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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 03 June 2013 at 10:38pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply

Thinking about how a planned-from-start Father Vader saga could have worked...

Please excuse me if this doesn't make sense. Put my cat down today, and I need a distraction.



* The basic prequel storyline (at least what existed of it during the making of the original films) remains intact. Anakin turns evil, and Ben seemingly kills him in the volcano duel. Anakin is not renamed "Darth Vader" until after his cybernetic resurrection, and no one except the Emperor knows his former identity.

* STAR WARS goes mostly the same as we know it, except that Ben doesn't lie to Luke about his father's death, avoiding the issue entirely. Perhaps he intends to tell the full story once Luke has been trained about the dangers of the dark side, but the Death Star adventure gets in the way. Ben is shocked to see that Vader still lives when he confronts him on the Death Star, but is killed before he can warn Luke. He only retains enough influence after death to inspire Luke's destruction of the Death Star.

* EMPIRE goes mostly the same. However, Force-ghost Ben doesn't have any conversations with Luke--just those few key aural moments in SW that help Luke (who seems unsure whether it's really Ben, or just his own imagination) to win the day. Ben is out of the story at this point.

In a cue taken from the first draft, a map hidden inside Luke's heirloom lightsaber leads him to Yoda, who doesn't know about Vader's survival, either. Luke rushes off to save his friends, and Vader reveals the truth.

* Jedi goes mostly the same, except that Yoda doesn't confirm Vader's identity. The film continues to show Luke grappling with the question (with Vader playing his identity up as a seduction tactic, thus still leaving it ambiguous), and Luke has no crutches or inside info from Ben and Yoda. He's totally alone, and has to trust his feelings. Vader's identity is unresolved until the very end, when, at the key moment, Vader saves 
Luke from the Emperor, revealing himself to be Luke's father through that last, redemptive act. No Jedi heaven for him, though. Just a simple message about blood being thicker than water. Luke wins an emotional victory, since he coaxed his father to turn good again, and Vader dies knowing that he managed to do one worthwhile thing at the end of his life.


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Michael Penn
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Posted: 04 June 2013 at 3:47am | IP Logged | 2 post reply


 QUOTE:
Put my cat down today


So sorry, Greg!

+++++++++++


 QUOTE:
has to trust his feelings

***

And here again is where the original film is reversed. Ben tells Luke in STAR WARS explicitly to trust his feelings, but in the sequels Luke gets the opposite instruction

About Father Darth and the whole idea of his redemption, I still can't see it as anything but wrongly shoehorned into an already complete and quite different story in STAR WARS.

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John Byrne
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Posted: 04 June 2013 at 4:37am | IP Logged | 3 post reply

I first read the thought that Vader could be Luke's father in an article in Star Wars Weekly issue 50 (so just about the end of '78 / start of '79 (don't have the issue to hand as I'm away from the UK).

If memory serves, the article dismissed the idea. When it turned up in Empire, I assumed that Vader was saying he was a Skywalker. I was 11 at the time. And tried to figure out just what state Skywalker must have been in to have a son. He was in the Clone Wars which took part ages ago - so long that people looked at them as legendary. He was a Jedi that turned and killed other Jedi - ages ago. So long ago that people thought Jedi were legends and didn't even believe in the force anymore.

Luke was only 18 years old - not enough time for people to forget to the degree that they had. So, Vader was already a bad guy when Luke was born and must have been a bad guy for some time (decades I thought).

And then the prequels came along and shifted everything in to living memory. Think about this - 18 years ago is like us saying there was a major conflict 18 years ago that no one remembers except as legend but we can't rememeber who was involved. Gulf War 1 was over 20 years ago. Is that how we view that war?

9/11 was nearly 12 years ago. Is this how we view that?

••

Lucas plays with time quite freely in the original movie -- a further indication that multiple drafts/ideas are coming together without a cohesive "vision".

