Sunday, July 13, 2008


I put on Star Wars today to 1) calm my son down and 2) distract myself. Then I watched Empire twice, because I love Star Wars/A New Hope so much, and Empire even more. So I got to thinking: what would I change about these movies? George Lucas seems to have thought that a few more digital animals, music sequences, and poorly executed additional expository scenes (that clarify nothing that need clarifying) make these movies perfect. But what if you were to rethink them in a much more serious way?

The best idea I came up with involves Han Solo. Harrison Ford famously argued with Lucas that Solo didn't need to return for the third movie: joining the Rebellion, winning Leia, and finally losing his life as a sacrifice for Luke completed his character arc.

And there's something to that. But I also think that Han's rescue from Jabba's palace is one of the best parts of the uneven (but still I think unfairly maligned) Return of the Jedi. So here's my solution: Luke, Leia, and co. still return to Tattoine to save Han, and the early scenes play out much the same as in Jedi. But instead of being rescued to play out the string (and Han really is a shadow of his former self in most of the rest of Jedi), he's killed, Von Ryan's Express-style, either during or just after the group's escape from Jabba's barge. If you really want to stoke the Star Wars fanboys, let Boba Fett kill him before he gets swallowed up.

Think of what that gets you in the story. The pit in your stomach from the end of Empire comes back with a vengeance. There's real jeopardy now -- no sense at all that the heroes can just fight their way out of whatever trouble they get into. Leia, filled with loss and anger, taps into a part of the force she's never felt before, startling Luke and Yoda. Now instead of convincing Leia that he can't run away from confronting Vader, he has to convince her that he can try to turn him back to the good side of the force, instead of destroying him, as Leia would wish. (Total parallel with Vader and the Emperor in Empire, where the Emperor wants to kill Luke, Vader wants to turn him.) Above all, the Emperor's threat to kill all of Luke's friends, and Vader's to turn Leia to the dark side, would both have real bite.

Anyways, that's the movie I would have made. Don't get me started on the prequels.


Brandon said...

You'll pretty much have to start from scratch with the prequels. I do like you're thoughts on Jedi and agree that it is unfairly maligned. The climactic light-saber duel is weighty and well choreographed.

Andrew said...

Empire is my favorite, but Jedi is the one that I find myself watching the most often.

In part it's because of John Williams' fully developed themes (the space combat theme from the beginning of The Battle of Endor I is one of my favorite bits of the score), and in part it's because of how satisfying the climax of the essential storyline is: Vader and Luke's duel on through the funeral pyre. Watching the flame and smoke rise around Vader's mask while the force theme plays gets me every time.

And going back to the quality of the choreography of the Jedi duel... this is part of the problem with the prequels: the fights are impressive, but the Luke Vader fight, with its frequent close ups and its concentration on character rather than athletics is way more bad ass.

That said, I did enjoy watching Obi Wan school Anakin in Episode III, in spite of the prequels' legion flaws.

Tim said...

First change to the prequels: condense the action and cast everybody older. In each of the prequels, Anakin should be roughly the same age as Luke in each of the original trilogy: maybe older, but NOT younger. Kenneth Branagh as Obi-Wan was a much better idea than Ewen McGregor.