I’m going to get this fact out of the way right from the start: the Star Wars prequels had some good things in them. I’ll be the first to admit that. The special effects, space battles, lightsaber duels and Natalie Portman being attractive are all fine points to the films. But, with that being said, there are many things that overshadow the good so massively that they effectively paralyze and cause people to not like the them. You try to like them, you try to find good things about them, you even try to justify the bad, but for many people, they cannot shake that feeling of dissatisfaction with the final results. I am one of these people.
The biggest thing about the prequels that gets under my skin is not how bad they are, but how good they COULD have been. As a kid, when I heard that they were making an entirely new trilogy that delved into the origins of Anakin Skywalker and his fall into Darth Vader, my mind couldn’t comprehend what I was hearing. I thought that a shark and a gorilla doing an epic high five in front of an explosion was the only thing that could come close to that level of awesome.
|My excitement for the Star Wars prequels was even higher than this. Wrap your mind around that.|
Sitting in the theater watching the opening credits for Episode 1 was like sitting on top of a bomb, waiting for it to explode our minds all over the walls. And as a younger kid, I certainly had my mind blown. I thought the podracing was awesome and Darth Maul was the meanest looking Jedi I’d ever seen. The lightsaber battle at the end was one of the coolest things I’d ever seen at the time. I left the theater having enjoyed the movie, but around me I heard rumblings, whispers of dissatisfaction and doubt. Then I saw Attack of the Clones, and I slowly started to realize what those rumblings had been about. I started noticing things, things that I was unsure of my feeling about. I had a hard time liking Anakin as a character. The relationship between him and Padme seemed forced. Things started happening that didn’t make sense. I didn’t feel the connection between Anakin and Obi Wan and I had a hard time accepting their friendship as it was presented. I left the movie thinking the following: Padme was a hottie, Yoda is a beast, Count Dooku was played by freaking Dracula from the 70’s (which is AWESOME), and the final battle was really cool. Fast forward 3 years, and I was sitting in the theater for Revenge of the Sith. I went into it thinking that this one would be the best of the three, that it would correct many of the mistakes of the first two, and that it would go dark and be intense. And to a point, it did. Revenge did a good job tying up everything. It answered how Darth Vader ended up in his suit and how Luke and Leia were separated, why Obi Wan stayed close to Luke, Yoda’s exile to Dagobah, and we saw the construction of the first Death Star. It all wrapped up nicely, and the battle scenes, special effects, and lightsaber battles were awesome. And yet, when I really thought about it, about the entire prequel series, and after every time I’ve watched them since then, things just haven’t felt right. I don’t really like them. And it’s not because they’re bad; it’s because they could have been so much better.
When you look back at everything stated in the previous paragraph, when I talked about the things I liked about each prequel, you’ll notice they were all pretty much the same thing: special effects, lightsabers, battle scenes. What is missing from this equation? Story. Characters. Conflict. Writing. And these were not handled well at all in the prequels. When I got to the end of the prequels, I had to ask myself: “Do I really care?” And the answer was no. I felt no emotional weight when Obi Wan screamed at the charred body of Anakin through tears “You were my brother! I loved you.” I felt nothing when Anakin screamed that he hated him, because Obi Wan had done nothing to warrant being hated in the entire series. Anakin time and time again throughout the prequels had shown he had problems with control, and Obi Wan was trying to be a good mentor. I didn’t care because Anakin wasn’t a good character. He was an entitled whiner who reverted into acting like an angry little boy when he didn’t get his way. I wasn’t rooting for him at all, because I didn’t like him. To make the central focus of the entire prequel trilogy an unlikable jerk is a gamble that never wins. So what would I do different with the trilogy?
|Chipmunks flying Tie Fighters? Definitely on the table.|
1. No Anakin as a child.
Little kids in movies are a mixed bag. It’s hard to pull them off effectively as serious characters. The Sixth Sense, Let Me In, True Grit, ET, and The Professional all have amazing performances by child actors, with Star Wars’ own Natalie Portman being the premium example in The Professional. But more often than not, children in films can be good or bad, and The Phantom Menace is at the bad end of the spectrum. The Phantom Menace as a film isn’t really that needed. You could put 20 minutes of backstory and exposition in Attack of the Clones and be OK. We don’t need to see Darth Vader as a child.
