It’s a well-known fact that almost every writer needs an editor to focus the story, tweak the characters, and bring out the best aspects of the conflict. With that in mind, let’s explore an interesting scenario that has been done a few times before. For lack of a better word, the Star Wars prequels are not very good. Most people know the main reasons why these movies don’t work, but few understand that there is a decent story underneath all of the CGI nonsense and laughable dialogue.
So, what if I was able to intervene? What if I was a story executive who had a free hand over the scripts before they went into production?
In this new feature, we’ll do our best to figure it all out. This is my take on Star Wars: Episode I!
To start things off, let’s recap the six major story points that these movies have to set up for the inevitable lead-in to A New Hope.
- Anakin Skywalker must fall to the Dark Side and get into his suit.
- We need to know what it means to be a Sith.
- The Empire must rise to replace the Republic.
- The foundations of the Rebel Alliance must be established.
- The Clone Wars must happen at some point.
- Luke and Leia must be born and split apart.
One thing that you might notice is that #2 and #4 never made it into the actual prequels. For the sake of this exercise, I shall attempt to include every single plot point. On top of that, let’s shorten the timeline of the prequels to allow for a bit more character growth and development from 13 years to 8-10. This will give us more room to play around with the specifics.
This take on The Phantom Menace begins in a similar manner. The trade dispute over Naboo may sound boring at first glance, but it’s important to remember that it’s nothing more than an excuse that feeds into Plot Point #3! So, Chancellor Valorum sends Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon to attempt to settle the conflict, the two of them are ambushed, and the invasion begins in earnest.
Down on the surface, we encounter our first real changes to the story. For one thing, Padme Amidala is a 20-something minister rather than a queen. This gives her a little more credibility than in the original script. She can fight like hell, but she has to cope with the burden of leadership that is thrust upon her by the invasion.
Second, the Naboo have far more teeth and are able to put up a fight. This helps the script along because we can have a major battle to open things up and set the stakes. For the sake of the story, we’ll allow the Naboo to be overrun, but not before they hammer the Federation.
Lastly, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon land on the plains outside of Theed instead of in the swamps on the other side of the planet. This move eliminates the Gungans from the film and refocuses the story onto the plight of the Naboo. In the original film, the story pays lip service to their suffering through hologram transmissions, statements, and other “telling” instances.
We need to actually see their sacrifice.
Once Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon emerge from hiding, they track down Padme, who is now in charge of a small group of infantry and civilians. They hold off the advance of the Federation in their part of the city, but the battle is too much. Before the Trade Federation overwhelms the capital, the two Jedi convince Padme to leave for Coruscant and come back with reinforcements. Our heroic minister reluctantly agrees.
So, the film continues in much the same way. Only this time, a screen of fighters defends their transport. While the pilots draw a swarm of fighters away, Padme, Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, and Captain Panaka take some hits, pass the blockade, and land on Tatooine.
Skip The Pod Race!
Apart from Jar Jar Binks, the biggest flaw in The Phantom Menace is the second act. There are pacing problems out the ying-yang, long stretches of time have nothing to do with the larger story, and what we do see is not all that exciting. So, let’s address this by reworking the plot once our heroes arrive on Tatooine.
Once they arrive, Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, and Padme embark on a mission to find a way to Coruscant. When they travel to Mos Espa, they run into trouble with the dealers. They soon learn that the wider society is plagued with gangsters and criminals, but help arrives in the form of a young man by the name of Anakin Skywalker.
In order to justify Plot Point #1 and #6, Anakin starts off the trilogy as a teen who wants to help people and do the right thing. In essence, he is already a kind of proto-Jedi who can fight, fix things, pilot his own speeder, and use basic force powers. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan immediately take an interest in him, so they travel to his mother’s home and take shelter for the night.
