Episode II: Anakin as Scoundrel

Fixing the Prequels, Part 2 of 2

Last week we identified the problems that Anakin has: He is the Chosen One for no evident reason, he is a whiny, ungrateful tween instead of a rebel heartthrob, and he too easily falls to the Dark Side.  In this week’s installment, we follow up on our critique of why Anakin doesn’t work as the hero and make him everything we want him to be.

Never Tell Me the Odds

It is inexplicable that Anakin is “the Chosen One” and how important Qui-Gon makes the boy out to be for no good reason other than the script says so.  His proof?  Anakin’s blood test with a high “midichlorian” count (aka microscopic “Force” bacteria).

How do we correct this?  We look at what Obi-Wan tells Luke Skywalker about his father in A New Hope:

He was the best star-pilot in the galaxy and a cunning warrior.  He was a good friend.

We can follow with what George Lucas already wanted to happen, but instead of making him too old at eight, make Anakin a young man.  Instead of TELL, as Lucas does, just how impressive he is, we can SHOW how he is able to pull off amazing feats in a starship, even though he may not recognize that he’s using the Force to do it.

Rebel Without a Clue

So we have a young, hotshot pilot who needs to have a rebellious nature and be everyone’s favorite character.  Luckily, the Star Wars Universe already has one of those.  Make Anakin a rogue like Han Solo.  Everyone loves a bad boy with a heart of gold.  This makes the Jedi turning Anakin away believable also – there’s no way a grown man is going to be able to take in all the Jedi teachings on peace and serenity when he is so clearly obsessed with himself.

Give in to the Dark Side

Lastly, in order for Anakin to fall to the Dark Side – he has to actually lose someone important to him.  Not the idea or threat of losing Padme, his true love, as the movies actually play out.  He needs to be committed to the Jedi Code and that commitment is what lets his true love die.  This is the shock to Anakin’s worldview that can believably push him over the edge, turn on the Jedi, and become Darth Vader.

Final Thoughts

Instead of making Anakin Skywalker a small boy with good genetics, by making him a young, swaggering rogue and accomplished pilot like Han Solo, we can really see why he is so special when he pulls off impossible stunts.  We can understand why he has trouble, as an adult, adapting to the lifestyle of a space-monk.  Ultimately when he loses the one person in the galaxy that he truly loves thanks to his commitment to that new philosophy, we can sympathize with him and really understand just why Anakin Skywalker tragically became Darth Vader.

Episode I: Anakin as Scoundrel

Fixing the Prequels, Part 1 of 2

Many fervent fans of the Original Star Wars films released starting in 1977 were incredibly dissatisfied with the Prequel Trilogy released starting in 1999 with The Phantom Menace.  To this end, this is the first in an ongoing series of posts in which we identify and correct problems fans of either camp may have with the films.  We kick off the posts with a look at why Anakin isn’t quite the hero we’re looking for…

Identifying the Problems

My main issue with Anakin Skywalker begins in The Phantom Menace where he is a small child enslaved on a backwater world, and at ten years old is already “too old to begin the training” necessary to become a Jedi Knight.  Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn defies the council and with his dying breath, Qui-Gon makes Obi-Wan swear that he will train the boy anyway.  The problem here is that Anakin is special for no reason.  He is only important because Qui-Gon insists that it’s true, not due to any evidence shown on screen.  The only hint of this we get comes from the results of a blood test.  That’s epic drama at its best, right!?!

Teenage Dirtbag

In Attack of the Clones we see Anakin as a young student chafing at the restrictions that come from being a Jedi, like learning the value of patience and the Jedi’s vow of celibacy.  Anakin swears that he is incredible and way better than anyone else in the Jedi Order, Obi-Wan included, who Anakin says is jealous of him and holding him back.  The problem with this is that he seems whiny and ungrateful, not like a rebellious teen, but just a little jerk.  This culminates in his slaughtering of an entire tribe of Sand People after the death of his mother.  By his own admission, he even kills the women and children.  That’s the guy I wanna root for.

