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Did Lucas forget that Obi Wan served Bail Organa in the Clone Wars ?

George Lucas may not have forgotten about Obi Wan serving Bail Organa… he probably just didn’t think that one throwaway line, written at a time when the Jedi backstory was hazy at best, fit with his evolving conception of the Jedi. In fact, that line about Bail Organa is a vestigial remnant of Lucas’s original conception of the Jedi.

That line actually helped form my conception of what the Jedi were like, before the Prequel films came out. But the Jedi turned out to be very different from how I imagined them. That line about serving Leia’s father (Bail Organa), along with Obi-Wan’s recollections to Luke, the use of the word “crusade”, and Kurosawa’s influence on Lucas, suggested to me a Jedi order that was more like some combination of Medieval Knights and Samurai, who served the nobility during the Old Republic. I imagined Obi Wan was in service to the royal family of Alderaan. But I certainly never imagined the Jedi were actually more like celibate Franciscan monks.

The scarce info we get about the Jedi in the OT suggested to me that the Prequel era was something closer to Knights of the Old Republic, with the “high fantasy” element cranked up a bit more than was evident in the militaristic OT era, and the Jedi Knights existing less as a monastic order and more like an elite class of warriors associated with the nobility.

It turns out my conception of the Jedi was very close to the way Lucas originally envisioned them - he imagined them as the personal bodyguards of the emperor, and as an elite group of warriors who were killed off by a rival warrior sect, the “Knights of Sith”. (This is how Lucas describes them in the 1974 draft.) Obviously, Lucas’ conception of the Jedi changed drastically over time. He ultimately made them less “Knights of the Round Table/Samurai” and more “celibate Franciscan monk” for some reason. But that line about Bail Organa is a vestigial remnant of Lucas’s original conception.

What do you think of The Prequel Trilogy? A general discussion.

theprequelsrule said:

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.

Yeah - and as a morality tale it’s a bit hollow because it’s so far removed from how these things play out in real life. Real life dictators aren’t far-seeing puppet masters that expertly pull off elaborate conspiracies to seize power. They just take advantage of existing weaknesses in the political system. Caesar marched his army into Rome because he gambled that after years of war, his legion would be more loyal to him than the Senate. Hitler took advantage of a politically divided and economically depressed Germany.

A more realistic scenario would have Palpatine taking advantage of never-ending war to slowly implement more and more “emergency powers” (similar to the Enabling Act that gave Hitler power), until he became de-facto dictator for life. This is sort of what happened, except in the actual movies Palpatine also artificially caused the war in the first place, and expertly directed it towards an intended outcome. (We’re also never told why General Grievous et al takes orders from a mysterious hologram, or why all the thousands of Separatist planets suddenly just stop fighting just because Anakin killed their first tier leadership.) Plus, the movie implies that it was more the botched assassination attempt led by Mace Windu that ultimately cemented Palpatine as dictator than the years of war or the recent attack on Coruscant.

What do you think of The Prequel Trilogy? A general discussion.

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.

Re-evaluating Revenge of the Sith

I saw the Prequels when they first came out, and was mostly disappointed (for the usual reasons). I haven’t really watched them too much in the intervening 15 years.

To my surprise, Revenge of the Sith seems to be considered a masterpiece nowadays. Anecdotally, it seems like at least 2 out of 3 modern Star Wars fans are likely to consider it amazing, ranking it close or equal to The Empire Strikes Back in quality. Many fans rank it higher than the OT. This is pretty strange to me, because my opinions about Star Wars movie quality generally have aligned with majority fan consensus, e.g. my ranking of the OT is ESB, ANH, ROTJ (with ANH and ROTJ possibly interchangeable). So I thought I must have missed something about Revenge of the Sith. My hazy memories of it basically made it seem like a partially unwatchable CGI fest with an unsatisfying fall for Anakin. But since I now strangely appear to be in the minority with this opinion, I decided to re-watch it just to see if I totally misjudged it.

