This article has changed three times since I even started thinking about it. It began as a simple rant about prequels, but when my first example focused on Star Wars ran several hundred words, I then decided to focus on that. When that ran for over a thousand words before moving even half-way into my second point, I decided to scale that back a bit too and just focus on what I call the “timeline crunch” of the prequels.
The movies are coming back to theaters in 3D, so it’s kind of topical and I’m allowed to write whatever the hell I want, so how about you spend a few minutes listening to me rant about perhaps one of the smallest flaws of the prequels, but a flaw that has bothered me to no end for years.
The Timeline Crunch
You know, there are fourteen thousand things wrong with the Star Wars prequels. It would take several volumes to document their failures but for some reason the Timeline Crunch bothers me pretty badly.
Revenge of the Sith basically sees the birth of two things: The Galactic Empire and the Skywalker twins. To be clear, the Empire as we know it, the one that strikes back, does not exist until part-way through this film. Until this point, everyone is kind of a good guy, protecting Naboo and all that jazz. The entire Universal Government is a unified happy place, more or less. When A New Hope starts its title crawl, we know there is a period of galactic civil war and the Empire is this big scary monster, with a tight grip on the galaxy. They have soldiers and garrisons and bases everywhere. Tattooine is an admitted shit hole and yet there are Stormtroopers based there, complete with local Dewback mounts. They have new spacecraft that we’ve never seen before, like TIE Fighters and Imperial Star Destroyers (as opposed to Victory-Class Star Destroyers in the prequels), the Death Star has been built, and there are presumably hundreds of thousands of enlisted Stormtroopers, not just clones, because they have different voices.
Here is the problem for me – all of that happened in about 19 or 20 years. Luke is born at the end of Revenge of the Sith and he’s either 19 or 20 at the start of A New Hope. You’re telling me that all of that happened in just 20 years? I mean, we’re not even talking about something simple like rebuilding Germany or Japan after World War II, those are just countries on a world. We’re talking about multiple solar systems with multiple planets. The entire currency of the galaxy has been unified to Imperial Credits. The Empire, which we’re to think is this horrible, domineering presence, has only existed for 19 years and yet they’ve accomplished all of these things, including coming up with new armor for their soldiers and equipping the millions of soldiers with it. Darth Vader is feared everywhere, yet what has he done for the past 20 years? Apparently a lot, and everywhere.
If you’re talking about a section of a world, sure, maybe someone can become a well known figure. Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, these guys did a lot in 20 years, but their reach never extended beyond their neighborhood. The Emperor and Darth Vader extended their reach from known universe to known universe. In 20 years. When did the Empire become evil anyways? I mean, we see they’re kind of douchey at the end of ROTS and Obi-Wan and Yoda both flee into hiding for some reason, but again, 20 years of progress happens. New ships, new troops, new technology, new armor. One would think that Universally, this would become a problem at some point when people are like “Wait the Empire is dicks.” If you look at Germany, sure, they made a lot of technological advancements during World War II while being assholes, but after just a few years they had problems arming their troops and building their equipment. They basically designed the TIE Interceptor but had no way of actually producing it. But throughout the three good Star Wars movies, the Empire is turning out new equipment every installment. Different TIE variations. A second Death Star. A Super Star Destroyer.
When you really think about it, the Galactic Empire might have been the most amazing group of people ever assembled. They set some semblance of order in the galaxy, had enough manpower to police the whole thing, instituted a galactic currency, pioneered new technologies, and apparently had enough support to produce two Death Stars and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of fighters, bombers, and capital ships. You just can’t do that if you’re non-stop being evil as shit. I mean, again, twenty years! It takes twenty years for a modern aviation company to design and test an airplane, much less put 600 of them in a Star Destroyer and send it across the universe.
Call me crazy, but it seems like 20 years is far too short of a time period for all of this to have happened. We haven’t even talked about the “aging equipment” of the Rebel Alliance. How old can it be if it wasn’t old enough to be in the prequels, set between 20 and 40 years before A New Hope? The Rebels famously use X-Wings and Y-Wings against the Death Star and these craft have seen better days – but where do they come from?