Slightly Older Dirtbag

Anakin is better In Revenge of the Sith, but not by much.  We see that he has gained some perspective and maturity, but he still comes across as a mushy, whiny twenty-something instead of a mushy, whiny tween.  He quickly abandons Obi-Wan, his best friend, and ignores Padme, his secret love, all to follow the advice of the creepiest old freak in the Star Wars Universe, Senator Palpatine.  Palpatine has been counselling Anakin and stoking the fires of his rebellious nature and creating doubts about just how shady the Jedi Order has become.  Palpatine ultimately convinces Anakin to abandon the Jedi, murder one of his mentors, and massacre Jedi children in cold blood.

“Murder children?  Yeah, okay.”

– Anakin Skywalker

To Be Continued…

In next week’s follow-up, we lay out a plan to address these issues with Anakin Skywalker’s character and make them work toward his status as the baddest mother-lover alive!

Book Review: Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn

ScoundrelsCoverThe Setup

Scoundrels is a novel by prolific Star Wars author Timothy Zahn and a lot of fun.  The premise is this: Set after the destruction of the First Death Star in A New Hope, but before the invasion of Hoth in Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo and Chewbacca are out in the galaxy at large and hit upon their biggest score ever.  The trick is, they aren’t going to be able to crack a safe in the stronghold of the Black Sun Crime Syndicate alone.  The pair of smugglers must assemble a team of scoundrels capable of pulling off this impossible job.

Solo’s Eleven

This setup for Scoundrels will be immediately recognizable to anyone familiar with the Ocean’s Eleven franchise of films.  This remake of a 1960 film of the same name (although it used the number 11 instead of the word), sees a con artist create a team of specially chosen crooks and thieves to pull off a heist of robbing three Las Vegas Casinos at once.  The George Clooney role is filled in Scoundrels by Han Solo and his team includes his co-pilot Chewbacca and the smooth gambler Lando Calrissian.

The Hand of Zahn

Timothy Zahn is the author that reinvigorated the entire Expanded Universe with his seminal works, the Thrawn Trilogy of novels, first released in 1991.  This set of stories is credited with the revitalization of the Star Wars brand after waning interest so long after Return of the Jedi’s release.  I know this from personal experience as an eleven-year-old at the time overjoyed with new stories to read about my favorite movie characters.  The characters Zahn created like the Imperial assassin Mara Jade and the titular Grand Admiral Thrawn endure as some of the most compelling characters in the Star Wars Universe, despite the fact they do not appear in any of the films.

Han in His Element

Zahn’s steady hand really helps the “heist flick” format of this story really work.  Most novels set in the Star Wars Universe deal with the Force, Jedi versus Sith, and the Dark Side versus the Light.  Don’t get me wrong, I love stories about the Hero’s Journey as much as the next dork, but it seems a bit exhausted at this point, especially when that is the main thrust of Luke Skywalker’s journey in the Original Trilogy of films.  Another common theme in Star Wars novels is the rebellion against Empire, which is also pretty thoroughly covered in the films.  Experiencing the underside of the galaxy far, far away is a lot of fun and it’s a real joy to see the lovable rogue, Han Solo, really in his element at the center of a swashbuckling criminal sting.

Final Thoughts

If you’re a fan of films like The Sting or Ocean’s Eleven, as well as Han Solo and Star Wars in general, then Scoundrels is definitely for you.

Rebooting Rogue Squadron

Allowing Licensed Games to Be Their Own Entity

Of all the Star Wars games, the best include the space combat simulator TIE Fighter, the roleplaying game Knights of the Old Republic, and one of my favorites, Rogue Squadron.  This series of arcade aerial combat games follows the exploits of the fictional flight squadron that flew all of the most iconic missions in Star Wars history.  The game suffered from the limitations of the technology on which it was created, having been originally published in 1998 for the Nintendo 64 and then two sequels on the Nintendo GameCube in 2001 and 2003.

6897-folder

One limitation that did not come from the times in which it was created was mirroring the plotline of the Star Wars films.

Games based off of licensed properties can have a really hard time translating that property into a video game, due primarily to the fact that video games are a different medium than movies, books, or comics.  What works to tell a story in one medium doesn’t always translate well to another.

An example of this done right is Knights of the Old Republic, which took the Star Wars license and rather than have you play as Luke Skywalker and take his journey through the Original Trilogy of films AGAIN, it moved the timeline back 4,000 years before the films and invented an entirely new set of characters while still keeping the essence of the license we all grew to love from the films.  It used this disentanglement from the known canon of the Star Wars Universe to let the world of the game feel familiar, while being fresh and new in a way not experienced by fans since the movies were first released.

