)
  3. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (ROJ)

By the time news surfaced in the 1990s that the prequel trilogy was to be produced, I was a teenager and primed for the full cinema viewing experience. It is with 100% clarity and recollection that my viewing experience of all Star Wars films released has largely aligned closely to each film’s launch/release date:

  1. Episode !: The Phantom Menace (TPM) – 19 May 1999
  2. Episode II: Attack of the Clones (AotC) – 16 May 2002
  3. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (ROS) – 19 May 2005

For TPM, I was fortunate to be able to attend the official movie premiere held at Crown Village. I distinctly recall how, as part of the premiere event, people were dressed up as the film characters. The new wave of interest in Star Wars that TPM created included people of my generation (kids of the 1980s) who had just missed out on the premiere-type hype of the old trilogy (OT) movies.

The Old Trilogy (Sequels)

The Old Trilogy story-line is largely focused on Luke Skywalker. The title of Episode IV as A New Hope refers to Luke as being that new hope for the Star Wars galaxy. Concluding with the Rebel Alliance saved from the Galactic Empire and its first Death Star super-weapon, our heroes and villains for the OT are established: Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Chewbacca, along with the droids R2-D2 and C-3PO all against the Empire as represented by Darth Vader, and throughout ANH also Grand Moff Tarkin.

In ESB, we rejoin our heroes in the newly relocated Rebel base on Hoth. Our familiar characters split with Luke guided by the Force ghost/spirit of Obi-wan to travel and seek out Jedi Master Yoda on Dagobah. Meantime, the crew of the Millennium Falcon which now includes a fleeing Princess Leia, struggles to escape the clutches of the Empire and Darth Vader. We are introduced to two new characters, who both come to represent the highest order of beings for their respective sides: Master Yoda for the (defunct) Jedi Order and Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious represented the Galactic Empire. Interestingly, we do not actually learn of the Emperor’s name or true identity from the OT – he is only ever referred to as “the Emperor”. The Emperor was also seen indirectly, via hologram and not in-person. As ESB progressed, the capture of the Millennium Falcon and  torture of the Leia and Han was designed to lure Luke to Cloud City on Bespin. Cutting short his Jedi training, Luke dashed off to face Darth Vader eager to prove himself. The big revelation that Darth Vader was Luke’s father was by far the biggest cinematic moment for ESB – shocking to those learning it for the first time. With the loss of Han Solo to carbon freezing and Jabba the Hut, Leia’s force sensitivity to Luke ensures that our heroes have a chance to recover, and thus ends ESB. The battle on Hoth that transpires in the first act is the literal fulfilment of the movie title – the Empire striking back at the Rebel Alliance base.

For the final OT movie, ROJ wraps up all the loose story-lines as best as possible. The destruction of the second death star along with the Emperor, Darth Vader returning to the light side as Anakin Skywalker and Han Solo freed and able to pursue Leia are all happy ending outcomes for our heroes. Luke’s chance to argue and resolve his tension with the force spirit of Obiwan is also part of ensuring issues are resolved. Whilst Luke’s climatic fight with Darth Vader is initially thought to be his ascendancy and fulfilment of the Jedi returning, the final twist in the redemption of Anakin Skywalker as the good/light side of Darth Vader is the real “return of the Jedi”. The clever plot twists are designed to make us rethink the whole OT narrative – is it about Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader? My view is that the entire story-line is about the two of them. Together and reunited at the end of ROJ, the true return of the Jedi is shown in their collective presence – for the briefest of moments, we had two Jedi.

The New Trilogy (Prequels)

Ever since the first movie was re-branded Episode IV, there was always the expectation that the prequel trilogy would one day be developed. With the appropriate advancement in cinematic technologies, Lucas began working on the scripts for the prequel. In one sense, some of the core framework had been established by the OT, and the task was simply to add more meat to the bones, showing the origins of Anakin Skywalker. In this way, the entire Star Wars saga up to Episode VI was a long narrative on the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker.

