Metru Nui and Midichlorians
Wait, hold on. Back up. Star Wars premiered. That was the important thing - some would argue that it has impacted the world more so than anything else that has its roots in 1977. (Apple, of course, would like a word with you if you agree.)
Star Wars - or, as it's known now, A New Hope - was the highest grossing film for the time, and its cultural impact was astounding. By the time the original trilogy was completed in 1983, the Star Wars franchise was a remarkable success. For a long time, it just sat there, continuing to pile up cash for George Lucas. Its fans thought of it very highly, and praised the series for pretty much all of its aspects.
At the same time, something was missing, though only Lucas saw it. His original vision for Star Wars involved a total of nine or even twelve films. This was repeated often enough by Lucas, and by those close to him, to be taken as credible, and now, with Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm, will become a reality. Like any other story, as it evolved, Lucas's vision changed. Instead of being the story of a group of people, Star Wars became about Anakin Skywalker: his powers, his fall, and his eventual redemption. Lucas talked of a nine-film arc as late as 1994, but it soon became clear that the "original" version of the sequel trilogy, as he envisioned it, wouldn't come to pass.
Soon enough, 1997 came along, and with it Lucas began to enrage his fans with the release of the "Special Edition" versions of the original trilogy. I've seen the changes myself, and not being a complete Star Wars nut, I can't bring myself to see what the big deal is about Han or Greedo shooting first. (I can't ever remember which one was the original, let alone why the fans got their jimmies collectively rustled.) The rest of the changes are so minor as to be unnoticeable to all but the most dedicated fans. And I'll be honest here - some of the changes improved the overall look and feel of the films, as well as correcting some errors left over from the original versions. For example, the Special Edition version of the Rebel-Empire battle in A New Hope is much cleaner and smoother than the original, and the CGI works.
Two years after this debacle, The Phantom Menace debuts.
And the fans, for the most part, think it sucks.
But ... why? The Phantom Menace isn't the best movie ever made, but there was an undue amount of hate on it. Fans pointed to many things: the de-mystifying of the Force (in an undramatic scene, no less), an awesome villain called Darth Maul that got no characterization and little screen time save for the single best swordfighting scene in all of film. But not even the fight could escape criticism; fans viewed it as unrealistic.
(Of course, "unrealistic" is a silly word to throw around when you have a universe full of laser swords, telekinesis, space stations the size of moons that can obliterate planets, and an army of overweight teddy bears taking down a fully trained - and fully armored! - army. I'm just sayin'.)
Then came Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith, and they got ripped for pretty much the same reason: Hayden Christensen.
Ever since 2005, there have been wars over the Internet, pitting the originals against the prequels. Mainly, it's the folks who outright hate the prequels with every atom of their being versus the folks who say "well gee, the prequels weren't as good as the originals but they weren't that bad."
I agree with the latter, as does TMD.
In thinking about the subject, I slogged through pro- and anti-prequel articles, videos, and comments from all over the Internet. What I tried to do with all this was to boil it down to something simple, a statement about why the prequels are so commonly despised.
The Star Wars prequel trilogy is disliked amongst fans because it disrupted everything about what they knew about the universe they had come to love.
Between the release of Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace, fans created an expanded canon that built off of where Jedi left off. They left what happened before Episode IV alone. The mystery was a part of the canon. The Force was magical; Yoda didn't mention anything about midichlorians when he was teaching Luke on Dagobah.
Now, switching gears (though not really). BIONICLE.
2001 to 2003 was the "original trilogy" of BIONICLE. There was mystery about the universe, the bad guy was bad for who knows what reasons, but we didn't care because he was awesome.
Yeah, I thought so.
This is where it gets interesting, and where there are a lot of BIONICLE-Star Wars parallels. The "prequels" of BIONICLE were 2004 and 2005, when we learned that Vakama was once a depressed and possibly emo Toa of Fire who led a motley crew to the extremes of Metru Nui to find disks and destroy an oversized weed.
Huh. Maybe we should hire the Toa Metru to clean out the Kudzu that clutters up quite a bit of North Carolina.
Most of the story parallels would be silly to make, because while they have tropes in common, for the most part they're completely different stories. (Well, aside from Teridax and Emperor Palpatine: same guy, different universe.) What I'm interested in here is the fan reaction.
2004 was greeted by the BIONICLE community as being fresh, exciting, and so wonderfully new ... the sets had new molds, new colors, and more articulation than you could shake your blocky bley fist at.
As the years have dragged on, though, the distaste for '04 (and '05, to a greater extent) has grown. '01-'03 were nostalgic, simple in some ways, complex in others. The entire story was like a riddle wrapped around an enigma fried up in a conundrum with Chinese mustard dipping sauce, and there were no complaints about this, just as there were none when old Ben Kenobi taught Luke about the ways of the Force. No one asked "why are there masks on this island and why did the Toa get there?" just as no one asked "why can that wrinkled muppet lift a starfighter?"
You can see where I'm going from here. George Lucas and Greg Farshtey both have almost singlehandedly developed entire universes. In each case, their stories start out in the middle of things, and when the backstory is revealed, the fans have mixed reactions, at best.
In each case, it is due to the fact that the fan bases generate a collective idea about what came before. Each fan base has a different take - BIONICLE's is one of theorizing and speculation, while Star Wars's was one of apathy towards what begot their beloved movies. Demystification doesn't make the originals less enjoyable, but no Star Wars fan can watch any of the original movies without the voice of Jar Jar Binks taking a cheese grater to their cerebral cortex.
In each case, the "magic of the original" was lost. Metru Nui felt different from Mata Nui for the same reasons as the prequels felt different from the originals. They both couldn't have been more different from their predecessors.
In each case, the main architect of the series was vilified for changing too much original material. Greg got serious heat for revealing Makuta's real name, retconning the '01-'02 flirting, etc. This is not much different from Lucas tinkering with the movies, or informing us that midichlorians exist.
And in each case, the ones who criticize the harshest are often the ones who are most passionate about what they criticize.
NEXT TIME: SUMIKI TESTS POSITIVE FOR MIDICHLORIANS AND GETS A PHONE CALL FROM LANCE ARMSTRONG.