In retrospect, the biggest problem with the Prequels is they’re told in a way that often ignores their own premise. In theory, the most interesting thing about the Prequel story template should be Anakin and the circumstances behind Alec Guinness’ wistful recollections to Luke in ANH. This is a classic “good guy turns bad” story. The problem is that this type of story is very difficult to write convincingly. This type of story was done in the Godfather Part I and also Breaking Bad - but the latter had 6 seasons of television to pull it off, and the Godfather involved a much less extreme transition from good to bad than is required for Anakin, who has to go from Obi-Wan’s good friend to a mass murdering tyrant in only 3 movies.
This is just a REALLY hard story to write convincingly in only 3 movies. It requires a lot of upfront planning of story structure. Yet bizarrely, it seems that Lucas wasn’t even primarily interested in Anakin’s story and the obvious drama that could be mined from it. Instead he wrote Episode 1, which was a meandering side-story that introduced us to the world of the Prequels, but barely connected with the other movies. It seems clear that Lucas didn’t see the “Tragedy of Anakin Skywalker” as the primary reason for writing the Prequels. Rather, Lucas saw the Prequels as more like a general backstory to the OT that showed how the Republic turned into a dictatorship and the Jedi order was destroyed. That could certainly be interesting as a political/military drama if done correctly, but Star Wars movies are generally simple character driven stories. It seems by the time Revenge of the Sith came around, Lucas suddenly realized this saga was supposed to be more about Anakin and less about Palpatine’s crazy schemes to get elected or mysterious clone conspiracies. But by that time, it was virtually impossible to make up for lost time and write a compelling arc for Anakin in only one movie.
Most of all, it’s eternally baffling to me that so much of the Prequels are framed around MYSTERY plots. Episode 1 is about a mysterious hooded figure who operates in the shadows. Episode 2 is a detective story about a conspiracy involving a mysterious clone army created decades ago for unknown reasons. But none of these mysteries are ever really explicitly resolved because ultimately they’re superfluous to the story. More importantly, why would anyone frame a PREQUEL around mystery plots, when we all know how everything turns out? We know the mysterious hooded guy is the Emperor and that all the Jedi die, so why pretend the story is some kind of deep, compelling mystery or political conspiracy thriller? The only reason the Prequels really should exist is because the story of Anakin and his mentor/friend Obi-Wan had the potential to be an amazing character-driven drama and fantasy/sci-fi adventure story.
Very good points, ones I never thought of specifically before. A much better script for all 3 prequels is needed to tell both the fall on The Republic and the fall of Anakin Skywalker simultaneously.
I really thought the whole plot where Palpatine is basically running both the Separatists and The Republic really strained credibility. At least have the reveal that Dooku was a Sith take place in ROTS - make the audience think he is truly a rogue Jedi fighting against a hopelessly corrupt Republic and that The Separatists were actually the good guys.
Also; remember how evil Tarkin and company were in SW77 when they are all sitting around the conference table on the Death Star? Now remember the similar scene on Geonosis, with all those weird comical looking aliens? Creates a completely different feel. The Separatists seemed like a joke.