It is a truth, almost universally acknowledged, that the Star Wars prequel trilogy suffered from flawed execution. There’s debate as to whether or not the actual basic plot is any good; personally, I think it is, and with some refinement, the movies could have been perfect.
With that in mind, then, we’re going to engage in a little bit of dramaturgery. It’s like “dramaturgy”, but with surgical elements, because we’re fixing the movie. In this instance, an important stipulation remains: I’m going to try and adhere as closely to what’s laid out in the prequels as I can, without making too many major changes. The idea is to adjust character arcs, and individual aspects of the plot, to give us a movie trilogy which could still believably have been something we’d see on screen. For the most part, then, my prequel trilogy will still mirror the originals; we’re not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as it were. (Mind you, if you are interested in some more dramatic departures and rewrites, I’d suggest checking out some of these reddit threads, which have some pretty cool ideas in them.)
The Phantom Menace
Primarily, the changes I’d make are ones which would impact the later films, in the hopes of bringing together a stronger prequel trilogy overall. For the most part, I did enjoy The Phantom Menace, after all. There are three key areas I’d want to change, though: Padme and Anakin, the Jedi Order, and the Trade Federation.
For Padme and Anakin, it’s largely just a case of simplifying and streamlining. I’d make Padme senator from the beginning, and excise the Keira Knightley plotline. Also, I’d try to make Padme a lot more proactive, as a character; there are elements of this in The Phantom Menace, but I’d want to play that up a lot more. Anakin I think should be aged up a little bit; it’s not that I had a problem with Jake Lloyd, but I think that an older Anakin (played by the same actor across all three films) will give us the opportunity to get to know the character much better. Anakin would need to be rewritten somewhat too – more Han Solo, less whiny brat – but I’ll cover that some more in Attack of the Clones. I also think it’s important for him to have some scenes with Obi-Wan, because their friendship is a really important thematic thread throughout the prequels. Anakin and Padme will need a lot of scenes together, too, to establish some chemistry and a close bond between them.
(Oh, and Anakin should build R2-D2, and C3PO should be one of Padme’s droids. That makes a little more sense.)
The Jedi Order, then. Two principal changes here, both of which are really presented in terms of Qui-Gonn Jinn. I’d emphasis the fact that Qui-Gonn is a bit of a maverick, and doesn’t necessarily agree with the Jedi council on a lot of things – or, really, anything. Perhaps he’s the only Jedi with the rank of Master who isn’t on the Council, because he consistently makes a nuisance of himself. It’s something that’s touched on a little bit, with his insistence over training Anakin, but once again, I’d want to emphasis it, just to make it a little more obvious. The second change would be in the presentation of the prophecy of the Chosen One; I actually like this idea, just not so much how it was used.
In The Phantom Menace, we’ll have prophecy as a secret; something Qui-Gonn knows about, and something the Jedi Council knows about, but it’s kept secret from the audience. When Qui-Gonn is trying to convince the Jedi Council to let him train Anakin, Obi-Wan and Anakin will be sat outside, and we can watch scenes of them bonding. Even when the council does eventually let Obi-Wan train Anakin, they don’t tell him why Qui-Gonn wanted to train the boy so much.
(Also, Mace Windu leads the Jedi Council. I’m not sure if Yoda would necessarily be in this film, but we’re positioning him more as… more Pope Emeritus than Pope, if you like. Yoda is trusted advisor and weirdo hermit, who’s trained lots of Jedi over the years, but isn’t the leader of the council. He has been in the past, but not for the last century or so.)
With regards to the Trade Federation… I’d alter the plot to make them Separatists. It establishes the basis of the conflict in the next movie, for one thing, and gives us a central plot across all three films: the Separatists vs the Republic. I think it’d also be worth changing Naboo to Alderann; Senator Amidala of Alderann is going to have a greater emotional impact, I think, given what we know from the Original Trilogy. Maybe we can introduce Bail Organa as leader of Alderann (I think Bail is a title rather than a name), and Palpatine can already be the leader of the Republic.
