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Star Wars But Better

Okay one parting shot: I’m mad at the Star Wars prequels for turning the Jedi into a corrupt establishment organization whose extermination seemed like it might be justifiable on some level, instead of using the Jedi as a lens for religious persecution and genocide

Like imagine if instead of being a vast organization with hundreds of members acting as government operatives, they were a small and mostly ignored religious sect that included both Force-sensitive warriors and non-sensitive followers of the Force

Imagine if Darth Vader’s corruption wasn’t a case of “the Jedi are doing war crimes” but rather “Anakin has been convinced by the Emperor that the Jedi are a threat to the Republic and so he single handed lay wipes them out”

Imagine that he finds out after the deed is done that he’s been tricked, and his despair at what he’s done is what drives him to become Darth Vader, standing idly angrily by as the Senate becomes the Empire

“It’s too late for me, son” becomes an admission that he’s been trying to reckon with what he did ever since he did it and he can’t find a way out of the mess he’s in.

So then it’s not a story of redemption, it’s a story of escape from the Emperor’s control.

Which seems like a much more compelling story to tell, and doesn’t require Vader to be a genocidal fuckhead who delights in murder

The Jedi could have been a powerful concept of sacred traditions and how those traditions can be lost

Like what if Anakin wasn’t some magical “Chosen One”

What if he was the literal Chosen One

Like what if he was the one the Jedi chose

And what might that mean

What if the prequels were about the fall of the Republic into fascism and Imperialism and the deliberate persecution of the Jedi at the hands of an increasingly xenophobic New Empire

What if there were no such thing as Sith, and the Emperor was just a Dark Jedi

What if Dark Jedi just meant “disgraced Jedi” and not “part of a completely different organization that is also thousands of years old”

What if Yoda was Obi-Wan’s master like he said he was, and Yoda wasn’t quietly complicit in the Republican war crimes

What if he was an anti-war activist

What if not every Jedi gets a lightsaber

What if Anakin building his blue lightsaber was, like, important

What if losing it in disgrace was also important

What if making his red one was similarly important

So that when the Emperor is admiring Luke’s lightsaber there’s an inferred double meaning: “I know another Jedi who once had to make a new lightsaber because he lost his old one” but this time it’s different—or is it?

Or maybe every Jedi inherits their lightsaber, and the crystals are super rare so making a new one is all but unheard of—and Anakin’s blue lightsaber gets taken away but Obi-Wan keeps it in the hopes that Anakin—now Vader—will see the error of his ways and, eventually, return.

And then the redemption is seen in Ben to be a fool’s hope, the despair of a man who believes he’s failed his best friend.

What if Ben wasn’t Anakin’s mentor in the order of Jedi, but his mentor in the context of an experienced friend helping him through the trials

What if R2-D2 belonged to Captain Antilles

What if Captain Antilles was an important character

What if the “clone wars” were about trying to take on an adversary that seemed to be reappearing constantly, eventually revealing that the Emperor is cloning himself

(This was my original thought about what the clone wars were before the prequels came out)

Holy shit

Holy shit holy shit

Y’all

YALL

What if the stormtroopers aren’t weak minded fools

What if they just were too scared to stand up and do something

And the “Jedi Mind Trick” isn’t about controlling their minds

It’s about reminding them they have agency

And “weak minded fools” is what the Jedi call it, to give the stormtroopers plausible deniability when explaining things to their superiors

Which explains why sometimes it works but only when used on people who have already been subjugated, and it never works on the oppressors themselves

And of COURSE Luke wouldn’t know that because he’s working with lost knowledge

Obviously we need to introduce Boba Fett somehow, but what if he’s Anakin’s friend who joined him in his fall? His trigger-happy soldier buddy who keeps getting into fights, and who gets radicalized HARD by the Empire, so hard that they make him a hunter instead of a stormtrooper

And as a hunter he’s super unreliable, he keeps disintegrating his targets, he just has no care at all for life beyond his own. And Vader, who is still Anakin Skywalker, is always there to remind him—“hold on to what you can because it’s all you’ve got—NO disintegrations”

