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Lucasfilm Ltd.
Liam Neeson, right, as Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, and Ewan McGregor, as a young Obi-Wan Kenobi, in "The Phantom Menace."

It’s hard to think of a man who is so passionately loved and hated by the same group of people as George Lucas.

In the years since he followed up the success of the original Star Wars trilogy with the generally unloved prequels, bitter fans have mourned the destruction of their childhood while their own kids have played with Anakin Skywalker action figures on Christmas morning.

But it is impossible to decry the failure of Lucas’ Star Wars prequels without giving him credit for the greatness of the original trilogy. We couldn’t hate the prequels if we didn’t love the original films.

Four years ago, I met Lucas at a mall in downtown Chicago. Clad in his trademark blue jeans and checkered shirt, I found him trying on overcoats in the Nordstrom men’s department. I was a little nervous to bother him in a public setting, but considering the impact he made on my youth, there was no way I could let the chance to meet him go by.

When I stopped him, I didn’t ask him what went wrong, or what he was thinking when he dreamed up Jar-Jar Binks. I just shook his hand and told him thanks.

Whether you think Lucas destroyed your childhood or whether you think he can do whatever he wants with his franchise, you can’t point the finger at him for his failures without lifting him up for his successes. Without Lucas, there is no Star Wars in the first place.

Now that Disney has taken the torch from Lucas, die-hard fans are bracing to see their favorite franchise born anew, or obliterated completely. As Disney works to get a new film off the ground, the company would be wise to consider what the prequels seemed to get so wrong, and remember what went right the first time around.

Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photojournalist who also teaches English Composition for Salt Lake Community College. You can see more of his work at www.woundedmosquito.com.