Story Thoughts on the Prequels

The prequels can be an endless topic of discussion for Star Wars fans because those of us who think they’re not as good as they could be each have our own list of what we’d do differently, from an ideal movie viewing order to cutting cringeworthy scenes.

Here’s my shower thought on the prequels: what if The Phantom Menace hadn’t been part of the trilogy? What if we had a trilogy of movies spanning the events of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, and Phantom Menace was a prequel to that?

Most parts of The Phantom Menace that seem like irrelevant detours are setting up something later in the story; I noticed when watching the “Anti-Cheese Edit” that I actually missed some of the Gungan scenes, because we needed a little more emphasis on the tensions between the two species living on Naboo to make Padme’s political gambit feel significant. And cutting scenes got me thinking…

Everything that a viewer really needs to know from Phantom Menace could have been inserted into the latter two movies more adroitly:

  • Obi Wan raised Anakin. This is already stated explicitly in Revenge, which does a fine job of establishing their relationship without showing Anakin as a foundling.
  • Anakin’s childhood history. If all of this (his birth into slavery, the council’s doubts about training him, the prophecy) was revealed over several conversations with Padme after being assigned as her bodyguard, it would be the sort of vulnerable opening up that makes a realistic start to a romance. If he more explicitly linked his previous experiences to his adult political opinion that a strong ruler was preferable to democracy, it would give him a more plausible motivation for his political shift (instead of it being after-the-fact justification when he joined Palpatine for more personal reasons).
  • The Separatists are at war with the Republic, and being puppeted by Darth Sidious. The politics would be more bearable exposition dumps if presented as discussions in the jedi council chambers. Anakin is placed on the council and antagonistic enough to question the others, so a good conversational flow would be possible (as long as you don’t let Yoda monologue).

Unfortunately, I think that too much dialogue would have to be rewritten for this to work as a fan edit; and the dialogue in the prequels is its own mystery to me — how is it succeeding at communicating while sounding like a too direct to be realistic first second draft? (I’ll praise it only in relation to Clone Wars dialogue, which is a first draft script that accidentally got sent to the voice actors, and that’s a bit more excusable with television deadlines).  The gap that the viewer must cross to reach what was intended is the space where fan theories thrive.

And inspired by Clone Wars: what if Phantom Menace had been presented as two separate adventures — the invasion of Naboo, and then being stranded on Tatooine and finding Anakin while on other business?

How would you change the prequels?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *