How to Fix the Star Wars Prequels
Much has been said/ranted/shouted about the prequels. Do you live under a rock? No? Then you know what I am talking about; the horrible writing, bland characters and direction, bizarre creative choices and the fact they all look like toy adverts. Much wiser people than me have broken this down in large amounts of detail, primarily Mr Plinkett of RedLetterMedia:
If you are interested enough in Star Wars you have probably come across other suggestions for how to fix the prequels. A great example being:
What will differ about my approach to examples, such as the above video, is that I will not change the core events or character actions/motivations that occurred in the prequels. I will simply suggest perspective changes and additional scenes in addition to slight changes to those that already exist. It would also help if you imagined a world where the films were directed by someone more competent than George Lucas. I personally don’t blame any of the actors, even Hayden Christensen, for their lacklustre performances. Although in my head though I do like to imagine a young Chris Pine playing Anakin, his Kirk has the charming arrogance we needed.
Overall my approach would also incorporate several key features. The first is that as the audience pretty much all already know Senator/Chancellor Palpatine is Sith Lord Sidious, therefore the films will be partially from his perspective. This would provide a lack of condescension, a ‘bomb under the table’ type tension and greater clarity to events. This perspective would then be shared with Obi-Wan Kenobi as the primary protagonist. He is the Jedi who isn’t powerful enough to fight the Sith, lacks enough authority to control Anakin and has far too little confidence to overcome either of these problems. That is a good protagonist with an arc to fulfill. That all being said the prequels have an ensemble cast so the films themselves should have an ensemble approach even if the primary perspectives are Obi-Wan and Palpatine. The benefits of this idea will become clear as I continue. Obviously this would mean a lot of the superfluous scenes would need to be cut out of the original films and the act structures would need some amount of re-jigging. Just in case it isn’t clear by now, don’t proceed any further if your Star Wars prequel knowledge is patchy, this will make little sense to the uninitiated.
The Phantom Menace
The first prequel will remain relatively unchanged. Obviously the Trade Federation and Gungans need to not be racist caricatures. The film could also have a colonial subtext; the Naboo took over the surface centuries ago when the Gungans were the original inhabitants. This would give greater depth to their symbiosis that Obi-Wan refers to as well as giving further meaning to their coming together to fight off the Trade Federation. The character focus on Obi-Wan will be as he deals with the constraints of a dogmatic Jedi Council he needs to impress whilst not disappointing his more rogue Master Qui-Gon, at the end of all this he then has the duty of raising ‘the chosen one’ thrust upon him. Qui-Gon himself needs to be a bit looser too, though not a maverick, just a bit hippieish and a bit like Yoda in Empire Strikes Back. Yoda can still be the stricter and more unfeeling persona he is in this film as he hasn’t yet learnt to ease up a bit. After all it is the conservative rules of the Jedi that partially lead to Anakin’s downfall. Palpatine’s story should be of him being the Sith Apprentice to his master Darth Plagueis and seeing them both manipulating the events of the Trade Federation blockade of Naboo.
The film should open with Anakin mucking up a past podrace. This means his character is established early and his appearance doesn’t seem so weird when he’s introduced an hour in. Watching the podrace is Palpatine and Plagueis. They discuss their plans for Anakin and how Plagueis created him using the force and so on. We then cut to the Republic ship transporting Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon to Naboo. The two of them are having a discussion and Obi-Wan’s various insecurities are highlighted.
Then the film progresses as normal until Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are in the conference room on the Trade Federation ship. Nute Gunray then holo-communicates with Palpatine as usual, but this time we see both sides of the conversation. Nute Gunray asks what to do about the Jedi, Plagueis tells Palpatine (out of view) to tell Gunray to kill them, the reason being that this will cause more of a backlash that will more usefully propel Palpatine to the Chancellor role. Nute Gunray then appears afraid of the order and Palpatine viciously puts him in his place by saying something along the lines of “I helped you back stab your way up you where you are, I can just as easily replace you”. This would explain why the powerful Trade Federation would obey a complete stranger with only vague rumours of having a lot of power.
