Star Wars prequel trilogy
|Star Wars prequel trilogy|
The Star Wars prequel trilogy logos
|Music by||John Williams|
20th Century Fox
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures[a]
|Budget||$343 million (total for I, II, III)|
|Box office||$2.525 billion (total for I, II, III)|
The Star Wars prequel trilogy is a series of epic space-opera films written and directed by George Lucas. It was produced by Lucasfilm Ltd. and distributed by 20th Century Fox. The trilogy was released from 1999 to 2005 and is a prequel to the original Star Wars trilogy (1977–83). It consists of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999), Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002), and Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005). It is the second of the three trilogies in the Skywalker saga in terms of release order, but chronologically, it is the first act.
The trilogy follows the training of the powerful youth Anakin Skywalker (the father of the original trilogy protagonists Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia) as a Jedi, his fall to the dark side of the Force and birth as Darth Vader as well as the corruption of the Galactic Republic, the annihilation of the Jedi Order and rise of the Empire under Sith Lord Darth Sidious. The first two films received mixed reviews, while the third received positive reviews.
According to original trilogy producer Gary Kurtz, loose plans for a prequel trilogy were developed during the outlining of the original two films. In 1980, Lucas confirmed that he had the nine-film series plotted, but due to the stress of producing the original trilogy and pressure from his wife to settle down, he had decided to cancel further sequels by 1981. However, technical advances in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including the ability to create computer-generated imagery, inspired Lucas to consider that it might be possible to revisit his saga. In 1989, Lucas stated that the prequel trilogy would be "unbelievably expensive." After viewing an early CGI test created by Industrial Light & Magic for Jurassic Park, Lucas said:
We did a test for Steven Spielberg; and when we put them up on the screen I had tears in my eyes. It was like one of those moments in history, like the invention of the lightbulb or the first telephone call. A major gap had been crossed and things were never going to be the same.
In 1992, Lucas acknowledged that he had plans to create the prequel trilogy in the Lucasfilm Fan Club magazine, and announced this to Variety in late 1993. Producer Rick McCallum reached out to Frank Darabont, who had had previously written The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and The Shawshank Redemption, for possible future writing duties. He was considered until at least 1995, but as time went on, Lucas continued writing the screenplays himself. The popularity of the franchise had been prolonged by the Star Wars Expanded Universe, so that it still had a large audience. A theatrical rerelease of the original trilogy in 1997 'updated' the 20-year-old films with the style of CGI envisioned for the new episodes.
Having been significantly anticipated by fans, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace was released on May 19, 1999. It sees the Jedi coming into contact with the young Anakin Skywalker and the corruption of the Galactic Senate by Palpatine (Darth Sidious). Episode II – Attack of the Clones was released on May 16, 2002. The story jumps ahead 10 years and finds Anakin, a Jedi Padawan of Obi-Wan Kenobi pursuing a forbidden romance, as well as the outbreak of the Clone Wars. Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, the first PG-13 film in the franchise, was released on May 19, 2005. It brings the six-episode saga full circle by revealing Darth Vader's origin as the fallen Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker, having been manipulated by Palpatine and the dark side of the Force.
|Film||Release date||Director||Screenwriter(s)||Story by||Producer||Distributor|
|May 19, 1999||George Lucas||Rick McCallum||20th Century Fox (initial)|
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
|May 16, 2002||George Lucas||George Lucas and Jonathan Hales||George Lucas|
|May 19, 2005||George Lucas|
Episode I – The Phantom Menace
32 years before the events of the original film, two Jedi, acting as negotiators of the Republic, discover that the corrupt Trade Federation has formed a blockade around the planet Naboo. Sith Lord Darth Sidious has secretly caused the blockade to give his alter ego, Senator Palpatine, a pretext to overthrow and replace the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic. Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his Padawan (apprentice), the young Obi-Wan Kenobi, encounter Jar Jar Binks, a native of Naboo who helps them find the Queen of Naboo. With Queen Padmé Amidala, they escape the blockade, but not before their starship has been damaged. Landing on Tatooine for repairs, they meet a nine-year-old slave named Anakin Skywalker. Qui-Gon helps liberate the boy by betting with his master in a podrace, believing him to be the "Chosen One" prophesied by the Jedi to bring balance to the Force due to the boy's unusually strong connection to it. Sidious dispatches his Sith apprentice, Darth Maul, to attack the queen's Jedi protectors. Arriving on Coruscant so the queen can plead Naboo's crisis before the Republic Senate, Anakin is brought before the Jedi Council, where Yoda senses that he possesses too much fear to be trained. The Jedi are ordered to accompany the queen back to Naboo, where she pleads with the natives for their help in the battle against the droid army. Anakin manages to destroy the control center and disable the droid army while Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan fight Maul; Maul kills Qui-Gon, but is in turn slain by Obi-Wan. With the council acknowledging the Sith's coming return, Obi-Wan is promoted to Jedi Knight and takes Anakin under his wing with reluctant approval from the Council.
