The Hunt for Film

Cooper’s STAR WARS Saga

Saturday, July 23, 2022

By: COOPER HUNT

George Lucas’ Star Wars from 1977 is my personal favorite film of all time, and the franchise that it began has been an integral part of the way I look at and enjoy art and media for my entire life. In preparation for the Obi-Wan Kenobi series finale, I’m writing this piece to explore how, while the overall effect of the Star Wars saga has been overwhelmingly positive, it’s a franchise made perfect through its imperfections. The Star Wars fandom is perhaps the most passionate and rabid group of fans on the planet with the only universally accepted truth among them being that “the first two are good” and everything else is up for debate or could get you shot at any given cantina.

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George Lucas’ Star Wars from 1977 is my personal favorite film of all time, and the franchise that it began has been an integral part of the way I look at and enjoy art and media for my entire life. In preparation for the Obi-Wan Kenobi series finale, I’m writing this piece to explore how, while the overall effect of the Star Wars saga has been overwhelmingly positive, it’s a franchise made perfect through its imperfections. The Star Wars fandom is perhaps the most passionate and rabid group of fans on the planet with the only universally accepted truth among them being that “the first two are good” and everything else is up for debate or could get you shot at any given cantina.


In this piece, I will be providing my own small creative contributions through the benefit of hindsight to say how I would retroactively change some of the films in this series to increase the overall quality of the whole. In other words, I’ll be rewriting the Star Wars saga from Episode I to Episode IX with inclusions from the multiple spinoff movies, animated and live action series, books, video games, etc. My goal is to form a general outline of nine movies that tell a coherent story, paying homage to all kinds of Star Wars art and media, and fulfilling the thematic and narrative ideas first established by Lucas himself in the original trilogy. Some changes will be based on quotes and opinions that Lucas has given, some will be to include conceptual ideas from scrapped movies like Lucas’ sequel plans or Colin Trevorrow’s original Episode IX script, some will be to further legitimize Genndy Tartakovsky’s and Dave Filoni’s masterful animated works, and some will be solely based on personal preference regarding things I liked/disliked.

 

GEORGE’S ORIGINAL TRILOGY
The holy trinity. The first two are quite literally flawless where as there is an abundance of nitpicks that can be found in the threequel (overextended prologue, poorly paced middle, creepy sibling twist, etc), but for the sake of simplicity, we’re going to treat the original trilogy as the perfect, unaltered standard by which the rest of my hypothetical saga will branch from. If I were to erase the Skywalker sibling plot line and fix all the issues with Jabba’s palace and the Ewok village, that degree of microscopic scrutiny would kill me once we reach the fine tuning of the prequels and the hot mess of the sequels and this piece would be turned into a full-length book. So even though I don’t think Return of the Jedi is a perfect film, we shall treat it as such for the sake of time and clarity when making judgments on what needs to be changed elsewhere.

GEORGE’S (& GENNDY’S & DAVE’S) PREQUELS VS. COOPER’S PREQUELS
The much-maligned trilogy of political turmoil and compromised characters has finally begun to find its audience and receive its due respect with the 90’s/00’s generation coming into adulthood and advocating for the trilogy of their childhood. As one of those kids who thought the lightsaber battles were really cool, I find myself as a member of the camp who never thought these movies were so awful and actually have quite a lot to offer… but yes, they’re still a very problematic mixed bag with no shortage of bad ideas and even worse execution. These movies have benefited so much from having the works of Tartakovsky and especially Filoni compliment and bolster them by association with Filoni’s The Clone Wars almost singlehandedly salvaging Anakin Skywalker’s entire character arc and deepening the emotional and thematic through-line that Lucas was trying to present across the trilogy. The fact of the matter is that many Original Trilogy fans who hated these movies did so because Lucas was interested in telling a story about corruption of governmental power and hubris/hypocrisy in religion instead of a swashbuckling, light/dark or good/evil tale of noble Jedi vanquishing evil Imperials. The story of the structural failure of the Republic and the moral shortcomings of the Jedi is an intriguing and worthwhile one, but it isn’t what people expected and it wasn’t told in a way that made it easy to understand or enjoy.


Here are some of the main problems that I will attempt to fix:


Anakin Skywalker as a small child doesn’t work. Jake Lloyd wasn’t a bad child actor and what happened to him was unacceptable, but he shouldn’t have been cast in the first place because the audience needs time to bond with an older Anakin over the course of three films to fully empathize with his internal struggle, buy into his romantic and friendly relationships, and truly like him as a person and be invested in his tragic suffering.


The plots of The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones are intrinsically tied and should be one movie: the first movie is about how Palpatine manipulates events and rises to power, the second is about how he manipulates events and rises to greater power, starting a war with his own armies. That should be one movie.


Darth Maul, the coolest villain in Star Wars history, is killed off in one movie and replaced by a much less cool villain who shows up for half of the second movie and dies as soon as the third starts. This second, less cool villain is replaced by yet another cool villain who is also only around for half of a movie before being killed off as well. Too many villains.


The entirety of the legendary Clone Wars that audiences have heard about since 1977, including Obi-Wan and Anakin’s defining friendship, happens off screen in between movies.


Even though the goal is to show they are part of a failing system, the Jedi often appear to be incompetent and clueless fools instead of tragically misguided or myopic peacekeepers.


Padmè is given a progressively less active role in each movie, going from teenage planet-saving queen to senatorial political activist to barefoot-and-pregnant, and she dies before her children start to grow up which ruins the continuity guidelines established in Return of the Jedi when Leia says she remembers her mother’s face before she died.


Yoda is a fugitive at large when the prequels end but neither Vader or the Emperor mention him in the original trilogy, meaning the Sith and the entire Empire simply forgot about the Grand Master of the Jedi Council after Order 66.