2. Get rid of Anakin’s mother.
This is a move with long term/entire story arc implications. In the prequels as they exist now, the death of Anakin’s mother is what gets the ball rolling in his lust for power. While in the prequels this is OK, we aren’t really shown enough of their relationship in Episode 1 and there is virtually no relationship in 2 except for her dying. Do we really need her? No. Moving on.
3. No midichlorians.
Giving The Force a biological explanation totally kills the aura surrounding it. Having the Force be dependent on microorganisms that are never fully explained is one of the must frustrating things about the entire trilogy. When Yoda is explaining the Force in Empire Strikes Back, he describes it as an energy, a force, that surrounds us and binds the universe together. It made the Force an ever present mystical reminder that there were bigger things in the universe besides “uncivilized” blasters and the war machine of the Empire. It set the Jedi apart. Giving the source of their power a biological origin totally cheapens it. In the original trilogy the Force is spoken of like a religious entity that surrounds the universe. Like Admiral Ackbar says before the Battle of Endor “May the Force be with us.” That’s certainly a lot better saying, “May the microorganisms in a select few people’s blood that are never fully explained be with us”.
4. No Jar Jar.
5. Focus on the friendship between Anakin and Obi Wan
Harking back to a point made earlier, when Obi Wan is crying and saying that Anakin was his brother, I didn’t feel anything and I didn’t really care. Why? Because their relationship wasn’t believable. In A New Hope, and older Obi Wan is telling Luke about Anakin and he speaks glowingly of him, even calling him “a good friend” in a manner that spoke to a real genuine relationship between the two. In the prequel trilogy we don’t really see much of that at all. Between episodes 1 and 2 we jump almost 10 years, and we are only given a 3 minute scene in an elevator where they recount a few of their adventures together during training. And from that one scene, we’re supposed to accept that they have a relationship built on trust and friendship, and yet in the very next scene we see Anakin questioning Obi Wan’s authority and complaining about his leadership. Huh? The rest of episode 2 is spent by Obi Wan complaining and correcting Anakin and basically acting annoyed by him the entire time. In Episode 3 they don’t have a great relationship either, with them spending most of it apart and Obi Wan questioning Anakin’s judgement. Wow, what a great relationship. This is why I don’t feel any emotional weight from Anakin’s betrayal. How do we fix that? Start the trilogy with Anakin a few years into his Jedi training with Obi Wan and focus on the building of their relationship. Have them get into adventures, working together in battles and solving problems. If you look at any great duo in film, you have to create a relationship where each need the other. One of the best examples of this I’ve seen recently is the BBC series Sherlock. Over the course of the first season, you see Watson and Holmes grow together, save each other’s butts a few times, work together to solve cases, and show that they depend on one another, even if they won’t ever admit it. Then later on in the series, you can see that they truly care about each other and that their friendship is real. I say do the same with Anakin and Obi Wan. As I’ve heard someone say before, make it like Lethal Weapon in space. Because once you do that, you go to step 6.
6. Make the betrayal far more personal.
This is one of the most important points. While Anakin’s desire to save Padme being twisted against him to turn him to the Dark Side is certainly appropriate, I think they could have gone in a different direction, one that feels much more personal. How this can be accomplished is subject to debate. One way is through giving Anakin a reason to distrust the Jedi besides Palpatine’s political manipulations, something like a conflict that splits Anakin from the opinion of Jedi. One way is through a conflict in the Clone War. Have Anakin break away from the Jedi to fight for a star system that the Order doesn’t approve of, which causes the Order to banish Anakin. Or you could have his secret marriage to Padme become public because of Obi Wan telling the order, causing Anakin to become banished. In his anger he turns against the Order and wages war against them by joining with Palpatine. But the best one I’ve ever heard comes from Cody Johnson of Cracked.com (Check out his stuff here.). His idea is that Obi Wan has an affair with Padme, which causes Anakin to go ballistic and declare all out war on the Jedi along with his former mentor/best friend. What this does is 3 things: 1, causes the betrayal to become so much more personal and damaging to both Anakin and Obi Wan; 2, makes Anakin’s war against the Jedi much more believable; and 3, changes the relationship between Obi Wan and Luke completely in the original trilogy. Think about it. This calls into question the true father of Luke and Leia, which would explain Obi Wan’s desire to stay on Tatoonie close to Luke and the father-like relationship they had. This makes Obi Wan a much more flawed character. Why else would he stay close to Luke and and point him toward his destiny, unless it was an act of penance? This also makes his sacrifice in A New Hope to provide an escape for Luke and the other characters much more meaningful. What’s not to like?!