Oh, and Qui-Gonn isn’t going to be cut down by Darth Maul. He can lose, say, an arm or some such, and it’ll be heavily implied that he died, but all we’re going to see is him falling down the central shaft that Maul fell down. Also! Maul will appear to be working alone, without any appearances of a shady Darth Sidious type. Maul will be hunting Anakin; the implication at first will be that he’s hunting Padme, but it’s eventually revealed that he was after Anakin all along. This will serve to set up a bit of a mystery around Anakin; Qui-Gonn wants to train him, but won’t explain why. The Jedi Council don’t appear to like him, but won’t explain why. A member of a long thought dead Sith cult has appeared to try and kill Anakin, but it’s never revealed why.
The film will end with Anakin and Obi-Wan (firm friends by this stage), ready to embark on more adventures, and begin Anakin’s training… yet, at the same time, remaining in the dark about the mystery of Anakin Skywalker.
Attack of the Clones
It’s quite important to me, actually, to really emphasise that Obi-Wan and Anakin are close friends. I don’t think that Attack of the Clones did a particularly good job of doing this, so I’d want to open this film with the pair of them on some ridiculous adventure. Possibly on a jungle planet, something like that. It should take about twenty minutes tops – we’re essentially coming in at the end of another movie, watching their daring escape from whatever peril they were in.
When they’re back in their spaceship, laughing together, they can get their communication from the Jedi Council – they need to come back and help protect Senator Amidala of Alderaan, because it seems the Separatists are making attempts on her life, because of an important upcoming vote. Here we also learn of the existence of the mysterious Count Dooku, a shady figure about whom little is known, who has become leader of the Separatists in the three years since the end of The Phantom Menace.
Things proceed similarly to how they do in the actual movie for a while; attempt on Padme’s life, investigations, etc etc. It’s important that Anakin, Obi-Wan and Padme all get scenes together; I want the three of them to be close friends. Think of the scene in A New Hope, after the Death Star has been destroyed, and Luke, Leia and Han are all happy together. It’s also important, of course, that we pick up where we left off with The Phantom Menace; Anakin and Padme are both very attracted to one another. It should be obvious to the audience – bluntly, Anakin and Padme should be everyone’s OTP, as it were. Every single audience member has to be saying “oh they love each other so much, I hope they can have a happy ending together!”
We’ll separate the three of them at this point; Anakin and Padme are sent to Alderann together, back to her home, and Obi-Wan continues his investigations. It’s the same as the actual movie, basically. While on Alderann, Anakin is significantly less creepy to Padme, and the pair get much closer to starting their relationship. Padme can actually suggest a relationship, but Anakin turns her down; he loves her, he knows he does, but he has a Jedi code. Obi-Wan goes off to Kamino, and finds out about the Clone Army… which was, apparently, ordered by Qui-Gonn Jinn? Shocking revelation! Obi-Wan is horrified and confused, especially since he ‘knows’ Qui-Gonn is dead.
We’re going to cut the Tattooine arc with Anakin’s mother, and continue to follow Obi-Wan to Geonosis – the base of the separatists. Then, Anakin has visions of Obi-Wan being in danger, at which point he contacts Mace Windu to let him know. Mace Windu listens to Anakin, but doesn’t really give any indication he actually gives a damn. Padme wants to go, Anakin also wants to go, but at first wants to follow his orders. In the end, though, Padme convinces him to go with her to Geonosis, similarly to the original movie.
Cut to Geonosis, where Obi-Wan is listening in on a Separatist meeting. He realises he’s in the presence of Count Dooku, the leader; the Republic has never been able to identify him before, so this is pretty important. Count Dooku is speaking, Obi-Wan is reckless, and jumps down, threatening to arrest Dooku. “Who are you?”, Obi-Wan asks, and a voice replies… “I am your master.” Dooku steps forward into the light, and we see… it’s Qui-Gonn Jinn! Older, greyer, and with a robot hand, and yet unmistakably Liam Neeson. Obi-Wan attacks him, immediately, out of rage and passion and confusion, but Qui-Gonn has him disarmed and knocked unconscious with ease.
