The Rebellion Awakes

Spoiler alert: if you haven’t seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens yet, where have you been living, under a rock? Because it’s been out for like 3 weeks already.

One of the recurring jokes during the run up to the premier of The Force Awakens was about how Star Wars told the tale of a young man’s journey to Jihad. Luke has all the hallmarks of the nascent terrorist: no family to speak of, isolated, idealistic. He even grew up in a desert, and is converted to a little-understood religion by a bearded radical. This is a funny, because like most jokes, it contains a bit of truth.

In the original Star Wars trilogy, the terrorists are called Rebels, because they have tacit support from a disenfranchised branch of the government, but they use asymmetrical tactics and seek to overthrow a government they see as illegitimate. When we meet Leia, she’s smuggling data hacked by spies and is on a desperate mission to recruit a religious fanatic so well-known for his military prowess, that he is currently living as a hermit under an assumed name.

So why do we root for a ragtag army of rebels led by religious fanatics fighting to rebuild a semi-mythic state? To the Rebellion, the Old Republic is the “shining city on a hill,” that “more civilized time” Obi Wan tells Luke about, filling his head with promises of a past golden age that, thanks to the prequels, we know is bullshit.

One of the (many, many) reasons the Prequel trilogy fails is that the heroes of that story aren’t the underdog radicals, but unwitting agents of the burgeoning Empire. They don’t realize until too late that they’ve been manipulated by a despot into helping him overthrow the established order and install himself as the supreme ruler of a crypto-fascist regime. It’s hard, on an emotional level, to get behind that cause. And we know, going in that this is the end game, because these are prequels and we already know what needs to happen. The Republic must fall and here, Lucus presents us with the agents of that downfall: our hero’s younger selves. Told in reverse, it’s the story of youthful idealism failing to the realpolitik of middle aged compromise. We can understand why this might be a resonant theme for George Lucus, but for the audience at large, it’s a bitter pill to swallow. Despite all the British accents, Star Wars is an American myth and as such, it holds to its heart an unrepentant admiration for the rebel with a just cause.

Part of the the narrative of the founding of the American Republic is that we were and still consider ourselves to be the scrappy underdogs of history. Americans are exceptional because we were the one case when the rebels were the good guys, and so our stories reflect this. We identify with the myth of the righteous rebel because once upon a time, it gave birth to the American dream. That it was, from a certain point of view, as Obi Wan would say, also a bloody insurrection on the part of colonial subjects to the British Empire is one of those implicit truths we prefer to ignore. It doesn’t do well for national moral to admit that we are a country founded by traitors. But they were successful traitors!

Which brings us to The Force Awakens.

Thirty years after what we were led to believe was another instance of successful rebellion in the name of greater freedom from tyranny, we find the galaxy far far away still rent by civil war.

The factions in this version are a bit ill-defined. Obviously the First Order are bad guys, because like all bad guys, they have snappy uniforms and like to recreate Leni Riefenstahl films. But the Resistance is a bit harder to pin down. They aren’t officially part of the New Republic, which gets nuked by the Starkiller. We’d feel bad for them, but we didn’t even know they existed until about five minutes before the sun-gobbling ray gun that’s totally not a Death Star blasts them to space debris.

So the Resistance are The Rebellion: The Next Generation, fighting the good fight against the First Order so the Republic doesn’t have to? I guess? Anyway, it’s never really been clear just what the political structure of this galaxy has been. The Old Republic was a unicameral senate comprised of democratically elected royalty, so, yeah. Vague hand wavy ideas about democracy grafted onto a fairy tale structure that requires a royalist backbone. It’s problematic, to say the least.

You can almost see why some Conservatives root for the Empire. It sweeps away the bureaucratic deadlock of a faux republic full of princes and princesses, which slots neatly between the Tab A of American Rebellion and Slot B of Neocon Imperialism. Plus you know, Darth Vader is pretty cool, as villains go. Better to be ruled by the mechanical iron fist of a strong leader than a committee of girly princesses, am I right?

With his helmet off, he does look a little like Vladimir Putin.

But we had the Rebels and now we have the Resistance, which is very French Underground, and builds on the grafted-on World War II imagery from the original trilogy. It also ties into the romanticized rebel ideal that motivates a lot of American politics today (I’m looking at you, Oregon Militia dickheads).

By making callbacks to the original trilogy, The Force Awakens brings that old school rebellion, DIY ethos into the 21st century. Which is a savvy storytelling decision, as it taps into our cultural mythology, rather than trying to tell a hamfisted political alegory. This in turn reminds us how important the rebel with a cause story is to us. It’s vital and necessary, because democracy is, to a large extent, built on cycles of rebellion.

The devil in the details lies in how the powers-that-be decide to react to that rebellion. Do you try and stomp it out with one Death Star after another? Or do you recognize that gradual change is an inevitable part of human culture and society? Because if there is one thing Star Wars and history both teach us, it’s that if you make gradual change impossible, you make armed rebellion inevitable.

Obviously one makes for good storytelling while the other makes for stable governments and livable planets. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to keep my Nazi analogs in a galaxy far far away.

