The Phantom Menace is considered by many to be the weakest link in the franchise’s big-screen history, and while the biggest complaints center on the performance by child actor Jake Lloyd and a certain clumsy new character (more on him in a moment), some fans were left cold by the introduction of midi-chlorians, cellular organisms that — according to Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) — communicate the will of the Force to the Jedi. Because of his extraordinarily high midi-chlorian count, Anakin (Lloyd) is identified as “the chosen one” who would bring balance to the Force.
However, some feel that this explanation demystifies the spiritual nature of the Force as it was discussed by Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) in the original film. No wonder J.J. Abrams has already confirmed that midi-chlorians won’t even receive a mention in The Force Awakens.
2. Jar Jar Binks and the Gungans
When Star Wars fans decry that the prequel trilogy besmirched the series’ good name, the good-natured, but controversial, Jar Jar Binks is often the most cited flaw. A Gungan from the underwater Naboo city of Otoh Gunga, Binks (voiced by Ahmed Best) crosses paths with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) early in The Phantom Menace and becomes an instrumental part of Queen Padmé Amidala’s (Natalie Portman) victory against the Trade Federation’s droid army. Despite his key role, fan outrage against the character’s annoying voice, bumbling demeanor, and potentially racist depiction likely helped decrease his role in the rest of the prequel trilogy, as well as his indirect role in creating the Empire. Since Abrams’ new film is faced with overcoming the stigma of those films, don’t expect Binks (or his race) to show up anytime soon, save for perhaps a morbid cameo appearance.
3. Anakin Skywalker’s Past
In hindsight, the prequels might have done more harm than good in exploring the origins of the iconic and menacing Darth Vader. Like Lloyd, actor Hayden Christensen was maligned by critics and fans for his portrayal of Anakin Skywalker in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, with many feeling that his character comes across as creepy in his romance with Padmé, and whiny throughout his fall to the dark side.
However, now that this story has been told, there’s little point in the films referencing it going forward. In fact, future Star Wars adventures are perhaps better off restoring the mystery surrounding Anakin’s descent, allowing viewers who didn’t enjoy the prequels to disassociate them from the upcoming films. This approach holds especially true if Vader admirer Kylo Ren’s (Adam Driver) role in The Force Awakens signals a greater presence for the late Sith Lord in future films.
4. Over-reliance on CGI
Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, George Lucas and the creative team involved in the original trilogy wowed moviegoers with innovative special effects that used a combination of stop-motion, miniatures, and other techniques to create visuals that (mostly) hold up today. Yet, by the time Lucas returned to the franchise — first for the original trilogy Special Edition in 1997, and then the prequels — this resourceful approach to bringing the Star Wars universe to life was replaced with an abundance of computer-generated effects that made some longtime fans feel as if the tangible world inhabited by their favorite heroes now had more in common with a video game than the immersive fantasy adventures they grew up with. So far, it looks like Abrams is attempting to balance practical effects with CGI, but here’s hoping that filmmakers like Rian Johnson and Colin Trevorrow continue that tradition with their films.
5. Force Ghosts
That first time Obi-Wan speaks to Luke (Hamill) from beyond the grave in A New Hope remains one of the most moving moments in the saga, and the presence of Force ghosts became more prominent throughout the original trilogy.
Although it made sense for Obi-Wan to guide Luke following his own death, bringing the concept of “becoming one with the Force” into the new films might be a misstep. Not only does it open up a ton of new unanswered questions (can Sith become Force ghosts too?) but it could actually lessen the stake of character deaths going forward. The addition of Christensen in the Blu-ray version of Return of the Jedi (see above) muddles the rules even more, as it wouldn’t fit for Ewan McGregor to suddenly assume the role of a younger version of ghost Obi-Wan. For now, the films should give Force ghosts a break and focus on establishing the new characters and status quo.
6. Pandering to Younger Viewers
Aside from the Gungans, the Ewoks are probably the most debated alien species in the Star Wars universe. However, while the teddy bear-like warriors are easy targets, they’re really just symptomatic of a larger issue that some of the Star Wars films have. Since the saga is intended to be an adventure that families can enjoy together, it’s easy to see why it has slipped into juvenile territory now and again, with Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace as perhaps the biggest offenders. Still, trying to appease to the children in the audience does no favors to the epic scope of the Star Wars saga. If anything, cuddly characters, poop jokes, and goofy musical numbers only take viewers out of the experience. The most beloved films of the saga feature little to none of this low-brow approach to make it all seem “fun” and “light-hearted”. There’s no need for such childish antics to inject humor into Star Wars; just ask Han Solo.
7. Han-Leia-Luke triangle
It’s been well-documented that Lucas hadn’t yet decided that Luke and Leia would be brother and sister when crafting the story for The Empire Strikes Back, thus the most awkward kissing scene in the history of cinema was born.
What was initially an act of spite on Leia’s part to make Han jealous, instead added a disturbing new dimension to the Skywalker twins’ relationship. The chances that the love triangle among the original trilogy’s three main characters would ever come up again in the films is probably close to zero, as the door has obviously been closed following the pair’s discovery that they’re siblings in Return of the Jedi. However, just to be safe, let’s keep repressing memories of the Luke and Leia pairing that almost was and pretend the above moment never happened. Deal?