An alternative Star wars prequel trilogy: the ground rules


The first trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens has got me thinking a lot about Star Wars lately. I'm trying not to get excited about the J.J. Abram's movies, not only because I was so disappointed by his take on Star Trek, but also because we were burned so bad by Episodes 1, 2, & 3.

 

I camped out for Phantom Menace  tickets and spent the night playing Star Wars Trivial Pursuit with a guy who named his son and daughter after Luke and Leia. He probably hurt worse than I did when we finally got into the theater, but boy, what a disappointment. My biggest complaints with the prequels are not the wildly ridiculous improbabilities (Darth Vader built C3PO?), or intense dullness of trade negotiations, but in the way the prequels simply do not make sense in light of what we learned about the Star Wars universe and its characters from episodes 4, 5, & 6. For example, Darth Vader was supposed to have once been a GREAT MAN, but in the prequels he was a whiny, self-centered brat. Also, Obi-Wan and R2D2 are compatriots who fight together in the prequels, but when Obi-Wan meets R2D2 in A New Hope, he clearly has never seen him before and explicitly says, "I don't recall ever owning a droid."  So after seventeen years or so, Obi-Wan is reunited with his copilot from the Clone Wars and he doesn't recognize him? What are we supposed to think? Is Obi-Wan senile? This is the tip of a continuity error iceberg.

 

In my view, the statements, situations, and character behaviors from episodes 4, 5, & 6 constitute the Star Wars canon, a set of rules that all subsequent stories set in the Star Wars universe must follow. The prequels written by George Lucas seem like bad fan fiction, with ideas in such contradiction with the canon that they would have been quickly rejected in any writers' room.

 

I want to propose an alternative prequel trilogy. Yes, I know that in reality Disney will never do this. It's just for fun. It's fan fiction.

 

Disney has tossed aside the Extended Universe as non-canonical and the new movies will not follow any of EU storylines. I'm not familiar with the EU (I've never read a Star Wars novel or played a video game) but it seems like a wise decision not to be bound to a hodgepodge of sometimes bizarre and contradictory storylines created by different people who weren't collaborating with each other. Similarly, since it has so many contradictions, let's jettison the prequel trilogy as non-canonical (in your heart haven't you already?) and write a new one.

 

So, with full knowledge that I am revealing my innermost nerd, I will outline an alternative prequel trilogy, a series of movies that abide by the guidelines and formulas spelled out in the original trilogy and could be considered canonical--the episodes 1, 2, & 3 that could have been, that should have been. It's time for some Star Wars  Fan Fiction. But first, let's lay down some guidelines:


Direct Quotes

Episodes 4, 5, & 6 have many direct quotes of exposition that reveal details and provide clues about the events of episodes 1, 2, & 3. To avoid any continuity problems, let's take inventory of them.

 

>   "Some damn fool idealistic crusade" sounds like a quote.

When Obi-Wan talks about Luke's uncle he says, "he feared you might follow old Obi-Wan on 'some damn fool idealistic crusade'." The way he delivers that line and even the words themselves sound like a quote. It sounds very much like Obi-Wan is quoting something Owen said to Luke's father in front of Obi-Wan, and so this event could be a scene in one of the prequels.

 

>   Ben Kenobi stopped going by the name of Obi-Wan before Luke was born

In A New Hope, when Luke first meets Ben Kenobi he asks about Obi-Wan, to which Kenobi soon explains, "I haven't gone by the name of Obi-Wan since, oh, before you were born." This is interesting, because it implies Kenobi left the Jedi order before Anakin turned to the dark side.

 

>   Owen did not want Luke's father to fight in the Clone Wars.