Great Disturbances, Etc.

Via Xeni at BoingBoing comes the news that Disney has just baught Lucusfilm with the intent, “to release a new Star Wars feature film every two to three years.”

Alright nerds, before you start catterwalling about a million voices screaming out, etc., take a deep pull on your inhalers.

Everyone despaired when Disney bought the Muppets, but the new Muppet movie was great, revitalizing the entire franchise. Clearly Lucus doesn’t care about Star Wars, but Disney does (at least enough to recognize that there’s an audience willing to fork over a gigaton of cash for a new movie or 12).

Lately Disney has recognized that what they need to do is find someone passionate about their new toy and hand creative control over, like they did to Lasseter at Pixar, and Whedon at Marvel. It’s the perfect time for Disney to find some untapped talent who grew up with Star Wars, wants to make awesome Star Wars movies, and let them at it with the sort of talent and bottomless pockets Disney can provide.

And since these new movies will need to satisfy the Mouse Kingdom and the fans rather then the whims of some old fart more concerned about fancy cameras and loud sound systems, this could very well be a Good Thing (Other than the fact that a single corporation now owns 90% of mine and everyone else’s childhood, but it was either going to be them or Time Warner, so pick your devils, children).

The Skywalker Twin Delimma

So I was mopping the kitchen floor this afternoon and got to thinking about the genealogy of Star Wars. As one does. It occurred to me that the prequels created not one but two plot holes in the story of the Skywalker twins upbringing.

The first is the well known and much griped about “Schrodinger’s Amadala” problem. Those of us who grew up with the original trilogy (ep. 4-6 for you younglings) know very well that, in a conversation during Return of the Jedi, Luke asks Leia if she remembers her real mother and she says, “Yes, in fact she was a mopey bitch and I never understood what Papa Organa saw in her.” Or words to that effect. Point is: Leia confirms in ep. 6 that Amadala was alive, presumably up until Gov. Tarkin used the Death Star to turn Alderan into space debris in Ep. 4.

The obvious problem here is that Amadala dies on screen in ep. 3, 20 years before that.[1] Meaning that either A) Leia sees dead people, or 2) Leia is in fact talking about Bale Organa’s wife, her step-mother, whom we’ve never met or even seen and so the conversation is pointless. We all know that the real answer is of course 3) George Lucus forgot his own story’s continuity and ripped a gaping hole in the space time continuum/plot.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to square this fuck up in the context of the prequals as they are filmed. Taking some license, we can add a few scenes and make some judicious edits in dialogue. To wit: Obi Wan convinces Anakin that Amadala was stepping out on him with suave prince of Alderan, Bale Organa and the twins are in fact Bale’s. Amadala did survive and for 20 years was living with a man she didn’t love but who would, for the safety of the rebellion and to save the galaxy, pretend to love her and her two kids, whom he would raise as his own.[2] What do you mean, two kids? wasn’t Luke raised on some backwater planet furthest from the galactic center of civilization (that everybody just happens across at some point in the story)?

Yeah, that brings us to the second and lesser known problem: “Uncle” Owen.

So, you’ve decided to split up the twins and hide the son of Darth Vader on a distant, backwater world (that everybody just happens across at some point in the story) where he will be safe from the prying eyes and legion of spies of his father.[3] So naturally, the man you want to raise the future savior of the Jedi order and the galaxy as a whole is Lord Vader’s step-brother. His only living relative. On the planet where his mother is buried and where he spent the first ten years of his life as a slave. The only way it would be easier to find him would be to have him raised by a live-in au pare on Corescant. (“Lord Vader, I apologize for the intrusion but your nanny is on the hologram. She says young master Luke is colicy.”)

Now, originally (that is, ignoring the prequels), there’s no reason for the audience to believe that Uncle Owen is actually Luke’s father’s brother. It’s just a signifying title, to show that he’s not Luke’s Pa. Now, if Star Wars were really as mythically themed as Lucus claims, Owen Lars would have turned out to be a trusted member of the army who fought with the Jedi and was a member, if  a minor one, of the nascent rebellion. He could easily have served the role of Captain Cody to Obi Wan, a lower ranking but trustworthy commander during the Clone Wars. When Amadala bears twins and they for some reason decide to hide one of them but not the other, Commander Owen retires and returns to his ancestral manse in the boondocks to raise a family that now includes a young foundling child who will grow up to be the squire to his natural born son. He will in short, play the role of Sir Hector to King Arthur.[4]

This of course all goes out the window with the prequals, who show you that in fact, Owen is just a moisture farmer and once gone from Tatooine, Darth Vader decides never to ever look at anything going on there ever again for 20 years. Despite the fact that Tatooine is the nexus point to much of the drama of his life and clearly a magnet for Force sensitive individuals (not to mention a hot bed of extra-empirial intrigue, seeing as how it’s the seat of one of the more nefarious gangsters in the galaxy), he and the Emperor are just going to ignore it. Too much sand. Icky.

There is of course another solution to the Amidala Problem: make Luke and Leia not related. This also has the side benefit of cleaning up a clumsy bit of story telling.

