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CivFanatics Remake: Star Wars: Episode I-III

Discussion in 'Arts & Entertainment' started by AvalancheMaster, Dec 9, 2013.

  1. AvalancheMaster

    AvalancheMaster Not the face of mercy.

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    So, this is an idea I have for something between a discussion and a forum game (but please, do take it somewhat seriously). You take a movie, dissect it, and try to "remake" it, altering cast, director decisions, plot and character. Since the prequel trilogy of Star Wars has already been dissected several times (Belated media on Episode I, Belated Media on Episode II, some random guy on Episode II), I figured out that it is the perfect movie (or movies) to begin these threads.

    Several notes before I begin: Firstly, if a Moderator thinks that this is more suitable for Forum Games, do move it; however I do want to give it a try at A&E, since I want a more serious discussion, and not just laughs and giggles. Secondly, please join the discussion only if you have something to add, other than puns, funny jokes and derailments. Thirdly, no Mary Sues, please. I cannot emphasize this enough. This ain't a fanfiction writing contest, so the last thing is - try to stick as much to the source material as possible. It's a remake, not a completely new story.

    Without further ado, here's

    STAR WARS
    Episode I: A Phantom Menace

    The Movie itself

    What did the movie do wrong:

    The original "The Phantom Menace" certainly did not live to the fans expectation and because of that has been dissected countless of times since it came out. The main frustration comes from the badly written characters of Jar-Jar Binks, and more importantly - the franchise's poster boy, Anakin Skywalker. However I won't discuss Jar-Jar here, it's been done enough times.

    The way Anakin is depicted in Episode I has little to do with Anakin from Episode II-VI. Here, instead of the "Chosen One" or a villainous son of a gun, we're treated with a overly obnoxious young kid, who's overly special and extremely bland simultaneously. The Jesus-savior-of-all analogy with the virgin birth does not stand well with the rest of the character. Anakin is a somewhat technically competent young kid, with dreams and interests just like any other kid from his social community. There's nothing to his character that makes us care for him if we haven't seen the original trilogy beforehand. Lucas tried to portrait him as a somewhat social outcast, but this didn't work - mainly because portraying him as a slave AND portraying him in everyday situations, where he clearly acts as a free kid, does not add up. Not to mention, that he does have friends, so so much for the "outcast" theory.

    Another thing that Episode I messed up is the MacGuffin. We start with no MacGuffin at all, then we have the Queen of Naboo as the MacGuffin, then we have Anakin as the MacGuffin and the central character for 40 minutes, then we have a mysterious Sith lord as a MacGuffin, before finally killing him off without any conclusion of this story arc. Some say that the MacGuffin then changes to his master, and indeed it does, but this is not made clear for the audience. We are left with a somewhat bitter taste in our mouths, with a movie that couldn't decide who the central character should be, and who - the MacGuffin.

    The Battle of Naboo is another thing that the movie did wrong. We have four simultaneous battles going on - the one in the Hanger, the one in the Power Generators room, the one on the Plains, and the one in Space. The later two do not add anything to the movie - the one in the plains serves mostly as a comic relief, and the one in space tries to establish character traits for Anakin that should've been established through character development.

    However I do not mind the midichorians. I actually liked it that the movie tried to give a scientific explanation for the nature of the force, especially given that it is a sci-fi franchise (and we've already been treated with such things in the expanded universe - *ehm-ehm* Thrawn Trilogy *ehm-ehm*). Still, they could've kept the whole explanation a little bit more mysterious, and not so bloody goofy.

    To sum it up, Episode I suffers from:
    1. No clear main character
    2. MacGuffin changes too oftenly and without any conclusion
    3. Aimless battles that serve no real purpose
    4. General goofiness at moments

    Things the movie did right:

    The beginning. Knowing how flawed this movie is, one should be thankful that it didn't waste half an hour to establish a small-scale conflict that should serve only as the first domino to fall in the upcoming conflict. The "negotiations-turn-violent" handling serves quite well to the plot.

    Another thing the movie did extremely well was Qui-Gon's character. The audience cherishes for him quite a lot for a character that has been introduced and killed off in what is the fourth movie of a franchise. Which leads us to the next thing the movie did extremely well - the battle of the hangar and the duel of the fates. The only complain here is that Maul shouldn't've been killed in the end, or at least not with such certainty.

    The most impressive thing the movie pulled off is Obi-Wan's struggles. They are not with Qui-Gon Jinn, neither with the Jedi Council. His struggle comes from the mere fact that he feels powerless to stop the destruction that is happening right in front of his eyes - yet this does not cause him to enter a state of despair. It could have been a good contrast to how Anakin deals with the same problem later on if Anakin's story arc was done in the way it should've been.