What if Boba Fett is the one who goes after the children in the Jedi Temple, and Anakin stops him

The through line of Anakin’s story in the prequels is that he gets manipulated into doing something awful and then spends the rest of his life quietly and frustratedly trying to make up for it, while trapped in the influence of someone much more powerful

And Obi-Wan’s arc is one of trying desperately to get through to his best friend and finally realizing it’s too late and there’s nothing he can do. “The friend I knew is dead now,” he says during their final duel. “Darth Vader murdered him, along with the rest of the Jedi.”

Episode II is where the fall happens, and it happens fast and hard, it’s basically the failure of Anakin’s mentors to keep him safe and Palpatine abusing his trust, it is NOT a fun time for Anakin Skywalker but it happens too quickly for anyone to stop

Which means Episode I is all about Anakin joining the Jedi with Obi-Wan’s help, and they’re both adults, Anakin is struggling and Ben has what he thinks is the answer, and Anakin joins willingly. It’s cool and fun and just like you’d wish for yourself becoming a Jedi

And so Episode III starts with everything already fucked, and now there’s this Clone Thing happening and we see Captain Antilles shining as the ace pilot his son will eventually also be, we see Obi-Wan struggling to stop Anakin from murdering all the Jedi, but he fails

So the story of Episode III is “how the fuck do we stop the Emperor from becoming an immortal god king” and the answer is, as you might expect, to go blow up the space station where the clones are being made, so that the prequels get to end on a high note

But whereas Luke finishes Return of the Jedi knowing he helped bring peace to his father, Episode III leaves us with Obi-Wan and Anakin at eternal odds, wondering if they’ll ever see each other again, wondering if their friendship can be repaired

What about Vader’s kids? He doesn’t know about them. He has a brief, emotionally fraught relationship with Queen Organa of Alderaan, it’s messy, she tells him to get lost because she sees him falling under the Emperor’s influence and doesn’t know what to do

So part of Episode III is also Obi-Wan dealing with the queen’s struggle—not with worrying about Anakin, but about taking care of the twins she had to keep secret because she doesn’t want their father finding them.

I’m gonna retcon that a bit: she wasn’t a queen, she was…maybe another Jedi? But she splits the kids because she’s worried two will raise suspicion, and she sends one of them off to the remotest planet in the system—Tatooine.

The other kid she’s worried about, bc she has some health troubles, but the Queen of Alderaan offers to take her in and get her the best medical attention available.

This also gives her the freedom to—holy shit

Holy shit holy shit

Oh god I hate it

But why would you send your son to the farthest planet in the system

Alone

I mean sure you can send your friend Obi-Wan to look out for him from a distance

But

Oh my god I’m crying

It’s Beru

Beru, who always fosters Luke’s curiosity and tempers Owen’s harshness, who’s always there to remind Owen that “he has too much of his f-father in him.” She smiles a measured smile.

She carries no lightsaber. Because most Jedi don’t.

Which takes so many moments from the original trilogy and turns them into painful gut punches. Because Beru in the prequels isn’t a quiet domestic woman, she’s a smart and contemplative and powerfully kind Jedi.

Beru Skywalker (I’ll get to that in a sec just wait) is the sort of Jedi who can see past your eyes and into the heart of who you wish you could be, she’s devastating in battle because she understands how people fight

She doesn’t wield a lightsaber, but she does use blasters and other weapons. She disagrees with Obi-Wan’s tired “more civilized age” quips, a weapon is a weapon. She’s also a pilot, like Anakin. Which makes them both Skywalkers.

Skywalker is a name given to Jedi who can fly, who use their connection to the Force to guide their piloting without the need for guiding systems. A talented Skywalker can plot a hyperspace course on the fly, which is how Beru is able to escape—she doesn’t chart her course.

