MIND MELD: The New Future For Star Wars
[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]
The big news from last week was the acquisition of LucasFilm by Disney, giving the Mouse control of Star Wars and many other properties. While fans everywhere cheer the idea of no more Lucas mucking about with the films, another bit of news dropped that doesn’t seem to be getting as much play. Several decades after Lucas first floated the idea, Disney will be making three more episodes in the Star Wars saga, with episode 7 slated to land in 2015. Since this is apparently going to happen, our question is:
Here’s what they said…
If you’ve ever been a part of a creative process, the term “fresh eyes” may mean something to you. I don’t mean, necessarily, “fresh look,” a phrase often reserved for justifying the craven process of redesigning an idea so that it is unrecognizable from what it once was while at the same time refusing to use it as its own, new idea.
What I mean is that, when one becomes close to an idea, when one has been working on that idea from the beginning and has seen it go from Point A to Point B, one can only ever see it as that idea, that journey, that point-to-point. You can hear this concept explained by John Cleese’s video on creativity (look it up on Vimeo) in that we are at our most creative when we are at play, when we are free to say “what if” and “why not.”
Star Wars can’t do that anymore. It’s an idea that has a shared stake in Lucas, in its fans and in its obligation as a money-making product and no one can agree on whether it’s going to Point A or Point B, but they’re each convinced that they have the right idea where it’s going and everyone else has the wrong idea.
What I’m looking forward to is the notion that Star Wars is dead. Star Wars is dead, gone and left behind a disgraced memory that makes people ill just thinking about. It has no more preconceptions, no more rules on what it “has” to do, no more Point A’s or Point B’s. It has a legacy, sure. It has a compelling backstory, yes. It has a lot of meaning, absolutely.
But it doesn’t have a reputation. Not anymore.
And now, it’s free to do something interesting without someone else telling it what to be.
What I’d like to see from new Star Wars films? Let me ignore all the other properties associated with Star Wars for the moment (novels, cartoons, comic books) and focus just on the six films we have already. The existing moves have good points and bad, and there seems to be a good amount of consensus that the bad began outweighing the good at around the halfway point of Return of the Jedi (cough*Ewoks*cough).
The good: An inventive visual style. A universe that started out larger than the screen. Iconic heroes and villains. An epic sense of scale.
The bad: Camp. Aliens that look like racially-insensitive Muppets and get worse as CGI improves. Three prequels that introduce the kind of continuity snarls that DC comics took half a century to create. Writing that is, at times, Manos-level bad. Turning iconic characters into woobie caricatures out of bad fan-fiction (cough*Annikin*cough)
Disney has some choices to continue on with the property. They could go plodding along, Muppets and continuity intact, and continue driving the franchise into the ground. Or they might try and build on the good parts, and pretend certain movies never happened. (Call this the Superman Returns gambit.)
If it was my call, I’d take a radical third option: Reboot the franchise entirely. Wipe the slate and redo the first three movies. (You know what I mean by the first three movies, damnit!) Use some decent writers. Get some good, believable alien designs so that the non-humans are as well-designed as the spaceships. Film the three rebooted films at once ala Lord of the Rings. (And, hell, have Peter Jackson direct.) And I’d make the following changes: The Force returns to being a quasi-religion, and the Jedi to being warrior monks ala the Knights Templar. Darth Vader is a villain again, and we DO NOT redeem him at the end. (The guy destroys planets. It’s like redeeming Hitler, and the prequels make this worse.) No, the redemption we need to see is Luke’s. We take the tragic fall theme of the prequels, and we give that storyline to Luke in the reboot. From the “Luke, I am your father” scene forward we get to see Luke go over to the dark side (not just symbolically, but in actually, which would make the new Return of the Jedi much darker/better), and unlike Anakin in the prequels, we’d actually care. Luke takes up Vader’s offer to rule the galaxy together and they kill of the Emperor at the start of the new Return of the Jedi. The climax of the third move would be Han and a Jedi-trained Leia going up against the father/son tag team. Picture this: the climatic Luke/Leia lightsaber duel. When she’s about to lose, Han takes the hit that would have killed her. He dies in her arms, she’s sobbing, finally broken, and Luke’s looking on in horror, and in a righteous fury goes on to kick serious Vader ass.