Obi-Wan says that Owen wanted Luke's father to stay at home rather than fight in the wars. "He didn't hold with your father's ideals, thought he should stay here and not gotten involved." There is an awful lot of backstory packed into that simple line. First, Anakin was an idealistic young man, so in the prequels we should see some of that idealism. It implies that Owen and Anakin were living together in the same place they both considered home, rather than virtual strangers who met after Anakin joined the Jedi, as in Lucas's prequels. Owen and Anakin were also close and probably blood brothers, and Owen loudly protested Anakin leaving him and joining the Jedi. Finally, fighting in the Clone Wars also seemed to have been a choice--so there was no draft. 

 

>   Obi-Wan never owned a droid.

Obi-Wan explicitly says, "I don't recall ever owning a droid." And later speaks directly to R2D2: "Now, let's see if we can't figure out what you are my little friend, and where you come from." Unless we want to imply that Obi-Wan has gone senile, he should not own or have a close relationship with R2D2 or any droid in the prequels.

 

>   Darth Vader helped the Empire hunt down the Jedi

We later learn in Empire that part of Obi-Wan's statement is untrue, but he says specifically that Darth Vader "helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi Knights." This statement is very interesting, because Obi-Wan says, "the Empire," not the emperor or the Sith, which means the Empire was already established when the Jedi were wiped out, and rather than a simultaneous, single slaughter, the Jedi were hunted down one by one.

 

>   Governor Tarkin outranks Vader.

In A New Hope, when Vader is choking the non-believer who berates him, Governor Tarkin orders, "Vader, release him," and Vader complies, which means that Tarkin outranks Vader. Leia even quips that Tarkin holds Vader's leash. And after sensing Obi-Wan's presence on the Death Star, Vader reports this information to Tarkin before taking any other action. If Vader is the Emperor's right-hand-man, as I assume, then Tarkin must be an incredibly powerful imperial official, in addition to the fact that he commands the Death Star. As a result, I think we can infer that Tarkin played an integral role in the toppling of the Republic and the formation of the Empire. Therefor he should play a role in the prequels.

 

>   Obi-Wan served Leia's father as a general during the Clone Wars.

"You served my father in the Clone Wars." Leia's message in A New Hope implies that Obi-Wan served in the armed forces of Alderaan, commanded by Leia's father, who would logically be the king. This implies that despite a unified republic, individual planets each had their own military during the wars, before consolidation under imperial rule into a single military. Also, the Jedi do not have military ranks, which means Obi-Wan either volunteered or was conscripted into this military.

 

>   Vader knows he has a son, and knows Obi-Wan was with him

Throughout Empire Strikes Back, Vader is tearing the galaxy apart trying to find his son, and then when he reveals to Luke that he is Luke's father, he says, "Obi-Wan never told you...." How did he know that Obi-Wan had ever met Luke? When Vader and Obi-Wan fought on the Death Star, neither said anything about Luke. And in Return of the Jedi, Vader says things like "Obi-Wan has taught you well." How does he know Luke was learning from Obi-Wan, (which is only partially true since Yoda did most of the training)? The only way Vader could have known these things is if he knew his son, knew his name was Luke, and sometime after Luke's birth Obi-Wan kidnapped Luke and hid him away, which logically would have enraged Anakin.

 

>   Vader knew he had a son, but not a daughter

In Return of the Jedi, Vader reads Luke's mind and discovers Luke has a twin sister. His response is: "Obi-Wan was wise to keep her from me." That means Vader knew about Luke, but somehow Obi-Wan (or somebody, see below) kept him ignorant of Leia. That's gonna be tough, from a writing standpoint, to make believable, but it has to be in the prequels.

 

>   Obi-Wan does not know about Leia?

When Luke flies away from Dagoba in Empire, Obi-Wan says to Yoda: "That boy is our only hope." Yoda replies, "No, there is another." It's possible that Yoda is simply reminding Obi-Wan that Luke has a sister, but it could imply that Obi-Wan never knew about Leia, that even he was kept in the dark about her in order to protect her from Vader.