There is nothing in the prequel trilogies that look anything like the X-,Y-,B-, or A-Wings we see in the original trilogy. Okay, actually one of them looks a bit like an A-Wing, which is strange, since the A-Wing doesn’t appear until Return of the Jedi, which would make it, presumably, one of the newer craft. If the Rebel Alliance is using old hand-me-down vehicles, why aren’t they what we saw in the prequels? After all, the Empire has abandoned all of those junkers because they’ve switched exclusively to the TIE line of craft. Where are those shitty Naboo fighters? Where are all these vehicles and why are none of them X-Wings?
The only logical answer would have to be that the X-Wings and Y-Wings are even OLDER than the prequels…or they were created and somehow became obsolete in that same 20 year period between trilogies.
Somehow, technology movies both backwards and forwards in this time period. Obviously it moves forward, as the Empire has created some hot new stuff, but then again, even the most brilliant and advanced military officers in the Imperial Navy (the guys serving with Darth Vader must be presumed to be the best) point out that no ship as small as the Millennium Falcon can have a cloaking device. Well, except that Darth Maul, a servant of the EMPEROR OF THE EMPIRE had a cloaking device on his even smaller ship. I mean, it’s kind of strange to think that the Emperor personally knew about cloaking devices and yet somehow that technology, which is probably pretty badass, not only never appears again, but is functionally forgotten, even from the Imperial “West Point Level” graduates.
I just don’t see why the movies had to be set so closely together. The original films always talked about these events like they were so long ago. Why did Anakin have to be like 18 during the Clone Wars? Why couldn’t the films have been set even further back? Jedi are pretty robust people, Obi-Wan could easily live to be more than a hundred years old. Same goes for the Emperor and Darth Vader. You could easily shift the films back at least 20 or 30 more years. The Clone Wars should have been ages ago, the way people talk about them. Yet, Anakin serves for a few years before going totally evil on us and then dying at what, age 50?
In designing the vehicles of the films, did they forget the original movies existed? Wouldn’t it have been cool to see the evolution of the X-Wing? Or to see Y-Wings appear as cutting edge bombers back then? You know, like having the movies be smartly connected and unified rather than whatever it is we got? Sigh.
Bonus Brief: Characters Have Shitty Memories
R2-D2 excluded, since he remembers Obi-Wan Kenobi, or so it would seem. Obi-Wan, on the other hand, must have smoked plenty of that space weed, since he doesn’t remember either R2 or C-3PO, despite going on many adventures with the pair, spending dozens of hours with each, and basically witnessing the birth of 3PO at the hands of Anakin, something he’d probably remember considering how, oh I don’t know, his entire life revolved around Anakin Skywalker for almost two decades.
Similarly, Darth Vader, aka Anakin, seems to have forgotten that Tattooine existed or that it was important in any way, since it took so long for the Empire to end up back there, despite Vader presumably wanting to murder Ben Kenobi and what not. It was either brilliance or sheer stupidity that Obi-Wan decided to go hide out at perhaps the most important planet in Darth Vader’s life, one that he lived on and returned to and experienced traumatic losses at. He also boned Padme for the first time there, if I can read between the “I killed them all” slaughter kiss lines. Not only that, but Obi-Wan wasn’t too far away from well known city centers full of scumbags and lowlifes who would definitely turn him in for a few bucks.
Vader also comes mask to robotic face with C-3PO on more than instance in the good movies and never once does he think “Man that guy looks and sounds familiar” or “Hey what the fuck series of events had to have happened for my son to come into ownership of the droid I built and the R2 unit that served by my side for fifteen years during the Clone Wars?” Additionally, Yoda seems to have also forgotten about R2-D2 – though the droid maybe didn’t forget about him, since R2 was a dick to him, even knowing that Yoda was once a wise and respected warrior a scant 30 years ago.
In short, fuck you, George. Fuck you. Almost everything about the Star Wars prequels drives me past my boiling point.