George Lucas Was Warned That He Would Destroy 'Star Wars' With Young Anakin Prequel
A Look Back
Out of all of the characters in cinematic history, few are as powerful and memorable as Darth Vader. Everything about him helped turn him into a cultural icon, including the American Film Institute ranking him as the second greatest villain in cinematic history behind only The Silence of the Lambs' Hannibal Lecter. From his look to his red lightsaber to the booming voice of James Earl Jones providing his dialogue, Darth Vader is a villain impossible to forget.
We're only given snippets of Darth Vader's backstory in the original trilogy. Obi-Wan Kenobi only tells Luke Skywalker small aspects of his history, such as the fact that he was the best pilot in the galaxy. Many people didn't want more than that. Darth Vader in the present was far more interesting and memorable than what Darth Vader was in the past.
So naturally, the prequel trilogy had to be made while not only explaining every detail of his backstory, but also making him nine or ten-year-old kid in the first film. This ended up being one of the most hated creative ideas in all of human storytelling. To be fair, George Lucas was warned by the executives at 20th Century Fox that making the first prequel movie being about a kid Anakin Skywalker would ruin what people loved about Star Wars, and it's hard to argue the point, especially given the backlash against the film. Lucas defended his decision by stating that he didn't want to tell the same story over and over again, which is obviously a fair point. The sequel trilogy showed why that was a bad idea. However, just because you're telling a new story, doesn't mean that it's a good story. Besides, making him that young takes away a lot of the menace that the character originally had. Seeing that Darth Vader was once an innocent kid who said "yipee" takes away from him a bit. We don't need to see every aspect of his backstory.
If a prequel trilogy had to be made, it obviously had to feature Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker in some capacity, likely in a major role, which is fine. There are undoubtedly interesting stories to be told, but revealing too much (like what he was like at that age) was a misstep. We don't need to see threatening villains at that young of an age. For another good example, see the backstory novel of the aforementioned Hannibal Lecter, in the dumpster fire that was Hannibal Rising. Evil is more threatening when we have to fill in some of the blanks ourselves.
A better trick would have been to age Anakin up more. Instead of making him nine or ten in the original film, make him in his mid-to-late teens. We could have still seen the goodness in him that helped Obi-Wan form that brotherhood with him, while still exploring the bits of darkness inside him that someone, like, say, an evil Sith Lord, could use to lure him to the dark side. It would have helped more of the audience create a better connection with him.
Now, obviously, none of this is the fault of Jake Lloyd, the child actor who played young Anakin, and he in no way deserved the hatred and abuse he got from the rabid section of the Star Wars fandom, no matter how bad the character and writing were. There was no justification for the hatred directed at him. None. It isn't his fault that Lucas made this misstep.
At the end of the day, though, Lucas made the prequel trilogy, and it divided fans and still does to this day. People are slowly starting to come around to it, though. Some of the hate has started to subside as we have hindsight to look back with. Lucas had a vision and a story to tell. Can't necessarily completely fault the guy for that at the end of the day. Also, The Phantom Menace made roughly a billion dollars. Studio executives care far more about that than artistic consistency. Still, while it's probably not fair to say that George Lucas "ruined Star Wars" by including a kid Anakin, it's hard to argue that seeing a force of evil as a young child probably wasn't the way to go.
Written By Paul Durbin
Syndicated From Culture Slate