Anakin turns from a Jedi Knight and council member to mass-murdering child killer in only fifteen minutes of screen time. His reason for turning to the Dark Side is also unclear: is it that he is power hungry and wants to rule the galaxy more justly than the Jedi/Republic or is it because he wants to learn how to save Padmè’s life… or is it both? Because if it’s only due to wanting to save Padmè from dying, why does he continue to dutifully work for the Emperor for over twenty years once he finds out Padmè is already dead?


Tartakovsky’s 2D Clone Wars micro-series and Filoni’s seven seasons of The Clone Wars succeeded at improving the characters and stories of Lucas’ prequels with more exciting action sequences throughout, more dynamic and memorable visual designs, less awkward tension and cringeworthy moments in Anakin’s personal relationships, less gross negligence or abuse and more genuine confusion and overwhelmingness among Yoda and the Jedi, more consistently developed and emphasized antagonists like Darth Maul and Ventress, more fun and adventurous scoundrel-like side characters such as Hondo Ohnaka, and a slower intentional examination of the faulty systems of the Jedi and the Republic that will lead to their inevitable, necessary downfalls.


So how would I fix them? Let the first movie keep its title:

EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE
What made the first Star Wars so enjoyable was that it’s a group adventure: every scene follows either our band of heroes or the evil Darth Vader. It’s tightly paced, sharply focused, narratively direct, filled with action and an immediate hook from the opening scene. Since it’s introducing an entirely new set of characters besides Obi-Wan, Anakin, and the droids from the Original Trilogy, this movie needs that same narrative & technical efficiency.


Instead of the Rebellion having just won a victory and being pursued by the Empire, the inciting incident of this film will be the Republic’s Chancellor Palpatine fleeing the capital as Separatists have begun to invade after a period of galactic turmoil. His ship is captured (a la Princess Leia), but he is saved by two Jedi Knights, Masters Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Qui-Gon and Obi are contemporaries and equals here, both trained by Master Yoda, more of a glimpse of how Obi-Wan and Anakin’s relationship will turn out.


Separatist assassins (action figure-esque bounty hunters and rogues akin to Boba Fett in the Original Trilogy) pursue the Jedi and Chancellor, damaging their ship and forcing them to seek refuge on Tatooine where they meet the talented young man named Anakin Skywalker who forms a friendship with Obi-Wan, a student/mentor relationship with both Qui-Gon and the Chancellor, and quickly develops feelings for the Chancellor’s aide, Padmè Amidala.


Instead of the young Luke, the scoundrel Han, the spitfire Leia, the wisened Ben, the loyal Chewie, and the droids, our main group for this adventure is now the young Anakin, the big brother Obi-Wan, the confident Padmè, the mature Qui-Gon, the charming Chancellor, and the same droids (Lucas always said he wanted them to be the only two characters present for the entire saga). Other familiar faces that appear throughout will be Anakin’s childhood friend Owen Lars on Tatooine, the Chancellor’s second-in-command Tarkin in the capital, and Masters Yoda, Dooku, and Windu at the Jedi Temple.


Anakin helps the Jedi repair their ship by winning the pod race, an important sequence that demonstrates his natural abilities with the Force, his control and self-discipline, and his inherent desire to help others. It also does him a favor in impressing Padmè.


The villain that we follow for the film is the intimidating Darth Maul who has been tasked by his mysterious master with tracking down the Chancellor in order to ensure that war begins as well as killing the one called Skywalker. At the end of the film, he kills Qui-Gon and is subsequently defeated by both Obi-Wan and Anakin, though not killed as he will be the main antagonist for this trilogy. His defeat causes his Sith master’s interest in Skywalker to increase and becomes the foundation for Anakin and Obi-Wan’s friendship going forward.


Qui-Gon and Palpatine’s opposing teachings as well as Anakin’s own life experience growing up as a rebellious, powerful boy in the Outer Rim will stoke the fires of confusion and conflict within him, causing him to develop both admiration and criticism for the Jedi Order and the Republic which will encourage his desire to improve upon both of those systems in the future.


In the climactic battle, while the Jedi defend Palpatine from Darth Maul in the capital, a mysterious clone army arrives to defend the planet from the invading Separatist armies. The Jedi Knights and clones repel the Separatists, forging an alliance to defend the Republic as war is officially declared. Obi-Wan takes Anakin as his apprentice, introducing him to Qui-Gon’s former apprentice, a young woman named Ahsoka Tano. Anakin and Padmè fall in love as he begins his Jedi training and prepares to join Obi-Wan, Ahsoka, and the Jedi in fighting the Clone War.


You will notice this proposed prequel pitch lacks any trace of Gungans or Jar Jar Binks, no small children, a more straightforward rescue mission/invasion story, less bickering senators and Jedi, no trade disputes, and a lot more of both Anakin and Darth Maul. They will be mirror images of one another in this trilogy: a young noble Jedi who becomes twisted into a murderous cyborg warrior fighting for a dictatorial regime, and a devoted Sith warrior whose master abandons him and whose goals become more personal and aware of the true scheme behind the Clone War, understanding the nature of the Jedi and Sith better than anyone.

Now for the middle chapter, whose titled will be changed to…

EPISODE II: THE CLONE WAR

This entire movie is an epic, romantic war story, the sprawling chronicles of Anakin’s rise to and fall from greatness including his love with Padmè, his brotherhood with Obi-Wan, his friendship with Ahsoka, his rivalry with Maul, and his tutelage from Palpatine. Much like the franchise metric for second parts, The Empire Strikes Back, this film would find our heroes gathered then separated on different journeys that will challenge them all spiritually and lead to important shifts in the status quo.


Three years of war have passed, Anakin and Padmè are openly married, and his relationships are much more developed and familiar, for better or worse.


