I saw the Original Trilogy as a four year old a few years before the special editions were released. I never saw the originals when they were re-released, but I loved watching them on VHS and playing with the toys. So you can imagine my excitement when I saw a trailer for Episode I a few years later. I quickly went out and found out as much as I could about the movie before it was released. I read the junior novel and bought all the younger picture books. For some reason, I remember thinking that Qui-Gon was Anakin’s father at first. I was so eager for the new toys, that I turned everything I could into an Episode I character. I remember pretending that a green marble was Qui-Gon, a blue one was Obi-Wan, and a red one was Maul. I even made a paper OOM-9 battle droid commander action figure with magic markers. Haha, after pretending that badminton rackets were lightsabers for a few months, I was ecstatic that day I walked into the store and saw hundreds of new action figures on a wall with their yellow Darth Maul eyes staring at me. It’s funny, because even before I had seen the movie, I had read all the books, bought as many figures as I could afford, and role-played the movie for months. Finally that summer day came when I saw Episode I in the theater, and I thought it was the best movie ever. I totally related to it, as I was about the same age as Anakin. Qui-Gon was that father figure, Obi-Wan that skeptical older cousin, Padme that girl that was a bit older that I had a crush on, and Jar Jar that goofy friend with the golden heart. But it wasn’t just about the movie for me, it was the experience, the action figures, the books, the Lego sets, the stickers, the music. But most of all it just felt so natural, so cool.
A few years later I moved to a new state. New places, new friends, but Star Wars was always there. I was once again excited about Episode II coming out. I continued to collect the action figures and other merchandise, and like the first prequel, I related to Attack of the Clones as well. I was a bit older, and I wanted to be Anakin. I wanted to be that bold, headstrong Jedi racing across the stars and chasing after his destiny. But to me, nothing was cooler than that Clone Army. I had never been amazed by the Stormtroopers, they were always ruthless, robotic, and awkward. But these young soldiers were shiny, heroic, and efficient, and I really dug the new helmet design. I spent the next several years hunting down every Clone Trooper action figure variant I could find, trying to build the ultimate Army of the Republic.
I wasn’t as excited as I was anxious to see Episode III. I was a teenager now, and saw the story a bit more analytically. I was worried about how the characters would turn out. I knew it would be a dark movie, and braced myself for potentially distressing scenes, like Order 66, and the Mustafar dual. I found the movie engaging, and continued collecting all the merchandise, but I enjoyed the adventurous and playful attitude of the previous two prequels more. But little did I know that in a few years, my fandom would reach even greater heights, with the advent of the Clone Wars show and the amazing powers of the internet.
For me, the prequels are a huge part of me, because I grew up with them. I was shocked to learn that many older fans found them appalling and claimed that their childhood was ruined by something that had been so influential in mine. To this day I defend the prequels, and find solace in discussing them with like minded fans. The prequels were the most iconic movies in my generation, and that’s what they mean to me.
For more prequel love, check out The Star Wars Prequel Appreciation Society.