The prequels were originally planned to fill in history tangential to the original trilogy, but Lucas realized that they could form the first half of one long story focusing on Anakin. This would shape the film series into a self-contained saga. In 1994, Lucas began writing the screenplay for the first prequel, initially titled Episode I: The Beginning. Following the film's release, Lucas announced that he would be directing the next two.
Episode II – Attack of the Clones
10 years after the Battle of Naboo, an assassination attempt is made on former Queen Padmé Amidala, who is serving as the Senator of Naboo. Obi-Wan and his apprentice Anakin are assigned to protect her; Obi-Wan tracks the killer, while Anakin and Padmé retreat to Naboo. They soon fall in love with each other, albeit secretly due to the Jedi Order's rule against attachment. Meanwhile, Chancellor Palpatine schemes to draw the entire galaxy into the "Clone War" between the Republic army of clone troopers led by the Jedi, and the Confederacy of Independent Systems led by Count Dooku (the former master of Obi-Wan's deceased master Qui-Gon, and Palpatine's new Sith apprentice).
The first draft of Episode II was completed just weeks before principal photography, and Lucas hired Jonathan Hales, a writer from The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, to polish it. Unsure of a title, Lucas had jokingly called the film "Jar Jar's Great Adventure". In writing The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas initially considered that Lando Calrissian was a clone from a planet of clones which caused the Clone Wars mentioned in A New Hope. He later came up with the concept of an army of clone shock troopers from a remote planet which attacked the Republic and were resisted by the Jedi.
Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
Three years into the Clone Wars, Anakin and Obi-Wan lead a counter-strike to save Chancellor Palpatine from Count Dooku and the droid commander General Grievous. Anakin begins to have prophetic visions of his secret wife Padmé dying in childbirth. Palpatine, who had been secretly engineering the Clone Wars to destroy the Jedi Order, convinces Anakin that the dark side of the Force holds the power to save Padmé's life. Desperate, Anakin submits to Palpatine and is renamed Darth Vader. Palpatine orders the clone army to fire on their Jedi generals, and declares the former Republic an Empire. Vader participates in the extermination of the Jedi, culminating in a lightsaber duel with Obi-Wan on the volcanic planet Mustafar.
Work on Episode III began before Episode II was released, with one scene shot during the earlier film's production. Lucas originally told concept artists that the film would open with a montage of the Clone Wars, and included a scene of Palpatine revealing to Anakin that he had willed his conception through the Force. Lucas reviewed and radically reorganized the plot, having Anakin execute Dooku in the first act to foreshadow his fall to the dark side. After principal photography was completed in 2003, Lucas made more changes, rewriting Anakin's arc. He would now primarily turn to the dark side in a quest to save Padmé, rather than just believing that the Jedi are plotting to take over the Republic. The rewrite was accomplished both through editing principal footage, and filming new and revised scenes during pick-ups in 2004.
Lucas made a conscious effort to parallel scenes and dialogue between the prequel and original trilogy, especially concerning the journey of Anakin Skywalker in the prequels and that of his son Luke in the older films. Together with the original trilogy, Lucas has collectively referred to the first six episodic films of the franchise as "the tragedy of Darth Vader". In 2019, Lucasfilm labelled the prequel trilogy part of the "Age of Republic" on a timeline of the saga.
There are many references to Christianity in the prequel trilogy, such as the appearance of Darth Maul, whose design draws heavily from traditional depictions of the devil, complete with red skin and horns. The Star Wars film cycle features a similar Christian narrative involving Anakin Skywalker; he is the "Chosen One"—the individual prophesied to bring balance to the Force—who was conceived of a virgin birth. However, unlike Jesus, Anakin falls from grace and seemingly fails to fulfill his destiny (until the prophecy comes true in Return of the Jedi). The saga draws heavily from the hero's journey, an archetypical template developed by comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell.
Political science has been an important element of Star Wars since the franchise launched in 1977, focusing on a struggle between democracy and dictatorship. Palpatine being a chancellor before becoming the Emperor in the prequel trilogy alludes to Adolf Hitler's role as chancellor before appointing himself Führer. Lucas has also drawn parallels between Palpatine and historical dictators such as Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, and former president of the United States Richard Nixon.[b] The Great Jedi Purge depicted in Revenge of the Sith mirrors the events of the Night of the Long Knives. The corruption of the Galactic Republic is modeled after the fall of the democratic Roman Republic and the formation of an empire.
