These are not the Prequels you’re looking for

The world can feel like a raging dumpster fire these days, but at least we have Star Wars.

I saw The Last Jedi today, and I want to write some things down about it, but I don’t want to dive too deep into it yet; I want to ruminate a little bit.

However, I’m struck by some interesting bird’s eye thoughts about the series, and I don’t mind getting into that right away. Which is to say: Something is different about the new movies. The original trilogy changed culture and film forever. The prequels were a mistake best forgotten as soon as possible. And the new trilogy is something else.

It’d be a mistake to compare the new films to the original trilogy. As well compare the second atomic bomb blast to the first. It’s still devastating and awe-inspiring, but we also know more or less what to expect. But it’s fascinating to compare the new trilogy to the prequels, because the contrasts are striking.

The prequels took characters we know and love and showed them as they were, rounding out the films with all the gaudy stuff that made Star Wars flashy: light saber battles, space dogfights, over-the-top villains. The new films take the same characters and re-invent them, showing us what happens after the ragtag heroes save the universe (spoiler alert, it always needs saving again). The gaudy stuff is still there, but there’s some damn good storytelling going on, too. The villains are more conflicted. The good guys are less white-knight-ey. You know. Like the originals.

The prequels paid homage to the originals by focusing on the flash (look at how Darth Vader becomes Darth Vader! New, weird lightsabers in every movie! Look at all this CGI!) over story (see: Anakin and Padme in episode 2, the scene with the sand, for some of the absolute awfulest writing you will ever see in mainstream cinema). The new series pays homage by focusing on the story and the characters — you know, like good stories should. The heroes make mistakes and pay serious consequences. The villains are flawed and vulnerable. The outcomes are ever in doubt, even when it feels like they are inevitable.

The new movies are a hell of a ride, and a ride worth taking. Which is more than we can say for the prequels.

You’re probably going to see The Last Jedi anyway. But, you know. If you weren’t, you should.

This post is part of Stream-of-Consciousness Saturday.