I know--I mean, I know--that I could turn out a better story than that crap. I usually start by thinking, "Okay, what needs fixing?" Eventually I realize that the first trilogy--particularly Episode 1--is like a rusted old Mustang: if you replace one body part, you find that you have to replace the one next to it, and so on, until you find yourself basically building an all-new car.
That's fine, though. I know it's broken. The problem is, it is so broken that it's hard to know where to start. So this afternoon, while trying to get to sleep, I thought about Ep 1 and "fixed", in my mind, a lot of little details, but hadn't quite figured out where to start cutting out rust.
Okay, so look: virtually anyone who knew anything about SW knew that Palpatine was the emperor, right? Even I knew it, and I gave up SW geekery when I was 13. The story can do without any kind of pretense at hiding who Palpatine is. "Phantom Menace"? Give me a break--and while you're at it, stop trying to make SW sound like a movie serial, will you? Because I'll tell you, the writing for, say, King of the Rocket Men beat SW Ep 1 all hollow.
"Midichlorians"? (or however you spell it) --gone. No midiclorians.
Traveling through the core of Naboo? --gone. (It's a cave which stays in the planet's crust but cuts a chord, so travel time from where they land to Naboo's capitol is reduced.)
Gungans? --still there, but no freaking Jarjar, and the Gungans' part in the story is reduced.
I decided that Anakin had to be young. But the pod race? --gone. The gamble with Watto? --gone.
But what about him being the son of a slave? Obi Wan, Ep 4: "For a thousand years, the Jedi were the guardians of peace and justice in the old Republic...." No, he can't be born in slavery. (Tattooine isn't actually in the Republic, though.) And I'm also willing to bet that Lucas was trying desperately to make it look like the Roman Republic--but in a universe with sentient machinery, and where energy swords which can cut through two meters of blast plating are not unremarkable, slavery is utterly unnecessary. That's the most damning point: Anakin was a slave because...well, because it made it possible for the Jedi to buy him out of slavery, as long as he won the pod race.
So the slavery angle is also gone.
As for the pod race, it's in the movie for two reasons: 1) to show how good of a pilot Anakin is, and 2) to add some excitement to a story which is otherwise fucking boring. It's almost totally unnecessary otherwise.
Make Anakin a troublemaker. (Foreshadowing! What a concept!) He's talented with the Force, so he's light on his feet and can usually get away with stealing stuff--but not always because his talent is untrained and some people are immune to the little psi tricks he can do. ("These aren't the droids you're looking for" won't work on everyone, for example.) If we must have him rescued by the Jedi, have them save him from being executed for his umpteenth time being caught stealing something.
That asshattery about the Jedi wondering if Anakin is the one who will "bring balance to the Force". In my version of the story, someone in the Jedi Council would be smart enough to ask, "Hey, wait a second. As things are now, almost all practitioners of the Force are good guys. Do we want 'balance'? 'Cause I'm pretty sure bringing 'balance' to the Force means more Dark Side stuff. And--correct me if I'm wrong--that would be, like, bad, right?"
Since that would keep them from training Anakin, we axe that entire pile of horseshit. No prophesies, no "balance", none of that. Anakin is 10 years old and is so powerful in the Force that Qui-gon is convinced he should be Jedi, if only because the kid has to learn how to control his ability. So why does the Jedi Council oppose that idea? Because--see above--Anakin is a troublemaker and a criminal. Qui-gon thinks that in the right environment, Anakin will straighten up. For the most part, he is right.
I think we can leave Padme's role in all this pretty much alone. The same goes for the Trade Federation and all that stuff. It makes sense that Palpatine, wanting to be emperor and having access to the limited prescience that Force-capable people can use, would hatch a plan to get "emperor" put on his office door. Think "Hitler" and "Weimar Republic" and you wouldn't be far off; this is just happening on a larger scale, is all.
The Jedi Council--all the stuff on Coruscant is fine, pretty much, I guess. The trip back to Naboo? Anakin stays on Coruscant, for one thing. Thus he's not in the position to "save the day" on Naboo by blowing up the Trade Federation ship that's controlling the battle droids. Too bad; the freaking Jedi Knights who are supposed to be such badasses will have to save their own bacon.
So Qui-gon gets killed by Darth Maul; Obi Wan kills Darth Maul, and we move on.
Fast-forward at least fifteen years and cue the music for episode two, which I'll write about in a later post.