Thought for the day:
Darth Vader being Luke’s father did not have to mean that Vader was Anakin Skywalker.
Remember Uncle Owen from A New Hope? The one who said “that boy has too much of his father in him” and who told Luke that Anakin was “a navigator on a spice freighter”? First, this is one of the many things which just don’t square with the prequels. “Too much of his father”? Let’s unpack that a bit. Remember what Anakin did the time he came to visit? Has Luke been bulls-eyeing nomad children from his T-13? No wonder he’s so confident he can hit a target less than two meters wide!
For that matter, so many things about the prequels just don’t make sense in the context of the original. Take the schmuck whom Vader force-chokes in the briefing room until Tarkin calls him off. (If Vader is who the prequels establish him to be, who is Tarkin to be bossing him about?) That guy must have been at least a teenager at the time the Empire was established and the Jedi Order fell. He literally grew up in a time when the Jedi were a galaxy-spanning law enforcement organization and the supply of military commanders during the Clone Wars. “Your sad devotion to that ancient religion”? Really?
“For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times. Before the Empire.” Maybe it was just Sir Alec Guinness’s delivery, but I always imagined that “the dark times” had lasted longer than Luke’s current age.
What would have made more sense all around would have been an Empire several generations old. The Jedi lost their official standing long ago and have been dwindling in numbers ever since. The Republic is barely remembered—a grandfather’s tale of his grandfather’s childhood. The Clone Wars could have marked a turning point from bad to worse. An upstart dynasty from the outer regions of the Galaxy creates a clone army and wages war against the Imperial government, callously exploiting the people’s legitimate grievances to gain power for themselves. In turn, the war forces the Empire to crack down harder, or gives it the excuse to.
And Anakin Skywalker really was a navigator on a spice freighter. An amiable, unassuming civilian, he gets caught up in the Clone Wars and crosses paths with Obi-Wan Kenobi, a military commander who advocates moderation and is, perhaps secretly, a practitioner of the almost-lost Jedi arts. He takes on Anakin as his second protege, after his lieutenant Darth Vader.
Here’s one way the story could go from there. Vader has, let’s say, a mistress, who starts to develop feelings for Anakin, and who leaves Vader completely when he begins to practice Dark Side abilities. But she’s pregnant. (Yes, there’s a regressive damsel-as-trophy aspect to this, but on that standard it’s a movie I can imagine seeing, and it could in principle be played well.) Anakin and not-Padme raise Luke to the age of three or four. In every emotional sense that matters, Anakin is Luke’s father.
Then they tangle with Vader again, eventually having to come to him under a flag of truce. Vader double-crosses them and kills them both. “He betrayed and murdered your father.” Obi-Wan, who understands family, is telling the truth. Vader, a tool of the Empire, is fixated on bloodlines. When he tells Luke, “No, I am your father,” he is thinking in terms of genetics, because that is all he understands.
(Luke being the son of a Dark Messiah figure fails to make sense on so many levels, its wrongness has a fractal dimension. Why did Yoda decide to leave him on Anakin’s home planet, of all the places in the Galaxy? Why did Obi-Wan not train him in the Jedi ways from childhood? And so forth and so on.)
Yes, this would necessitate a rewrite of ROTJ, but let’s be honest, that script needed a do-over anyway, and not just to delete the Ewoks.
For starters, the whole first act—the escapade on Tattooine—reads like a “plan B” which was mistakenly filmed as a “plan A.” It’s the wacky, half-improvised scheme which the heroes resort to after their first ploy fails, but that first ploy doesn’t happen.
Everything about Leia being Luke’s sister is wrong. Not only does it make their interactions for the previous two movies emetic in retrospect, it’s fundamentally unnecessary. Why couldn’t Leia just be a Force-sensitive individual not in Luke’s family? Let’s go to the well of fantasy tropes: She could be the secret, legitimate heir to the Imperial throne, the scion of the family whose hereditary claim was the reason for the Clone Wars in the first place, groomed for leadership by her adoptive family on Alderaan. That would make her a real threat in the Emperor’s eyes. (Cf., for starters, all the English-history plays of Shakespeare.) Her family lost the war, which they waged bloodily, but idealists on Alderaan saved her, and two proto-Rebellion leaders raised her as their own.
And while we’re in revision mode, let’s consider that giant deflector dish on the forest moon, poking up above the trees. Hmmmmm.
OK, let’s say it has an anti-aircraft battery of surface-to-air turbolasers to guard against a strafing run. It still looks plenty vulnerable to a rocket-launcher strike. That could be the goal of the commando team. And speaking of the “strike team,” let’s make them more than faceless good guys. We could even add a woman character here (GHASP!). Perhaps a bit of a scoundrel herself, she could be the tracker with local experience (maybe from her own smuggling days) who guides them through the dangerous wildnerness. She snarks a bit at the “pretty princess,” with a bite to her humor: Is this really all just the Clone Wars over again? Are they doing anything but replacing one telekinetic autocrat with another? Make her a bit of a love interest for Luke as they bond during their trek, if it’s so implausible that the Han-Leia-Luke triangle could be resolved by Leia and Luke realizing they’re just good friends.
Boba Fett should not die in the Sarlacc pit. He should be the big boss whom Han must defeat in Act 3. Leia lost Han to him before, but now, with her Force abilities awakened, she and Han fight together and win the rematch.
Ditch the whole “killing the Emperor will turn you to the Dark Side” schtick. It makes as little sense as saying that Captain America turned into a Nazi once he punched Hitler. Remember, Luke has already killed tens of thousands by blowing up the first Death Star.
(The dilemma makes much more sense for Aang, a child raised by pacifist monks, than it does for Luke, a soldier. Here in ROTJ we see the beginnings of the Force-supremacy-is-hereditary and one-moment-of-justifiable-human-emotion-turns-you-evil ideas, two crappy tastes which taste synergistically even crappier together.)
The Rebels win, and Leia ascends to the Imperial throne, where her first act is to restore the Republic. Imagine the pomp and pageantry which could be put to celluloid: A great spectacle of a coronation ceremony, which ends with Empress Leia striding down the steps to meet a delegation of Galactic citizens. With regal bearing, she signs the treaty which dissolves the Empire and cedes authority to the New Republic. Both Luke and Leia choose the ways of their adoptive families over their genetic fathers, he by refusing to join Vader and she by renouncing the crown.