The film opens with a grand battle sequence with Anakin, Obi-Wan, Ahsoka, and all our Jedi characters (with the exception of Yoda) leading the clone army in the titular war against the Separatist army. General Grievous may appear for this opening fight scene but will be defeated by Anakin as a demonstration of his growing power. However, the Jedi and clones are sabotaged and betrayed, forced to retreat as a clone trooper turns on his own Jedi General. Obi-Wan is sent by the Jedi Council to investigate the origins of the clone army on Mandalore due to his relationship with the Duchess Satine.


Ahsoka is framed for the battlefield sabotage and arrested by the Jedi, so Anakin, Padmè, and Ahsoka’s loyal clone troopers led by Captain Rex set out to prove her innocence as the true saboteur, the Jedi turncoat Dooku, eludes detection.


Obi-Wan and Satine’s relationship is rekindled as they uncover the plot behind the clone army, that Dooku ordered their creation at the behest of the Chancellor and that the clones contain an inhibitor chip which allows them to be controlled and stripped of their free will. The clone who turned on his Jedi General did so because his chip malfunctioned.


Anakin, Padmè, and the clones’ search leads them to Ahsoka’s home world of Ryloth which has become besieged by the Separatists, leading Anakin and fellow Jedi Master Windu to lead a military campaign to “free” the planet via Republic intervention and occupation. On Ryloth, Anakin is reminded of the shortcomings of the Republic as a government and of the Jedi as a religion by Windu’s hubris, as well as discovering Doooku as the sabotaging traitor.


The rebuilt and rageful Darth Maul invades Mandalore to cut off the clone facilities, besting Obi-Wan and murdering Satine to secure his vengeance, and Dooku seeks refuge on Mandalore until Anakin, Padmè, and the clones arrive. When seeing what has been done to Obi-Wan, Satine, and all of Mandalore, Anakin gives into his darker inclinations, mercilessly executing Dooku before leaving with the liberated Obi-Wan.


Back home, Padmè informs Anakin that she has become pregnant with a baby boy and asks for him to step back from the War, a request he is hesitant to accept. Chancellor Palpatine tells Anakin how impressed he has been with his leadership in the Clone War and offers him a new position as General of the Grand Army of the Republic, “new and improved” now that Obi-Wan has outed the inhibitor chip plot. Anakin declines the offer though it is tempting, sure that his place is with his family among the Jedi.


The Jedi absolve and release Ahsoka to be reinstated as a Jedi yet they all admonish Anakin for his actions in killing Dooku and strip him of his title as a Knight, causing him to lose all remaining faith and leave the Jedi Order on his own. This gives us the proper, dire “what next?” ending for our middle chapter with one of our heroes abandoning the rest while one of them lost the love of his life and the other was imprisoned by her own religious organization, shaking all of their spiritual and emotional cores and shifting the status quo for the third film.

 

This rough outline works to incorporate some of the more popular storylines and characters from both Tartakovsky’s and Filoni’s Clone Wars series, namely increasing the role of the clones as fleshed out characters, the doomed love of Kenobi and Satine, Maul’s occupation of Mandalore, and Anakin’s betrayed trust in the Jedi during Ahsoka’s trials. This story attempts to put the “wars” back in Star Wars with epic battles and emotional duels that demonstrate the noble heroism and good intentions of Anakin Skywalker but also the flaws that will lead to his tragic downfall.

 

And for the third and final prequel…

EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH

Easily the best of Lucas’ prequel trilogy, much of this will remain the same as the actual movie but with re-contextualized moments and elements from The Clone Wars included.


Another three years has passed and the Clone War is ongoing. Anakin is now the General of the Grand Army of the Republic, working alongside his old Jedi friends but no longer one of them, fighting with Obi-Wan and Ahsoka to reclaim Mandalore from Darth Maul in an opening battle sequence reminiscent of the opening Battle of Coruscant from Lucas’ Episode III. Anakin receives word that Padmè has fallen ill, so he leaves to help her and is relieved of duty by Master Windu whom he still sees as an example of what is wrong with the Jedi Order.


Padmè and Anakin have separated due to her need to raise their son (and daughter whose existence is unknown to him) and his unrelenting devotion to fighting the War. In the last year, Padmè has begun to meet with Separatist leaders in hopes of forming a peace treaty or terms of surrender as the bloodshed goes on ceaselessly and more clone troopers are created. This is the reincorporation of a deleted plot line from Lucas’ Episode III where Padmè is instrumental in the formation of the Rebel Alliance, and this naturally stirs the distrust and disturbance within Anakin.


Obi-Wan, Ahsoka, and Windu continue the siege of Mandalore with the clone army, finally breaching the capital and getting closer to the elusive Maul. Meanwhile, Anakin is counseled by Chancellor Palpatine who dispatches him to eliminate the final Separatist leader stronghold as he announces that “the Republic will be reorganized into the first Galactic Empire”. Master Yoda contacts Windu and sends him along with other Jedi Masters to arrest Palpatine as he has violated the sanctity of their government and betrayed the Jedi’s trust.


Maul is finally revealed to Obi-Wan and Ahsoka, having gone mad with power over the planet and fearing the fulfillment of the Sith Lord’s plans as he knows he is to be replaced with a new Sith apprentice and that the Jedi have been blindly culpable in their own failure. The two Jedi duel with Maul, implementing the climactic duel sequence from Filoni’s The Clone Wars albeit with the inclusion of Obi-Wan to even the odds against the deranged Maul.


The Palpatine arrest scene unfolds similarly to its Episode III counterpart though more dramatically satisfying with the Jedi slowly being killed by the Sith Lord until it’s just him and Windu. Anakin returns and witnesses Windu’s attack as well as the slain Jedi Masters, finally making his decision to embrace the Dark Side by killing Windu and saving Palpatine. This concludes the Skywalker/Windu rivalry with Anakin executing the man he views as symbolic of what is wrong with the Jedi and the galaxy as a whole. It is important to note that Anakin has long suspected the Emperor’s true nature and intentions, yet he sees his mentor as means to an end of saving the galaxy and bringing peaceful order for all (reinforcing the Sith mentality of using one another and viewing each other as expendable assets, not loyal or trustworthy allies).


