MIND MELD: Should Star Wars Be Rebooted?
[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]
This week’s Mind Meld had a bit of setup involved before getting to the question. Here is what we sent our panelists for this week.
After talking with some of the new hires where I work, I’ve come to realize that most of them have never seen the original Star Wars movies. Instead, their knowledge of Star Wars comes from its pervasiveness in our culture and from the later prequel movies or The Clone Wars. Given the success of the Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica reboots, our question is:
Here’s what they said…
No. Emphatically, categorically, absolutely and in all conceivable flavors of no, NO. Hell no. Star Wars is a delicious fluke, a naive and energetic pastiche-o-rama written by a guy who didn’t realize he really couldn’t write, but with verve and passion and warmly human characters that made up for it. It was a cultural and artistic landmark and should be allowed to keep its full period charm. . . no more CGI updates, no more scribbling over the original work of actors and puppeteers and model-makers from the 1970s, and certainly no remake, at least not until I’m long dead and thus cured of giving a damn.
Anyone dreaming of remaking this thing should try just writing their own damned flashy super-duper space opera. Everything in Star Wars is straight out of common stock; it’s pastiche after pastiche and homage after homage, and all of those elements are fair game to play with from now until the ending of the world. Hire someone who can actually write, produce a script actually worth filming, and shoot it under the direction of someone who loves the themes and trappings of pulpy science fantasy. It’d be like planting a money tree. But will anyone do this? Of course not. They’ll remake The Last Starfighter as a vehicle for Justin Bieber or something. God save me, I’m 32 and I’m already manning the window, ready to shout at kids to get off my lawn. Well, anyone thinking of remaking Star Wars is definitely standing on my lawn.
can reach him at TheFridayChallenge.com.
Longer answer: Hell, no.
Longest answer of all: I think you’re making a serious mistake by looking at Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica. The movies you should be looking at are Superman Returns, Peter Jackson’s King Kong, and the original Logan’s Run.
There is a slim — very slim, vanishingly slim — chance that a reboot of Star Wars might work as well as the Star Trek reboot did. But considering the “Special Edition” fiasco — remember the “Han shot first” argument? — there is an almost infinitely greater probability that any reboot of Star Wars would be far more like Superman Returns or Jackson’s King Kong than anything good: it would be merely bigger, longer, louder, more expensive, and *stupider* than the original.
Sure it would have a bigger budget and better CGI; that’s a given. Sure, it would have better actors. Who in Hollywood couldn’t resist the chance to own just a small piece of the Star Wars money-making machine? (“Starring MICHAEL CERA as LUKE SKYWALKER, ROBERT DOWNEY JR. as HAN SOLO, and ROBERT DE NIRO as JABBA THE HUTT!”)
But think of Logan’s Run, which was the big-budget sci-fi movie of the year 1 BSW (Before Star Wars). Particulary, consider Jenny Agutter’s “Jessica” as compared to Carrie Fisher’s “Leia.”
Jessica was everything Hollywood thought a sci-fi heroine should be in 1976. She jiggled nicely; she screamed; she needed lots of rescuing. When they emerged from the fight in the fish hatchery and Michael York said, “Our clothes are wet. We’d better take them all off before we freeze,” she couldn’t get naked fast enough. Do you honestly think any
writer or director working on a Star Wars reboot would be able to resist filming *this* scene?
SOLO (emerging from garbage compactor): “Our clothes are wet. We’d
better take them all off before we freeze.”
LEIA: “Yes, of course.” (begins to strip)
CHEWIE: “Grrronkhissschnorkurgle!” (translation: “Lucky you. My fur
smells like I’ve been rolling in bantha poo!”)
Or resist the urge to “Ripley up” Leia in the rest of the movie, and have her shout, “DIE, FASCIST MOTHERF@@KER!” before she caps the stormtrooper in the cargo bay of the diplomatic shuttle? Or to give her a hot and kinky BDS&M scene in the Death Star’s interrogation cell, a la Battlestar Frakalaktica? Or to give her a great “rescue
sex” scene with Han on the Falcon? Or to get her out of the command center and into the cockpit of an X-wing for the big final battle?
And don’t even get me started on what they’d do to Han Solo and the Imperial Stormtroopers in a reboot. (“Can’t you make ‘em just a *little* more like Terminators?”)
