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The Star Wars prequels have always been a point of contention for dedicated fans of the franchise, and this sentiment is no more evident than in the polarising arena of the internet. The prequel trilogy has generally been cool to hate for many years, and if you were a fan of the prequels you kept your appreciation fairly quiet, or at the very least moderated your enthusiasm.

Lately, however, there's been a changing wind in regard to the accepted perspective toward the prequels. If you scroll your way through a discussion forum you'll see fans more readily defending them, with an abundance of prequel-sympathiser posts popping up. So, what's caused this shift in popular opinion?

'Star Wars: The Phantom Menace' [Credit: Lucasfilm]
'Star Wars: The Phantom Menace' [Credit: Lucasfilm]

New Star Wars Films Give New Expectations

A big reason for the disdain toward the Star Wars prequel trilogy was the monumental expectations of waiting 16 years for Episode I — The Phantom Menace to come to fruition. Diehard fans had been building up what they wanted the story of Darth Vader's origin to be, based on very little definitive exposition. George Lucas, for all his faults, was always going to fall short of those hopes. People were scared of having their childhood memories of Star Wars shattered. Even if the prequels weren't perfect, the dislike was inevitably going to be amplified.

Since those turbulent reactions to the prequels, however, has acquired the rights and a new trilogy has begun. The presence of a new creative input has put some of the sour feelings toward Lucas to the wayside and the expectations aren't nearly as high. It also helps that it's been just 10 years, not close to 20. By having new films to deconstruct, the disgruntled fans can move their focus away from their dislike of the prequel trilogy. Fortunately, the response to both The Force Awakens and Rogue One has been resoundingly positive, thus avoiding an escalation of the Star Wars hate.

'Rogue One' [Credit: Disney / Lucasfilm]
'Rogue One' [Credit: Disney / Lucasfilm]

Born Too Late For 'Empire,' Born Just In Time For Dank Prequel Memes

New films aren't the only reason for this tempering of hate toward the Star Wars prequels. The internet has found a way to collectively enjoy a divisive subject in the only way it knows how: memes. If you stumbled across /r/movies on Reddit this past April Fools' Day, you would've seen a beautiful abomination of prequel memes flooding the page. Prequel memes aren't exactly a new thing, but the collective effort in making as many as possible had the feel of some kind of hilarious catharsis of prequel hate.

In many ways, this could be bridging the gap between generations that grew up with different Star Wars films. There are those that were kids during the prequels making the memes. Those who are kids now enjoying meme-based Star Wars humor. Then there are the older fans who were disappointed by the prequels and who enjoyed the mocking of them. Instead of complaining about their dislike, they get involved in a more lighthearted way.

This community effort to share something about the prequels — in a way only the internet could — seems to have left people with a more lenient view of the more commonly raised issues with the prequel trilogy. So much so that the announcement of Hayden Christensen's involvement in the 40 year Star Wars Celebration was met with welcome surprise. Not only is this an acceptance by more fervent fans, but the invitation given to Christensen suggests the prequels are going to be more visible in big Star Wars releases and events — something Disney has avoided so far. Perhaps this is because Disney has sensed a shift in opinion.

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Time Heals All Wounds

Perhaps the most obvious reason for the reduction in Star Wars prequel hate is time. After 12 years, even the internet was going to grow wearisome of complaining about the same issues over and over. It's been established that Jar Jar Binks was annoying, we know the continuity isn't exactly perfect, and the dialogue was a mixed bag, but when you look back on the prequels, they haven't aged as horribly as the naysayers anticipated. They're obviously not as timeless as the original Star Wars trilogy, but in a cinematic climate of franchise extended universes, the expansive world building and storytelling in the prequels is something to be appreciated.

They say hindsight is 20/20 and what is being realized by the online fandom is that the Star Wars prequels don't only exist in their bubble. It's a multibillion-dollar franchise that reaches the casual fans as well. Although a film's financial success isn't always indicative of its craftsmanship, but to be monumentally successful at all points in its history says something about a franchise's relative overall quality.

During the release of any of the prequels, I don't recall anything like the level of dissatisfaction that existed within the bubble of the internet. It seems the online community is starting to adjust to the reality that Star Wars prequels can be enjoyed for a multitude of reasons, not just for the expectations of what the fandom wanted.

The eighth installment in the franchise, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, will be released to cinemas on December 15. Have your feelings toward the Star Wars prequels changed? Sound off in the comments section.

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