Yoda himself arrives and reluctantly takes up arms to fight his fallen friend Anakin and his phantom nemesis Palpatine. This is the only time Yoda uses a lightsaber in the saga, only as a desperate last resort, in order to preserve the spiritual and peaceable integrity of his character from the Original Trilogy. Yoda is able to outmatch and critically subdue Anakin but is finally bested by Palpatine, being hurled out of the tower window and vanishing to his presumed death Windu-style which is why the Sith never mention him in the Original Trilogy. It also makes his initial reveal in The Empire Strikes Back a more exciting and unexpected surprise for first time viewers who watch the films chronologically.


Anakin is healed and repaired from his injuries with a new mechanical suit and granted the title of Darth Vader by the Emperor who sends him to wipe out the remaining Jedi as the clone army finally executes Order 66. The Great Jedi Purge happens very similarly to the way it does in Episode III, though the massacre of the younglings is not as direct but instead a countermeasure once the young Jedi begin fighting back after their Masters have fallen. This is to preserve some slight degree of empathy for Vader as he doesn’t voluntarily opt for child murder but sees it as the unfortunate necessity to end the Jedi Order’s cycle of hypocrisy and failure. Perhaps there is even an implication that his twisted mind sees it as “mercy killing” to prevent these younglings from being betrayed by the Jedi just like he was.


In the duel on Mandalore, the three combatants all feel this colossal disturbance in the Force, so Ahsoka flees to find and save Anakin while Kenobi faces Maul alone. On her way to their ship, unaware of Order 66, Ahsoka approaches Captain Rex for help before realizing the terrible truth. She desperately fights to defend herself against her friends-turned-enemies, but she becomes overwhelmed and her fate is left ambiguous to the audience. As Maul taunts Kenobi over Satine’s death and raves about his Master’s plan coming to fruition, Obi-Wan briefly slips toward the Dark Side and gives into vengeance, cutting Maul in half and sending him falling off the top of the Mandalorian capital. Ashamed and regretful over his actions and unable to find Ahsoka, Obi-Wan mournfully reaches out to Padmè as the only remaining friend whose location is still known to him.


After purging the Jedi Temple, Vader is sent by the Emperor to establish a new temple for the Sith on their home world of Mustafar. Hearing of the army’s attack on the Temple, Obi-Wan and Padmè search for Anakin there only to learn the truth and witness the results of his Imperial campaign. Eager to reunite with his family in the dawn of this new galactic order, the fulfillment of everything he’s fought for, Vader reaches out to Padmè and asks her to join him on Mustafar. She leaves the twins in the care of C-3PO and R2-D2, agreeing to take Obi-wan with her so they can either save or stop Anakin once and for all.


The finale unfolds similarly to Lucas’ Episode III, though Padmè is given a more active role and emotional stake in the plot. As a show of trust, Vader hands her his old Jedi lightsaber but knowing that the man she loved is gone and that Vader must be stopped before it’s too late, she tries to use it to kill him. Betrayed by the last person he loved and fought for, Vader tearfully takes Padmè’s life, and Obi-Wan is too late to stop him. Wielding both his old Jedi lightsaber and his new red-bladed Sith weapon, the mechanical suited Vader battles his old friend Kenobi across the volcanic planet. Anakin’s Jedi lightsaber is treated as a symbol of the last hope for saving the galaxy’s future, gripped tightly in Vader’s grasp but finally taken away by Obi-Wan’s hand, securing the promise for the Light Side to revive and the Jedi to return. Vader is beaten and left horribly scarred and injured from their duel and from the volcanic lava, and Obi-Wan laments his lostness as he takes his Jedi lightsaber and leaves his old friend behind to die.


Following the funeral for Padmè, the twin children are separated to protect them from the Emperor with young Leia being taken to Alderaan with C-3PO and R2-D2 while Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi takes young Luke to Owen Lars on Tatooine since Anakin Skywalker is thought to be dead and no one would make the connection from him to his home world he so desperately wanted to escape from. Obi-Wan takes his and Anakin’s lightsabers and vanishes into the desert while Vader’s life is once again saved by the Emperor’s machinations. His transformation into the Darth Vader of the Original Trilogy is complete with his full suit and masked helmet: his Master Qui-Gon died in front of him, Master Windu failed to uphold the Jedi name and was killed for it, Master Yoda is presumed dead, his friend Ahsoka was lost in Order 66, his rival Maul was (supposedly) killed by his best friend Obi-Wan who betrayed him and is now gone, his wife Padmè left him and tried to kill him, and his child(ren) was kept from him and hidden away. Vader won the War and brought order to the galaxy, but he lost everything he loved along the way.

 

This version of Revenge of the Sith follows the same outline as Lucas’ film, except the plot beats are slightly altered in context to make the emotional moments feel more earned and developed. Order 66 is more impactful because we’ve spent time with Captain Rex and the clones as actual characters, as well as the other Jedi Knights who are killed; Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side is more gradual and understandable as he is isolated by his friends and family, leaving him with only his mission for peace and order as his sole purpose; the transformation from Skywalker to Vader occurs across the film so the audience has time to watch Anakin become “more machine now than man” and see him fight in the iconic suit; the deaths of the Jedi Masters, younglings, and Padmè are all more emotional and narratively satisfying because Anakin doesn’t want to but feels compelled by duty and by his lonesome feeling of betrayal, very reminiscent of the more conflicted and dejected Vader that we see in Return of the Jedi; Obi-Wan’s refusal to execute Anakin on Mustafar feels character-driven and not just a silly oversight because he learns to overcome the darker violent urges that led him to mutilate Maul, thus growing and exemplifying the change from human nature and what it means to be a truly good Jedi. Also, the plot hole of the twins remembering their mother but not knowing each other or their father is now fixed, as is the plot hole revolving around Yoda’s survival. Maul and Ahsoka are also both utilized well in the narrative and preserved for further, future use just as George Lucas intended for them to be.

