I love the hell out of Harry S. Plinkett’s reviews of the Star Wars prequels. Early on in his review of Revenge Of The Sith, he feints and hooks so well. You think he is going to make the obvious “they spelled shit wrong” joke. And what he actually says had me nearly dying of laughter.
But since the month is ending and we are at the point of the year where I contemplate doing drastic things, I am going to briefly spell out what I would have done differently if I had to make these films.
First of all, it is important to note that wording. If I had to. Whilst the results of George Lucas trying to create things outside of Star Wars have ranged from forgettable to outright disasters, the mark of a true artist is that they keep on trying. Irrespective of the setbacks they suffer. Lucas’ approach since preproduction began on these prequels has screamed that he gave up. This is not unusual. Hell, even the Harry Potty And The Babifying Whatever author appears to have given up in the face to indifference to new works.
(This, by the way, is your cue to stop bitching and moaning about sequels or reboots or what have you. You keep asking for the same shit over and over. Take some risks once in a while.)
Basically, did this story need to be told?
That is a serious question. Now, when one is telling a story, one generally has to think of a specific set of things. What is the goal of telling this story? (Other than to make a shit-zillion dollars.) What techniques work best for this story? What message do I want the audience to take from this story?
The more you look at these three films, especially the first one, the more it becomes apparent that they were rushed, not thought through, and basically just put onto the screen for purposes other than trying to entertain the audience.
Now, before I begin my “proposal” of what I would have done with three films, I will say this much. Whatever else you might say about George Lucas’ terrible storytelling, he at least knows how to shoot a film. Yes, the dialogue sequences are terribly composed. Yes, the editing is terrible. But unlike J.J. Abums, George Lucas is still aware of the fact that when your audience thinks they could shoot a better-looking and more coherent picture by shoving a camera up their arse and crawling around on all fours, it is not a good thing.
And that is notwithstanding the fact that when we are in these scenes where people do the “here is what is going on and why you should care about it” speech, it is so static and lifeless that it puts audiences to sleep. At least it does not hurt their eyes or make them worried that they are about to have fukking seizures, Abums!
(That is why these videos are here, by the way. When a videogame released in 1997 is better-shot in terms of blocking, framing, and especially stability and lighting, than your hundreds-million-dollar feature film, it is time to go and kill yourself, Abums.)
Now, let us be frank about the major points of what I would do differently. In fact, I am just going to restrict the differences to what I would do differently in The Phantom Menace (other than the title) for the time being.
Anakin, Shmi, and Padme would still be in it. Yeah, I know, this makes you wonder what the point is of me writing this shit. Well, first of all, two things. One, Anakin is not a nine year old boy. He is about the same age as Padme. Both are about sixteen or seventeen years old, in fact. Only slightly younger than Luke was at the beginning of the first film.
Two, none of them are slaves to a stupid-looking creature that makes one think “dick-nose”. They are poor, under the radar in the big grand galactic empire, and thus only Shmi and Padme are aware that Anakin can do things that make them think “what the fukk?”.
Now, I am sure that George Lucas will declare this to be non-canon, but there are sources that describe the armour of Boba Fett to resemble that of the “Mandalorians”. Such sources were common, even ubiquitous, in the mid-1980s. Essentially, the Mandalorians were described in these sources as “a group of warriors defeated by the Jedi during the clone wars”. Boba wore this armour as a symbol, basically a big “fukk you” to the Jedi and what they stood for. More on this later.
Now, with that in mind, imagine the Mandalorians coming from another galaxy by some unknown means, landing on Tattooine, and occupying the planet, taking the local populace as hostages. Numerous Jedi will be sent to investigate and fight the Mandalorians, one of whom just happens to be Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Kenobi arrives in the same part of Tattooine that Anakin, Shmi, and Padme live in. Just in time to bear witness to the Mandalorians killing Shmi in front of Anakin whilst he raises hell trying to use powers he neither understands nor can properly control to save her. Mandalorians are thrown about, some even die, but none of this suffices to save Shmi, who is shot through the head in a similar manner to Three Kings. Fukk, let’s even put in a version of that heads-before-passing clouds montage featuring Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Padme.
Obi-Wan is in time to save Anakin and Padme (whom I would probably call something else if I were making these films but I will keep calling her that so we have a proper frame of reference). He does so handily, lopping off Mandalorian arms, legs, and heads in carefully coordinated sequences that show the Mandalorians are tough customers, but Obi-Wan is just that little bit tougher than they are. (This is one way you make the audience care about participants in battle, not making it look like winning is as easy as picking their nose for them.)
Obi-Wan sits Padme and Anakin down as the clean-up begins. He can see that the whole experience of being held prisoner and having people killed in front of them has formed something of a bond between them. But more importantly, he investigates and finds that Anakin would have made a great Jedi if only someone had started training him.
