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A Study of the Star Wars Prequels

A Study of the Star Wars Prequels

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Prequels Are Fascinating

In almost every one, we find the hidden history brings a new light and dimension to old established characters. Writers and actors call this “backstory” when they look at an individual character. They are the story before the story.

Most of the time, prequels exist to answer questions. Why did he do that? Why is that person important? Why does so and so wear that article of clothing all the time? Why does that place draw the character in? Who is that person in relation to the protagonist?

When a character acts a specific way, he usually acts consistent with his history and personality. We are the sum of our memories and experiences. Prequels underline the psychology of a character, the history of a setting, and how the character reacts to that setting (if he’s been there), as well as understanding the political and social climate of a society that has a reputation. Why does it have a reputation?
Prequels and backstory answer those questions, – especially for the writer.

Star Wars Continuity

Ideally, the prequel should be written before the main story has started or, at least, after the story is done.

The Star Wars space opera is a prime example of what happens when they’re not. A few years after Star Wars episodes IV, V, and VI were released, Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Characters was published by Del Rey publishing. Information for this film came from LucasFilm, Topps’ Star Wars Magazine, Timothy Zahn (author of the Star Wars: Heir to the Empire), and Star Wars Insider magazine. While the information in that guide provided an interesting backstory to the characters, both in the movies and many of the novels inspired by the films, the information was made completely invalid once Star Wars episodes I, II, and III were released.

The guide’s facts deviate dramatically from the prequel. Some of the entries list Lars Owen as Obi-Wan Kenobi’s brother.  There’s also an account of Obi-Wan being the one who’d taken an interest in Anakin to show him the ways of the force when after the prequels we know it was Qui-Gon Jinn. With the release of new prequel movies, a new continuity was established.

George Lucas hadn’t started writing Star Wars: Episode I, The Phantom Menace until November 1994. Ironically, it was the expanded universe and other projects written and made outside of Lucas’ work that launched a resurgence in the Star Wars franchise, making it more popular. The outline Lucas had used for backstory prior to the filming of Star Wars: Episode IV, A New Hope, presumably to keep some sense of continuity, was not cemented in writing and allowed his filming process to remain flexible.

Critics of the Star Wars mythos know that Lucas’s continuity within all of his Star Wars films has been the subject of both speculation and ridicule.

 

Obi-Wan Kenobi Was Practically Luke’s Grandfather

All differences in continuity aside, the prequels did manage to enrich some things.

For example, we get to see how truly intimate the bond is between Jedi and Padawan. The relationship is more than just teacher and student. Fans saw the relationship between Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi as well as Count Dooku’s with Qui-Gon Jinn, not unlike a father and a son relationship.

When Obi-Wan first met Anakin he was twenty-five and Anakin was nine. That’s a sixteen year age gap. According to Lucasfilm, Qui-Gon Jinn was approximately sixty during The Phantom Menace – which is a thirty-five year age gap between him and Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan became Qui-Gon Jinn’s Padawan when he was twelve, making Qui-Gon forty-seven. That means Obi-Wan trained for thirteen years under his master. Anakin trained for ten to twelve years before becoming a Jedi in The Clone Wars television series.

The apprenticeship is an intense time that takes at least a decade to master and requires no other personal attachments. That is why Yoda kept insisting that Luke was too old to begin the training (as well as Anakin). Being a Jedi is the only life they ever remember. This is done intentionally to keep away the corruption they might have been exposed to in early childhood.

This way, there are no influences from their former life.

Ben and Luke

Obi-Wan has literally known Luke his entire life by the time A New Hope begins. He’s been watching over him (as well as Yoda) and guarding over the child on Tatooine.  Given how he looked after Anakin throughout his childhood, adolescence, and adult years, and helped deliver his two children, Obi-Wan is practically Luke’s grandfather.