The film then progresses as normal. Running parallel to the the usual events we’ll see Plagueis and Palpatine return to Coruscant and it becomes clear Darth Maul isn’t really a Sith Lord, just their pawn to do the dirty work. Instead of Jar-Jar joining the Tatooine gang out and about it will be Obi-Wan. The podrace win happens and Anakin wins his freedom as per usual. They arrive and Coruscant and Palpatine obviously observes the arrival of Anakin, he chooses to not tell his Master this. We perhaps get a scene of the Council offering Obi-Wan a faster track to Jedi Knight if he agrees to spy on Qui-Gon for them. Obi-Wan tells them he’ll think about it and then decides to tell Qui-Gon about their offer, this then leads to their argument about Qui-Gon’s disobedience.
The film still progresses as normal further; Palpatine is on the shortlist for as the new Chancellor and Queen Amidala plans to return to Naboo. During this time however Palpatine approaches the Jedi Council with an offer to purchase Anakin’s mother and set her free to live on Coruscant, the Council reject this offer; little do they know that Palpatine secretly recorded the meeting. The film progresses as normal from here on. Except that during the battle for Naboo we cut back and forth to Palpatine being chosen as Chancellor and going to his hide out with Plagueis to celebrate. Plagueis gets drunk on poisoned wine that allows Palpatine to get close enough to finish him off with ease (as seen in the Darth Plagueis expanded universe novel).
Meanwhile Qui-Gon doesn’t die conventionally in the film, but instead he fades away in the manner of a force ghost, confusing Obi-Wan who is obviously ignorant of this process. The film then progresses as normal right up to the end, minus the funeral scene, however before the Naboo celebration we see Palpatine approach Anakin in secret. Palpatine shows Anakin the recording of his meeting with the Jedi Council and thus sowing Anakin’s first seeds of distrust. At the same time Obi-Wan meets Yoda to discuss the nature of Qui-Gon’s death, Yoda is left confused by this as they have never heard of such an event, Obi-Wan then finally realises Qui-Gon did know things the Council did not. The film then ends as it did originally.
Attack of the Clones
The second prequel is a big mess. It makes The Phantom Menace look like an Ingmar Bergman film in comparison. The plot is a confused muddle and nothing makes sense at all. If Jango Fett is the Clone Template for your secret army Palpatine, why would you also use him to try and kill Padme? That just highlights your conspiracy. This film would be the one I’d rejig the most, adding many additional scenes to before the original opening of the film. I’d also change up the love story substantially, mostly by having a young Chris Pine. Primarily however it’d be changed to have an almost tragic element to it, to make it obvious that it is doomed. When Padme stays with Anakin even after he slaughters a tribe of Tusken Raiders it should be implied she feels like she has no choice, she is trapped by pity for Anakin and fear of Anakin. Obi-Wan’s insecurities should have grown into his snide and cutting remarks he makes to Anakin, he makes them to cover for himself. As such Obi-Wan should be shown worrying again about the Council’s opinion against his own beliefs about Jedi philosophies and how to raise Anakin.
This time Attack of the Clones would open with Palpatine assassinating Master Sifo-Dyas after he has ordered the Clone Army on behalf of the Jedi Council, this would be shortly after Phantom Menace. During this Sifo-Dyas begs for his life and saying he has done what Palpatine wants; horrible torture is implied. The next scene would be around the same time with Obi-Wan informing Anakin of his destiny as ‘the chosen one’ who will ‘bring balance to the dark side’ by destroying the Sith. Obi-Wan clearly tells Anakin this with a heavy heart whilst Anakin himself clearly feels a very large and sudden weight on his shoulders. We’d then cut forward a few years to Anakin in classes with kids much younger than him. He is clearly a natural at the physical and more violence orientated aspects of Jedi life, but when we see him in a class for the more academic and diplomatic training side we see him failing. He is then teased by his classmates and he angrily retorts that he is the chosen one, they don’t believe him and mock him more for this. Anakin then gets more upset and later bumps into Mace Windu who asks him what the problem is. Anakin explains and Windu actually berates Anakin for trying to show off and getting emotional. Later Obi-Wan tries to speak words of actual sympathy to Anakin over the Jedi’s short sighted perspectives but Anakin is too angry to listen. Now in his head ‘the chosen one’ is a term with associations that cause him to despise the Jedi Order.
The film then goes back to normal and events play out the same with a few exceptions. When the night time worm attack happens it is Anakin that jumps out of the window and grabs onto the flying droid whilst Obi-Wan goes to find the speeder to rescue Anakin should he fall. We should then have Jango Fett overlooking the chase. He then follows them. When they capture his failed assassin he contacts Count Dooku. He asks what to do, Dooku orders Fett to kill his assassin with a Kaminoan dart so they follow the trail, Fett questions this pointing out they’ll realise the existence of a conspiracy, Dooku says it’ll be too late by then. The call ends, we see Dooku contact Palpatine and tell him “it’s begun”.
