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what would happen if George Lucas had started with Episode 1?

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What would have happened if Lucas had made Phantom Menace in 1977 instead of A New Hope, using the actors and technology that was available at the time?  How would the series have been different?  Would there have been as big a fan following as there is now?  How would the series be different?

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How would it be different?  And how successful do you think that movie would be?

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ststriker said:

What would have happened if Lucas had made Phantom Menace in 1977 instead of A New Hope...?

As far as public interest and film history are concerned, it would have gone about like this;

Phantom has no story and no direction.  It's a test of marketing and software.

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In my mind, TPM'77 would have been more like a Star Trek/Twilight Zone short story type film.  This is basing that the political mechanations would be the draw of the film and the story would be a parable for the recently ended Nixon era.  The film wouldn't need Star Wars'77's special effects as the film would be more dialog driven.  The behind the scenes and in the halls of the Senate and a few planets/locations showing the effect of the Senate's choices on 'the people'.  Maybe play up a human world verse an alien one and how one dominates the other through political means.  All this relies on what 1999 George was interested in, not what 1977 George was into.  For that you can read the early SW scripts.

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It wouldn't be the phenomenon that ANH was (even beyond issues of quality) because a more ambiguous film about the decline of a great entity due to corruption and governmental problems was already being told much better in films of the Hollywood Renaissance and in the minds of many was occurring in real life at the time. Of the many reasons Star Wars became a phenomenon was because it was surprising escapist fare that didn't try and remind everyone how terrible the world was. 

Had TPM come out in the same tone, character focus, dialogue, and plot it would likely have been considered another schlocky science fiction movie, with no more resonance and impact than countless ones that came out in those days. In fact given the budget necessary more likely it would have been a bomb that seriously damaged 20th Century Fox and relegated Lucas back to small pictures for good. At best it'd be considered a curiosity with some interesting ideas (lightsaber, the force, interstellar planets) that ultimately didn't add up to much. 

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In such a world, assuming the only difference is the PT>OT reversal and that all the other game pieces - Lucas' personality at the time, the people he worked with, personal issues, etc. remained the same, we would have gotten a stellar PT (really OT) and a flashy-but-crappy OT (really SE).

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We'd all be Trekkies.

“Grow up. These are my Disney's movies, not yours.”

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I was a Trekker already. ;)

originaltrilogy.com Moderator

Where were you in '77?

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Not entirely sure what you're asking.  At the time, what George made was episode I.  There was no other story.  It was just... the story.

But if you're asking if he had happened to have come up with the plot for The Phantom Menace first instead of the plot for the original Star Wars, I really don't know.  It obviously would have been quite a bit different, as there simply would have been no way to accomplish a lot of the ideas.  Who knows what the Jar-Jar equivalent would have been.  Hell, it might have been better.  We might not have had to sit through that boring-ass pod race sequence.

I don't know.  It's an almost impossible question to answer.  I mean, like it or hate it, The Phantom Menace exists as it does because the original trilogy existed.  I mean, The Phantom Menace as it stands serves no other purpose than to tie back in to is predecessors.  Without that as a precedent, I don't see how he could have possibly come up with a story at all like it.

But for simplicity's sake, I'll just go ahead and extrapolate and say that, word for word, it ended up on the screen.  I honestly feel it wouldn't have been the huge hit the original Star Wars did, but, assuming the ILM breakthrough happened, I think it still would have been something of a phenomenon, and considered a groundbreaking pioneer in special effects at the very least.

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The very question is a sort of non-sequitor.  TPM couldn't possibly have been concieved by anyone, even George, in the absence of SW.  And if by some sort of wierd rift in the fabric of spacetime it had, surely it would never have been funded.

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I'm going to be controversial for once...

...and say not only could it have been possible (though not very probable) that a story like The Phantom Menace (it was largely constructed from first draft off-cuts) could have been made in 1975 but it might have been better and every bit as much of a hit as the film we got in 1977.

If he had the same team around him he would have had people like Marcia and Kurtz suggesting things like merging Qui-Gon and Kenobi into one character (which was mostly the case in the original draft anyway).

Jar-Jar would be either a rubber suit or a human character.

The pod race would have been difficult but not impossible to do with physical models.

Palpatine as a space Nixon and the 'oriental' trade federation would probably have been more topical back then than now.

With McQuarrie turning in designs I could see Alan Ladd Jr signing off on that story as much as the one we all know for the same reasons.

I'd also imagine the Maul character being as big a hit as Vader and carrying over through all three films (improving the whole of this alternate PT).

It might also have avoided the more obvious comparisons with Dune and made for a better Dune film somewhere down the line.

Remember a lot of people came to the original film because of the excitement and the spectacle.

The story and the characters provided the longevity that the series has enjoyed but the crowds were initially drawn in, in the same way people are drawn in by Michael Bay pictures.

Kids love fantasy.

The trick is entertaining the parents dragged along at the same time (which TPM circa 1999 failed to do in spades), TPM made with the Star Wars (1977) team may have been a very different beast.

ANH (1999) would probably have been a stinker though.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6Dp2OfIT_M

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Puggo - Jar Jar's Yoda said:


The very question is a sort of non-sequitor.  TPM couldn't possibly have been concieved by anyone, even George, in the absence of SW.  And if by some sort of wierd rift in the fabric of spacetime it had, surely it would never have been funded.


The many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics disagrees with you =P

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If GWL had made TPM in 1977, he probably would have done some pretty weird things, like have a main character.  A big part of what makes TPM so dramatically inert is that it plays the foreshadowing and destiny angle so aggressively, to the point where  throwaway moments like [Character A], meet [Character B] are supposed to be big and dramatic.  Like two people meeting and shaking hands are supposed to be the most important moments in the film.  

