Being the Ongoing Chronicle of the Anticks, Misadventures, and Odd Deeds of an Overalls-clad Wanderer.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Fixing the Prequels: Revenge of the Sith (part five)



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Again, it's been a while since we did this, and I've been lax for mainly the same reasons: work on other projects, and the continued calcification of the view that the Prequel Trilogy is utter garbage. It seems that the only way to get commentary about the PT noticed online is to simply find some way to repackage the same, tired, old "The PT sucks and Lucas is a hack!" narrative. But for the sake of completeness, I suppose I should tilt at this windmill until I'm done...which is what I'm going to do. (I've already written several of the next posts in this series.) Perhaps a re-energizing of Star Wars fandom in the wake of the franchise's transition in ownership from George Lucas to the hands of the Disney folks will lead to a re-evaluation of the Prequels...which might lead to a discovery of this blog series. A guy can dream, can't he? So on we go!

When last we left off, we had completed the rescue of Chancellor Palpatine and were heading into the political part of the story. In my version, Anakin has already told Padme that when their child is born, he will leave the Jedi order; but Palpatine has already started his plotting, beginning with invoking some ancient law to appoint Anakin directly to the Jedi Council (which Anakin interprets to mean that he will, at long last, be made a Jedi Master). Meanwhile, Padme has been approached by several Senators who have strong concerns about the direction Palpatine is leading the Republic.

So: at this point in the film, Anakin stands before the Council after his appointment. It doesn't go as well as he hopes. (Red text indicates material not in the film; blue text indicates stuff I'm adding on my own.)


INT. CORUSCANT-JEDI TEMPLE-HALLWAY OUTSIDE COUNCIL CHAMBERS-DAY


ANAKIN stands pensively (I'd have him pacing, actually.) in front of the Jedi Council Chambers. The door opens.

83 INT. CORUSCANT-JEDI TEMPLE-COUNCIL CHAMBERS-DAY

ANAKIN enters and stands in the middle of the room. He is surrounded by the Jedi Council MACE WINDU, EETH KOTH OBI-WAN, YODA, the HOLOGRAMS of PLO KOON and KI-ADI-MUNDI.

MACE: Anakin Skywalker, we have approved your appointment to the Council as the Chancellor's personal representative.

ANAKIN: I will do my best to uphold the principles of the Jedi Order.


YODA: Allow this appointment lightly, the Council does not. Disturbing is this move by Chancellor Palpatine.

ANAKIN: I understand.

MACE: You are on this Council, but we do not grant you the rank of Master.

Anakin reacts with anger.

ANAKIN: What? ! How can you do this?? This is outrageous, it's unfair . . . I'm more powerful than any of you. How can you be on the Council and not be a Master?

[I'm glad that Lucas excised that one sentence, there. It really makes Anakin sound whiny and entitled. The focus instead should be on the idea that just being on the Council should make him a Master, not on his power.]

MACE: You are powerful, and you have accomplished a great deal. No one here questions this. But it is the Council's decision who becomes a Master, not the Chancellor's, and there is no dusty ancient law in any book that he can use to make it so. Take a seat, young Skywalker.

ANAKIN: Forgive me, Master.

ANAKIN goes and sits in one of the empty chairs. Everyone is embarrassed. KI-ADI-MUNDI WHO APPEARS AS A HOLOGRAM, speaks.

Kl-ADI-MUNDI: We have surveyed all systems in the Republic, and have found no sign of General Grievous.

YODA: Hiding in the Outer Rim, Grievous is. The outlying systems, you must sweep.

OBI-WAN: It may take some time . . . we do not have many ships to spare.

MACE: We cannot take ships from the front line.

OBI-WAN: And yet, it would be fatal for us to allow the droid armies to regroup.

YODA: Master Kenobi, our spies contact, you must, and then wait.

Kl-ADI-MUNDI: What about the droid attack on the Wookiees?

MACE: It is critical we send an attack group there, immediately!

OBI-WAN: He's right, that is a system we cannot afford to lose. It's the main navigation route for the southwestern quadrant.

ANAKIN: I know that system well. It would take us little time to drive the droids off that planet.

MACE: Skywalker, your assignment is here with the Chancellor, and Kenobi must find General Grievous.

YODA: Go, I will. Good relations with the Wookiees, I have.

MACE: It is settled then. Yoda will take a battalion of clones to reinforce the Wookiees on Kashyyyk. May the Force be with us all.

ANAKIN is disappointed.