In knowing this, we see why Ben Kenobi has such an interest in Luke’s training. We also see how hard it is for him to kill Anakin a second time. It’s almost tangible how much pain Obi-Wan is in when he talks about what happened to Anakin – remembering what it was like to kill a man who he’d practically raised and became best friend with.

 

Uncle Owen Had A LOT To Be Afraid Of

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” said Uncle Owen.

The ominous words of Uncle Owen got much darker after the prequels. There had to be a few nights where Owen Lars had woken up in a cold sweat next to his wife, Beru. I’m sure the stories of Anakin’s slaughtering of an entire village of Tusken Raiders in a fit of unstoppable rage during Attack of the Clones haunted his dreams until the day stormtroopers came and killed him.

Remember, outside of meeting his new stepbrother for only a few moments, Anakin was practically a stranger and really had no attachment to his new family. It’s unlikely Vader would feel any lingering sentiment about killing a distant relative who was harboring his embarrassment of a son.

 

Uncle Owen before his blue milk
Uncle Owen before his blue milk

 

And Owen probably had no idea Anakin was Darth Vader.

It’s also probably the same reason why he wanted Artoo’s memory wiped after he found out the droids might be the property of Obi-Wan.

Owen saw his nephew tagging innocent womp rats with his T-16. As Seth McFarlane commented in one of his Family Guy flashbacks, that’s the mark of a serial killer.

He knew Luke had talent as a pilot. He’d seen it. He also knew Luke had an entire childhood being bossed around by him, a bitter old moisture farmer uncle. Do you think Luke might have harbored a little resentment for the uncle that wouldn’t let him go to Tosche Station to get some power converters? He might have a bit of trouble if he got ahold of someone who could show him the force.

When Beru says to him that Luke is just not cut out to be a farm boy and that he has too much of his father in him, I’m sure Owen felt his spine go cold as he thought of his nephew looking as psychotic as his stepbrother looked with Sand People blood on his robes.

Some interpret this line differently. As Anakin was a Jedi who died under mysterious circumstances, Luke would be just as likely to follow the same path. The comic book stories suggest this as well. Ben Kenobi had a strained relationship with Owen Lars being over protective.  Owen was wary about Obi-Wan getting him killed. That presupposes Owen didn’t know Anakin’s true fate, leaving him to think better of the brother-in-law he knew for such a short amount of time.

I personally believe that the blue milk doesn’t spill far from the evaporator farm.

 

C3PO Is Just A Psychological Mess

C3PO is no longer just that annoying gold protocol droid. He’s what’s left of the innocence that Anakin had as a genius boy mechanic.

We also see how he became such an insufferable jerk. C3PO was shut down a lot and never really got used to or worked well with people.

Think of this from a human perspective. You get built by some nine-year-old kid and reality for you is a series of interrupted splices of consciousness. The last thing you see each day is a nine-year-old kid reach for something near your eyes and then immediately everything changes when the kid turns you back on.

It’s like life through the eyes of RoboCop.

We all know that some time after the end of Revenge of the Sith C3PO’s memory got wiped by Raymus Antilles. I can’t be sure long term memory survived, but having a bunch of people know you before you’ve introduced yourself as “I’m C3PO, human cyborg relations” has to be disconcerting.

C3PO can't get his head straightC3PO can’t get his head straight

 

Ironically, this leaves only R2D2 to know the entirety of the Star Wars story from the prequel onward. C3PO only knows from Episode IV going forward. To C3PO, R2D2 has always been with him – so, of course, there’s some kind of bond between the two droids. Even while the golden droid abused the astro repair droid, viewers should know that in Threepio’s mind, Artoo is his oldest friend.

What he doesn’t remember is who made him. We know this because every time he says “Thank the Maker” he’s talking about Darth Vader.

 

Obi-Wan Kenobi has a Terrible Memory

George Lucas continuity has a lot to be desired, especially when it comes to Obi-Wan. Although it’s easy for Ben Kenobi to say practically anything and relegate it to “a certain point of view” and get away with it, some things don’t get explained away quite as easily.