The scene between Obi-Wan and Count Dooku from Attack of the Clones plays out similarly, except with Qui-Gonn. We learn that Qui-Gonn survived, and due to the corruption of the Jedi and the Senate (hinted at in the previous movie) he joined the Separatists and slowly rose to be their leader. Obi-Wan feels completely and utterly betrayed, because Qui-Gonn seems to be the villain. He accuses him of trying to kill Padme, Qui-Gonn has no idea what he means, but Obi-Wan thinks he’s lying. Qui-Gon leaves Obi-Wan.
We don’t have the clones, yet; Padme and Anakin rescue Obi-Wan on their own. They get him out quietly, without any confrontation, and return him to the Jedi Council. We end up with a meeting between the council, our three heroes and Palpatine. Discussion turns to the Separatists; Mace Windu suggests using the Clone Army (which belongs to the Jedi now) to attack the Separatists. Obi-Wan and Padme are against it, Anakin is hesitant to commit either way, but Palpatine is ultimately persuaded by Mace Windu.
The Jedi launch an attack on Geonosis, then. The Separatists have their droids (this is important) and the Republic have clones. I’d like it if Anakin and Obi-Wan actually got to know a pair of clones in this movie; it’s really important to humanise the clones, the same way they were in The Clone Wars cartoon, to emphasise the fact that these are still real people living and dying.
On Geonosis, the clones and droids fight; the Jedi are also involved in the fighting. Anakin and Obi-Wan are there to lead an attack on one specific part of the Separatist base, but Obi-Wan sneaks away to find Qui-Gonn – and his best friend Anakin joins him. (This will be an important moment in terms of their relationship.)
They find Qui-Gonn, and the fight with him is not dissimilar to the original fight with Count Dooku. We’ll ask him about his motivations – Qui-Gonn thinks the Senate and the Republic is corrupt, wants to start a new government. (”You want to make yourself ruler of the galaxy?” “Perhaps”.) Crucially, though, Qui-Gonn won’t cut off Anakin’s arm. In fact, Qui-Gonn uses the force primarily, rather than his lightsabre – which is Darth Maul’s red one from the last movie, because he lost his green one in the fight. Qui-Gonn appears to be a Sith – and when he throws some Force lightning, this is borderline confirmed. For most of the audience, then, it seems like Qui-Gonn is to be the Emperor.
(“It is naive to think of the force in terms of light and dark, my old Padawan. You know I have always studied the ways of the Living Force, trying to find balance. There are depths of the force the Jedi have never studied, powers they have never known. The ability to bring life itself. But, then, surely your Padawan knows this, yes? After all, he is the Chosen One.”)
During the fight, Qui-Gonn reveals to Anakin and Obi-Wan the existence of the prophecy, explaining the mystery we set up at the end of the previous film. Both Anakin and Obi-Wan feel betrayed, and, given how shocked they are, start to lose the fight. Yoda comes in to save them; things proceed as they did in the original movie. When Qui-Gonn has left, Obi-Wan and Anakin ask Yoda if this is the truth. Yoda, wise old Jedi that he is, is able to shed some light on the prophecy of the chosen one who will bring balance to the Force. Maybe he was there when the prophecy was first made, that could be cool.
With Geonosis sorted out, we return to Coruscant. A few important scenes; Padme in the Senate, listening to Palpatine discussing the war. We’ll have a conversation between her and Bail, about the separatists, and the corruption in the Republic Senate. Obi-Wan and Anakin talking to the Jedi Council about the prophecy. Anakin is furious at Mace Windu, and has an angry (not whiny) outburst. He leaves; Mace Windu begins talking to Obi-Wan, who cuts him off, and says he thinks Anakin is right. Obi-Wan leaves as well. Mace Windu can talk to Plo Koon or Kit Fisto or someone… and it’s revealed that they, the Jedi Council, ordered the creation of the Clone Army. Why? We’ll find out in the next movie.
