I know, you were like, “Hey, great. He’s done talking about Star Wars. Now we can read about scraps of paper he forgot to throw away. Yay…?” But, now I say, “Get out your horse-beating stick, because we’re doing it again!” And then you say, “Shut up, you dweeb!” And I say, “No. We’re doing this shit!”
It occurred to me that I went on at some length about science fiction, storytelling, prequels, reboots, and all the rest, but never provided any examples or indications that Star Wars prequels could be done right. Well, they can, and they have. In the mid-’90s, Kevin J. Anderson and Tom Veitch wrote a series of comics under the “Tales of the Jedi” banner, which chronicle the events of the Old Republic, some 5,000 years before the events in A New Hope. One of the special things about this series is its opening with a non-human character. He might look alien, but he’s a total dweeb, so he’s relatable to pretty much anyone who would be picking these comics up in the first place. As we’re learning about ancient history (of the Star Wars universe), he’s doing the same. It’s a good beginning because in just a few pages, it conveys the idea that where and when we are is so far removed from the Luke Skywalker era that trying to tie anything to the movies is pointless, and ret-conning is impossible. Not only that, but it shows us exactly what we expect from a Star Wars story: science fantasy.
In A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi said, “For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic.” What the writers did here was take that tiny bit of unspoken mythology and expand it into the Star Wars universe’s Arthurian legends, tales of knights in shining armor, and story of Siegfried and Brünnhilde. George Lucas tried shoehorning science into the fantasy by explaining the roots of the Force and Boba Fett, but it felt wrong. These feel right because they explain everything–who the Sith are, why there need to be only two at one time, the creation of dark places (that cave on Dagobah where Luke cuts fake-Vader’s head off in Empire Strikes Back), how the Republic became cohesive, and even how the Force, lightsabers, and hyperspace travel work–all through the framework of fantasy.
There are knights (obviously), a badass warrior princess, gangsters, mercenaries, a guy who turns himself into a tree, and sorcerers so villainous they’d use Emperor Palpatine as a chew toy. There are naval (space) battles, love stories, a storming of the castle, a brother’s betrayal, a uniting of kingdoms, and a trip to the heart of Mordor (Korriban). Hell, for a good chunk of the storyline, they refer to use of the Dark Side as magic because no one knows what it is.
Despite the amount of history we get, there is a surprising lack of exposition, and what we learn through it is absolutely relevant to the story. We learn about the terrible battery life of ancient lightsabers when we see that they have to be plugged into a power source strapped to the Jedi’s belt, which means no throwing. It’s like watching Mulder talk on a cell phone the size of a brick on The X-Files. Sure it works, but dude: there’s still pay phones.
I guess this post was a little scattered, and I’m not sure what I was getting at here, except that maybe a better way to do a prequel–and perhaps a better way to do a sequel–to the original trilogy would have been to leave the old characters behind and to set the stage, with the originals in mind as what might come as a logical progression. Maybe I’m just grasping at straws for content.