When I finally got power back after twenty-six hours of Sandy-related darkness, I thought my friends were pulling a fast one on me when they told me this news. But once I realized that it wasn’t an elaborate hoax, I was actually heartened. Lucas shouldn’t be allowed to make Star Wars all on his own. The best movies of the six were A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, because for both, he actually had to listen to other people’s opinions and take their creative feedback. But by Return of the Jedi, the man had more money than god and could do whatever he wanted, which was a problem. The re-releases and the prequels only underscored that, big time.
So if Star Wars is going to continue, it needs to continue in the hands of a creative team rather than a single person with horrifically bad judgment. We’ve already got proof that it can be done. The Clone Wars animated series is currently producing intelligent and entertaining stories, and Lucas has absolutely nothing to do with it (except for cashing the checks they send him). I’d like to hope that if Disney had been involved in The Phantom Menace, someone would have said, “You know, people are going to call us racists unless we do something about Jar-Jar Binks and the Neimoidians.” I’d also like to hope that someone else, upon reading through the next two scripts, would have said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if Anakin’s fall was tragic? I kinda feel like people will be rooting for him to hurry up and turn into Vader so he’ll stop whining.”
Plus, they need to hire a continuity nerd and LISTEN TO HER. Ugh.
As for stories, I hope they stay away from all the expanded universe stories and give us something new. At the end of the last film (chronologically), an oppressive empire has just been overthrown. As we’re currently seeing right here on Earth, there’s plenty of unrest after something like that happens, and the government that springs up in the old one’s place isn’t necessarily a huge improvement. There’s a lot of fertile ground to play with there. And as much as I like to root for the Sith, if they come back, I desperately want them to be better written. Everyone’s the hero of their own story, but it’s really hard to try to figure out how Sidious and Vader could see themselves as heroes. So I nominate Kenneth Branagh to direct the next one. After watching how he handled the incredibly complex machinations of Loki in Thor, I’d love to see him tackle the Sith. (Plus, I want to reward him for introducing me to the delightfully photogenic Tom Hiddleston.)
I would also love to see a woman’s story be told for once. While Leia was huge in the original trilogy and Padme was her equivalent in the prequels, the original trilogy was about Luke, and the prequels were about Obi-Wan and Anakin. The women were there to support the men’s character arcs. Let’s tell a woman’s story this time, and let’s not have it end with the world’s most inept medical droids shrugging their shoulders and declaring that she’s lost the will to live. That’s a malpractice suit if I ever saw one.
One other thing I liked about the original trilogy was the way it cast little-known actors for many of the main roles. It made it so much easier to fall into the world of the movie. I’d love it if Disney did that this time around. And while they’re at it, if they could make the future a whole hell less white and male, that would be lovely. There’s just too much tokenism in the trilogies. Making it less straight and gender normative would also be nice, but I suspect Disney’s less likely to want to go there, what with all the fuss narrow-minded parents would raise.
Of course, I would not mind one bit if they cast Tom Hiddleston to be their token white male. Thank you again, Kenneth Branagh. I owe you one.
Oooh Shiny!!! I want to see more discovery – more wonder – as opposed to more battles. Love the battles, don’t get me wrong, but what’s always grabbed me by the heart-strings were the moments in Star Wars where we encountered the alien and the marvelous (and insanely fun and weird). I’d like to see the characters experience another first encounter, as they did with the Ewoks. Maybe not quite so cute. Sweep me away with exploration, even if Evil must be Vanquished. Make room in the story for amazement too.
While I’ve no particular actors or directors coming to mind, and I’m no expert anyway, if Harrison Ford isn’t available (or no longer age-appropriate – happens to everyone but Sean Connery) I’d love to see Nathan Fillion take the role of Han Solo.
I’m looking forward to the new three – to not knowing the destination. Star Wars has transported me into a universe far far away. Enchant me again, if you please.
