Knowing that taking even a simple position on Star Wars can illicit the sort of hate filled rage usually reserved for Middle East conflicts, I will now make three statements. These statements, I believe, are unimpeachable. No matter your opinions of the specific films, of the various sequences of films, or any other aspect of the films, these three truths are true, no matter what.
Truth #1: The prequel trilogy is inferior to the original trilogy.
Truth #2: Of the prequel trilogy, Revenge of the Sith is superior to the other two.
Truth #3: Of the original trilogy, Return of the Jedi is inferior to the other two.
It's that last one I want to focus on. This article was inspired by this piece in Wired, which in turn was inspired by this article, detailing the now famous 'Machete Order'. For the uninitiated, the Machete Order is an optimum viewing order for all of the films. It goes Star Wars, Empire, Episode II, III, and Jedi. Having had some time to waste recently, I decided to give the Order a try. My results? It's a pretty strong narrative path. Also, I'm never watching Episode II again. It's been years, and I had forgotten how utterly terrible it is. In fact, I can now say with near certainty that I never have to watch any of the prequels ever again (actually, since I just downloaded the Rifftrax for Episode I, I'll have to watch it at least once more. First time since 2002, yay...). It's my personal opinion, but the prequels just aren't worth it.
But when I got to Jedi, maybe it was because the flaws of the prequels were so close to my mind, I saw the cracks, that have always been there, more clearly. It's a good film, it just has a lot of problems. It was perhaps the clearest sign that troubles were waiting for us with the prequels, if only we had listened. Problem is, Jedi was my entry into Star Wars. It was the first of the films I saw. I hate nostalgia, and try to ignore it whenever I can. But part of me has a hard time letting go of the Ewoks; the lazy reuse of the Death Star; the fact that between his turning himself in and the lightsaber battle, Luke does very little in the film; that nothing about Luke and Leia being siblings makes any sort of sense. Logically, I know that Empire is the superior film, and that Star Wars is historically important to the world of film. But I can't let go of Jedi.
So, I started thinking, what could be done to make Jedi match how I feel about it? Can anything be done? The answer, I think, is Revenge of the Jedi. A film that does not exist. Using pieces of information about what the original design of the film was going to be, that have filtered down through the decades since Jedi's release, can we piece together something that might have been better? Hubris, you may say. Blasphemy! To which I would reply, I think hubris and blasphemy is a pretty good description of the prequels. And I'm certainly not claiming that this is a superior version. What this is, is an interesting thought experiment.
Hit the jump for my vision of Revenge of the Jedi. Fair warning, this one is long.
What follows is a plot description of my version of Revenge of the Jedi. Throughout, I will annotate certain things, explaining my choices and backing up certain decisions with evidence provided by the people involved in making the film. There are some rules: only what was established in the original two films is canon. Details from the expanded universe and prequels, or Jedi as it exists, are not relevant unless specifically mentioned. For my purposes, only Star Wars and Empire exist. Some stuff I will just make up. However, for the majority of the major plot points, I draw from details the actors, writer's and George himself have revealed over time. My original content is just to connect the threads. I may well use material currently in Jedi to fill in these gaps.
Revenge of the Jedi
It is a desperate time for the Rebel Alliance. After the Empire's victory at Hoth, the Alliance has been forced to the furthest reaches of the outer rim of the galaxy, endlessly pursued by the Imperial Starfleet.
With the Alliance focused on survival, Princess Leia organises a rescue mission to save Han Solo from the grip of crime lord Jabba the Hutt, who plans to make Solo an example to others who might try to cross him.
All the while, Luke Skywalker is distracted by the implications of a recent revelation that has shaken him, and his beliefs, to the very core...
Open on space. A super star destroyer drifts through the void. As it approaches the camera, it becomes covered in shadow. The camera pulls up to reveal what at first appears to be a massive space station, but is actually a planet, covered in a single massive city. Brown clouds blot out some of the lights of Abbadon, heart of the Empire [One of Lucas' original drafts opened with an approach to the central planet, Hab Abbadon, which eventually became Coruscant in the prequels]. In orbit, hundreds of small, Death Star like satellites protect the planet. A rogue meteor strays too close, and is blasted by one such satellite [I have always misheard the Emperor's line "your friends on the sanctuary moon" as "sentry moon." I like the idea that the Emperor is obsessed with spherical space weaponry, explaining the design of the Death Star, and extrapolating that to him surrounding his base of operations with hundreds of round laser turrets].
