Let’s face it: the Star Wars prequels sucked. There were two and only two good points:
1. Yoda fighting; and
2. Aayla Secura.
These are facts. But even (1) is a poisoned chalice: it makes it even more baffling why Yoda didn’t fight Vader. Vader would have been no match for Yoda and yet Yoda hides out on Dagobah.
Bit that’s just one small problem in the sea of problems that is post-Prequel Star Wars. For a good run down on the major and fundamental problems, see this.
But let us be constructive and not destructive. What would have made a more satisfying set of prequels?
The Phantom Menace
Concept: In a world based on lofty ideals and principles, the lived reality is one of corruption and decay.
Outline: The Republic and the Jedi are no longer holding together well; there is corruption in the Republic and more Jedi are turning away from the order. Something seems to be encouraging young Jedi to defect and a young Jedi padawan — the excellent pilot Anakin Skywalker — is tempted by the ideals of the Dark Jedi. The Council tries to hold the Jedi Order together and does morally questionable things to achieve these ends. Anakin nearly defects but holds it together. Yoda states that he feels Anakin lacks the fortitude to train as a padawan, but Obi Wan takes him on anyway. It is revealed that the same corrupting force among the Jedi is the same corrupting force in the Republic: the ancient enemy, the Sith.
Attack of the Clones
Concept: In order to protect the ideals and tradition of society, some people will resort to any means to do so.
Outline: Anakin is now a young knight. During one of the regular clashes with Dark Jedi (manipulated by the two Sith Lords behind the scenes), Anakin comes across a Sith holocron. The holocron both fascinates and disgusts Anakin; it teaches powers beyond what the Jedi teach but he finds its philosophy problematic. It is widely recognised that the Republic is no longer functional and civil wars break out between internal alliances of planets. The Jedi Order — in an attempt to maintain order in the Republic and against the Dark Jedi — unveil an army of clones (the storm troopers) as infantry. The Dark Jedi are nearly entirely wiped out, though the Jedi Order takes heavy losses — Anakin is seriously injured and requires cybernetics in order to recover: making him mostly Vaderish. Anakin cannot stand to see the Jedi Order turn its back on its ideals, turns to a prominent senator of the Republic, promising him allegiance and power if the senator will bring order to the Republic.
Revenge of the Sith
Concept: Good people can be blinded by good intentions, and it can be too late to turn back.
Outline: The overwhelming popularity of the senator in the Republic and his success in quelling factional disputes (although through tyrannical means) makes it easy for the senator to manipulate himself into total control of the Republic. With such popularity, he is able to take control over complete control of the clone army forces. Anakin has fallen in love with a young Dark Jedi who escaped the battle, whom he marries. The senator declares the Jedi a threat to order and commands the storm troopers to declare war on the Jedi (the storm troopers were, of course, a threat to the Dark Jedi and, therefore, a threat to the Jedi Order). The Dark Jedi girl discovers the Emperor’s secret: that he’s the Sith Lord who’s been causing the strife. Two of the strongest Jedi — Yoda and Obi Wan — elude the storm troopers. The Dark Jedi girl tracks them down and explains the bigger picture of what’s been going on. Yoda and Obi Wan seek out Anakin and the Emperor. Anakin fights both Yoda and Obi Wan which manages to be fairly evenly matched — with Anakin using the skills contained in the holocron. The fight is interrupted by the Emperor using his Sith Awesome who reveals himself to be the Sith Lord behind the corruption and decay. Anakin now has a moral dilemma: the Emperor has brought peace through fear and power, but the Jedi had turned their backs on their ways by deploying the clone army. Anakin realises that he was probably wrong but it’s all gone too far for him to turn his back on the Empire: the Jedi lost their way and now peace has been established through the ways of the Sith. Deciding that the ends justified the means — just as the Jedi Council had done before — Anakin takes his role as Darth Vader. A political crisis erupts during this high drama, and Sidious must go to exterminate the rebellious elements of the Senate. Sidious orders Vader to wipe out the last of the Jedi. Vader — realising the situation — tells Yoda and Obi Wan to flee: if they win the battle, the Emperor will hunt them down himself and he is clearly more powerful than all of them. The Dark Jedi girl flees with them. ROLL CREDITS.
It’s a bit rough but it captures everything it needs. There’s no mystery point where Anakin suddenly decides that killing children is a sensible and rational thing to do. It doesn’t hamfistedly tie up every loose thread from the prequels to the originals — keeping the big secret that Luke and Leia are siblings. We learn in Return of the Jedi what happened to the Dark Jedi girl (she was sad all the time). It makes the Jedi’s use of storm troopers morally questionable — which, to be honest, it freaking is: why are the Jedi (a noble group of peace keepers) deploying militia forces?
But it also brings something different to the table: now when you watch through the originals, it doesn’t seem like reviving the Jedi and toppling the Empire is necessarily what ought to be done. Vader is, at the end of the day, a good guy: in The Empire Strikes Back, he realises that he can get rid of the Emperor by joining with his exceptionally talented son. But the same mentality is there: the only way to maintain peace is through tyrannical measures and that’s what makes him the unintended villain. Yoda’s hiding act now makes sense, as does Vader’s ‘You should not have come back, old man’ to Obi Wan. The Jedi still haven’t stopped being manipulative and secretive: Obi Wan outright lies about Luke’s father and then tries to justify it at the end.