One of the biggest critiques of the Prequel trilogy, and one that I’ve come to agree with more and more overtime, is that Anakin’s turn to the dark side wasn’t structured the best in the Prequels.
It’s too convoluted. George Lucas insisted on starting Anakin as a child, and it takes until the 3rd movie for him to be a Jedi Knight. Compare this to Luke’s arc, in which it takes place over the span of 4 years. We shouldn’t have an arc of Anakin growing up from a 10 year old boy to a 23 year old man, with his character changing radically off-screen each movie. It should be just about how he went from a good, selfless Jedi Knight to an evil Sith Lord. Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader. That’s absolutely 3 films worth of content.
My inspiration for my version will be two masterpiece with similar stories: Breaking Bad and The Godfather. Both Walter White and Michael Corleone have shared points that help make their turn feel gradual and organic (The Godfather Part I and II and Breaking Bad Spoilers ahead).
- Starting Point - Walter White is a good, yet meek, high school chemistry teacher and family man. Michael Corleone is a good man, an honest Italian-American who served in the military and keeps his mafia family at an arm’s length.
- The Catalyst - Big change in the protagonist’s life that makes them change course. Cancer Diagnosis for Walter, attempted murder of Vito for Michael.
- Desperate Decision - A choice the protagonist makes because they feel they have no other after the catalyst. Walter first deciding to cook meth to provide for his family. Michael choosing to save Vito at the hospital after he’s left unguarded, involving himself in the family business.
- First (reluctant) Dark Deed - Killing Krazy 8 for Walter, Killing Sollozzo and McClusky for Michael.
- Chance at Redemption - Walt leaves meth business out of guilt for killing Krazy 8, is offered Gretchen and Elliot’s money. Michael retreats to Sicily and marries Apollonia.
- Redemption Destroyed - Walt refuses the money out of pride, Apollonia killed (only difference is one is self-inflicted, the other is external).
- Full Commitment to the Dark Path - Protagonist regresses and starts on the dark path once again. Walt returns to meth business, Michael becomes the new Don. However, they’re still reluctant to do outright evil things, and has a lie they tell themselves (“I’m doing this for the family”, “In 5 years we’ll be legitimate”).
- Gradual Descent to Further Darkness - Protagonist gradually does worse and worse things over the course of the movies/series, justifying each one as they go along. Friends, family, and wife either don’t know or go along with the lie.
- Complete Monster - Protagonist has eventually done things that are completely unjustifiable and 100% selfish to the point where the audience and the people they love have turned against them. They are now completely the villains of the story. Walter poisoning Brock, killing Mike, and getting Hank killed, Michael killing Fredo.
Another thing they share in common is a backstory that gives context to their choices. Walter White’s past with Grey Matter and Gretchen counts as this, as does Michael Corleone, having served in the military (he has experience killing) and caring about his family. These things are either kept off-screen and alluded to or are in flashbacks. No flashbacks for Anakin though, as flashbacks go against the serial style that makes Star Wars feel like Star Wars.
The way the Prequels did it would be like if 1/3 of Breaking Bad was about Walter White’s past with Gretchen and working at Grey Matter and as a result his actual turn to being Heisenberg was condensed. It contributes to the arc but it’s the backstory. You don’t need to see it.
I think from here it’s pretty easy to come up with an arc for Anakin becoming Darth Vader.
Backstory: Anakin was once a slave. This was traumatic and makes Anakin naturally power hungry. He left his mother behind, the Jedi questioned him joining the order due to his natural repressing of his own feelings. Chancellor Palpatine encourages this by undoing the mental help the Jedi provide for Anakin, encouraging him to give into his dark impulses.
- Starting Point - Anakin is a kind, courageous, loyal Jedi Knight with a close friendship with his Master Obi-Wan. He’s somewhat hot-headed, impulsive, and reckless but this sometimes comes in handy and it compliments Obi-Wan’s personality traits in a way that make them work well together. He’s well-loved by his Jedi family.
- The Catalyst - Anakin receives visions of his mother and himself dying (in succession; he knows his mother is the first to die, then himself in a few years; he sees himself burning in a lava pit and assumes it’s a depiction of his death). He goes to Yoda for help, but he says that there’s nothing he can do and that death is a natural part of life that needs to be accepted.
- Desperate Decision - Anakin learns that the Sith’s ultimate goal has always been to cheat death. He (with the encouragement and help of Palpatine) gets access to ancient Sith holocrons behind the Council’s backs from the Jedi archives, breaking the rules (he has to be a Master, and he’s only a Knight). He learns that he must indulge into the dark side in order to achieve the power to cheat death. As such, he starts force choking his enemies more and generally using the dark side in combat/being more brutal. He gives into his anger and hatred. Anakin also abandons an important mission to find his mother (thus putting others in jeopardy for his own personal problems).
- First Dark Deed - Anakin murders the Tuskins in revenge for his mother’s death. Anakin also later murders Darth Maul in cold blood while unarmed. Technically two, but hey, I liked both and I couldn’t figure out which one to use.
- Chance at Redemption - Anakin feels guilt for his deeds and decides not to continue using the dark side. He ascends to the rank of Jedi Master after killing the first Sith Lord in 1000 years (nobody knows Maul was unarmed). Anakin also finds love in Padme.
- Redemption Destroyed - Anakin receives visions once again not only of himself dying, but of his wife eventually dying. Anakin cannot stand the thought of the thing that pulled him from darkness being taken from him.
- Full Commitment to the Dark Path - Anakin regresses back to the ancient Sith holocrons. He tells himself he’s doing it for Padme and that he won’t become a Sith. He’ll just use the dark side enough to gain the power to cheat death, and after that will go back to the light side. The truth is, he’s doing it for himself.
- Gradual Descent to Further Darkness - Anakin uses the dark side oftentimes on missions, becoming cold and ruthless to enemies and POWs and letting his rage consume him. He assassinates rival politicians to Palpatine by his command after being told they’re corrupt. Anakin starts accepting Sith ideology and supports Palpatine’s politics. Palpatine props up Anakin as a war hero constantly to the public, feeding his ego and further aligning Anakin with Palpatine. The Council notices some of Anakin’s behavior on the battlefield and he is demoted back to Jedi Knight. Anakin eventually kills Count Dooku the same way he killed Maul.
At some point, Anakin commits a crime and a fellow Jedi witnesses it. They tell him that they’ll tell the Council (this is a crime that would get him expelled), and to prevent it, he kills them.
Anakin isn’t just using the dark side to save Padme, he’s using the dark side because he loves it, and it makes him feel powerful. In other words, “I did it for me. I liked it”.
- Complete Monster - Anakin gets kicked from the Jedi Order after his secret marriage is exposed, and the Jedi catch onto his usage of Sith holocrons and the dark side. They ultimately believe his banishment is for his own good. He can live a happy life with his wife, and it prevents him access from the Sith teachings, thus possibly allowing for him to recover.
Palpatine tells Anakin that he’s the Sith Lord and that he cannot complete his dark side training without his help. As this is happening, the Jedi realize Palpatine is the Sith Lord and go to arrest him. Anakin kills the Jedi that went to arrest Palpatine. Anakin fully commits to being a Sith Lord and Palpatine’s apprentice. He is finally knighted Darth Vader. The rest of Revenge of the Sith commences as is.
I incorporated ideas from my Anakin/Vader and Morality thread.
I hope you guys like my idea and I’m interested to hear yours.
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