 

>   Leia knew her mother

In Jedi, Luke asks Leia about her mother and she tells him that she doesn't remember much except feelings because she died when she was "very young," which is quite different from "when I was a newborn infant." That fact that she has memories of her mother at all implies her mother lives at least a few years after her birth.

 

>   Vader has a catchphrase

After Vader gets Luke to fall into the carbonite freezing chamber, he says, "All too easy." He says this to himself, which is odd and it implies this is something he says to himself all the time. In the prequels Anakin could use this expression.

 

>   The discredited Jedi are called "sorcerers" and "wizards."

An imperial officer says, "Don't try to frighten us with your sorcerer's ways, Lord Vader," and Uncle Owen, referring to Obi-Wan says, "That wizard's just a crazy old man."  Han Solo dismisses "hokey weapons and ancient religions." Despite being guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy for a thousand generations, it seems the Jedi have been culturally discredited throughout the empire. If the Jedi were simply slaughtered like in Lucas's prequels, that would have made them martyrs -- their status in the culture would be exulted. So instead, the prequels need to show how the majority of common people in the Republic lose faith in the Jedi and in the Force. Perhaps having them lose battles against the clones while a secular army wins might do it.

 

>   Obi-Wan knows Vader has become a machine

In Return of the Jedi, Obi-Wan says that Vader "is more machine than man now, twisted and evil." But in Lucas's prequels, Obi-Wan leaves Anakin for dead before Anakin transforms into a machine. So how did he know about Anakin's transformation? Did he read about it in the news?  More logically, he must have been present for Anakin's step-by-step conversion -- he saw it happen. It would have been like watching a slow moving train coming at you while tied to the tracks.

 

>   Anakin wanted his son to become a Jedi, maybe

When Obi-Wan gives Luke his father's lightsaber he says, "Your father wanted you to have this, when you were old enough, but your uncle wouldn't allow it." Let's take that statement at face value. That implies Anakin wanted his son to become a Jedi like him before turning to the dark side. Perhaps he quit the Jedi but nevertheless wanted Luke to join, and gave the weapon to Obi-Wan. Maybe he just said offhand one day while wielding it, "This will be my son's one day."

 

>   No One Knows the Emperor uses the Force

Governor Tarkin to Vader in New Hope, "You are all that's left of their [the Jedi's] religion," so he seems not to know that the Emperor himself is a Sith, despite the fact that he is the ultimate insider—he outranks Vader. That means no one knows, possibly not even Obi-Wan and Yoda, who never warn Luke that the emperor knows the Force, or that his rise to power and defeat of the Jedi is because of his strength with the Force, ability to see the future, et cetera.

 

>   The Force is supernatural

This should almost go without saying, but the Force is "an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together."

Further Inferences  we can make

In addition to direct quotes from characters, we can extrapolate information about the past and how the Star Wars universe works from a close reading of the original trilogy.

 

>   Luke's reaction when he learns his father fought in the Clone Wars

Luke explicitly says "It's not that I like the Empire, I hate it..." but nevertheless he seems to be proud when Obi-Wan tells him that his father fought in the Clone Wars, rather than simply piloting a freighter as his uncle told him. This implies many things. Obviously, Uncle Owen lied, but more importantly Luke's sense of pride reveals that the Clone Wars did not lead to the Republic's fall and the rise of the Empire. The clone army could not have become the Storm Troopers since Luke hates the empire. And that "damn fool idealistic crusade" Obi-Wan refers to was probably the Clone Wars. It seems likely that the Clone Wars were like WWII, a war to save civilization itself from something as evil as the Nazis -- and the Clones must have been that something, which is what we all assumed the first time we watched A New Hope, right?

 

>   Skywalker sounds like a nickname

Skywalker is a great name, but it doesn't sound like a real last name. It's certainly not an occupational surname like Smith, Brewer, Carpenter, Carver, Cook, Fisher, Taylor, et cetera. Besides, Owen is a farmer. To me, Skywalker sounds like a nickname, the kind of nickname someone might get if they were an extraordinarily gifted pilot, like we know Anakin was.

