by Bob DeFrank
The SW prequels never happened and you get to write them. My response.
|What could have saved Star Wars?
So a friend and I were talking about Star Wars in general and how lousy the prequels were and I noticed some of the complaints were getting monotonous, so I thought I’d make a challenge.
Let’s play a game.
Let’s say the prequels never happened, and instead Mr. Lucas came up to you and said “You get to write the scripts for Episode I-III, using the Original Trilogy to draw on. You can do anything you like, so long as it blends into Episodes IV-VI and stays true to the spirit of Star Wars.”
Well, it was an interesting idea and in the succeeding weeks I soon came up with some interesting story ideas. As Poe said, I betook myself to linking fancy after fancy. I jotted down my ideas on the margins of notebooks and having arrived at a little free time I thought I’d compile them.
*Note: I’m drawing solely on the Original Trilogy here. I’m aware of the Expanded Universe and other background material, but I choose not to refer to them.
Some basic issues:
The Jedi and the Force
1) The Force and a Jedi’s powers are situational. They are not constant but involve the interaction of the Force on the living fluid mind and intelligence of a trained Jedi. What a Jedi can do with the force would depend very much on the Jedi’s personality, attitude, and the type of enemy or challenge they’re facing. You don’t need to explicitly state this in the movies, but that would be the driving idea and would lend internal consistency.
2) While I’m on the subject, less is more. Jedi should be generally unobtrusive in the use of their powers. Most used in one-on-one scenarios and knowing where when and how to exert the least amount of force (pun, ha ha) to diffuse a situation. A lot of myth making and superstition could surround them, some people could view them as nigh all-powerful, while others could dismiss the rumors and consider the Jedi mere charlatans.
3) People can be strong in the Force or the Force can be with someone without them being Jedi or seeking Jedi training or any training. It can often manifest itself as charisma or luck or foresight or an ability to be in the right place at the right time. I would see nothing wrong if someone were to mention that the new Senator Palpatine is ‘strong in the Force.’
4) The Jedi should have no official connection with the government. Their involvement in disputes is purely by-invitation.
5) Cut down on the numbers. The galaxy is a big place, so it should be rare to see more than two Jedi together. They should have a lot of mobile schools, but no fixed temple. Why would they need one?
6) Enough with the robes. Ben and Yoda used robes as a disguise. There’s no reason all Jedi should use them. For that matter, reduce those lightsabers. Lightsabers shouldn’t even be used by all Jedi, only the Knights who actually take up arms and defend with force. They should be a rarity among Jedi, and when a Jedi achieves Master status, they should grow beyond their lightsabers and get rid of them.
The Sith should not even use lightsabers. Palpatine did not have one, and he called it a Jedi weapon. Vader can use one, since he’s a fallen Jedi and wants to advertise that fact. However, in the original trilogy even Vader never brandished his publicly. I found that classy. He only switched that red saber on when he found an enemy worthy of his blade. When dealing with most people, he would usually choke them, which came across as a gesture of contempt.
1) When Episode I opens, the Clone Wars have been going on for years, maybe decades, and have done great damage across the galaxy, but are in the process of winding down. The fight is against various warlords and their fast-grown, programmed clone armies and it’s in this venue that Obi Wan Kinobi, Jedi Knight in the service of the ruler of Alderaan, meets a hotshot fighter pilot named Anakin Skywalker and decides to train him as a Jedi (beats the hell out a trade dispute, don’t it?).
2) No Senate scenes. In Episode IV we do not cut to Coruscant to view the Imperial Senate being dissolved. We don’t need to see their deliberations in the prequels. They can be mentioned in passing by characters in between action scenes.
Tone and theme
1) Central to the movies would be the prequels’ seamless continuity with the Original Trilogy. I would try and write it so that someone who has never heard of Star Wars could sit through all six movies and still be surprised in Episode V when Vader delivers his “Luke, I am your father” line.
1) I would not show Palpatine, or show as little of him as I could. If I could get away with not showing him at all then I would. Episode IV is his big reveal, and nothing in the preceding episodes should exceed that and he should stay in the shadows or off stage until then. But still his presence must be felt. In Episode I some characters might mention a Senator rising to prominence, and his actions might have repercussions on the plot, but you don’t need to see him.
1) Anakin could not have been a Jedi for very long before receiving his injuries. He isn’t well-known in the Original Trilogy.
2) He gets those injuries at the end of Episode II, and we might hear some characteristic Vader breathing off stage, but we don’t see him in the Vader suit until the opening of Episode III. Episode III would be the big Darth Vader movie and the equivalent to Episode V. I remind you that Episode V is the only movie where Vader was the primary bad guy. In Episode IV Tarkin and his Moff council was running the Death Star and Vader was called in to deal with the missing plans. In Episode VI Palpatine comes on stage to orchestrate things. In Episode V Vader is off his leash and has free reign to go wild and hunt down the Rebels. It’s his show all the way and everybody knows it: he’s a terror who kills his own people left and right, showing no restraint. That’s what I would want to capture for Episode III. I’m not such a snob that I’m adverse to giving fans what they want. It’s like the 2003 Hulk movie compared to the reboot: plenty of Freudian conflict, but boring as hell when what we wanted was to see a big green guy hit things and yell: “Hulk Smash!”
