Four Ways to Fix the Prequels

7 Apr

Yes, I spent some time thinking about this while bored at work. Why do you ask, doesn’t everyone think about this when bored at work?

As a follow up to a previous entry on how I wish the fundamental approach to writing the prequels had been different, here are a few ideas I’d throw out there for consideration:

1. The presentation of the Jedi. This is a big one. Jedi are cool. We “know” this because we saw Luke (and Obi-Wan to a lesser extent) in the original three movies. The Jedi are badass warriors who have Force powers and use lightsabers. Turns out though that the Jedi are not, in fact, cool. They’re political pawns. Diplomatic soldiers. They’re a rigid Order. They follow a life devoid (as much as possible) of attachment. A life devoid of emotion. They sit around and meditate, or teach others to sit around and meditate. They study archives. They teach others to study archives. They use lightsabers (ok, that part is kinda cool) or teach others to use lightsabers. It’s a risk to portray what was once cool as abruptly uncool, but I think it’s necessary for the prequels. Anakin’s decision to leave the Jedi has more resonance if we’re not so sure about them ourselves.
     I like the way the Jedi Order is portrayed in the movies, but I wish the reasons for the Jedi Order being the way they are were made clear. When you have a world where a minority of the beings (Jedis in this case) have superpowers and the majority of beings do not it creates an interesting tension. How do the superpowered beings react? Do they believe themselves superior? Attempt to enslave the “regular” majority? Do they see themselves as having responsibilities (with great power comes great blah blah blah…)? Do they see their powers as license to do whatever they want? Do they see their powers as a mandate to help others less fortunate? etc.
     I’m fairly certain that if all the people on our police force had superpowers we would want them to be restricted by a code of some sort, perhaps we’d even prefer to have them under our government’s control. Then we’d feel comfortable with them protecting and serving us. As guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, the Jedi must surely know that the biggest threat to the galaxy is a rogue force-user: a person with superpowers that doesn’t follow any code or agree to government restrictions the way the Jedi do. A Sith, for example.

It’s not attachment or fear or anger or emotion that leads to the Dark Side. It’s power. This is why the Jedi Order takes all the force users from everywhere in the galaxy (except the Outer Rim apparently) at an extremely young age and brainwashes them with the ways of the Jedi. It’s for the greater good if all the force users are Jedi. It’s the best way to train soldiers, er, guardians of peace and justice. It’s why the Jedi have such “narrow, dogmatic views.”

One way to show at least some of this is to have Qui-Gon be a true maverick, an actual rogue Jedi, and not just a mostly regular Jedi who doesn’t “follow the code” (whatever that means). Perhaps start Episode I with the chancellor sending Obi-Wan, on his own, to negotiate the trade dispute, but he finds Qui-Gon there. Qui-Gon, as Obi-Wan knows, is one of only 20 Jedi to ever leave the order (another one being Count Dooku) and as such he is a fugitive from justice. Obi-Wan is under authority of the council to return Qui-Gon to justice, a notion which Qui-Gon deems absurd. Qui-Gon is there on Naboo though, because he’s sensed a large disturbance in “the living Force.” (See, Qui-Gon believes that the Force is more than just an energy field, he believes it’s actually a sentient being which has feelings and desires, something which the Jedi Order does not.) So now Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are reluctantly paired on Naboo and there’s inherent conflict between them which originates from their character. Make Qui-Gon a cynical rogue akin to, oh, I don’t know, Han Solo or something like that. He’s amused that Obi-Wan thinks he could actually “return him to justice” but he tags along because he wants to find out what is causing the disturbance he senses (plus the droids try to kill them). Obi-Wan is constantly on edge because he knows Qui-Gon is (or at least could be) dangerous. Qui-Gon is constantly trying to convince Obi-Wan that the Jedi are missing something significant about not only the very nature of the Force, but also something disturbing which is originating on Naboo (a phantom menace of sorts).
     Anakin’s got the idea of Jedi that we had gotten from the original movies. He thinks they’re cool. He looks up to them in the way a boy looks up to heroes. He wants to be one because it’s the greatest thing one could possibly be. When he’s confronted with a regular Jedi, Obi-Wan, and a rogue Jedi, Qui-Gon, his confusion about what it is to be a Jedi starts in right away, a tension heightened significantly when they inform him that he himself has force powers and could, in fact, be a Jedi. (Well, Qui-Gon says he could, Obi-Wan isn’t sure since he’s already too old to enter the Order…)
     Obviously this one significant change in the character of Qui-Gon has massive implications for the rest of Episode I as well as the next two.