So Anakin had thought that Palpatine's action would instantly elevate him to the highest levels of the Jedi order...but that's not at all how things worked out. I really like this development and always have – with this one move, Palpatine has managed to drive the already-existing wedge between himself and the Council a little bit deeper, and he has managed to position Anakin right in the middle. He knows that Anakin will find the Council's actions insulting, and what's more, he clearly already knew that the Council would refuse to elevate Anakin to Master. Palpatine is planting seeds with the deftness of...a Sith Lord!

What happens next:

INT. CORUSCANT-JEDI TEMPLE-MASSIVE MAIN HALLWAY AND ALCOVE-LATE AFTERNOON

ANAKIN and OBI-WAN walk through one of the massive Jedi Temple hallways. ANAKIN is furious.

ANAKIN: What kind of nonsense is this, put me on the Council and not make me a Master!?? That's never been done in the history of the Jedi. It's insulting!

OBI-WAN: Calm down, Anakin. You have been given a great honor. To be on the Council at your age . . . It's never happened before. Listen to me, Anakin. The fact of the matter is you're too close to the Chancellor. The Council doesn't like it when he interferes in Jedi affairs.

ANAKIN: I swear to you, I didn't ask to be put on the Council . . .

OBI-WAN: But it's what you wanted! Your friendship with Chancellor Palpatine seems to have paid off.

ANAKIN: That has nothing to do with this.

OBI-WAN: Anakin, regardless of how it happened, you find yourself in a delicate situation.

ANAKIN: You mean divided loyalties.

OBI-WAN: I warned you there was tension between the Council and the Chancellor. I was very clear. Why didn't you listen? You walked right into it.

ANAKIN: The Council is upset I'm the youngest to ever serve.

OBI-WAN: No, it is not. Anakin, I worry when you speak of jealousy and pride. Those are not Jedi thoughts. They're dangerous, dark thoughts.

ANAKIN: Master, you of all people should have confidence in my abilities. I know where my loyalties lie.

OBI-WAN: I hope so . . .

ANAKIN: I sense there's more to this talk than you're saying.


OBI-WAN: Anakin, the only reason the Council has approved your appointment is because the Chancellor trusts you.

ANAKIN: And?

OBI-WAN: Anakin, look, I am on your side. I didn't want to see you put in this situation.

ANAKIN: What situation?

OBI-WAN: (takes a deep breath) The Council wants you to report on all of the Chancellor's dealings. They want to know what he's up to.

ANAKIN: They want me to spy on the Chancellor? That's treason!

OBI-WAN: We are at war, Anakin. The Jedi Council is sworn to uphold the principles of the Republic, even if the Chancellor does not.

ANAKIN: Why didn't the Council give me this assignment when we were in session?

OBI-WAN: This assignment is not to be on record. The Council asked me to approach you on this personally.

ANAKIN: The Chancellor is not a bad man, Obi-Wan. He befriended me. He's watched out for me ever since I arrived here.

OBI-WAN: That is why you must help us, Anakin. Our allegiance is to the Senate, not to its leader who has managed to stay in office long after his term has expired.

ANAKIN: Master, the Senate demanded that he stay longer.

OBI-WAN: Yes, but use your feelings, Anakin. Something is out of place.

ANAKIN: You're asking me to do something against the Jedi Code. Against the Republic. Against a mentor . . . and a friend. That's what's out of place here. Why are you asking this of me?

OBI-WAN: The Council is asking you.


Hoo-boy. When I really think about it, the clarity of Palpatine's plan really crystallizes nicely here. The Jedi don't trust Palpatine, but he gives them a golden opportunity to have someone watching him very closely. Palpatine is banking on the fact that Anakin perceives the Council as not trusting him, when in fact, they apparently do – or enough of them to think it's advisable to ask this of him. Palpatine knows that Anakin does not trust them, even if Anakin hasn't yet figured this out. He's playing on the fact that Anakin must be well aware of the Council's long-standing suspicion of him and his abilities, going all the way back to when Qui Gon Jinn presented him to the Council as a young boy.

And thus Palpatine lays the trap for the Jedi, which they walk into, fully aware even as they do it. Is Palpatine worried about Anakin reporting his doings to the Jedi? Perhaps...but he suspects that, when it finally comes time to make the choice, Anakin will choose him instead. It's almost as if, after years and years and years of careful plotting and reacting to events, Palpatine is finally ready to go "all in". I've always thought this all very well-constructed on Lucas's part.