DISNEY’S SEQUELS VS COOPER’S SEQUELS

“Here’s where the fun begins.”

Ever since pre-production on The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas had famously said he had a nine-movie saga planned out, but once his marriage fell apart and production grew more difficult, he compiled his original plans for Episodes VII-IX into what became Return of the Jedi, including the reveal of Luke’s sister and his defeat of the Emperor. With finishing that story, Lucas said the saga was complete, that it was the tragedy of Darth Vader and the ending was always supposed to be there but that he just got to it earlier than expected. Lucas said if a sequel trilogy were ever to be made, it would be centered on extended ideas and new stories, not attached to the main plot of Anakin Skywalker’s rise, fall, and redemption. Once Lucasfilm was sold to Disney, however, Lucas presented them with his outlines for what Episodes VII-IX should look like. Lucas’ plans included:

A deeper exploration of the world of the Force, including the ethereal beings called Whills who control the Dark Side and Light Side and act through the Sith and the Jedi. This would give the trilogy thematic ideas of determination/destiny, the importance of free will, the pursuit of justice, and the overcoming of failures to improve with each new generation.


Luke Skywalker’s training of a new generation of Jedi while Leia worked to rebuild the Republic and fight off Imperial remnants and the rising criminal underworld.


The return of an old Darth Maul, rebuilt with robotic legs, as a kind of galactic godfather of crime trying to inherit power from the collapsing Empire.


A new Sith named Darth Talon who would be trained by Maul and helped bring Han and Leia’s son to the Dark Side.

Just to provide a bit of clarity on my opinions towards the existing Disney sequel trilogy:

The Force Awakens is the most J.J. Abrams thing ever made: a flashy, fun movie that uses likable performances and tried-and-true tropes to distract the viewer from the fact that there isn’t a single original idea in the script or a single creative bone in its director’s body. It needlessly squanders the opportunity to have Luke, Han, and Leia reunite on screen at least once before it starts killing them all off, and its sloppy world-building completely undoes the victory of Return of the Jedi by pretending it didn’t happen and the bad guys are inexplicably in power again. There’s way too much comedy, it’s too long, the story is a soulless rehash of Episode IV’s plot, there is an abundance of side characters and mystery plot lines, but the sound design and practical effects are nice. John Williams is still the boss. 50%


The Last Jedi is neither the worst nor best movie of all time. Abrams left Rian Johnson with pointless mystery plot lines and strange setups, so he tried to make something unexpected and exciting out of it. He was halfway successful with Rey learning to find her own identity and improve upon the failures of past Jedi while Kylo Ren can’t escape his defining past. The casino planet, the slow space chase, the unnecessary betrayals, and the incompetence of the villains are all atrocious, as is repeating Finn’s character arc from the first movie then wasting a moment for a good sacrificial death and humiliating Poe before giving him a half-decent resolution. Laura Dern’s death scene should’ve been given to Carrie Fisher as Leia, and even though the setup for Luke’s exile is poorly done, Mark Hamill has never been better and the payoff at the end is phenomenal. It’s a total mess but the only one in the trilogy to add any new themes to the franchise. John Williams is, again, still the boss. 60%


The Rise of Skywalker is my second least favorite movie of all time, a cowardly and sloppy attempt to appease everyone and thus pleasing no one. There is one single scene that is good, and even it is shoddily executed if well-intentioned. Johnson’s flawed but earnest creative direction is ignored, Colin Trevorrow’s imperfect but ambitious and bold script is abandoned, the canon of the Original Trilogy is spat on and its beloved characters are butchered, the Skywalker name and legacy are tarnished, the faint hope for a single worthwhile character arc in Ben Solo is wasted, the plot holes are painfully obvious and ridiculously excessive, and even John Williams is unable to salvage anything with the only bad film score he’s ever produced. One of the rare movies that I truly hate. 20%

Unlike the prequel trilogy, these three films don’t share a cohesive overarching narrative, theme, or general approach from a creative directorial vision, meaning there’s nothing consistent to work with or fine tune. I won’t try to salvage the narrative through-line of the Disney sequels because their inherent flaw is that they don’t have a singular wholistic identity. Instead, we’re going to be rebuilding this trilogy from the ground up, saving only the few main characters and the time frame of the setting as a foundation to build on. The elephant in the room is the passing of Carrie Fisher, but seeing as this is all hypothetical anyways, this outline will be written under the presumption that she is alive and that Princess Leia will be able to appear as much as needed. Unfortunately, the films weren’t made until the main trio of actors were already in their 60’s/70’s, meaning that the characters must also age up accordingly and there is a necessary thirty year time jump after Return of the Jedi, even though it would be ideal for our heroes to be a little younger. Nevertheless, we’re working with what we’ve got, including some familiar faces from the prequels and more recent forms of Lucasfilm media on the small screen. We’ll also be taking full advantage of the vast non-canonical Expanded Universe works, particularly Timothy Zahn’s novels, as well as the discarded ideas of Lucas himself and Colin Trevorrow’s original Episode IX script.

EPISODE VII: HEIRS TO THE EMPIRE

In the thirty year since the fall of the Empire, the forces of evil have aligned in the far reaches of the galaxy. Leia, Han, and Lando work to uphold the young government of the New Republic while Luke Skywalker has begun training the next generation of Jedi. However, Leia and Han’s son Ben Solo has been led astray by a group of Dark Side radicals known as the Knights of the Sith who worship the ancient ways of the Dark Side. The Imperial remnants and the Knights are both commanded by Grand Admiral Thrawn, last of the old Imperial guard who served the Emperor, and the Knights have been tasked with finding Luke Skywalker’s new Jedi Temple to destroy him and the young Jedi under his protection.


