Star Wars. Cinema’s most historical franchise. It changed movies forever and George Lucas was hailed a visionary. No surprise expectations were high in 1999 when the first prequel premiered. We all know what followed: box-office success but an unimpressed audience and critics. So how do we fix the devastating prequel and change cinematic history forever?
The Plot in a Nutshell (spoilers!)
Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) lead the people of Naboo against a blockade perpetrated by the Sith. The Jedis team with Anakin Skywalker (Jake Llyod), who frees himself from slavery by winning a pod race, and the Queen of Naboo, Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman). As they destroy the blockade, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan fight the evil Sith Lord Darth Maul (Ray King). After Qui-Gon and Darth Maul perish, Obi-Wan vows to train Anakin as his apprentice.
Aside from the blatant dislike of Jar-Jar Binks, the acting, and Anakin’s accidental bravery, the main issue with this movie is the unfocused story. The set-up is the blockade led by the Sith, however we never see the results of the blockade: no starvation, poverty, etc. So what’s the big deal? What’s at stake? Where’s the risk? We should focus on the effects of the blockade to raise the emotional tension, meanwhile cut Anakin’s pod race, the Gungans, and Amidala’s identity switch since they add nothing to the story.
Have Darth Maul lead the blockade with a personal vendetta against Naboo and Amidala. Either she or her royal ancestors punished or banished the Sith years ago and now the chickens have come home to roost. Darth Maul demands that Amidala turn herself over to him or he will continue to punish Naboo. All ships that leave or approach Naboo are easily destroyed by Maul’s fleet. Maul also has a small scale laser on his ship that destroys Naboo’s cities and villages (a precursor to Episode IV’s “Death Star”).
Jinn and Kenobi arrive to negotiate but are attacked after boarding. They barely escape from Maul’s ship and crash on Naboo. Maul’s droids follow and trap the two Jedis. They are saved by Anakin, a local teenager who aspires to be a pilot. He leads the Jedis to his home and vows to be their guide if they promise to take him on as an apprentice. They’re reluctant at first until Maul’s next attack destroys Anakin’s entire village and family. Despite Anakin’s vengeful side, Jinn sees potential in him but Kenobi remains hesitant.
Anakin, Jinn, and Kenobi avoid Maul’s spies and reach Amidala who has decided to turn herself over to Maul to save her people. The trio devise a Trojan Horse plan: Amidala will board Maul’s ship as the trio and soldiers hide on her transporter and destroy Maul’s ship from the inside. As Amidala “surrenders” to Maul, the trio and Naboo soldiers discover that Maul’s ship gives off an energy field that acts like a shield to the entire fleet (a la mothership in Independence Day). If they destroy this ship’s power, the fleet will be defenseless.
After narrow escapes and fights all over Maul’s ship (a la Episode IV’s “Death Star”), they destroy the energy field. Republic and Naboo ships get the trio’s signal and attack the blockade. The fleets do battle, Jinn and Kenobe fight Maul, and Anakin uses the weapon on Maul’s ship to destroy a large part of the blockade. After Jinn is killed, Kenobi fights Maul but Maul escapes. The blockade is destroyed, Kenobi vows to train Anakin, and Anakin begins his affair with Amidala.
This is where the original missed a strong parallel to the classic Episode IV. By killing off Maul, the sequels lacked a continuous antagonist. When Darth Vader killed Kenobi and escaped in the end, it gave Luke a strong emotional catalyst and personal stake. The audience, feeling the pain, are emotionally attached to Luke’s journey to seek justice. By having Maul escape, it gives Kenobi a similar emotional catalyst and a personal Ishmael-like journey. It perfectly parallels with Episode IV since Kenobi allows Vader to kill him because he knows Luke must go through a similar journey.
In conclusion this version is closer to the beloved Episode IV. Characters go through similar situations while the plot is tighter and more focused. We avoid unnecessary subplots, characters, and council meetings while setting the stages for the sequel. Kenobi and Anakin would both seek vengeance against Maul yet have different philosophies on punishment. This difference would eventually lead to their rivalry and Anakin’s eventual demise to the dark side. In the end, all the characters have parallels to the original Star Wars and more emotional drive and stake in the story.
Thank you all for reading and I look forward to re-imaging another movie with you next week.