On the planet's surface, in a dark hall [juxtaposing the introduction of Vader in Star Wars], Darth Vader walks with Admiral Piett, who explains to Vader that with the fleet spread out across the outer rim, it leaves the central planets vulnerable to attack. Vader counters that if the fleet succeeds in finding the Alliance, then there won't be anyone left to attack that venerability, and that he expects to see more progress from the fleet commanders. Outside the Emperor's chambers, Piett is visibly anxious, and leaves. Vader enters.
The Emperor, old and frail, sits on a throne, flanked by guards and advisers. Vader approaches and kneels. The conversation is essentially the same from the Emperor's first appearance in Jedi, on the Death Star. The major difference is, the Emperor is less certain of the future here, less omniscient. He chastises Vader for his failures. Vader defends himself, insisting that he has seeded Skywalker with doubt, and that the boy will seek him out for answers [This change allows Vader to retain the power he had in the first two films, instead of becoming the lap dog he did in Jedi]. The Emperor agrees that the plan could work, and sends Vader on his way.
Cut to the sands of Tatooine. A storm howls outside an immense door. A crowd is gathered outside, and many guards attempt to keep the peace. In the centre of the confusion, Lando Calrissian, in disguise, and a bound Chewbacca, fight their way to the front. Lando asks what's going on, and a guard explains that Jabba has summoned every pilot, thief, bounty hunter and fence in the system to witness an execution. To show them what happens when somebody doesn't do as Jabba wants. Lando demands to see Jabba immediately.
[The Jabba's palace scenes wouldn't be much different, as they are the only sequence of the original film that are strong all the way through]. Jabba celebrates with various dancers and music. Lando is brought in, claiming to have captured Chewie. The scene plays out similar to the scene in the original, but with Lando negotiating, and no droids. Jabba agrees to take Chewbacca, and offers Lando a place to witness the execution. Chewie is taken to the cells. The scene uniting him with Han is the same as the original, with Chewie entering instead of Han, and without the reference to Luke being a Jedi Knight, just that he has a plan.
Han and Chewie are brought before Jabba, who speaks at length about loyalty, and respect. Inter cut these scenes with those of Luke arriving at the palace, using his skills to move through the crowd. As Jabba is about to execute the pair, Luke reveals himself, and attempts to barter for their lives. It's basically the same, except instead of Jabba bragging about being immune to Jedi mind tricks, he calls Luke out, saying that he is no Jedi, and that he can watch his friends die. Jabba casts Han and Chewie into the rancour pit [My discretion. Luke is the dramatic hero, it's his emotional story that the movies tell. Han is the adventure hero, he's the one that gets into fire and fist fights. He should be the one to fight the giant beastie]. Luke shouts from above, directing them to the door beyond the cage, then disappears into the crowd. Lando watches powerlessly. Han makes a snarky comment about Luke's suggestion being no problem. When they arrive at the other end, Luke uses the force to open the access door, and to move the gate controls, slamming it down on the Rancour's head. Jabba is outraged, but Luke's actions catch the attention of a masked bounty hunter we've not seen before.
The trio are brought before Jabba, who rails that a quick death is too easy, and that treachery like their deserves pain and suffering the like of which they have never known. He demands they be taken away, and that transports be made ready to leave immediately.
Cut to the middle of the Dune Sea. Jabba's barge floats over the sands, and the trio stand in the sand itself, as patrol skiffs circle them, with guards keeping weapons trained on them. Jabba explains that they will be left here, to wander the endless sea, and hopefully die of thirst or heat before anything else has a chase to get them. In the distance, a scream is heard as a creature breaches the sand like a whale coming up for a breath. Luke insists that Jabba surrender, or it will be him the desert claims. Jabba laughs. Luke extends his hand, and uses Yoda's force lesson to bring the barge down into the sand, and on it's side. The nearest skiff prepares to fire, but is shot down. They look up, and see Leia with a gun, on a skiff of her own, being piloted by R2D2. 3P0 is there, and is annoying. Pandemonium breaks out. People who fell out of the barge try to run for help. Luke senses something, and tells everyone to stop moving. A man running for the ship is engulfed in a wave of sand, and is dragged down underneath. Luke identifies them as Sand Devils.
On board the ship, Lando slips into the engine room, and begins sabotaging it, so that the barge cannot leave. He is stopped by the bounty hunter from earlier, who demands to know what he is doing. He tries to lie, but the hunter deduces his motives, and asks how they can help. Taking off their helmet, and revealing herself to be a woman, she identifies herself as Nellith [Much like Luke does in his storm trooper outfit to Leia].
|Concept art by Ralph McQuarrie|
The group, solemn and in mourning, take Han's body to Kashyyyk, home of the Wookies, on the Falcon. When they arrive, they are met by a funeral precession, and Han is laid to rest, under the redwood-sized forest-cities of the Wookies [Lucas' original plan for Endor was for it to be the Wookie homeworld. When he realised that they were too advanced a race to be as primitive as he wrote them, he turned them into Ewoks].