If he tried making TPM in 77, the script and story would have undergone far more revision before the camera recorded anything, because that's how he worked back then, and given that, I can see TPM being a great movie.  If he had made the PT back then, and then twenty years later, tried making the OT (which I guess would be called the ST in this case) with his rich/fat/control freak working methods, IV, V, and VI would be the clusterfucks.  Young, hungry, creative GWL could have made a masterpiece out of TPM, though it would be so different (and better) as to be unrecognizable.

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well we would be able to forget the ST as silverwheel as put it. it would also mean that the darth vader reveal would be more thought out too

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To indulge the fantasy a little further (assuming the outer storyline stayed the same),TPM would have been much more of a political allegory if made in 77, which would have made it more "timely," and probably not quite as successful.  Oh sure, if the ILM leap had occurred, and had TPM been crafted/scripted/edited with as much quality as the SW we know and love, it would have done smashingly, but in a more ordinary way.  What really put SW over the top in popularity was that it was a movie completely out-of-time, something that had much more in common with ancient morality plays like Beowulf than any contemporary political/social/whatever concerns.  This timelessness is such a big part of why people started showing up at screenings dressed like characters right away, and why it acquired such a reverential kind of following, way more than any other normal hit movie.   

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Sorry I haven't posted in a while on here.  I've had some problems logging in.  These are all very good answers and unique insight into what might have been.  Here is what I think would have happened if TPM had been made first:

 

Firstly, the character Darth Maul would have been extremely popular and would not have "died" in TPM (I use parentheses because Maul somehow survived being cut in half and resurfaced in the Clone Wars tv show).  In fact I believe Maul would have carried over into all three films, replacing Vader and the central villain.  There would never have been a General Grievious and there might not have been a Count Dooku. TPM might have focused more on Maul's back story, or at least spent a good 15 to 20 min. covering it.

 

There would probably not have been any battle droids, or if there were they would not look the same as they did in the 99 version because it would have been very hard (or costly) to pull off back then using the budget ANH had.  For similar reasons, I don't see Yoda being in the first movie as well as any aliens.  Instead of battle droids, I see something to the effect of aliens.  In fact the trilogy might have had a similar theme to the New Jedi Order series.

 

If the first movie had been successful enough to warrant a sequel (or sequels), here's how I see the sequels being different:

 

The character of Boba Fett would defiantly have had a stronger impact on the franchise and he would be more of a main character.  He might have even have sided alongside with the rebels, thereby making him into a hero.  It's possible that if TPM was made first, he and Han Solo would have merged into one character. 

 

Now for the most important change I see happening... the end of Revenge of the Sith would have HUGE backlash among Star Wars fans because up until this point Anakin has been the hero of the series.  I think that Anakin would have made an even more popular character than Luke was, because the audience would have had the opportunity to follow him literally from childhood to the point he became a Jedi.  If PM and AOTC were successful I could easily see Anakin shirts, lunchboxes and even cartoon series with his likeness.  Lucus would be under TREMENDOUS pressure not to have Anakin turn to the darkside and in fact we might have never gotten a Darth Vader in the series.  If we had, there is no doubt that the hate for the character would be unimaginable, perhaps even sinking into Jar Jar levels.  Fans would absolutely crap all over this decision and many would feel betrayed.  Not to mention ROTS was overall more darker in tone than any of the previous films, so there is a possibility that sponsors would have pulled out advertising for the movie (remember what happened with Batman Returns?)  This movie would either take the franchise to new heights or completely destroy it. 

 

Lastly, if the former is true and fans were just dying for more, this series defiantly would not take as long to make.  After Anakin turns to the darkside, fans would want to know what happens next and Lucus would be under tremendous pressure to make more of those movies.  I defiantly don't think they would have waited 16 years for episode 4, and in fact I think we might have had all 6 movies by 1990.  In fact if (and admittedly this is a very big if) the series became the phenomenon that it is today, it's entirely possible we would have seen the lost 7 8 and 9 that Lucas was talking about while in production of the original trilogy. 

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In my previous post I put I don't see any aliens in TPM, but what I meant is they wouldn't be CGI looking like they were in 99 and they wouldn't have much but brief cameo appearances like in ANH. 

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Actually, we already know pretty well what a 70s version of TPM would've been like... because Lucas wrote the script for it in 1974.

The first draft of ANH has a story structure that's basically TPM in embryo--two Jedi Knights have to sneak a princess off her home planet due to an invasion. It's very different in the details--the invading enemy is the Galactic Empire and the Jedi are hunted outlaws--but it would provide the nucleus of TPM when Lucas returned to it decades later.

The second draft of ANH featured a radical reworking of the story (changing from an escape movie to a rescue movie, as Lucas himself noted) and it was the second draft's plot structure (if not the character relationships) that survived into the final film.

Of course, this first draft has some absolutely terrible dialogue and a completely unbelievable love story... suggesting that, if this script had been filmed, it would've been rather like getting the prequels 20 years early. Fortunately for us, the Lucas of 1974 knew that it wasn't ready for prime time.

Incidentally, before he wrote the first draft, Lucas's notes show that he had a somewhat different idea in mind for his Journal of the Whills concept. In this version there were two major galactic powers, the Galactic Empire and the Alliance of Independent Systems, as well as various small non-aligned worlds--it was essentially a Galactic Cold War. The peaceful desert planet of Aquilae (later to become Naboo) was invaded by an evil "Border System," secretly aided by the Empire. Two Jedi, Mace Windy and his apprentice CJ Thorpe, would be dispatched by the Alliance to protect Luke Skywalker, heir to the throne of Aquilae. By the time Lucas actually wrote the first draft, of course, this whole political situation had been rewritten--and, influenced by The Hidden Fortress, Prince Luke became Princess Leia.

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