It’s tough to remember now, but there was a time when the entire world was clamoring for more Star Wars. After Return of the Jedi came out in 1983, fans were hungry for content and for 16 long years, all fans had was comics, books, and video games. In 1999, though, The Phantom Menace came out. It kicked off an entirely new Star Wars trilogy, introducing new characters while also fleshing out more of the characters that we already knew and loved. And at the end of the day, these movies made a significant impact on the entire franchise. Of course, simply getting extra info about stories, characters, and events that had only been hinted at before was what fans were not expecting. What fans did not expect, though, was all of the different ways that these new movies completely changed what we knew about the old movies.
And it’s a really impressive list, too. Everything from what characters wore to the powers they had to their dark and sordid past was changed or recontextualized in some way -- once you notice these things, you are never able to look at the Original Trilogy in the same way again. Don’t believe us? That’s okay. We scoured the Jedi Archives for plenty of great examples, and we even consulted a handful of younglings before Anakin could get to them. Now, you don’t even need to find a Jedi holocron to get these secrets. All you have to do is keep scrolling to discover 20 Weirdest ways Star Wars prequels changed the Original Trilogy!
20 JEDI UNIFORM
By now, everyone knows what the Jedi uniform looks like -- robes and tunics, right? However, many fans don’t remember that this was a change instituted by the Phantom Menace. In fact, this “uniform” used to be something else entirely, as you can see way back in A New Hope.
In the first Star Wars movie, robes and hoods were nothing more than a way of blending in. This was Obi-Wan’s way of laying low -- especially on a planet where everyone from Jawas to Imperial spies had a similar look. If this was originally intended to be a Jedi uniform, then it would make no sense for Obi-Wan to dress this way when he was trying to lay low!
19 SUPER ACROBATS
Everyone loves the “duel of the fates” in The Phantom Menace, as seeing Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn taking on Darth Maul was undeniably an awesome sight. However, this fight redefined the Jedi and their fighting style to be insanely acrobatic.
In the Original Trilogy, the lightsaber battles were much more low-key. No super Force-jumps, no super-speed, no Force Pushes... in fact, the flashiest thing we ever saw was a lightsaber throw. And while this isn’t as visually exciting to watch, it’s a good metaphor for the Original Trilogy (substance over style) and the Prequel Trilogy (style over substance). It turns out that style isn’t everything!
18 JEDI TRAINING
A really surprising element of the Prequel Trilogy was that Jedi training now took ten or more years. We see Anakin recruited at the age of nine, and he’s not a Jedi yet by the age of 20 in Attack of the Clones, and this is seemingly one of the reasons that the Jedi Council insists on training Jedi from such a young age.
However, this is quite different from the Original Trilogy. There, Luke had basically a long weekend of training from Obi-Wan and a few weeks on Dagobah. This, plus confronting Vader, made him a Jedi Knight! As it turns out, the most powerful of the Jedi got less than one percent of the training everyone else did.
17 DEATH STAR DESIGN
As the Prequel Trilogy went on, more and more references and easter eggs to the Original Trilogy popped up. For instance, in Attack of the Clones, we see that the Death Star designs did not start with the Empire. Instead, they were taken from a Geonosian leader by Count Dooku.
However, that’s not how it went down in the Original Trilogy. Not only did all the movies imply the Death Star was an Imperial design, but the once-canonical EU allowed us to meet the Imperial designer (a man named Bevel Lemelisk). And arguably, making the Death Star a stolen design makes the Empire seem a lot less cool than it once did.
16 MEMORIES OF MOM
Do you remember Padme being discussed in the Original Trilogy? Not by name, of course, but in Return of the Jedi, Leia discusses memories of her mother, whom she describes as being nice, but sad. Of course, Revenge of the Sith shows us the big problem with this.
In that movie, we see Padme infamously pass away immediately after giving birth to her children. Not only would Leia not be likely to have any memory of her mother’s face, but she certainly wouldn’t know anything about her personality. Maybe she was just stuff up to help Luke somehow feel better?