Ben refers to Vader as "a young Jedi" when he "betrayed and murdered" Luke's father. This planted two things somewhere in my brain. One, that Vader was still "young" inside that suit -- not the old guy we saw when the helmet came off in JEDI -- and that the Jedi were probably very long lived, for the Republic to have become "old" and the Force and even the Jedi themselves to have become "legendary". As you note, eighteen years is hardly long enough for these things to have happened.

There's so much foolishness shoveled into the story as the sequels and prequels get piled on -- also with not a whole lot of thought to creating a cohesive whole, it would seem. Lucas' twisted version of his own tale gives us…

• Obi-Wan Kenobi "hiding" Luke on the same planet his father came from, and giving the baby to his father's relatives for safe-keeping.

• Obi-Wan Kenobi cleverly disguising himself by changing his name to Ben Kenobi.

• Ben Kenobi wearing his Jedi robes as part of his "disguise". (This last one is truly mind-boggling. I was in the TV department of CostCo when I saw the opening scenes of PHANTOM MENACE for the first time, with Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson in their Jedi suits. I can only hope I did not say "WHAT THE &^&%??" loudly enough for nearby children to hear!)

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Anthony J Lombardi
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Posted: 04 June 2013 at 9:24am | IP Logged | 4 post reply

The lesson I learned from Star Wars is this. I'll see the films when they come out but there is only one Star Wars film and that's New Hope.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 04 June 2013 at 9:52am | IP Logged | 5 post reply

I'll see the films when they come out but there is only one Star Wars film and that's New Hope.

••

And even THAT was a retcon!!

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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 04 June 2013 at 9:52am | IP Logged | 6 post reply

Ben refers to Vader as "a young Jedi" when he "betrayed and
murdered" Luke's father. This planted two things somewhere in my
brain. One, that Vader was still "young" inside that suit -- not the old
guy we saw when the helmet came off in JEDI -- and that the Jedi were
probably very long lived, for the Republic to have become "old" and the
Force and even the Jedi themselves to have become "legendary". As
you note, eighteen years is hardly long enough for these things to have
happened.
+++++++++

The prequels show the result of merging two distinctly different
characters together--

* Father Skywalker: Noble, heroic, presumably a contemporary of
Kenobi's and a full Jedi Knight.

* Darth Vader: A young student of Kenobi's who ostensibly turned to
evil because of a lust for power.


In order to merge these characters together, Lucas had to mix and
match all of those elements.

Anakin is Kenobi's young, power-hungry student who must constantly
be reeled in by Kenobi, but is also Kenobi's best friend and a noble
hero. He's Kenobi's student, at first, but is promoted to full Knighthood
(and even a seat on the Council) just before things go south, with he
and Kenobi now acting more like partners and contemporaries than
teacher and student. Anakin turns to evil because he lusts for power
and control, but also because he just wants to save his wife, and so
has good intentions that lead to tragedy.

It's no wonder a shrink diagnosed the character as a borderline-
personality a few years back!
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John Byrne
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Posted: 04 June 2013 at 10:41am | IP Logged | 7 post reply

The only thing that comes close to matching the turning of Obi-Wan Kenobi into a manipulative liar is having Vader's trip to the Darkseid -- I mean, the dark side be motivated by Good Intentions.

Hey, George! The road to Hell is also paved with BAD IDEAS!

When we consider what Ben said in the first movie, it's nigh on impossible to make the retcons flow in any kind of organic fashion.

[From memory] "A young Jedi named Darth Vader, who was a pupil of mine before he turned to evil, helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi knights. He betrayed and murdered your father. (pause) Vader was seduced by the dark side of the Force."

The sequence is hunt-and-destroy, followed by betray-and-murder. The two elements are one and the same, of course, but my sense at the time was that Vader's final act in his pogrom against the Jedi was the killing of Skywalker Sr.

I've played with this scenario in my head many a time, using Lucas' original matrix. It seems to work best, at least for me, if Kenobi and Skywalker do not know Vader has turned until the betrayal. Vader has been leading the Empire on a slaughter of Jedi, but from behind the scenes, and it is this revelation, in the form of the violent act of killing Skywalker, that drives Kenobi to his own act of extreme violence against Vader.

