The upcoming Star Wars sequels present a unique challenge in that they’re not only following up one of the most beloved trilogies of all time, but also one of the most reviled. The Prequels. AKA, the movies you really, really want to like more than you do. But you never will, right?
Maybe. Maybe… not.
What if there actually was a way for Director JJ Abrams and Screenwriter Michael Arndt to embrace the Prequels and, retroactively, make them better? They kind of have to do the former. Like it or not, Episodes I-III are part of the story. A trilogy that caps a trilogy of trilogies has got to acknowledge its roots in some way to be complete. Otherwise, it will be as empty as, well, the Prequels.
But how do you make something that’s done and complete, better? Simple, you reframe it. You present insight that gives new meaning to what came before and changes how you look at it forevermore.
And it’s not even hard. The Prequels have been set up for this from the beginning and it’s all due to one, simple, undeniable fact: the Jedi are pricks.
HOW THE JEDI LOST THEIR WAY
History shows us that the longer a religion sticks around, the further away from its most basic tenets its most zealous followers tend to get. There are lots of modern examples of this, but the one I think of immediately is the Pharisees and Sadducees at the time of Christ who perverted the laws and traditions handed down to them so thoroughly, that they mistook the perversions for the actual religion they were supposed to be practicing.
What if the same thing happened to the Jedi?
I mean, the Jedi talk about their compromised state all the time in the Prequels, wondering out loud how they didn’t know the Sith were back and going on and on about how the Force needs to be balanced. Something is clearly very, very wrong. Unfortunately, the movies do a horrible job of explaining the how and why of it all. What if that part is still coming? And what if it’s the Jedi themselves that are the cause of all that Force imbalancing?
When I look at the Jedi in the Prequels, I see a dogmatic group that hates families. They take kids away from their parents at a young, young age and train them up to be unattached warriors. They don’t allow marriage and they—and this is the kicker—they don’t allow mourning.
Hey! Let’s quote Yoda!
“Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not. Attachment leads to jealously. The shadow of greed, that is.”
Now, I’m all for moving on in a healthy way after a loved one has passed away. You can’t dwell; that way lies madness. But to tell someone not to mourn at all? To not miss the person they care about? Who can do that? A brief mourning period is required for processing emotions in a healthy way. This is bad, bad advice.
But Yoda goes further and he disses attachment. “Attachment leads to jealously. The shadow of greed, that is.” Really, he’s saying relationships—the thing that defines a big part of who we are (ask Mark Zuckerberg, he’s made billions off of being smarter than Yoda)—are bad. This is why Anakin had to hide his marriage to Padme. This is why he had to leave his mom in the first place. The Jedi hate families. The Jedi hate that you might feel a sense of loss when a person dies. The Jedi taught Anakin to deny all the basic things that make him human.
Of course he turned into a monster.
And, of course the Force was unbalanced. Remember that other Yoda quote? From Empire?
“For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.”
Wait, what does the force bind? “Us?” Oh, crap. The Force is all about attachment.
Somewhere, somewhen, the Jedi lost their way. Maybe there was a time when they could marry and mourn and be raised by their parents in a loving environment. And then, things changed. The Jedi misunderstood something or reinterpreted their basic tenets or somebody went rogue and jealously was at the root of their problem. Whatever it was, the Jedi got some pretty weird ideas about how to go about their business.*
*I know jack squat about the Expanded Universe. I know there’s a whole history there about the Jedi stretching back thousands of years, but I don’t care about any of it. It’s irrelevant. The new movies are going to ignore it all and so that’s what I’m doing.
And, y’know, it’s almost like they figured out the broken parts of their philosophy when it was all over. At the end of Revenge of the Sith, after Order 66 had done its job, you’ve got just Obi-Wan and Yoda left, and they’ve got these two Force-sensitive kids, Luke and Leia, to worry about. So, what do they do with them? Do they hide away with them and train them to be Jedi in some little Jedi monastery on the outer rim? I mean, those kids are their last hope. You’d think putting these kids through Jedi training 101 would be number one on the agenda.
No, instead they put them together with parents. They put them in families.
BUT WHAT THE CRUD DOES ANY OF THIS HAVE TO DO WITH MAKING THE PREQUELS BETTER?
Here’s the opportunity Abrams and company have: they could acknowledge this. They could acknowledge the folly of the Jedi. Imagine Star Wars sequels in which Luke discovers there’s a reason the Jedi fell and establishes a new Jedi Order that does away with all this junk—with the weird hate for the family unit and strange advice against mourning and—and—and the midichlorian-ness of it all, and he gets the Jedi back to basics: doing good, kicking butt, being emotionally healthy.
What does that then do to our view of the Prequels? Well, once you start looking at the Jedi as a fallen Order, hogwash scenes with arrogant, judgment-impaired Jedi Councils start to take on a whole new meaning. Obi-Wan becomes a decent guy who just got swept up in the Council’s erroneous interpretations of dogma. Qui Gon Jinn, as the rebel Jedi, suddenly looks a whole lot smarter. Dooku… Count Dooku kind of has a point now. And Anakin, poor Anakin, is a big ol’ victim who, though responsible for his actions, is a whole lot more sympathetic.
HEY, JUST WHAT IS STAR WARS ALL ABOUT ANYWAY?
At its core, the Star Wars Saga is about the Skywalker family. The Jedi of the Prequels are hostile to the very thing the whole story is about. This makes the Prequels the story of breaking the Skywalker family apart.
The OT is the story of the Skywalker family coming back together.
And the Next Trilogy? Well, that’s the story of keeping the Skywalker family intact.
IS THIS WHAT GEORGE LUCAS INTENDED ALL ALONG?
This is probably not even close to what George Lucas intended. I have no special knowledge (though I have been to Skywalker Ranch and I know where George keeps his lightsaber) and predicting Star Wars is a fool’s game. All I’m saying is this is the stuff I see in there. I’m not the only one who was let down by what the Jedi are actually like and what they believed in, I’m just trying to make sense of it all.
But… and this is exciting… it doesn’t really matter what George Lucas intended. He’s off Star Wars now. It’s Kathleen Kennedy’s ball to run with and she and Abrams and Arndt can do what they want. Will we see a newer, healthier Jedi Order or will Luke and his family go into the sandwich-making business and we’ll be treated to three movies of conspicuous Subway product placement?
Will Harrison Ford grumble? Will Carrie Fisher be unsteady? Will ghostly Hayden Christensen get to pal around with his much, much older son?
Anything is possible.
Whichever way it goes… the Jedi really did kind of screw Anakin up.