In 2011, box sets of the original and prequel trilogy were released on Blu-Ray, all including alterations. 3D releases were planned for the then-six-film franchise, but after the financially disappointing 2012 3D release of The Phantom Menace, the rest were cancelled. On April 11, 2019, it was announced that the prequel trilogy would be available upon the launch of Disney+.
The prequel trilogy received mixed reviews, generally transitioning from negative to positive with each installment. Common criticisms surrounded the comic relief character of Jar Jar Binks,[c] over-reliance on CGI and green screens, melodramatic and wooden dialogue including scenes of romance between Anakin and Padmé, and slow-paced political scenes. Conversely, some argue the handling of political issues, especially involving the rise of fascism, was a positive element of the prequels. George Lucas has responded to the negative criticism by saying that, like the original films, they were intended "for 12-year-olds"—while acknowledging that fans who saw the originals when they were young had different expectations as adults. The prequels have been noted as retaining a dedicated fanbase, primarily composed of millennials who were children at the time of their release.
Many expressed their disappointment with the trilogy's portrayal of Anakin Skywalker, particularly calling the writing weak and the dialogue wooden, although Hayden Christensen's performance in the third film was more well-received. Contrarily, Ewan McGregor's portrayal of Obi-Wan Kenobi, following in the footsteps of Sir Alec Guinness, has been generally praised. Natalie Portman has expressed her disappointment with the trilogy's negative reception, saying that "When something has that much anticipation it can almost only disappoint." She also acknowledged that "With the perspective of time, it's been re-evaluated by a lot of people who actually really love them now."
The trilogy has also received some criticism for clashing aesthetically with the original trilogy. While the older films feature rough and aged technology, the prequels depict relatively sleek and new industrial designs. Some have criticized this design choice by saying that it makes the earlier time period appear to depict a more advanced civilization, although Revenge of the Sith brings the design closer to that of the original trilogy. Lucas has called the choice clever, as it illustrates the halt of technological innovation in a time period of civil war.
|The Phantom Menace||53% (6/10 average rating) (223 reviews)||51 (36 reviews)||A−|
|Attack of the Clones||66% (6.62/10 average rating) (250 reviews)||54 (39 reviews)||A−|
|Revenge of the Sith||80% (7.29/10 average rating) (296 reviews)||68 (40 reviews)||A−|
|The Phantom Menace||Attack of the Clones||Revenge of the Sith|
|Best Sound Editing||Nominated|
|Best Sound Mixing||Nominated|
|Best Visual Effects||Nominated||Nominated|
Box office performance
|Film||Release date||Budget||Box office revenue||Box office ranking||Refs.|
|North America||Adjusted for
(North America)[n 1]
|The Phantom Menace||May 19, 1999||$115 million||$474,544,677||$815,518,000||$552,500,000||$1,027,044,677||#15||#35|||
|Attack of the Clones||May 16, 2002||$115 million||$310,676,740||$482,820,000||$338,721,588||$649,398,328||#73||#130|||
|Revenge of the Sith||May 19, 2005||$113 million||$380,270,577||$535,701,000||$468,484,191||$848,754,768||#39||#71|||
- Adjusting for inflation is complicated by the fact that the first four films have had multiple releases in different years, so their earnings cannot be simply adjusted by the initial year of release. Inflation adjusted figures for 2005 can be found in Block, Alex Ben; Wilson, Lucy Autrey, eds. (2010). George Lucas's Blockbusting: A Decade-By-Decade Survey of Timeless Movies Including Untold Secrets of Their Financial and Cultural Success. HarperCollins. p. 519. ISBN 978-0061778896. Adjustment to constant dollars is undertaken in conjunction with the United States Consumer Price Index provided by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, using 2005 as the base year.
- Physical distribution rights were set to move to Disney in 2020 according to the 2012 deal, but eventually moved to Disney in 2019 as a result of the acquisition of Fox.
- In his early drafts, Lucas used the plot point of a dictator staying in power with the support of the military. In his comment (made in the prequel trilogy era) Lucas attributed this to Nixon's supposed intention to defy the 22nd Amendment, but the president was actually impeached and never ran for a third term. Fellow Republican President Ronald Reagan sought to repeal the movement after leaving the office.
- The character was so disliked, even by fans, that actor Ahmed Best considered suicide.
- The model's chassis is depicted bare, but the fighters are covered by panels in the films—being exposed only temporarily due to battle damage.
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The people give their democracy to a dictator, whether it's Julius Caesar or Napoleon or Adolf Hitler. Ultimately, the general population goes along with the idea ... That's the issue I've been exploring: how did the Republic turn into the Empire?
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