15 DOWN LOW DROID
Part of Obi-Wan’s character in the Original Trilogy was that he was a bit of a liar. Mostly, he lied about the “Darth Vader killed your father” thing. However, thanks to the prequels, he’s a liar about something else completely different: meeting R2-D2!
When Luke brings the droid to Obi-Wan, he says he doesn’t recognize him and also never owned a droid. In the prequels, we see that Obi-Wan should be quite familiar with R2 (Anakin’s faithful droid), and he seemingly had his own droid for when he flew starships. Maybe the heat of the twin suns turned this Jedi Master into a compulsive liar?
14 SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL
You’ve probably picked up on the fact that many of the changes that the prequels made to the Original Trilogy are bad ones. However, that’s not true for all changes, and one of the best ones concerns everyone’s favorite villain: Darth Vader.
Previously, Vader was presented as someone who fully chose to walk the path of evil. In short, he was nothing but a victimizer. However, the prequels showed us how he was manipulated by Palpatine and effectively had no choice but to become an agent of the Empire. In this way, Anakin is actually a victim, and a much more sympathetic character.
13 DROID PREJUDICE
One of the weirder scenes in A New Hope was when C3PO and R2D2 tried to walk into the Mos Eisley Cantina. The gruff bartender immediately rushes them out, saying that “we don’t serve their kind here.” For years, fans wondered what his problem was (or if he was just being prudent because droids don’t eat or drink).
However, thanks to the prequels, we now know that the galaxy was nearly torn in half thanks in part to the droid armies of the CIS, and because the Republic won and became the Empire, the history books are likely to place most of the blame on these droid armies. So just like that, weird anti-droid prejudice is explained!
12 BOBA FETT ORIGIN
Hype for Boba Fett was built up through everything from an animated cameo in the Holiday Special to a mail-in toy promotion. That hype continued after Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi premiered, so it was no surprise that the later Expanded Universe gave Fett an origin story.
According to these stories, he was either a Journeyman Protector convicted of treason or a a former Stormtrooper who ended up taking out his commanding officer. When Attack of the Clones came out, though, all this changed, and Fett was now simply a revenge-driven clone of his headless father, Jango Fett.
11 THE ARMY RISES
The Empire is basically defined by its army of Stormtroopers and other troops. Previously, our understanding of this Empire was as simple as the Emperor getting enough like-minded soldiers to support his cause. Thanks to the prequels, we know there was much more to it than that.
Previously, the Old Republic had no standing army. It took master manipulation to create an army of clones, and while the Stormtroopers we see later are either volunteers or conscripts, none of it could have happened if the clones hadn’t helped normalize the idea of an army in the eyes of galactic citizens.
10 THE FORCE ITSELF
Perhaps the most controversial change the prequels made concerned how The Force worked. Previously, this was all about mysticism -- the Force couldn’t be measured so much as felt, and every Force user seemingly had the same potential. With enough concentration and belief, aspiring Jedi can lift anything from rocks to starships.
The Phantom Menace changed all of that. Now, the Force wasn’t mysticism -- it was created by microscopic creatures known as midichlorians. With a simple blood scan, you could gauge how powerful someone was and basically study The Force like it was any other science. Fans absolutely hated this change, which is why we never heard about these midichlorians again.
9 OBI-WAN’S MASTER
While midichlorians got most of the fan hate, there was another controversial change made by The Phantom Menace. Previously, we were told that Obi-Wan’s master was Yoda, which is why he wanted Luke to train with Yoda. However, the prequels show us that seemingly all of Obi-Wan’s direct training came from Qui-Gon Jinn.
Sure, you can make the argument that Yoda was still his master in the sense that he advised plenty of Jedi, but this revelation seems to really depersonalize Luke’s training. It’s like Obi-Wan Kenobi settled for hooking Luke up with his old college advisor instead of any of his actual professors.
8 X-WING DESIGN
Star Wars is a franchise filled with many iconic starships, but thanks to Luke blowing up the Death Star, the X-Wing quickly became the most famous of the ships. So thanks to the prequels, we now have an entirely different story for where the X-Wing design came from.
