I grew up with the Original Trilogy on ancient VHS tapes back in the early 90s. One of the first movies I ever saw and remember was Star Wars/A New Hope when I was three or four, so about 1991-1992. The X-Wing/TIE-Fighter series, Dark Forces/Jedi Knight, and my parents took me to see the Special Editions on the big screen. These are the foundations of my Star Wars fandom, and combined with my profound love for aviation and spaceflight, I’ve always taken more enjoyment from the space battles and just space travel than the Jedi/Sith conflict.
I don’t hate the SEs as some people do. Many of the changes are unnecessary (Han shooting second, etc.) but the actual revised special effects were great. And the SEs had great color gradients!
Then the prequels came. I saw The Phantom Menace on cinema in late 1999 (it was released in late September in my country). I still enjoy that film despite it being a bit boring and not because of nostalgia - in some weird way, being so different than the OT, it manages to evoke that feeling of being in a Galaxy far, far away. Every later Prequel was a disappointment for me because I had great hopes for them; then the Clone Wars followed in 2008 and that was the final nail for me. A childish animation with an unbearable lead character. I started to hate and bash the Prequels despite enjoying some aspects of the world building and visual design in them.
Looking back, the early 2000s were a fantastic Star Wars period. Reinvigorated fandom, lots of EU material (building upon Zahn’s Trilogy and Stackpole’s X-Wing series), absolutely amazing games - Republic Commando, KotOR, Empire at War.
After the Disney acquisition, Lucas being ousted and the marketing for The Force Awakens started, some friends managed to get me to watch the entirety of the Clone Wars animated series. They were right, it definitely improves over time. The Prequels, while I never grew to love them, started feeling like a nostalgic part of my childhood. Flawed, bad movies but full of wasted potential and many, many original ideas.
I loved the first half hour of The Force Awakens, and thoroughly disliked the rest. I wasn’t really invested in the Sequels, but then Rogue One came out and that was pretty decent, even if heavily pandering on nostalgia.
Then The Last Jedi happened. I completely lost any hope or passion I had left for the Sequel trilogy. I never saw TROS and have no intention of ever of doing so.
The two seasons of The Mandalorian and the last season of the Clone Wars have, surprisingly, restored a lot of my love and interest in Star Wars.
I still adore the Original Trilogy. It has its flaws, no doubt. Maybe it’s nostalgia or too ingrained in my childhood but it doesn’t matter. Some pieces of the old EU also hold a place there.
The Prequels are… more difficult to place. I haven’t suddenly started looking through rose glasses at them but I have started to appreciate what they gave rise to, novels, games, characters, generally the additions to the world building. They are mediocre films at best. A great story concept told in a poor way
My opinion of Lucas has also changed. I still think he’s a mediocre director and a horrible screenwriter but he definitely had lots of ideas and passion while making the Prequels. There was so much talent involved in the Prequels, if he had only accepted (or asked?) for screenwriting and directing help from people like Speilberg. The Prequels will always irritate me because I can imagine what they could have been rather than what they turned out to be.
The Sequels, I used to loathe them. I am now growing increasingly indifferent. They are the reverse-Prequels for me, if I can say so. I do not enjoy the visual designs, nor the soundtracks, nor the setting. I can summarise what I did enjoy in those films and, oddly, it seems that it’s all in TFA - the new T-70 X-Wing, Star Destroyer, TIE-Fighter and Stormtrooper armor (re)designs, Adam Driver’s acting as Kyle Ren was top notch (only good thing about TLJ), Rey’s Theme and the visuals on Jakku, seeing Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford back in a Star Wars movie. Sadly, that’s it.
Yes, they are better movies than the Prequels - better direction and pacing. But the underlying story is so haphazard, lacklustre, nonsensical, I just cannot enjoy them at all. There’s not even that “what could have been” feeling with the Sequels for me.
Overall, I’m a lot less optimistic and cautious about new Star Wars content than I was 20 years ago.