Sunday, March 30, 2008

Do Over! Jedi Edition

You've got a time machine, and you've taken George Lucas hostage. What would you do differently with the Star Wars Trilogies?

Here are some of my initial thoughts:

1. At least have Luke mention Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru once or twice after their deaths. With all the stuff blowing up and lightsaber fights, I can understand being distracted from it, like I was before a little scene in Robot Chicken, but it would be nice to see Luke bring it up at least once in the movies.

2. Dump the whole "Storm Troopers are clones of Boba Fett's 'father'" thing in Episode 2. (And get a better title by the way.) The Fett man was cool because of the Decemberween gift effect: He was cool because we didn't know the man under the mask. His mysterious past was whatever our imaginations could stretch it to be. Or even just assumed to be cooler than anything we really could imagine. Just have the storm troopers be clones of some nameless mercenary, or even just engineered from scratch.

3. Just for one of the elephants in the room: Get a better actor for Anakin. When the "romance" started, I was absolutely convinced Anakin was just playing her like a fiddle to create some kind of false "troubled but cute" image to pull Padme's heart strings. Turns out the actor wasn't acting like a bad actor.

4. Seriously trim down on the Ewoks.

5. For the prequel trilogy in general: Get George to make it very shortly after the original, and make sure he's still balanced by other directors, writers, editors and such. He was a cool guy, but getting protection from editors didn't help.


Aaron Golas said...

Holy cow, where to start?

How about Yoda. Yoda was cool because his vast wisdom was hidden within this nutty little swamp hermit. Also, he was a kickass puppet (general note: take away George's computer and put him back in the model shop). The prequels took away everything that made Yoda cool.

On that topic, I was ultimately disappointed in the fight between Yoda and Palpatine (in the same way I was disappointed with the final clash between Neo and Agent Smith). These are presumably the two most sophisticated wielders of the Force in the galaxy. Their clash should be less throwing stuff around, and more, I don't know, intellectual or something.

Midichlorians. On top of it, just get right of the virgin birth thing and the whole Chosen One schtick.

In addition to young Boba and the clones... Anakin built C-3PO and flew with R2-D2? Yoda was buddies with Chewbacca? Did you also know that Wedge Antilles grew up down the street from Han Solo, and Grand Moff Tarkin is Count Dooku's brother-in-law? Seriously, I know it's satisfying to see some familiar old faces, but how inbred is this galaxy?

Aaron Golas said...

Correction: just get *rid* of the virgin birth thing, etc.

Tom Foss said...

Three words: Yoda was wrong.

I swear I've written this before, but I'm not sure where I would have done it. While ideally I'd make all sorts of changes, I think the whole prequel trilogy would be vastly improved by actually having an overarching message.

Qui-Gon is a maverick; it's why he spends so much time away from Coruscant, it's why he's looking into long-forgotten prophecies, it's why he's so willing to interfere in the matters of other worlds. He thinks the Council has gotten bogged down in meaningless ritual and tradition, and he fears that the dark age predicted in the prophecies will come to pass through their bureaucratic inaction.

His death brings two things to light: the powerful new trainee Anakin Skywalker, and the fact that the Sith have returned. Of course, the Council doesn't yet believe that; they spend the next several years debating whether or not it's true, and determining what the best course of action might be if it is. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan takes up his mentor's radical ideas, as well as his new student.

Yada yada, Jedi massacre, Anakin turns to the Dark Side, yada yada, and it becomes clear: the Jedi may have won years ago, but they've not changed since then. All the tactics they developed to combat the Sith centuries ago have become traditions and arbitrary rules, while the Sith have laid low and watched and learned and changed, recognizing their own weaknesses and correcting for them, using new techniques--like politics--to gain power. The Sith essentially destroyed the Jedi in a hostile takeover, while the Jedi were waiting for them to attack.

Even Qui-Gon wasn't immune; he prized the prophecies and trusted the traditional interpretations too much. He didn't understand that "balance" was literal--always there are two Sith, now there are only two Jedi as well. Yoda escapes with his life, and with a better understanding of what needs to be done. The Jedi need to take a page from the Sith playbook: lay low, learn, and change.

