How I’d Rewrite the Star Wars Prequels

So I’ve been listening to The Incomparable Podcast’s post-mortems of the Star Wars prequels, which I would recommend everyone have a listen to. They cover how wooden the acting is, how creepy, leery creepy Anakin Skywalker is, and how in the end, the character portrayed – a whiny little idiot (no really, a genuinely ignorant brick-stupid person, who gets played for a fool) isn’t recognisable as the Darth Vader that we see in the actual real star wars films – a dignified, menacing, capable and above all, self-assured, enforcer and fixer.

So, in light of listening to all of this, and the Redletter Media critiques, I thought I’d have a bit of a go at how I would have structured the star wars prequels – cause if there’s one set of films that’s in a dire need of a reboot, it’s Episode 1, 2 & 3. This isn’t going to be a full narrative or fanfic, more a loose collection of elements could be done differently to make for more compelling plots, and more believable characters. Largely it’s just an exercise on my own part to work in a world I didn’t create.

Disclaimer: I’m not going to claim that any of these ideas are unique or original – I’ve only seen the films (and owned the toys / McDonalds meal cups etc when the holy trilogy first came out), not any of the extended universe, but they’re thoughts I’ve had without knowingly taking from other sources.

The Force and its relationship to the Jedi & Sith

Midichlorians are gone – a mechanism isn’t necessary.

The Force works differently depending on whether one pursues the light or the dark side.

  • Light: The user becomes more and more powerful as they age, culminating in the ability to become a force ghost when they die, if they live long enough. Actively using the force to effect the world slows down one’s development – it works like compound interest in a savings account, and it costs every time it’s used.
  • Dark: as above, with age comes power. The Dark Side can prolong corporeal existence, but when one dies, that’s it. Using the force to effect the world speeds up one’s development – it works like an exercised muscle.
  • They cancel each other out – so pursuing one path reduces the time available to pursue the other to its critical mass of immortality.

This sets up the Jedi as conservative, passive – avoiding conflict and devoting themselves to meditation because they have an eternal payoff at the end, which they risk if they die too young, or are too profligate with their Force use. Their “negotiation” skills are more about jedi mind tricking the various parties, than combat. Their martial skills are of prime importance when combat is required, because they need to avoid using the force in an active manner.

The Sith get a vampyric element to them – they can speed up their development by harvesting other force-users, both Sith and Jedi. Their almost mythical status is because it’s rare for a Jedi to meet one and survive – they fight and use the force so aggressively. If a Jedi is “eaten” by a Sith, they don’t get to be a force ghost – they’re gone completely.

Like elephants, their strategy is to get so powerful that they have no natural predators left, and can live out a perpetual corporeal existence.

Biology and the Force

He’s more machine than man now, twisted and evil.

The force depends on bodily integrity – losing a limb will permanently retard development and reduce one’s end-potential. This is why Darth Vader doesn’t get to the level of having force lightning, and is instead more reliant on the lightsaber than a Sith would normally be. His shot at immortality is that there’s less of his human body left to preserve, the technology can keep him going in lieu of the reduced preservation abilities of the Dark side. General Grievous is a great example of a Sith that has been so thoroughly damaged that now he’s only a collection of organs, and there simply isn’t enough meat left of him to channel the force at all.

Above all, the Jedi, and to a lesser extent the Sith, are body-proud.  Anakin’s loss of a hand is part of what sets him on a path to the Dark Side – knowing that he’ll never be as good as he should be because of his “imperfection” gnaws away at him, beginning the slow poisoning his mind.

 The Political Opening

The Jedi Council could actually be ghosts as far as the eye can see, like the city under the mountain scene in the final Lord of The Rings film. Their inertia against taking personal risk is symptomatic (and possibly causative) of the general malaise within the galactic society at the time – democracy is failing, the government is ruled by a corrupt bureaucracy, and corporate thuggery is effectively oppressing the galaxy. The Jedi experience none of this, and what they see of it, it’s not their place to get involved unless the bureaucracy requests it, which only happens when it’s actually helping the corrupt.

By positioning the Jedi as actually being bad guys from an objective standpoint, Anakin has a legitimate reason to hunt them down and destroy their power structure. Darth Vader has no reasonable motivation unless he’s righteous in what he does – he has to believe the Empire is achieving something.

Anakin’s Fall

The Jedi’s refusal to act when the clone wars erupt (could be nothing to do with the creation of stormtroopers) culminates in entire planets being devastated (which neatly mirrors the Empire later creating a device for that specific purpose) – genocide occurring over and over. Anakin is expelled from the order for trying to rally the people of a planet which is to be cleansed. The great crime of “getting involved”.

The Creation of Darth Vader

Anakin turns himself into Vader, the cyborg. His climatic transformation occurs as he’s fighting his way through the Jedi temple. He fights more and more ferociously, as we see Luke do at the  end of Return Of The Jedi, but using the force, and being injured in the process. In one of the minor boss battles during the process, he loses an arm, and rips off the arm of a robot support soldier, and using the force, fuses it into his body – much like Tetsuo using telekinesis to make an artificial arm in Akira. This process continues, a leg is blown off by a laser, and he rips a robot’s leg off, making it into a functional limb through sheer force of will, depleting his light side reserves, and so he takes the final step, and consumes the next Jedi he encounters, becoming a Sith. He eventually works his way through the temple, killing, consuming and being shot and chopped up, until by then end, he’s a patchwork of different bits of robots, and all the Jedi are dead and consumed.

And he never says “noooooooo” – the best bit from The Incomparable was one of the panellists suggesting that Vader’s first word post-transformation should be “good”.

Once Vader is created, and the Empire established, he is a peacemaker. Sure the “stop fighting or I’ll come back here and kill all of you” form of diplomacy is a bit arbitrary, but he’s seen what galactic conflict and genocide, and “not getting involved” can do. He believes in what he’s doing. He is, in his worldview, the good guy.

Related to that, do we ever actually see The Empire do anything “evil” outside of the scale of what it is? Is the destruction of an entire planet with a terrorist leadership that much worse an act (in terms of scale) for a galactic government, than the American government nuking a couple of Japanese cities? You don’t see storm troopers beating civilians in the streets, you don’t see The Empire using slaves – they genuinely come across as an effective professional military trying to do a difficult job, keeping peace on a galactic scale. Calrissian complains about taxes levied on Bespin, as if being required to follow regulations in the extraction of natural resources, and paying taxes on your earnings is the very face of despotic evil.

Nope, I’ve decided The Empire were actually the good guys.