A funny thing happened on the way home from the latest Star Wars movie, for many fans it seems.
If you read a lot of online buzz, you tend to find extremes. You either feel extreme hate or extreme love, and you're expected to defend your position with vitriol.
One can read for many hours days in imdb discussion groups about whether or not Kylo Ren's wonky lightsaber is cool, stupid, or whether it's even technologically achievable given the whacked-out physics of the Star Wars fictional universe.
On most topics, internet culture held true, except for one: the prequel trilogy.
All of a sudden, you'd hear things like, "one of the strengths of the prequel trilogy was..." or "if you forgive the missteps, the underlying themes of the prequels were...", or even "the superior visual storytelling of the prequels, which was where George Lucas has always excelled... "
Wait, what? Forgive the prequels? Strengths? Themes? George Lucas excelled at something!?
All of a sudden, amid all the extreme views being formed about The Force Awakens, a moderate view of the prequels began to emerge. And perhaps, they weren't that bad after all.
I'm no fan of the prequels myself. I didn't think the story really kicked off until the third movie, and while some of the action set pieces in the Clone Wars were fun and visually impressive (and I admit, I liked it enough to see it twice, an honour I declined last week for TFA), I had the same reaction as most. Can't we just erase this from Star Wars cannon and pretend it never pulled down an otherwise fantastic cultural phenomenon?
But when they came out and all the outcry about their inconsistent quality and faltering tone turned into downright out-sobbing-into-wheaties, I turned my mind back to the original trilogy and realised something shocking: I hadn't really liked those movies either.
After sitting on this shameful opinion for a few years, I sheepishly shared this revelation with a few friends, after seeing TFA. And amazingly, I didn't get the outraged responses I was expecting. It was more along the lines of "yeah they were great for their time, but they don't hold up today" or, even better, "you know, I never really got the whole Star Wars thing..."
So for me, it has been a fascinating journey watching this "Star Wars" movie soap opera unfold, because I always felt somewhat separate from it, not identifying myself as a fan.
For all the fun I had watching TFA, and I did like the movie, I think the most important function it has had in this ongoing battle is to provide perspective. Now that we have a point of comparison, perhaps we can admit how to truly feel about the franchise, without the need for internet extremism.
Yes, the new film is fun, but lacks the allegory and philosophical underpinnings of the previous films. The prequel trilogies were dumb, but had some amazing stuff in them. And, dare I say it now? The Original Trilogy was a mind-blowing spectacle in it's day, but judged purely as a set of narrative movies, doesn't deserve the elevated god-like status it has long held in the eyes of many fans.
There I said it. Now let's all get on with our lives.