I don’t recall ever owning a droid before,” said Obi-Wan when talking about R2D2.

Are you okay, old man?Are you okay, old man?

 

He certainly should have known R2D2 as being one of the droids owned by his best friend and his wife – leave alone that it seemed rare one would be traveling almost constantly with a gold protocol droid. While C3PO’s memory might have been wiped, R2D2’s had not been. R2 may only speak in beeps and whistles, but he’s often made his meaning abundantly clear through his translator friend and X-wing fighter computer.

Obi-Wan never owned droids – except for the countless droids he had on Coruscant and the ones he used during the Clone Wars. That and the R4 astro-droid unit he had during Attack of the Clones. Ok, so he owned a few. It would have been more accurate in his saying, “I haven’t owned a droid in a very long time.”

Perhaps the old wizard got confused by the term “own”. Perhaps Jedi are like priests and can’t actually own things as part of their vow of poverty.

“Your father wanted you to have this (lightsaber) when you were old enough,” was another one. Considering that Vader had no clue his secret wife was even expecting by the time Luke and Leia were born, it was unlikely he was shooting the bull with Obi-Wan and letting him know what he’d do with his lightsaber – especially since Jedi were supposed to keep away from intimate attachments like wives and children.

“A young Jedi named Darth Vader, who was a pupil of mine, until he turned to evil helped the empire hunt down and destroy all the Jedi Knights,” is wrong for two reasons. While Anakin did kill all of the younglings, he did not hunt down anyone. The Jedi were wiped out by Order 66 when all of the clone troopers, who were constantly with the Jedi, obeyed their pre-programmed instructions and assassinated practically everyone. Obi-Wan’s own life was at risk when Cody tried to kill him as well. This can’t be written off to “a certain point of view”.

Of all the continuity errors that have been exposed throughout the Star Wars movies, Obi-Wan is guilty of reporting almost everything between him and Anakin wrong.

 

Boba Fett Has Been A Bounty Hunter For A Long Time

A fan favorite in both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi is Boba Fett. Without the backstory of him being a clone of Jango Fett, he is just a guy with a gun and helmet. We first get a peak of Boba Fett from a cartoon shown during the Star Wars Christmas special (1978) (canon in doubt).

What we discover in the prequels is that Boba Fett is very much like the man he was cloned from. Even at a young age, he can still fly the Slave-1.  All we know about Boba is that he wasn’t given any of the safeguards given to all of the other clones within the clone army.

Boba Fett and Vader

Considering the combat techniques the clones use throughout Attack of the Clones and The Clone Wars (animated series) are possibly from Jango Fett as well, we can see that Boba Fett is far more dangerous than any of the elite clone troopers and any of the current day stormtroopers.

Knowing that, it was easy to believe he could track and capture Han Solo and deliver his bounty to Jabba the Hutt.

 

Palpatine Is A Scheming Genius

Love him or hate him, you have to respect the genius of the Emperor.

When we look at the big picture of what’s going on in the Galactic Senate and Palpatine, we see that he’s a master manipulator. Every move he made always brought him closer to ruling the galaxy. Every battle, whether he won or lost, he always won one way or another as he played on both sides.  If the good guys won their battle, he won as Chancellor Palpatine. If the bad guys won, he won as Darth Sidious. Once he fully revealed himself to be a Sith, his forces were already entrenched everywhere and all he needed to do was activate them with “Order 66”. By the time we saw him in Return of the Jedi, he was comfortable in his power and was confident that all his chess pieces were in the right places.

Luke’s resistance to the dark side of the force wasn’t the only battle against Palpatine. It also wasn’t just the battle in space or destroying the new fully operational Death Star. The true battle was Luke finding a way to destroy the Emperor without becoming evil.

Gangsta PalpatineGangsta Palpatine

 

To Palpatine, it’s just another chess game where he controls both sides. If Darth Vader won the light saber duel, it’s status quo. If Luke won, Palpatine has a new apprentice – like Anakin, Count Dooku, and General Grievous.