And the first lesson is the last that Qui-Gon learned: there is more to the Force than they once thought. His ability to speak even after death is proof of that.

I guess that's kind of rambling; what I mean to say is that this theme wouldn't be hard to insert even into the existing films. The Jedi lost because they weren't flexible; because their useless rules of honor handicapped them. The Sith learned cunning and patience and new methods while the Jedi were sitting in their bean bag chairs contemplating their navels. And they paid the price for their complacency.

Also, General Grievous wouldn't be some new, out-of-the-blue character. Underneath the life-support armor would be the bits of flesh and brain that once were called Darth Maul. Not only would that better explain his lightsaber prowess, not only would it conserve on characters, not only would it bring back the best thing out of the first Prequel, not only would it justify his mad-on for Obi-Wan, but it would serve as a grim foreshadowing of Anakin's ultimate fate: dismemberment isn't necessarily the end for a Lord of the Sith, even if they want it to be.

I agree with dumping Midichlorians and the ridiculously interconnected universe. The last two films could be titled "Star Wars: Fanservice." "Oh, the fans like lightsaber battles? Here's several! The fans like Christopher Lee? Here he is, nonsensically. The fans like Boba Fett? Well, look, now he's super-important to the whole universe. The fans like Sam Jackson? Let's give Mace Windu an increasingly larger role, some insanely stereotypical "badass black guy" lines, and suddenly make him the second-most-powerful Jedi."

If there's one thing we all should have learned by looking at the "Fan's Choice" Star Wars figures--Sandtrooper? Clone Trooper? Not-Quite-R2-D2? Really--it's that Star Wars fans are idiots. Not necessarily individually, but the collective whole of people who buy SW: Insider magazine and still collect the toys and stuff are people with, let's face it, no taste in films and no idea what they want from the franchise. Lucas's pandering to his children (Jar-Jar) and the man-children of fandom killed Star Wars.

Anonymous said...

Ugh. So many things wrong with those movies, especially the prequels.

Just a few problems with the prequels off the top of my head:

1) Dragging out Anakin's transformation for three whole movies just to culminate in "Noooooo!" is just about the biggest rip-off in film history. Everyone already knows he becomes Darth Vader. It's not like there's any suspense here at all. That ending is in no way moving at all, because we already fucking know he turns into Darth Vader. Dragging it out just makes the movies tedious.

2.) Light saber fight. Hand cut off. Light saber fight. Hand cut off. Light saber fight. Hand cut off. The twist: Robot with eight arms and eight light sabers. The result: Light saber fight. Hand cut off. Eight times. This is a problem from the original trilogy (one hand cut off by light saber per movie) that was taken to new heights of absurdity in the prequels.

3.) Losing track of the storyline, then hastily tying up numerous loose ends at the very end of part III. Yoda goes into exile? Why? He just won a fight. They split up the children? Why? Couldn't you have resolved these issues as part of the two and a half hours of pointless storyline I just watched?

4.) Endless pandering. Creating characters solely for their cheap appeal to the audience despite the fact that they contribute nothing to the story. Samuel L. Jackson's character is worthless and pointless, though not as bad as Jar Jar Binks.

5.) Torturous, unnatural, contrived and stilted dialog. Again, this was a problem in the original trilogy, but it was much, much, much worse in the prequels.

Wikinite said...

1) Use Yoda's style of speech from empire. I swear every time Yoda opens his damn mouth in the prequals he was doing the 'mixed reverse yoda-speech dealie'. Go back to empire and listen to Yoda's dialog. Most of the time he talks like a normal person. He only gets his grammer mixed up a few times, and its usually when he is saying something important. Yoda's odd speech patterns were simply a clever device to let the audience know that Yoda was giving important details that they ought to be paying attention to.

2) More cool force powers in the prequals. I can't stress this enough. When I was getting ready to see the new movies I had this thought that because we were going to see all the old bad-ass jedi that obviously they had a greater repository of knowledge and talent to draw from and this would translate to lots of stuff luke would have had no idea of how to do. Unfortunately is was same old bullshit we saw in the first few movies cut and past like a lazy forum troll. Seriously, new powers, seriously.