When I heard the news about the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney, my first thought was: Star Wars without George Lucas– finally! I suppose one no longer needs to belabor the point that Lucas is a visionary whose vision ran out long ago. The “expanded universe”– over which he’s exercised very little personal control– is where all of the interesting stuff has happened in the franchise post-Return of the Jedi. My favorite corner of the Star Wars universe has always been the merely quasi-canonical Marvel Comics series, so I wouldn’t object to seeing, say, a character like Shira Brie pop up, or maybe even a hoojib. But more important than what I do want in the future Star Wars films is what I don’t want in them: the word “midichlorians.” The idea that the Force somehow needed more explanation than was given by Obi-Wan in the original film is kind of like the idea that we really needed to know Boba Fett’s angsty backstory. A change of leadership means a chance to get Star Wars back on track, and though it sounds a bit hokey to say it, restoring some mystery to the Force would be a good place to start. And hey, a certain amount of hokiness is part of the religious world of Star Wars anyway—just ask Han Solo.
As for who should be involved, it’s tough to say—the universe is wide open, so it all depends on what story they want to tell. I’d be interested in seeing an older Luke Skywalker, it might be a bit sad to see an elderly Han Solo– “grizzled veteran” could veer a bit too easily into “doddering curmudgeon.” So I’d love to see Mark Hammill in the cast, but I don’t think I’d shed too many tears if Harrison Ford were not on board. Behind the camera, I don’t have much to add to the ever-growing speculative list of directors, but I think either Joss Whedon or Brad Bird would surely create something excellent, with an appropriate mix of action, emotion, and thematic depth. J.J. Abrams, of course, has already made a Star Wars film– he called it Star Trek– but it was a pretty good one, so he could probably turn in a solid entry as well.
All I want is for the new movies to stay true to the Star Wars mythos. I want the movies to build on what has come before, not toss it out. I’d say it’s a vain hope, but the Star Trek franchise managed it with the reboot. So maybe Star Wars can do the same.
As far as casting goes, the young Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill before the accident, the young Carrie Fisher—oh, never mind.
I’m excited for this new era in the Star Wars universe and I think it’s in good hands with Disney. I’d like to think that they would still respect Lucas and keep him in the loop…though what do I know, it’s Hollywood.
As for future Star Wars films that pick up post-ROTJ, I’d really like to see the fallout of the crumbling Empire in as realistic a way as they can manage it while still staying true to the spirit of the first 3 films. Surely not every Admiral and General is going to pack it up and bow to the Rebellion and its allies just because the Emperor and Darth Vader are dead. I’d like to see how the rebuilding of the Jedi Order happens. Admittedly I haven’t read the numerous novels that take place after the movies, or any of the other transmedia depictions, I’m going solely off of the movies which are what I consider the prime canon.
I’d like to see an unexpected director take the reins, just like how Sam Mendes tackled the new James Bond. What if David Fincher picked up Episode VII? Maybe Alex Proyas who directed Dark City. Christopher Nolan even? Someone unexpected could bring something new and interesting to the series. As for stars, I hope for new discoveries. Not anyone very established, unless it’s in supporting roles. Or unless they’re already character actors. Most importantly though, I want to see a strong script so that even good actors aren’t left flailing.
The short answer to your question: I’d like to see another trilogy of movies, this time focusing on the rebuilding of the Republic. Also, I’m actually delighted that we’ll be getting more Star Wars films.
The long answer:
I still remember seeing the first Star Wars movie as a kid and getting caught up in it along with the rest of the world. At some point, I know I came across a book or an article that mentioned George Lucas’s grand plan, to create three separate Star Wars trilogies. A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi would be the middle series, showing the rebellion against the Empire. Lucas then planned (remember I was reading about this in the 1970s or 1980s) to back up and film a trilogy about how the Empire came to be, and then he would follow that up with a trilogy about the rebuilding of the Republic.
Well, we all know what happened. After the first trilogy was complete, Lucas moved onto other things, and it took about two decades until he got to the flashback trilogy of movies, starting with The Phantom Menace. And those three films, well, they weren’t as good as the original. Even accounting for the fact that there was no way The Phantom Menace could live up to the hype, when all is said and done it’s simply not as compelling as A New Hope. (Of course, that didn’t stop me from seeing it opening weekend, and staring at the screen in wide-eyed childlike wonder.)
