Star Wars fans: Take the Dialog Challenge!

I’m over the heartbreak of the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy, I really am. I left the theater after Star Wars: Episode Worst – The Phantom Menace trying hard to convince myself I had enjoyed it. Once I realized I’d been conned, I was angry. Then, with some time and distance, I was angrier.

At last, after seeking solace from various Internet flame forums and finding only emptiness, I settled into a practical place: Star Wars was just an old flame. I’d see the next two movies, for old times’ sake, but the passion was gone, and we’d never really have our special relationship ever again.

I’ve been able to rekindle just a little of the old spark by introducing the whole franchise to my kids. My three little indiscriminate media-lovers are smitten with the whole glowing mess — the action, the sound effects, the puns, even Jar Jar. They pay no mind to discussion of trade disputes and sewer district mergers and parking meter privatization and whatever else those three episodes were about.

Their enjoyment is all that matters. I just wish we could enjoy it together.

Still, there is still one thing I just … can’t … excuse: poor characterization. I mean, characterization, the most important part of a story — more important than plot, more important that effects or finales. If you find you don’t care about the characters and the consequences of their choices, the storyteller has wasted your time.

The Prequel Trilogy should have been a feast of characterization. After all, this is the story of a good kid who was given all the chances to walk the path of good, yet chooses the path of evil instead. That’s a pretty compelling premise! What causes him to rebel like this? What is he running from? What is he running toward?

But the journey toward a full-blooded Anakin Skywalker was derailed by the banditos of excessive whizbang, clunky acting and worst of all: bad dialog.

After re-watching Star Wars: Episode III – Send in the Sith with the Oldest Boy and Younger Boy (ages 9 and 6) there’s one moment in particular that stuck in my craw, the thing I can’t let George get away with. It’s the pivotal moment early on when Anakin has defeated Count Dooku, and is holding two lightsabers at his neck.

Shave and a haircut ... two bits!

The kidnapped and restrained Chancellor Palpatine obeserves this all from just a few feet away. Remember that the kidnapping was an elaborately staged hoax by the chancellor, ostensibly for the purpose, however unlikely, that Anakin could be coaxed closer to the Dark Side. So in this scene, Palpatine needs to goad Anakin to act on hatred, not on his Jedi training.

When Dooku is at last at Anakin’s mercy, here’s how Palpatine accomplishes his dastardly plan.

Chancellor: Good, Anakin, good. Kill him. Kill him now!

Anakin: I shouldn’t.

Chancellor: Do it!

Lightsabers: Zzzoinks!

Dooku’s head: Plop!

Do it”? That’s it?

That’s all the encouragement necessary to turn Anakin against all he’s been taught? To betray the trust of his masters? Feh. Feh, I say!

I can’t leave it alone. I need to improve this scene. Not by way of a total rewrite — that’s too easy and has been done in fanfic across the Interwebs. Thus I give you:

The Dialog Challenge

Let’s say we’re on set filming this scene, everyone is tired and ready to quit, and we won’t get Ian McDiarmid back on set for another three months. George turns to us and says, “You know, that ‘Do it’ line just isn’t getting the job done. Can we give him a something else to say that’s a bit more convincing?”

I’m on it, O Bearded One.

Here are a few of my attempts, each exploiting Anakin’s emotions and desires. If you, dear reader, have any improvements or suggestions, please leave ’em in the comments. If we can come up with one line perfect enough, we can imagine it every time we watch this scene. Together we can save Star Wars! (Er, in a totally pointless, retroactive, make-believe way that can be fruitful only in our imaginations.)

10 Things Palpatine should have said instead of “Do it!”:

“Don’t tell me all Jedi are weak. Finish the job, boy!”

“Listen to you parrot that Jedi spinelessness. Give him his justice, or free me so that I can.”

“You’re the best of the Jedi, Anakin. Your way is their future. Why do you still serve their past?”

“Spare the republic from endless war — spare your loved ones.”

“The so-called virtues of your ancient order are outdated and irrelevant in these times. Follow your heart. You know what’s right!”