7. We don’t need to learn the origin of every character
We don’t need to know where C3PO came from (he was built, wow, how important). We don’t need to know the origin of Boba Fett (he’s far more awesome the less we know about him). I don’t care about knowing where Jabba is from. We don’t need all these origin stories. A New Hope jumped right into the action, and then explained everything later. It makes the story go faster.
8. Who cares about politics?
All the political things going on in the prequels makes it boring. Use the Senate only when trying to show how the Sith is infiltrating and working against the Republic from within, but don’t make the Senate itself the focus. Focus on the characters and their relationships.
9. Let someone besides George Lucas write the script and direct the movie.
If you look at The Empire Strikes Back you’ll notice that George Lucas is not the writer or director. And somehow, against all logic, Empire is regarded by many as the greatest film in the series and one of the finest sequels ever made. Why? Because you have fresh minds writing and directing. Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan wrote the script, and Irvin Kershner directed it. Having different people working on a movie besides one guy creates an environment where people can challenge each other, and through the exchanging of varying opinions you can get the best movie possible. This is exactly what happened on Empire. And yet when you look at the prequel trilogy, George Lucas wrote and directed every one, and it shows. Fresh ideas and people who will challenge each other will only make a better movie, and George totally took that out of the equation by doing everything himself.
10. The last lightsaber battle is too long.
The final battle between Anakin and Obi Wan is far too long. It gets to the point that you forget about what little emotional weight it had and quickly just becomes an over the top spectacle. Keeping in line with the dramatic betrayal and the breaking of their friendship, it needs to be intimate and raw. Make it a five minute fight, and have it become one where it’s a knockout dragout street brawl, where the hatred by Anakin fully comes out and he will stop at nothing to destroy his mentor. Heck, have half of it be with fists before you get to lightsabers. If you want a great example of a final showdown, look at Gladiator. It builds the tension between the two characters throughout the entire film, and then finally Maximus gets to face his personal devil in the arena. You can feel the hatred between them, and his desire to destroy Commodus to avenge his wife and son culminates in his brutal death. It was satisfying, raw, and well executed. Why couldn’t Star Wars do that?
11. Darth Maul doesn’t die till Episode 3
This is one that comes from one of my friends, and it’s honestly one of the more brilliant ideas I’ve heard in a while. His idea is that Maul kills Qui Gon and escapes Naboo, and he becomes the ghost-like figure doing Palpatine’s dirty work in the next two films, acting as the personal liason between Palpatine and those under him, such as Dooku and General Grevious. The constant presence of Maul could be a driving force behind Obi Wan’s actions, and it could be a great plot point showing the seemingly unflappable Jedi’s inner struggle against taking revenge for Qui Gon’s death. He could be the example of how a Jedi should act, further illustrating Anakin’s immaturity whenever he turns. Plus, imagine this: Anakin kills Maul to become Palpatine’s new apprentice. In the Sith culture it is not unusual for one Sith to kill another in a quest for power, as Palpatine deftly explained in the instance of Darth Plagueis’ apprentice killing him in his sleep to take his place. Wouldn’t it be a fantastic final move by Anakin to solidify his fall to the Dark Side by killing Maul as a revenge for Qui Gon and to also show Obi Wan that Anakin believe’s himself to be more powerful than he? Plus you get to keep one of the more awesome characters in the prequels in all three films and give him more importance as a character. I think it would be AWESOME.
This is probably one of the nerdiest things I’ve ever written, but I don’t care. I’ll be the first to admit that some of these ideas are not originally mine, but they have definitely influenced how I would rewrite the prequels if I ever got the chance. I hope you guys like it. Leave comments on your own ideas of how they could be different, or if I’m completely wrong. May the Force be with you.