Random ramblings on music and movies

Reviews and entertainment articles by Dave Simpson

Star Wars – Ironing out the prequels

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It’s been a while since I’ve done any random rambling that wasn’t part of a review and with Star Wars fever overrunning the world on the lead up to The Force Awakens, it seems as good a time as any to share some thoughts on the franchise thus far. This particular post is going to look at several subtle adjustments that I think would have worked well for Episodes I – III.
My aim here is not to rewrite the story that George Lucas delivered over the course of those three movies. As I mentioned a long time ago, in an article far, far away, I am not a prequel hater. I prefer to take the six episodes to date as a whole and appreciate the tale in its entirety. In that respect, I find the narrative that unfolds from The Phantom Menace to Revenge of the Sith to be satisfactory in a broad sense, but there are certainly some things that I believe would have made the films a little neater both in relation to each other and the original trilogy.
Supposed continuity errors such as Obi-Wan and Owen Lars not acknowledging Threepio and Artoo in A New Hope have never bothered me. In the case of the former, I’ve always just assumed that he chose not to relay his recognition of the droids for fear of revealing more about Luke’s heritage than he deemed necessary. As far as the latter goes, the way I figure it is that protocol droids are a dime a dozen and after more than two decades, the middle-aged moisture farmer merely never thought to make the connection.
One of the few issues that does nag away at me though is Obi-Wan’s assertion in The Empire Strikes Back that he was trained by Yoda, despite Qui-Gon clearly being his mentor in The Phantom Menace. I know that the ancient Jedi Grand Master is said to have taught all younglings ahead of their apprenticeships, but that seems sloppy. So the relationship between Jinn and Kenobi appears to be an appropriate place to begin outlining my adjustments.

jinn kenobi

Rather than start with the characters as teacher and student, I’d have introduced them as a master and a full-fledged knight simply assigned to investigate the Naboo Blockade together. Qui-Gon could still be in command and act as an individual that Obi-Wan admires and to whom he is close. It wouldn’t effect the narrative in any significant way, it would only mean that their status makes a subtle shift from that of instructor and pupil to commander and subordinate. This way, the essence of their relationship remains intact, while preserving the fact that Obi-Wan was apparently trained in the ways of the Force by Yoda.
And while we’re on the subject of Qui-Gon Jinn, in retrospect I think the story as a whole would have benefited if he wasn’t killed at the end of Episode I. Instead of falling before Maul’s blade, he could have been incapacitated, leaving the duel to play out more or less exactly as it did, only with Qui-Gon being left injured rather than dead.
This would lead to his being offered a seat on the High Council and entrusting Obi-Wan with training Anakin. Episodes II and III would unfold in the same manner, except with Jinn stepping into the role fulfilled by Mace Windu in the sequels. As the plot progresses, we see him slowly lose faith in Skywalker, despite having been his main advocate at the offset. At the same time, Obi-Wan continues to defend his apprentice to his old friend, even though he was originally weary of the former slave’s destiny.
Ultimately, Mace’s showdown with Palpatine becomes Qui-Gon’s last stand. This means that Anakin’s turning point is the moment in which he allows the Sith Master to murder the man who saved him from slavery and supported him in the first place. That would surely have made Anakin’s choice all the more dramatic, while adding justification to Obi-Wan’s sudden willingness to kill the boy that he essentially raised as his own. He would be utterly sickened and disgusted that his padawan facilitated the death of his own close friend and father figure, especially after he defended him to Qui-Gon for so long.

mustafar exchange

That being said, I would still have had Obi-Wan attempt to appeal to Anakin’s virtuous side during their exchange before the dual on Mustafar. This would allow Vader’s claim in Return of the Jedi that Obi-Wan once thought as Luke did to feel a little neater. It’s also retroactively odd that Kenobi refers to his former friend as “Darth” in Episode IV. To counter this, I’d have had Anakin tell Obi-Wan that his birth name no longer has any meaning for him. He now views himself only as Darth Vader.
This would represent how far gone the young Jedi is, as well as the shame that he feels at having caused Qui-Gon’s death and choking his pregnant wife into unconsciousness. It also references a similar assertion he makes to Luke in Episode VI. Obi-Wan, realising that the boy he trained has been consumed by the persona of Vader, addresses Anakin as Darth for the entirety of the duel out of spite and revulsion, hence explaining why he continues to do so in the original movie. Metaphorically, he does truly believe Anakin Skywalker to be dead.
Even with that in mind, it still seems uncharacteristically cruel that Obi-Wan would leave the young man to burn alive rather than deliver a mercy kill at the end of their battle. As much as I love the character and Ewan McGreogor’s portrayal of him, that’s something that’s always bothered me about Revenge of the Sith. It would have been better if Palpatine showed up just as the fighting finished, forcing Obi-Wan to flee and leave Vader’s charred torso for Sidious to recover. That way, it doesn’t appear as if Kenobi left a living being to suffer.

retrieving lightsabre

He would of course still grab Anakin’s lightsabre on his way out. During their clash, maybe he could have even asked Anakin if he’d ever considered what would become of his unborn child while carrying out his misdeeds. Anakin retorts that his child will be his heir after he usurps the emperor and one day wield his blade to carry on his legacy. This adds an element of truth to Obi-Wan later telling Luke that his father wanted him to have his lightsabre when he was old enough. It’s not something I feel is necessarily missing from Revenge of the Sith though, it’s merely food for thought.
But to back track temporarily and tie up the topic of Qui-Gon. I’d have kept the deleted dialogue during which his disembodied voice explains the nature of Force ghosts to Yoda towards the end of the third episode. It’s a fleeting but informative piece of exposition for what’s to come chronologically. And just to be clear on the expansion of Jinn’s role across the trilogy; I am not suggesting that Mace Windu be stricken from continuity. On the contrary, I’m actually a big fan of the character. His part in The Phantom Menace wouldn’t be altered in any way and he could continue to sit by Yoda’s side and wield his distinctive purple lightsabre in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. However, his screen time would be more akin to that of Ki-Adi-Mundi.