Interestingly, all six movies also include the following characters:

  • Obi-wan Kenobi
  • R2-D2
  • C-3PO

Technically, this holds true to Episode VII the Force Awakens given, the droids clearly star in it, and the voice of Obi-wan (a blend of the voices of the two actors who played Obi-wan Sir Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor) was heard in Rey’s force vision.

In TPM, we see a little background to Obi-wan and his Padawan-Master relationship with Qui-Gon Jinn. The emergence of the Sith as the diametrically opposing force to the Jedi is revealed to be driving force, and the literal phantom menace. Senator Palpatine moonlighting as Darth Sidious is clear to us the audience but his secrecy in the world of Star Wars and TPM makes him a huge threat to the Jedi. We all know that he will “win” and rise to become the Emperor, but as the events of the NT show, the deception and inability of the Jedi to thwart his master plan and the Dark side all had to be at the will of the Force. TPM also introduces us to the then child character Anakin Skywalker and it is telling that towards the end of the movie that the newly appointed Chancellor Palpatine says:

And you, young Skywalker, we will watch your career with great interest.

Padme is directly manipulated by Palpatine into calling for the vote and motion of no-confidence in Chancellor Valorum, paving the way for the rise of Darth Sidious to claim the position of Chancellor of the Galactic Republic. The loss of Qui-Gon at the hands of Darth Maul and subsequent death-bed promise of Obi-wan to train Anakin are all cogs turning in the master plan. As the Jedi ponder over whether Maul was a Sith master or apprentice,

A number of mysteries and loose ends that are introduced by TPM continue and persist into AotC. The attempted assassination of Padme Amidala by Darth Sidious is the trigger point at the start of AotC for the Jedi involvement and investigation, culminating in the temporary capture of both Obi-wan and Anakin on Geonosis and revelation of Count Dooku (aka Darth Tyrannus) as the hands and feet of Darth Sidious. Although Count Dooku tells the truth to a captured Obi-wan, the instinctive mistrust between Jedi and Sith causes the dismissal of what was actually a super-critical truth, that the Sith controlled the Galactic Senate. Jar Jar’s neutrality and pivotal position in granting emergency powers to the Chancellor is another step towards the Sith domination of the galaxy, and inside-out destruction of the Galactic Republic. The battle of Geonosis marked not only the outbreak of civil war for the galaxy, but was also the titular “attack of the clones”. That the Sith had engineered this war and subverted the Jedi also demonstrated the power and deception of the Dark side of the Force in obfuscating the clarity of vision and Light side of the Force wielded by the Jedi. Anakin’s conflicting emotions is highlighted by the slaughter of all the Tusken villagers, after the killing, he feels the guilt and confesses to Padme back at the Lars homestead.

In the final NT movie which helps to connect the story-line arc into the OT, we see the gradual fall and corruption of Anakin Skywalker and his transformation into Darth Vader, apprentice of Darth Sidious, who also is transformed and self-proclaimed Emperor of the new Galactic Empire. With Anakin and Padme marrying in secret at the end of AotC, the Clone Wars breaks out and transpires between the events of AotC and ROS. ROS is really the final months of the Clone Wars, showing how the Sith were able to mastermind their complete capture and control of the galaxy, birthing the Empire out of the ashes of the former Galactic Republic. The Emperor’s declaration was the culmination of his absorbing all powers continually transferred to him throughout the Clone Wars. Interestingly, it is only 19 years after the start of the Empire when the Emperor finally dissolves the Senate, a line of dialogue from ANH. The missions undertaken by Master Yoda and Obi-wan to confront the new publicly declared Sith Lords is their one direct challenge to the new order – both fail but Obi-wan’s dismemberment of Anakin completes his transformation to the Dark side, sustained in the new life-support suit that Darth Sidious has designed for him.

