Since I love to talk about timely things, I figured I’d bring up whether there was any way the Star Wars prequels could have been saved with less than a near-total rewrite. My position, though I’m not completely certain of this, is: no.
I say near-total rewrite because I did think that two things were done well in the prequels:
- Anakin Skywalker as a nine year old was portrayed as very kind-hearted and generous. This was a great contrast to who he would become.
- The fall of Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader was far more realistic than it was believable.
That aside, I don’t think anything in the Prequels which wasn’t necessitated by the original trilogy is salvageable. For example:
- Episode 1 was about a trade embargo on an insignificant planet. Given that the Republican Senate represented so many planets that it was impossible to see all of the senators in the same shot, this is the wrong scale to start the empire on.
- The virgin birth of Anakin Skywalker. No. Put down the Joseph Campbell until you’re old enough to know how much of it is just Campbell trying to excuse himself from being Christian.
- The insanely coincidental nature of the Jedi meeting Anakin Skywalker at all. You only get to base your plots on coincidences this unlikely if you are explicit God is behind it or if you’re writing history not fiction. The principle is the same: the only author who gets to do highly unlikely coincidences is the author of all that is.
- A midichlorianometer: absolutely not under any circumstances. Space wizards do not use anything-ometers.
- Anakin as most powerful Jedi ever: this makes no sense with Darth Vader basically being an enforcer for the Emperor and taking orders from grand admirals.
- The Jedi council won’t train Anakin, the most powerful force user of all time: no one is this stupid.
- Qui Gonn has Obi-Wan promise to train Anakin: Nope. Watch the original movies again. Training Anakin was an act of hubris, not duty.
- Defeating the Trade Alliance by a slapstick accident: no.
- All robots fall down when the central computer explodes: no.
- Anakin as an angsty teenager: no. You do not set the fall of a good character to an evil character in his teenage years because he was manipulated as a child by a parental figure.
- Anakin as an angsty teenager: no. he’s a space wizard who routinely fights assassins as part of an organized military. He does not have typical high-school woes. His life has meaning and purpose which is obvious to him since he’s not being kept as a neotenic child long past physical maturity.
- Anakin as angsty teenager: no. When you have the potential to be the most powerful force user of all times and are a member of an order of space wizards, you focus on developing your power, you don’t whine constantly.
- Anakin as angsty teenager: still no. This is a story for an audience, we don’t need to pay money to hear teenagers complain about how their lives aren’t perfect. There’s a good change we’re at the movies to get a few blessed hours relief from hearing that.
- Anakin as continual rebel who doesn’t fit in: Maybe, but not this way. People who don’t fit in because they are loners don’t just sign up to be a lackey in the opposite cause.
- Anakin in love with Padme: the age difference is way too big at their age, there’s no reason she waited for him, and she never showed any interest in him. Having been established as a woman of deep devotion to duty, she would have had more respect for his vows, even if he didn’t, especially given that she didn’t seem to find him attractive and those two people having a romance was insane.
- Anakin’s arm getting cut off: No. That sort of thing doesn’t run in the family. Stupid callback.
- Anakin’s arm getting cut off: No. If you’re building the character up to fall from grace due to pride, you don’t teach him humility partway through.
- A completely unexplained clone army. Thanks!: No. No one is this stupid.
- [stuff so boring I cant even remember it]: no.
- Anakin Skywalker kills the kiddies while storm troopers handle the adult Jedi: Are you kidding me? What’s the point of making him the most powerful Jedi ever if he never actually fights any Jedi?
- “Give up, Anakin, I’ve got the high ground.”: No. This means nothing to people who can force jump over 50 feet in the air and even with normal swords and no force jumping in no way makes up for Anakin being a massively better sword fighter and more powerful force user. Plus is the high ground even an advantage with light sabers? The lower Jedi can defend everything the higher Jedi can reach, but can attack the ankles of the higher Jedi. It’s much harder to fight with recently amputated feet.
- Obi-Wan can defeat Darth Vader: Well then what was all that stuff about virgin birth and off-the-scale midichlorian count about? At the end of the third movie Anakin accomplished nothing that other Jedi couldn’t have bested. And the storm troopers murdered the Jedi instead of Darth Vader helping to hunt down and destroy the Jedi Knights? There’s no way to make this compatible with the best of the original trilogy.
But perhaps the least salvageable part of the prequels was the way that the Jedi Knights were turned into Lawful Neutral Buudddhiiiiistttsssss Iiiiiiiiiiiin Spaaaaaaaaace. You can’t be the guardians of peace and order and be lawful neutral. You can’t be a guardian of what you don’t value. Yoda’s famous line, “War not make one great” means nothing if that’s just because Yoda doesn’t believe that there is such a thing as greatness. In short, the prequels make a complete mess of the original trilogy by making the Jedi order something so awful that it should have been extinguished. There’s simply nothing you can do with that.