TL;DR towards the end of the post.
I’ve been stressed out lately and too busy to really type this out, but I finally got some time so I wanted to share some edit thoughts I’ve been having. So just consider this a rambling essay on…
“Saving the Reveal”
It seems like an age old question regarding some prequel edits is if the reveal of Anakin=Vader should be saved, since laypeople will assume they should watch these films in chronological order. Personally, I think the best way to deal with this problem is to tell people to just watch the films in release order. I like that ROTS explores Anakin’s fall, so I never felt it was a mistake to show it in the film. [Alternatively, I think watching ROTS in-between ESB and ROTJ as a sort of a flashback standalone film is also a simple way handle the issue. I think a ROTS edit that removes any references to TPM and AOTC, and keeps contradictions with the OT to a minimum would be a great project as well.] But, for curiosity’s sake, I wanted to brainstorm on ways the prequels can actually be changed to “Save the Reveal”, and see if there’s anything left of the film after all that cutting that would still make it worth watching.
Unfortunately, trying to save the reveal, but keep all three prequels relatively in-tact leaves you very little substance in ROTS, since that film is all about Anakin’s fall. I think many people who have taken the “Save the Reveal” approach have kept Anakin turning to the dark side, but removed him being called “Darth Vader”, and kept his survival ambiguous. While this does work, I think it still has it cons. Mainly, assuming the films are being viewed in chronological order, a layperson would still know Obi-Wan is lying to Luke, and that Luke’s father turned to the dark side. I kind of think this defeats the purpose of wanting to edit the prequels to save that reveal in ESB in the first place. Sure, maybe the audience might think Vader might say ”Obi-Wan killed your father”, like cast and crew, save for a select few, actually thought the twist was back when they made ESB, but I still don’t think the impact would be as hard-hitting as if the audience thought Anakin was actually killed by Darth Vader and Obi-Wan was telling the truth. Again, there are merits to this approach (keeping the bulk of the plot in-tact), but it has its drawbacks (audience still knows Obi-Wan is lying to Luke).
How to make this possible has been discussed ad nauseam on here, especially this thread in particular, but I wanted to take another stab at it just for the hell of it.
A lot of the ideas I’ve seen (and have had myself) have been rather ambitious, with a lot of hypothetical new shots or scenes that would need to be filmed. This idea tries to avoid any of that. I’m going to go over major changes in the three films that would be necessary to make it work.
The Phantom Menace
The biggest thing I think that would need to be changed in Episode I is to have Obi-Wan be a full-fledged Jedi Knight rather than Qui-Gon’s apprentice. Why? Because we want to set up that Maul was Obi-Wan’s first student that fell to the dark side. This would require some major changes to how the Jedi refer to Maul as a “mystery attacker”. Maybe Yoda or a Jedi offscreen can refer to the attacker as “your old Padawan” when speaking to Obi-Wan. Maybe they don’t know who he is until the duel at the end of the film. OS dialogue could be added where Maul calls Obi-Wan his old master (potentially taken from Sam Witwer’s Maul dialogue or have Maul redubbed. If you replaced Sidious’ hologram with Maul in some scenes, you could also add dialogue here where Maul could refer to Obi-Wan as his former master.) So Maul kills Obi-Wan’s friend/potential former master, they have their confrontation, and Obi-Wan knocks his former student down a pit in two pieces, presumably dead.
Does Obi seem a little young to have been a master? Maybe, but I don’t think it is a deal breaker, and I think it could be spun in an interesting way. Obi-Wan confronting his fallen apprentice, and then getting a second chance with Anakin. I would love to hear more ideas about how this could be work.
Attack of the Clones
I think there are a lot of changes that could be made even unrelated to reveal to decrease PT-OT contradictions, like the Skywalker-Lars relationship, but just for this approach I think there are only one or two key points. First, you could make changes throughout the film to make Anakin less creepy and #dark #edgy. Some darkness could be kept so Anakin=Vader makes sense in retrospect, but we don’t want it to be as blatant.
The most important, and radical, idea I have for this is the inclusion of one new scene. At the end of the film, you could insert a truncated version of Vader in the bacta tank from Rogue One. Maybe attached to the end of the “war has begun” scene with Sidious and Dooku, when they leave the hanger, a hooded figure (Sidious), and possibly Dooku, would enter this room. Sidious would look up at the tank and say something along the lines of, “they will be no match for you”, and just as the we start getting a glimpse of this mystery figure, we cut away to the next scene.
So now the viewer would end the film wondering who that person was. At this point, I would want them to think it is Maul, but it is never explicitly stated. I also know many people like the idea of having Dooku being a rogue Jedi rather than a Sith, but I think it would be important to keep that for reasons I’ll mention later.
Revenge of the Sith
So ROTS would start out mostly the same, with the climatic battle of Coruscant and the introduction of the cyborg, General Grievous. Was this the person we saw in the bacta tank?
