Review: The Prequels Strike Back: A Fan’s Journey

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As far as internet memes and online vitriol is concerned, there is no horse more dead than the Star Wars prequels. Released between 1999 and 2005, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith were greeted with immense fanfare and an almost instantaneous backlash. Now, over a decade after the fact, documentarian Bradley Weatherholt seeks to re-evaluate the trilogy that spawned so much aggression and nerd rage in his own journey of discovery.

The Prequels Strike Back: A Fan’s Journey has a very, very niche audience in mind, and it’s the exact kind of overly-analytical, endearing, impassioned and grandiose fare that could only come from a Star Wars fan. Very much a case of ‘does what it says on the tin’, Prequels Strike Back is one of those films whose title alone tells you whether or not this is something you want to watch, and indeed the very fact that you’re reading this review probably answers that within itself.

On its own merits, the documentary is astoundingly well-made; Slick graphics, smart transitions, and even filmed on location actual backdrops from the films such as in Tunisia – where Star Wars director George Lucas shot scenes for the desert home of Anakin Skywalker – the film ventures across the world to speak to Star Wars fans of all ages and backgrounds (both in favour and against the lambasted trilogy, and from all walks of life). Weatherholt’s documentary doesn’t waste a single moment of its brisk one-hour twenty-minute run time. It has a case to make, and it’ll be damned if it isn’t going to make it.

Whether or not you agree with said case, however, is where Prequels Strike Back will either simply satiate, or where it will sing. But, admirably, the film isn’t especially concerned with whether or not you believe its theories on ring composition, odes to silent filmmaking, and Dante comparisons. The core part of The Prequels Strike Back is its subtitle; A Fan’s Journey.

Yes, if you personally love the prequels, then this film will feel like a warm hug from an old friend. But if you don’t, there’s still something incredibly heartening in Weatherholt’s points, and in his genuine passion for these films and this franchise. Looking like the kind of guy you can find joking around in any comic book shop in the world, Bradley Weatherholt grounds the documentary with a reasonable and level-headed demeanour, anchoring the piece even when it delights in academic flights of fancy comparing George Lucas to Homer (author, not Simpson). He’s just a filmmaker who enjoys Star Wars, and there’s an honesty and a purity in his narration which stops the work from ever devolving into an out-and-out exercise in self-felatory fandom – even when the obligatory Kevin Smith talking head pops up..
It’s hard to see The Prequels Strike Back: A Fan’s Journey ever changing anyone’s opinions on the smartly-conceived, poorly-executed Star Wars prequels. But as an exploration and a revaluation of their merits in the cinematic canon and the franchise that they’re a part of, it’s a successful and entertaining endeavour that’s just a smidge too close to its source.

The Prequels Strike Back: A Fan’s Journey is available on VOD now. Check out the free preview below.

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