 

>   Uncle Owen is embittered and knows a lot about Anakin

In Lucas's prequels, Owen is a virtual stranger who meets Anakin just once and is not blood related. But in New Hope, Owen seems to know an awful lot about Anakin, information he keeps from Luke, and he is very bitter about the subject. Beru on the other hand says things like, "He's just not a farmer, Owen. He has too much of his father in him," with warmth, even fond remembrance, as if whatever wounded Owen didn't affect her or time has been able to heal her wounds, while Owen's disgruntled response is, "That's what I'm afraid of." This implies that Anakin hurt Owen personally, directly, in a way he is never able to forgive him for. Perhaps Anakin betrayed and abandoned his brother and sister-in-law when he turned to the dark side.

 

>   Vader seems emotionally desperate for a family

Vader's plea in Empire for Luke to join him so that they can "rule the galaxy as father and son" seems very emotional, even desperate. This is not the cold calculating of the Emperor who wants to use Luke's abilities. This is an intense emotional plea, a deep longing for family in addition to power. Might he have made a similar offer to his brother in the past? Maybe Vader/Anakin's greatest personal tragedy was the loss of his son.

 

>   The galaxy is a republic, and yet there is princess

This is poly-sci 101, but it's worth mentioning: while Britain is a democracy, it is not a republic. Iran on the other hand is not a democracy, but it is a republic. The United States is both a democracy and a republic. A republic is simply a country where the position of head of state is not inherited. Britain, Sweden, Denmark, et cetera, with inherited titles like king, queen, prince, duchess, lord, et cetera are not republics. So if the galaxy in Star Wars is a republic, how is Princess Leia a princess, and how is Lord Vader a lord? Lucas tried to explain it by having Queen Amidala elected, but that doesn't make sense at all. Instead, let's consider that perhaps Alderaan, where Leia is from, was not a part of the Republic, but an independent kingdom later added to the Empire after the Republic's fall. Also, since "emperor" is an inherited position, perhaps the Emperor has re-introduced titles of inheritance like "lord" to the galaxy.

 

>   The imperial forces are all humans

In episodes 4, 5, & 6, one can't help but notice that all of the people serving in the imperial fleet are human (and British). As Vader walks the decks of his super star destroyer or the halls of the Death Star, everyone around him is a human. The rebels on the other hand, are a coalition of many races, commanded by a non-human, Admiral Ackbar. This implies that the old Republic was multi-racial, but that the emperor purged non-humans from the military, and possibly from government and the civil service as well. So not only is the new political order militaristic, it is also racist. An imperial guard calls Chewbaca a "thing," remember? That makes the empire a fascist state.

 

>   The Rebel Alliance believes in the Force, while the Empire does not

In the original trilogy, the empire is atheistic and materialistic while the rebels, despite being a multi-species coalition, seem united religiously, spiritually, and morally by a belief in the Force. This implies that the old Republic was racially diverse but nevertheless unified culturally under a single religion/spiritual belief and that the Empire not only supplanted the old political order but introduced a new dominant culture as well.

 

>   Tatooine and Alderaan are both frontier worlds

"If there is a bright center of the universe, you're on the planet that it's farthest from." At the beginning of A New Hope, Princess Leia's ship is "on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan." Presumably they left from the capital near the center of the galaxy, which implies Tatooine is on the way to Alderaan. Since it is a wretched hive of scum and villainy run by gangsters and mostly outside of imperial control, Tatooine must be a frontier world, which means Alderaan is also a frontier world.

