Since 1977, Star Wars fans have wondered what life was like before Episode IV blew our imaginations away.
The Phantom Menace was supposed to enlighten us and reunite two generations of Star Wars fans. Those that had seen the movies in the theaters, and those that had only seen them on television or VHS. To make a long story short, TPM was a grave disappointment to both generations.
When I wrote Star Wars Episode I: Awakening, I felt it necessary to highlight some of the differences and why I felt those differences are important.
First, I gave Owen Lars and Beru Whitesun an expanded role. If these two are important enough that Obi-Wan entrusted Anakin’s son to them, we should know why. In Lucas’s prequels, Owen is simply the son of the man who bought Anakin’s mother. He shook Anakin’s hand once, helped him bury his mother, and that was it. Anakin interacted a great deal more with Owen’s father than Owen himself. Anakin hardly knew Owen and Obi-Wan never knew Owen at all. They didn’t interact one time during the films. So how is it possible that Kenobi even knew of Owen’s existence, let alone entrust Owen with Anakin’s son? In A New Hope, Owen spoke of Anakin and of Obi-Wan as if he knew more about them than George Lucas let on in the movies.
Beru: “Luke’s just not a farmer. He has too much of his father in him.”
Owen: “That’s what I’m afraid of.”
That seems to indicate that Owen knew, not only of Anakin, but of his atrocities as Darth Vader as well. At the very least, Owen knew Anakin as I wrote in Chapter 1. He knew Anakin was reckless, headstrong, stubborn, and rebellious in nature. This connection needed to be made in the prequels to tie things together a little better.
Another difference I wanted to highlight was to replace Anakin and Padme entirely with “improved” versions of themselves. TPM gave us two characters that were completely devoid of life. You can debate over how much an 8 year old child can give to a movie, but I was most disappointed with Natalie Portman’s acting.
Lines such as “I will not condone a course of action that will lead us to war.” and “Our people are dying, Senator. We must do something quickly.” and “I ask you to help us. No, I beg you to help us.” were acted in the most monotone voice imaginable. She was facing war, genocide, and desperation and there was nothing in her voice to reflect those feelings. Her people were dying, but not one tear was shed, no anger showed in her voice at the Republic’s ineffectiveness, and she never seemed to really care that much. It really made you wonder if Leia got her fierceness all from daddy.
Just compare Leia’s reaction to just the threat of Alderaan being destroyed to Padme’s reaction to being told that “the death toll is catastrophic” by one of her council members. Compare Leia’s raction to being taken prisoner by Darth Vader (“Darth Vader, only you could be so bold. The Imperial Senate will not sit still for this.”) to Padme’s reaction to being taken prisoner by Viceroy Gunray (“I will not cooperate.”). Passion and emotion versus stony silence and reacting like a cardboard cut-out. I infused life into my Padme and also put a little chip on her shoulder. The Padme in Awakening has dual motivation. First, love for her planet and citizens and second, she’s getting tired of being pushed around due to her young age.
Finally, one last highlighted difference was the location. TPM brought us to a planet called Naboo. We spent little time there, never really saw any of the people, never had that time when the audience invests themselves emotionally in that setting and thus, no one really cared when Naboo was invaded. We were never told why it was invaded, why this planet was picked, what they did to provoke the Trade Federation, or why this non-unique planet was so important to the story. When Tarkin chose Alderaan to be destroyed, he did it because Leia had a connection to it.
And so I chose to return to Alderaan in my novel. I wanted to establish a strong connection to the planet for two reasons. One, to give my audience reasons to care about the planet and its people. To introduce my audience to its history, its royalty (She is “Princess” Leia for a reason), and its place in the Republic. Second, this strengthens the connection to the destruction of the planet by the very man who was stationed there at one time. Vader/Anakin was there, Tarkin was there, Leia is from there as is her mother, it all ties together.
I have more differences I will touch upon as the story is published. I don’t want to put out too many spoilers. At least not yet.