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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 04 June 2013 at 10:46am | IP Logged | 8 post reply

Lucas' story notes from the time of the film's release had Vader leading
various Jedi into traps and/or assassinating them, without anyone
realizing that he was the traitor in their midst until it was too late. This is
what the "betrayal" was intended to be. It makes sense that
Skywalker's murder would be the turning point for Kenobi.

Edited by Greg Kirkman on 04 June 2013 at 10:48am
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John Byrne
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Posted: 04 June 2013 at 10:54am | IP Logged | 9 post reply

The one question in this, of course, is that if Kenobi can sense the destruction of Alderan as a "disturbance in the Force", why would he not be able to tell Vader had gone bad until it was too late?
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 04 June 2013 at 11:05am | IP Logged | 10 post reply

The same issue pops up in the prequels; Palpatine is right under their
noses the whole time, but they don't figure it out until HE spills the
beans.

Perhaps the dark side can be used to cloud the perceptions of those
who use the good side?

Edited by Greg Kirkman on 04 June 2013 at 11:06am
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Michael Penn
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Posted: 04 June 2013 at 11:18am | IP Logged | 11 post reply

This is a hard nut to crack, I think, because Ben in the original film talks about, and demonstrates too, how the Force can manipulate weak minds. Presumably, Kenobi himself was far from that!
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 04 June 2013 at 11:24am | IP Logged | 12 post reply

The only thing that comes close to matching the turning of Obi-Wan Kenobi into a manipulative liar is having Vader's trip to the Darkseid -- I mean, the dark side be motivated by Good Intentions.
+++++++++

It amazes me that Anakin's turn--the crux of the prequels--was completely rethought at the eleventh hour. 

Originally, it was a combination of motives:

* Power-lust/addiction to the dark side (which he'd first tasted when he wiped out the Sandpeople who killed his mother).

* A genuine belief that the Jedi had betrayed the Republic and were now enemies of the state who were trying to take control.

* Visions of his wife dying in childbirth.


After audience reactions to rough-cut screenings, Lucas determined that there wasn't a clear enough emotional motivation for the turn, and so reshot a bunch of stuff in post-production pickups. It was here that the turn boiled down to Anakin's deal with the devil to save his wife. But, lingering traces of the other motives still remain in the final film, and Christensen's performance is inconsistent because of how the original footage and the reshoots were integrated--Anakin is full of remorse, then suddenly becomes a cold, focused killer...all in the same scene.

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John Byrne
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Posted: 04 June 2013 at 11:49am | IP Logged | 13 post reply

It's a curious turn on the old "too many cooks spoil the pot." On this case, one cook, too many pots!
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Michael Penn
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Posted: 04 June 2013 at 12:13pm | IP Logged | 14 post reply

At least up until JEDI, Darth Vader was free to be a bad, bad dude. Once he was Luke's father, beyond all doubt, and redeemed by that third movie's end, I suppose Lucas painted himself into a corner. From being able to make Darth as evil as necessary, he then in the prequels had to make Anakin as good as possible. No matter what, it's all incredibly unconvincing to me.

One might ask, where did the set up for the prequels go more wrong, by having Darth be Luke's father, or, given that paternity, by further allowing Darth a final act of heaven-winning redemption?
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 04 June 2013 at 1:21pm | IP Logged | 15 post reply

Y'know, even as a kid, there was a cognitive disconnect for me
between the "redeemed" Vader of JEDI with the purely evil Vader of the
first two films.

I couldn't quite wrap my head around that kindly old man being inside
that suit when he tortured Leia or choked his own subordinates to
death.

I also couldn't quite imagine Vader--had he not been injured--pacing the
bridge of his Star Destroyer, looking like Sebastian Shaw wearing black
robes.


Interestingly, the early drafts of JEDI just featured Vader leaping at the
Emperor and taking them both into a lake of lava, with no unmasking or
final conversation with Luke. The emphasis on the redemption aspect
was really laid down in later drafts.