 

>   Vader fundamentally misunderstands what it means to be a Jedi

In Return of the Jedi, after Luke turns himself in on Endor, Vader admires his lightsaber and says, "I see you have constructed a new lightsaber. Your training is complete." This implies that constructing a lightsaber requires use of the Force, that they cannot be mass-produced, and that such control of the Force is only achieved toward the end of a Jedi's training. More importantly, it also reveals how little Vader understands about becoming a Jedi (After all, he left before completing the process. He says to Obi-Wan in A New Hope, "...I was but the learner, now I am the master.") Earlier in Jedi while on Dagoba, Yoda tells Luke that he has learned all that he needs to know and Luke responds, "So I am a Jedi."  Yoda quickly corrects him and says no, first you must face Vader. So basically, Luke has completed the classroom portion of his Jedi studies, but becoming a Jedi requires an inward, personal journey that is emotional and spiritual. Vader seems not to understand that and may be under the impression that the classroom studies are all that is needed.

 

>   Galactic civilization is incredibly old

At the end of New Hope, when Princess Leia presides over a ceremony honoring Luke, Han, and Chewbacca, the ceremony takes place in a stone structure that appears to be incredibly old. Indeed, Lucas shot the exterior scenes of the rebel base at Mayan ruins in Guatamala, giving the impression that complex is so old, it must pre-date interstellar travel and even twentieth-century level technology. This implies the presence of numerous complex societies throughout the galaxy many millennia before space flight.

Spirit & Feel of the Original Trilogy

In addition to the rules spelled out above, I think the prequels should adhere to the following set of principles so that they have the same spirit and feel as the original trilogy:

 

>    Episodes 1,2,3 should take place on the frontier.

The original trilogy took place far away from the capital and the galactic senate, on desolate frontier worlds like Tatooine. Episodes 1, 2, & 3 should do the same.

 

>    At its heart, Star Wars is about the Skywalker family.

Episodes 4, 5, & 6 followed Luke's personal emotional & spiritual journey and the re-unification of the Skywalker family. The trilogy didn't try to tell the whole story of the rebellion, but Lucas's episodes 1, 2, & 3 tried to tell the whole story of the Republic's fall, which got messy. The core of the prequel trilogy story should be the emotional & spiritual journey of Anakin and the disintegration of the Skywalker family (which would mirror the disintegration of the Republic).

 

>    Episodes 1, 2, & 3 should be told through the POV of the least significant characters.

Lucas's inspiration for R2D2 and C3PO came from Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress, which tells the story of a princess, a general, and a great battle through the eyes of two insignificant, cowardly peasants. In the opening scene of A New Hope, after we see the spaceships, the film cuts to an interior of one ship and who do we see? R2D2 and C3PO. They are literally the first characters we meet. Not Luke, not Leia. Similarly, the first characters we meet in episode one should be the least significant and we should follow them throughout the rest of the trilogy. I think the logical choice for those characters are Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru.

 

>   Star Wars is Not a Kid’s Movie

As a kid in the 80s, I loved Star Wars. I also loved Ghostbusters. If we go back and watch these movies as adults, we can see why kids liked them, but we can also see clearly that they were not specifically intended for children. They hardly qualify for Netflix's "children and family" category.

 

>  There has to be a positive story

The prequel trilogy is inherently a sad story because it’s about the fall of a Great Man, but that is not what adventure melodramas like Star Wars  are usually like. Audiences want to cheer for a hero. They need someone to root for. So amidst the tragic fall of Anakin, there needs to be at least one uplifting story. Steven Spielberg knows this. While his war movies like Saving Private Ryan, War Horse, and Schindler's List are set during the most horrific events of the twentieth century, he manages to tell stories that affirm a positive humanity. Defeating the enemy does not affirm humanity, it reinforces nationalism, militarism, et cetera. But saving people's lives amidst the tragedy of war and genocide does affirm humanity. So what is the uplifting story to be found within the Clone Wars, the fall of the Republic, the fall of Anakin, the death of the Jedi, and the failure of Obi-Wan? What will give us hope that good will triumph over tyranny? Perhaps women like Luke's mother and Aunt Beru can provide the answer.

 

>   The end of episode 2 should be Anakin's darkest hour.