The film begins with Master Luke Skywalker, R2-D2, Chewbacca, and Poe Dameron, the New Republic’s best pilot, on a secret mission to deliver a very special item back to the hidden Jedi Temple when they are waylaid by Imperial forces and crash onto the ashy planet of Nevarro and meet a wasteland scavenger named Rey. The Imperials are met by one of the Knights of the Sith to search nearby villages for our heroes, but Rey helps them escape. They’re also assisted by a stormtrooper named Finn who is leading an insurrection against the Knight but loses his fellow defectors in the skirmish, barely escaping with the group of heroes aboard the Millennium Falcon. Rey and Finn properly meet the others and discover that the special item they’re delivering to the Jedi Temple is, in fact, a little green youngling named Grogu.


Darth Ren receives word from his defeated brother-in-arms that he failed to capture the child but that Skywalker was there, for which the Knight is promptly executed. Ren consults Thrawn and asks to personally track Skywalker and the others from Nevarro. Thrawn permits him to leave and returns to his own business of waging war against the New Republic fleet, battling Han, Lando, and Wedge Antilles in defense of the government capital.


Leia appears before the Senate to warn them of Thrawn’s increasingly bold attacks and the possibility of another full-scale galactic war. The question of creating another clone army is brought up and easily dismissed, though Leia’s interest is sparked when reminded of the traditional warrior culture of the citizens of Mandalore before they lost their way and became cloners. The restoration of the Mandalorian throne and culture could bolster the defenses of the New Republic and provide strong, noble warriors to combat the Knights of the Sith. Leia contacts Luke and Han and asks to meet them on Coruscant, that they have to revisit an old friend who is heir to his own empire.


Darth Ren arrives on Mustafar at Vader’s old castle which has become the residence for the Knights of the Sith. He enters into the fortress-temple, consults his mysterious mentor/master, and meditates in the Dark Side, searching to find Skywalker and confronting his own past demons. He succeeds in awakening the same relative Force link shared by Luke, Leia, and Anakin, sensing Leia’s presence as she departs from the New Republic capital and taking his brotherhood of Knights with him to follow that disturbance in the Force.


Seeking refuge in the seedy ruins of the long-forgotten capital on Coruscant, the group of heroes unites with Leia and Han and recruit the assistance of Din Djarin, a Mandalorian bounty hunter who has a history with Han and Luke. As the team of heroes is finally complete, they are attacked by an Imperial battalion, ensuing a classic spaceport shootout/escape sequence for all of our characters to show off their skill sets and get to know one another before jumping to hyperspace aboard the Millennium Falcon. This is also where we notice Rey’s very strong Force sensitivity in action.


Darth Ren breaks through the Republic defenses, invading the Senate and threatening the governmental leaders with his fellow Knights. Lando and Wedge call for the heroes on the Falcon to return, that they need the help of a Jedi Master like Luke to defeat Ren. Conflicted with the decision over whether to prioritize taking the Jedi child Grogu to the Temple or saving the Senators and the Republic, Leia reminds Luke that if the Republic falls, they’ll have lost everything they’ve fought for and the new Jedi like Grogu will have no one left to protect.


Luke, Leia, Rey, Din and Grogu go to save the Senate from Ren while Han, Chewie, Lando, Wedge, Finn, and Poe fight off Thrawn’s fleet. With all the Knights of the Sith being drawn down to the planet surface by the legendary Master Skywalker, the Imperial fleet is left weakened without its greatest warriors and soon falls back. Din and Rey are charged with defending Grogu from the Knights while Luke and Leia rescue the Senators and confront Ren in a grand family-fueled lightsaber duel. This is when Darth Ren’s identity as Ben Solo is revealed to all. Though many Knights fall, Darth Ren finally knows he is beaten and flees to meet his ship atop the Senate building, but his father Han meets him there. Han Solo’s death scene unfolds quite similarly to the same scene in The Force Awakens, witnessed by all of his loved ones and Ren barely escaping.


Darth Ren’s soul is split by this evil deed, though he is consoled by the lady Darth Talon as they return to the castle on Mustafar and humble themselves before their Sith Master who is revealed to be the aged and half-rebuilt Darth Maul.


Han’s funeral pyre serves as the call to action for the New Republic and our main characters, acknowledging that Thrawn and Darth Ren are a more serious threat than expected, that the new Jedi must rise up and the throne of Mandalore must be reclaimed. Leia implores with Din Djarin that he accept his birthright as the heir of Mandalore, seeking out the Mandalorian Darksaber of legend to lead his people. Luke is unsure of whether or not his nephew can ever return from the Dark Side, though Leia reminds him that they once thought the same thing about their father and that Han’s sacrifice and the return of the Jedi are not wasted, that Grogu is the face of their new hope for the future of the Light.


The film ends with Luke, Leia, Rey, Poe, Finn, Din Djarin, and baby Grogu reaching the Jedi Temple on the jungle planet Jedha where Masters Luke and Leia are greeted by several young Jedi Padawans as well as an old friend of their father, Ahsoka Tano.

 

This outline works to include much of Lucas’ sequel plans, Zahn’s beloved Thrawn novels, and the popular Disney+ series characters in addition to the pre-existing characters of the Disney trilogy. Han still dies his sacrificial death, Luke and Leia are both Jedi who are working to secure the victories they won in the Original Trilogy, Rey is awakening to the ways of the Force, Finn is working to turn his fellow stormtroopers away from the Empire, Poe is desperate to meet the expectations of his legendary mentors from the last generation, Din will serve as a reluctant royal Arthurian archetype reminiscent of Tolkien’s Aragorn, and Ben Solo is being spiritually torn apart from his devotion to his family but his conviction for the Sith and manipulation by Maul and Talon. The stage is set for a final war to eliminate the remaining villains of wars past like Maul and Thrawn, forcing Luke and Leia to raise a new generation of heroes who will protect what they fought to establish.

