It’s STAR WARS week at Filmthusiast!
We’ve received a new poster, a theatrical trailer, and we followed that up with a pretty comprehensive trailer breakdown. Now we are bringing you a very special installment of our “Studio Notes” column!
I just got your outlines and first drafts for the whole prequel trilogy and I have a few notes…
There is an interesting through-line for this section of the saga. A hero from questionable beginnings is seduced by a dark lord of the Sith who is masquerading as a politician while manipulating the government into his control. There is a potentially sweeping love story, some colorful supporting characters, and a war that tears two best friends apart. You even leave us with some interesting questions. Did Palpatine orchestrate Anakin’s birth? Is the Jedi way outdated and more trouble than it’s worth? Interesting stuff! However, it’s all bogged down by trade negotiations, midichlorians, Jar Jar Binks, bad dialogue, and more.
I want to give you some pretty elaborate notes. This is how I would form the prequels using the puzzle pieces you established in your outlines and scripts:
EPISODE I – THE PHANTOM MENACE
-The main story of this movie should be the Jedi investigating the reemergence of the Sith and assisting the Galactic Republic with a mission involving the dismantling of the beginnings of a clone army. This leads to the Jedi learning that the clone army isn’t just beginning, it’s been in the works for sometime now and their forces are stronger than the Republic’s. This leads to the first Clone War battle on the planet where Padme is Queen. She is a strong ruler who will not wilt in the face of an enemy threat. Obi-Wan and Anakin come to her aid. They manage to help her win the first battle, but the threat of the clones endures. The title also refers to a secret Sith Lord that is referred to throughout the film, but never seen. A Sith Lord who is not Count Dooku, Darth Maul, or Emperor Palpatine.
-Starting with Anakin as a young child is interesting, but I don’t think it’s completely necessary. How about we start off with a mirror of the first sequence from A New Hope. A massive Republic Star Cruiser stumbles upon a small derelict freighter. They bring it on board and all they find within is a baby and his dying mother. She says “His name is Anakin… Anakin Skywalker… and he is…” Then she dies. We never know what she was going to say. A creature is on board the ship. It’s Yoda. He will take the boy.
-Skip most of what occurs in THE PHANTOM MENACE. Start off with a prologue setting up how Anakin came to be in the hands of the Jedi and then skip ahead to what is essentially the time frame of ATTACK OF THE CLONES.
-I love the notion of having two Jedi investigating the emergence of the clone army. Keep that. Have the Jedi be this mystical third-party cabal that the Republic must coax into helping them. They are the thing of legend and most of the galaxy doesn’t know they exist.
-Another aspect of these movies that works are the villains. In Episode I you should have Palpatine as the up-and-coming politician that he is in your draft, Count Dooku is the leader of the Mandalorian Army who is eerily knowledgeable about the force, and the mysterious Darth Maul. The notion that there is a guy with horns running around the galaxy, starting trouble, and using a Sith moniker should be very troubling for the Jedi. Maybe the Jedi Council allows two of their knights to assist the Republic in hopes that their mission will provide them with more information about the Sith lord.
-The movie would be wonderful if it ended with Dooku and Maul meeting secretly with Palpatine to discuss Skywalker. Why even try to hide it at this point? Lets see this trilogy as the origins of Vader, Palpatine, and the Galactic Empire.
-No kid Darth Vader, no senate hearings, no pod racing, no Gungans, no Queen decoys, no droid army, no goofy trade subplots, no racist aliens, no over-explaining. This is STAR WARS. It’s a mystical space western. Give us that.
EPISODE II – THE CLONE WARS
-Don’t call it ATTACK OF THE CLONES.
-This film should cover similar ground as The Clone Wars and the beginning of your draft of REVENGE OF THE SITH. It’s a big, sweeping adventure film that begins to plant seeds of doubt in the mind of Anakin Skywalker about the legitimacy of the Jedi. Anakin, having become a full-fledged Jedi Knight, would begin to drift from the Jedi to the Republic. Much of this is due to his wanting to be closer to Padme, Palpatine, and the increasing sense of power he is given. He manages to convince Obi-Wan to help him on missions and they are both appointed generals. Two of Obi-Wan’s lieutenants are Owen Lars and Beru Whitesun. This would be the big war movie of the saga with many worlds, many battles, and a lot of loss.
-This movie can begin the love affair between Anakin and Padme, but be careful! You fall into pretty hot water in your draft of ATTACK OF THE CLONES with all sorts of talk about sand and weirdness. It just doesn’t work. Make Padme infatuated with the Jedi. She has heard stories of their kind, but until the events of the first movie had never met one. They are also the same age. They are equals. Anakin’s love affair should mirror his love affair of being a powerful soldier in the Republic. He is truly torn between the secretive Jedi and the bombastic Galactic Republic. He loves the action, the glory, and the fame… But a Jedi craves not these things.
-This should be an incredibly dark, revealing film. The origins of Anakin and his ties to the dark side of the force should be explored. It was no coincidence that he was picked up by a Republic Cruiser when he was a baby. Someone dangerous put events into motion that are slowly building to a dark, sinister conclusion.
-The Jedi should spring a trap during all of this to lure Darth Maul out into the open. There Yoda enters his mind and “forces” him to divulge the secrets of Palpatine. He learns that Count Dooku and Emperor Palpatine are Sith and learns that there is another secret Sith Lord out there as well. Mace Windu orders that he be taken into the custody of the Jedi, but is attacked by a sinister fleet of clones led by Count Dooku. The haze surrounding the machinations of these evil men start to become clearer to the Jedi. Palpatine, Dooku, and Maul are in league with one another.
