Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Building a Better Prequel: Part 1

  • animation powers: weakened by action shots

There is quite a lot in the Star Wars prequels that I like, but there is a lot that could have been better. People talk about wooden acting and bad dialog and quite frankly that doesn't really bother me; the original trilogy has its fair share of both.

The problems with the prequels, in my opinion, comes down to these points

  • absence of charismatic characters
  • the removal of Jar Jar
  • a mostly annoying hero (Anakin)
  • a love story that feels forced
  • no real villain that people can really love to hate

With some other points inbetween ;) There may be spoilers in here so watch out!!

First off is absence of charismatic characters. There needed to be a Han or a Lando. Someone really fun to watch with whom the audience could identify. The Jedi are kinda even tempered and not very excitable, because to do so would make them kill children and choke the ones they love. So the Jedi needed characters around them that would be interesting and fun that would counterbalance the oh so serious tone of the prequels. Lucas tried this in Phantom Menace by adding Jar Jar: distant cousin of Goofy and Daffy Duck. Jar Jar could have actually been a cool sidekick in a Chewbacca kinda way but Lucas decided instead to make him a total bafoon. Axing Jar Jar is probably something most everyone would agree upon.

Bail Organa would have been a good pick to fill the bill of charismatic character who hangs around with Jedi. As it is we don't see a lot of ol Bail, but he must be a cool guy because at the end of ROTS he takes himself a Jedi baby. Yeah give the baby to the guy who's had maybe 5 minutes of total scene time. Developing Bail from Ep 1 would have given audiences a fresh character, who was previously just a name, that has a direct tie to one of the major players of Ep 4-6. Perhaps he was a former hero of the Republic who has gone into politics, who happens to be on Naboo and ends up tagging along with Padme, Obi Wan and Qui-Gon. Qui-Gon....if it were up to me, his name would be Qui-Gone Bye Bye See Ya.

Qui-Gon Jinn why the hell are you here? Lucas should have rolled the Qui-Gon character into Obi Wan. This would have helped with Obi Wans character arc. As it is Obi Wan doesn't have a strong arc through these films. In ROTJ when ghost Obi is telling Luke basically "I screwed up....its really all my fault..I'm sorry" he is a tragic figure. I envision Obi sitting in exile consumed by guilt and regret...I was reckless I was arrogant and now the whole galaxy is paying the price. Therefore Obi Wan should have been the one who finds Anakin, is surprised by how much the force was with him and takes it upon himself to teach him the ways of Force; like he told Luke in ROTJ. It would have given Obi Wan a strong character arc because the prequels should be as much about the decisions and mistakes Obi Wan makes as much as its about the ones Anakin makes. It should have been Obi Wan's arrogance and insistance that Anakin was the chosen one, that makes him take Anakin away and train him. Not some dieing promise to his master.

Speaking of Anakin, he should have never been a little kid in Episode 1. Yes I know Lucas was wanting to show how a nice little annoying kid could grow up to become the most hated person in the galaxy, however it causes a problem. Namely the love story with Padme. It just doesn't work. Had Anakin been say 14 in Episode 1 then the hints of love could have been put in motion and it would have felt believable. By Episode 2 you would actually believe that they loved each other enough to get married in secret. Lucas could have done the pod race and all that stuff with an older Anakin and it would have made no difference. Also I would have NEVER EVER EVER have called him Ani......EVER.

The original trilogy had Darth Vader. The prequels has......who? Darth Sidious? A scary chin? He doesn't become the visible bad guy until Revenge of the Sith. In Ep 4, almost from the start it was established that Vader would be the villain to Luke's hero. Who is Anakin's villain? Inner conflict? All the promotional material for The Phantom Menace made one believe that Darth Maul would be the Vader of the prequels. And as the film chugged along it seemed that way. Maul mostly stood around and did nothing until the battle at the end; just like Vader in Ep 4. Surely in Ep 2 he would be further developed as Vader was in Ep 5. But then Maul was suddenly sliced in two and falling to his death and that was the end of him. Ok that was kinda.....disappointing. In Attack of the Clones we have Count Dooku, who mostly stood around and did nothing until the battle at the end. He actually lives to see the first 15 minutes of Ep3 where he is killed. Then there is General Grievous (3rd movie, 3rd bad guy). Unlike Darth Maul Grievous doesn't make it to the end of the film. He is killed about half way through. Oh Grievous we barely knew ya.

Lucas himself has said that Grievous represents what Anakin will become: part living tissue, part machine. Oddly enough Anakin never really squares off with the General. But with that idea in mind, General Grievous should have been introduced in Ep 1 as the leader of the droid armies. It could have been Grievous, rather than the Tusken Raiders, who was responsible for the death of Anakin's mother. This would give our hero his villain and provide a logical path to the dark side: hate, anger, revenge. And in the end Anakin would become the very thing that he despised. A part man, part machine monster.

Next time: Part 2 including how Lucas should have ended Ep 3


Barry Rooney said...

well stated! I couldn't agree more. Above all though I think the lack of a han solo type figure was the biggest downfall. Sure we can talk about all that other stuff, but man if I laffed once during the first movie that would have been a plus. I guess it is debatable, but the lack of laughter (until eps 3..which was very funny considering how dark it was)was the biggest downfall of the first two.

Tonymator said...

I agree on all counts... I think that Maul could have been used throughout the film like Vader. I don't really think Grievous is even necessary, if you have Maul throughout the films. If Lucas found it necessary, then have Maul kill Anakin's mom. Then have Anakin and Maul get in a tussle that leaves Maul in a state where he becomes Grievous. That startst the process, and the fact that Maul lives consumes Anakin even more... I could go on for hours!

Nice analysis Animator-Boy.

Tom Saville said...

Ray ARE the force. The force within us all.