EPISODE VIII: THRONE OF MANDALORE

Three years have passed. The New Republic and Jedi are at war with the Katana Fleet, the last force of Imperial Star Destroyers under the command of Thrawn and the Knights of the Sith. Having formed a father/son bond, the Mandalorian Din Djarin and the trained Jedi child Grogu are questing to find the mythical Darksaber so that Mandalore may be reclaimed and the Republic finally made whole. Meanwhile, Luke and Ahsoka continue to train Rey and the other new Jedi while Leia, Lando, Finn, and Poe lead the Republic in their fight.


Darth Ren, Talon, and Maul are slaughtering Jedi Knights in search of Skywalker and the others, and it is revealed that Maul is still in possession of the Darksaber from his time as the ruler of Mandalore during the Clone Wars. Ren and Talon are tasked with locating the Jedi Temple so that Thrawn’s Katana Fleet can destroy it and any trace of the new Jedi.


Din and Grogu track their way through Mandalorian refuges and strongholds across the galaxy in search of the Darksaber, meeting characters like Bo-Katan, a descendant of the late Duchess Satine who it is implied may have been the product of her love with Obi-Wan. The pair will finally meet Boba Fett, the surviving Mandalorian bounty hunter who has taken over Jabba’s palace on Tatooine and who is in association with a criminal syndicate known as the Shadow Collective. The Collective is led by a mysterious Force-wielder on Mustafar that Fett claims has the Darksaber in his possession.


Luke, Leia, Lando, Rey, Finn, Poe, and Ahsoka decide they must take the fight to Thrawn and infiltrate his fleet to eliminate him before he brings about the destruction of the Jedi and/or the Republic. This will lead to plenty of classic stormtrooper disguises and sneaking around hallways inside the Imperial fleet until Ren and Talon discover the location of the Jedi Temple, causing a disturbance in the Force that alerts Luke and the others of imminent danger.


Din, Grogu, and their new Mandalorian cohort arrive at Vader’s castle on Mustafar, and he is challenged to ritual combat for the Darksaber and the right to rule on the throne of Mandalore. Despite his age, Maul’s hatred and madness fuel his power from the Dark Side and result in an epic duel between the Sith and the Mandalorian, but Din finally bests him and slays Maul. However, in his years of exile and insanity, Maul’s knowledge of the Dark Side has expanded to unprecedented depths, causing an anomaly in the Force that coincides with…


Arriving over Jedha, the Katana Fleet besieges the Jedi Temple. Rey and Ahsoka duel with Ren and Talon while Leia, Lando, Finn, and Poe help the Jedi escape off-world aboard the Millennium Falcon. The two Jedi manage to reach Ren, turning him against Talon and defeating her, leaving Ben Solo without allegiance or identity in either side of the Force. Master Luke Skywalker makes the ultimate sacrifice, reaching out and destroying the Katana Fleet with the Force while his family and friends escape from the ruined Jedi Temple. The anomaly in the Force occurs as both Luke and Maul pass into the spiritual world of the Force at the same instant, shaking the balance of the Force across the galaxy.


The escaped Thrawn is captured by the New Republic as the Imperial remnants collapse, but the natural order of the galaxy is thrown off with the Force in turmoil, the raging Talon and the Knights of the Sith left leaderless, and lawlessness arising as they seize control of the Shadow Collective criminal groups and run rampant across the universe. Entering the final chapter of the saga, it will be up to our heroes and the ordinary citizens of the galaxy to unite to defend the Light Side and the hard-fought peace for all generations.

 

In Timothy Zahn’s trilogy of Thrawn novels, there is a Dark Jedi named C’baoth who has gone mad with power and must be stopped by the Jedi heroes. This role will be filled by Maul in this trilogy, specifically the final movie where Lucas’ vision is realized with a journey into the world of the Force itself as the Force spirits of Maul and Luke venture to reach the ethereal Whills who control the Dark and Light Sides. This film also upholds the idea of Rey being made special in her own identity as a new face without attachment to past families as well as Finn’s mission to save more stormtroopers and turn them away from the Empire. Poe continues to step up in leadership, especially with the losses of his mentors Han and Luke, as a hero of the Republic, and Ahsoka’s faith in the Skywalkers and the Jedi is rewarded after her decades of exile after Order 66. Din Djarin and Grogu continue to bond as he reluctantly puts aside his loner life and learns to care for others and take responsibility as the one heir who can revive his people and reclaim his planet. The destruction of the Katana Fleet is in keeping with Zahn’s books, and Lucas’ ideas are supported with the criminal underworld element, the role of Talon in Ben Solo’s seduction to the Dark Side, and Luke Skywalker’s Force-driven sacrifice and ascension to a new plane of being. Also, this avoids a complete retread of the Vader redemption storyline by having Ben’s turn from the Dark Side happen sooner but leaving him in a place of spiritual/moral ambiguity, facing the guilt of his past evils and unsure of what to do with the future of his life. He will have to learn to overcome his failures and redeem himself by delivering justice and doing the right thing.

EPISODE IX: WHILLS OF THE FORCE

One year has passed. The New Republic and the Jedi have been reinvigorated with the support of Mandalore under the rule of Din Djarin, and they now call upon the free people of the galaxy to help them re-establish peace as Darth Talon, the Knights of the Sith, and their lawless criminal following wreak havoc across planets as natural phenomena occur due to the unbalanced state of the Force. Thrawn is imprisoned, Finn and Poe are leading rescue missions for stormtroopers that are defecting away from the Knights, Rey and Leia are fending off Talon and the Sith with assistance from Din Djarin and the Mandalorians, and Ahsoka searches for the missing Ben Solo.


