If I Were to Re-Write the STAR WARS saga...

A couple of weeks ago I posted an article reviewing Major League Baseball ballparks—an article I’ve been writing in a sense from 1986, when I became a fan of the game, not only a particular team. Well, today’s post I have been writing since 1977, when I was six, and saw A New Hope for the first time. In the intermittent thirty-eight years, I have seen the Star Wars movies roughly a billion times. My best achievement as a father these last thirteen years has been to instill a love of Star Wars in my boys, although their tastes, to this point, are wrong. They will come around to my way of thinking (that Empire is the best, that Jar Jar is the embodiment of evil. etc.) if for no other reason than the power of my viewpoints acting as erosion. 2015 is going to be a banner year for Star Wars. Episode VII will arrive December 18, and a month before that the new Star Wars Battlefront game will debut. 

Star Wars Battlefront

My reaction:

The Force Awakens

But before we get to Thanksgiving and Christmas what should we do? I am already in full on Star Wars mode… so I’ve decided to reconstruct the six Star Wars movies as I would have made them. I’ll begin this process from the beginning of the timeline, unlike what Lucas did—I’ve never heard a satisfactory answer as to why he titled A New Hope “Episode IV.” If you want to tell the back story of a menacing character who is really the center of the universe why begin the story when he is an adult—and then kill him off at the end of “Episode VI”-- only to re-begin with Vader as a kid sixteen years later??

So in my Star Wars universe “Episode I” debuts in 1977, and the entire series ends in 1992. Then we’ll hand the reins to JJ Abrams and Disney for “Episode VII” in 2015.

FYI: I have never read any of the Star Wars side material—I am a movies-only guy. I liked the two animated Clone Wars series (especially Cartoon Network’s version) and I am OK with Rebels, but I don’t really consider it on the same level or really in the same galaxy. And I am well aware that there are literally thousands, if not millions, of blogposts and YouTube clips re-writing Star Wars. I know they are there, but I have not read them. OK. Here we go!

In a galaxy far, far away…
(cue the music)

Episode I Rise of the Sith and The Galactic Empire (1977)

Gone from my version: Jar Jar Binks. There is not a font size large enough or bold enough to communicate this. No Jar Jar. The only worthy thing Jar Jar was ever a part of was The Binks Awakens:

There is also no Trade Federation, no young kid Anakin Skywalker, no midi-chlorians, no boring politics (we have enough of that in real life), no Immaculate Conception of Anakin (he is not Jesus Christ), and no creepy attraction between Padme Amidala and Anakin. Since Lucas cast Anakin with a kid and Natalie Portman as Padme their age difference is probably 15 years or more. Sorry, a ten year old may be infatuated with the queen of a planet, but her stares back at him and silly little conversations are just… NO.

Instead, begin the back story of Darth Vader this way:
·         Introduce us to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant. Bring in Yoda, Qui-Gon Jinn, and Mace Windu as teachers. Show us what it’s like to go to class and learn from legendary warriors and teachers. Since this is the first movie in the six-part series, the Jedi Temple is the correct place to teach us about the Force. Think of how they portrayed Hogwarts early in the Harry Potter series. Lucas messed this up with his timeline. He introduced us to the Force in episodes IV and V (most of it on Dagobah with Yoda and Luke Skywalker), so instead of re-teaching or expanding in Episode I he gave us midi-chlorians. No. That is stupid and undermines Yoda’s teachings in Empire.

·         Anakin Skywalker is not a kid in Episode I. He is nearing the end of his training at the Jedi Temple and will soon be assigned as an apprentice/padawan to a Master Jedi: Qui-Gon Jinn. Qui-Gon was a character I actually liked from The Phantom Menace. But he was a wasted character. He could have offered a more Zen-like interpretation of the Force and Lucas could have developed his more rebellious side, which is alluded to here and there. But in my Episode I Qui-Gon is killed somehow and the college aged—not 3rd grade aged—Skywalker is assigned to new Master Jedi Obi Wan Kenobi. Again, since Episode I follows Episode VI in Lucas’ ordering of the franchise (1983 and 1999 respectively), you must follow the timeline you established in ’83. Obi Wan tells Luke, “When I first met your father he was already the best pilot in the galaxy, but I was amazed at how much the Force was with him. I thought I could train him. I was wrong.” Those few sentences offer a brilliant way to lay out Episodes I, II, III—but no: Lucas has him as a kid. So the first time Obi Wan meets Anakin he is not one of the best star pilots in the galaxy. He’s a kid!!!!!