Next comes a scene that demonstrates, for me, the thin line that the Jedi are walking (and they are not walking it particularly well):

INT. CORUSCANT-JEDI GUNSHIP-DAY

YODA, MACE, and OBI-WAN ride in the GUNSHIP as it heads for the Clone landing platform. Mace and Obi-Wan are sitting.

OBI-WAN : Anakin did not take to his assignment with much enthusiasm.

YODA: Too much under the sway of the Chancellor, he is. Much anger there is in him. Too much pride in his powers.

MACE: It's very dangerous, putting them together. I don't think the boy can handle it. I don't trust him.

OBI-WAN: He'll be all right. I trust him with my life.

MACE:I wish I did.

OBI-WAN: With all due respect, Master, is he not the Chosen One? Is he not to destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force?

MACE: So the prophecy says.

YODA: A prophecy . . . that misread could have been.

OBI-WAN: He will not let me down. He never has.

YODA: I hope right you are. And now destroy the Droid armies on Kashyyyk, I will. May the Force be with you.

The GUNSHIP lands and the ramp lowers. YODA exits the GUNSHIP. MACE and OBI-WAN stand and give him a brief bow then take off in the GUNSHIP.


Again: hoo-boy. It's like the Jedi see that something very bad is looming out there if they keep doing things this way, and then they just keep on doing things that way. This facet of the Jedi's eventual fall – the way they brought a great deal of it on themselves, just by being clueless about things at really bad times – is an element I've always wished that George Lucas would have brought forward much more strongly. The Jedi fall is, to me, lines up almost perfectly, by way of metaphor, with that of the Knights Templar. If you've never read up on the history of the Templars, check it out...and for a good time, mentally substitute the word 'Jedi' for 'Templar' as you get close to the end.

But meanwhile: Mace, Mace, Mace, you ignorant slut. The key question here is pretty obvious: if you don't trust Anakin – and it's clear that Windu is not alone in his lack of enthusiasm for him – then why on Earth are you entrusting him with such a task? If you all feel that Anakin's friendship with Palpatine is something to be concerned about, why do you not only tacitly endorse it but openly encourage it by giving him such an assignment? Even Obi Wan, who knows Anakin best and trusts him the most, thinks that Anakin is too close to Palpatine. None of the Jedi actions here really make sense, and to me they illustrate what's most interesting about the Prequel Trilogy: that the Jedi by this time aren't even close to being the Jedi Order in its prime. They are disastrously close to something bad happening, and while they know it's there, they have no real idea where the threat is coming from. Right now they don't trust Palpatine, but that he actually is the threat has not yet entered their minds.

In terms of this scene, though, I'd add something:

OBI-WAN : Anakin did not take to his assignment with much enthusiasm.

YODA: Too much under the sway of the Chancellor, he is. Much anger there is in him. Too much pride in his powers.

MACE: It's very dangerous, putting them together. I don't think the boy can handle it. I don't trust him.

OBI-WAN: He'll be all right. I trust him with my life.

MACE:I wish I did. There's something at odds about young Skywalker. He is powerful and he has done many great things, but his thoughts and feelings are not focused on his Jedi duties.

OBI-WAN: What do you think he's focusing on instead?

MACE: I do not know.

This will play into something a little later on, pertaining to Anakin's eventual fall from grace.



Meanwhile, Anakin goes home to Padme, and it's clear that the pressures on Anakin are starting to take a toll on him there, too.

EXT. CORUSCANT-PADME'S APARTMENT-VERANDA-SUNSET

Padme's Speeder pulls up to the landing platform. CAPTAIN TYPHO escorts PADME onto the veranda, where TWO HANDMAIDENS (ELLE and MOTEE) are waiting. PADME turns to CAPTAIN TYPHO.

PADME: Thank you, Captain.

CAPTAIN TYPHO: Rest well. My Lady.

CAPTAIN TYPHO gets back into the Speeder, and it disappears into the cityscape. The HANDMAIDENS, Motee and Elle, approach PADME as the SHADOW OF A FIGURE moves in the background. C-3PO is standing nearby.

PADME: I'll be up in a while.

MOTEE: Yes, my lady.

C-3PO stands, confused, as the HANDMAIDENS turn and exit.

C-3PO: Is there anything I might do for you, my lady?

PADME: Yes, make sure all the security droids are working. Thank you, Threepio.

The golden droid turns and exits.

PADME stands and watches the sunset. The SHADOWY FIGURE moves toward her. She senses something.

ANAKIN: Beautiful, isn't it?

PADME jumps and turns around.

PADME: You startled me.