Helping Anakin build a lightsabre, which he aces on the first go, Obi-Wan takes Anakin with him and they join in the counter-attack on the Mandalorians. Where they are from is not gone into with any detail, just “somehow they crossed from another galaxy”. Let us use the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies because they are adjacent to one another just as an example of where to put our feet. If you could travel at the speed of light, and that looks like an everyday thing in Star Wars canon, it would take you two million years to cross from Milky Way to Andromeda.
So clearly, the Mandalorians have some pretty far-out shit that even a civilisation as advanced as the Galactic Republic would love to get their hands on. When Anakin and Obi-Wan cut their way into a Mandalorian space station, they discover certain evidences of that. One, the Galactic Republic takes off the scene so fast you cannot even see it, and just deems it “classified”. Just to preserve a certain sense of mystery (and open speculation about the possibility of using it to go to the Mandalorians’ galaxy).
The other is cloning technology. No, not the kind we know of that has the potential to make things like diabetes or donor organ shortages things of the past. I mean the technology to duplicate a person in their entirety. Anakin stops one such process before it has time to finish, providing evidence that although Anakin is outwardly a kind soul who only wants to help people like Padme or fight the good fight with Obi-Wan, years of poverty and the murder of his mother have opened a void in him that he will struggle with forever.
Anyway, when we further investigate (aka autopsy and examine, using Republic soldier specialists and such), we learn the Mandalorians are clones of about ten to twenty people who may in fact no longer exist at all. Essentially, all this cloning from a very shallow gene pool has given rise to numerous congenital defects.
As we are cleaning up the pieces from this raid upon the Mandalorian space station, we learn that something bigger is coming through the gross-galaxy gateway. I am not sure how it does this because I am writing this on the fly and would need to research it better to think of ways it could be executed/explained to the audience.
So Anakin, Obi-Wan, and numerous pilots from the Republic face off against this enormous battleship that they eventually destroy by modifying their tactics and taking out a “shield generator” before delivering the terminal blow. About ten to fifteen minutes of setup, progression, and battle payoff.
Anakin and Obi-Wan go to Coruscant, Obi-Wan is given permission to train Anakin so long as he reports to the other Jedi and follows some rules, Anakin goes home, starts packing, and gets asked by Padme to take her with him. They bump uglies (!IMPLIED!), the end.
I do not know about you, but as a first act, this at least puts everything in place that needs to be there. And you will note that there are also no unnecessary characters. No idiots who talk like racist stereotypes or assholes. No people who do not need to be there.
Depending on how you tell the story I have described above, it also leaves open the two possibilities that Plinkett described so well. We can either entirely focus upon Anakin, or we can have him just be another part of the story. In fact, if you take out the moment where Anakin demonstrates to Obi-Wan that he can build and swing a lightsabre in spite of never having had or seen one before (and set it aside for the next film), you can even have the entire ending of the film feature Obi-Wan without Anakin at all.
Of course, that also makes it harder to connect the dots about Anakin being the best whatever pilot in the galaxy, but not everything need be spelled out.
Now, this is obviously a pretty radical change from what we did get. Which necessitates a change to the other two films.
In Attack Of The Clones (which would also have a different title), we would have a completely different film.
I think I actually agree with Plinkett when he says it was worse than The Phantom Menace. He is spot-on when he says that Attack Of The Clones succeeds in making the lightsabre impractical in its own universe.
But anyway, Attack Of The Clones would begin with two montages, interlinked with one another. In order to properly explain them, I will talk about them separately. The first, I will call the Jedi montage, the other, the Sith montage. Let us dive in.
The Jedi montage
The Jedi montage would consist of Obi-Wan training Anakin in a sort of “recovering a lost one who knows how to destroy the car but not how to adjust the seats” manner. Obi-Wan would report to Yoda and whomever else we can assemble a Jedi council out of. References to Anakin coming along well, mastering this and that, but that BIG BLACK HOLE IN HIS HEART (¡cliche!) never closing, would be the dominant theme in these reports. Eventually, Anakin is deemed good enough to go on assignment with Obi-Wan, but on a “probationary” basis. Sort of like “we are taking you on, but we still want to know if you can cut it”, if that makes sense.
And the word “Padawan” would never be used. Ever. It makes me want to throw shit out of a window from three floors up. Ten, fifteen minutes, tops, this montage would take. Hell, a really good storyteller could probably do it in five to eight.
The Sith montage
The Sith montage will be our first glimpse into… well, the Sith. Although we know this trainer to be Senator Cas Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid, the one man who escaped the prequels with any dignity), we never see him.
We see how an apprentice, a woman who might kinda-sorta look like Mara Jade (pictured) is being trained. Power is for using, she will be told. Power unused is power wasted (this is from the novelisation of The Phantom Menace, more or less). And we see how she is trained up to a point where she can take on at least four Jedi in one sitting. (How this is represented is a good question but work with me here.)
Then she is sent out with one directive. One we are not told, but might just be a word or phrase. (That “rosebud” thing from Citizen Kane is what I am trying to imply here.)
The Rest Of The Film
Padme tells Anakin, “hey I am going to have your baby”, and there are implied messages that they have been playing hide the banana a lot in the time between films.
