From a Writer’s Point Of View: The Problem With Star Wars Prequels

This is cross posted to my other blog as well. Feel free to comment here or there.

This will be about writing, I promise. Just bear with me for a moment.

I was born the month and year Star Wars (now called A New Hope) was released. So, I’ll always know how old the movie is. I saw all three movies in the theater, my parents tell me. I remember watching Jedi (and remember is originally being called Revenge of the Jedi instead of Return of the Jedi) and smiling at the end. I remember watching Empire and thinking WTF as Boba Fett’s ship Slave I flew off with Han Solo frozen in carbonite.

I remember that period in the late 80s, early 90s, when it wasn’t cool to still like Star Wars. I still did anyhow. I still have all of my old toys. I remember how excited we were to watch the Special Editions of the movies re-released in the theater. I remember the tears in my eyes when John Williams theme played over the opening credits. I was in college.

I remember the anticipation for Episode I. The excellent Weird Al song about it. I remember walking out of the theater with my friends, trying to convince ourselves that what we had seen wasn’t so bad.

It was so bad. And it wasn’t Jar-Jar Binks fault.

We imagined the Clone Wars. We all had a version in our head of how Anakin became Darth Vader. In my mind, Anakin was this great pilot (he was late 20s, early 30s in my mind), great Jedi, a good man, who had somehow been irreparably injured in a crash and in his weakened state, succumbed to the dark side.

I’ve had a hard time really expressing why the prequels stunk so much. My official reason for a while has been that the writers just didn’t make me care about the characters. I feel like I should have wept when Anakin turned to the dark side. But to be honest, by the middle of the second movie I was fine with it.

Then yesterday, I came across this really great article from TheScriptLab that really gets into what went wrong and how to avoid it in our own writing. What does Anakin want?

Why do we love the first three Star Wars, and by first three, I mean 4,5,and 6, but loathe the second trifecta? Does it feel that forced? (Yes.) Are midichlorians really that dumb of an idea? (Yes.) Is Hayden Christensen’s acting really that bad? (Unfortunately.) True Star Wars fans can probably give me a hundred reasons, but the main, I believe, is the Hero’s Spine. Whereas A New HopeThe Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedifocus on Luke’s story, and his ultimate quest to become a Jedi, the other three focus on… what, exactly?

For argument’s sake, let’s just say that the second trilogy (1, 2, and 3) focus on Anakin’s journey to becoming Vader. But here’s the problem with that. Anakin has no ultimate objective to become the Lord of the Dark Side. He has no objective to be the ultimate baddy. He simply just falls into it with some stupid decisions and some juvenile thinking. The three films’ only character objectives come from the Federation’s desire to do away with evil. But the Federation is a group of about 12 characters, some of which have only a few one-liners in a sit-down meeting. In comparison to Tolkien’sRings, Lucas gives us the Fellowship, but without the Frodo. Without the character who has the ultimate desire, and has to make the ultimate sacrifice. And without that, what’s the point?

This is something I’m not sure I know about the protagonist in my wip novel. What does he really want? To be honest, I’m not sure. Seven chapters in, and I’m not sure. I’ll tell you what, though, I plan on finding out before I move forward much further.

The article at TheScriptLab is actually a three-parter. Part 2 deals with Opposition (to the protagonist). Part 3 is about forming a connection with the audience.

Even if you don’t care about the Star Wars stuff, I really do recommend you check out the articles I’ve linked. They are quite good and might just help you avoid creating another Anakin. Because really, we don’t need another one of those in this galaxy or one far far away.

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3 thoughts on “From a Writer’s Point Of View: The Problem With Star Wars Prequels

  1. I’m so with you about the prequels. But they do at least give us that great lesson in what not to do, lol! I’ve definitely made the mistake of going too far into a WIP without clear focus, without knowing what my character really wants. :p

    • I believe the “Federation” he is talking about is the Jedi Council. Pretty big mistake for someone commenting on the writing style of the Star Wars prequels!

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