He sits next to her on the bench.

ANAKIN: How are you feeling?

PADME: He keeps kicking.

ANAKIN: He?! Why do you think it's a boy?

PADME: (laughs) My motherly intuition.

She puts his hand on her belly.

ANAKIN: Whoa! With a kick that strong, it's got to be a girl.

They laugh.

PADME: I heard about your appointment. Anakin. I'm so proud of you.

ANAKIN: I may be on the Council, but . . . they refused to accept me as a Jedi Master.

PADME: Patience. In time, they will recognize your skills.

ANAKIN: They still treat me as if I were a Padawan learner. . . they fear my power, that's the problem.

PADME: Anakin . . .


ANAKIN: Sometimes, I wonder what's happening to the Jedi Order . . . I think this war is destroying the principles of the Republic.

PADME: Have you ever considered that we may be on the wrong side?

ANAKIN: (suspicious) What do you mean?

PADME: What if the democracy we thought we were serving no longer exists, and the Republic has become the very evil we have been fighting to destroy?

ANAKIN: I don't believe that. And you're sounding like a Separatist!

PADME: Anakin, this war represents a failure to listen . . . Now, you're closer to the Chancellor than anyone. Please, please ask him to stop the fighting and let diplomacy resume.

ANAKIN: (growing angry) Don't ask me to do that, Padme. Make a motion in the Senate, where that kind of a request belongs. I'm not your errand boy. I'm not anyone's errand boy!

PADME: What is it?

ANAKIN: Nothing.

PADME: Don't do this . . . don't shut me out. Let me help you.

ANAKIN: You can't help me . . . I'm trying to help you.

They look in each other's eyes.

ANAKIN: (continuing) I sense . . . there are things you are not telling me.

PADME is startled at this.

PADME: I sense there are things you are not telling me.


PADME smiles. ANAKIN is a little embarrassed.

PADME: (continuing) Hold me . . . like you did by the lake on Naboo, so long ago . . . when there was nothing but our love ... No politics, no plotting ... no war.


Here we have another example of a scene that works better as written than as eventually shown in the finished film, which means that it's another case of overzealous editing. Basically we cut to the middle of a discussion of politics, with no preamble or set-up, which just doesn't work very well at all. During this whole part of the movie, I remember thinking, "Wow, does anybody ever just sit and talk in these? Is it all politics, all the time?" And I can see that Lucas wanted to get the running time under control, but really – you've got to let a story breathe at times.

So I'd pick up the scene earlier and make a couple of tiny additions:

EXT. CORUSCANT-PADME'S APARTMENT-VERANDA-SUNSET

Padme's Speeder pulls up to the landing platform. CAPTAIN TYPHO escorts PADME onto the veranda, where TWO HANDMAIDENS (ELLE and MOTEE) are waiting. PADME turns to CAPTAIN TYPHO.

PADME: Thank you, Captain. I'm sorry I'm so late. There were some informal meetings after the official business ended.

CAPTAIN TYPHO: You don't need to explain to me, My Lady. Rest well.


CAPTAIN TYPHO gets back into the Speeder, and it disappears into the cityscape. The HANDMAIDENS, Motee and Elle, approach PADME as the SHADOW OF A FIGURE moves in the background. C-3PO is standing nearby.

PADME: I'll be up in a while.

MOTEE: Yes, my lady.

C-3PO stands, confused, as the HANDMAIDENS turn and exit.

C-3PO: Is there anything I might do for you, my lady?

PADME: Yes, make sure all the security droids are working. Thank you, Threepio.

The golden droid turns and exits.

PADME stands and watches the sunset. The SHADOWY FIGURE moves toward her. She senses something.

ANAKIN: Beautiful, isn't it?

PADME jumps and turns around.

PADME: You startled me.

He sits next to her on the bench.

ANAKIN: How are you feeling?

PADME: He keeps kicking.

ANAKIN: He?! Why do you think it's a boy?

PADME: (laughs) My motherly intuition.

She puts his hand on her belly.

ANAKIN: Whoa! With a kick that strong, it's got to be a girl.

They laugh.

PADME: I heard about your appointment. Anakin. I'm so proud of you...What is it?

ANAKIN: I may be on the Council, but . . . they refused to accept me as a Jedi Master.

PADME: Patience. In time, they will recognize your skills.

ANAKIN: They still treat me as if I were a Padawan learner. . . they fear my power, that's the problem. And they're angry that the Chancellor used that law in the first place. So I'm in the middle, while everything falls apart.

PADME: Anakin . . .

