I think saving Anakin’s fall for post Episode 3 is a good idea, and is what I’m leaning towards in a rewrite. It’s also interesting to think of ending the trilogy on a high note, and would probably mean shifting the viewpoint backward in time. There’s still the issue of Anakin’s children which put some constraints on the timeline, but it may be solvable.
Doing some quick math, both Anakin and Obi-wan would be in their mid-60s by the time of ANH based on the ages of their actors, which means that they would be in their mid-40s during the birth of the twins.
Obi-wan claims that Vader was a young Jedi when he began hunting down and killing the Jedi, so he must have turned rather early in his life while also allowing for him to have become a good man before that. So how old is the average student before they become a Jedi? It must be that to become a Jedi takes more time than is implied by Luke’s training, significantly more in fact. It is also known that a Jedi begins their training before they are in their twenties, so the training may take two decades or more.
If Anakin began training in his 20s and became a Jedi by the time he was 30, that may still be quite young for a Jedi based on historical trends. This would also indicate that Luke underwent an unusually rapid course of training, and the derision he meets from Jabba and his entourage may be simply due to them understanding that a Jedi would have been old by necessity of lengthy training.
However, this means that since Anakin and Obi-wan were similar in age, Obi-wan would have been remarkably young to be a Jedi as well. Why was this? Well, the common factor here is Yoda, who significantly rushed Luke’s training by all accounts. Perhaps he also rushed Obi-wan’s training, and this is the original flaw that led to the destruction of the Jedi. Yoda may have been visited by a young man filled with a zeal to embark on a worthy crusade and fight in the Clone Wars. In fact, Obi-wan’s training may have mirrored Luke’s training where he realized that his friends were in danger and left the training unfinished, having promised that one day he would return to Dagobah to complete what he started. But in the meantime, he would train acolytes of his own to help him fight this war. Interestingly, there is evidence that Luke remembers Dagobah and Yoda seems to remember Luke, so perhaps Obi-wan did return to Dagobah to complete his training after taking Luke from his mother at the end of the Clone Wars. It fits!
Sorry for the stream of consciousness, but I seem to think best by writing.
Anyway, I’m getting the impression that Anakin and Obi-wan are peers and partners in the Force more than student and teacher, helping each other learn through a trial by fire and war. “I was a Jedi Knight, same as your father”, takes on more meaning now. There’s the tension between that statement and “When I left you I was but the learner, now I am the master”. Perhaps that is because Obi-wan was never officially made a Jedi Knight, merely claiming that he was and making Anakin a Jedi Knight after taking him through his incomplete course of training.
Or perhaps the term Jedi Knight is actually two separate distinctions. To become a Jedi is the more difficult, lengthy, and spiritual journey, and the knight appellation is similar to a Knighthood in the UK. Essentially, Yoda may be a Jedi but not a Knight since he is not in service to the Republic, and Obi-wan may be a Knight but not truly a Jedi since he may not have completed Yoda’s training, at least not before the time of the Empire.
To put all this in some order, here’s how I see a potential timeline:
Episode 1 sees Obi-wan, having returned from Yoda on Dagobah several years ago, fighting in the first Clone War at the age of 25. He claims that he is a Jedi and commands his own squadron. The Jedi are an obscure and fading image of the Republic’s former glory, with few knowing of how they were once peacekeepers in the galaxy. He recruits Anakin (also 25) and together they win the day, ending the first Clone War. At the end of the film Obi-wan is awarded a Knighthood by the Republic, and becomes the youngest Jedi Knight in the Republic’s history.
Episode 2 takes place 5 years later, at the outbreak of the second Clone War. This is a far fiercer conflict and looks to span the entire galaxy. Alderaan asks for help. Obi-wan again asks Anakin to fight, and vows to teach him the ways of the Jedi even if no other Jedi in the galaxy shall train him.
Episode 3 takes place another 5 years later, and they have a chance to end this galactic conflict. Obi-wan now has several students under his wing, and Anakin is rewarded by a Knighthood. The Republic has an unstoppable army and has brought peace to the universe, and the Jedi are ready to go out into the universe and become peacekeepers in it like they once were.
This leaves the story with our heroes at the age of 35, ten years before the birth of the twins. This also leaves a lot of the story to the imaginations of the audience, which is important in Star Wars.