The reboot of the James Bond franchise worked because there was an origin story, Casino Royale, that had never before been made into a serious film. The reboot of Battlestar Galactica worked because, to be honest, the original series was a mess. (From the writer’s P.O.V. it’s a lot easier to fix a crappy story than to recapture the spirit of a great one.) The most recent reboot of Doctor Who worked because the central idea is pretty near actor- and writer-proof, although not
apparently Fox Network proof. The reboot of Star Trek worked because, like Casino Royale, there was an origin story that was often alluded to but had never been filmed, and like Doctor Who, there was a wealth of material to work with including the established ability to travel time and rewrite history.
The original Star Wars worked when it worked because the story and the characters were straight outa 1935, which in the context of the 1970s was an incredible breath of fresh air. The original story is pure pulp adventure that aspires to monomythic status, and there is only one story there, which doesn’t allow much room for reinterpretation. The original movie is as much an artifact of its times as Casablancais, and like Casablanca, it should be left alone. Don’t mess with it. If you really feel the need to reboot the Star Wars money-making industry —
Go talk to Tim Zahn. And then make some new stories.
Mur has written for over 15 role-playing games, one textbook, one book on podcasting, and several magazines. Her column, Geek Fu Action Grip, appears regularly in the magazine Knights of the Dinner Table, and her column Dice Totin’ Mama appeared regularly in Games Quarterly Magazine until the magazine shut down in 2007. She has published fiction with the podcast Escape Pod, Scrybe Press, Murky Depths and Hub Magazine. In 2008 her novel Playing For Keeps was picked up to be published in August by Swarm Press.
I almost want to get under a blanket and get all teary-eyed and smear my mascara and scream “LEAVE STAR WARS ALONE!”
But I don’t wear mascara, so that’s out.
Star Wars is a fascinating beast. I saw the first three movies in the theater (and countless times on video), then I came back for the reboots, then I watched the first trilogy, and the sinking feeling kept pulling at me with each ticket purchase. I definitely do not think it needs a reboot, and here are the many reasons why:
1) You can cite BSG and Star Trek as successful reboots, but honestly, they stand apart. Look at everything that has been redone that failed (Psycho comes to mind). Or heck, just look at stale sequels – Spider-Man 3, Superman 4 (with Richard Freaking Pryor), and so on. A reboot will be tough. And it will be held under the scrutiny of the fans, and likely come up lacking. Who are the fans of the new Star Trek and BSG? Are they the old fans, or the 20-something SF fans who, if they saw the originals, saw them with the “ain’t that quaint?” filter on? I honestly don’t know the marketing metrics, but I do know that I was never an old BSG fan, but I loved the new one. (Well. Until the finale. But that’s another rant.)
2) Nothing brings to mind the metaphor “beating a dead horse” more for me than Star Wars. I don’t mean the novels and the Clone Wars, etc. I mean the ever-present tweaking of the movies, the ripping apart of the prequels, the tears about Lucas’ fingers in a thirty-some-year-old pie. We need to let it go. We have pure love for Star Wars. They’re different movies than the ones being released today. Kids may not be into them; even if they’re into the Clone Wars and the video games, they’re usually not into our Star Wars. But that’s okay.
3) It almost feels like my generation thinks if Star Wars remains young and fresh, that we will remain young and fresh too. If the movie that defined an entire generation of geeks doesn’t get old, then that means we’re can deny that kids entering college these days weren’t alive when we were on campus. We’re can deny the Han belt is too tight or the Leia bra is too loose when we cosplay. And it’s not strange that we have to justify a LEGO Millennium Falcon (MSRP in the $500 range) purchase to our spouse and kids instead of our parents.
4) Rebooting Star Wars feels like denying evolution. Yes, it’s sad to realize that your favorite movie isn’t cutting edge anymore. But you know what? There are new stories. New books. New movies. If Star Wars is your existence, then you’re denying the world around you and the new, possibly even better (gasp) stories being told.
For the love of the Force, let it go.
Should Star Wars be rebooted? Yes, and no, and it already has been, and will be in the future. How’s that for taking a stand and making a really clear declarative answer?
I remember reading an interview with Joss Whedon, talking about Serenity, in which he said that the rough premise of the series was simply…what if Han Solo hadn’t met up with Luke Skywalker, and the Empire had defeated the rebellion? What if Han Solo kept on his smuggler’s path and the Empire won? What happens? Obviously, Firefly went a lot deeper than that, as any story grows and shifts beyond the initial premise which gets the artist interested in exploring the idea…but that initial concept hung around and is plainly visible. It becomes an interesting codex through which to watch and interpret Serenity on some long weekend when you have nothing else to do but pop in the DVDs and watch the episodes (sounds like a good weekend to me). If Malcom Reynolds is Han Solo and the claptrap Serenity is the Millennium Falcon, then you can kind of take Jayne and Zoe and meld them together into Chewbacca, if you want. The Empire is the Empire.