Whilst the original films were told in pretty much ongoing time, I think this would be a good time to break with that. Demonstrate that since the Tattooine incident, at least a year or two has passed. The two montages I have just described should occur during those one or two years, the rest of the film in “now”. Yes, there are quick and effective ways to clue audiences in on that kind of shit. The Mandalorians are gone “for good”, the outer rim is “secure”, but somehow the Republic is unstable and in economic crisis. There are food lines in Coruscant. People in the outer rim see closed schools, disused spaceports, etc. Cas Palpatine comes out and says he will reverse this situation if elected.
The bunch of Senators he is paying under the table to disrupt the process continue to do so.
Jedi eventually get wind of this. Shortly after the twins are born, Anakin comes home, finds them missing, and Padme murdered. (In case I really need to spell this out, these events are not coincidental.)
Revenge Of The Sith will begin with Anakin tracking Padme’s murderer down. Before Palpatine, they duel, and Anakin wins out after losing his shit just like Luke did in Return Of The Jedi. Complete with the chorus of bassy men harmonising doomily in the background.
Hey, Lucas, this is the one “rhyme” I will have with the other three films. A good percentage of the best songs in my collection have no rhymes at all. Come to think of it, so do a good portion of the poems I do remember.
With Padme’s killer on the ground, fresh lightsabre wound in her body that looks very much like the one Anakin saw in Padme, Cas Palpatine proclaims this assassin to be a Jedi, reveals his whole big arsenal of anti-Jedi shit, and sets Anakin off to work chasing down and killing Jedi. Jedi are tested in the street for “force sensitivity” (not “midi-bullshit”), and even false positives are killed.
Meanwhile, Obi-Wan hides Luke and Leia. We know already which twin is given to whom, but basically he tells them not to tell anyone who these children are, at least not yet.
Finally, we get Obi-Wan and Anakin confronting each other on some planet somewhere. Obi-Wan says everything he can to dissuade Anakin, to try and turn him back from the abyss. And Anakin repeats the word he found left with Padme when he found her body (the “rosebud” element) before flat-out proclaiming the woman who killed Padme was a Jedi. Obi-Wan does his best to refute this, even asking Anakin to consider why no other Jedi has met the woman that Anakin describes.
After a duel that would last maybe five minutes… hell, I do not know quite how this ending would be done. The falling into a “molten pit” thing as described into the Return Of The Jedi novelisation is not plausible in the sense that not even people made entirely of asbestos could survive that. Perhaps something that slowly destroys Anakin’s body. Anyway, the point being that Anakin is left on the verge of death, Obi-Wan takes Anakin’s lightsabre, and Palpatine comes to give Anakin the surgical reconstruction.
(At some point, we would also see scenes of bounties being placed on Jedi, and a certain individual buying an old suit that a Mandalorian wore. Propaganda short films about the heroic Jedi-killer in the Mandalorian armour would be seen on outdoor screens around the inner worlds.)
In place of more walking and talking on the Tantive IV would be Obi-Wan struggling to warn any and all Jedi to go into hiding, him vainly trying to rescue any Jedi he comes across, and being interrupted in the process of rescuing one Jedi by a suited Darth Vader. We see him wielding the same lightsabre that the anonymous Sith woman who killed Padme wielded. The same one that he wields throughout the other three films.
The last thing we will see is a thoroughly battered, defeated Obi-Wan fleeing to the sanctuary of Tattooine, licking his wounds and trying to watch for anyone coming after him.
Of course, these brief descriptions of how the films I would make would play leave a lot of questions. They are nowhere near a comprehensive description. I would be drafting and redrafting story versions of these films and having someone convert them into scripts which would then be picked apart and rewritten until they played like something I would enjoy watching.
Then we would begin making the films (one at a time, of course).
I do not even begin to profess that I would necessarily make good or even great films. But given that I would not be accompanied by a chorus of sycophants applauding every time I farted out a draft of the script, I think my math is pretty solid when I say that I would at least make solid stories.
Anyway, if anyone out there wants to realise this version of the prequels in any form (hell, stick-figure animation will do at this point), I can always be contacted about it.
But all it takes is a little imagination and logical storytelling thinking. (Insert the sound of me sighing here.)
(Some notes about what I have just written above.
One, as is stated in one official “picture guide”, lightsabres relate to personal histories. This has even been the case in the prequel films we did get. If you look carefully at Qui-Gon’s lightsabre during one series of shots, you can see that the lightsabre Obi-Wan uses in his final duel with Darth Vader and the lightsabre Luke uses in Return Of The Jedi bear a very strong resemblance to it. Why not turn that to a storytelling advantage in these proposed remakes?
Two, whilst people got all pissy and moany about the subversion of political process that went on in the Revenge Of The Sith that we got, is important to understand something. Uses of democratic process in order to establish dictatorship is a move with a long and storied history. The Weimar Republic was extinguished in this fashion, for example.
Finally, I am dead serious when I say that given enough resources, I would make these three films as described above. Also dead serious when I say they would be subject to a refinement process that belies the hasty nature of what is written here.)