“You and I both know you’re not like them, Anakin. You can be more than a Jedi.”

“You’re not a peacekeeper, Anakin. You’re a warrior. My warrior!”

“Shouldn’t? I daresay you’ve done many things a Jedi shouldn’t do. That’s why you are destined to be the greatest of them all.”

“He’s counting on your Jedi weakness. Just as he’s counting on his Sith tenacity to see his revenge!”

“Sith will always be more powerful than Jedi. If you squander your momentary advantage, he’ll make you regret it.”


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20 responses to “Star Wars fans: Take the Dialog Challenge!

  1. Carol

    Perhaps Nike could’ve paid them to have Palpatine say, “Just do it!” And then Anakin could’ve swung his light sabre in an arc reminiscent of the Nike swoosh.

    Of course, you’re suggestions greatly improve upon the original dialog.

    • jdrewscott

      Nice! Then he could have mopped his brow, chugged a Mountain Dew, and said, “Been there. DID IT!”


  2. Troy

    Palpatine should have said “Will someone get this walking carpet out of my way?”

    • jdrewscott

      Referring to Obi-Wan’s mane, of course. And Anakin would have been all like, “OK, and while I’m at it, I’ll get all the little Jedi babies, too!”

  3. Desert Son

    To be fair, the original trilogy which wowed me in theaters lo these many moons past, wasn’t exactly Shakespeare:

    “But I was going into Toshi Station to pick up some power converters!”

    Of course, at age 4, what did I know from Shakespeare? The critical difference, of course, is that at the time, the films did things that no other films did, and so that’s one of the reasons they’re special. Lucas had almost 30 years (30!) to work on, if nothing else, his script writing skills. Maybe take a few correspondence courses, like the one where you have to draw the pirate on the matchbook cover, or whatever it is.

    In the original trilogy, Lucas also made some really good choices for Empire and Return: he chose others to write and direct. Lawrence Kasdan was an inspired writing choice, as was Irvin Kershner as director for Empire, and they did outstanding work, taking moments of dialogue silliness (“I don’t know where you get your delusions, laser brain”) and enmeshing them in a story and visuals that really got us. Plus, unlike Lucas, those other directors allowed other creative input. The famous “I love you/I know” exchange ante-carbonite was apparently ad-libbed by Harrison Ford, who supposedly (and rightly so) felt that the original dialogue just wasn’t getting the job done. So the director told him to run with something, and he did, and it further solidified in our minds that, even on the verge of death (or near-death), in the New Republic dictionary under the entry for “cocky” you’ll find a picture of Han Solo.

    Not to mention, of course, the greatest cliff-hanger surprise twist ever in cinema history. Props at least to George for thinking up a great story moment, and further, for allowing some others to script and direct it.

    The biggest problem for me about the new films, besides the lousy writing and the fact that the new films are the old films, making the old films the new films, when I’ve always known the old films to be the old films and not the new films, was that ultimately, instead of being approached as great films to make, it felt more like they were made as a way to say, “See? The first three films were just a warm up for the main course which is just back story but I’m going to make it seem like more than that!” George, seriously, everyone loved the first offerings. They’re nothing to be ashamed of, so why would you build new works that attempt to overshadow them, and instead fall flat?

    Oh yeah, and Han shot first.


    • jdrewscott

      Dude, you don’t know what you’re talking about: I’ve seen that movie, and Greedo TOTALLY shoots first.

      Of course, it doesn’t seem so wise on his part, since he’s a bounty hunter presumably sent to bring Solo in alive; and if not, then at least he would have popped Solo anonymously before stepping up and talking to him…

      …and of course, he’s got the drop on Solo, leveling his gun straight at him on top of the table, so when he fires at point blank range the shot goes over Solo’s shoulder inexplicably…

      …even so, it’s right there on the DVD: Greedo shoots first. A DVD wouldn’t lie to me, would it Desert Son? Would it???