When we get to the events of Star Wars: Rogue One, we already know how it will end. A New Hope gives us the ultimate end as certain prophesy to this prequel.

However, the point of the movie was not just to show the rebels fight against the Empire. The point was to show how hopeless things were once Palpatine became Emperor.  Everyone is always watched. The Empire is a totalitarian regime. We finally get to see why Darth Vader is so feared within the Empire. Throwing boxes at Luke Skywalker and choking annoying Death Star bureaucrats is nothing compared to Vader’s mowing down a squad of rebels that are keeping the Death Star plans from him.

A New Hope isn’t just about Luke; it’s about the turning of the tide on the Empire the Emperor built.

 

The Emperor Was Keeping Vader Alive and He Killed Padme

There is a convincing fan theory that makes a lot of sense.

Palpatine killed Padme and used her life force to keep Vader alive.

Palpatine and Anakin discussing immortalityPalpatine and Anakin discussing immortality

 

He was also unaware she was pregnant.

Obi-Wan said it himself in Return of the Jedi. “The Emperor knew that if Anakin were to have any offspring they would be a threat to him.” While Padme was giving birth to her twins the medical droid states that she is completely healthy but they didn’t know why she was dying. Droids can’t diagnose not having “the will to live”. They also have no knowledge of the Force.

If Palpatine had known she was pregnant, he’d have killed her while she had the kids in her womb. He wanted nothing to keep Anakin from becoming a Sith.

After the Empire gave Anakin his Vader makeover and put on his multiple prosthetics, the Emperor told him Padme died from what Anakin did to her – which was an obvious lie because Padme was still alive when Anakin had seen her last.

Outside of getting that information from the force, how would the Emperor even know Padme died – unless he killed her himself? We even see the Emperor smile after telling Vader the news. We also know Palpatine can do this because he goes so far as to tell Anakin the story of Darth Plagueis the Wise who had the power over life and death. Palpatine was the apprentice who killed Plagueis and took his power.

Death of Padme / Birth of VaderDeath of Padme / Birth of Vader

 

The theory is that Anakin was dying after Obi-Wan had fought him. The Emperor removed Padme’s life force and fed it to Vader to keep him alive and continued keeping him alive through the dark side of the force. This theory is confirmed through several points.

It also explains why Vader in Return of the Jedi kept telling Luke, “It is too late for me.”

There is also when Obi-Wan says, “I also thought he could be turned back to the good side. It couldn’t be done. He is more machine now than man. Twisted and evil.” He knew that it really wasn’t Anakin’s choice anymore. That not only was he mentally corrupted by the dark side of the force but it was also physically impossible for him to turn back without dying. Only the machines and the Force were keeping him going.

Ben also says, “Your father was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I have told you was true… from a certain point of view.” This explains why we see young Anakin Skywalker appear with old Ben Kenobi in the last scenes of Return of the Jedi.

Look at it this way. Palpatine knew he needed an apprentice to help run things. It was his experience as a Sith to kill his master to gain that power. In order to prevent the same thing happening to him, he made sure to have a mutually assured destruction with Vader. If Vader made plans to kill the Emperor, he would lose the life force that Palpatine continually gave him. This explains why in Return of the Jedi Vader died almost immediately after throwing the Emperor into the bottomless pit. There was nothing to keep Vader going.

 

A Joke Turned Into A Major Plot Point

Seth MacFarlane of Family Guy wrote in his spoof of Star Wars: A New Hope, Family Guy: Blue Harvest (Blue Harvest being the working title of Star Wars – the blue harvest on an evaporation farm is water), had Stewie (as Darth Vader) make mention of a major issue within the movie. Simply put, the issue is “How is it possible that one thermal exhaust port approximately two meters large be the Achilles heel of the Death Star?”

Blue Harvest

He goes so far as to say, “Whoa! That sounds like a pretty big design flaw!