So when Vader hears about a “Luke Skywalker”, the name doesn’t register as being a familial one, at first, and no one else questions it either. Because there are lots of Skywalkers. Or there were.

In the prequels, Beru gets a theme that reminds us of both Luke and Leia, but mostly Luke, almost entirely Luke—because when he comes back home to see what the stormtroopers did to the Lars homestead, and we hear that song…

…we want the audience to contextualize it as Beru’s song first.

I don’t like that the only female character we keep from the original trilogy is one who dies in the first forty minutes of A New Hope, but it does put their mother into the action of the OT in a way that’s both reasonable and powerful—

And giving her a full and complete arc in the prequels might help make her a character worth remembering as more than just a footnote.

We could still have some badass Jedi hopping around, some excellent lightsaber duels, but those duels would feel more like tragic moments of conflict than epic or glorious battles to be re-enacted endlessly.

I think maybe Beru is the one who damages Anakin’s body, and I think maybe it’s a starfighter battle, like he chases her through an asteroid field, and she’s just a fucking better pilot than he is and she makes it out and he beefs it hard and has to be retrieved.

Which maybe he’s seeing it as a suicide run, but then the Emperor revives him against his will, reinforcing the idea that he’s trapped.

In all of this I want it to be super clear that the Emperor is not a complex being with deep thoughts and twisting agendas. He’s a snake, he’s vile, he’s the archetype of the kind of evil that Emperor Palpatine always has been, and the audience is in on it from the start.

So let’s talk about the Rebellion. Because they need to make their first appearance in the prequels or we don’t know what we’re talking about in Episode IV.

Because up until now we’ve been dealing with “the Jedi are a mostly good religious group that are being persecuted by an increasingly xenophobic Empire” but there’s also a whole galaxy of people experiencing that same pain.

So let’s first off bring in one of the last women from the Original Trilogy, and the only one left who could have been bopping around during the prequels. Mon Mothma.

Mon isn’t a Bothan, but she cares deeply about them, and that’s because when the rebellion was just starting out it was Bothans who recruited her to the cause. The Rebellion, the actual rebellion with an emblem and X-Wings and shit, was started by the Bothans.

That’s why when she says “many Bothans died to bring us this information” the whole command room goes silent. These people are really important.

Gonna go out on a couple limbs here, and establish some lore that probably contradicts what you might have read: Bothans can change their physical shape. This makes them good at disguises if they want to be, but most Bothans use this ability to express themselves. It’s cultural.

And when Mon Mothma first meets them, she marvels at their fluid natures. It’s an ability she wishes she had. Because she’s been exeriencing dysphoria her whole life and never knew why until just now.

It’s not that she wishes her body were male. It’s that she wishes she weren’t constrained to the expectations forced on her by a body that is always seen as feminine. She embeds herself deep in Bothan culture, adopts as much of it as she can.

So when the Rebellion is looking for people to recruit, they come to her for help, and she says yes. “I know a couple of Jedi who would be a great help,” she says. Because Mon is besties with Obi-Wan, Anakin, Boba Fett, and Beru.

When Anakin fell, Mon was already with the Bothans; she doesn’t know what happened until she comes back. “Where’s Anakin?” She says. “I brought him a souvenir.” She sees it on their faces, and…

Y’all.

Mon is young, the youngest of the group. And she’s been looking up to Anakin from the start, following him around. When Obi-Wan brings him to the Jedi, Mon Mothma is right there, wondering what all the fuss is about.

Because she knows Anakin is flawed, she’s seen him be upset before, and she doesn’t think the Jedi will be able to help him with that side of himself. And it turns out she’s right, and she’s devastated.

When they agree to join the Rebellion, they bring her intel about the Emperor’s clone ship. Right away she has a plan. (I don’t know what her plan is, it’s a Star War)

Because Mon’s way of coping with grief is to dive headfirst into her work, and right now her work is to equip the Rebellion for war. The Bothans have a lot of resources which means they have a lot of ships, though not nearly as many as they will later.