Leia really is Bale Organa’s daughter by his nameless, unmentioned wife. Amidala dies in ep. 3 and the discussion between Luke and Leia in ep. 6 about mothers becomes just a symbolic discussion about family and duty. The only reason Laia is Luke’s sister anyway is as a way to defuse the love triangle between her, Han and Luke. And there’s no reason to do this. Having sexual tension would add subtext and nuance to the story. And then you can resolve the issue later by killing Luke when the Death Star 2 blows up. Or better yet: have everyone think he’s dead. Luke escapes, has a funeral for Anakin and then becomes a hermit on some far away moon, biding his time until the Galaxy needs him once more. Han and Laia become the President and first Man of the New Republic. Cue fireworks and dancing teddy bears.
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1. or 20 years later. When talking about these movies, shit gets Timey Wimey, fast.

2. Which begs the question of why it took Darth Vader, galactic bad ass, 20 years to get around to nuking Alderan and then let Gov. Tarkin do the actual dirty work. This is a man who sits at the right hand of the Emperor of the frickin’ galaxy and force chokes admirals for fun. Your telling me he wouldn’t send bounty hunters after his ex wife for cheating on him and having another man’s kids?

3. I guess Force Sensitivity is a gene carried on the Y chromosome. It would explain why there aren’t many female Jedi, as it’s a recessive trait in women.

4. And if we overlay the well-know inspiration for Tatooine that is Dune, this of course makes Luke into Feyd-Routha Harkonnen.

The Wars That Never Was

In honor of George Lucus picking your pocket again releasing the Star Wars films on Blue Ray, I thought I’d reprint this old essay, where I took the liberty of re-plotting the Star Wars prequels so they didn’t suck. I wrote this originally back in 2003. It’s geeky as hell and still pretty much holds up, eight years later (keep this in mind when you get to my summary of Episode III, because Revenge of the Sith hadn’t even begun shooting yet).

***

As someone who grew up watching the Original Star Wars Trilogy (I triple underline the word Original, lest you think I’m referring to that lifeless mess Lucas passes off these days, the Special Edition [edit 2011: Let’s go ahead and add a few more underscores there for the newly revised, super extra special Blue Ray editions. Crap, this guy just wont quit.]) I can’t help but feel a little let down by the prequels. While I realize this is a waste of time, here’s how I would have plotted the story, fixing all the holes and characterization. These are merely suggestions of course. I don’t expect anyone to agree with all my changes or any of them. I fully realize that to some I’m tampering with scripture. So put a fatwa on my head and call me Salmon. I simply offer these ideas as an alternative text, maybe one that a filmmaker, fifty years from now will consider when remaking the Star Wars films (hopefully taking a cue from Peter Jackson). Continue reading “The Wars That Never Was”

You Can’t UnExplode The Death Star

In a galaxy not nearly as far enough away or as long ago as we’d like, there comes another round of edits to the Star Wars films.

The only thing worse than the fact that George Lucus has, once again decided to fuck with the movies that made him famous, is that once again, a million nerds are going to drop a ton of cash buying these shitty re-re-re-re edits for the umpteenth time. I will not be one of them.

And really, George, changing it so that the ewoks blink? Or that Vader now gives another Big No, thus duplicating one fo the more tired cliche’s in movie history? That’s the best you can come up with?

Part of this outrage is academic. We, the former fans, have to concede that legally, yes the Star Wars films are his movies and he can do with them as he sees fit. But they aren’t entirely his movies any more.

Once a work of fiction enters the public sphere it becomes a shared property, a conversation between the creative team who produced it and the community of enthusiasts who make it live with their devotion (be it criticism, critique or appreciation). Lucus has repeatedly broken this implicit contract with his own fans by altering the text in mid conversation. This makes having a meaningful conversation about the topic all the more difficult, since it factionalizes the participants needlessly into subgroups. We can no longer discuss the text without preface to which edition we refer to, and for the older fans out there, our preferred text is slowly disappearing under subsequent layers of changes made, not out of creative desire but out of an obsessive’s compulsion to control the conversation about his work.

I’m one of the increasingly large number of now former fans who has grown tired of Star Wars. Perhaps I’ve finally grown up and seen the films for what they really are: not very good attempts to ape an outmoded form of story telling that is, ultimately best left forgotten. Whatever entertainment value they ever had has long since been wrung from them . Now they are just the remnants of an aging film maker’s attempt at justifying a childish fantasy that has become one of the more embarrassing examples of public intellectual masturbation.

He can demand that we watch but we don’t have to comply. The Force isn’t strong with this one. Not any longer.

The End of A Saga

Wil Weaton answers some of the age old Questions regarding Star Wars:

After about eleven hours of Star Wars movies, though, I wondered: why exactly is the Star Wars trilogy such a big deal to some of us, even though it’s clearly flawed, and ends with a bunch of muppets singing around the campfire? Why do so many of us love it so much? Why did so many of us take it as a personal affront when the new movies and re-releases didn’t meet our expectations? Why did most of us go back twice after Phantom Menace, like we were in a dysfunctional relationship, hoping that if we just worked a little harder, we’d find a pony?

