Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I'hantom zs/eat/cc

I talked ages and ages ago about discovering a thing I'd written back in '99, predicting what'd have to happen in the next two Star Wars films. Well, here it is.

Had to do correcting of things the scan didn't like - "Palpatine" and "Jedi" it was fine with, but "Phantom Menace" threw odd errors. Make of that what you will. Otherwise, I've not edited it, so apologies for some clumsy phrasing - and a number of Who cliches. Rather delighted that it's not entirely wrong...

Still To Come In The Galaxy Far, Far Away
Last updated: 27 January 2000

Now we've had Anakin in the UK, and as cinemas across the country one by one remove The Phantom Menace from their schedules, eager followers of the Star Wars saga must soon begin to wonder about the contents of episodes two and three.

Some comment has already seen print. ‘Which soap star will play “Young Adult” Anakin Skywalker?’ and so on. Among the predictable nominations was the heartening news that Leonardo di Caprio isn't interested.

Yet there's a glut of information about the contents of the next two films. It's been sitting under our noses for a couple of decades too. We can glean a huge amount from the four films already available to us. We know not only the major events that have to happen in the remaining chapters, we can also make an educated stab at a number of smaller elements. What follows, then, is my own best estimate, built up from evidence in the four films themselves. I've avoided events from the spin-off cartoons, books and comics because - as with the Alien franchise - Lucas has no obligation to adhere to merchandising apocrypha.

The dramatis personae of The Phantom Menace will carry on into episodes two and three – albeit for a recast Anakin. Ewan McGregor's Obi-Wan Kenobi will grow a beard by the end of episode three, and someone will probably refer to him as ‘Ben’, too.

C3P0 is reunited and paired with R2D2, but is likely either to have his memory wiped by the end of episode three, or remain marginal to the events of episodes two and three: explaining his lack of knowledge in A New Hope. He does insist ‘No more adventures' in the Tatooine desert in episode four - so recalls at least something. He ought also to be fully dressed in golden livery by the end of episode three.

It has been suggested that Samuel Jackson's Mace Windu will play a greater role in the next films. Of all the Jedi High Council, he is the one easiest to visualise wielding a lightsabre in the midst of great battle. We can also confidently expect reappearances - at least in cameo - by Hugh Quarshie and Ralph Brown. Ric Ollie may prove to be the Wedge Antilles of the prequels. [And not “of the pretzels”, as the text reader thought.]

Somewhere in the conflict of episode three will be glimpsed prototype X-Wings and TIE Fighters. The inclusion of Star Destroyers at this stage might, however, detract from the infamous opening shot of New Hope. Prototype Stormtroopers ought also to appear, along with the reason Phantom Menace's battle druids are given up in favour of men in plastic suits. There is an attitude towards droids as second-class citizens in A New Hope - the ‘we don't serve their kind here’ stuff in the cantina. Maybe robophobia is born from the war.

While young versions of Han and Boba Fett have been rumoured for years, both would have to be very young if born at all during the events of episode three. More likely is a view of either Bespin or the Millennium Falcon in a less developed form than we see them later. Also introduced is a young officer by the name of Tarkin. Paul McGann has the cheekbones to play a junior Peter Cushing, surely.

But what's to be done with Jah Jah Binks - apart from the obvious garroting? In Phantom Menace he was the banished, clumsy coward who rose to be a general in the Gungan army, having paved the way for an alliance between Boss Nass and Amidala. How can his character progress? With the years that are to pass between the end of episode one and the start of episode two, he will have to be considerably older. Surely the only role for him is as Nass's successor. Unless, like Lando, he forfeits his political responsibilities in favour of being a general among the freedom fighters. But who will his army be battling?

Episode two has to consist of some variant of The Empire Strikes. If not part of the title of the episode itself, this has got to be what the film is actually about.

In A New Hope we hear of the ‘Clone Wars’; when the Jedi made their last stand and where Anakin Skywalker perished. What does the title ‘Clone Wars’ suggest? GM Jedi? Or perhaps the fearsome Stormtroopers keeping the local systems in line for Palatine in A New Hope are all clones.

Princess Leia addresses Kenobi as ‘General’ in A New Hope. Like Han and Lando in Jedi (and Jah Jah in Phantom Menace he must be promoted prior to the big offensive. But do Jedi gain ranks and act as soldiers? Luke remains marginal to the offensive on Endor in episode six, and never receives a military title - even after destroying the Death Star in part four. In Phantom Menace, Qui-Gonn says he cannot fight a war for Amidala. The Jedi are peace-keeping diplomats, not a ninja infantry. There must be some special circumstance for Kenobi to join the army.

Appearing to Luke on Hoth, Ben describes Yoda as ‘the Jedi Master who trained me,’ which suggests Obi-wan still has much to learn in episodes two and three. On Dagobah, Yoda mutters that Luke is difficult and headstrong, and Kenobi counters, ‘Was I any different?’ Clearly Kenobi will follow Qui-Gonn’s example and argue with the High Council. ‘I was once a Jedi knight,’ he tells Luke in episode four, suggesting that he leaves the order to join the rebels, fighting shoulder to shoulder with Leia’s adopted father.