On the Super Star Destroyer, Piett reports that they've received word that Alliance leadership is hiding on Kashyyyk. Vader questions the source, which Piett vouches for. Vader muses that the Wookies are unpredictable, and have never knelt to the Empire. He orders a single ship be dispatched to determine if the report is true. If the Wookies have sided with the Alliance, they are to be destroyed.
What follows would be a series of emotional moments for the main characters. Chewie isolates himself, in deep grief. Lando asks why Nellith helped him. She explains that she's always felt different. Able to sense things sooner then others, able to make people do things for her. And move things with her mind, and never knew how it was possible. When she saw Luke do the same, she thought she might get some answers. [In Leigh Brackett's original script for Empire, Luke had a sister named Nellith, who was kept secret. This reference was changed to the more ambiguous"there is another" in Yoda's final scene. Lucas originally intended to introduce the sister character in later films, but realised this was going to be impossible, and quickly rewrote the role as being Leia, which creates numerous internal inconsistencies.] Elsewhere, Luke attempts to comfort Leia, but she lashes out, blaming him for Han's death, that it was his plan, and his arrogance that got Han killed, and that everything they did was for nothing. She tells him to leave, that she doesn't want him around anymore. Luke slinks off into the night. Luke then attempts to commune with Obi-Wan, wanting answers. Obi-Wan is silent. Luke demands to know the truth about Vader, and how if the force is so powerful, he was unable to use it to help his friend. As he asks where he will find these answers, an Imperial ship flies overhead.
The Wookie's detect the Imperial presence, but fail to react. Leia makes an impassioned speech about how the Empire destroyed her world, her family, and how she has nothing left thanks to them. She argues that they have come to do the same to the Wookies, and Chewie agrees. As Imperial troops begin landing on the planet, the Wookies ambush them, coming out of the trees. The Imperials are slaughtered.
At one of the landing ships, Luke turns himself in, and demands to be taken to the orbiting Star Destroyer. On board, he tells the captain his name and that he wants to be taken to Lord Vader. Running the name Skywalker through the computer, the Captain immediately calls for a retreat of forces from the planet. The Wookie's continue to fight, shooting down as many ships as try to leave the planet. The Star Destroyer leaves, and the Wookies celebrate. Nellith finds an Imperial shuttle, undamaged, and empty.
At Abbadon, Luke is presented to Vader. They have a conversation about loss and betrayal. Luke asks if Vader was telling the truth, which Vader answers by asking Luke what he feels to be true [The first scene between Vader and Luke in Jedi is awful. Vader is submissive, and Luke is overly arrogant. Here, the roles are reversed, with Vader in complete control and Luke uncertain. Also, Vader's avoidance of the truth of the paternity question casts doubt over his Empire declaration, and makes it possible it was just a ruse]. The Captain reports that the Wookies resisted the Imperial forces more then expected. Vader promises the Wookies will be dealt with after Skywalker is delivered to the Emperor. They enter the chamber, and the Emperor tells everyone to leave. He then begins a rant about knowing how people will behave. At first it seems like he's gloating about bringing Luke into the fold, but he reveals that he is aware that Vader is plotting to assassinate him. [Making something of Vader's Empire suggestion that he and Luke would rule the galaxy, which is never followed up upon]
Using the force lightning, the Emperor attacks Vader. Luke freezes, uncertain how to act, but eventually accepts that Vader is his father, uses the force to acquire his red lightsaber, and kills the Emperor while he is distracted. Vader, weakened, rises, and takes the Emperor's seat. Luke kneels before him, lightsaber in hand [Before Jedi was made, Mark Hamill thought that Luke might be tempted, or even turned, half way through the film, and the second half would be about his redemption. Instead, it became about Vader's].
Via hologram, Leia contacts the Alliance fleet. They report that the central systems are largely unprotected, with the Starfleet out looking for the Alliance. Leia reports that the Wookies were just attacked, and have sided with the Alliance. The Alliance proposes a surprise attack on Abbadon. An officer reminds them of the planetary defense systems in place, that would destroy the fleet in moments. Leia reveals that they are in possession of a shuttle craft, with complete security clearances. That they might be able to use it to infiltrate the security system, and deactivate the system. The Alliance agrees with the plan, and orders them to commence the attack immediately.
Vader, now accepted as Emperor, judging by the pile of corpses at the base of the throne, shows Luke a trophy: Obi-Wan's lightsaber, which he took from the original Death Star. He gloats how Obi-Wan was short sighted, and that the power of the dark side is unmatched. Luke agrees that Obi-Wan seemed to offer more then he was willing, or able, to give. A message comes through from Admiral Piett that Vader's preparations are ready.
