Forget the trailers, the reveals, the early release of Obi-Wan Kenobi. For me, Star Wars Celebration 2022 was all about the 20th anniversary panel for Attack of the Clones. The film is perhaps the most derided in the saga, not in the shock-and-awe way The Phantom Menace disappointed but in the more modern “everybody knows that’s actually the worst one” way of Twitter proclamations. And yet, at 2:00PM on Friday May 27th, a huge room full of people, and many more watching online around the world, celebrated it.
I’ve written recently about the film being my favourite of the series, the one that dominated by childhood, and it was wonderful to experience the love others have for Attack of the Clones, feeling that I wasn’t alone. The cast was celebrated and told stories, and members of the crew revealed behind-the-scenes insights, but what was special was that there was no shame. No caveats or guilt. Nothing but open and honest love that once would have been ridiculed. No longer. 2022 might specifically be the 20th anniversary of Attack of the Clones but it’s also the year where the prequels as a whole are being celebrated.
Just look at the promotional circuit for Obi-Wan Kenobi. Every website and YouTube channel getting their own five minutes with Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor, fighting for clicks by getting them to play trivia battles and weird games. I’m addicted. They are repetitive, filled with the same anecdotes and insights, but the interviews are fun and these actors, once mocked, are now experiencing the love of a younger generation that sees them as childhood heroes. It’s emotional watching people go nuts for Hayden at Celebration, screaming so much he can barely get an audible word out, after suffering overwhelming criticism when the films were originally released. It’s just a shame that this was marred, mere hours later, with Moses Ingram receiving despicable online abuse, the past repeating itself. Hopefully she doesn’t have to wait 20 years to experience the light side of the fandom.
Celebration is certainly the most potent place you’ll feel the acceptance of the prequels but it is still echoing out into every new piece of Star Wars content being released this year. Lucasfilm is taking notice of the outpouring of love and is starting to truly validate it. 2022 has been, and will continue to be, the reintegration of the prequels into mainstream Star Wars. ‘Prequel’ is no longer a dirty word, there are no more jokes about Jar Jar being buried in the sands of Jakku. Lucasfilm wanted the original trilogy to lead the way, using them almost as sole reference for the sequels, but now it is obvious that the prequels are loved just as much. They are now seen as part of the original series themselves – the original six rather than three.
It began in January with The Book of Boba Fett. Young Boba, the lonely boy on Kamino from Attack of the Clones, was a vital part of the character’s backstory, embraced rather than be brushed aside. The Mandalorian’s new ship is an N1 Starfighter, an icon from The Phantom Menace, which may partly be fan service but also reveals something about his growth as a character.
At the time of writing, we’re currently halfway through Obi-Wan Kenobi and I’m enjoying it a lot. The show is essentially a fourth prequel, Episode 3.5 (or III.V), and it’s wonderful to have so many returning cast members. After years of rumours and then delays, Ewan McGregor is finally back as Obi-Wan and I couldn’t be happier. Even the show’s flaws feel oddly correct and an unintentional celebration of the prequels. Those films were mocked and then celebrated, the imperfections now loved just as much as the successes, for questionable acting and distracting technology, and now the show is too, with the Volume digital sets and television budget leading to the wonky and awkward execution of some moments. It just feels right. The series even recaps the prequels at the start as if they were previous seasons of the show.
The Andor teaser trailer wowed me at Celebration. An espionage thriller in Star Wars! Vital added character depth for Cassian and Rogue One characters! Fascinating worldbuilding! A huge batch of new characters! Actual locations instead of over-relying on stagecraft! And yet, out of everything in the trailer, above all the tantalising new glimpses at things unknown, I got most excited when I saw the imperial senate. That massive spherical room, the home of political debates, perhaps the most ridiculed part of the prequels, is back. That’s how confident and accepting of the films Lucasfilm has become and its great to witness. After many years, Coruscant is back onscreen in a big way after its small cameos in recent stories.
Coruscant is back in The Bad Batch too. For years The Clone Wars carried the torch of the prequels on its own and now The Bad Batch, that show’s successor, carries it too, but as part of a relay with all the other shows. We’re even getting insight, and perhaps closure, on Cody’s story, a character from the prequels that fans have glommed onto. It’s not just the major players of the prequels whose stories are continuing but the smaller characters too. Hopefully Dexter Jettster is next. Even the final show being released this year, Tales of the Jedi, will be closely tied to the prequels. Young Dooku and Qui-Gon will expand the prequels backwards as well as forwards.
Looking further forward, 2023 seems to be the year of the ‘Mandoverse’. All three live-action shows confirmed for the year are set in the same post-Return of the Jedi timeframe, and I hope the different series can still feel diverse after The Book of Boba Fett felt like Mando-lite. But I’m celebrating 2022 as the year of the prequels. Every Disney+ series is acknowledging them fully and yet each is radically different, a true testament to the scale and bold experimentation of the prequels that makes Star Wars so much richer.
What are your thoughts on Lucasfilm under Disney embracing the prequels like never before? Let me know in the comments and be sure to geek out with me about TV, movies and video-games on Twitter @kylebrrtt.