Events will play out the same from here; Anakin goes to Naboo with Padme and Obi-Wan follows Fett’s trail to Kamino and so on. Between Obi-Wan’s report from Kamino to the Council and Jar-Jar addressing the senate there will be three main additional scenes. The first will be the Jedi Council discussing the conspiracy that is laid out in front of them; a mysterious army ordered years before the oncoming conflict and a Seperatist force with rumours of Sith Lords leading it. Yoda observes they are being manipulated but if they do not use the Clone Army the Republic will be wiped out by the Separatists within a year of the war beginning, so for now they have to play this game. The second scene will be the Jedi Council reporting all of this to Palpatine by hologram, after he ceases the communication he asks his aide to assemble a secret meeting of various important senators. The third scene will be when the senators arrive and Palpatine tells them of the conspiracy but he presents it as something the Jedi are likely behind given a Jedi ordered the army. One of the senators asks how the Jedi could afford such an army and Palpatine comments how the Jedi have been ‘hoarding public funds for thousands of years’. Another senator then makes a bigoted comment about the Jedi ‘stealing babies’ for their order.
The film then pretty much proceeds to the end as it did originally with the addition of a scene implying Obi-Wan is aware of Anakin’s relationship with Padme. However he chooses to tell neither the Jedi Council nor Anakin of his knowledge of this.
Revenge of the Sith
The third prequel is the strongest of the three but still has some bewildering moments. However due to the theoretical changes I made in the previous films it is more believable Anakin would be capable of murdering Jedi children under the guise of saving Padme. And whilst we’re talking about Padme; whatever you thought about her personality in the previous films at least in Phantom Menace she was a 14 year Queen with huge burdens who personally lead her people into battle, she took a similarly hands on approach in Attack of the Clones, so it all seems a bit condescending with how pathetic she is in Revenge of the Sith just because she is pregnant. Phantom Menace Padme wouldn’t beg for Anakin to come back to the light, she’d put a blaser to his head and make him beg for mercy. Similarly Anakin needs to show more ravages of war than just some scars, his speech and fighting style should be more brutal and pragmatic.
Obi-Wan should also be a little more relaxed; he’s a master now who can keep his cool in any situation and he doesn’t have to deal with the pressures of training Anakin any longer. Yes, he has worries about him and the war, but within himself he’s more laid back. The main changes needed visually for this film are shots of the poor and starving on Coruscant, maybe even some anti-Jedi protestors? We need to see that Palpatine’s scheme of manipulating the people and the politicians against the Jedi Order is working. The public believe the Jedi started the war, the politicians believe the Jedi might be planning to take over and there are protestors everywhere with signs accusing the Jedi of being ‘baby thieves’.
The film opens with Palpatine in his office being guarded by Jedi from General Grevious, as each Jedi gets cut down Palpatine smiles a little more. Palpatine is then kidnapped and taken to Grevious’ ship as per usual. The film then continues as it did originally with Anakin and Obi-Wan making their way into the space battle. After the chaos is over, and Anakin has had his praise from the politicians, Palpatine has a secret meeting with his aide where he asks him if they’ve got the ‘false intel’ ready. Everything then continues as usual up to Anakin meeting with Palpatine after the Jedi have asked Anakin to spy on him. The conversation goes as usual with Anakin complaining about being put on the Council without the rank of Master. There is an additional line of Anakin moaning that he only got the rank of Jedi Knight because they were short of good Jedi leaders on the front lines. The scene is then extended by Palpatine taking Anakin to his office and showing him some ‘intel’ that links the Jedi to the ordering of the Clone Army and to some Seperatists. Anakin doesn’t even question whether this is faked or not, he simply buys into it.
The film continues again as usual; Anakin is left behind bitterly by Obi-Wan who goes to Utapau. During this time some there are some scenes of the formation of the Rebel Alliance by some sceptical senators outside of Palpatine’s inner circle, including Padme. This scenes do actually exist but didn’t make the final cut for the original Revenge of the Sith. The film continues as usual except that Obi-Wan’s killing of Grevious is less drawn out and over the top.