3). Most importantly Bobba Fett disintegrates Mace Windu. After seeing Mace take out Jenga Fett a friend of mine told me that he thought that a disintegration was in order. If you remember the line from the first trilogy where vader specifically chastises Bobba Fett, warning him 'and no disintegrations!'when dealing with capturing the Falcon. He thought, and I agree that it would have made wonderful bit of foreshadowing to have Mace be the cause of Vader's comment.

Aaron Golas said...

Interesting, Tom. I especially like the idea of Darth Maul as General Grievous.

It seems to me that the prophecy isn't truly fulfilled until the end of "Return of the Jedi," when Vader/Anakin sacrifices himself to destroy Palpatine, thus wiping out the last of the past and leaving Luke to start a new generation of Jedi.

Though considering the way Lucas butchered the RotJ ending for the DVD release (I'll have more on this later), I kinda doubt he was thinking that far ahead.

That's why I suggested scrubbing the prophecy altogether. It didn't feel to me like Lucas had put any thought into it. It just seemed like one more neon sign pointing to Anakin and saying "THIS CHARACTER IS IMPORTANT!"

Tom Foss said...

Yeah, if we were working from the ground up, or even just from the original trilogy up, I'd ditch the "Anakin is so super special" garbage.

Also, no re-dos. I don't care how much technology has improved since you made the films, George, you don't get to change the plot and details (and cast!) after you've released the movies. Clean up the reels and sound, sure, but leave the CGI at home.

Rev. BigDumbChimp said...

Where the hell was the Imperial Death March when Anakin becomes Vader at the end of #3?

Anonymous said...

Three words on the do-over of the original trilogy:


Bronze Dog said...

That's what it says on my T-shirt.

-Getting a lot of good ideas, here.

Blake Stacey said...

I once sketched out an alternate prequel trilogy in which each movie would be a space-opera rendition of a Shakespeare play. (Lucas stole from Kurosawa, who based some of his most famous movies on Shakespeare, so it made sense at the time.) Episode I would be the two Henry IV plays, which are a contiguous story and have sometimes been compressed into a single unit, as in Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight. Anakin is the son of a politician who usurped power and came to rule a Galactic province; because he was on friendly terms with the fellow his father deposed, he has not reconciled himself with his father's actions or his own position as heir to the office. Consequently, he spends his time with a dissolute crowd of bawds and petty criminals. His mentor is a quick-witted, obscenely fat former Jedi who teaches him how to use the Force to cloud minds and make a quick buck.

An uprising at the Galactic Periphery challenges the rule of Anakin Senior. Power-hungry military overlords are making a ruthless grab for dominion while cloaking their claims in the pretense of restoring the rightful heir to the throne. Under the stress of the emergency, young Anakin must rise to the challenge of leadership. . . .

Episode II is Henry V, in which the young Anakin has succeeded to his father's position and leads an outnumbered space fleet to a stunning victory in the Clone Wars. However, in directing a military campaign, he turns callous to violence and suffering. Victorious over the enemy star systems, he arranges a marriage with their princess, the merry Amidala — a marriage which might be in part love but clearly has a strong dose of power politics.

Episode III is Julius Caesar. A group of conspirators, fearful that the Chancellor is making a grab for dictatorial power, assassinates him in the Galactic Senate. Anakin, his right-hand man, makes a speech at his funeral which causes riots to break out all across Coruscant; Anakin and the old Chancellor's nephew, Palpatine, hunt down and kill the conspirators. In the final battle, Anakin is badly wounded, but kept alive by advanced cybernetic technology. . . .

Like I said, it made sense at the time.

Anonymous said...

OK, the story arc of the prequels really just needs to be overhauled completely.

In the original trilogy, we were Luke Skywalker. We were in the cockpit, flying down to blow up the Death Star!

Who do we identify with in the prequels? We can't identify with Anakin, we already know he's going to become Vader. It'd be like making "Hitler: the Teen Years".