Mon’s plan works, and they destroy the clone ship. Big bada boom. Mon doesn’t celebrate. She’s already thinking about the next task. Who needs saving. What planets are in danger. Who might be able to help. She never stops working.

Pause for a moment to remember the Bothans.

There’s still a lot to unpack but one thing I’d like to address is Chewbacca not receiving a medal, because I think people make too big a deal out of that and I think we’re missing some important context.

This is gonna be short so bear with me: at some point we meet wookiees and it is explained to us, clearly and concisely, that wookiees don’t adorn themselves, and they don’t accept formal accolades for military action.

“We do what needs to be done because it needs to be done, not because a medal awaits us at the end.”

So when Leia gives everybody but Chewie a medal, she’s not ignoring his contributions, she’s honoring his cultural needs. That’s why nobody on that dais is fussed about it.

And I think maybe that’s everything I have to say about the prequels of my headcanon. If you’re Disney and you’d like me to help you remake these movies, my DMs are open; otherwise, I hope you enjoyed making this journey with me over the past 4 hours.

May the Force be with you.

PS - this reimagining doesn’t solve most of the problems that the original Star Wars trilogy had, and if you’re making this movie you want to be consulting with people who can help make the Wookiees and the Bothans not feel like yet more racist tropes.

PPS - “More machine than man now” I would love it if we could recontextualize this with a more deliberate framing, with conversations about Anakin following orders instead of listening to his instincts. Obi-Wan thinks of the Empire as a massive machine.

So when Anakin falls, and is talking about joining the Empire, Obi-Wan is telling him “not to become part of the machine that’s destroying the galaxy”

So that when Obi-Wan later tells Luke that Vader is “more machine than man now”, he’s explicitly speaking in metaphor.

Also important: Anakin is important to the Empire as Darth Vader, but Obi-Wan, Beru, Boba Fett, and Mon Mothma are relatively smaller players in the conflict. This helps to partially dispel the myth that bloodlines in the Star Wars universe are significant or important.

Leia remembers Obi-Wan because her adoptive mother, Queen Organa, made sure her daughter would know where to find her brother and her mom. Unfortunately, the Queen dies before Leia is old enough to be trusted with the truth. All she knows is that Obi-Wan was her mother’s friend.

And speaking of Queen Organa, I’d add her to the core cast, and make her coronation a capstone at the end of Episode II. That means that during Episode I and most of II, Padme Organa is a princess, trying to learn the rules and customs and expectations of her people.

She’s learning all this from data discs and holocrons (George Lucas at some point said that the Star Wars universe doesn’t use paper, and that seems like an important detail to retain here) while traveling and fighting alongside our other heroes.

Padme is cool. Like, really cool. She doesn’t talk much, her nose buried in research and quiet lessons, but when she speaks it’s clear that she’s been paying attention. She knows just what to say to focus the conversation. She has everything we know Leia is going to need.

Padme gives us a glimpse of Alderaani culture, and the significance of their generational monarchy. It’s a chance to show us what a non-conquering queendom might look like, and gives us just a bit of insight into why her adoptive father, Bale, is not a King.

And that’s also why although within the Rebellion she carries a rank of General, we never hear her called “General Leia”. She doesn’t want to be viewed as a military leader, because “Alderaan is peaceful”, not as a piece of propaganda but as cultural practice. As in, they have no military structure wherein a general would exist.

And Padme seeds that understanding, when the Rebellion wants to make her a Captain and she says “You can give me the duties and obligations of a captain, but I will never call myself a captain, because I will never accept war as a defined part of my internal self.”

And Padme isn’t rich. That’s not how Alderaan works. To be rich you have to exploit the riches of your planet and your people, and that’s–again, culturally–not how Alderaan works. This lets us in on the joke when Luke tells Han “she’s rich” to get him to help.

So what does it mean to be Queen of a planet but not drowning in wealth and power? I don’t know. It’s a hard thing to represent.

But Leia has never been “obvious royalty”, and I would love for her being a princess to be positive.