    Suggested Changes

    Main Goal/MacGuffin

    As we are talking about a franchise here, this movie has a specific goal to fulfill. You may have noticed that I've changed the name a little bit - instead of the definite article "the", I've used the indefinite article "a". The movie exposes too much of that Phantom Menace that it actually does not leave our main Jedi characters guessing for its nature. Our main villain appears too early in the movie, which in this case is actually a bad thing. Leave the audience guessing! First-time viewers will be truly intrigued, while people who've seen the original trilogy will be guessing that the Emperor will be the main villain of the movie.

    Still, the damage is done, and the only way to repair it is to introduce Darth Maul later on in the movie, but as a much, much more vicious character. Make him an unstoppable force, remove any interaction between him and the Emperor until the end of the movie, remove almost all dialogue, make him appear as the Devil himself. Now here's a MacGuffin to remember. Who's behind the Trade Federation? First time viewers would be left guessing, people who've seen the original trilogy would think it'd be the Emperor, people who've seen the original prequels would be treated with a much more vicious villain.

    Now that we have our MacGuffin established, what should be the main goal of the movie? Well, it is clearly to introduce disturbance in the peaceful Republican civil order. The way the movie begins - with a small-scale conflict, is the perfect way to make the dominoes falling. However, we should have the Jedi Council more involved in the matters. Have them sense what nobody else can sense - an evil growing strong behind the mask of the Trade Federation. A little more action on Coruscant would be welcomed - have the Jedi struggle to persuade the Council that the dangers at Naboo are real. Show the audience that the Republic was already in a state of decay, only that nobody has realized it yet - much like Asimov treats the Empire in his Foundation series.

    That would be a perfect goal for the movie - to introduce not only the fall of the Republic, but the forces that are working to speed its untimely death.

    Main Characters

    Obi-Wan Kenobi

    Obi-Wan IS the main character of Episode I, but this needs a more clear definition in the original prequel. His struggle is quite an original one, as I already mentioned, and the philosophical way he reacts to the death and despair around him could contrast well with the destruction itself. However he does need more clear definition, more screentime as the main character, and he also needs more of that Romantic hero archetype flavor.

    Anakin Skywalker

    Anakin, on the other hand, should be portrayed either as a more realistic kid, or as a more over-the-top one. It seems to me that Lucas was unable to decide between the playful daredevil kid and the emotionally tormented social outcast, and decided to go the middle road, while also trying to make him as realistic as possible. This is not a bad thing, not by definition, and one of my all-time favorite characters has been written the same way, albeit successfully. I'm talking about Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. The main difference?

    Calvin is an everyday kid in an everyday environment, within an everyday family. He is not the chosen one, living on a remote desert planet, as a slave, without father and with mother who allegedly gave virgin birth to him.

    If you want to go with the daredevil-social outcast trope, I'm totally fine, but we need more of that daredevilry flavor. He is the chosen one? Make him believe it instantly, or even believe it from the beginning! He is a pod racer? Make him a good one, and not just a kid that got lucky-to-be-alive, make him win podracing events with ease! The suspense could come from a racer that he has never faced before. Currently it looks more like "I-don't-know-what-I'm-doing-oh-I-won" thing. However that's Star Wars and not Home Alone.

    Darth Maul

    As I said, make him more vicious! He needs at least one more appearance in the movie. Make it seem as he's playing games with his prey, much like a cat is playing with the mice. Don't show us that he's taking orders from somebody above him in the Sith hierarchy and leave the audience guessing if he is the master or the apprentice. Show him contacting Darth Sidious but don't show who's the master. Also, do leave some room for ambiguity for whether or not he's alive or dead.



    **************

    Well, for now that's all from me. I'll reserve one post below this, where I can sum up the best ideas. I'll also probably edit this post to add summaries for movies II and III, but since I'm encouraging discussion on Episode I first, it will happen in the next week. I also won't discuss the plot, cause I do not want to turn this into a blog post of mine; I want to leave room for discussion!

    Have fun!
     
  2. AvalancheMaster

    AvalancheMaster Not the face of mercy.

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  3. Terxpahseyton

    Terxpahseyton King, Warrior, Prophet, Magician, Lover

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    One note for now I had to make. I looked up MacGuffin and it says those are persons or objects which advance a story arc without being of special interest in themselves. One of the heroes or the main villain can not be a MacGuffin, I therefor conclude.
    The story is after all about a battle of good and evil.
    edit: The actual MacGuffin is this whole trade blockade methinks.
    Also, I liked your thoughts on EPI, I never concerned myself with alternative EPI's before, though.
     
  4. AvalancheMaster

    AvalancheMaster Not the face of mercy.

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    That is extremely kind of you, I guess.

