Star Wars was ruined by, “I am your father!”

Well, not ruined per se, but it was something the Prequels and the Sequels haven’t been able to live up to. Or perhaps they forgot about it — a key dramatic element of the Original Trilogy.

Everyone remembers the time they first saw that dramatic scene in Empire Strikes Back where Darth Vader tells the young hero Luke Skywalker that he is in fact his father. The shock would plague some of us for nearly 3 years waiting for the release of Return of the Jedi. Yes, I was a kid, 8 years old, back then and saw it in the theater. I’m not sure I even believed it. I figured Vader was lying to Luke just to get him to turn to the Dark Side.

See, I was naive and believed Obi-wan Kenobi when he told Luke that Vader betrayed and murdered Luke’s father. Yet, once I saw ROTJ and the audience got its confirmation that Ben Kenobi lied, I learned a very important dramatic element of story telling. Some call it the “big reveal” or some might say “the redirect”. The goal is to surprise your audience with some information they weren’t expecting. This information is meant to change the dynamic of the characters relationship with one another. Not only providing melodrama but layers of complexity to the story.

Now, when the Prequels debuted in 1999 with The Phantom Menace, we knew this was going to be a story about a young Anakin Skywalker — Luke’s father. But what we didn’t know was how and what drove Anakin to the Dark Side. So millions of Star Wars fans waited and then we were disappointed. Okay, fine, we saw how he fell to the Dark Side, yet George Lucas made it a very long turn. Instead of something dramatic, we were told that Anakin was troubled and manipulated by Palpatine — spending over a decade slowly mind controlling him.

We all have the version of new Star Wars we wanted in our heads. My imagination over 20 years allowed me to think of a few different versions of the prequels. Yet, I know that is the definition of exaggerated anticipation — and there’s no way to be completely satisfied with the result. This is a common affliction in a Star Wars fan. We put too much of our own desires into future stories that we hopelessly know will never become reality. This is why a Star Wars fan can hate and love a movie at the same time.

In my Star Wars, Anakin fell to the dark side in one tragic and dramatic moment. Something very similar to what we saw in his final moment of his fall in Revenge of the Sith. But something much more powerful. I saw him using the Dark Side only to save someone he loved — i.e. the “young queen” (mother of Luke and Leia) but because it truly was the only way to save them. Almost to say, he sacrificed himself to save them. But this isn’t my point. Yet, I mention it as this could have been the “I am your father” moment. And maybe it should have been.

In all aspects of the Prequels, we never got this “reveal” moment. We were never shocked or surprised by the story. It really felt like the three movies were telegraphed to us in a very long exposition of images. I blame George Lucas for not giving us our surprise. Where was “I am your father” in the Prequels? We didn’t get it! Maybe Palpatine should have told Anakin that he was Anakin’s father? Or that Qui-Got was? Something. This is the same thing that happened in the Sequels. We almost had it with the tease on Rey’s parents but then we didn’t get anything. I believe if we had gotten this moment in Attack of the Clones or in The Last Jedi, those trilogies would be inherently better. But then, what do I know….

I failed….

On January first, I wanted to write on this blog every day for an entire year. As anyone paying attention (not sure there’s many) but that’s not happened.

Several factors have influenced this: internal conflicts of do I share opinions or touch on uncomfortable subjects, or simply share memories and reminisce about things I love; battling writers block on a couple projects that have diminished my desire to write; and, working through my fixation of my obsessive need for refinement (an oxymoronic statement I’m sure) and my never ending worry with having order in my process of work.

If the last reason doesn’t make sense, it’s probably because I don’t know how to make sense of my mind sometimes. There’s definitely something not right when I worry about every word. I immediately want to take it back. I should have said that differently or the anxiety of judgment due in part to the manner in which I talk or think.

So I failed but I still want to move forward. Confronting weakness or mistakes is the first step, right? Then again maybe artists don’t fire on all thrusters and I need to accept that. I’ll work on it. But realistically, I just want to tell stories….

Worlds Finest.

So, let’s pretend that history was slightly different.

It’s 1990. The world has just experienced Batman as a big budget (and dark) movie masterpiece. Fans are rejoicing and dancing in the streets. We’ve not been this excited since …. well, I don’t know…. but its BIG!

The intelligent minds and businessmen at Warner Brothers green light a sequel. Duh. Who wouldn’t, right? So work begins immediately on the next chapter. They call it Batman Returns. (Not sure why this was the title since its not like he went anywhere. Maybe they could have called it Batman Strikes Back. Nah, what’s he striking back at? It’s not like he lost at the end of the first movie. Maybe, Batman Again! Yeah, we get Batman AGAIN! That’s kinda dumb. It’s the title that doesn’t so much refer to the movie itself but to the audience to tell us, “hey! Batman RETURNS!!! Go buy tickets!”) [back on topic] The movie starts production but there’s one tiny difference….

Batman saves Gotham again. Bruce Wayne finds a stray black cat and he thinks of Catwoman with one life left. We pan up to see the Bat Signal and Catwoman pop her head up. Then the clouds of the signal are broken by something zooming through them. We cut to the credits. After a couple minutes the credits are interrupted – fade in to Wayne Manner. The Batmobile blasts out of the Batcave. A blur of red and blue flies into the frame and block the Batmobile – which slams on the bat brakes! We cut back to the thing blocking Batman’s path – It’s SUPERMAN! Christopher Reeve’s Superman. His blue eyes look down at the Batmobile as the roof slides open to see Batman poking his head out. Wide shot of Superman and Batman. Superman speaks, “Batman – or should I say Bruce Wayne (x-ray vision folks) – I need your help in Metropolis. I’ve got a problem right up your alley. See, there’s this little problem with an old Kryptonian computer….” Cut back to the credits. Fade out.

The style is beyond its time. But don’t discard it. Let’s also move forward on the assumption Superman III never happened in 1983 (or the bad Superman IV: Quest for Peace in 1987). Because the original story plot for Superman III was meant to be a story about Brainiac but due to budget constraints and a studio that demanded Richard Pryor be in a Superman film, we got what we…got. Warner Bros. begins production on the next block buster super-hero movie for release in 1995. The title: WORLD’S FINEST: Superman & Batman. Today, you could have just stuck to World’s Finest, but in the 80/90s you had to put the characters in the title or no one would know it was a Superman and Batman movie.

1995. World’s Finest opens starring Christopher Reeve and Michael Keaton in a double bill, and the fans go crazy. The movie breaks records. It destroys the 1993 record for Jurassic Park. Revolutionary special effects from Industiral Light & Magic creates a marvoulous Brainaic. Batman works to hack into the system and manipulate the ex-Kyptonian computer program. And Superman flies in just at the right moment to fling Brainaic and his ship toward the Sun! It sets up for a new status quo for super-hero films. And the world rejoices!

Oh I wish that were the way things went. Fanboys have always dreamt of a Reeve/Keaton team-up. It would have been stunning….it would have been legendary!