Before you say anything, I know how crazy that title sounds. But stick with me on this, because the prequels really aren't as bad as you remember. Trust me. Now before anyone tries to beat me over the head with their homemade lightsaber, let's get started.
My Tumultuous Relationship With Star Wars
I'm a HUGE Star Wars fan. Not in the 'collect all the toys, name my kids Luke & Leia' kind of way, but in the way that the original trilogy means more to me than perhaps any other film series in history. To this day, I remember being the happy-go-lucky 13 year old kid who went to see The Phantom Menace in the cinema, and I LOVED it! And then, I didn't watch it again for a few years, in fact I was probably a stroppy-go-moody 16 year old kid by the time I watched it again, and boy did it suck. Then came Attack Of The Clones, and it sucked. Revenge Of The Sith was somewhat forgivable, but it was nothing close to the originals. I wasn't one of these guys who hated the new flicks so much that I thought George Lucas was the next Judas, but boy did they sting. What had happened to our beloved franchise? What had happened?
As quickly as that, I felt myself falling out of love with everything to do with Star Wars. Clone Wars? No thanks. Even the original trilogy would take a back seat to Back To The Future, and then later on Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy and Marvel's MCU. Star Wars was so far down the list that it may as well not exist.
I Found The Love
I'm going to digress somewhat here, but bear with me because it will all come back to the prequels in the end. In late 2012, an announcement was made that would shake me to my core. A new Star Wars was being made? Whose idea was this? Is George involved again? What if it turns out as bad as last time? WHY, GODAMMIT?! As the months and years rolled on, more announcements were made - JJ Abrams was directing, the original cast were returning, George WASN'T involved. I got more and more excited. By the time release day rolled around, there I was, standing in my local cinema at midnight, in my Stormtrooper 3D glasses, my Sith robe (which is actually my dressing gown), my New Hope t-shirt and I felt like a kid at Christmas - if Christmas was even more awesome.
In we went, we had a screen to ourselves (the projectionist of said cinema being one of your best friends has its advantages), and only had one trailer to sit through which happened to be Captain America: Civil War, so it was great. I emerged some two hours and twenty minutes later a changed man. It felt like after all those years of searching, I'd found my first love again.
I spent most of the drive home with my eyes and mouth wide open, in awe of the wonderful story I had just experienced. This must be what a religious awakening feels like. I got home, and this is where our real story begins.
Kids Change Your Perspective
I'm lucky enough to be a father to two wonderful little boys - one just turned 1 and the other is 2 and a half. When I arrived home at 3-something in the morning, I made the wise decision to sleep on the sofa because this would give me at least an extra 20 minutes sleep before a certain toddler-sized monster decided to jump all over me. It turns out, this would be the morning my eldest learned how to climb under the upstairs stair-gate and open the downstairs stair-gate. So at 5:30am after a mere two hours sleep I get woken by a slapping on the head accompanied by,
'Daddy, what's doing downstairs, Daddy?'
To which I respond 'Daddy went to see Star Wars last night buddy, so Daddy was just trying to get a bit more sleep before you woke me up!' I grit my teeth and turn on the kettle because coffee always helps.
'Daddy, what Star Wars?'
It's worth pointing out here that the pronunciation isn't as good as you're imagining, but he is damn good with his words. As he asked that question, I stopped making coffee, knelt down and held his hands; 'Baby, Star Wars is the greatest story ever told.' He tilted his head to the side and simply said,
'Theo watch Star Wars too.'
His name is Theo, in case you wondered. He also loves to talk about himself in the third person, just like The Rock. My kid is awesome.
Coffee now forgotten, I opened my Star Wars Blu-Ray box set and looked for a second. Now, the kid is 2 so I had to choose one that would really grab his attention, and I chose The Phantom Menace. For a wonderful 2 hours and 16 minutes, I sat down with my son and watched Star Wars. We didn't really talk much other than him saying:
'Naughty, silly rabbit.'
'Big, naughty fish' *giggle*
The first giant fish when they're leaving Gungan City.
'Oooooooo, big spaceship!'
Literally every single spaceship.
We must've watched Episode 1 four or five times since then, and each time is equally as fun as the last. He still gets completely enthralled by the battle droids, a bit scared by Darth Maul, and falls completely in love with Padme (my boy has taste).
Isn't it interesting that here we are, some 17 years later, and children of this young age are benefiting from these stories that were crafted to appeal to an entirely different generation. It really makes you wonder - was George playing the long-game all along? He probably wasn't, but you never know!
I know it isn't the best film ever made, but my God did George Lucas make a Star Wars to capture the imagination of an entirely new generation, just not the generation he was aiming for. If you've got a young child, sit down with them, put on The Phanton Menace and just watch them fall in love with this world that you've loved for years. Just like you did back in the day, it's a wonderful, magical experience.
And now I find myself counting down the minutes until The Force Awakens is released on Blu-Ray because my God, that kid is going to love BB-8.
If you like my take on Star Wars, you'd probably like my podcast, why not take a listen?