In the shuttle, Lando and Nellith arrive at Abbadon. They use the security clearances to get past the defence system, and enter the atmosphere. As they pass over the pollution riddled supercity, Nellith confides that she's never been in this close to the core, that she spent her entire life on Tatooine. Her mother sold her into forced labour when she was very young. Her unique abilities helped her survive, and eventually be bought and trained by one of Jabba's bounty hunters. She also learned to recognise the winning side, and know when the appropriate time to make a play. Lando says that he's been from one side of the galaxy to another, and knows the difference between making the safe play, and making the right one. They arrive at the security station, a massive dish. Entering the complex, with R2 at their side, they reach the control room. Getting rid of those on duty, they hook R2 into the computer and have him deactivate the system [Lando and Nellith's infiltration of the security system mirrors Han and Luke's of the Death Star].
In Vader's chambers, the failure of the security system is reported at once. Vader brings up a feed from the room, and orders Luke to go there, and kill them. Luke refuses. Vader insists, and uses the force to attack. Luke engages the red lightsaber, and charges. Vader retrieves Obi-Wan's blue lightsaber, and protects himself. [The poster for Revenge of the Jedi, seen at the top of the page, famously had the error of reversing the lightsaber colours. This scene provides an explanation for that.] Vader comments on his disappointment, and that Luke will come to learn respect after the Alliance is dealt with. The security system might be down, but the planet isn't unprotected.
Lando and Nellith watch on the computers as the Imperials engage the Alliance. A squad arrives, and attempt to retake the security office. They take cover, knowing that if the stormtroopers get inside to reactivate the security system, the Alliance is doomed. [Lando essentially becomes a replacement for Han, as Lucas was intending should Harrison Ford not return for the third film. Nellith essentially replaces Luke, and Luke takes on a Vader-light role]
|Concept art by Ralph McQuarrie|
In space, the Alliance ships sweep away the last of the Imperial fleet. In the security room, the stormtroopers fall back to the senate. The Wookies and Leia arrive at the Chamber doors, expecting to blast their way in. As they, and additional stormtroopers arrive, the doors open, Luke steps out, and drops Vader's helmet on the floor before everyone, declaring the Emperor to be dead [calling back to the scene in the cave, in Empire]. The Wookies train their guns on the stormtroopers, who surrender. Leia watches Luke, horrified.
In the aftermath, the Alliance takes up a perimeter around the planet, backed by the security system. A call by Leia has went out, declaring the Empire to have fallen, and the Old Republic will reform [mirroring her initial, secret message to Obi-Wan in the first film. Also, Lucas originally had Leia becoming ruler of "her people," so reforming the senate is close enough]. Lando and Chewie decide to leave on the Falcon, to return the Wookies to Kashyyyk. Nellith finally gets to meet with Luke, and ask how she can do what she can do. Luke tells her, the force is strong with her. That she will go to the Dagobah system, and learn from Yoda, the Jedi Master that instructed him [Until the prequels, I always thought of Jedi as more like monks. Living in isolated regions, alone where they can mediate and become one with the force. That people would pilgrimage to these places, and learn from the masters, and grow stronger in the force. A massive academy, filled with hundreds of students never seemed very Jedi to me]. He also tells her to take good care of R2. He hands her Obi-Wan's lightsaber, and when she asks what it is, he tells her something she'll need for a more civilised age [Luke speaking Obi-Wan's words accomplish two things. First, they draw a direct parallel between Luke passing the torch to Nellith, but also fully embracing Obi-Wan's teaching, which earlier he had cast aside. Also, because Empire never said anything about a sister, Nellith is never referred to as such. Just "another" who is strong in the force, though like Vader, it leaves things ambiguous] Leia and Luke exchange a look, but do not speak. Luke gets in a ship, and leaves.
The film ends with Lando and Chewie in the Falcon cockpit, as the ship goes into hyperspace; Leia consulting with Alliance and Senate advisers and 3P0 in the background; Yoda sitting alone in the swamp, as lights pass overhead, causing him to smile. The last shot of the film is Luke, in a robe much like we first saw Obi-Wan, standing on Tatoonine, looking at a twin dawn [Gary Kurtz favored the idea of Luke walking off into the sunset, like an old western hero, having saved the day, but not being able to participate in the celebrations. Lucas favored a happier, lets all hug kind of ending. Sunset though, was used in Star Wars, to symbolise the ending of that stage of Luke's life. Here, a sun rise works better, as a symbol for the dawn of a new era].