In almost every press article about Obi-Wan Kenobi, they tell you the same story, which can be summed up as follow. “The Episodes I, II and III of Star Wars were universally panned when they were released. Everyone hated them. Except the children, who are now grown up and and can at last fully express their love for the Prequel Trilogy.”
It’s a nice story, and many people have accepted it as truth, whether they like the Prequels or not. But it’s actually completely false.
The reality is that every movie of the Prequel Trilogy was well-received by critics. In 2005, the review-aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes published an article about the critical reception of each Star Wars movie at the time of their original release. It included this ranking based on the percentage of good reviews:
“83% – Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
79% – Star Wars
65% – Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
62% – Star wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
52% – The Empire Strikes Back
31% – Return of the Jedi”
Yes, you’ve read that correctly. Every Prequel got a majority of good reviews. The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones had a better critical reception than The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. And Revenge of The Sith had been even more praised than the original Star Wars.
So why are we told otherwise? This is largely due to the Prequel bashers and their relays in the media, who afterwards constantly repeated that the Prequels sucked and that nobody liked them, without any statistical backing. These strange and obsessive people had influence in the 2000’s and the 2010’s, and they succeeded to impose their views. “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth.”
But ironically, George Lucas is also responsible for the success of this falsehood. The creator of the Star Wars saga was one of those who propagated the theory that only children had liked the Prequels. He acted as if the clear majority of good reviews had never existed. “Why would I make any more [Star Wars movies], when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?”, Lucas said in 2012.
Maybe Lucas was too affected by the toxic environment created by the Prequel bashers. Maybe he was trying to convince himself to break free from Star Wars and move on with his life. Maybe a little bit of both.
Regardless, the facts are there. The three Star Wars Prequels were well-received by critics at the time of their release. The story that these movies were universally panned is false.