2. Include Count Dooku (pronounced the way Lucas does in the EpII behind the scenes stuff, so that his name “Dough-Koo” sounds more like the japanese word for “poison” and less like literal shit) in all three episodes. The way the movies are currently, some time shortly after Episode I Count Dooku becomes Darth Tyrannus. This means that during Episode I Count Dooku is a fallen Jedi (one that has left the order). He is also Qui-Gon’s old Master (perhaps where Qui-Gon got his I-don’t-follow-The-Code behavior?). Why not have Count Dooku contact Qui-Gon in Episode I? Or perhaps the other way around with rogue Qui-Gon seeking out Dooku? Perhaps Anakin overhears this. Count Dooku confides in his old Padawan that things aren’t as they seem, he’s onto something big and he’s not sure exactly what yet. Perhaps he tells Qui-Gon he suspects the sith have returned. Perhaps he tempts Qui-Gon to join him in his quest to defeat the Sith.

3. Include Qui-Gon in all three episodes. This is actually the case with the movies the way they are now, sort of, but it’s really badly done. If he’s made into a cooler rogue character this is even more important. In a saga where the quest to stop death becomes one of Anakin’s primary motivations Qui-Gon is the one character who figures out immortality. He teaches it to Yoda and then (after Episode III) to Obi-Wan. He’s important. He’s talking to Yoda in Episode II but this is so subtle I’m guessing very few people notice (and some that do can’t tell it’s supposed to be Qui-Gon because it’s badly done). Qui-Gon is the one who finds Anakin and the first to believe that he’s someone special. The more significant Qui-Gon’s belief in Anakin the more tragic his sudden departure in Anakin’s life becomes. Anakin is out to try and stop death… perhaps not just because his mother dies, not just because he’s sure Padmé will, but perhaps also because Qui-Gon died. Have Yoda bring up the fact that Qui-Gon has retained his identity after death. To Qui-Gon Anakin listens… Why not have Qui-Gon show up as a ghost in Episode III? Instead of having Yoda tell Obi-Wan that he “has training” for him, have Qui-Gon appear and tell Obi-Wan himself… the first Jedi to figure out post-death-identity-retention ought to be the first ghost shown, right?

4. Fix Padmé’s death. I don’t like thinking that Padmé, the mother of Luke and Leia, dies of a broken heart. Sadly, Episode III indicates that she does. Personally I read between the editing of that scene, examine the subtext that I might be making up, and see it differently. But I shouldn’t have to do this. Padmé’s death ought to be one of the great mysteries and powerful moments of the prequels. It’s one of the few things that we don’t know about. We know she doesn’t live, but that’s all we know. How does Leia remember her? How does Luke not? How did she die? These are fundamental questions that are poorly answered in the movies, if they are answered at all. Her death could be used as a great way to show the true power of the Dark Side, the power of The Force, and the way it truly does connect all of us. Her death can be used to illustrate the profound affect that Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side has on those around him. She is bonded to Anakin, and he to her. When he “dies” this force connection between he and her is broken. When he devotes himself to the Dark Side, after devoting himself to her, some of that new devotion goes into her, perhaps despite her desires. Her connection with Anakin is torn from her. That violent ripping could be cause, in combination with traumatic birth and near-death experience on Hell Planet, for her death. But show that! Don’t just have a droid say she’s dying but we don’t know why.

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One Response to “Four Ways to Fix the Prequels”

  1. youngjedi April 10, 2010 at 1:03 pm #

    The fabric of the saga is rich enough and loose enough that you COULD retell it and include ideas like this without tearing it. Lucas himself stretches it uncomfortably in places.

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