From Screen Rant:
“[…] Bring up pod racing, Dexter Jettster or younglings in online conversation today and you’ll find the vitriol that for the better part of two decades has dominated discussion of The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith has seemingly dissipated, or at the very least chilled. Rogue One featured settings and characters from movies long-derided to great excitement. Perennial punching bag Jar Jar Binks’ story was resolved and nobody was shouting obscenities. Hayden Christensen appeared at Star Wars Celebration to a standing ovation. The Star Wars prequels are, for lack of a better word, cool. And not just in an ironic, underrated way. How did this happen?
THE MILLENNIAL’S STAR WARS
This was, to a point, always inevitable. One of the major defenses of the prequels was that Lucas was returning Star Wars to children – not the children who grew up with the films in the 1980s, but the next generation – and if this was true, eventually those 1990s kids would grow up with a strong appreciation of Episodes I-III.
And that pretty much has happened. There’s an entire subculture of fans who grew up with Star Wars as six movies of indeterminable comparable quality; a cohesive saga amplified by a litany of era-jumping expanded material. They preach their love and, in doing so, many more raised to hate the prequels have found their hidden depths and learned to unironically appreciate the more kitsch elements. You’ll see this subculture most prominently in the usual internet ephemera, with memes; subreddit /r/PrequelMemes has grown from less than 1,000 users at the start of 2017 to almost 250,000 at the time of writing. In the newest internet controversy, WatchMojo changed the title of a prequel-bashing video after a slew of downvotes – but there’s a mature side to this too.
Nostalgia belongs to those with the defining culture voice. On the internet, that voice is fractured and twisted but typically comes from those aged 25-35. Today, on the lower extremity of that, you have those who were children when the prequels came out and possibly first experienced the galaxy far, far away with Anakin, rather than Luke. So, just as ten years ago the likes of Ghostbusters and Back to the Future – films that in 2017 are still universally accepted as greats but not readily raised touchstones – were the peak of throwback culture, now it’s shifting to The Matrix and, yes, Star Wars.
We’ve seen an increase of in-depth analysis surrounding the prequels, specifically its defenses, in recent years. It used to be simple statements of how good John Willaims’ score was and the innate awesomeness of the lightsaber duels, but now we have near-academic level theses like Ring Theory that probe the films’ narrative and thematic depths. There’s even a fair millennial response to the definitive backlash documentary The People Vs. George Lucas in the form of The Prequels Strike Back. Regardless of how far some ideas push it (the movies are far from flawless), through these, it’s become apparent of a larger vision and appreciation behind the prequels. […]
THE PREQUELS ARE DIFFERENT
[…] The prequels are different. They introduce a completely opposed galactic backdrop – a crumbling, corrupted Republic instead of a binary civil war – have a litany of fresh, sleek designs (before slowly evolving into the ships and planets we know), and for all the narrative parallels (as George famously said “it’s like poetry, they rhyme”) they’re telling a fresh story. Above all, they’re tonally separate. Anakin’s fall is a dark companion to Luke’s arc, yet it comes alongside Palpatine’s Machiavellian rise and dogmatic politics.
If you’re expecting the same old elements repeated, that’s going to jar, but as we’ve seen people don’t necessarily just want more of the same. Many of the issues the consensus have with the new movies are not present in the prequels (and some of the praised elements are), to a degree making them harder to hate – the justification is weaker – but mainly highlighting that there is something unique there. […]
THE PREQUELS ARE THE FUTURE?
Between Millennials inheriting the cultural voice and the previous generation moving on, the new movies offer a way to get over the disappointment and view the prequels in a new light, seeing them for what they are rather than what they aren’t. Of course, they’re never going to be viewed on a par with the originals but it’s now less egregious to suggest something like that than it was ten years ago. Star Wars fandom has gotten over the hate – it’s found balance.
And balance really is the word. There’s not been much in the way of prequel elements in the new movies, but one thing that is prominent in The Force Awakens and seems to inform where we’re going in The Last Jedi is the idea of balance in the Force, which comes from the Chosen One prophecy introduced in The Phantom Menace. Something from the prequels has been accepted into the fold as a defining trait of the series, and as time goes on we’re going to get more of that: Rebels has openly tied up loose ends from The Clone Wars; Han Solo may be set closer to Episode III than Episode IV; and an Obi-Wan movie would bring back Ewan McGregor, reaffirming that there are good things in those movies.
We stand on the brink of, after a dark couple of decades, Star Wars once again being a coherent whole with every movie a part of it – the fabric that all fans grew up with and deep down want. So maybe the prequels were always cool. It just took us time to realize.”