So we have to identify with Obi-Wan. OK. Let's not waste time with Anakin's romance (flat), and let's limit our view of Imperial politics to what Obi-Wan and the Jedi Council sees.

Next major change: Anakin as flawed hero. We know how he ends up (falling in love with Padme, betraying the Jedi, turning to the dark side, trying to kill Obi-Wan) but we don't know the why, and the prequels fail miserably at giving a plausible motive.

Anakin should have been the "talented rookie", the naturally gifted phenominon that wows everyone, and gets the superstar treatment from everyone but his immediate coach/mentor Obi-Wan. Add to that a nasty, nasty temper. He's a nice guy, sweet and caring, but he's got a very short fuse when it comes to some things (like slavery, or his mother) and when he gets angry, he lashes out. He's the proto-abuser: everyone knows he's got a problem with anger, but everyone also looks the other way because he's so talented.

The heart of the character isn't that he's a "good guy" that was seduced to the dark side. It's that he was never all that good or evil, and he became evil through his own flaws and with the indifference of others.

Oh, and the whole "Order 66" crap? Just that, crap. Stormtroopers killed the Jedi? No. Anakin, turned to the darkside but not yet in Vader-gear, hunted the Jedi down. With Anakin's promotion to Jedi Knight, and the chaos of the Clone Wars, it would be easy for him to slip away and assassinate lone Jedi on special missions.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and the "Clone Wars"?

It shouldn't be droid armies fighting clones of Bobba Fett. It should be armies of human troops, and droids on both sides, with small small elite squads of Darth Maul clones wreaking havoc on the battlefield to neutralize the Jedi.

Bronze Dog said...

I definitely see the value in making the prequels Obi-Wan-centric.

Blake Stacey said...

Quoting David Brin:

Lucas forgot to provide the viewer anyone to identify with! Qui-Gon at first seems to be the main character, but he isn't allowed an iota of complexity or passion. He's obviously in the "mentor" role (like Obi-Wan in the original film), a second hand character who will in fact sacrifice himself for the sake of the hero. Moreover, he's clearly been duped.

So was the hero Ewan McGregor's Obi-Wan? No! That great character should have been the hero but he was wasted, just wasted alas!

And God forbid it was Anakin Skywalker. Not only does everyone know he's destined to become the Hitlerian ubermensch... but he's introduced WAY too late to be the central point of view character. He's the cute kid side-kick... but of whom!?

Lucas says he's a true Campbellian myth-teller, but he doesn't even do that right. What's a heroic tale without a hero in clear focus? In Phantom we have just an ensemble of characters like some TV series episode. That's the WRONG trait of Star Trek to emulate!

Anonymous said...

One thing I don't think has been mentioned yet is the way the technology devolved so unconvincingly between the prequel trilogy and the classic trilogy. Falling from TNG-style touchpad consoles and holographic everything to big fat buttons and blinky red lights in twenty years just feels wrong to me. And the whole 'technology destroyed by war' was wholly unconvincing because we weren't shown any of said complete destruction of every manufacturing plant in the galaxy. George should have stayed consistent with the established tech style, but he just had to try to make things 'cooler' and 'more hip'.

Useless character bloat and obnoxious character tie-ins (Chewie/Yoda and Boba/Stormtrooper and Vader/3PO/Greedo among others) were big problems, too.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the prequel trilogy was starting the whole thing off with a trade dispute. A trade dispute!? Really? That was the most exciting thing you could think of to ignite your new opus? George should have gotten down on his knees and begged Lawrence Kasdan (screenwriter for V & VI) to come back and work on the prequels.

King Aardvark said...

RodeoBob, definitely agree on the assassinations; at least have Anakin assassinate a few high ranking jedi. Hell, all of these ideas a all manner of awesome compared to the dreck of the prequels.

One thing: Yoda fighting Christopher Lee - I know it would be hard to choreograph because Yoda is so short, but he's the older/more experienced/wiser guy in the fight; therefore, he should be the calm, stationary one while Christopher Lee is scrambling to keep up.