·         Some of the fragments from The Phantom Menace can be brought in to the new “Episode I.” I like Darth Maul, but if you’re not going to give him anything to do or say except jump around and fight Jedi don’t call him “Darth” something. He is not an apprentice. He is a mercenary trained in the Jedi arts, but on the tangent of a Ventress from Clone Wars or General Grievous from Revenge of the Sith. Introduce us to Darth Sidious, who will eventually become Emperor, and his apprentice Darth Tyranus, the former Jedi Dooku. Maybe Tyranus kills Qui-Gon Jinn. Maybe Maul, not Darth Maul, just Maul, leads an insurrection against the Republic. This could be the Clone Wars Leia refers to in her holographic message to Obi Wan in Episode IV, and the Jedi are forced into combat.

Jedi fighting clones. I can dig that. It actually sounds awesome.  The clones do not serve the Jedi/Republic until the Emperor triggers some brainwashing thing (“Order 66”) and then they turn on their former commanders with the flick of a switch in Episode III. They are an opposing army against the Jedi and the Republic. And please, they are not all genetically derived from Jango Fett. It is beyond stupid that every Stormtrooper is a step brother to Boba Fett.

Episode II The Rise and Fall of Darth Vader (1980)

I'm calling this The Rise and Fall of Darth Vader because he is a tragic figure. His rise is his turning to the Dark Side, his training, etc. His fall is the murder of his friends and teachers, and you know, ushering a repressive empire.

·         Anakin and Obi Wan are now officially united as Master and Padawan, fighting side by side in the Clone Wars. Anakin is overzealous in his fighting and maybe Obi Wan and Yoda have a conversation about it, as they sort of do in Attack of the Clones, but never in a substantive way. There is growing concern over Anakin’s inability to control himself in battle.

·         We learn of a secret relationship with Anakin and Padme Amidala. She is neither a senator nor a queen. Wait—who elects a queen, anyway?? And for only a short time?? So she’s a queen and then a senator?? Maybe even they are secretly married. It fits into Anakin’s rebellious streak he first encountered in his former teacher Qui-Gon Jinn.

·         I like the thread of Anakin’s love of his mother. You can build on that. Jedi are not supposed to love or have any earthly attachments. So if his mother meets a tragic end—as she does in Episode II—that could lead to Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side of the Force. But Lucas has her killed by Sandpeople??? Man, I love the ties to the original trilogy—but make her death personal. Someone Anakin knows and has a relationship with kills his mother—even if only in his mind. Say she dies accidentally and Obi Wan was a second too late in saving her. Now Anakin, overcome by his emotions, sees his mentor as killing his mother. Now a window opens for future manipulation and recruitment by the Sith.

·         Then something happens to Padme. We learn she is pregnant with twins. Anakin believes she is dead but she is not. She does not die in childbirth, George. Cmon. Again, follow your own timeline. Luke can’t ask Leia about her mother in Return of the Jedi and she responds with, “Memories mostly. Very beautiful but sad.”

Newborns—I mean really, really newborns, seconds old, do not have memories of mom being sad if she dies in childbirth. Anyway, disillusioned with Anakin’s emotional turmoil and his desire for vengeance after his mother's death, she flees to Alderaan, her home planet (not Naboo-- that planet does not exist in this universe), with the assistance of Obi Wan Kenobi.  The rulers on Alderaan grant her an annulment of her marriage to Anakin, she changes her identity, and eventually marries King Organa, not Senator Organa. She is a queen by marriage, not election, allowing her daughter to rightfully be called Princess Leia. By the way: once we learn Leia and Luke are twins in Return of the Jedi—if she is a princess shouldn’t he be a prince??

·         By the end of Episode II Darth Tyranus is dead—maybe even at the hands of Darth Sidious—and Anakin becomes Darth Vader. He has the awesome fight with Obi Wan Kenobi from Revenge of the Sith, fueled by the death of his mother and the loss of Padme and his unborn children. Episode II, not III, ends with Vader donning the black armor. And there is no NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO  at the end. Please, George. Get a hold of yourself.