The final scene, then, is Anakin going to see Padme, just after his outburst. He explains that the Jedi, for all their moral code, are seemingly corrupt. Anakin and Padme begin their relationship at this point.
Revenge of the Sith
The first half hour or so of this movie can be essentially the same, with the mission to rescue Palpatine, but with a few slight changes. Qui-Gonn remains our Dooku figure, but General Grievous is cut; Qui-Gonn is going to take his role in the movie as well. We’ll have a second in command type figure, though, a humanoid that Anakin can kill. Not at Palpatine’s command, though – just in a fight on board the ship. Over the course of the Clone Wars, all the Jedi have had to do things like this. (Palpatine will ask Anakin to kill Qui-Gonn, but he’ll refuse.)
Anyway, when we return to Coruscant, Padme and Anakin can meet up, as in the original. She’s pregnant! Surprise. How wonderful. But it’s revealed that this is in fact their second child (Anakin: “Maybe it’ll be a boy this time. I like the name Han.” Padme: “Don’t be ridiculous, we’re not calling him that.”), because in the intervening years between now and the end of the last movie, Anakin and Padme have already had a daughter – Leia.
This is, I think, the most significant of the changes I’ve made so far, but hopefully it’ll be an important one, in terms of Anakin’s fall to the dark side. Most of the restructuring of this film that I’ll be doing is, essentially, to try and make Anakin’s fall to the dark side a little more organic and natural.
It does get a little complicated from hereon out, though. I think Palpatine’s revelation about the powers of the Sith come too early; he ends up being very suspicious, and Anakin starts to look like an idiot for not doing anything earlier. Also, I actually quite like the idea that, thus far, we’ve been suggesting that Qui-Gonn was to become the Emperor; hopefully Palpatine has seemed relatively innocuous so far.
Anakin can still have his visions of Padme dying in childbirth, but I think also we’ll include a vision of the death of Leia too. Remembering what Qui-Gonn said in the last movie, Anakin goes to the Jedi Archives, and starts checking out some Holocrons on the Sith. Initially, the Archives won’t let him – his access was restricted by another Jedi – but Anakin bypasses it with his tech skills. Perhaps the Sith Holocrons were last checked out of the Jedi Archives by Qui-Gonn Jinn, again indicating that he’s the Big Bad Sith.
From there, we’ll go to a droid/clone battle on some backwater planet. Anakin is leading the charge; when he’s in battle, fighting against the droids, you can see there’s a lot of fury in him, and rage as well. It’s clear that years of war have changed him. Soon enough, though, he finds himself in a position where he’s protecting some innocent family from a large army of droids. Just using his lightsabre isn’t enough; he needs to do more. And so, in a moment of desperation, he throws some force lightning at the droids, destroying them all in one go.
This is where Anakin starts to be seduced by the Dark Side, we can say; at the minute, he’s going to be quite conflicted about the nature of good and evil. He doesn’t trust the Jedi council, as he knows they’ve been lying to him about his position as the chosen one. And he knows that Qui-Gonn was once a good man, who he looked up to – if he’s tapping in to the dark side, is it really that bad? And, surely any power that brings life cannot be evil? And, again, if he is the Chosen One, then should he not be using all aspects of the force, in an attempt to bring balance?
After this, the movie can run similarly. Anakin returns, and is made member of the Jedi council by Palpatine; Obi-Wan goes off to find Grievous Qui-Gonn Jinn. Mace Windu asks Anakin to spy on Palpatine, which Anakin thinks is ridiculous; Palpatine is a friend of his, and a nice enough fellow, who’s clearly pretty stressed by the war. This drives the wedge between Anakin and the council further.
