Let me begin by making a deep, dark confession: I actually enjoyed Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008). Granted, it suffered from the same CGI-overkill that plagued the Star Wars prequels. I can also see why fans didn't care for aliens (or 'inter-dimensional beings' as Indy creator George Lucas preferred to call them) inserted into the story, as the previous three Indy films were more religious-based. But it was a treat seeing Harrison Ford don the famous fedora and whip again. Although he clearly aged since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), he slipped back into the role so effortlessly it was almost as if no time had passed at all (similar to seeing Leonard Nimoy reprise Spock again in the last two Star Trek movies). Bringing Karen Allen's Marion back was another plus since many say she was the best of Indy's love interests.
I suppose I'm kinder to Crystal Skull than the Star Wars prequels because, when all's said and done, Crystal Skull was simply an entry in a beloved series that was less than stellar.
In contrast, the prequels are more deserving of criticism because they actually re-write aspects of what endeared people to the original Star Wars trilogy. The fact that Hayden Christensen was inserted into Return of the Jedi (1983) is, as far as I'm concerned, just as bad as Greedo firing first in the revised Star Wars (1977) because it changes the narrative of both characters and story. Red Letter Media summed it up best in his review when he stated that one of the biggest problems with the prequels was that it made Anakin out to be too central to the Star Wars universe in that he was prophesied as being the one destined to 'bring balance to the Force' (maybe George should have read the Harry Potter series to see how to properly write a character who is pre-ordained for greatness), whereas Vader, in the original trilogy, was part of a bigger story. Having the character basically be, as Red Letter Media called him, 'Space Jesus'(the character apparently had no father) was way too over the top.
In the original trilogy, Luke was an everyday character, which made it easy for many to put themselves in his shoes-not so for the way Anakin was played in the prequels. There is also the fact that the universal appeal of the Force itself was ruined when George introduced us to midichlorians, which are apparently little things in someone's blood that determine if a person can be a Jedi. I won't even go into other bothersome aspects such as R2-D2 and C-3PO appearing(don't get me wrong, I love both those characters, but they had no place in the prequels because it contradicts certain aspects of the original trilogy), Anakin building 3PO, Yoda fighting with a lightsaber like he's the Tazmanian Devil and, yes, Jar Jar Binks.
The prequels were a story that many fans (including me) were making, at least in their own minds, since Jedi came out. Luke seeing the spirits of his old man, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda smiling at him at Jedi's end allowed us to imagine the story of how these three were proud comrades-in-arms once upon a time only for tragedy to tear them apart before Luke eventually reunites them.
So, I've decided to do something many others have done before, which is to give my own ideas on how I would have done the prequels. Before I begin, I will say that there were elements of the prequels I liked. So my own ideas for them will have those elements included. To that end, I will keep the titles of each of the prequels. Once they were announced, the titles of the first two prequels were criticized by some fans. But a title, more often than not, has little impact on the quality of the actual movie itself.
Secondly, despite the criticism and the Golden Raspberry Awards he received, I have nothing against the casting of Christensen as Anakin Skywalker. If any improvement was needed, it's that the character should have been written differently, not necessarily that a different actor was needed. Christensen has delivered good performances as anyone who has seen Life as a House (2001) and Shattered Glass (2003) can tell you.
1. The Phantom Menace: I would start with having Christensen play Anakin in this film. Lucas having the character as a very small boy was superfluous to say the least (check out this article on Jake Lloyd, who played Anakin in Menace, and it's quite sad how he's turned out). I would have Obi-Wan Kenobi encountering Anakin and persuading Yoda to train him. Yoda could be reluctant due to Anakin's reckless nature.
One of their first assignments could be to assist Senator (not Queen) Amidala, whose planet is under siege by a growing force controlled by Darth Tyranus and his aide Darth Maul. Tyranus, unbeknownst to the Jedi, has a pre-Emperor Palpatine in his pocket. During the course of the film, Obi-Wan and Anakin's friend Qui-Gon Jinn could be murdered by Tyranus. The film could end with Tyranus and Maul escaping and with Anakin becoming a Jedi and beginning a romantic relationship with Amidala.
2. Attack of the Clones: Obi-Wan could be spending his time tracking Tyranus and Maul in order to avenge Qui-Gon's death. Anakin notes this obsession, which leads to his own in protecting Amidala, to whom he later proposes. At the same time, Palpatine is secretly plotting against Tyranus as his own political career is expanding. Obi-Wan and Anakin could eventually track down Tyranus just as he's unleashing his new clone army against the Republic. Obi-Wan and Anakin could then have lightsaber duels with Maul and Tyranus, in which Maul is killed by Obi-Wan but Tyranus, after critically injuring Anakin in their duel, escapes.
3. Revenge of the Sith: The Republic is now breaking apart because of the Clone Wars, which allows Palpatine to rise and declare himself Emperor. The war has also separated Anakin and Amidala, which prevents her from informing him that she is pregnant. Anakin also has visions of her dying. These visions could lead to him deducing that Palpatine is in league with Tyranus. Anakin could then barely defeat Tyranus before fighting the Emperor. But Anakin's fight with Tyranus weakens him enough for the Emperor to overpower him. But, instead of finishing him off, the Emperor could use Tyranus's cloning technology on him, similar to what happened to Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation's "The Best of Both Worlds" two-parter, in which he's kidnapped by the Borg, who proceed to turn him into one of them. (In Jedi, Yoda told Luke "Don't underestimate the powers of the Emperor, or suffer your father's fate you will!"). In both cases, these are good men who are overtaken by forces who use their power and knowledge to exterminate their own people.
Anakin fighting both Tyranus and the Emperor could be against the advice of Obi-Wan, Yoda and the other Jedi, who could implore Anakin not to go it alone. Hence, his recklessness and arrogance could still contribute to his fall to the Dark Side.
Thus, when Luke cuts off his hand in Jedi, Anakin could slowly but surely re-emerge since the technology that has imprisoned him for so long has been compromised. This is why it takes him a moment before he saves his son by killing the Emperor.
As Anakin falls to the Emperor, Amidala could give birth to Luke and Leia, but the war could separate her from Luke, who finds his way into Obi-Wan's hands. But she and Leia could make it to safety (hence, why Leia remembers her in Jedi) and Obi-Wan and Luke end up on Tatooine after seeing Yoda off on Degobah, since Luke says in The Empire Strikes Back(1980) that it looked familiar. So, we don't necessarily have to see the death of Amidala as we did in the prequels. Details like that don't necessarily need to be explained outright. For instance, in Jedi, Luke introduces himself to Jabba the Hutt as a Jedi. This led me to assume that he had already gone back to Degobah in between Empire and Jedi, because I would hardly think he would introduce himself to someone in that manner unless he had further training. His rescue of Han Solo from Jabba could then be seen as a test of sorts, since Luke then goes back to Degobah afterward and Yoda tells him that his only remaining task is to confront Vader again.
When someone is disappointed with a film, he/she may say something like "I could write something better than that." Over the years, I've seen many films that have given me the same reaction. I guess this is a reason why I'm now a writer myself-so I could actually try to write something better.
This article can also be found on my blog.