Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Fixing the Star Wars Prequels

I love the Star Wars Prequels.  They have given me years of fun and
entertainment.  So the following critique is from the standpoint of a fan.
Have re-watched the prequels, I can more accurately point to some flaws
that should have been avoided.  I am not talking about the ones about which most
people complain (e.g. Anakin's acting, Jar Jar's very existence, etc).  I would
like to focus more on the story elements.  I believe that the flaws come from
the fact that George Lucas wrote them years apart.  If he had written all three
at the same time, he could have written a tighter narrative
and create stronger connections between Episodes 1 and 3.  Having said all that,
here are my critiques (in no particular order):

1. Introduce Count Dooku in The Phantom Menace. 
It is revealed that Dooku was Qui-Gon's master when he was a Padawan.  But this
revelation does not come up until the second half of Attack of the Clones.  When
Episode II begins, we are told about Count Dooku and his rebellion from the Jedi,
but since we do not know him we have no reaction. 

Wouldn't it have been great if in The Phantom Menace we saw Dooku on the council
and had a scene where he gives Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan some
advice?  It would establish the relationships between them and establish him as
a friend.  Thus when Padme suggests that Dooku is behind her assassination
attempt, we the audience are reluctant to believe it.  When we do find out about
his betrayal, it would make his fall all the more poignant and foreshadow
Anakin.  It would also have been nice to see Dooku's interaction with Palpatine,
even if it showed great animosity so as to set up a believable separatist

2. Show Padme falling in love with Anakin. 
This is specific to Episode II, but we begin the movie knowing that he is head
over heals for her.  That doesn't need to be established.  She fights her
feelings, but we need more moments between the beginning of the movie until their first kiss on the
lake that show her falling for him. 

What changed in her heart?  What did she see that made the difference? 

3. Obi-wan should have gone to Mos Espa too.
I can understand not wanting to overload the first movie with too many
characters at once, but Lucas knew that he would be getting rid of Qui-Gon at
the end of The Phantom Menace.  With that in mind, he would be left with 3 main
characters: Anakin, Padme, and Obi-Wan.  But the three together have no real
bonding experience throughout the movie.  Anakin and Padme's relationship is
established, but Obi-Wan mostly talks about Anakin rather than to him and he only shares one line
of dialogue with Padme. 

In A New Hope, Luke, Han, and Leia all survive the
experience of the trash compactor together.  And while that was a small part of
the narrative, it serves to create the kind of bond that can only be made by
facing death together.  Anakin and Obi-Wan's relationship is talked about in
Attack of the Clones.  They tell us of their past adventures instead of showing
it to us.  This also makes the strange transition of relationship where Obi-Wan
goes from father-figure to brother-figure.  If Obi-Wan had gone to Mos Espa too, it could have
established more strongly the father (Qui-Gon), older brother (Obi-Wan), younger
brother (Anakin) dynamic.

  I know that in earlier drafts it was Obi-Wan and not
Qui-Gon who went to Mos Espa and that Padme developed feelings for him, thus
creating a love triangle.  While I think that would have been very interesting,
I understand why Lucas wanted to avoid it.  But in doing so, he removes the
connection between Padme and Obi-Wan.  He is called an old friend in Attack of
the Clones, but that friendship feels forced.  In that awesome scene in Revenge
of the Sith where Obi-Wan needs Padme's help to kill Anakin, there would have
been a lot more dramatic weight if the deep friendship between the Jedi Master
and the former queen was established.

4. Introduce Sypho-Dyas in Episode I
This is a corollary to the point about Dooku.  There were lots of anonymous
people on the Jedi Council.  It would have been nice to establish some of the
important people  and plot points.  There was no reason for Lucas to create a
new Jedi.  For example, Evan Piel is on the Jedi Council in The Phantom Menace
but I do not believe he was there in Attack of the Clones.  Why not take someone
who was already there​? Use a few lines of dialogue to establish his friendship
with Dooku, maybe even show Dooku killing him and then we have a set up for the
next movie?