    All of the MacGuffins I refer to - Padme, Anakin and Maul - are indeed MacGuffins as they are not of special interests themselves. Is there anything special in Padme or Maul? No, they serve only as characters that our main characters are trying to get to. And, granted, Anakin himself is of special interest, and not exactly a MacGuffin, but he's not a main character, he's not revealed to be the chosen one for sure, and he does advance the plot, even though through the questionable pod racing scene. Neither of those three characters are of any special interest in the first movie.

    Also, there is no written rule for MacGuffins, and, frankly, quite often they do end up being of special interest. Is The Ring of Power of special interest in The Lord of the Rings universe? Certainly! Is it a MacGuffin? According to most critics, it is. Is the Holy Grail an item of special interest? Yes! And that defines it as a MacGuffin.

    I do believe you did not understand how does a MacGuffin advance the plot. A MacGuffin is a plot tool - it is an item or a person of a special interest to the main protagonists (or antagonists) of the story; they do not advance the story forward by themselves. Your understanding of MacGuffin seems to be the opposite of what it actually is.

    Please, next time you decide to play judge, do gain more knowledge than "seconds of". Otherwise you make yourself look extremely rude and a complete berk.

    Thank you.

    EDIT:

    Ah, I see that you've edited your post. It is true that a MacGuffin cannot be the main hero/villain, but neither Padme, nor Anakin, nor Maul, are main heroes in Episode I. The main heroes are Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon. You can argue for Maul, but the main villain in the movie, as it is, is clearly Sidious, and the main villain, as I see it, should be that phantom menace in question.

    There is no clear definition of MacGuffin. For example, the Thing from Carpenter's "The Thing" can be both viewed as the main villain, or as the MacGuffin of the story. It depends on how do you view the movie itself. If you see it as a classical horror movie, with a clearly defined protagonist/antagonist, then yes - the Thing is your villain, but if you argue that the movie is actually about isolation, trust and teamwork, then the Thing is your MacGuffin. Another example is The Myst, where the Myst itself plays a similar role to the alien from The Thing. It is both the main villain, and the MacGuffin that helps move the story forward. It is actually the case of most Stephen King non-human villains, but The Myst is the best illustration. Another example is Children of Men, where the leader of the Fishes is a MacGuffin as well, though he somewhat serves as the main villain of the story.

    However, villains such as The Joker, Anton Chigurh, or Ridley Scott's Alien, are not MacGuffins, as the main story is focused on the conflict between them and the antagonists. Main story in Episode I, however, does not focus on the conflict between the Jedi Council and Darth Maul.

    To sum it up, a MacGuffin is defined by what do you aim to tell with the story. If the main conflict is between a protagonist and antagonist, neither of them can be a MacGuffin, but if the movie is trying to tell a story and the main villain serves just as a tool to keep the story going, then yes - the main villain is a MacGuffin.

    EDIT 2: You've edited again! :D

    I can agree with the Trade Blockade being a MacGuffin, still most people will disagree as it is not an object or a person.

    You see, one of the main distinctive features of MacGuffins is that our main characters try to physically get to them (or, in some cases, run away from them), and that moves the plot forward. However, some people, including myself, disagree with that, as you cannot always draw a clear distinction between a physical object and something else ("Rosebud", for example).

    Still, a MacGuffin should be something that is the goal of our main character (but not the movie). The trade federation is not exactly the goal of our main character, but of the Jedi Council.
     
  5. Terxpahseyton

    Terxpahseyton King, Warrior, Prophet, Magician, Lover

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    I concur with your personal advise and hence already edited my post before sawing your reply :)
    Still I think you are wrong and I am right.

    A story is about those playing a role in it.
    The Ring of LoTR is central to the story, but what the story actually is about is how the different characters engage with each other and the setting. So the ring is a McGuffin.
    EP1 is about the Jedi, the Queen they save, the chosen one and the evil villain who tries to stop them. They all are central characters of the story, no McGuffins.

    edit: Ah so you replied to my edit while I replied to your original reply. Well to save us both further trouble I'll keep quiet for a while ;)
     
  6. Gori the Grey

    Gori the Grey The Poster

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    A huge frustration I had with the film was with the whole Queen-Amadala-disguised-as-one-of-her-handmaidens bit. The viewer isn't fooled for one second, in part because Natalie Portman is so distinctive in appearance. But, so, okay, I'll go along with it; no one else knows (except Qui-Gon, who lets the queen know that he knows but without breaking her cover). But my big complaint is that there doesn't seem to be anything that really follows from her revealing herself when she does. Everyone's a bit surprised for a second and on we go. We've had to carry this whole queen's-in-disguise plot thread for half the movie, and it turns out to have no real function. What's lost if we have a little scene early on Tatooine where some counsellor encourages her to stay on the ship to maintain her imperial dignity and she spunkily says, no, I want to go.
     
  7. AvalancheMaster

    AvalancheMaster Not the face of mercy.