I’ll just add that his criticism is spot on and even though he later recants his criticism of Hayden Christianson’s acting ability (Mr. Weaton is an actor after all, gotta keep it in the family) I will not. He sucks the life out of scenes faster than a Wookie with Bronchitis.

And this marks the last post ever about Star Wars. I’m over it. I have my original theatrical version DVDs and as far as I’m concerned that’s all there is. Han will always shoot first and there is no such person as Jar jar Binks, do you hear?

Besides, we have batter, faster, stronger Sci-fi now and it’s named Battlestar Galactica.

The Wars That Never Was

As someone who grew up watching the Original Star Wars Trilogy (I triple underline the word Original, lest you think I’m referring to that lifeless mess Lucas passes off these days, the Special Edition) I can’t help but feel a little let down by the prequels. While I realize this is a waste of time, here’s how I would have plotted the story, fixing all the holes and characterization. These are merely suggestions of course. I don’t expect anyone to agree with all my changes or any of them. I fully realize that to some I’m tampering with scripture. So put a fatwa on my head and call me Salmon. I simply offer these ideas as an alternative text, maybe one that a filmmaker, fifty years from now will consider when remaking the Star Wars sextology (hopefully taking a cue from Peter Jackson).

Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Qui Gon Jinn and Obiwan Kenobi arrive at the lead Trade Federation ship to negotiate an end to the embargo of Nabu. Who arrives to meet them, not an ambassador but a lowly protocol droid by the name of C3PO. Jinn suspects something is amiss immediately, as does his young Paduwan. But it’s too late. 3PO unwittingly leads the Jedi into an ambush! Lightsabers fly, battle droids fall. Haughty Knut Gunray is scared so bad he pisses himself when he sees the door glowing white hot as the Jedi carve through it. Then the Destroyer droids roll in and 3PO is stuck with the Jedi when they escape (maybe his restraining bolt is blasted off?) Anyway, when they sneak on board the transport to Nabu, Obiwan convinces Jinn that a protocol droid might come in handy so they bring him along.

This shows just how keen Obiwan’s instincts are as 3PO informs them about the disenfranchised Gungans who live under water. Deciding to enlist their aide, Kenobi and Jinn don their masks and head for the underwater city but not before Jinn sends 3PO ahead to Theed with a coded message for Amidalla, informing her of what has transpired.

Upon entering the underwater city, Jinn and Kenobi are captured by Gungan warriors, led by the noble Son of the Chief, Jar Jar Binks. (The Gungans by the way are a proud race of poets and warriors, more of a cross between Sufi and the newts from Karl Capek’s book, War with the Newts). Binks takes them before the council of elders, led by his father who is none too pleased by his son?s refusal to kill these outsiders out right. But Binks argues that they are Jedi and thus are trustworthy and may be able to help the Gungans. Binks is obviously not in line with his father’s isolationist ideals and is looking for a righteous fight. When The Jedi cannot reason with the council and sway them to their cause, Jinn uses his mind trick on their feeble leader to get transport to the city. Binks volunteers his services to guide them through a shortcut that most other Gungans fear to use because it is guarded by a sea monster. Once reaching the city, Binks says farewell and wishes them luck and maybe a word of folk wisdom as advice.

As the Trade Federation take orders from Darth Sidius, 3PO reaches the gates of Theed and makes it past the battle droids because they recognize him. But 3PO has a momentary crisis of conscious: he has to lie to the droids to get them to let him pass. He makes it into the Queen’s room and apprises her of the situation and Master Jinn?s eminent arrival. Slightly impatient, Amadalla curses under her breath, something about Jedi always being on their own schedules. Cue loud explosion. Everyone rushes to the window.

Cut to the courtyard where the two Jedi are making scrap out of a garrison of battle droids. They free the pilots and the Queen and escape in her ship, which is damaged by the Trade Federation ships. C3P0 meets R2D2 when he is the only astromech droid to survive the firefight. 3P0 has to suffer the indignity of cleaning him up.

Jinn decides to land on Tatooine and haggle for the necessary parts to fix their engine. There they meet Anakin Skywalker, age 16 and his mother, Schmi who run a family owned salvage shop. Schmi and Jinn seem to recognize one another while they negotiate for parts. Schmi is about to just give them the parts for whatever money they have when in walks Wattu, the landlord. He works for Jabba the Hutt and is here to collect the rent and Schmi?s monthly installment of her Fathers extensive gambling debts to Jabba (who we find out killed her father and is extorting the money he owed Jabba at a hundred percent interest, meaning she will never pay it off). Thus, Schmi cannot afford to sell the engine parts for a song and some Jedi proverbs, not that Jinn would let her, seeing what a bind she is in.

Meanwhile, Anakin flirts with the Queen. Anakin is a smooth talking, charismatic and impetuous young man, (reminiscent of a young Han Solo) who has made a bit of a name for himself in the pod races. Schmi is afraid he?ll end up like his grandfather, falling in with a bad crowd or worse, smelted by a fatal pod race. If only his father hadn?t run off?