ROS explores the vulnerability of Anakin and how Palpatine/Sidious exploits him to create mistrust between Anakin and the Jedi Council. The Jedi Council was itself manipulated by the Chancellor in the way he used Anakin as his eyes and ears. The deception and ability of Palpatine to mask his intentions from the Jedi Council even in their close proximity also demonstrated how weak the Jedi had become. ROS begins with a battle over Corusant, where Anakin and Obi-wan are dispatched to rescue the “kidnapped” Chancellor. The apex of this act is orchestrated by Darth Sidious whereby Anakin executes Count Dooku, who realised that up until that moment, he had been a pawn being used the whole time by Darth Sidious.

Disney Animation Series

The Disney animation series Star Wars: Clone Wars provides six seasons worth of episodes detailing the battles and missions of Anakin Skywalker alongside Obi-wan during the Clone Wars. The animation series helps to develop a lot of character for the characters, particularly the clone troopers who form the 501st Legion, led by Anakin. We are introduced in the first movie-length episode to the padawan character of Asoka Tano and her interaction with Anakin. The story-line arcs that interweave the Clone Wars together sees Asoka leave the Jedi order and thus explain her absence from ROS. The final sixth season helps to also bridge and indeed solve the issue of how Master Yoda learnt the ability to become a Force Spirit, something he would then pass on to Obi-wan.

Star Wars: Rebels is the made-for-television series that follows after ROS. The return of Asoka Tano has been a fan-pleasing move and the epic battle between her and Dark Vader in the season two finale was a very welcome and entertaining battle scene. That she could inflict a minor injury on her former master is an interesting twist, and I personally consider that battle a close second to the first battle between Obi-wan and Darth Vader at the end of ROS. The passion that each battle infused made it so much more dramatic with high stakes. Naturally, with Rebels still a current work, it is yet to be seen how the storyline continues.

Rogue One: The First of Independent Star Wars Stories

Continuity between Star Wars: Rebels and the latest movie instalment helps to ensure Rogue One is clearly part of the Star Wars universe. The Ghost was seen at Yarvin 4, as was the droid Chopper, plus General Syndulla was being hailed, to mention a few of the tie-ins to Rebels in Rogue One. The hammerhead corvettes that Princess Leia delivered in Rebels plays a key role in the Battle of Scarif, Rogue One where one is used to ram an Imperial Star Destroyer into the other, causing the destruction of the planetary force field.

The crossovers are also destined to work the other way too – with news at this point in time (early January) pointing to the character of Saw Gerrera featuring in an upcoming episode of Rebels! As it turns out a unified approach and team has been formed by the creative studios at Disney and Star Wars to help promote and ensure continuity for these types of elements that bring the Star Wars universe together as a coherent narrative, without creating problems of continuity.

XBOP + Star Wars = ?

It is interesting that since 2013/2014 when XBOP first began here as an online WordPress site, I have avoided blogging about Star Wars for so long, given Star Wars is arguably a much bigger interest and passion of mine – much longer and greater than Lego. Technically, there is crossover between those two topics in Lego Star Wars, but I have never concentrated on writing up about Star Wars.

But that is all about to change and in 2017, Star Wars is coming to XBOP! The first article was technically part of 2016, but 2017 is really when the fun begins…

I think much can be written up on some of the key characters. I know that as audiences of the films, we have the luxury of questioning the mindset and judgement which makes the Star Wars story-lines what they were, but I do like exploring the what-if scenarios. Ideas that I will develop into dedicated articles/stories are things like:

  • What if Anakin had been able to sense the Dark side and dangerous influence of Palpatine?
  • What if Yoda had managed to unmask Palpatine and could the events of ROS been avoided?
  • What if Darth Sidious was unmasked as early as the events of TPM?
  • What if Yoda had defeated the Emperor/Darth Sidious in ROS?
  • What if Mace Windu had defeated the Emperor/Darth Sidious in ROS?
  • What if Yoda and Obi-wan had switched and fought Darth Vader and Darth Sidious respectively?
  • What if Anakin had saved his mother on Tatooine?

You get the idea… the above list is just indicative and may not reflect actual future articles/stories.