After Dooku’s death, when Grievous reports to Sidious and Sidious mentions getting a new apprentice, it brings the audience back to wondering if the bacta tank figure actually was Maul.
I think Act 2 of the film could remain pretty in-tact. The last time we see Anakin in ROTS is either the Jedi hangar scene with Windu or the ruminations scene, but we don’t see him leave the Council chambers. The music in the scene where Anakin discovers Plapatine is a Sith could be used to make Anakin’s decision to turn Palpatine over to the Council more like this was his big character moment in the movie. I like the rumination scene, but I’m not sure if keeping it would be too much. I think Anakin still battling with his loyalties and the dark side is still important, but it should seem like Anakin made his decision and he seemingly died for it.
So when we get to the brief march on the Jedi Temple sequence, we will cut the closer up shot of Anakin, and the darken the robes and obscure the hooded face of the figure leading the troopers. I think more changes could be made to the make the figure more ambiguous as well, but this might be enough.
Order 66 happens, yada yada. The entirety of Mustafar would be cut from the film. Because the climatic battle is cut from the film, I would actually recommend keeping the Yoda vs Sidious duel and let that be treated as the big final battle of the film. I know saber-wielding Yoda and Sidious seem to contradict their portrayals in the OT, but I think this sacrifice could be made in order to preserve the reveal and not have the film feel totally incomplete.
My ideas are currently vague regarding how to deal with Obi-Wan and Padme in Act 3 of the film. You could still have Obi-Wan look at the security hologram, but cut it in a way so we can’t see what he is seeing. Obi-Wan asks Yoda to send him to kill the Emperor, but Yoda says he isn’t strong enough. He could end the scene saying, “The boy you trained, gone he is, destroyed by Darth Vader.” I think you would cut the scene of Obi-Wan going to see Padme, and when Yoda fails to defeat the Emperor, have everyone leave Coruscant together on the Tantive III/IV. Maybe you could splice some shots together of Padme and Obi-Wan looking miserable on the ship (taken from when they were sitting in the Padme’s ship in different scenes). At this point, the camera can be on Padme, and Obi-Wan can ask, “Anakin is [was] the father, isn’t he?”. Padme doesn’t answer, then cut back to Obi-Wan rubbing his face. Just an idea, and I’m not 100% solid how you could handle this part of the film.
Eventually they land on Polis Massa, Padme has the babies (or baby, if you are also trying to keep that secret). I think this issue highlights just how it is almost impossible to have satisfying prequels and also save all of these secrets. If you don’t show Padme having a second baby at all, and then it turns out Luke has a twin sister in ROTJ, you’d be like, “What? They never showed Padme having two babies?!”
Alternatively, you could show a second child being born, but they’re never named. You could include the scene of Padme surviving, like in Hal’s ROTS, but it would probably be smart to change music to something other than Leia’s theme.
Another change, while not necessary, that could be helpful, would be to recolor/redub C-3PO and R2-D2 in order to make them different droids. This would alleviate some continuity issues as well as allowing some dialogue to be created that the new protocol droid can say that could help clarify story changes that the edits make.
TL;DR: So for this idea, there are basically three major edits necessary for preserving the Vader twist:
- In TPM, make Maul Obi-Wan’s fallen apprentice.
- In AOTC, add a new scene of a mysterious figure in a bacta tank.
- In ROTS, cut all scenes of Anakin after he rats out Palpatine, except for the march on the Jedi Temple, where his character would be too obscured to identify.
This might be enough to create ambiguity surrounding who Darth Vader is. We are led to believe Maul survived, sacked the Jedi Temple and killed Anakin. In reality, Maul did die in TPM, the figure in the bacta tank was actually General Grievous, and it was Anakin who really betrayed the Jedi.
I know people in the past have suggested making Darth Vader a title that could be used by multiple characters. Maul could be called Darth Vader, then Anakin takes that title when he becomes his apprentice. You could demonstrate this tradition by having Sidious call Dooku “Darth Tyranus” in AOTC, and after his death in ROTS, Sidious could rename Grievous “Darth Tyranus” during their hologram conversation. Unfortunately you don’t really see how Anakin transforms from man to machine, but maybe this could be something we assume happens after hunting Jedi for two decades.
This was just something I had on my mind during a commute and I wanted to write it out. I personally don’t have a huge desire to see a set of prequels that saves the reveal, but I think it would be cool if fan edits could actually pull it off just to see how it would play out. Like I said, if you have a friend that doesn’t know “Anakin=Vader”, you’re better off just telling to them to watch it in release order. And as I also mentioned, I’ve never tried watching the films in “IV V III VI” order, but I think it has some potential, especially with some slight edits. Plus, it would be a lot less work than trying to pull off a “Save the Reveal” approach. But if anyone has any ideas regarding this saving the reveal approach, it would be interesting to hear them!