As it turns out, Jinn is Anakin’s father. We find this out during the sand storm when they all hide out in the Skywalker house (where Anakin shows off his mechanical dabbling to 3PO and Kenobi while R2 fixes them all dinner). It turns out Jinn met Schmi while on a mission to Tatooine 16 years earlier. They had one passionate night before he had to leave on secret Jedi business. But now that he’s back, he wants to help her and teach his long lost and heretofore unknown son how to be a good man, and maybe a Jedi. Obiwan obviously doesn’t like this idea claiming that Anakin is too old to start the training. And also because he’s jealous.

They decide to help solve all their problems by riding a long shot on Anakin in the Bunta Eve pod race. He of course wins, but only narrowly by using his instincts and some Jedi advice to overcome the cheating of a rival pod racer, Sebulba. Wattu, who was challenged by Jinn on a side bet to drop the debt to Jabba if the kid won, tries to squirm out of the deal. In walks one of Jabba?s henchthings and claps Wattu on the shoulder, whispering in his ear that Jabba wants to have a word with him.

Now that Schmi is free of her father’s debt and the Jedi have the necessary parts, they’ll leave. Jinn offers to take Anakin with him to Corescant. He jumps at the opportunity, even though he feels bad about leaving his mother. She tells him that he needs to go, to start his own life and fulfill his destiny.

On the way back to the ship Darth Maul engages Jinn and Kenobi in a double duel of both light sabers and words (maybe he could recite a Sith Hymn in praise of the bestial power of rage, and wroth poetic like Ricardo Mauntaban?s Kahn).

After narrowly escaping the Sith, they return to Corescant and present their findings before the Jedi Council. Jinn proposes to Yoda that he teach Anakin. There’s a brief argument between Jinn and Kenobi, left unresolved. Anakin and Amadala have a quiet moment alone, almost but not quite making an emotional connection. Kenobi interrupts them before they can kiss, informing them that they are to return to Nabu. While en route, they discuss possible strategies. Anakin hits on the idea of enlisting the help of the Gungans, whom he heard Jinn Talking to Obiwan about earlier. There is some doubt as to the sense in this but Anakin manages to talk them all into it.

They arrive at the Gungan temple and try to enlist their aide but the elders are still waffling. This is where Jar Jar Binks steps in and passionately argues that they cannot sit by idle while the rest of the planet fights for its safety. His father grudgingly agrees to the pact when Amadala steps forward and on bended knee, asks for their help.

Binks leads the Gungans and the Nabu security guards in a battle against the droid army. The battle begins with just the Nabu security forces facing off against the Droid army. They pretend to fall back, leading the battle droids out of the fields where they have the advantage and into the swamp. There, the Gungans ambush the battle droids, fighting in their element, Guerilla warfare style. Picture sinewy, black figures rising from the murk of the swamp like an army of Navy seals, only there are thousands of them. They drop bombs from the trees and sneak up behind the droids, severing heads with knives and hanging them from the trees with nooses made from vines. It is a gruesome battle, with swords and energy catapults and droids being mauled by nearly rabid Gungan warriors.

Meanwhile, Anakin leads the pilots on a sneak attack of the Lead Trade Federation ship to capture Knut Gunray. Anakin rushes in with the captured Trade federation leader just in time. The Battle droids, what’s left of them, are called off and so is the blockade.

In the city of Theed, Jinn and Kenobi track down Darth Maul. Maul kills Jinn but escapes, leaving Kenobi frustrated and angry, wanting revenge, despite all his Jedi training.

After this, he agrees to teach Anakin in honor of Jinn?s wishes. Yoda gives in but with reservations that he shares with Mace Windu, fearing that Kenobi?s unresolved feelings will taint the pupil.

A celebratory party is held at the palace in Theed. Amadala is too busy for Anakin as she is being shuffled around to shake hands with ambassadors. He’s miffed. A hand falls reassuringly on his shoulder. Anakin turns around to find that it is not Kenobi as he expected but Senator Palpitane, who introduces himself to Anakin and leaves off with an ominous remark about how much potential he shows as a Jedi.

***

Episode II: The Clone Wars

Ten years later. After an attempt on Senator Amadala’s life, The Jedi council assigns Master Kenobi and his Paduwan, Anakin to protect her. When Anakin shows up, he blows Amadala away. No longer is he just a brash kid but a smooth, cool-as-a-Summer-on-Hoth stud. But he does have a brooding aura about him, sort of like a Goth Jedi. Right away he’s working the Force on Amadala, much to Kenobi?s disappointment. Several times the Master has to break the two of them apart.

This is Anakin as a young man: a total Jedi bad ass, capable of doing what other Jedi do, without breaking a sweet. His superpower, besides being handy with anything mechanical is the fact that he can talk anybody into doing anything he wants. Anything.