Episode III The Destruction of the Jedi (1983)

·         This is a dark movie, no lies. It is all out war. The Clone Wars ended in Episode II. This is Darth Vader vs. the Jedi. Jedi we have come to love are hunted down by Darth Vader, as Obi Wan describes to Luke in Episode IV: “A young Jedi who was a pupil of mine before he turned to evil helped the Emperor hunt down and destroy the Jedi.” We see that in my Episode III. In Revenge of the Sith Anakin kills no Jedi—he kills “younglings,” Jedi kids his age from The Phantom Menace, which is terrible. He eliminates the useless confederation of bankers and trade federation and blah blah blah of Episodes I and II, but he fights no Jedi. I would like to see Darth Vader fight Yoda. Maybe Yoda almost wins but the Emperor surprises him with the Sith lightning stuff and he barely escapes or is presumed dead.

I like Revenge of the Sith, but Anakin’s descent to the Dark Side happens too quickly. In the first hour he’s the same immature, whiny teenager we’ve endured in the previous movies. Then all the sudden he becomes Darth Vader? What? No. the conversion to the Sith takes time. Training in the Dark Arts. I want to see all of that. The best scene in Revenge of the Sith is the opera scene, a one-on-one conversation between Anakin and Chancellor Palpatine—before his true identity is revealed. You sense the manipulation, the half truths, and some Sith backstory. It’s never developed. It’s really interesting, unknown stuff to us, but Lucas just moves on.

I would end Episode III just as Lucas did, with the twins separated, one on Alderaan and the other on Tatoonie.

Episodes IV and V, A New Hope (1986) and The Empire Strikes Back (1989-- the year I graduated high school. Too perfect.)

... are amazing. They do not need any adjustment whatsoever. No special editions, no edits. No George. Han Solo shoots Greedo first—not the other way around. There is no Jabba in A New Hope. And in The Empire Strikes Back when Vader leaves Cloud City at the end without Luke, he says only the original line: “Bring my shuttle.” That’s it. Not, “Inform my star destroyer I will be returning soon,” or whatever the new and improved version says. “Bring my shuttle” conveys all we need to know about Vader’s anger.

Episode VI Return of the Jedi (1992)

I like Return of the Jedi—the first thirty minutes and a couple of other scenes. I like Jabba the Hutt, the rescue of Han Solo, the death of Yoda, even the redemption of Darth Vader. It's taken me about thirty years to come to a place of comfort with Vader's redemption. When I watch Jedi I tire of Luke's constant "There is still good in [Vader]" routine. You don't know that--you're projecting. But if we really get to see the Rise and Fall of Darth Vader then I am OK with his redemption.

Anyway, saving Han Solo from Jabba should take longer than 20 minutes. Take your time. Fight with Boba Fett for more than 39 seconds. This guy is supposed to be a feared bounty hunter across the galaxy? This is the guy who caught Han Solo? Fine. Show me something. Maybe all of the bounty hunters from that scene on Vader's star destroyer in Empire are there to defend Jabba. How long has had possession of Han's frozen body? A couple of years? But somehow Lando is able infiltrate the place? No one noticed Skywalker back on his home planet, wearing all black like his real father? Cmon.

And Lucas: Another Death Star?? We learn from the end of Revenge of the Sith that work has begun on the Empire's ultimate weapon. Luke and Leia are babies. By the time of A New Hope they are in their 20s-- and no one knows anything about the Death Star's power. When Alderaan is destroyed it's the first system to go. So it takes 20+ years to build the thing, right? WRONG! They've got a second one, not fully completed by fully operational, in just a couple of years between Empire and Jedi. Nope. A new Death Star does nothing to move the story along. Yes, Luke and Vader need a place to fight, and yes, the Emperor needs to die, but there are thousands of star systems in the Galactic Empire. And the Ewoks?? This kills my boys, but no. Keep the teddies in the toy closet where they belong. There is plenty of material between the rescue of Han and the redemption of Vader to build a 2 hour + bow on this great series of six movies.

There you go-- that's the new Star Wars timeline. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Now-- who is up for a six movie marathon this weekend? Christy is studying for the CPA exam this weekend so come on over!! In the meantime, let's watch a little more of JJ Abrams' genius:

May the Force be with you!!