So I re-watched it and found… it’s not exactly as terrible as I remember, but not exactly great in any sense. I like the opening scenes with Anakin and Obi-Wan in the space battle over Coruscant and inside the ship. I feel like the action and banter between them in this scene should have been what we saw in the first two Prequels. Still… parts of this sequence are a bit weird. Palpatine is tied up in an evil-looking chair that’s supposed to remind us of the Emperor’s throne in ROTJ, but there’s no plot reason for him to be tied up in that chair. He’s a prisoner in an enemy vessel (at least he’s pretending to be) so why is he not locked up in a cell or something? Whatever. Then Anakin beheads a defenseless Dooku, which seems to want to signify that Anakin crossed a line - but it didn’t really land for me because it doesn’t really play into his later downfall. Maybe it’s supposed to show us that Anakin sees the Jedi as hypocrites when Mace Windu wants to kill a defenseless Palpatine. Or maybe it’s just that it activated Anakin’s dark side and made killing defenseless people easier for him, but he already killed a tribe of defenseless Tuskens in the last movie so I don’t know.

Anyway, the opening space battle and scenes aboard Grievous’ ship were overall pretty decent - and probably the best sequence in the Prequels, even if they contain some strange or uneven moments.

But the whole middle part of the movie then reminded me why I didn’t like Revenge of the Sith originally. The movie rapidly degrades into a series of over-the-top CGI action sequences. At one point we actually see Obi-Wan riding a giant lizard while fighting a cyborg in a uni-cycle with sparkling energy sticks. I mean it’s just insane - the whole sequence comes off as visual noise to me - it’s pretty much the archetypal example of “CGI action scene that looks like a video game”. There’s also a meaningless battle on Kashyyk that has no connection to the rest of the movie.

I remember Anakin’s fall being very sudden, but it wasn’t quite as sudden as I remember. In fact, when Palpatine first reveals he’s a Sith lord, Anakin just turns him over to the Jedi council, and apparently even wants to kill him. It’s only after Anakin (inadvertently) helps Palpatine kill Mace Windu that Anakin decides to go full Sith. Still, it does seem pretty sudden, considering that Anakin was just involved in fun, swash-buckling action and light-hearted banter with Obi-Wan, and now he’s willing to murder Jedi children.

But I’m not sure if I think his turn to evil is necessarily too sudden. It’s more like Anakin’s fall is too… incoherent. I mean Anakin is just all over the place. He was already unstable and psychotic in Episode 2 (he slaughtered a whole tribe). But then the opening scene in Episode 3 depicts him as a heroic, well-adjusted person. But then he kills Dooku, but then he feels bad about it, and then he saves Obi-Wan’s life. It’s just really hard to get a reading on Anakin by the time he’s bowing down to Palpatine. But it’s difficult to buy he would be willing to kill Jedi children at this stage.

Anyway, the Order-66 scenes are pretty cool though. The ending lightsaber battle really SHOULD be amazing, but I just didn’t feel like Anakin/Obi-Wan spent enough time together as good friends for it to have a significant emotional impact. But it’s still sad when Ewan McGregor breaks down in tears.

Overall, it’s not as bad as I remember - but I really can’t understand how so many people consider this a masterpiece on par with the OT. I’m envious, because I always wanted an Anakin Skywalker movie that I could love. The story itself is so compelling, but I just can’t get past all the flaws in the actual implementation. Regardless, it’s fascinating to me that mainstream consensus about this movie has changed so much. I pretty clearly remember back in 2005 or so, my opinion about this movie pretty much aligned with the majority fan consensus. It’s really interesting how ROTS is nowadays considered one of the best Star Wars movies - and also very hard for me to understand or explain.

Crafting the Illusion of a Wider World

Stardust1138 said:

It really hurt things not having a time gap between the films. It really limited what could happen off screen and character motivations.

Yeah, agreed. It seems TLJ had to begin immediately after TFA, with no time gap, because TFA ended with a cliff-hanger that required an immediate follow-up in real-time. It would be tricky to write TLJ with a time-gap, because you really have to show what happened immediately after Rey arrived on Akto at the end of TFA.