Edited by Greg Kirkman on 04 June 2013 at 1:36pm
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 04 June 2013 at 1:35pm | IP Logged | 16 post reply

From being able to make Darth as evil as necessary, he then in the
prequels had to make Anakin as good as possible.
+++++++++


But is he, really? Sure, Anakin is seen to be a sweet and wholesome kid
in TPM, but, by the next film, when the established traits of Vader
necessarily came into play, he suddenly mutated into a moody,
disobedient teenager. We don't really see Anakin and Kenobi as close
friends except for moments in ROTS that were clearly written to have
them say that they're friends, instead of SHOWING it.

And, of course, early drafts of TPM featured Kenobi in the Qui-
Gon role, working alone. In the final film, Kenobi isn't the one who finds Anakin, nor is he thrilled about this kid tagging along with them, and yet he burdens himself with Anakin's training so as to fulfill his dead master's last wish.

In AOTC, Anakin still seems like a burden to him, as they're constantly
sniping at each other, with Anakin chafing at Kenobi's orders.



Another cognitive disconnect--We're told about the 10-year gap
between films, but we're not really shown that Anakin is still the same
character as seen in the first film.

Lucas had to choose between noble Jedi (Father Skywalker) and
power-hungry student (Vader), and, out of necessity, had to go mostly
with the latter.

It just doesn't fit, this idea that the heroic friend Kenobi spoke of with
such high regard could sudden turn into a power-hungry traitor. Either
the seeds of evil were already there, or they weren't.

Lucas tried to bridge that gap with the notion of young Anakin's fear of
loss mutating into a need for control and power due to his mother's
death, but the character comes off as very emotionally unstable, as a
result.


Edited by Greg Kirkman on 04 June 2013 at 1:37pm
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Michael Penn
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Posted: 04 June 2013 at 1:54pm | IP Logged | 17 post reply

From being able to make Darth as evil as necessary, he then in the 
prequels had to make Anakin as good as possible.
+++++++++

But is he, really?

***

You would know better than I, Greg, that's for sure. Just thinking about the motivations you discussed above, it seems that Lucas always gives Anakin a "good" reason for his actions: he's not merely seduced by the dark side of the Force, but he's rightly avenging his mother; he sincerely believes the Jedi have gone wrong on a galactic scale; and, most intimately, he struggles to save his one dearest beloved against the demise he can't help but foresee. I think however all that works, or even fails to come together coherently, it shows Lucas wanting to make Anakin as good as possible given the constraints of the story he's set up to at least make his eventual redemption both believable and desirable. (I find neither to be so!)
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 04 June 2013 at 2:51pm | IP Logged | 18 post reply

Okay, I agree about that. I'm looking at it from an audience perspective,
though.

Does Anakin come off as a sympathetic, likable character, whose fall
from grace is tragic? Is he the main character? Are we supposed to
agree with his choices, up to a point?


There's also the fact that the prequels don't really have a central
character. All indications point to Kenobi originally being the intended
focus. However, once Lucas hit on the Tragedy of Darth Vader
construct, the focus shifted (for the entire SERIES!) almost exclusively
to Anakin's story.

Who is the main character of the prequels? I dunno. Neeson and then
McGregor got top billing, but there's no real protagonist, is there?
More like an ensemble.

STAR WARS, both the movie and the trilogy, on the other hand, was
clearly Luke's story. The whole thing was originally "From The
Adventures of Luke Skywalker", after all--even the spin-off Han Solo
novels and such.

Edited by Greg Kirkman on 04 June 2013 at 2:51pm
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Michael Penn
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Posted: 04 June 2013 at 3:18pm | IP Logged | 19 post reply


 QUOTE:
I'm looking at it from an audience perspective, though. Does Anakin come off as a sympathetic, likable character, whose fall from grace is tragic? Is he the main character? Are we supposed to agree with his choices, up to a point?