ANAKIN: Sometimes, I wonder what's happening to the Jedi Order . . . I think this war is destroying the principles of the Republic.

PADME: Have you ever considered that we may be on the wrong side?

ANAKIN: (suspicious) What do you mean?

PADME: What if the democracy we thought we were serving no longer exists, and the Republic has become the very evil we have been fighting to destroy?

ANAKIN: I don't believe that. And you're sounding like a Separatist!

PADME: Anakin, this war represents a failure to listen . . . Now, you're closer to the Chancellor than anyone. Please, please ask him to stop the fighting and let diplomacy resume.

ANAKIN: (growing angry) Don't ask me to do that, Padme. Make a motion in the Senate, where that kind of a request belongs. I'm not your errand boy. I'm not anyone's errand boy!

PADME: What is it?

ANAKIN: Nothing.

PADME: Don't do this . . . don't shut me out. Let me help you.

ANAKIN: You can't help me . . . I'm trying to help you.

They look in each other's eyes.

ANAKIN: (continuing) I sense . . . there are things you are not telling me.

PADME is startled at this.

PADME: I sense there are things you are not telling me.

PADME smiles. ANAKIN is a little embarrassed.

PADME: (continuing) We can't let this war come between us. Not when we've both lost so much!

She steps into his embrace.

PADME: Hold me . . . like you did by the lake on Naboo, so long ago . . . when there was nothing but our love ... No politics, no plotting ... no war.

ANAKIN returns the embrace, and for a second, his expression is at peace...but then, C-3PO enters.

C-3PO: Oh! I am sorry, Master Anakin, but you have a message. The Chancellor is requesting your presence.

ANAKIN sighs.

ANAKIN: I don't want to go.

PADME: You have to. You still have your duties.

ANAKIN: But who am I serving?

She kisses him, and they hold each other for just a moment longer.

EXT: CORUSCANT – SKY OUTSIDE PADME'S APARTMENT

Unbeknownst to them, a probe droid is hovering nearby, its camera focused on them as they complete their embrace and part, with ANAKIN walking away.

INT: CORUSCANT – JEDI TEMPLE – COUNCIL CHAMBERS – NIGHT

MACE WINDU sits alone in the Council chamber, watching a holographic feed of what the probe droid is viewing: ANAKIN and PADME embracing. MACE leans back in his chair and turns to stare at the Coruscant skyline, deep in thought.



It's probably pretty obvious where I'm going with that last bit. George Lucas made quite clear that the real wedge, the final break, between Anakin and the Jedi would center upon Mace Windu. Here I'm drawing that out even more. He has suspicions about Anakin, and now he's actively pursuing them.

That's where I'll stop here. Next time, we come in as Palpatine starts to make his move to lure Anakin away from the Jedi. Tune in!

2 comments:

Charlie said...

In the novelization of the movie Anakin's anger at the council is motivated by wanting the full access to the Jedi archives that only Masters have. Palpatine has cued him into the existence of Darth Plagueis records detailing his techniques for using the Force to hold off death, but only Masters are allowed to study Sith Lords' writings.

I'd forgotten that wasn't in the movie, too. It makes for, IMHO, a nice extra element to the Jedi Council scene. Anakin's not just angry because he's offended, he's seeing what he thought was his path to knowledge that could save Padme ripped away from him.

I really like your update to the Padme-Anakin scene. You hit it right on the head - that scene is already pretty good as written, it just jumps topics too fast.

Jason said...

Excellent tweaks, as always. I agree with Charlie about the additions to the Padme-Anakin scene, and I like how you're using Mace Windu. I really wanted him to amount to more in the movies than he actually did.

You mention letting a story breathe... I think this is one of the big problems with the PT in general... as much as people carp that there's no plot, actually it's the reverse problem. There's so much going on over the course of three movies that none of it really gets its just due. I've always felt that it was an error to have pretty much the entirety of the Clone Wars happen off screen as it were, between Eps II and III. Really this story could've been six parts on its own, and perhaps would've been better served as a TV series, or at least a lengthy miniseries. But if we were going to be constrained (somewhat arbitrarily) by it being a trilogy, perhaps it would've worked better to begin the story with Attack of the Clones and spread some of what happens in Sith across two movies. I guess you could argue that the current Clone Wars series fills that role, but I haven't seen enough of it to know, and I tend to consider it a secondary level of "canonicity."

I understand why some of the fun has faded from this project for you, but I'm really glad you've picked it up again. I enjoy these entries greatly... FWIW.