      • Desert Son

        Dude, not only did Han so totally shoot first, but the Zapruder film clearly shows a second shooter on the grassy knoll. But I have said too much already, and must now change my name, undergo facial reconstructive surgery, and flee the country.

        Trust no one. Not even yourself. You never know who you’ve been talking to. Or where that chewing gum has been.


      • Desert Son

        Important Note

        To: The NSA agents assigned to read Drew’s blog.
        From: Robert

        I’m totally joking about the Zapruder film stuff and fleeing the country and so forth that I included in that post. It’s totally in humor, just for laughs between old friends. I love apple pie, baseball, and the Statue of Liberty.

        But I was serious about the gum: you never really know where it’s been.

        Also, remember to refocus your eyes every hour or so, to avoid eye strain, and get up and walk around once in a while outside the surveillance van. Remember, good health starts with you!


      • Desert Son

        Oh, wow, total html fail.

        Sorry blog readers and NSA agents. Totally missed the [/b] tag on that post. Back to remedial 733t class for me.

        Although this does illustrate the need for Drew’s blog to get a preview function for those of us that screw something as simple as a [/b] tag.

        Hint, hint.


    • Desert Son

      Incidentally, while we’re on the subject of alternate dialogue for Star Wars Episode III: Recline of the Sith, what’s wrong with a little Shakespeare?

      Palpatine: “Good, Anakin. Good. Kill him. Kill him now!”
      Proto-Vader: “I shouldn’t.”
      Oh-so-cleverly-disguised-Sith-Lord: “Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war!”


      • Desert Son

        Can you tell I just turned in my remaining finals and have already opened the beer?


      • jdrewscott

        Then I expect a complete script rewrite on my desk by morning. If you keep cribbing from Shakespeare, you should be done by midnight:

        Anakin: Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.

        Padme: You are so sleeping on the couch tonight.

        Congrats on the finals, Desert Boy.

      • Desert Son

        Then I expect a complete script rewrite on my desk by morning. If you keep cribbing from Shakespeare, you should be done by midnight:

        You know what they say: The Internet is proof that a million monkeys with a million typewriters won’t produce the works of Shakespeare.

        Congrats on the finals, Desert Boy.



        P.S. Still the question lingers: How did the whiniest kid in the galaxy become its most significant villain? “The petulance is strong in this one.”

  4. Desert Son

    Also, completely off-topic, but how is possible that Younger Boy is 6? There’s no way he’s 6! I remember when he was born! If he’s 6 that makes me . . .

    . . . but no, that way madness lies. I must go pour myself a bracing whiskey.


    • jdrewscott

      Now don’t go feeling all old and stuff, Rob: Younger Boy screwed up his time travel project for the science fair, and he spent three years in the 1950s before Doc Brown showed him how to return to the exact moment he left.

      Kids — what can you do?

      • Desert Son

        Kids — what can you do?

        You should be fine as long as he asked Lorraine to the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance.


  5. Mike

    “Such a formidable enemy of the Republic cannot go unpunished — you are my hand of Justice… let it fall without mercy.”

    • jdrewscott

      Now THAT’s what I’m talking about!
      Calling all Hollywood, calling all Hollywood: I’m issuing an APB on getting Mike a job RIGHT NOW!

  6. Tim

    How about . . .

    Chancellor: “Good Anakin, good. Kill him! Kill him now!”

    Anakin: “I shouldn’t.”

    Chancellor: “You have no choice! The great creator Lucas has reduced the beautiful philosophy of the Force to a simple biological reaction.”

    Anakin: As blood begins to boil . . .literally, “No! NO!”

    Chancellor: “The power of metachlorides compels you! The power of metachlorides compels you!”

    At this point Anakin pees on the floor, turns his head completely around, and decapitates Dooku.

    Okay, maybe I’m still a little bitter.


  7. Kat

    Umm, for a moment there during the Drew-Robert tête-è-tête, I could have sworn I was sitting in the fish bowl trying to make a reading lamp appear unique and highbrow all the while thinking, “What the hell are these guys talking about?!”

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