Journal: News & Comment

Saturday, September 07, 2002
# 4:50:00 PM:

What could have been

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I know it's about three years too late for this, but wouldn't the first Star Wars prequel, The Phantom Menace, have been about ten times better if it had actually been Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon?

The necessary changes don't affect Tiger very much: move the setting from pre-modern China to A Long Time Ago in A Galaxy Far Far Away, make some of the characters not Chinese, call the various landscapes different planets (with short spaceship scenes in between), add some nifty background technology (a landspeeder here instead of a horse, a droid there instead of an extra), morph the swords into light sabres (or maybe the Jade Sword is the first one?), and make the two young runaways the future parents of Darth Vader, perhaps. Oh, and I guess everyone would have to speak English instead of Mandarin.

But leave the plot, the dialogue, the acting, the direction, most of the production design, and the stunts exactly as they are. Hell, keep Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh in the leads, and make sure Ang Lee directs. Jedis scampering across slate rooftops, battling in treetops, and warding off hails of poison darts, plus a strong feminist undertone, would have been far better than all those flabby Gungans and desert-dry speechifying in the actual Episode I. Find a way for a Yoda and Obi-Wan cameo, and you're set.

My friend Seb reminded me a few weeks ago that George Lucas's Star Wars movies have now coasted for three middling to poor films (Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, and Attack of the Clones) on the reputation of two great ones (Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back).

It could have been different. The next time you rent Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, imagine you're watching a Star Wars prequel. Just watch the trailer and do that, actually. Looks like a pretty good Star Wars movie, doesn't it?

(One warning: whatever you do, do not watch this other trailer first, unless you turn the sound off. You won't be able to take the Crouching Tiger one seriously anymore.)


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