Kenobi chides his young apprentice that night for his forward actions while they keep a watch on Amadala’s door, reminding him that a Jedi is stayed, calm, and collected. Anakin, instead of throwing a hissy fit for being chewed out by his master, spins Kenobi’s words and with a slightly ironic twist, turns them back on him. The argument is left unfinished when they both feel that something is wrong and rush into Amadala’s room in time to squish the giant centipedes and jump out the window after the bounty hunter.

Cue car chase through Corescant by night.

They trail the shape shifting bounty hunter to a bar. Obiwan buys Anakin a drink to calm him down. They catch the bounty hunter off guard, drag her outside only to have her killed by poison dart before she can give up the goods. Back at his hideout, Jango Fett reports to Darth Maul that there has been a slight snag in their plans.

Looking for clues, Kenobi visits his friend and finds out that the poisonous dart could only have come from one place, a little known world out beyond the rim. Kenobi goes to the Library but he can’t find the holocron he’s looking for and visits master Yoda whose pupils help him find the missing planet.

Obiwan sets off to visit the clone factory and fight Jango Fett.

Meanwhile Anakin escorts Amadala back to Nabu (with a stern warning from Kenobi to behave himself). Anakin plays it smooth on Nabu, turning Amadala’s summer palace into their own little love nest, much to 3PO and R2’s dismay and against their warnings. After seducing Amadala into bed, Anakin wakes from a nightmare about his mother. He then convinces Amadala to go with him to Tatooine.

Meanwhile, on Corescant, Ambassador Jar Jar Binks who has taken over for Amadalla while she is away, is strong armed into giving up the republic by a selection of Dark Side-friendly senators. Palpatine shakes his hand with a smile.

As soon as Anakin and Amadalla arrive on Tatooine, they rush to the family store to find Wattu (minus a few fingers) as the new proprietor. Anakin browbeats him into giving up Schmi’s last known whereabouts (he was going to charge them but Anakin gets it out of him for free): after Anakin left, Schmi met a moisture farmer named Lars and sold Wattu the shop. Wattu then makes a vague apology, saying that Schmi was really a good woman and that it was a shame what happened to her. Neither Amadala nor Anakin know just what he is getting at.

At the Lars family farm they meet Anakin’s new stepfather and his step- brother, Owen (and his girlfriend Baru) and learn of his mothers capture by the Sand people. Baru and Owen welcome Amadala in while Anakin goes off to find his mom. His new stepfather warns him not to get his hopes up and at the first sign of sand people, to hurry back.

When Anakin finds his Mother in the hut, tortured and bleeding to death he looses it. But he doesnt explode with rage. Anakin is detached from his emotions. Always calm and collected. This is where we get the first hint of Darth Vadar, the man who chokes admirals from a distance while casually planning a ground invasion. You see it in Anakin’s eyes, this is the guy who will one day boss Boba Fett around, reminding him not to disintegrate his prey this time.

Anakin steps out of the hut and methodically slaughters every living thing that comes within reach of his lightsaber. He betrays no emotion on his face as he goes about his gruesome business and when he’s done he simply walks away. He doesn’t go home and bawl his eyes out to Amadala. He never says a word.

Cut to Mace Windu waking from his meditation with the cold sweets. He runs out to find Yoda and they say nothing, merely exchange sad looks.

After burying Schmi on the farm, Anakin and Amadala set off for Nabu. Anakin calmly and almost lightheartedly broaches the subject of marriage. Amadala is unsure of the prospect as his duty to the Jedi forbids love and her responsibilities, as an ambassador requires her to maintain a professional sense of respectability. Everything they are working for would be undermined if she were to just run off and marry a Jedi. But Anakin almost has her convinced when they get the garbled message from Kenobi for help. They relay the message back to the Jedi council and set off to rescue Kenobi who in the meantime has been captured by Count Dooku.

Kenobi is startled to discover that Dooku, former Jedi and leader of the Separatists has as his right hand man none other then Darth Maul. Kenobi tries to reason with Count Dooku but the Count is clouded by idealism and Darth Sidious’s influence. He thinks the Jedi have been led astray and are in cahoots with the Sith. He?s all turned around and confused, and Kenobi realizes this is Maul’s doing.

Anakin, Amadala and the droids arrive and fight gallantly to free Kenobi but are captured and sentenced to the Ring of Death by the Insect King. As they are chained to the pillars, Amadala agrees to marry Anakin (she simply tells him the answer is yes, so Kenobi won’t know). Cue Jedi in the stands. Battle royal with droids, monsters and insects. The clone soldiers arrive, with Yoda at the lead in time to route the battle. Mace Windu takes of Jango Fett’s head. It is retrieved by a young and very pissed off Boba Fett.

Darth Maul battles Anakin and Kenobi. Kenobi is about to give into his desire for revenge but stops just short of killing Darth Maul. Anakin steps in and does it, almost as an after thought. Dooku then steps in and takes on both Jedi single handedly, taking off Anakin’s arm in the process. Yoda arrives and much ass is kicked. Dooku escapes to deliver the plans for the Death Star to Sidious and begins to realize that Maul and Sidius have been leading him to the Dark Side.