I want Padme to have a plot, though, because I didn’t feel like she had enough to do in this movie. So, we want some scenes of her and Bail Organa, discussing the war and the Republic. Padme, we come to see, is disillusioned with the Republic, and wonders if the Separatists did in fact have the right idea. Bail Organa finds her disillusionment quite interesting, and gets her to come with him in his spaceship – we don’t know where they’re going, though. (Baby Leia was left with R2-D2 and C3PO, which can be a good opportunity for humour.)
From there, we follow Obi-Wan to Utapa. It’s going to go similarly to the way it did in the original Revenge of the Sith; he ends up in a lightsabre duel with Qui-Gonn, his old master. The pair are relatively evenly matched, but Qui-Gonn is noticeably holding back – he doesn’t want to hurt Obi-Wan.
As with before, we’ll cut to Anakin and Palpatine talking. Again, as with the original, Palpatine will reveal himself to be a Sith – ideally though, this scene will be much more subtle, and it’s clear that it’s meant to be an attempt to manipulate Anakin, rather than just force his hand. Also, obviously, it’s a big surprise reveal – so far we all thought Qui-Gonn was the Emperor. Things run slightly similarly to what originally happened; Anakin flees, getting Mace; Mace tells him to stay behind, simply because he doesn’t like Anakin, but also because he’s arrogant, and believes he can take Palpatine without the help of the Chosen One.
The fight between Mace & his accompanying Jedi and Palpatine goes well for Mace at first; the four of them are very clearly winning, and Palpatine is only just holding his own. You’d intercut this of scenes with Anakin getting increasingly worried and conflicted internally; eventually, he goes to the Senate Chamber to watch. And that is when Palpatine starts to win the fight – he decimates Kit Fisto and Shaak Ti and the other one, fights Mace to a standstill, then electrocutes him, torturing him. Mace is writing on the floor in pain; Palpatine is using the force to hold Anakin against the wall, immobile.
Being tortured, then, Palpatine forces Mace to reveal that he resents Anakin and always has; that he deliberately kept details of the force from him (hence the restricted access in the Archives), and, finally, the revelation that Mace created the Clone Army. He can’t explain why, though, and that’s when Palpatine reveals he’s been influencing the Jedi council. At that point, Mace is killed. Thrown out the Window, beheaded, whatever.
Palpatine begins to spiel; “the Jedi are powerless against me”, and etc. He executes Order 66, and we have our cool montage. After several shots of dying Jedi (intercut with a grieving Yoda; I don’t know if he’s on Kashyyk, maybe just a meditative retreat), we cut back to Obi-Wan and Qui-Gonn, still mid duel.
The Clones begin to attack the pair of them; they try to hold them off, but can’t. They escape together in Qui-Gonn’s ship, and Qui-Gonn takes Obi-Wan to the Separatist base. Qui-Gonn explains some more about his politics and what the Separatists do, and Obi-Wan starts to realise maybe his old Master isn’t the bad guy in all this. (At some point, we reveal that the Separatists have been using droids to try and minimise the casualties of the war, emphasising that they’re the good guys here – after all, the Republic created life and treated it essentially as expendable, something we already have a problem with after having got to know the Clones in the last movie.) As they touch down on the planet, we return to Bail Organa and Padme; they’re on the ship together, heading to some planet somewhere. As they touch down, we realise they’re on the same planet as Obi-Wan and Qui-Gonn – the Separatist base planet. This is confirmed when the four meet, and Qui-Gonn and Bail begin to talk; Bail has been working with Qui-Gonn for a long time. It’s also revealed that this is Yavin IV – and we start to realise that the Separatist Movement now is also the basis of the Rebel Alliance. It might be nice to see a young Mon Mothma or Captain Ackbar hanging around, but that could be pushing it a little.