I've only see the prequels one time each, so maybe I shouldn't even offer an opinion -- but it seems to me that Anakin from the first to the third of those movies, and maybe even within each of them, is so inconsistent and incoherent that I don't know how an audience is supposed to regard him. I think that's due to what you said about Lucas, which is he is virtually all tell and no show. It seems to me that Lucas tells us enough throughout those prequels about the fall from Anakin to Darth so that the audience would be able and even want to at least understand, if not agree with, his choices, and perhaps even to some degree excuse them, if we're feeling awfully charitable. I don't really know, but I suppose that has to be necessary to Lucas' overall Anakin story since he can't but desire that the audience does ultimately accept Darth's redemption and at last excuse him at the end of JEDI. Not that what Lucas wanted actually works, but it seems like this is his thrust. What do you think?
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 04 June 2013 at 4:59pm | IP Logged | 20 post reply

I think that's due to what you said about Lucas, which is he is virtually
all tell and no show.
++++++++

Midichlorians are the prime example of this. Just showing that Anakin
was a great racer for his age was not enough. A blood test that would
quantify his Force-potential was deemed necessary.

So, we're TOLD that he's supposedly the Chosen One, but are we
really shown it?


Personally, I still like Roger Ebert's reading of it, in his AT THE
MOVIES review of TPM--Luke is the actual Chosen One, and Qui-
Gon's intuition was close--but off by one generation. Lucas has since
stated that Anakin was indeed the Chosen One, but I like Ebert's idea
better. Vader may have killed the Emperor, but Luke was the one who
did the heavy lifting (not literally!), right?


One good thing about THE CLONE WARS cartoon is that it had a
chance to establish Anakin as the heroic and noble character he was
supposed to be, with only occasional flashes of darkness. The show
had breathing room to explore the character, rather than play connect-
the-dots from Anakin to Vader.

By time-compressing the bulk of the original backstory into AOTC and
ROTS, Lucas only gave himself room enough to depict Anakin's
whirlwind courtship/marriage, and then his descent. And he also
explicitly tied those two ideas together, something which I think no one
had ever expected to see.

The whole notion of forbidden love really just sort of came out of left
field, didn't it? I certainly never thought that Ben Kenobi was raised as a
Jedi since infancy, and had never had any romances. And it had never
even occurred to me that Anakin's marriage and children were
"mistakes" that led to his ruination. Rather, it seemed quite the
opposite--his power-lust destroyed his family.

Anyway, Lucas basically wasted time in TPM in order to specifically
establish Anakin's fear of change and loss from a very young age. The
result is inconsistency, with an actor change, an unexplained change
from a nice kid to a moody teen, and a ton of important plot points
crammed into 1 1/2 films.


It's rather interesting, now--kids will watch the first two prequel films,
then the cartoon, then ROTS, and they may very well have that
emotional connection that people felt was lacking in the three films on
their own.

In one Podcast I listen to, a guy was talking about how his young kids,
weaned on the first two films and the cartoon, simply refused to watch
ROTS. They could deal with seeing Vader in the original three movies,
but they just didn't want to see their hero turn evil in the last prequel.
Fascinating.


For whatever reason, Lucas got hooked on the redemption idea. The prequels' primary failing, character-wise, is that we needed to care about who Anakin was before his fall in order for the redemption to really work, and the prequels just don't work well in that area.

We saw the redemption from Luke's point of view in JEDI, and it comes
off primarily as a moral victory for HIM. The prequels had the task of
making it work for Vader himself, so it felt like a legitimate resolution to
his character.



Thanks for the discussion, by the way. I've been a total emotional
wreck for the last two days. Just in a total fog. This intellectual
distraction is helpful.

Edited by Greg Kirkman on 04 June 2013 at 5:02pm
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James Woodcock
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Posted: 04 June 2013 at 6:48pm | IP Logged | 21 post reply

Sorry to hear about your cat Greg.

On the point of the prequels and the relationship between Obi Wan and Anakin, I have to agree. Lucas had 6 hours to show their relationship but failed totally to show this. Obi Wan starts not liking the kid, takes him on through duty and spends most of the second film berrating him about his short comings.

By the third film they spend most of the film apart so all Lucas could do is shoe horn in a scene that says they are friends. Not from what I've seen they aren't.