Yoda and Windu discuss briefly how the Dark side is growing as the clone soldiers board the star ships and take off. The rest of the Jedi are morose, except for Anakin who tells Kenobi about how he thinks Palpitane will be just what the Galaxy needs to restore order. They exchange cold words and Anakin walks away from the Jedi. Amadala, wearing a hood and robe to conceal her identity, meets him and together they run off, hand in mechanical hand to their secret wedding.

***

Episode III: Revenge of The Sith

Five years later. The clone wars are coming to a close. With Count Dooku dead, the separatists have splintered into numerous factions, most of which have already been wrangled back into the republic. Only a few remain but they are scattered and disorganized. The Jedi have been reluctantly leading the battles but there is disunity among the Jedi Knights for the first time in a thousand years.

At the coronation of Emperor Palpitane, word reaches the Jedi council that a number of Jedi Knights have turned up dead. This is part of a disturbing trend of Jedi deaths, many of which leave little evidence behind as their bodies are often disintegrated. Kenobi and Windu are assigned by Yoda to undertake a secret mission of the utmost importance: find the Sith who are killing the Jedi.

Palpitane makes several sweeping decrees during his coronation speech, the most shocking of which is to appoint Anakin Skywalker as supreme Commander of the Imperial Forces, over many older and more respected Jedi. Anakin is of course pleased and a little smug. Later he throws it in Kenobi’s face. Anakin accuses his former master of being a traitor, saying that he has grown soft and maybe secretly sympathizes with these rebellious splinter groups. Kenobi tries to reason with Anakin but realizes, to his horror that Anakin has taken on many of the same personality traits that he spotted in Count Dooku: paranoia, distrust and a confused sense of loyalty.

Amadala is very pregnant. Ambassador Binks visits her chambers but she senses that he is there for more then simply a visit, that he feels very much responsible for the state of the Galaxy. She tells him that no one person can bear the weight of the entire Galaxy on their shoulders but Binks, ever the proud Gungan, says that yes, one-person can and will. He leaves, fingering a knife thoughtfully.

Anakin is secretly organizing the hunting of Jedi that he and the Emperor deem traitorous. To keep their hands clean, the actual killing is done by an assortment of the most vile bounty hunters that Anakin can find. The star of this Jedi hunting squad is none other then a young Bobba Fett. This fact is discovered by Jar Jar Binks when he comes to confront Anakin. Enraged, he attacks Anakin but of curse he’s no match for him. Before Binks can even raise his knife, Anakin chokes him with his force power. Binks drops the knife and falls dead.

Count Dooku, present through this whole display is suddenly jarred to his senses. Everything becomes clear to him now and he makes a vane attempt to alert the Jedi Counsel of Anakin’s trickery. But Anakin catches him before he reaches Yoda’s chambers and takes him before Darth sidious. Dooku finally realizes he has been duped by Sidious and led to the Dark side. While the Emperor watches on, laughing, Count Dooku allows himself to be killed by Anakin (in the same manner that Kenobi does in A New Hope).

Amadalla gives birth to twins. Kenobi and Yoda arrive just in time to witness the event. But mother and babies have little time together. At a gesture from Yoda, Obiwan takes baby Luke and runs off. Amadala knew this would happen and Yoda tries to comfort her as best as he can. She tells Obiwan not to tell her ever where the boy is so that she cannot lie to Anakin.

Just as Kenobi leaves by a secret exit, Anakin arrives. He is overjoyed to see his new daughter but senses something is amiss. Yoda plays with the baby and dismisses Anakin’s suspicions. Anakin gives Yoda a dirty look and rushes out to satisfy his curiosity.

Yoda and Senator Bale Organa have a secret meeting to discuss the fate of the twins and the rumors of this new weapon that the Emperor is devising. Organa rushes off to alert his secret contacts on the remaining Separatist worlds of their new plans. The Rebellion is born.

Kenobi and Windu are ambushed at the space port on Corescant by bounty hunters but manage to narrowly escape with baby Luke. The hunters don’t know about the baby. They are simply there to kill the Jedi, a point noted to Windu by Kenobi as they blast their way out of Corescant orbit. Fast on their trail is a brand spanking new Star Destroyer and unbeknownst to anyone, Bobba Fett in Slave I. They manage to elude the star Destroyer but not Fett.

Bobba Fett confronts Windu in a cantina in Mos Iesley. While he acts as a diversion, Kenobi delivers baby Luke to the Lars farm. Owen and his wife Baru agree to raise the child but Owen has some choice words for Kenobi about the recklessness of Jedi and their dangerous lifestyle. Kenobi instead of putting up a fight, agrees.

Meanwhile, Fett and Windu are dueling and through dirty pool, Fett strikes down Windu with a Jedi Lightsaber. Fett surmises that Kenobi must have already skipped out, as he saw him climb aboard a transport earlier. He did not see Kenobi sneak off the ship though. Fett leaves Tatooine to report back to Anakin. In rushes Kenobi in time to find out from Windu’s dying words what has happened. Kenobi rushes off, trailing Fett to the volcanic world where the Death Star is under construction.