The film opens on an unnamed planet, the spiritual home world of the Force, where the spirits of Luke Skywalker and Darth Maul appear and discuss what has happened, how two beings so strong in the Force leaving the living plane of existence has left a vacuum of power and uncertainty as to what will happen next. Such a disturbance has not occurred since the Great Jedi Purge with Order 66, and now there is an engulfing war that could destroy all the remaining Jedi and Sith, leaving the Force perpetually out of balance. The two enemies journey through the planet to face the Whills, the creator beings who control and move through the Force to enact their will for the galaxy. There, they can inquire about the destiny of the Light and Dark, deciding how the wars among the stars might end.


The plot returns to the style of the prequels in that it is largely a battle-centric war story, living up to the franchise’s title with several epic battles between the Jedi and the Sith, the Republic and the Shadow Collective, fighting across several planets and star systems for a grand finale. Thrawn is sprung from his Republic prison only to be executed by Darth Talon, claiming the Sith will no longer be controlled by bureaucrats and officers. After her love Darth Ren betrayed her in the last film, Talon has become the example of all the Sith’s evil, a wild and tyrannical warlord who ruthlessly kills, takes no prisoners, and trusts no one. She is a lost soul, a purely evil and chaotic villain without a code who must be stopped at all costs.


Ahsoka finds Ben Solo in the ancient Jedi Temple ruins on Coruscant, witnessing the destruction and sensing the horrors committed by his grandfather Darth Vader, wondering how redemption could ever come to such an evil person. How can there be peace without order, order without justice, justice without violence? How can the Jedi protect life by killing their enemies, and how can they lead the galaxy after failing so many times? The philosophical debate of the franchise will occur as Ahsoka guides Ben across the galaxy and pulls him back toward the Light, revisiting the important locations and moments from across the saga in an intergalactic It’s a Wonderful Life tour that motivates him to seek atonement and redemption for his evil past by now fighting for good, honoring what his father and uncle fought for by trying to undo his mistakes.


The Whills detail to Luke and Maul how they have moved their will in the Force through the Jedi and the Sith for millennia, but in decisive moments in history, they relinquish control and allow the individuals to exercise free will. The prophesied Chosen One, thought to be Anakin Skywalker, is not simply one single messianic figure but a generational champion of the Force, “not just one who is chosen but one who must choose”. This was seen in Vader’s tragic turn to the Dark Side and simultaneously in Luke’s own refusal to murder his father and in Anakin’s decision to destroy the Emperor. Now, the one who must choose is the latest in the Skywalker line, the lost and confused Ben Solo who must decide the fate of the galaxy and the course of history. The Force is with him, and he must be the one to restore balance.


Ben Solo’s confrontation with his old love and now enemy Darth Talon causes the needed shift in the Force, the power of choice, of willing redemptive action once again securing the Light and setting the galaxy back on its path for good. Luke Skywalker and the spirits of all the Jedi Masters who passed on before him unite to rid the galaxy of Maul’s spirit, the last enduring remnant of the Sith and the Empire being eradicated once and for all. Talon is finally slain by the combined efforts of Ben Solo and Rey, the future of the Jedi.


The Force spirits of Jedi Masters Luke, Anakin, Yoda, and Obi-Wan appear to their old friends and family including Leia, Ahsoka, Rey, and Ben, passing on what they have learned and secure in the knowledge that the Light Side will endure as the Skywalker family has been wholly reconciled, the Republic rebuilt, and the Jedi returned. Finn and Poe accept positions commanding the New Republic fleet as Lando retires, Leia and Chewbacca pay tribute to Han, C-3PO and R2-D2 serve in the Senate, Din Djarin and Grogu lead the Mandalorians to explore uncharted regions of the Outer Rim, Ahsoka begins to reconstruct the Jedi Temple on Jedha, and Rey and Ben Solo join one another in searching the galaxy for Force-sensitive younglings who will overcome the failures of previous generations and willingly choose to keep the peace and preserve the Light as Jedi Knights. Perhaps the two of them even walk off into a rather familiar-looking twin sunset… just a thought.

 

The saga is complete with a story of good versus evil, peace against chaos, sacrifice over selfishness, the redemption of the lost and the reconciliation of family. Lucas’ plans to explore the Whills and the nature of the Force are realized, Darth Maul serves as a representative of the Dark Side and its persistent evil across all nine films, Ben Solo symbolizes the eternal promise of redemption in choosing to do the right thing, Thrawn is utilized as a compelling and competent villain whose downfall comes through his own pride and dominance over others, and the full ensemble of characters are given arcs of development and relationships that support the overarching themes: Finn succeeds in saving his fellow ex-stormtroopers and protecting countless lives, Poe earns the respect of his mentors and comrades through courageous leadership, Rey learns to find purpose and value in her individual identity and in giving Ben Solo a second chance, Ahsoka finally takes responsibility to return to the Jedi in becoming a Master and not just a lost Padawan, Din Djarin assumes his rightful spot of ruling the people as a humble but deserving king, Luke once again stands as a champion of hopeful optimism and heroic sacrifice just as he did in the Original Trilogy, and Ben Solo understands it’s never too late to do turn away from wrongdoing and devote your life to serving others. “This will begin to make things right.”

I won’t pretend that these outlines are fool-proof and free of plot holes, oversights, contradictions, contrivances, or silly fan service fulfillment. This has first and foremost been a creative writing exercise for a passionate fan of these movies. Hopefully these ideas have been entertaining for you to read and have sparked your own imagination and critical thinking towards Star Wars or whatever media you like to consume. It’s okay to love something and acknowledge its imperfections. That’s a lot of what Star Wars is about: the fruit that comes after failure. May the Force be with you!