Firefly didn’t last very long, and didn’t reshape the whole world with its mere existence the way Star Wars did in some ways, and that’s a whole other discussion. Part of Star Wars‘ appeal is that it’s a very simple, simplistic story. We can relate to it the world over with the same universality that some fairy tales and myths take on. The point I’m making here, or at least fumbling towards, is that if you brought in other artists – Joss Whedon? J. Michael Straczynski? Ron Moore? J.J. Abrahms? – and you gave them Star Wars to reboot, what you would get would have very little resemblance to the Star Wars films Lucas made, because any complexity added would instantly remove them, make them something as different as Firefly was.So do I want to see a reboot? Well, yes, in the sense that I’d like to see lots of Firefly-esque different takes on the same theme, and yes, because I want more things-set-on-spaceships-damn-it.
But what do I really want to see? Continuations. I want to have other people build off the Star Wars films. Leave the original trilogy, but have had Joss Whedon write and direct the prequel trilogy. I would have enjoyed that no end. Or bring in a passionate team and have them film Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy.
It’s been quite a long time since I’ve watched the Star Wars films, but I still adore Star Wars. What I tend to adore is all the expanded universe stuff that’s been done. The novels by Timothy Zahn, A.C. Crispin, K.W. Jeter, Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston, Kevin J. Anderson and so on. These were the pieces of Star Wars I reveled in, when I was a kid. These days, I think the best Star Wars story told was the plot of the video game Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, and I’m eagerly awaiting the second one.
George Lucas built a really simple framework, on top of which other people can tell interesting stories with character development and dialog and complex plots and all the things George Lucas tended to leave out of his films. Other people can reboot Star Wars, make things that are different and complex and cool and give them different names.
If we rebooted Star Wars the way Star Trek was rebooted, the only thing we could really add would be new young actors and even more computer special effects. I don’t think Star Wars needs that the way Star Trek sort of did.
So that’s my answer. Let’s continue build on top of it, rather than rebuild it.
Although I really enjoyed Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back many years ago, I thought Return of the Jedi was awful, and I was so bored during The Phantom Menace that I fell asleep in the movie theater. I haven’t seen a Star Wars film or thought about the franchise since then. Meanwhile, despite how successful the recent Star Trek reboot was, with a blockbuster summer film featuring young Kirk & Co. just starting out in life… all it did for me was ensure that I’ll never watch another new Star Trek film. So apart from being uninterested in Star Wars, I’m also not enthusiastic about reboots.
However, a key factor here is that I’m totally indifferent to special effects. This is why I haven’t seen Avatar and doubt I ever will. Everyone who’s ever seen it has said the same thing to me: “Silly script, amazing special effects!” This is exactly like saying to me, “Dinner was bland and lukewarm–except for the peas, which were the best I’ve ever eaten!” I don’t eat peas, so the only relevant description I’m hearing is that the meal wasn’t good.
What I always liked about the better episodes and films of the original Star Trek franchise were the characters and stories; whereas I thought the 2009 Star Trek reboot came across as a CGI-laden remake of Top Gun, so I didn’t like it. Meanwhile, what Star Wars mostly had going for it back in its earliest years was that its special effects were so new and unique. Way back then, even I was enthralled by those effects and came out of the cinema talking about the alien bar and the space battles, etc. But we’ve long since become so bludgeoned to death with special effects that they do absolutely nothing for me anymore. And I’m skeptical that a Star Wars reboot would be much more than a special effects extravaganza.
The first two were good summer fun, nothing more. The third was a turkey. The three recent ones were unwatchable.
I think it’s hardly worth rebooting them. Think about it. Computer-enhanced weapons cannot hit a Skywalker or a Solo at 25 paces. The freedom fighters want to replace an Emperor with a Princess, which doesn’t do much for the voter on the street. Darth Vader, slaughterer of millions, becomes a Good Guy in the end solely because he’s Luke’s father. You have an intelligent robot that can’t speak and an idiotic paranoid one that can. No one working on the script knew what a parsec was.
Do you -really- want to bring this back as an example of “sci-fi” at its best?
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