Anyway, I recall the Sequel Trilogy did occasionally make references to offscreen places or entities. All the various gangs (Kanja club or something) that chase after Han at least imply a larger criminal underworld. But somehow it came off feeling somewhat shallow or empty, probably because, as you said, everything happens so fast.

Another issue that works against the Sequel Trilogy’s ability to convey a larger off-screen world is this constant use of “meta” humor or meta-storytelling, bordering on breaking the fourth wall. TLJ is especially guilty of this. Luke asks Rey what she thinks about the Force, and she says “isn’t it basically just lifting rocks?” I mean, sure it’s funny, but why would Rey ever say that? Did she watch Empire Strikes Back? The audience saw Luke lifting rocks in Empire Strikes Back, but why would Rey have that idea? There’s many other instances where this happens. Finn and Rey just happen to find the Millennium Falcon, which means a great deal to the audience, but means nothing to the characters. And Chewie finally gets a medal in Rise of Skywalker. All of these things are basically winking at the audience, saying “hey this is a Star Wars movie!”, which works against suspension of disbelief and fails to convey the illusion of a larger off-screen world.

Crafting the Illusion of a Wider World

Most OT fans would probably agree that the way the OT was filmed and told, particularly ANH and ESB, successfully conveyed the illusion that the camera was merely a window into a much wider, vibrant world, and that all sorts of interesting things were happening just off screen. Watching ANH for the first time, I distinctly remember hearing about places we never see, like Anchorhead or Tosche Station, and instantly imagining what those places were like, easily buying into the illusion that things were happening in parallel with the main action off screen. The same with Echo Base on Hoth - even though we only saw a few corridors, a medical clinic and some control rooms, the film successfully conveyed the mental illusion that just off screen members of the Rebel Alliance were running around doing their jobs. Places like Echo Base or Mos Eisley registered to my brain as believably REAL places that I could buy existing in three dimensional space - places I could imagine visiting. Despite the fact that the OT shows us only a small handful of (mostly Earth-like) planets, somehow the illusion of this vast Galaxy of endless interesting locations was successfully conveyed.

I’ve always wondered what combination of story ingredients and film-making techniques enabled the OT to so successfully convey this illusion. (Granted, this is highly subjective; perhaps not everyone feels this way.) But it’s particularly fascinating to me to consider why exactly the Sequel Trilogy somehow failed to produce a similar experience - at least for me (again, highly subjective.)

One interesting comparison is Empire Strikes Back versus The Last Jedi. These two movies have a broadly similar plot outline: Rebel base attacked, Imperials chase Rebels through space, protagonist learns from a wise elder, we visit a cosmopolitan Cloud City/Canto Bight. Both movies have the same number of locations, and the locations are vaguely similar to a certain extent: ESB has Hoth, Dagobah, Bespin; TLJ has Crait, Akto, Canto Bight. The space chase in both movies involves an enormous Super Star Destroyer chasing the Rebels (although the ESB version is certainly more eventful). Visually speaking and plot-wise, these movies have many broad similarities.

And yet for reasons I can’t quite explain, ESB conveyed the illusion that we were observing a small window into a larger world. Yet TLJ somehow completely failed to convey that same illusion to me. I never felt like Crait, for example, was a tangible, physical location, where interesting things were happening just off screen. In fact, I never really felt like anything at all was happening offscreen in the entire Star Wars Galaxy. The whole movie felt somehow small and empty, as if the Universe consisted only of the locations and characters the camera was focusing on at any given time.

I can’t really explain why I experience these two movies so differently. Is it something to do with CGI? The lived-in, realistic sets for Echo Base certainly conveyed a sense of tangibility and physicality that was strangely missing from Crait, for example. But TLJ used lots of practical sets and physical locations (like Akto) as well. Others have suggested it has something to do with the fact that the Sequel Trilogy provides very few details about the state of the Galaxy. But in ESB we really don’t know much about the state of the Galaxy either beyond the broadest of strokes. We know a fleet of Star Destroyers is chasing the rebels, just as in TLJ. Maybe it’s simply the fact that I saw ESB as a child, or perhaps it’s some combination of directing and writing techniques.