Bale Organa is someone we will have to meet in episode two. He has a key role to play in events to come. Mentioned as a political rival to Palpatine in episode one [actually, no he isn’t], he will take Amidala under his wing and raise her daughter as both his own and as a princess. When we first encounter him, it will be as a competent and respected minister - cast as a villain by Palpatine.

At some point in the political machinations, Palpatine has to reveal himself as the Sith Master. We ought also to learn how he has kept his Sith revival hidden from the Jedi. His powers have to be incredible. Napoleon made himself Emperor after heroic military service during the Reign of Terror. Palpatine must do something equally grand to ensure being made leader of the Senate. Perhaps he engineers a war with a third party, to split his rivals both in the Senate and on the Jedi Council.

Whatever the case, Palpatine will emerge from the early stages of the Clone Wars as a hero, while Jedi power and authority is assaulted and defeated. The surviving Jedi scatter across the cosmos, becoming secluded, lone hermits on backward worlds far from the Empire. By A New Hope, for all that he has done for Owen and Beru Lars in bringing them Luke, they dismiss him as a ‘crazy old wizard’. On Dagobah, Yoda is even more peculiar.

Something within the Jedi order itself also changes, so that its casualties become ghostly visions. Liam Neeson had a corpse that could be cremated, while the bodies of Ben and Yoda disappeared, appearing later as benign spectres. Vader got to both burn and return. The ‘change’ passes young Anakin by. He’s surprised by Kenobi’s vanishing at the end of their duel in A New Hope, but Ben knows what will happen should he be struck down.

The power appears to be broken some time during episodes one and four, so it may be that they are Palpatine's third party. The Jabba who lauds over the pod race in Phantom Menace is a poorer, quieter gangster skulking around Mos Eisley with a clutch of bodyguards in A New Hope, having to deal personally with small-time smugglers like Han Solo. Compare his sordid den and entourage at the beginning of Jedi to the massive, married exuberance feasted on him in episode one. Where did that go? He must have gambled badly on the outcome of the war.

As a result of this change in circumstance, war hero Anakin is able to free the slaves on Tatooine as promised. Maybe he proves too late to save his mother, or she is dying. With all the fear relating to his mother that the Jedi High Council can see in the young boy, this crashing failure would be the event that turns him over to the Dark Side. Dearth Vader is then the classic psychological villain: his wickedness motivated by his feelings for his mother. I wonder if he keeps her corpse in the Death Star’s cellar?

The dead mother and wish to save her also echoes Luke’s obsessive need to rescue and redeem his ‘dead’ father. Everybody - Yoda, Ben, Leia, even the Emperor - try to convince him that he is wrong, and yet he persists. Very Freud, and the loss of his mother also gives impetus to Anakin’s burgeoning relationship with an older woman: Amidala.

Han and Leia’s courtship develops through the entire four hours of episodes five and six. The first flirtations are being sign-posted right at the beginning of Empire. While Leia may admit that she loves Han at the end of Empire, it’s not until the end of Jedi
that the ‘But what about Luke?’ question is resolved and their relationship confirmed. What with all the spaceship and lightsabre battles interrupting them, it takes all four hours to get them together properly.

In that time, the stubborn, independent characters we met squabbling in A New Hope have mellowed and matched. Han Solo - who casually guns down Greedo in a seedy bar when we first meet him, and runs out on the rebels once he's been paid - is by Jedi a General in the resistance, leading a desperate mission many think hasn't a hope of success. He apologises to Leia for a moment of jealousy in the Ewok village, and later promises not to ‘get in the way’ should she want to shack up with her brother. Leia, as well as being far more caring, concerned and friendly by episode six, is able in Jedi not only to turn the tables on Han by rescuing him, but also gets to throw the ‘I love you’, ‘I know’ joke back at him.

In the same number of hours that this affair blossoms - in which Han and Leia get only a handful of brief snags - Lucas has not only to get Amidala and Anakin
together, he’s got to get Amidala pregnant and widowed, too.

Being a family saga, we won’t see much of the actual baby-making [no, that happens in a cartoon!]. Still, there is the question of whether Luke and Leia are born in or out of wedlock. Surely Naboo’s eligible Queen, after so much has threatened her power, is going to insist on a wedding ring before getting into the sack with some pod-racing slave boy. What valued her people think of her bit of teenage rough? Maybe his Jedi training and part in defeating the invaders in episode one will help to win over the readers of Nubian Hello magazine.

So will episode two end with a wedding - one last joyful occasion before the horrific collapse in episode three? That would seem the most sensible place to put it in the four hours allotted. Maybe Anakin and Amidala’s relationship will already have been sparked before the start of episode two. The loaded moments given them in Phantom Menace must surely have developed somewhere in the intervening years.

