The Prequel Trilogy, Story Telling, and Unreliable Narration


Regardless of your feelings about the Prequel Trilogy the fact remains that they are an indelible part of the Star Wars Saga. Given this fact we must consider them within the context of the trilogies as a whole and take seriously what they have to offer. This however does not require us to take everything within them at face value or even as factual. Indeed the many inconsistencies within these films strongly suggests that we shouldn’t. From the illogical actions of the trade federation in The Phantom Menace, to the nonsensical events of Attack of the Clones, to the inexplicable contradictions of Revenge of the Sith, the events depicted in the prequels beg for an explanation. Are we really expected to believe that Anakin was an immaculate conception or that Leia has false memories of her mother as a child? What of the lack of a satisfying explanation for the clone army? What I propose is that the prequels are actually an inaccurate portrayal of events and that the source of the inaccuracy and inconsistency comes from the narrator himself; Anakin Skywalker.

If the Prequel Trilogy is told from Anakin’s perspective most of the problems within the films become much more understandable. In The Phantom Menace Anakin was just a child and had no real understanding or influence over the events taking place around him and thus was unable to provide an accurate account. Take for example the actions of the Trade Federation and Darth Sidious. What was Sideous’ plan here? My understanding is that the whole point was for him to use the Trade Federation to blockade Naboo in order to create a diplomatic crisis, which would force a vote of no confidence in Chancellor Valorum. This is not clearly explained in the film though and Sidious seems to take actions which undermine this goal. Why does he want Amidala to sign the treaty? If she just keels over and signs, then the invasion is legal and there is no diplomatic crisis for him to benefit from. Also, what does the Trade Federation have to gain from helping sSdious with his obviously nefarious plan? This is never explained in the film so we are left at an impasse. Within the framework of Anakin as narrator we have a functionable explanation. Anakin was too young to understand the circumstances. He only has a vague idea of what is taking place and so doesn’t provide us with the details. In adition consider the manner of Anakin’s conception. He pushes the narrative that he was an immaculate conception created by the force and as far as he knows, or is willing to know, that is the only anser for why he has no father. There is an alternative explanation though. His mother was a prostitute who was impregnated by a Jon. This is explains both what Shmi did for Watto as well as how Anakin was conceived.

Anakin Skywalker
Anakin Skywalker (Revenge of the Sith)

Being that Anakin was youngest in the first film that is where the most glaring inconsistencies lie but others can clearly be found in the other two films. The origin of the clone army is a prime example of this. Within Attack of the Clones the origins of the clone army are hardly explained at all. After Obi-Wan and Anakin part ways we see Obi-Wan begin his quest for the origin of the bounty hunter. Disregarding the fact that Kamino, a world which does billions or trillions of credits in business a year cloning, had disappeared we are given very little as what made them create the army. Yeah we’re told that Sipho Dias placed the order but we are never told who that is. Sure we are given a band-aid of an explanation that Dooku was the one who placed the order but I always found the explanation lacking. How did he pay for the army, why did the Kamionoans agree to it in the first place, and why did the Republic/Jedi agree to take the army when it appeared? We spend half the film with Obi-Wan pursuing the mystery when suddenly Obi-Wan just stops and goes to Geonosis to do something else never ansering any of the questions the army raised. If Anakin is the narrator it seems pretty obvious why this happened, because Anakin doesn’t actually know the full story behind the Clone Army. All he knows is that Obi-Wan went to Komino, discovered the army and that was it. He never looks any further into it. He just accepts it as fact and leaves it at that. It also provides some explanation as to why a good third of the film is devoted to just watching Anakin and Padme sort of hang out. Yeah, its not very interesting to the viewer but it is very important to Anakin. How he fell in love with Padme is central to him. I mean the guy obsessed about her for ten years without ever seeing her and then became an evil maniac because she died, obviously he is going to show us, in excruciating detail, how he got to hang out with her on Naboo for a while.

Attack of the Clones

Now for Episode III with possibly one of the most talked about inconsistencies in the whole series; how long Luke and Leia knew their mother. From what we are presented on screen it seems that Padme had the children then died immediately after childbirth. We know this can’t be true though because in Return of the Jedi Leia tells us that she remembers her mother, her real mother. What I suggest is that Anakin thought that Padme died after giving birth but that in reality she lived for several more years before dyeing of unknown causes, perhaps by the emperor’s hand. After Anakin’s battle with Obi-Wan he is mortally wounded and brought back to Palpatine’s lab to be reconstructed. When he awakens the Emperor tells him that Padme is dead but this is Empeor Palpatine we are talking about, the most evil dude in the whole universe. He is certainly manipulating Anakin/Darth Vader. He knows that if Anakin believes Padme is dead he won’t go looking for her. Vader is no use to Palpatine if he’s going around the galaxy trying to find his wife and kids so he lies to him. What we see in Revenge of the Sith is what Anakin thinks happened not what actually took place.

Anakin and Obi-Wan’s relationship throughout the prequel trilogy is another aspect that is changed quite remarkably due to our unreliable narrator. From what we are told in the original trilogy Anakin and Obi-Wan were good friends and throughout the prequel trilogy we are told that many times but it is exceedingly rare that we actually see this friendship. They seem to spend an inordinate amount of time annoyed with one another. Anakin is constantly complaining about Obi-Wan’s guidance and Obi-Wan is perpetually bothered with Anakin’s lack of self control. Perhaps this is colored by Anakin’s own feelings though. He knows that the story must depict his friendship with Obi-Wan but he is loathe to actually portray it. He feels so wounded by how their friendship ended that he can’t give us a clear picture of how he and Obi-Wan interacted before Obi-Wan left him for dead on the side of a volcano. Perhaps Anakin intentionally shows us how dysfunctional he remembers the relationship being. Sure he references good times but he chooses to show us all of the times he complained about Obi-Wan as if to say “See, I knew he was no good the whole time!” Maybe the reason he only shows Obi-Wan being aloof and irritated is to demonstrate that Obi-Wan wasn’t all that great of a mentor to him. This takes their odd relationship as depicted in the prequels and sheds new light on them. Yes,  it might be odd but its odd because it’s being told from Anakin’s warped point of view.

So there you have it. I think we can safely conclude that the prequel trilogy is told from Anakin’s perspective. It allows us to rationalize all of the strange absurdities and inconsistencies that are portrayed as well as adding new depth to Anakin’s character. We get to see his downfall from his side. No longer are we forced to take everything at face value but are free to evaluate it and judge it based on what we know about Anakin Skywalker.