Again, this is all highly subjective and perhaps many people feel that TLJ does successfully convey the illusion of a much wider, fascinating universe. The best explanation I have for my own feelings about this is that something about the grounded, straightforward (sometimes almost documentary-like) style of the OT produces this highly realistic aura. Whatever combination of elements enabled this triumph of world building, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why the Sequels failed (at least for me) to successfully convey the same illusion of a larger world.

Any thoughts about this?

What do you think of the <strong>Sequel Trilogy</strong>? - a general discussion thread

Watching the Sequel Trilogy for the first time was a very unique experience for me, because it was the first time I saw a Star Wars movie in the theatre that left me feeling completely apathetic (particularly after TLJ). I mean, I’m certainly no fan of the Prequels, but I recall back in 1999 that I was at least extremely enthusiastic and hyped for Episodes 1, 2 and especially 3 as they were released in theatres.

It’s possible I’m just getting older and losing interest in Star Wars in general, but I find myself eager to catch the next Mandalorian episode whenever it comes out. But something about the Sequels left me feeling completely empty and apathetic.

There’s a lot of stuff I don’t like about the Sequels, but I think the biggest issue for me is that TFA was basically a soft reboot. It did not actually function as a proper sequel. There was no “New Republic” (or not one that mattered anyway) - just another Galactic Empire vs. Rebellion for some reason. (Yes, I understand the First Order started out as a Remnant state, and the Resistance was some sort of paramilitary, blah blah whatever, as explained in some stupid book I will never read.)

However, at the same time, there were many compelling elements in TFA: I loved the chemistry between Finn and Poe in the opening escape sequence, for example. I loved seeing a “day in the life” of Rey, similar to how we saw Luke’s daily life in ANH. Back in 2015, having ACTUAL chemistry between the main characters was a breath of fresh air, after 3 mostly lifeless Prequels. The idea of this new Dark-side order called the “Knights of Ren” sounded both awesome and original. These details made me really WANT to like TFA at first, so I made excuses for its obvious shortcomings. I figured the “Resistance” was just a temporary contrivance to give us a Rebels vs Empire story, just for Episode 7, since Disney wanted to play it safe at first and ease us back into the “old school” Star Wars aesthetic after the sterile Prequels. Starkiller Base blew up the New Republic capital, but I initially assumed the New Republic itself still existed as a major Galactic power that would play a large role in the upcoming films.

And then TLJ happened, and the first words in the opening crawl were “The First Order reigns”. That simple declaration pretty much squashed any possible hope I had left of caring about these movies. The Sequels were doubling down on the Rebellion vs. Empire schtick. And so it became pretty much impossible for me to care about a Trilogy that basically erases all the accomplishments and plot developments of the OT.

Then finally Rise of Skywalker came out. At this point I just didn’t care, and this was the first Star Wars movie I didn’t see in the theatre. (I saw all 3 OT Special Editions and all 3 Prequels in the theatre.) Eventually, I saw Rise of Skywalker on streaming, and discovered it was basically a Star Wars PARODY. (Somehow Palpatine returned, and now every Star Destroyer is a Death Star! Nothing matters anymore! Whatever! Check out that Ewok at the end!) They say JJ Abrams directed Rise of Skywalker, but it may as well have been Mel Brooks.

In retrospect, it really all goes back to TFA. Disney’s decision to create a “soft reboot”, rather than something that naturally builds upon the OT, set the entire Trilogy on a course towards oblivion. I can at least respect that TLJ seemingly TRIED to do something somewhat original, but given the premise it was just so difficult for me to actually care. So a new Empire struck back, and the Rebels are on the run again, and for some reason Luke is acting like a dick this time.

I just could never really get over this decision to essentially retell the OT storyline, instead of building on what came before. I mean, I didn’t expect something like a faithful adaptation of the Thrawn trilogy, but I at least thought we’d get a story about the New Republic and Luke’s new Jedi Order. But no… all of that was destroyed offscreen or whatever, and we’re back to ANH 2.0. It just makes it impossible for me to care about these sequels.