-Anakin should learn that the Jedi took him in because of his incredible strength with the force. He was not born force sensitive, he was created to be force sensitive by Palpatine. His birth wasn’t natural, but engineered. The end of the film has Yoda, Obi-Wan, and Mace Windu tasking Anakin with the assassination of Chancellor Palpatine. It’s not something they are proud of, but the balance of the force must remain in the light’s favor.
-Ends with Anakin informing Palpatine that he was ordered to kill him, but he does not intend to do that. Palpatine tells him everything that the Jedi suggested and more. He did bring Anakin into this world. He is to be an instrument of hope and peace. He will be what the Jedi can never truly live up to. A Sith. Anakin tells him that he wants to learn the ways of the Sith and become a Dark Lord like his creator.
-No Jango Fett, no Boba Fett, no Kamino, no John Carter of Mars ending, no super creepy romance, no talk of sand, no assassination plot, no half-hour subplot dedicated to a poison dart, no Owen actually related to Anakin Skywalker, no Tatooine, no droid army factory, no over-explaining. This is STAR WARS. It’s a mystical space western. Give us that.
EPISODE III – REVENGE OF THE SITH
-This is the big, epic downer of the whole series. EMPIRE STRIKES BACK after a break-up and a fifth of tequila. This is the second half of your REVENGE OF THE SITH expanded and turned into an opera of pain and rebirth. Anakin is given a choice: Go back to the Jedi or stay with Palpatine and Padme on the side of the Republic… Even if it means becoming allied with the Sith. Anakin chooses his creators. He was made by the Sith, not the Jedi… and the Sith have not forced him to kill anyone.
-Palpatine and Dooku publicly sign a treaty, which makes the Jedi very uneasy. With both the Republic’s army, the clone army, Palpatine, Dooku, and now maybe Anakin… They are too strong to go untested. Yoda and Mace Windu suggest a massive Jedi attack on the clone army before they are able to join with the Republic. Obi-Wan argues against this. They will be seen as terrorists. Yoda says that they don’t care. It will be for the good of the Galaxy. A Jedi should not be concerned with how they are perceived. They should only exist to enforce peace and justice across the Galaxy. This is how they do that. Obi-Wan says okay, but they tell him that his mission is to get Anakin away from Palpatine by any means necessary.
-Padme is also secretly pregnant with Anakin’s children, a fact that Anakin does not know. This is discovered when Padme and Palpatine are having a secret meeting. In this same secret meeting it is revealed that Padme is the secret Sith Lord that they have been referring to for the last two films. I don’t buy Anakin’s complete fall to the dark side without it. She has been Palpatine’s insurance plan to guarantee that when the final battles of the war are fought… Anakin Skywalker, now Darth Vader, is on the Dark Side.
-The big finale of the film is the battle between the Republic, now a Galactic Empire, and the complete forces of the Jedi. The Jedi aren’t just hanging out on Coruscant in this film. They are scattered throughout the universe. There should be an epic, rousing montage of the Jedi being called home to fight against the new threat of the Empire. They are an impressive force, but not one that is able to withstand the hundreds of thousands of Imperial Stormtroopers, clones, and several all-powerful Sith.
-The movie would also handle the formation of the Rebellion. There is a meeting between Bail Organa, Mon Mothma, General Ackbar, and Captain Dodonna where they essentially begin plotting a civil war against the Empire. Early on in the film they attempt to get the support of the Jedi, but they resist. Obi-Wan is sent to officially refuse their offer. They warn him that the Empire may be too much for the Jedi to handled. Obi-Wan says that they may be right, but that makes not difference. They are going to attempt to wipe out their enemy and then forever remove themselves from the politics of the Galaxy. One last job and then they leave. However, numerous allies of the Jedi do end up joining with the rebels, including Obi-Wan’s now-married lieutenant’s Owen and Beru Lars.
-The last act of the film, after the massive battle that wipes the majority of the Jedi from existence, involves Darth Vader hunting down Obi-Wan Kenobi to avenge the death of his love. Little does Vader know that Obi-Wan also has his twin babies. He delivered them in Padme’s final moments before passing. Palpatine orders Vader to wipe out the remainder of the Jedi scourge and Vader agrees. He will begin with Obi-Wan.
-Obi-Wan, no longer wishing to flee, faces off with Darth Vader on a lava planet. Their battle is ferocious and heartbreaking. Vader isn’t some brainwashed lunatic like he seems to be at the end of your scripts. This battle holds the weight of a very long friendship. There is love here, betrayal, anger, and rage. It isn’t all elegant combat choreography either. There are real moments of conversation where they talk about moments they’ve shared. They talk about where this galaxy is going. They can fight evolution or they can be apart of it. Obi-Wan doesn’t even think that Vader is wrong, he just knows that he isn’t right. They battle until Vader makes one terrible mistake and Obi-Wan lops off both of his arms and legs. Vader begs for him to finish it, but Obi-Wan can’t.
-We end it almost the same way that you intended. Palpatine saves Vader and puts him into the armor that we are all familiar with. Obi-Wan brings the children to the rebellion. Bail Organa takes the girl, Leia, while Owen & Beru take the boy, Luke. Obi-Wan says that he will stay with them on Tatooine and watch over them. These children are the last hope this galaxy has…
-No General Grievous, no Chewbacca, no Order 66 where the Jedi are just blaster fodder, no weak Padme, no weird descent to the dark side, nothing lame, nothing terrible, and no over-explaining. This is STAR WARS. It’s a mystical space western. Give us that.
I know this was probably brutal for you to read, George.
But it had to be written.