Or in Star Wars parlance: a little of this (skip to about 38 seconds in):
Be honest: is there anything Evil Anakin does in Episode III that remotely equals those scenes? Get James Earl Jones in there!
3) It’s not necessary to show very much of Anakin’s official conversion to the dark side or his conversation with Palpatine. The audience should follow him along in his internal and external conflicts and feel it through the first two movies, so they might easily fill in the blanks and imagine what Palpatine would say to Anakin and offer him as he lay on life support. If possible, I’d like the audience to be able to assume Anakin died at the end of Episode II. It might not be possible, but I’d try like hell.
4) This hearkens back to the brilliance of Episode V. The first time Vader is hunting Luke you see only his ruthlessness and brutality, but the revelation in Cloud City casts a different light on his motivation and you see Vader’s actions through new eyes. He has an element of humanity that makes his evil worse: ultimately he’s just a guy who wants his family back.
1) Same idea as with Palpatine: limited screen time or maybe none at all. Yoda’s been around 900 years, why not have him be in retirement or semi-retirement for awhile now? The surprise reveal in Episode V that this funny little creature is the great Jedi Master was one of the best moments in the Original Trilogy, and I don’t want to give that up.
2) No turning Yoda into a Super Mario character with a little lightsaber. He and Palpatine should be beyond all that.
Jabba the Hutt
1) I think there could be a place for this guy as the primary antagonist in Episode I. A slimmer version however, so that he’d have changed enough to make it shocking when the audience sees him again in Episode VI.
Luke and Leia’s mom
1) The Original Trilogy focused on Luke, Leia and Han as the main characters. The prequels can focus on Obi Wan (or Ben, as Anakin could nickname him) Anakin, and Mom (can’t think of a name). But I’m thinking: why can’t Mom be the Han Solo of the group? Why not have Anakin and Ben meet a tough, independent female ship captain in Episode I? Why should Leia be royal by blood? She’s certainly tough in the movies, and she does well as one of the troops. And if their mother has to die, she can at least die heroically.
2) I wouldn’t even show the twins being born. Mom could learn she was pregnant in Episode II and have given birth before Episode III.
3) The final climax of Episode III and the prequels would be that death. Vader pursuing her small craft with his Star Destroyer, then when she leads the big ship into an asteroid or other type of trap that gets it smashed, Vader can climb into his TIE fighter and chase her. Very likely she wouldn’t even know who he really is at first. Ben could realize it and tell her Vader was an old student of his who turned to the dark side, then she hands over the twins for him to hide.
Ben could simply tell her Vader meant to take her children for the Emperor, which was true from a certain point of view. Ben can hope that she gets away, but if Ben knows Anakin’s offspring are the only chance to bring down the Emperor, he won’t dare risk everything on the chance to redeem Vader and turn him good. There’s too much at stake. Of course, she finds out eventually.
4) Episode III concludes with a dogfight that ends with Mom’s ship destroyed and Vader assuming his kid (doesn’t know they’re twins) died with his wife. I think this ending rather than a lightsaber fight is effective. It illustrates Ben’s comment that the lightsaber was a sign of a more civilized age that’s passed, and it serves as a thematic bridge to Vader’s chasing of Luke in Episode IV.
And okay, a very brief cameo by a certain blue-skinned Imperial Admiral with glowing red eyes. A little treat for the Thrawn fans.
Do I even need to say it? Okay I will: NO GREEN SCREEN! Or at least as little as possible.
And finally: NO SUPPLEMENTAL MERCHANDISING until the entire prequel trilogy is complete. No novels, comics, or anything that adds to the story. Just the novelization and video game adaptations. Lucas, you’re rich already and you can milk the movies for all their worth when they’re complete. Don’t kill the goose to get at the golden eggs or you’ll get neither.
Basic premise: the Clone Wars has been going on for awhile, it’s winding down. Anakin, Ben and Mom meet and have a fun space adventure.
The Empire is replacing the Republic. Anakin’s in a lot of turmoil. Ben and Anakin eventually fight. Or maybe they don’t and Anakin is injured while doing something heroic and is generally misunderstood. Then at least the audience could understand his rage at having everything taken from him and his resolve to get his family back no matter what, or, failing that, to wreak revenge on the galaxy. At any rate, Anakin’s left for dead and presumed dead by the audience. This would undoubtedly be the most difficult point, since in Episode IV Ben tells Luke Vader betrayed and murdered his father, and the audience should believe it.
Vader takes center stage and begins hunting Ben and Mom. Ben takes the twins and hides them. Mom dies. With nothing left of his human life, Vader begins his reign of terror as the public face of the Empire.
As you can see, it’s extremely rough. Not even an outline. I didn’t include dialogue, planets, action scenes, etc, I don’t have any intention of writing out a full script, but this is what I’d work for in terms of look, feel, themes, characters and plot points.
I do not claim this is the only way the prequels could have been written, or even the best way, but it’s how I would have written them.
PS, if you loved the prequels, good for you, but please do not comment about how awesome they are. That's not a conversation I want to get into.