Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Rebooting the Prequels - Bad Idea, or Worst Idea?

Miles Teller IS Anakin Skywalker 2.0!
My prequel post from last week got me thinking about a topic that's popped up here and there since The Force Awakened was announced. Even more than an era of prequels, we live in an era of reboots and remakes. Red Dawn, Fantastic Four, Man of Steel, hell, we're on like our fifth Spider-Man.

So if remakes are all the rage, the logic goes, why not remake the most controversial of films: Star Wars Episodes I-III? At first blush, it makes a certain sort of sense. Actually, wait, no it goddamn doesn't. It makes as much sense as a boycott from the ten people who followed the Star Wars EU being relevant to Episode VII's success. But because I hate myself, I want to quantify the reasons a prequel reboot makes no sense.

Let me say off the bat that I don't want to discuss the quality, or lack thereof, of the prequel trilogy. There were some great things in those films; there were also some awful things. Fans and critics alike should be able to agree on that.

There would be absolutely no point

The Great Disney Canonization caused a major upheaval in Star Wars fandom, but at the end of the day it cemented a few things as immutable (at least for the foreseeable future). Those included the prequels, yes ... but it also included several major works based directly on the prequels, including The Clone Wars, which ties into Star Wars: Rebels, which is still in development.

So, yes, theoretically Disney could reboot Episodes I-III and overwrite the old prequels, canon-wise. But how much freedom would they actually have? The original trilogy boxed Lucas in, at least to a small degree, as far as what he could do in the prequels. But now, with a significant number of canon pieces that link directly to that story, their ability to make any substantial changes to the prequel films is close to nothing.

That can't be overstated: any prequel reboot would be forced to tell the exact same story, nearly beat-for-beat. Shot by shot remakes, do exist, but they're generally reserved for lesser-known cult films, or highly beloved ones. Neither of which describe the prequels. At best, new films would be the same stories told with better dialogue, better acting and modern CGI. That's it. Is that worth a decade of development, when we could be getting new stories in this universe?

You'd lose a lot of good along with the bad

As I mentioned above, I'm going to go with the assumption that there are worthwhile bits of the prequel films. None of them would be present in the new films. Now, I'm not making the Bring Back Legends!!! argument that a reboot would somehow erase the original prequels from existence. Rather, I'm saying that portions of a reboot would actually pale in comparison to the original.

Do you really want to see Obi-Wan without Ewan McGregor, especially considering how stoked everyone is for a McGregor-helmed Kenobi film? What exactly would you do with an actor like Ian McDiarmid, who played Emperor Palpatine in both the prequels and the original trilogy? Would you really try to bring him back to play the exact same role in the exact same story again? Would you try to recast him, even though the role has never been played by any other live-action actor?

Sure, you could jettison Jar Jar (though again, you have the pesky problem of the guy showing up in The Clone Wars). But would it be worth it?

Rebooted prequels would bomb, irreparably harming the brand

Star Wars films are fundamentally commercial projects. As much as they mean to the people who create them and the people who simply enjoy them, they are (and always have been!) designed to make money. Every single prediction of future behavior from Disney and Lucasfilm should be viewed through that lens.

The Force Awakens did gangbusters in theaters, and there were a few reasons why. First, it was a new live-action Star Wars movie, which we never thought we'd see again and which we hadn't seen for decade. Second, it made a concerted effort to broaden its appeal to more than the standard white male nerd that previous films had targeted. To be sure, women and non-white fans enjoyed Star Wars in droves before Episode VII, but TFA was the first Star Wars film to focus on representing them. And boy howdy, did it pay off!

A prequel reboot would be a severe underdog in all of these respects. A rehash of a story many people disliked in the first place, at a time when Star Wars fatigue is a very real worry, and with the same boring white boy Chosen One at the forefront. Sure, you could try to build up Padme and Mace Windu, or introduce a new person of color, but it'd be difficult. Anakin is the center of that story.

Even beyond simple demographics, there's no audience for a series of reboots. Prequel fans? They're going to be angry about an update to films that they love because of a perceived lack of quality. Prequel haters? It's unlikely they're going to line up to see films they already dislike, especially ones that follow the same basic story. "You remember that movie you hate? It has better dialogue now!" is not a recipe for box office success. Mainstream audiences? Hard to see them flocking to films with as bad a reputation as the PT have.

The prequels are what they are. Accept them and move on.

One of the hardest parts to swallow about the prequels was that they were, essentially, the capstone on Star Wars. Sure, things like The Clone Wars and Expanded Universe existed, but this was our last chance for a big budget, theatrical Star Wars experience. And it was disappointing. So that disappointment bred resentment, which led to anger, which led to fan edits and ultimately, well. This.

But guys, that's not the case anymore! Star Wars is not done! Episode VII was fabulous! Rogue One looks great! We can accept that the PT had some flaws and still enjoy the series, knowing that there's more to come!

The fantasy of fixing all the problems and molding something perfect out of the clay that George Lucas gave us has plagued the Star Wars fandom for a while--since the prequels, or possibly even the first film's re-release. With maturity comes the realization that stuff--even stuff you love--need not be perfect. Warts will appear. In the not-so-distant future, we'll likely see another Star Wars movie that's pretty bad. It'll happen. Accept it--or not. There are always other universes. I hear those Marvel flicks are pretty good.

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