As it turns out, the main storyline for Star Wars: Rogue One is not only about getting the plans to the Death Star but uncovering the secret vulnerability intentionally placed within the space station.

This specific prequel now retroactively fixed a major point of contention that may have started as a quick way to resolve the empire’s defeat in the first released movie. We could see that viewers initially had suspended their disbelief for decades until fans and critics started asking why anyone in their right mind would design a technological terror that could destroy planets and still have such a crazy fatal vulnerability.

 

Going Forward

After 2014, Lucasfilm declared that the Star Wars canon consisted of the eight Star Wars films (Episodes I through VII, plus Star Wars: Rogue One) as well as the television series The Clone Wars (and the animated film, The Clone Wars) and Star Wars Rebels. It also would include the comic books and novels written after April 2014.

Rogue OneRogue One: A Star Wars Story

 

When Disney bought Lucasfilm, it wiped the slate clean and declared what is canon is and what it isn’t. It nullified all the old stuff formerly approved in the Prequel Universe (i.e. – the novels and the comics).

We’re still unsure if that includes the 1978 Star Wars Christmas Special.

This is also one of the reasons I am trying to stay away from any kind of speculation. This expanded universe, outside the movies to include the television series of The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, and the additional comic books and novel material, while making the backstory rich and vibrant also makes the space opera of Star Wars a continuity nightmare.

These stories include the character of Darth Maul – who survived the duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi and now walks with a pair of cybernetic animal legs.  He is a vital part of The Clone Wars and the Rebels storylines. These stories, now canon, continue to make the larger story of what happens in Star Wars episodes four through nine more complex.

There has to be a break-even point where telling a story with a pre-destined outcome fills the whole of the story (while making gobs of money for Disney and Lucasfilm) only to have much of the continuity probably undone by the time Star Wars: Episode VIII, The Last Jedi premieres.

Mara Jade Skywalker no longer exists

Mara Jade Skywalker no longer exists

 

I want everyone to know that I respect the millions of Star Wars obsessed fans out there who read everything Star Wars. If you grew up and read all the novels and every comic book out there, if you were heartbroken over the deletion of Mara Jade Skywalker from the Star Wars continuity, and if you were one of the early fans that remember Jabba the Hut as some fat British guy wearing furs because you got one of the early “special edition” versions of the movie, I feel your pain over the continuity disruptions. Being a long term Star Wars fan is a lot like building a castle in the middle of a swamp full of quicksand. The old stories are great but the history of the story gets erased like part of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time.

Plus, it’s hard work.

I know from being a comic book scholar that following every lead and reading every story that George Lucas approved to get a whole picture of every bit of plot is harder than being a Tolkien scholar. Even now, with approximately 180 episodes of the animated series, plus countless comic books and every novel written after April 2014, keeping up with this is time-consuming and requires close scrutiny with every bit of it to draw a growing interactive matrix of continuity.

As sure as I’m sitting here, typing this article, I know that someone will have some alternate facts disproving my simple explanations – and that’s okay. That’s part of following your Star Wars passion.

The only prediction I will make, regarding the continuity of that film and how it adheres to the prequels, is fans will talk about it and speculate theories about it well after Episode IX hits Blu-ray.

Christopher Peruzzi Christopher Peruzzi is a comic book shaman and zombie war survivalist. When our dystopian future falls upon us, Chris will be there preaching in the First Church of Marvel. As a comic book enthusiast for most of his life, Chris has written over 150 articles on geek culture. He does lectures on Superheroes: The New American Mythology and how today’s superheroes are the new pantheon of American Gods. His short story The Undead Rose was published within the zombie anthology, Once Upon An Apocalypse by Chaosium Press. He writes regularly on zombie war preparedness and the Cthulhu mythos. Chris lives in Freehold with his wife and fellow SuperWhoLock fan, Sharon, and both are ready for their first TARDIS trip.