When Anakin reports to Palpatine to declare Grevious’ death, and Palpatine reveals himself as the Sith Lord, the conversation will play out differently. Palpatine would promote himself as a good Sith who only wishes to serve the Republic and protect it from the ‘planned Jedi take over’. Anakin starts to question this but Palpatine points out a Jedi ordered the Clone Army, the Jedi have been linked to the Seperatists in important Intel and it is the Jedi who ordered Anakin to spy on the Chancellor of the Republic. Anakin still appears confused but is starting to side with Palpatine who then drops the bomb of him possibly being able to save Padme. Anakin then runs out as usual to report Palpatine to Mace Windu. Events then proceed basically as usual, except that the fight between Mace Windu and Co. against Palpatine is better choreographed (Lucas changed who was performing the stunts on the day of shooting) and it should also be made clearer that Palpatine is faking losing the fight to Mace Windu. As usual Anakin comes in and rescues Palpatine and Windu is killed. However this time Anakin’s descent into evil is justified; the Jedi bullied him as a child, they seemingly denied the chance to help his mother and told him his ability to feel was immoral, and he is now willing to sacrifice these anti-Republic schemers to save Padme. Essentially he becomes Darth Vader properly.
Things then progress as normal with Order 66 wiping out all the Jedi except for Yoda and Obi-Wan. The biggest change should be Obi-Wan and Yoda’s attacking/sneaking past the Clones at the Jedi temple should be made to appear more difficult and perhaps maybe even made into an extended action sequence. Once they discover Anakin’s part in the slaughter Obi-Wan should finally lose his cool with Yoda. He’d have a proper go at him complaining about the Jedi and their ridiculous rules that no sane person could live healthily with, he then rants about how these unnecessary pressures is how every Jedi in history has gone evil and yet they never learn. Obi-wan continues by ranting about how the Jedi Order should be about love and compassion, not taking children away from their parents and making them avoid all chances for happiness. Yoda is stunned and Obi-Wan starts to apologise, but Yoda stops him and says he is right. Yoda then looks around at all the dead in the temple and says he could have prevented this.
The film then continues as usual. Except this time Senator Organa mentions their new Rebellion to the Jedi who seem uninterested, they say after they’ve killed Anakin and Palpatine the Jedi should have no further part in shaping the galaxy. Yoda then goes to fight Palpatine and Obi-Wan follows Padme to Anakin. This time when Padme tries to make Anakin see reason and he chokes because she draws a blaster on him. When he sees Obi-Wan on the boarding ramp he then stabs Padme through the chest and drops her to the floor wounded, because Padme dying because ‘she lost the will to live’ is ridiculous. The scene and fight then progresses as usual but with Padme slowly beginning to die. When Anakin is lying in the ash and before he sets alight Obi-Wan stands over him with his lightsabre ready to finish the job, he then remembers Anakin as a child and declares “I can’t” and walks off. Anakin sets on fire after Obi-Wan leaves. I think Obi-Wan would euthanize Anakin if he saw the bit when he was on fire, but it’s also ridiculous that he’d just leave him there without at least trying to finish him off.
Meanwhile in the Yoda/Palpatine fight it shouldn’t be so close between them as it is in the original film. If you watch the original sequence you’ll see that Yoda actually overpowers Palpatine with the force, but he does it in a way that throws him from a ledge. This creates a problem of there being no reason why Yoda shouldn’t just try again at a later date. So either Yoda should be completely outmatched throughout or somewhat crippled by the fall so he can’t try again. I’d prefer to incorporate both approaches. This would also fit with the theme of the Sith defeating the Jedi due to the Jedi’s refusal to adapt and change to the times.
The film will then progress as normal but without the conversation between Yoda and Obi-Wan about Qui-Gon speaking to Yoda through the force. Instead later Obi-Wan is sitting in his new Tatooine squat and Qui-Gon appears before him as a blue force ghost saying he has new things to teach Obi-Wan.
Most importantly I think we can all live without this:
The intention of all of my changes are to give greater context to character motivations, the full design of Palpatine’s schemes and a generally more fulfilling story. I don’t believe the prequels need to be styled like the original films, they should have their own unique qualities and my changes are hopefully ones that would have played to the potential strengths of the prequels; an expanded universe, an ensemble cast and a genuinely epic war with both sides owned by the same antagonist.
What do you think? Do you have any ideas that would work well with my suggestions? Or am I completely wrong? How would you do it?