This blog post probably should have been titled differently, because I don’t really want to “fix” the prequels so much as I want to banish them from existence and start over from scratch, but that’s just semantics.
Since seeing The Force Awakens (which was fantastic), I’ve been thinking about how the awful prequel trilogy could have possibly been, ya know, not awful. How could those films have been fixed? What would I have changed? Well, I’m gonna go ahead and breeze past the basic, obvious stuff. First of all, they should have used more practical special effects instead of relying on often-cartoonish CGI for literally every scene and like half the characters. They should have kept the worn look of a lived-in universe from the original trilogy. Someone should have reminded Lucas of the importance of substance over sheen. Get rid of the silly, video game acrobatics in the lightsaber duels and make the battles meaningful rather than just vomiting out “cool” fan service. Jango Fett and Jar Jar Binks should have been eliminated entirely. I think you get my drift.
Beyond the aforementioned, the first problem was the basic plot. The films really should have started when Anakin was already an adult (or at least an older teen). No one needed to see Darth Vader as an annoying little kid. In fact, pretty much everything that happens in The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones is completely useless, utterly nonsensical, and does absolutely nothing to advance either the overall storyline or the characters. Instead of a bunch of confusing mumbo jumbo about space politics and trade disputes, the Clone Wars should have been the entire backdrop of the prequel trilogy, and the story should have taken place over a shorter span of 3-5 years, much like the original trilogy. After all, the important part is not the plot itself, but the relationship between Anakin and Obi Wan, the gradual pull of the Dark Side, and the tragic fall of a once great hero.
This brings us to the second problem, the casting. I think we can all agree that Hayden Christensen was beyond terrible as Anakin. The wretched script didn’t help, of course, but his acting was worse than a bit player in a daytime soap opera. Anakin should have been a badass Jedi hero that the audience could root for, thus making his eventual fall that much more painful and poignant. As Obi Wan says in the original Star Wars, “He was the best star-pilot in the galaxy, and a cunning warrior… and he was a good friend.” But instead, he always just came off as whiny, annoying, and kinda effeminate. I mean, did anyone even like Anakin at any point in those movies? He was such a little bitch. Heck, I thoroughly enjoyed watching him get nearly burned to death at the end of Revenge of the Sith, simply because I wanted him to stop talking. Remember the movie Sean of the Dead, when Sean’s mother finally succumbs to her wounds and becomes a zombie at the end, forcing him to burst into tears of rage and sorrow before mercifully killing her? That was heartbreaking… and it was in a zombie romantic comedy, folks. That one scene was far more moving and better scripted than Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side, or really any scene in the Star Wars prequels. Why? Because Edgar Wright is actually very good screenwriter and director, unlike a certain pudgy, grey-bearded individual who shall remain nameless.
Additionally, I like Ewan McGregor as an actor, and his performance was one of the only remotely redeeming qualities of the prequels, but he was also too young and didn’t really have enough gravitas for the character. In the first Star Wars, Princess Leia specifically calls him “General Kenobi” and says he served her father in the Clone Wars. So he needed to look older, probably in his 40’s, especially since Alec Guinness was in his 60’s during the original trilogy and roughly 20 years would have passed. I honestly think someone like Kenneth Branagh would have made a better Obi Wan, and Branagh is great in everything anyway. As for Natalie Portman, she has proven herself to be a fine actress over the years, so I’ll defend her casting only in the sense that she has done well when actually working with a good script and a good director. However, instead of a long-term love interest, it would have made more sense if Luke and Leia’s mother had been a brief fling for Anakin, providing a better reason for Darth Vader to not know about the existence or whereabouts of his children. Liam Neeson is awesome, but Qui Gon Jin didn’t need to exist at all. The character had no personality and served no real purpose other than to utter the dumbest line of dialogue in Star Wars history (Hint: It had to do with “midichlorians“), except for maybe Anakin’s inane speech about his fear of sand. Plus, Obi Wan specifically said that Yoda was his master in The Empire Strikes Back, so whatever. And as much as I like Samuel L. Jackson, he was also terribly miscast as Mace Windu. Come on, now. If Sam Jackson can’t be Sam Mutha’ F***in’ Jackson, then please just cast someone else.
Okay, that’s all I have for now. There’s no point in getting into the minutiae of cinematography, plot holes, and basic film making, because as I said initially, I think these should have been three totally different films in the first place. The prequel trilogy should have been war movies — almost “buddy-cop films” focusing on the adventures of and relationship between Anakin and Obi Wan as they fought in the Clone Wars together. Anakin should have already been a badass fighter pilot when they met, and then he would serve under General Kenobi, who notices he is Force sensitive and trains him as a Jedi. The Man Who Would Be Vader should have been built up throughout the movies as a great and admirable hero, beloved by the audience, so his downfall becomes a tragedy rather than a relief. We should have actually felt sympathy for him as he slowly drifted toward the Dark Side. Heck, John Milton managed to make people sympathize with the Devil in Paradise Lost, so don’t tell me a talented filmmaker couldn’t have done the same with Anakin Skywalker.