5. Show Qui-Gon in Episodes II and III
We hear his voice in Attack of the Clones and we hear about him in Revenge of
the Sith.  But Qui-Gon is still the model hero of the Star Wars franchise.  Luke
only truly becomes the great hero when he ignores both Palpatine and Obi-Wan and
becomes Qui-Gon Jinn.  This is something that the audience needs to be shown at
key points in the story.  Particularly, it was important to show the development
of Yoda's character and his move from arrogance to humility by becoming
Qui-Gon's apprentice.  Also it would have been emotional and poignant for
Obi-Wan to have a meeting with his long dead master, talking about how he failed
him and let him down and have Qui-Gon give him words of encouragement to endure
what lies ahead. 

6. Introduce General Grievous in Attack of the Clones
You'll notice that a consistent thread is the earlier introduction of
characters.  The longer we stay with a character the greater the satisfaction at
the resolution of that character.  It would have made much more sense to
introduce Grievous leading the droid armies in Attack of the Clones, thus
setting up his skills as a tactician and a warrior.  Revenge of the Sith begins
with the invasion of Courascant.  How much graver would it have been if we saw
the prowess of Grievous in breaking the lines at Genosha.

7. Give Tarkin a larger role.
The prequels show Tarkin once at the end of Revenge of the Sith.  We only
recognize him because of his connection to A New Hope.  How much more sense
would it have made to show him as the Emperor's chief advisor.  Why create the
new character, Mas Ameda, to stand constantly by Palpatine's side when you have
a built in character, Tarkin, who will take on a command role in A New
Hope.  Plus if you establish Tarkin's importance to Palpatine, his loss on the
first Death Star can be seen as a true blow to the Emperor’s power.

8. Anakin should swear off Tatooine.
Why does Vader never set foot on Tatooine to look for the droids?  It was his
home planet, why not search.  It would have felt better if when Shmi died,
Anakin swore never to return to the planet that enslaved and killed his mother.

9. Give another reason for Padme's death.
Losing the will to live may be very romantic in a Romeo and Juliet sort of way,
but it does not hold well in the world of Star Wars, nor does this jibe well
knowing that she is giving up on her two children.  Padme, in this sense, is
ultimately a quitter.  How could this be fixed? 

Try this possible scenario: 
Anakin believes that Padme will die.  In doing his research at the
Jedi temple, he finds that he can bond his life to hers, thinking that as long
as he is alive, she will live too. But when he falls, he ceases to be Anakin
Skywalker and becomes Darth Vader, thus as Obi-Wan said “The good man who was
[Anakin] was destroyed.”  When that happens, Padme's life flickers out and
dies.  I'm not saying this scenario is perfect, but it uses the elements of the
force and the impetus of Anakin's fall to the dark side as the cause of her
death, not “losing the will to live.”

10. Kill Jar Jar.
This is not a statement of anger at the character.  I happen to enjoy Jar Jar at
times.  But somewhere in Revenge of the Sith, Jar Jar should have been
killed.  Here's why:  The Phantom Menace is a children's movie with child-like
characters, especially Anakin and Jar Jar.  Both are simply and innocent.  But
Anakin's fall in Revenge of the Sith destroys that innocence, which would be
wonderfully encapsulated by his killing of Jar Jar. Now, a good friend of mine, let's call him Joebu, once told me that Jar Jar is so beloved by little kids that this would have been too much for them to take. I respect that, but if he had a send off like Dobby in Harry Potter, it could work.

11. Explain the “high ground” in the first act of Revenge of the Sith.
It's over Anakin.  I have the high ground.”  With these words, Obi-Wan tries to
dissuade Anakin from an attack he cannot hope to win.  But in his hubris, Anakin
leaps to his doom.  But why can't he overcome this disadvantage?  He is a Jedi after all  This
moment carries with it some kind of emotional and thematic weight.  But it is lost
because we have no idea what Obi-Wan is talking about.  In the first act, Anakin
should have talked about attacking someone from below, but Obi-Wan should have
explained that if the enemy has the high ground, a frontal attack would be
useless.  In the end, if Anakin attacks anyway, it shows that he is drunk with
power and wisdom trumps power in this instance.