At the same time, Anakin’s relationship with Palpatine has been developing. At some point, Anakin will have to make the meaningful decision that turns him over to the Dark Side. Palpatine will surely have been slyly coaxing the boy towards his service for years, subverting the Jedi prophecy Mace Windu speaks of in episode one. How late into episode three will the turning point come, and how far will it be sign-posted in episode two? The older Anakin we’ll meet in episodes two and three could easily suffer from over-confidence in his abilities as pilot, Jedi and lover, and exert the same keen naivety shown by his son in episode four. Maybe he has an argument with the wife, or finds the Jedi order too restricting. Vader loves power. Throughout episodes four to six, he bullies not only prisoners but his officers, too. I suspect Palpatine will have established a confidence with Anakin well before the marriage to Amidala is made.

Episode two ends with the Jedi wedding guests at the happy party concerned for the near future. Palpatine keeps noticeably distant, finally making his first public gambit at the beginning of episode three. The trap he has sprung is all-consuming, the fall of the Jedi inevitable. Anakin leaves his pregnant wife to join the battles and in the midst of the war is faced with some character-defining dilemma.
His decision brings him into direct, cataclysmic conflict with Kenobi. They fight a terrible duel (conveniently) on a one-to-one basis, Anakin wearing the black robes of the Sith, the partial costume of Vader. At the beginning of A New Hope Vader affirms that, ‘there's no one to stop us this time,’ but we can only guess at what it might be that Kenobi stops him from doing.

With each film in the series, the final lightsabre duels have become increasingly faster, more furious and impressive. With so much hanging on their battle, with so inevitable an outcome, the battle between Obi-wan and Anakin will have to be breath-taking. We’ve already seen that Ewan McGregor can kick bottom.

Anakin must sustain terrible injuries to have to dress up in the garb of Darth Vader - we can gauge something of that damage by whatever he’s having done to his brain in Empire and the scars to be seen on his unmasked face in Jedi. When Luke slices off Vader’s hand in their final battle in Jedi, it is revealed to be mechanical. Maybe Kenobi slicing off Anakin’s hand in pitched battle in episode three will be the first instance of the family wound. It will also make him drop his weapon. Ben retains Anakin’s lightsabre at the end of episode three, and passes the heirloom down to Luke in A New Hope.

Anakin has to appear to be dead - to the majority of his compatriots at least. What a propaganda blow it would be for them to know that their young star of a pilot has gone over to the enemy. It’s therefore a little strange that the politically agile Palpatine doesn’t take advantage of this. Maybe the change of name to Darth Vader is part of Sith lore. Kenobi - fully aware that Anakin has survived their duel and become Vader - doesn't tell a soul until Yoda outs his mistrust in Jedi.

We ought to see more of Coruscant. The bell ringing the news of Palapatine's death in Jedi will surely ring in his ascension to Emperor at the end of episode three. Close by stands his Sith advisor, Vader - voiced, ever so briefly, by James Earl Jones. Their victory seems complete.

Elsewhere, our heroes have gone to grounds licking their wounds and promising that they will, one day, fight again. Obi-wan and Bale Organa agree to separate the devastated Amidala's children to protect them. How is ambitionless farmer Owen Lars found by Kenobi? Perhaps they meet in episode two, when Anakin comes to rescue the slaves.

Widowed, a child taken from her and with the resistance crushed, Amidala fades. She dies when Leia is very young, and Leia remembers her only as sad and very beautiful.
Vader has no idea that Leia is his daughter. It’s a revelation to him towards the end of Jedi that Luke has a sister. However, he and Palapatine have expected a young Skywalker to turn up. Palpatine has even seen this child as powerful enough to threaten him. Maybe that is why Kenobi insists that Luke keeps his father’s surname.

That surname risks attention on Tatooine in his formative years: ‘Your name’s Skywalker? Like the only human ever to win pod racing, who went off to be a Jedi knight, saved Naboo, then came back here and freed the slaves? You related to him?’

‘No,’ Luke would have to say. ‘l’m just the son of some other Skywalker - some hotshot pilot who got himself killed in the Clone Wars…’

What’s more, surely the Empire would have followed the flight of the Nubian Queen and her child to Alderaan, while the adoption of Leia into the Organa family can’t have gone unnoticed. There are problems with the nature of monarchic hierarchy and succession in Phantom Menace: Amidala is the ‘newly elected’ queen of her people, for example, though I’m told that there's a precedent for this sort of thing in the lineage of some of the European royal families.

Alderaan remains an opposition power to Palpatine and his cronies for some time. The Imperial Senate is only disbanded at the beginning of A New Hope, while Leia appears to have met both Vader and Tarkin prior to her capture - suggesting political wrangling off-screen. The destruction of Alderman becomes then a particular pleasure for the Empire.

But Bale Organa dies having already put in motion events to bring down the Empire. He knows where Kenobi will be hiding. From him comes Leia’s plea for alp. He must also know about Luke, too. ‘This is the time we’ve been waiting for,’ is his message to Kenobi - and Obi-wan's first reaction is to hand Luke a lightsabre and invite him to the fray.

The young Tatooine boy follows the beardie Jedi rebel into space and adventure and destiny. The circle is now complete.

Well, that’s what I reckon, anyway.

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