windu

This way, Mace is still afforded a speaking role that involves action and his death still carries weight when he’s shown being struck down by his own troops during the Order 66 sequence. Samuel L. Jackson is even on record as having said that he’d have appeared as a stormtrooper just to be able to say that he was in Star Wars somewhere, so the chances are that he would have been glad to have been featured even that much throughout the three movies. It does pain me somewhat to diminish his significance, but I really think it would have been more hard-hitting had Qui-Gon stepped into his shoes for the second and third prequels.
Also, on the topic of Anakin telekinetically choking Padmé, I would have kept that as the actual cause of her death. I was never a fan of the whole “lost the will to live” thing. It’s just too hard to swallow. If she’d died soon after childbirth due to the effects of Anakin’s attack, it would have allowed her fate to pack a more powerful punch. This brings us to another alleged discontinuity between the trilogies; Leia’s revelation that she remembers her real mother.

baby luke

Now, I’ve never had a huge problem with this due to the fact that she specifically says she only remembers “images” and “feelings”. I’ve always interpreted this as visions passed onto Leia through the Force which she assumes are memories because she’s unaware of her latent connection to the mysterious energy field. However, it could have been conveyed better in Revenge of the Sith. If Leia arrived a minute or two ahead of Luke and was allowed to rest in Padmé’s arms before her brother was born, there would be a stronger suggestion, however subtle, that this is the reason why Leia has an impression of her mother being a woman who was “very beautiful, kind, but sad”.
Another minor plot point I’d have added as far as the Skywalker twins are concerned is showing their parents coming up with their names on screen. While it’s not at all major, it would have been a nice touch to see Anakin and Padmé discuss baby names when the latter talks about wanting to give birth on Naboo. If they’d decided on Luke for a boy and Leia for a girl, it wouldn’t have appeared that Padmé pulled the names idly out of the air just before she died.
A final addendum concerning the ill-fated senator from Naboo is that I wouldn’t have edited out the instances of her plotting against Palpatine with Bail Organa and Mon Mothma. I understand the need to keep the focus on Anakin, but not only do these deleted scenes supply some crucial set up for the original trilogy, they also provide Padmé with a purpose beyond giving birth and dying. Not to mention how much more significant they make her legacy going forward in the continuity. The fact that these scenes were filmed but omitted from the final cut of the film really is a great shame.

lars

Speaking of Skywalker familial relations, one branch of their family tree that should have been fleshed out a little more, in Attack of the Clones in particular, is that of the Lars clan. More specifically, I’m talking about the extremely embittered opinions Owen harbours in A New Hope. While nothing that happens contradicts how he feels in that film, I’d have inserted some dialogue into Episode II that has him telling his long lost step-brother that had he stayed on Tatooine and not gotten involved in galactic affairs, he might have been able to save his mother. The purpose would be to set up some resentment between Owen and Anakin to better reflect the former’s stance in Episode IV.
It could have been followed up by a brief exchange with Obi-Wan at the end of Revenge of the Sith. Obi-Wan asks Owen to give Luke Anakin’s lightsabre when he’s old enough and tell him that his father wanted him to have it so he has at least some small memento of the good man he once was. Owen angrily refuses and accuses Obi-Wan of influencing Anakin to go off to war. He tells Kenobi that he’ll adopt Luke out of respect for Shmi, as well as sympathy for the newborn’s situation, but that the former general is not welcome on his farm, nor will he allow him to take Luke away as he did Anakin. Then add in the line “as long as I live” for the sake of foreshadowing.

sunset

Kenobi, with a cool and calm Jedi demeanour, walks away silently, turning back only to declare that as far as the galaxy is concerned Obi-Wan is dead. His name is Ben now. At this point, Owen tells him he’s just a crazy old wizard no matter what he chooses to call himself, then joins his wife and step-nephew on the precipice of their homestead to observe the binary sunset. Cue credits.
I do appreciate the fact that every movie to date has ended with a montage of musical motifs and imagery devoid of dialogue and that there was a certain symmetry to Threepio speaking both the first line of A New Hope and the last line of Revenge of the Sith. But it would have been interesting to see the origins of the divide between Owen and Obi-Wan. The events could always have been swapped around so that Luke is delivered before the final sequence of scenes, still allowing Threepio the last word and cutting back to the Lars home later as the freshly formed family look out silently upon the setting suns. Or even ending with the image of Vader and Palpatine supervising the construction of the Death Star. Either way, further exploration of the relationship between the Lars family and Anakin in Attack of the Clones would have been welcome.
Since this brings us to the actual end point of the prequels, it seems an appropriate place to wrap up my ramblings. As I stated at the start, I have no wish to rewrite the trilogy in its entirety, just to explore some alternate takes on certain elements of the narrative. It can be fun to consider what could have been and whether you agree with any of the above opinions or not, I hope you’ve enjoyed perusing them as much I’ve enjoyed laying them out. May the Force be with you.

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One comment on “Star Wars – Ironing out the prequels

  1. havelm
    October 6, 2015

    I particularly like your take on Jinns expanded role, that character had so much potential, seemed like a missed opportunity. I also think Mauls role could have been expanded without impacting the overall story.

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This entry was posted on September 29, 2015 by in Movies and tagged .
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