And then there is the constant introduction of new characters. I know we had that through the original trilogy but they served a purpose. Grievous served no purpose other than to be a distraction. We had a leader - Dooku. By killing him so early Lucas needed another leader for Obi Wan to fight later. But he took up screen time that could have been used to better service the established backstory.

I still say the Clone Wars should have been a war to control cloning technology, the winner being the Empire which then uses it to create Stormtoopers but I was about 10 years old when I came up with that version.

Vader being Luke's father works from a dramatic standpoint but sends the story off in all sorts of directions maybe it shouldn't go.

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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 04 June 2013 at 8:18pm | IP Logged | 22 post reply

By the third film they spend most of the film apart so all Lucas could do
is shoe horn in a scene that says they are friends. Not from what I've
seen they aren't.

And then there is the constant introduction of new characters. I know
we had that through the original trilogy but they served a purpose.
Grievous served no purpose other than to be a distraction. We had a
leader - Dooku. By killing him so early Lucas needed another leader for
Obi Wan to fight later. But he took up screen time that could have been
used to better service the established backstory.
++++++++++++

Of course, ROTS follows the same story structure as AOTC--Anakin
and Obi-Wan need to be separated so that:

A) Anakin can stay in isolation with Padme, which leads to their
forbidden marriage.

B) Anakin can fall under Palpatine's influence and eventually side with
him when the Jedi come to arrest him.


And, although the earliest drafts aren't available, all the evidence
indicates that Dooku would originally have lived well into ROTS, with
the ROTJ-esque, throne room duel seen early in the final film occurring
closer to the middle/third act.

This was restructured so that Windu's death was the real point of no
return. Dooku's death was pushed back to the beginning, and Grevious
created to replace him, foreshadow Vader's cyborg technology...and
sell toys.


I think a critical mistake was also made in that most of Anakin and
Palpatine's relationship was held back until the third film. Even their one
scene together in AOTC was added only in pickup shooting, as an
afterthought. Some of the best and most nuanced moments in ROTS
come from their scenes together, and the trilogy would have been
better-served if Palpatine's direct manipulation of Anakin had been
there in all three films.

In that same vein, another problem with Anakin's age-jump between
films is that the Anakin-Padme relationship is compressed and
compromised. For all intents and purposes, their relationship springs
into existence from scratch in AOTC. In only a matter of days, Padne
marries someone she knew a decade before, as a child who acted
completely different than the moody teen assigned to protect her.


Much of the strength of the original trilogy (perhaps unintentionally,
given Lucas' tendencies) came directly from the characters and their
chemistry. We CARE about Luke, Han, and Leia. The big questions on
the playground between EMPIRE and JEDI were about the fates of the
characters.

The prequels are mostly plot-driven, and the emotional connection with
the characters just isn't there like it was before. And, thanks in part to
Superboy Syndrome, people mostly wondered between films about the
specifics of events we already knew to be carved in stone.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 05 June 2013 at 6:04am | IP Logged | 23 post reply

I wonder how many faces Lucas looked at before he picked an actor who was almost EIGHTY to play Annakin/Vader? Did he really WANT his "cool" character to turn into Humpty Dumpty?

Sebastian Shaw was ten years older than Alec Guiness -- an odd disparity for a student/teacher, even if actors rarely play their true age.

After the Big Surprise Reveal of JEDI, I think Lucas became fixated on "messin' wid us". He didn't want ANYTHING to play out as he had promised in the first film.

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John Byrne
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Posted: 05 June 2013 at 6:09am | IP Logged | 24 post reply

Thought just crossed my mind. In STAR WARS Ben says Luke's father was "the best star pilot in the galaxy". Do we ever get to see anything of that? We see him showing himself as a good fighter pilot, but is that the same thing? Going by the first film, for instance, don't Luke and Han have different skill-sets? "Flying thru hyperspace ain't like dustin' crops, kid." Han is a star pilot, Luke isn't.

Do we see Anakin as a "star pilot"? I really cannot recall.

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Brian Miller
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Joined: 28 July 2004
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Posted: 05 June 2013 at 8:08am | IP Logged | 25 post reply

Sorry to hear about your cat, Greg.
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