Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Cinema Do-Overs: Star Wars Episode I

Since a new Star Wars film series is upon us (and goddamn if Episode 7 doesn't look fan-freakin'-tastic), I thought I'd share my own revamped version of Episode I.  I won't go into everything that was wrong with The Phantom Menace, as we'd be here all year, and others have already covered that stuff much more thoroughly and cleverly than I could (Red Letter Media and Chef Elf for example).  But here's how I would totally overhaul the story and give the world a worthy prequel to one of the greatest film trilogies of all time.  Enjoy.....



To preface this, there are two story threads happening and the film would cut back and forth between the big picture stuff and the character stuff.  

The big picture stuff is like this: A war has been brewing over the past decade between the Republic and the Separatists.  War is looked upon as an absolute last resort and is unspeakably ugly to most citizens of the Republic.  The Republic is set up like Switzerland where there’s a standing army and all able-bodied men and women of a certain age are required to join, but since war hasn’t happened in over 1000 generations it’s mostly just a formality.  Those who show real promise are promoted to officers, and those who exhibit strong Force skills are offered Jedi training.  Jedi training begins at age 9 or 10 (not friggin’ six months like Lucas had it) and is mostly performed by a select Council of Jedi (Yoda previously had a more hands-on role in training but given his advanced age he has stepped back from that).

Anywho, the Separatists, led by the mysterious Governor Morlac (who they talk about but we don’t see in this episode; also I changed his name because Dooku sounds like "poop," and he is not affiliated with Palpatine or the Sith) are putting together an army of men and droids and are threatening to secede from the Republic (maybe over Clone technology, which is used to cure disease etc. – this creates an interesting parallel with the real-life debate over stem-cell research).  It should be noted that unlike in the actual prequels, the impending war is a real thing and not a false conflict orchestrated by Palpatine.  Acts of hostility have already broken out all over the galaxy and the Republic is beginning to crumble.  Crime has become a real issue and the economic system is being strained, resulting in outer rim planets becoming war zones (like the one Anakin grew up on).  The Jedi therefore are being stretched thin and are desperately looking to recruit more help. 

An ambitious Senator Palpatine, in light of the rising turmoil/economic crisis, begins a campaign to declare war on the Separatists and restore peace in the galaxy.  He is a master speech maker and has gained quite a bit of support in the Senate and all around the galaxy, particularly in the outer rim where poverty and crime are at an all-time high.  Also the Supreme Chancellor is up for re-election and Palpatine is making a bid to replace him.

Now for the character stuff: Obi-Wan (about 30 and a pretty high-ranking Jedi Knight) is on his way to meet with the Jedi council (in this version the Jedi are more like intergalactic cops, not weirdo space-monks) regarding an act of terrorism in one of the Republic systems.  He is sent on a mission with a few other Jedi to resolve the situation, neutralize the threat, offer assistance to the victims, etc. 

While on this assignment, after an intense and awesome scene involving aggressive negotiations (that’s negotiations with a lightsaber), he and the other Jedi stop at a local speeder racetrack for a drink and observe a teenage boy (about 17) pulling maneuvers they’ve never seen before.  He handily wins his race and heads to the bar for a victory drink, when he’s jumped by several of the other speeder racers, who accuse him of cheating.  The Jedi are about to step in and intervene but the boy beats the crap out of all of his (larger) opponents.  Obi-Wan is duly impressed and senses that the force is strong with the lad.

Obi introduces himself, buys his new friend Anakin a drink and we then learn about Anakin’s childhood (Born on one of the outer rim planets but not Tatooine).  His parents were killed in a gang-type war when he was 9 and he’s been hustling, racing, flying ships ever since, and lives with his older brother Owen.  Obi-Wan tells him all about the Jedi (which also benefits the audience since at this point we know very little about what they were like in their heyday).  Anakin is interested but wary about getting attached to other people since he’s been alone so long and doesn’t trust anyone.  Obi tells him to think about it and get back to him before the Jedi leave the next day.  Anakin has an introspective scene where he decides he has nothing to lose.  Owen tries to talk him out of going, saying none of the Republic crap is any of their concern (Owen thought he should've stayed here and "not gotten involved.").  He agrees to go back to Coruscant with the Jedi, much to Owen's chagrin, and a seed of tension is already planted between Owen and Ani, and Owen and Obi.  Owen feels rejected by Ani and resents Obi taking his little brother away.

So Obi, Anakin and the other Jedi go back to Coruscant and Anakin is introduced to the Council.  After demonstrating incredible skill and aptitude with the Force, Anakin is assigned to be Obi’s apprentice, with the Council’s blessing.

We get an intensive training montage, showing us how the official Jedi training worked back in their prime as opposed to the ad hoc training we saw Luke go through.  Anakin passes his trials and is made an entry-level Jedi (like a Padawan but better – still has to have his master with him on missions).

Back to the big-picture: Palpatine has secretly hatched a plan to create a critical mass of star systems supporting his war campaign.  He dispatches a mysterious-looking team of warriors (led by Commander Maul, who we don’t know as a Sith lord yet) to his own home planet of Naboo to assassinate their beloved Queen Amidala (she’s in her early 20s, not 14).  The plan is once she is assassinated by what appears to be Separatist terrorists the Senate will agree to declare a full-scale war and the sympathy generated by Palpatine losing one of his own will garner him enough votes to become Chancellor.  (This is what was missing from Phantom Menace – a villain with a clear motivation.)

About Queen Amidala - let's give her a backstory so her character has more going on than zero.  She's not an "elected ruler," because that doesn't make sense.  Instead she's a Queen whose parents were killed, and she ascended the throne at a young age, making for an uphill battle trying to win over her people (This could even be shown early in the film, but at least some expository dialogue should convey this character origin).

The Jedi are alerted to the situation on Naboo and a team led by Obi are sent to save the Queen and her people.  (Unlike in TPM we actually SEE the suffering of the Naboo.)  The team of Jedi arrive and a battle ensues with the Maul-led “Separatists.”  Obi, Anakin and a few others go to the Palace to save Amidala, who has been taken hostage by Maul and his henchmen.  Anakin and a few other Jedi fight with henchmen while Obi goes after Maul.  Suddenly Maul ambushes Obi and much to everyone’s surprise attacks him with a double-bladed lightsaber.  A spectacular duel ensues, with Maul eventually getting the upper hand.  As Maul is about to kill Obi, Anakin shows up to save him.  Together they overpower Maul and destroy him.  The rest of the henchmen are rounded up and the Queen is saved.

Amidala is forever grateful to the Jedi and especially Anakin for saving her life.  However the Jedi suspect something is amiss as Maul was trained in the Jedi arts and could possibly be a Sith.  We learn a bit about the Sith during this scene, and the Jedi wonder if the Separatists are being led by a Sith Lord (when we know they are not; Maul was working for Palpatine, not the Separatists).

The movie ends with a celebration on Naboo honoring the Jedi for their bravery, intercut with a rousing political speech by Palpatine about how his Queen was nearly killed by an act of Separatist aggression.  He again stresses that a declaration of war is the only course of action to repel these attacks, much to the delight of the crowd, and declares his intention to run for Chancellor. 


I don't think I'm wrong in saying this would be an infinitely better story than The Phantom Menace.

Comment below with your thoughts and suggestions....

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