The mid-point of a story is often the main character's darkest hour. At the end of episode 5, Luke is at the darkest hour of his emotional & spiritual journey because he has discovered his father is Darth Vader, has been defeated by him, and his best friend has been kidnapped. He has failed as a Jedi, however it is not the rebellion's darkest hour. The end of episode 2 should be Anakin's darkest hour spiritually and emotionally. This is when he should step onto the path of the dark side, and the disintegration of his family should begin.

 

>   Anakin should never be a child on screen

When we meet Anakin in episode 1, he should be the same age as Luke when we met him in episode 4, and like Luke should be a self-taught pilot. Since the core of the prequels should be Anakin's personal journey, he must be at least an adolescent because children do not grapple with complex emotional and spiritual issues.

 

>   The Sith are a good idea and should be kept

Despite the fact that the Sith, as an evil equal-but-opposite version of the Jedi order, is not mentioned explicitly until Phantom Menace, it is still a good idea and should be kept. All the details Lucas has outlined and have appeared in interviews, et cetera can be ignored.

 

>   The lightsaber duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin is a good idea

In George Lucas's original notes for Star Wars, he said that Vader had lost his arms and legs during a lightsaber duel with Obi-Wan. A duel is a great idea, but to make it dramatic, the reasons for the duel must be emotionally compelling. Since it is clear that Vader knew Obi-Wan had taken his son and placed him in hiding, perhaps that could be the reason.

 

>   Episodes 1,2,3 should follow the 3-act formula established by the original trilogy.

In the original films, each act takes place in a new location (roughly). This formula worked well and should be repeated in the prequels, a constraint that can keep them focused and prevent the wandering we saw in Lucas's prequels.

    New Hope:    Act 1, Tatooine

                          Act 2, bowels of the Death Star

                          Act 3, dog fight in space

    Empire:         Act 1, ice planet Hoth

                         Act 2, asteroid field / Dagobah

                         Act 3, cloud city

    Jedi:              Act 1, Tatooine

                         Act 2, forest moon of Endor

                                 Act 3, Endor / the Emperor's chambers / battle in space

 

>   Keep the plot simple

The incident that triggers the events of A New Hope  is simple but has far reaching consequences -- rebels have captures plans for the Death Star, and Darth Vader is trying to get the plans back.  Action movies, especially action movies for children, should have simple plots, but that doesn't mean those plots cannot have complex emotional consequences for the characters. With that said, can anyone honestly explain what triggers the events of The Phantom Menace?  Something about Jedi Knights negotiating a trade dispute on the behalf of Naboo, because the Trade Federation blockaded the planet in order to force Naboo to do something... but it was really a pretext to invade Naboo because they... I'm not sure. And did all this complexity produce an emotionally compelling story? No.

 

>   The plot should not include any conspiracy theories

The plot of Lucas's prequels is basically an elaborate conspiracy theory concocted by Palpatine to amass personal power. It has so many moving parts, Rube Goldberg couldn't have put it together, and as stated above, the plot should be kept simple. Besides, Palpatine's plot takes place right under the nose of the Jedi and it makes the Jedi look kind of stupid. Now, I'm something of a collector of conspiracy theories, as I talked about in my letter to Orson Scott Card, but I don't want them in Star Wars. It's not how the world works, in this galaxy or any other. If the fall of the Republic was modeled after the rise of the Nazis in Germany as I always assumed it was (storm troopers, those uniforms, et cetera), then we can use examples from history to write a plot where crisis and chaos provide opportunities for tyrants.