Previously, the only forebears for the X-Wing ships were the Z-95 Headhunters. However, in Revenge of the Sith, we see the Aggressive ReConnaissance 170 Starfighter. This design is very similar to the X-Wing, and it also implies that the rebels of the future are actually using a design that started with the Republic-turned-Empire they are now fighting.
7 HOW VADER LOST HIS ARM
For better or for worse, the prequels set out to explain almost everything they could about the Original Trilogy. Inevitably, that included how Anakin Skywalker lost his arm -- it occurred during a duel with Count Dooku that went south very quickly. However, this differs greatly from the canon we once had.
According to some of the Expanded Universe novels by Timothy Zahn and others, it was actually the Emperor who took Vader’s arm as punishment for the destruction of the Death Star. Arguably, the prequel change was more exciting, although the Emperor punishing his employee seems very on-brand for him.
6 YODA THE WARRIOR
Do you remember the first time you saw Attack of the Clones? When Yoda pulled out his lightsaber to duel Count Dooku, it made entire theaters break out into cheers. While the fight was cool, seeing Yoda as some kind of super fighter goes against everything we knew about him before.
In Empire Strikes Back, he chides Luke for asking after a “great warrior,” telling him “wars do not make one great.” Yoda emphasized a path of peace and insisted that Jedi only use their powers for defense. However, in addition to his lightsaber antics, we see Yoda preemptively knocking out guards in Revenge of the Sith.
5 LIGHTSABER ACE PALPATINE
Much like Yoda, the Emperor is another character that was re-contextualized by the prequels. In Return of the Jedi, he didn’t rely on a lightsaber. Instead, he was able to his the raw power of the Force in order to subdue his enemies.
In Revenge of the Sith, though, we see that Palpatine is a lightsaber ace who can slay three Jedi in the blink of an eye. Like seeing Yoda fight, this is a cool and crowd-pleasing moment, but it makes you wonder why he ever stopped using his lightsaber to switch to less efficient Force Lightning that left him vulnerable to Vader.
4 JEDI POWER LEVEL
We alluded to this earlier, but one of the biggest changes the prequels made involved the overall Jedi power level. Whereas we previously saw Jedi doing slow duels and lifting rocks, we now see them jumping multiple stories, running with super speed, and just generally being borderline unstoppable.
In all fairness, the prequels explicitly addressed this when Mace Windu spoke with Yoda about their powers diminishing. All of this makes us look at the Original Trilogy in a whole new way, knowing that these powerful warriors are basically the weak leftovers from what came before. Kinda takes the shine off all those classic duels!
3 WHERE ARE THE DARK JEDI AT?
Obviously, the prequels focused on the Sith tradition of always having a master and an apprentice, and this was a tradition that goes back to the old Tales of the Jedi comics. However, one thing that surprised many fans was the absence of Dark Jedi.
Sure, “only two” Sith makes sense due to their code, but previous novels, comics, and video games often focused on Jedi going rogue and becoming evil. So over the course of three prequels, it was surprising to see no fallen Jedi. The only exception is Count Dooku (who promptly became a Sith, anyway, making the example moot).
2 GREAT PILOT?
One of the few details we get about Vader before he was Vader is that he was a great pilot. In fact, Obi-Wan Kenobi insists that Anakin was already an amazing pilot as soon as they met. Thanks to the Phantom Menace, though, we know that this is stretching the truth quite a bit.
You see, Anakin is an ace podracer when Obi-Wan meets him. This is surely impressive (we are told no other human can do it), but it’s not the same as being a starship pilot. When we do see Anakin pilot a starship later, he basically succeeds just by hitting random buttons until things start exploding.
1 C-3PO ORIGIN
Remember when we said that the prequels felt the need to explain just about everything from the Original Trilogy? This also included where C-3PO came from. Unfortunately, the explanation was pretty insane, and everything else about his story was fairly insane.
The Phantom Menace showed us that C-3PO was actually built by Darth Vader when he was a young boy. Not only does this seem like an insane cosmic coincidence, but it also makes us wonder what he was thinking. He wanted his mother to have help with labor, so... he built her a protocol droid? Just when you thought young Anakin couldn’t get more annoying.