Back to Anakin, then. Palpatine is torturing him, and taunting him as well. He’s destroyed all the Jedi – that’s the power of the Sith. Palpatine reveals that he has a spy within the Separatist ranks; he taunts Anakin further, telling him that Padme and Obi-Wan have betrayed him, joining his sworn enemies. His best friend, and his wife – yes, Palpatine knows about that. But that’s not all he knows about:
Baby Leia is brought in, kicking and screaming, held by a pair of clone troopers. Anakin screams – but Palpatine keeps torturing him, laughing. I think perhaps he will fill Anakin’s mind with images of baby Leia dying painfully, that sort of thing – Anakin is being driven insane, and not necessarily cognizant of the full truth. We want shades of what happened to Luke in Episode VI, before Darth Vader stepped in; with no one here to save Anakin, and his whole world crumbling around him, having already felt the power of the Dark Side… he falls. I’d put a “NO” in here, but we want something blood-curdling and guttural and disturbed.
We cut to Obi-Wan, Qui-Gonn and Yoda now, all at once. Possibly three faces on screen at once. They all felt it – they felt the power of the dark side. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan begin preparations to leave at once; they don’t know exactly what has happened, only that they must head to Coruscant immediately. Unbeknownst to them, Padme sneaks aboard (haha, parallels).
Palpatine sends Anakin away to Yavin IV, to destroy the Separatists. When Anakin has left, though… enter Yoda. He’s emerged from the depths of the Jedi temple, in the hopes of rescuing the child and defeating the Emperor. The Yoda/Emperor fight proceeds similarly to how it did in the actual film; I’d take out the lightsabres, and emphasise their knowledge of the force. Yoda “loses”, in the end, when he realises he cannot defeat the Emperor and save Leia – he takes the child and runs. When he gets outside, two soldiers can approach him and say they’re from Bail Organa, sent to find Yoda, so they go off with them. Easy.
We cut to space, then; two ships, one belonging to Anakin, the other two Obi-Wan and Qui-Gonn. Short orbital battle, before the pair of them crash on a planet below – Mustafar. Emerging from the damage, we get Obi-Wan, Qui-Gonn, Anakin… and Padme. Things proceed similarly to before; Padme pleads with Anakin, but he force chokes her and tosses her aside. The final battle is essentially a mash up between the Duel of the Fates from the real version of The Phantom Menace, and the final battle from Revenge of the Sith; Obi-Wann and Qui-Gonn vs Anakin, before Anakin kills Qui-Gonn and it’s Obi-Wan on his own.
From that point on, then, the movie proceeds very similarly to how it did in the original. Obi-Wan, enraged, defeats Anakin, leaving him to burn; he escapes in one of the ships, bringing Padme with him. They get to Yavin; the film continues as normal from there on, Padme giving birth to Luke, Anakin being made into the Darth Vader we all know and recognise. Notably, there isn’t a “NO” here, to show that Darth Vader doesn’t care.
We end with the same Obi-Wan/Yoda/Bail Organa discussion from the original. Yoda will explain, though, that both Qui-Gonn and Anakin misunderstood what it meant to bring balance to the force; it’s not about unifying the Light and the Dark, but destroying the Dark. The Dark is a corruption, an unnatural intrusion; the Force is balanced without the Dark. They decide on the same plans; to hide the children, away from the Emperor. We have the same concluding scenes, essentially, though there’s one new one – the same soldiers who rescued Yoda bring the broken pieces of R2-D2 and C3PO along, explaining they found them in Padme’s home. (They couldn’t find C3PO’s shin, though, so I guess he’ll need a new silver one!) The robots are taken away to be repaired and placed in the employ of Bail.
And so the movie ends, with the Jedi destroyed, and the Empire established…
Now, I readily acknowledge this isn’t perfect. Looking back over this, I think it needs to be tightened up in a little places, refined somewhat, clarified to a degree. I have, after all, done it relatively quickly. I’m not 100% happy with the final resolution of Episode III, actually, but we’ll leave it for now.
Whilst I do think this is a better overarching plot than what we got in the prequels, it’s important to stress that it’s very easy for me to extrapolate and create new plots by refining that which was already available to me. It’s not the same as creating this whole cloth, which is what George Lucas had to do.
Still, though. I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into what might have been!