Disney’s Star Wars sequel trilogy is often credited for its original trilogy aesthetic, but it takes far more thematically from the prequels. It’s no secret that, ever since Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, the Star Wars fandom has been wildly divided. Whether its the nostalgia-heavy The Force Awakens or the radical new direction of The Last Jedi, this era of the “galaxy far, far away” has been marked by consistent controversy at every turn.
Part of this bifurcation among fans of George Lucas’s creation is surely due to the wild over-corrections that Lucasfilm has been making to date. The past four films have veered from tapping into familiar story structure and fan-favorite characters (The Force Awakens, Solo) to exploring untapped corners and new possibilities (Rogue One, The Last Jedi).
Star Wars fandom is no stranger to debate, and one of the biggest ones right out the gate with the sequel trilogy was the perception that it was actually ignoring the prequels for the sake of original trilogy nostalgia, and while it’s true that, to an extent, the sequels look more like the original trilogy, thematically they harken back to the more complicated story of the prequels.
- This Page: The Thematic Difference Between the Two Trilogies
- Page 2: How the New Films Move the Story Forward
The Original Trilogy’s Politics and Morality Was Black and White
When Star Wars first arrived in theaters back in 1977, Lucas drew inspiration from the adventure serials he had enjoyed as a youth, like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. These stories centered on a clear-cut division between good and evil, and it was the universal battle between the two that the original trilogy aims to communicate. The heroes, by and large, wear white and/or bright colors, while the villain is a part-man, part-machine creature in a terrifying black suit. Even the lightsabers are color-coordinated.
Those first three films clearly pit the towering Galactic Empire against a group of scrappy but pure-hearted rebels, fighting for truth and justice. In the wake of the morally complex Vietnam War, it’s no wonder that the Star Wars trilogy and its clear definitions of right and wrong struck a chord with audiences. The film became a “new hope” that the future ahead might be a brighter one, one in which the villains and heroes are easily distinguishable, and ultimately, good always triumphs.
The Prequels Subverted What Audiences Thought About Their Heroes
Then came the prequels. Suddenly, the badass Jedi-turned-Sith Darth Vader was a peppy little podracer prodigy, and the wisdom and power of the Jedi was ultimately revealed to be mired by arrogance. Blinded by the dark side and their own pride, the Jedi Council — epitomized by Yoda himself — consistently fails to make the right decisions, failing to see that the Dark Lord of the Sith was right under their nose the whole tie, allowing Chancellor Palpatine claim more and more power and ascend to the role of Emperor.
Even Obi-Wan Kenobi is first presented as a pompous padawan learner who doesn’t develop into the hero we know until well into Revenge of the Sith. The entire foundation of righteousness that Obi-Wan and Yoda represent in the original trilogy is recontextualized by the prequels, which aim to shed new light on the characters and explore the truth that led the Republic to its doom and the Jedi to near-extinction at the hands of the Chosen One.
Page 2 of 2: How the New Films Move the Story Forward
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