 

>   No lightsaber duels for Yoda

This rule will annoy some fangeeks, but it's important. The original Star Wars films followed mythic storytelling patterns outlined by Joseph Campbell and so each character is an archetype. These archetypes have built-in rules that limit what a writer can do with such a character. If the writer breaks those rules then they aren't writing an archetypal character. In general there is nothing wrong with that, but that's not Star Wars. Yoda, like Obi-Wan, is a mentor to Luke, a "wise old man." His age means the wise old man comes from a different time (and at 800 years old, Yoda exaggerates this as only science fiction can), but it is no accident that Yoda is also non-human. The wise old man is often a foreigner from another land, and making Yoda non-human exaggerates this yet again as only science fiction can. Finally, as a spiritual mentor, Yoda is a visual metaphor for the Force itself. He may be physically frail and diminutive in size, but that doesn't matter. His strength lies in his spiritualness. He is brains over brawn, spiritual strength over physical strength. Consider how he trained Luke to be a thinking, feeling, and reflecting Jedi, not a soldier. Lucas's prequels threw all that out of the window and turned Yoda into a back-flipping, twirling ninja.

 

>   No complex fight choreography

While the lightsaber duels in the original trilogy were slower and less complex, they were much more emotionally powerful. General Grievous looked cool wielding four lightsabers, but his fights were meaningless because there was no underlying emotion.

 

>   No prophesies, no chosen ones, no messiahs

The idea of a chosen one or a prophesied messiah is a Judeo-Christian concept, but the mythology of Star Wars is very non-Christian. Nevertheless, Lucas's prequels mixed the very different spirituality of Star Wars with Christianity and the result was a confusing mess. Anakin was called the "chosen one" who would fulfill a prophesy and bring "balance to the Force," but there was never any mention of prophesies or an imbalance in the Force in the original trilogy and it raised more questions than it answered. First, who did the prophesying? Second and more importantly, a messiah is only needed when an intractable problem cannot be solved by normal people (like in The Matrix). The audience must understand what this problem is and why mere mortals cannot solve it. Did anyone really understand the imbalance in the Force? It was never explained, and we were never shown the negative consequences of this imbalance, so we never knew what was at stake.

The problem to be solved in episodes 1, 2, & 3 should be political, not an existential crisis with the Force. The prequel trilogy should reveal how the political turmoil and social anarchy created by war and fear provides opportunity for tyrants.

 

>   At least one character should be a grounded realist

When I was a kid, I wanted to be Han Solo, not Luke Skywalker. Han was wise-cracking, handsome, grounded, and a realist -- and that made him cool. Everyone else was virtuous and idealistic and had faith in something I didn't believe in, and that last part is the kicker. No one sitting in the theater actually believes in the Force, and so the movies need a character who can be the skeptical voice of the audience, who can act as a reality check to all the high-mindedness. Lucas's prequels lacked a realist.

 

>   No subjective POV

In the original trilogy there is never a moment where we see inside someone’s mind. As Luke and Yoda are training on Dagoba, both are having visions of the future, but we are not shown what they see. We are not even allowed to hear snippets of what is being heard in their mind. When characters are having reflective moments, we do not hear their memories. This is probably because of the presence of Ob-Wan's disembodied spirit. If Obi-Wan’s spirit voice, which is “real,” and Luke’s memories or thoughts were both included in the soundtrack, the audience would have no way to tell what is/is not diegetic sound.

 

>   Ships & Technology should be the same as in original trilogy

Judging from Luke's age, the events of New Hope are just 17-20 years from the end of Episode 3, and so technology cannot have changed much. Presumably after the rise of the empire, the rebels would not have the facilities to build new ships — they must be using old ships that pre-date the empire. Therefore, all the ships/fighters et cetera should be the same as seen in the prequels.

 

>   Star Wars is not a techno-utopia

In the Star Trek universe, technology has eliminated want and hunger, cured disease, and created a utopia for common people. It is a positive vision of technological progress, and the technology is constantly changing throughout the many series so that human beings have greater control of the universe, and even time itself. In Star Wars  however, technology is not that sophisticated — turbo lasers cannot hit relatively slow ships, all fights seem to take place at visual range, and there is no sophisticated AI computer controlled anything. Hunger and want are still clearly rampant, as is general economic inequality and apparent mismanagement.

