Monday, July 28, 2008

The Star Wars Prequels

Gosh, what couldn't be said about these? I'll try not to dwell on the obvious flaws or contradictions, but suggest alternatives instead. After all, nobody wanted these movies to disappoint, but I think Lucas left a lot on the table to work with. I'll take a multi-tiered approach.
  1. Make one movie. The story that's absolutely essential to see is how Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader, how the Jedi are defeated, the Empire comes to dominate the galaxy, Luke and Leia are born, and the rebellion gets started, plus maybe some clarification on what "the clone wars" are all about. Virtually all of that happens in the last movie in the trilogy. Nobody was pining for the story of Qui-Gonn Jinn or Jar-Jar Binks or how Boba Fett's dad died. So, condense your action, trim the inessential, make one movie, and hire Steven Spielberg to direct it. Make it the best movie in decades and move on with your life.
  2. Tell more than one story. If you have to make three movies, to walk your way up to "Episode IV," they don't all have to be about Darth Vader. We can see Han Solo's backstory, follow Princess Leia through her youth, watch Yoda and Obi-Wan and Mace Windu confront the Sith and, you know, be people. Part of the strength of the original trilogy is that it's able to track several characters and stories simultaneously: it's not all Luke, all the time.
  3. Okay, if you insist. If it must be principally about Vader, cast everyone older and shift all of the action forward. Anakin's age in each of the trilogy should roughly correspond to Luke's, tracking from his late teens to early thirties. I mean, is Vader only supposed to be in his mid-forties during the original trilogy, but Obi-Wan has somehow aged to the point where Tarkin thinks it's impossible for him to be alive? I'd cast Kenneth Branagh as Obi-Wan, and have him or Qui-Gonn or whomever find Anakin as a teenager.
  • I think the whole Buddhist attachment-is-suffering arc is fine, so play out that whole thing from the second movie where he kills the Tuscan Raiders as revenge for his mom right away. Anakin needs to be dark and powerful and spooky right away. You could essentially merge most of the action of the first two movies; go straight to the clone armies. The whole trilogy should be the Clone Wars.
  • This would be a natural way to introduce Padme; she discovers the development of the clone army and disappears, Yoda sends Obi-Wan to retrieve her, he crashes on Tatooine, finds the young pilot Anakin and begins to train him, they discover the clones, retrieve Padme, sparks fly with Anakin, Palpatine plays the whole thing off, end it with a big clones and Jedi vs. droids and Darth Maul battle.
  • There's no way Anakin builds Threepio -- a protocol droid built by a child on a desert planet? -- but he could probably build R2-D2; a childish, impudent droid with way more capabilities than an average R2 unit, and who's a perfect swiss-army-knife assistant for a pilot and Jedi.
  • The second movie in my trilogy would be a lot like the third in Lucas's. Anakin and Padme are already having a secret relationship -- no need for longing looks and rolling around in fields -- and Anakin is frustrated to be underneath Obi-Wan when he knows he's already a more powerful Jedi. Palpatine turns Anakin to the dark side, together they destroy the Jedi, Obi-Wan and Anakin fight, lava, etc. Padme, pregnant, flees as Obi-Wan and Yoda try to hide her.
  • My third movie would be new, and help fill in the gaps between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Structurally, it would be a lot like The Empire Strikes Back, insofar as it would be Vader and the Empire in pursuit and the nascent rebellion on the run. The essential conceit is that you need to follow Darth Vader -- Vader, not Anakin -- as he pieces together his broken body, builds his suit and the Imperial fleet, clashes with Yoda and Obi-Wan, and searches the galaxy for Padme and (he thinks) his child. Vader wouldn't be a hero, exactly, nor would be a villain. He would be something else, a dark protagonist -- fighting the Empire's military almost as often as the remnants of the Jedi, dismissing the Death Star as a mere "technological terror," trying to find a way to throw off Palpatine's yoke. You would have a much clearer sense of the context of his character going into the original trilogy, the mentality of the Sith, the emergence of both the Empire and the Rebellion, etc. Here you can introduce a young Chewie, Han, Lando, if you wish; you close with a major battle between Vader and Palpatine, Yoda and Obi-Wan where Palpatine becomes disfigured, Obi-Wan and Yoda are presumed dead (but are able to escape), Padme dies, and Obi-Wan and Yoda hide the children. At this point, Vader's hopes of overthrowing the Empire, reuniting with Padme, and bringing order to the galaxy are lost, so he fumes and pursues the rest of the rebellion... until he discovers Luke, which changes everything.

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