12. Bring back Boba in Revenge of the Sith.
The only reason Boba Fett was introduced in Attack of the Clones was because he
is a popular character in the Star Wars universe and fans wanted to know his
origin.  But after the death of Jango, he plays no role in the events that
unfold.  He would have only been 16 in Revenge of the Sith, but he could have
played a small part.  Perhaps he was the one who kidnapped Palpatine for General
Grievous, thus foreshadowing his hunt for Solo in the next trilogy.

13. Explain the Prophecy.
You refer to the prophecy of the one who will bring balance to the
force.”  What prophecy?  Who prophesied it?  Why does Qui-Gon believe it?  What
does it mean to bring balance to the force? What signs point to Anakin?  What
does it mean that Anakin is the chosen one?  I know that many of these questions
are answered in the books, but it would be incredibly helpful to the audience of
the movie to get a handle on these key pieces of information.  You don't have to
explain every part.  You can leave things ambiguous (like Anakin's possible
creation by Palpatine).  But this critical issue is what sets Anakin apart from
all the other Jedi.  Why him?

  1. Get rid of 3 lines.
    There are 3 lines that need to be erased from the prequels:
    a. “To be angry is to be human.” This is what Padme says to Anakin after he confesses to slaughter Tusken women and children. This is hardly the moral gut check that he needs at that moment and it led to a lengthy email debate between my friends and I about whether or not Padme is evil (and when I say lengthy, the correspondence between us is around 36 single-spaced pages)
    b. “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.” Obi-Wan says this to intone how Anakin has gone over to the dark side. But this saying is nonsense unless the Jedi are espousing moral relativism. There is good and there is evil. There have to be some absolutes or Palpatine was right when he said “Good is a point of view.”
    c. “They must be dead by now, destroy what's left of them.” As Red Letter Media pointed out, this line is just dumb

  1. Show the beginnings of the Rebellion in Revenge of the Sith
I know that this was filmed and later cut, but that is a mistake. For one thing, it gave Padme something to do other than pine after Anakin. Also it sets up some characters for later in the movie like Mon Mothma and Ackbar.



  1. I agree with most of you additions, but here's a question, what scenes do you cut or shorten to add these? Mr Lucas kept all the movies right at 2 hours.


  2. I agree with most of your suggestions. I'd also get rid of the midi-chlorian count explanation. I would have preferred a little mystery as to why the force is strong with Anakin.

  3. How to fix the Prequels step #1 above all else? First prequel: Anakin is an ADULT. And already well on his way to becoming a hero. Star Wars spoilers are like Titanic spoilers- we KNOW he's going to fall to the Dark Side. The movies gave us not a tragic hero- whom we see doing heroic deeds and whose fall we watch in utter agony- but rather a whiny child, then a whiny, angsty teenager, then an angsty twenty-something year old. I'm sorry, but it's very difficult to get people to root for a self-involved teen. They simply don't have the gravitas or sense of experience that mark a true tragic hero. Upgrade Anakin to an adult on day one, and the prequels already have significantly greater impact.

    1. I think you have a point, which is why I have such different feelings towards Anakin from Episode II to Episode III. I was not expecting to like Anakin in Revenge of the Sith, but I did. And this made the tragedy all the worse. I do think that the idea was worth exploring regarding a fall from absolute innocence and grace to utter evil. And that innocence is best embodied in a child. I think the problem may have been more from the performances rather than the idea. Thoughts?

  4. I think that maybe a little thing they could've done would be to make only Qui-Gon and Luke's lightsabers green and have all other Jedi be blue. That way when you see Lukes green lightsaber in Episode VI then you think "the last time I saw a green one was when... ohhh" and people will understand how Luke is like the new Qui-Gon Jinn