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Face facts, Star Wars fans. It might be a while before we journey back to a “galaxy far, far away.”

With the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the saga has reached a turning point. The new film — directed by The Force Awakens‘ J.J. Abrams — concludes the series’ focus on the Skywalker family. Other than the announced Disney+ shows, we have no idea what the future of Star Wars looks like.

Of course, this isn’t the first time fans went an extended period without any new Star Wars movies. After Return of the Jedi rounded out the original trilogy in 1983, 16 years passed before The Phantom Menace hit theaters. Then, The Force Awakens came a full decade after George Lucas finished the prequels. But now that the third Star Wars trilogy has ended, fans are reflecting on its place in the saga’s history.

A 'Star Wars' fan wearing a Princess Leia costume
A ‘Star Wars’ fan wearing a Princess Leia costume | JAVIER TOVAR/AFP via Getty Images

How ‘Star Wars’ fans feel about the prequels

In the eyes of many Star Wars fans, the original trilogy is beyond reproach. While the fandom routinely criticizes the 1997 Special Editions and subsequent changes, 1977’s A New Hope and its sequels remain the hallmark all other Star Wars projects are judged against. So the prequel trilogy had a lot to live up to.

When they were released, the prequels — especially the first two — were derided for their shoddy writing and lackluster performances. Fans levied such harsh criticisms toward Jake Lloyd and Ahmed Best that both actors experienced deep personal troubles in the years since. The early-era CGI has not aged well, and the prequel trilogy, while commercially successful, placed a black mark on Star Wars‘ permanent record.

But just as a generation of fans grew up during the arrival of the original trilogy, so too have the prequels inspired devoted fandom. As the moviegoers who were children in the early 2000s have grown, the prequel trilogy has gained a bit more respect for what it does right. In true Star Wars fashion, the prequels have achieved a kind of balance.

But the sequel trilogy divided fans more than ever

When Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, fans were suspicious about how the studio would carry out Lucas’ legacy in his absence. 2015’s The Force Awakens mostly played it safe in an effort to placate hardcore fans and usher in new fans. But the backlash was already brewing.

After all, Star Wars had already suffered significant blows with the prequel trilogy. Now the sequels compounded that division, especially when The Last Jedi was released in 2017. Rather than continue to retread old ground, writer/director Rian Johnson challenged fans by deconstructing the entire Star Wars saga itself.

This might have been what some fans claimed they wanted after The Force Awakens. But The Last Jedi wound up reopening old wounds from the prequel era and deepening them tenfold. Cries of “not my Star Wars!” resounded across the internet, leaving The Rise of Skywalker with the unenviable task of trying to please everyone. The saga had been thrown even more off-balance.

Can ‘Star Wars’ ever be truly repaired?

With both the prequel and sequel trilogies now complete, comparing fans’ response to the two reveals an unsettling truth. The further we get away from the original trilogy, the more divided the Star Wars fandom has become. The prequels weren’t beloved in their time, but at least during their release, fans could connect over their shared dismissal of the same elements. Not many fans will defend Jar Jar Binks or Anakin’s sand hatred.

This simply hasn’t been the case with the sequels. For the most part, everyone loves the original trilogy and either tolerates or ignores the prequels. But the sequels are another matter entirely. Some Star Wars fans herald the new films — especially The Last Jedi — as some of the best in the saga’s history. Others, meanwhile, blame Disney for destroying the series.

So can Star Wars fans ever truly come back together? Or has the onslaught of new projects since the original trilogy — and the accompanying advent of social media — tainted fans’ pure love for Lucas’ creation? For now, the wounds are too fresh for any kind of meaningful healing to begin. Maybe — just maybe — Baby Yoda can be the catalyst fans need to get back on the same page. The Force needs to be brought back into balance eventually.