 

>   Back-and-forth POV

In the original trilogy, the film’s POV moves back and forth consistently and regularly between the good guys and the bad guy — Darth Vader. The emperor was kept at a distance, seen only through Vader's POV, which made him a scarier, shadowy presence. The prequel trilogy should do the same, moving back and forth between a small number of good guys and a single bad guy, and similarly keep the man-who-will-be-emperor in the shadows, to make him more sinister.

 

>   Less is More

In Jaws, Steven Spielberg doesn't show us the shark until we are three-fourths of the way into the movie. Movie buffs may argue that this was not Spielberg's choice, but due to problems with the mechanical shark, but regardless it is an incredibly effective decision because what we don’t see is what is truly frightening. What the audience imagines will always be scarier than anything any director can put on screen. Had we seen the shark early in the movie, Jaws would have been less scary, not more.  This lesson, one Spielberg acknowledges learning from the classic horror movie Cat People, seems to have been lost on contemporary directors caught like deer in the headlights of CG animation. In New Hope and Empire, the hangers of rebel fighters are mostly dark. Only a few ships in the foreground are visible, and the shadowed background allows the audience to imagine vast spaces filled with all sorts of incredible things more captivating than any CG rendered scene. The prequel trilogy should not forget this lesson.

 

>   Deus ex machina moments

In the original trilogy there are occasional moments where a character clearly cannot get out of a problem by themselves, and unexpectedly is saved by someone else. Deus ex machina moments like these are generally something to avoid in storytelling, but there is one way to do it and get away with it: have the unexpected appearance of someone, like Han Solo's arrival in the dogfight at the end of New Hope, or Leia sensing Luke is in trouble at the end of Empire, be the result of personal change & growth. If the prequel trilogy has any deus ex machine moments, it should be like this.

Avoid Common Pitfalls in Prequels & Sci-Fi

While we are at it, let's lay out some additional rules so we do not repeat the mistakes of the past.

 

>   Avoid the temptation to tell origin stories

Prequels should of course explain the origins of characters at the core of the story, and set up some events of the sequels, but the temptation to include loads and loads of origin stories is just too tempting for some writers. Lucas's prequels are overloaded with backstories for insignificant characters like Greedo, Boba Fett, and even C3PO, which are irrelevant because there is no storytelling need to explain, for example, that Boba Fett had a traumatic childhood. Boba Fett's role in the story is solely to complicate the plot for the main characters.


>   Don't be self-referential

Similarly, including callbacks to things fans loved from the original movies is also very tempting. For example, in Lucas's prequels, lot's of characters say "I have a bad feeling about this," a classic line from the first movies, but it gets hokey real fast and shatters the audience's suspension of disbelief. It reminds us we are watching a movie. So too did the inclusion of ETs in the Senate, the pod from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and having Chewbacca be friends with Yoda. Callbacks rarely do the important work of moving the plot forward or furthering character development, and so they should be avoided.


>   Avoid green screens

In contemporary science fiction films there is a temptation to place actors in front of green screens and then paint in extraordinary backdrops, rather than film in real locations or on sets. Digital effects "free" the director to be more imaginative, right? Well, as Lucas's prequels demonstrate, CGI backdrops kill the tension of a scene. The actors cannot and do not interact with their environment and so there is little for them to do except walk and talk, sit and talk or stand and talk. Imagine how dull the scenes on Dagobah would have been if Luke and Yoda had been in front of a green screen instead of immersed within a real set.

Some Problems are Irreparable

When we meet Luke in episode 4, he is a young man, possibly just a teenager of seventeen. If Leia is his twin sister, then she would be the same age, which makes her position as Senator seem unrealistic (unless perhaps, her father held the position and when he died, she inherited it from him). If Leia was older than Luke, thus making her place in the Senate more logical, we are faced with the conundrum of figuring out how Vader could be kept in the dark about her yet know about Luke. Sometimes in the Star Wars  universe, we just have to accept these little problems and trust that the audience will stay with us.