Part of the reason the films weren’t as good was probably that Lucas had spent the two decades in between becoming a master of special effects (cf. Industrial Light and Magic), but he was still stuck in his older mannerisms as a writer and director. The second set of films probably would have benefited from more input and earlier input from other creators who love Star Wars as much as Lucas does. (I even have an idea of how Anakin’s story should have gone; in fact, I was expecting his descent into the Dark Side to be based more on a desire to free his mother from slavery than anything else. Sort of a “road to hell paved with good intentions” kind of story. But I digress.)
I think what we need for a third set of movies is a writer/director who has a clear track record of creating his own appealing original works, but also the ability to plumb the depths of previously envisioned worlds to present to the audience a compelling story. There are a few directors who might be possibilities, but the first one that came to my mind was Joss Whedon.
Whedon, as I imagine most readers of SF Signal know, created the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and followed it up with a few other excellent series. As a writer, he understands what makes characters tick and that stories have layers and are always metaphors. But he also understands that you never want to lose the audience in the metaphor. You want to give the audience a good story they will enjoy, with characters that they care about and who carry throughout the movie a sense of fun.
Whedon clearly showed his ability to do this with Marvel’s the Avengers. He managed the magic of creating a movie that appealed to both old and new fans of the characters, and demonstrated that he understood exactly what needed to be done for a movie of this magnitude. I can’t think of any other creator today — well, maybe Christopher Nolan — who could bring an appropriate high-level fresh vision to a property that will be almost three decades old by the time the new movie rolls around.
As for why I want a trilogy about the rebuilding of the Republic: I’ve been waiting for that final trilogy for far too long now, and I’d be disappointed if the new Star Wars movies were about anything else. This means recasting the main characters of Luke, Leia, and Han Solo, as the current actors are too old to play them at the time of the new trilogy. But J.J. Abrams showed with Star Trek that the right actors can make those roles their own, and I would hope that Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford would be willing to appear in the films to frame them, perhaps by telling the stories of the new trilogy to Han and Leia’s grandchildren as they bounce them on their knees…
As I write this, rumors are circulating that Matthew Vaughn is going to direct Episode VII. He wouldn’t have been my first thought, though Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class were perfectly serviceable films that seemed ably directed. I can’t say that either made me think he should direct Star Wars films, but that said, hiring a superhero film director seems like a logical choice, given the huge blockbuster nature of those films, as obviously any new Star Wars film is going to be a huge spectacle. Thinking along those lines leads me to one of my favorite directors: Christopher Nolan. (Honestly, I’d like him to direct All the Movies.) As much as I enjoyed his Batman films, it’s really Memento, The Prestige, and Inception that make me really want to see this happen; obviously none of those films are very much like Star Wars, but they’re not like Batman movies either, and his Dark Knight films turned out quite well.
Other rumors are circulating that the original primary cast–even Harrison Ford, who has publicly been very sour about Star Wars in the past–are all going to be reprising their roles, and will be playing older versions of themselves, with the movies taking place many years after the end of Return of the Jedi. And it sounds pretty clearly–unsurprisingly–that the movies will be steering clear of the existing Expanded Universe stuff that’s already out there. (Though I’d have loved to see Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy adapted.) But the thing is, most of what I would have said I’d want to see from the new movies has already been covered at some point or another in the EU. I mean, rebuilding the Jedi and founding a Jedi Academy, and rebuilding the Republic seems like reasonable things to expect, and those have been well-covered. I do wonder what kind of antagonist they’re going to have, since it seems like all the Sith are basically gone and destroyed by the end of RotJ. But I just don’t know. I just know that I really don’t want it to suck. And other than that, I’m content to just wait and see what they come up with. To be honest, I’m much more worried about who they get to write the thing than who they get to direct; I’d love to see them key on the fact that the best of the movies–Empire Strikes Back–had a screenplay written by a science fiction writer (Leigh Brackett), and maybe try that again.
Otherwise, I’d love to see a strong female character at the forefront of the new saga (assuming that the returning characters will be more in the background, in sort of advisory roles, like Obi-Wan in the original trilogy). That would do a lot to repair some of the damage they did to Leia by making her Jabba’s slave girl, not only in the movie but on the damn movie posters. (A point Sandra McDonald spends some time on in her new Lightspeed story “Searching for Slave Leia.”) Also, if they could backtrack on the whole midichlorians thing, that would be awesome.
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