Taking a similar approach to the Rogue Squadron games, just imagine how exciting it would be to fly an X-Wing starfighter in all-new missions.  Using current gaming technology like open world sandboxes and high definition graphics, players could take on the role of a young pilot chosen for Rogue Squadron taking the reins from the old guard of pilots like Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles who serve as mentors for the next generation.

This storyline could pick up in the years after the fall of the Empire at the end of Return of the Jedi and lead directly into the new trilogy of films in The Force Awakens.  This whets the appetite of all the fans waiting for the new movies, allowing them to bridge the gap between the old films to the new, while giving the game designers the freedom to build their own story from the ground up.

The best artistic endeavors, be it games, books, or movies, are usually most successful when they allow the creators to be ambitious and develop their ideas without being shackled to what came before.  It is with this in mind that the people at Lucasfilm should consider a new take on Rogue Squadron that takes the series into new territory.

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens Trailer Impressions

A New Hope

As a fan of the Original Star Wars Trilogy, I was cautiously optimistic when I first learned of the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney.  George Lucas had decided that he was retiring from making movies for profit and wanted to focus on passion projects.  I have always respected George for the spirit and imagination he has demonstrated over more than thirty years of film-making, but longed for the day when he would allow someone else to play in his sandbox.  That day has finally come, and J.J. Abrams has been hard at work on Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, releasing December 2015.  My cautious optimism for the film has turned to outright elation with the release of the first trailer.

“There Has Been an Awakening”

As the trailer opens, we see a familiar desert landscape and ominous voiceover telling us the Force has awakened.  We see lots of different images in quick succession.  First is John Boyega, a newcomer to Star Wars but was great in Attack the Block a few years ago (look for my review of that film in a future post).  He is in stormtrooper armor minus the helmet and looks distressed.

Practical Magic

Next we see a spherical droid that resembles a soccer ball.  This droid is named BB-8, and like a lot of the effects in the new film, he is at least partially practical.  This means that rather than allow computer graphics to fill in all the gaps, the filmmakers have actually built many of the props and alien creatures in the film in real life.  This is a welcome change from the Star Wars Prequels, where Lucas basically stuck the actors alone in a giant blue room and asked them to imagine everything while looking at a tennis ball on a stick.  In this film, J.J. Abrams is having the sets be real places so that the actors have something to act against, as well as giving the finished product that indefinable weight that only real props and effects can have.

The Dark and the Light

In the next scenes we see a stormtrooper squad in a sequence reminiscent of the D-Day landings, newcomer Daisy Ridley riding a speeder bike of some kind, Oscar Isaac in the cockpit of an X-Wing fighter as his squadron kicks up water over a lake as they scream past, and a hulking, cloaked figure igniting a unique red lightsaber with a cross guard in a snow-covered forest.  The trailer ends with the iconic starship the Millennium Falcon blasting over the Tatooine desert sands in a backflip to face a pair of TIE fighters as the camera barely keeps up.

Final Thoughts

Though it is short at only a minute and a half, the trailer has confirmed a lot of my hopes for what to expect from J.J. Abrams’s Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens and December 2015 can’t come soon enough.

A Wretched Hive

What I Will Write About

I will write about Star Wars on my blog that I’ve named Wretched Hive on WordPress.

Who Reads About It

Fans of the Star Wars films, toys, games, and books will be my target audience.

Why They Read It

They search for content about Star Wars because of the sense of imagination and wonder at a world so distant and alien, but still so real and lived in.  People love the Star Wars Universe because it represents the eternal struggle of good versus evil by using characters that hold to Joseph Campbell’s Heroic Journey or “monomyth.”  These themes and archetypes make the story instantly recognizable and relatable, no matter how strange or foreign the locales and creatures may be.

Why Read My Content

Fans of the series will read what I write because I am a life-long fan of the franchise, having seen all the films many times, read many of the Expanded Universe books and comics, owned almost all of the countless action figures, and I’ve never lost my passion for the source material.  I have also been an actor and writer for decades, with a unique perspective on the material.

With a new series of films on the way, who better to guide people through that universe than a dork as big as me?

The ironic hipster mustache of the Star Wars Universe