Amadala and Senetor Organa, on their way to Alderan with baby Leia are harassed by the Emperor’s newly appointed secret police, the Storm Troopers as they try to board the senator’s ship. Yoda shows up just in the nick of time to cloud the storm Trooper’s minds and let them pass. Yoda gives them some words of advice and encouragement. Amadala wishes that she could have seen Anakin one last time as she wants to say goodbye. Bale Organa tells her that Anakin is no longer the man she loved, he’s been changed by the emperor and that there are others who will help her now. You can tell that Bale genuinely cares for Amadala, maybe even loves her but she can’t deal with this now and instead, quietly boards the ship with her infant daughter.

As Yoda is leaving, Anakin steps out of the shadows and the two have words. Yoda gives Anakin one last chance to turn back from the Dark side but Anakin won?t hear it. He informs Master Yoda that the Jedi are dead and he is just a ghost now and then, mysteriously leaves without another word.

Kenobi tracks Fett to the control center of the construction facility, high atop an active volcano only to discover that it is a trap set by Anakin. Anakin dismisses Fett who doesn’t like being dismissed and comments to this effect but steps aside anyway. Kenobi and Anakin face off over the volcanic crater, which is being used as a foundry to build the Death Star. They finally air all their grievances. Kenobi manages to do so without giving into his anger. He lets it wash over him and offers Anakin one last chance to save himself. Anakin does not see that he needs saving and accuses Kenobi of being the one led astray by archaic traditions and an unfortunate sense of nostalgia for the now deceased Republic. Kenobi tells him he is no longer a Jedi but is now a Sith and they duel.

This is the duel to end them all. Force tricks, blazing sabers, all over a smoldering pit of lava and molten steal. Just as Kenobi is about to fall to Anakin, he delves into the last reserves of his strength, fends off Anakin’s saber attack and severs Anakin’s hand. Anakin looses his balance and topples over the edge but manages to grab a hold of a rock ledge with his cyborg hand. Kenobi reaches out to save him but instead Anakin lets himself fall into the volcano foundry. He is rescued from the slag pit by storm troopers who rush him to the infirmary.

Obiwan and Yoda meet on a Rebellion ship and Obiwan tells him what happened with Anakin. They make their final arrangements and then Yoda is dropped off on Degobah by Kenobi who then returns to Tatooine to watch over Luke from a distance.

Anakin, now mostly cyborg appears before the Emperor as the Darth Vader we have all come to know and love. He tells him that all the Jedi are at last finally dead. The Emperor gives a little speech about the cycle of the Force, how all things corrupt will fall before the grandeur of perfect order and that finally the corrupt Republic will give way to an eternal Empire.

*****

A few other suggestions:

Names. I’m a big fan of Appellation symbolism; where character’s names represent their personality traits. Judging from the first three Star Wars films, one would get the impression that George Lucas was too, at one time. (come on, a loner with the name Solo?) But what’s with all these characters with sci-fi gibberish names like Jar Jar and Dooku? Did Lucus hire kindergarteners as his consulting staff? And why is Dooku a Count? How does this further the story at all? It doesn’t. The fact that he’s a rogue Jedi is enough and he should have a name that reflects that. Maybe something along the lines of Devo Drak. As for Jar Jar Binks, any name would be better. Following the above revision of his character from bumbling, kid friendly fool to tragic noble martyr, I’d call him Ibn Kalil, to reflect the Muslim poet. But that’s just me. I’m all about allusion to source material (once again, Lucus used to be as well. Anyone else remember the three guards from Jabba’s Palace named Klattu, Barata and Nikto?). And while we’re talking about allusions, Schmi Skywalker is obviously a mother archetype, just go for the gold; Miriam Skywalker sounds better anyway.

Casting. When it comes to movies, the actors really need to fit their parts. Hayden Christenson, as far as I can tell, couldn’t act his way out of a Death star Detention Block. He’s just not Anakin. Jude Law is Anakin. Any other young actor could be as well. And while I admire Liam Neason as an actor, he never really gave much life to Jinn’s character. This is a radical departure here but given the fact that his name is obviously derived from Chinese, why not go that route? That’s right. Jacki Chan as Qui Gon Jinn. Tell me you don’t want to see him flipping around the screen with a lightsaber in one hand and a folding chair in the other. I dare you. If there’s any man on earth who actually has force powers it’s Mr. Chan. Just picture him and Ray Parks? as Darth Maul, dueling with lightsabers.

Dialogue. Some of the dialogue in these films could only be stiffer if it were carved out of wood. I know, Lucus took the old Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon Serials as his inspiration. I too love those serials and yes, some of the dialogue in them sounds like a four-fingered baboon wrote it with a broken typewriter. But come on! Audiences expect a little more naturalistic dialogue then some of the stiff little gems in Star Wars. Power converters be damned!

So there?s my Star Wars Revision. Pedantic? Yes. Fan boyish? Oh, you betcha. You see, I grew up watching Star Wars. I love science Fiction and it simply pains me to see something with such potential go to waste. Plus, for any of those would be writers out there, replotting a poorly conceived movie or book is a good exercise in stretching the imagination and working on those plotting skills.