While Qui-Gon discusses Anakin’s origin with Shmi, Obi-Wan, Padme, and Anakin get to know each other and discuss their options. Anakin says that some of his contacts might have the parts that they need on the other side of town, so he offers to help. Padme takes a liking to Anakin because of his generosity, so we get a little bit of banter that doesn’t sound awkward or creepy. We also learn that Anakin built C-3P0… because fan service.
Little do our heroes know that Darth Maul is on their tail with a small detachment of battle droids.
In the morning, our heroes take some speeders over to Anakin’s acquaintances. We find out that they have what our heroes need, but our young Chosen One, Obi-Wan, and Qui-Gon quickly sense that something is wrong.
All of the sudden, the shop falls under attack from the aforementioned army of droids. While Anakin and Padme grab the parts, Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Shmi fend off a siege. However, the pressure is too much. Anakin’s contacts die in the battle, so the team withdraws to the ship on their speeders. In the ensuing chase, Anakin and Obi-Wan team up for the first time, which may remind audiences of something important…
Anakin is shaken by the loss. While he and his mother fix the ship, Padme receives word from Naboo of the collapse of the government. She is now the only hope for her people.
Meanwhile, Qui-Gon keeps watch outside. When the ship is ready for takeoff, Anakin calls out to him, only to be cut off by the appearance of Darth Maul. The Sith Apprentice rushes into the picture and clashes with Qui-Gon, but he isn’t able to hurt the Jedi Master. Qui-Gon force jumps onto the ship, and our heroes fly off to Coruscant to continue their mission.
On the way there, Anakin and Padme bond over the pressure of their respective roles in the story. Only this time, it feels like a genuine heart-to-heart conversation. There is something there, but it needs more time to develop.
When our heroes reach Coruscant, Chancellor Valorum, Senator Palpatine, and a small group of politicians greet them. While Padme confers with Palpatine, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon deliver their report and some evidence of the invasion. The Chancellor is not happy about the crisis, but he tries to solve the problem by bringing in the military.
Yes, the Republic has an army in this version of events. It plays into the course of the entire trilogy.
Meanwhile, we learn that Senator Palpatine is up for the chancellorship in an upcoming election. He assures Padme that all will be well, but that he cannot guarantee a timely intervention due to the usual corruption and power plays. The countless delays are a problem for Padme, but what she doesn’t know is that Palpatine is behind it all.
Meanwhile, Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Qui-Gon report to the Jedi Council. In a similar manner to the actual movie, Anakin is far too old to undergo normal training. However, his incredible aptitude as a pilot and a Force-wielder catches their attention, so they set Shmi up with an apartment and debate the issue among themselves.
At long last, the Senate votes to break their debate and commit the military to the fight. Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, Anakin, and Padme head back to Naboo.
The Battle Of Naboo.
The third act begins in a different manner. While Anakin takes command of a starfighter, Padme and the Jedi head down to the planet’s surface in order to capture Viceroy Nute Gunray. In this version of events, the battle droids have independent power sources, but the Viceroy can shut them all down.
Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, and Padme land on the surface with some armor and infantry at their backs. They know that they have to secure the hangar and enter the palace, but they run into Darth Maul. This sequence is similar to the one that we know, but Jar Jar is not around to ruin it.
First, the Republic Navy blows through the blockade. Anakin continues to assist by providing some close air support for the soldiers on the ground.
Second, Padme and Captain Panaka capture the Viceroy and shut down the droid army.
Lastly, Darth Maul is able to separate the two Jedi and stab Qui-Gon. However, Obi-Wan avenges his master in the final battle.
At the end of it all, some things are the same, but others are different. Anakin and Padme vow to keep in touch, Obi-Wan becomes a Jedi Knight & takes Anakin as his apprentice, and Palpatine is elected Chancellor. On the other hand, Naboo is in ruins, and Padme has to rebuild the government by herself.
Hard times are ahead.
And that, dear readers, is Star Wars: Episode I.
Next up: We’ll tackle Attack of the Clones!
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