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    I think I addressed your points in my edited reply. :lol: Sith happens, I guess *punintended*.

    I do agree with you. There was no real reason to keep Padme in the shadows for so long, and the reveal felt as if straight out of Shyamalan's latest movies.


    One of those two people is the most disturbing, scheming, plot-twisting being ever to walk this world. The other one is, of course, the devil.
     
  8. Terxpahseyton

    Terxpahseyton King, Warrior, Prophet, Magician, Lover

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    Well thanks for your patience with me, AvalancheMaster (after reading your second edit of your reply and the reply after that - am confident to post again now).

    Here is an interesting quote from wikipedia
    All I say now is that for the time being MacGuffin as a term gives me more headache than use. I have this feeling that what was a fairly distinct plot device in the way Hitchcock used it became a sort of monstrosity of ambiguity when it was transferred into a general movie term and I for sure will never speak of it again :lol:
     
  9. AvalancheMaster

    AvalancheMaster Not the face of mercy.

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    I actually agree with both of them, and I think that they both refer to both the same thing and two distinct MacGuffin types. Both-ception!

    On the one hand, Hitchcock believes that a MacGuffin can be anything, and the audience doesn't care what exactly is the MacGuffin. A MacGuffin is there for the main character to care, not for us.

    On the other Lucas believes that a MacGuffin is something for which the characters do care, but in order to reason why they do, the audience must care as well. You can't justify the main character trying to find a blue-eyed white pony unicorn without having the audience care for it as well.

    So, on the one hand you have general macguffin objects, such as the suitcase in Pulp Fiction, or the money from No Country for Old Men, where the audience doesn't really care about them, but certainly can understand why do the main characters care. On the other you have more subtle MacGuffins, where you need to explain to the audience why should the character care for the MacGuffins - and the easiest way to do this is to convince the audience to care about the MacGuffins as well!
     
  10. Terxpahseyton

    Terxpahseyton King, Warrior, Prophet, Magician, Lover

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    Darth Maul never drives the character's course of action much though, does he? They go from Naboo to the desert planet to Couriscant and back to Naboo and would have done so with or without Darth Maul. He just is there to scare them and give us a nice battle in the end (and kill Qui-Gong of course).
    Not much of a MacGuffin in any book, no?
    Agree though that the trading blockade isn't much of a MacGuffin as well, just more like the mere setting or something.
    I am starting to believe EPI simply has no MacGuffin. Just a bunch of people running around beating bad guys and stumbling upon good guys.
     
  11. AvalancheMaster

    AvalancheMaster Not the face of mercy.

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    I do think that after their initial clash on Tatooine, he becomes something of a MacGuffin, but not fully realized. That's why I'm complaining on the movie not being able to focus on one MacGuffin. It kinda-sorta-maybe is, but at the same time it kinda-sorta-maybe isn't. There is a lot of that stuff in Episode I, sadly (like the virgin birth, the midichlorians, Padme's disguise - mentioned, but not referred to ever again).
     
  12. Valka D'Ur

    Valka D'Ur Hosting Iron Pen in A&E Retired Moderator

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    I have to say that reading all this makes me glad I fell asleep early on in the movie. It looks like I didn't really miss anything of value. Seriously, mystical virgin birth? In a movie that claims to be science fiction? :rolleyes:

    Add me to those annoyed by the use of the term "MacGuffin." If you're talking about main characters, secondary characters, heroes, antiheroes, villains, protagonists, antagonists, etc., please just say so.

    I'll leave this thread now, and if folks here should ever decide to tackle the Star Trek movies, I'm in.
     
  13. AvalancheMaster

    AvalancheMaster Not the face of mercy.

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    I'll shock everyone by saying that Episode I is still an enjoyable movie. Go watch it!

    As for MacGuffin, I'm not talking about any characters, I'm talking about a plot device that keeps the plot moving on. You've gotta give those main characters some sort of a goal! If you want to tell the story of how the Republic fell and turned into an Empire, you gotta give the characters something to follow!

    I won't start a thread for Star Trek, as I do not enjoy the franchise at all but you are free to start a thread for it. Also, I was thinking of creating a thread for Dune if this one proves the idea of such discussions to be successful.
     
  14. Terxpahseyton

    Terxpahseyton King, Warrior, Prophet, Magician, Lover

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    Does it, actually? Space Opera in any case :) I believe Lucas himself used this term.
    And yes I agree with AvalancheMaster.
    It IMO is in some ways a horrendous movie. But it is still a very enjoyable one, and not in the so-bad-it-is-good-way.
     
  15. Valka D'Ur

    Valka D'Ur Hosting Iron Pen in A&E Retired Moderator

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    I'd definitely participate in a Dune thread. :goodjob:
     
  16. Perfection

    Perfection The Great Head.

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    Darth Perfection should be in the movie.
     

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