By Charlie Jane Anders
One day ago, the idea of another live-action Star Wars movie seemed unthinkable. Now, we’re all bracing for a brand new trilogy, just around the corner. Could Star Wars: Episode VII be the antithesis of Episode I and actually restore, instead of suffocating, our love for this beloved adventure series? Lightsabers crossed, and all that.
Time will tell what Episode VII is actually about, and whether it actually offers us a new hope. But for now, here are some things we’d like to see in a new Star Wars trilogy.
Top image by Drew Struzan.
First off, a few rash predictions. I’m guessing the fact that this movie is being called “Episode VII” means that it’s actually a direct sequel to Return of the Jedi. And my completely talking-out-of-my-hat prediction is, it’ll take place 15-20 years after the Battle of Endor, a similar time gap to the one between the prequel trilogy and the original trilogy. That’s just my guess, though.
Yesterday, we shared some storylines from the Expanded Universe that these new movies could draw on — but I’m willing to bet that the makers of this new trilogy will wind up taking a lot of liberties, and might even contradict the EU in some ways. This is nothing new: George Lucas already invalidated a lot of the Mandalorian backstory that Karen Traviss’ novels had built up, for example.
I’m just guessing that audiences who’ve only seen the six movies, and snippets of the Clone Wars, will want to see what happens next to Luke, Leia, Han and the rest. And since those roles will probably all be recast (except maybe Harrison Ford? I can’t imagine they wouldn’t at least approach him) it makes just as much sense to introduce older versions. I would not at all be surprised if the new movies either contradict or adjust the post-Endor continuity laid down in the books and comics. But that’s just my speculation.
Make Star Wars for the Younglings
So what do we actually want from a new Star Wars trilogy? Bear in mind that there will be kids seeing Star Wars Episode VII, who weren’t born when Revenge of the Sith came out. This will be the Star Wars, for a whole new batch of kids. If Disney is smart, they’ll create something that these kids can dive into, without any prior knowledge, and get swept up in the same way a whole world of kids were swept up, back in 1977.
That means, first and foremost, that the new Star Wars has to be fun, with a focus on adventure and all that “hero’s journey” stuff. (Either through the viewpoint of a brand new hero, or by showing an existing hero going on a new journey.) Less interplanetary politics, more thrilling journeys.
The original Star Wars was a weird blend of adventure serials, pulp novels and classic epic fantasy like Lord of the Rings. It could have crashed and burned, but instead all those ingredients just harmonized. And if you want to make Star Wars fresh all over again, finding a new way to rip off both Tolkien and Flash Gordon is probably not a bad way to go.
It’s often said that Star Wars invented the Hollywood tentpole movie, and you only have to watch (for example) Eragon to see a terrible hundredth-generation copy of that original vision. Often, the whole thing feels calculated, as if the exact right admixture of special effects sequences, quirky bits, and “coming of age” stuff will yield a bankable film. But when you actually rewatch the original Star Wars, its rhythm feels a lot more eccentric than its latter-day imitators — the film takes its time establishing its characters and world, and it’s a long time before Luke even sets foot on the Millennium Falcon.
So a new Star Wars film, ideally, should be a thrilling adventure, but also make time for a lot of gentle character stuff. Very much like an old-school epic fantasy in space, in fact.
Restore the Mystique of the Force
There are a lot of reasons to love Star Wars, from the space adventure to the thousands of random characters to the loopy alien races. But one of the main things that Star Wars has that’s fairly unique to space opera stories is a magical, mystical, spiritual energy, that turns some characters into wizards. Or maybe Paladins. The Force is awesome.
Or at least, it was. The prequels didn’t just demystify the Force with that stuff about “midichlorians in the blood, that can be detected using a ladies’ razor.” Those films also did for the Jedi what Star Trek: Enterprise did for Vulcans: turn them into annoying gits.
The Jedi ought to be the coolest things ever — Shaolin monks with magical powers and a connection to a kind of Daoist life-essence. They should all be like that guy from A Chinese Ghost Story, who sings about Daoism while kicking treetops.
But seriously, the Force is the heart of Star Wars. If you don’t hold the Force in awe, then the whole thing is just a pantomime. The first movie is jam-packed with terrific moments, but the ones which have the most emotional weight often have to do with the Force, including Ben Kenobi giving himself up to death and Luke Skywalker finding his connection to the Force at the last minute. And most of the darkness and emotional wallop in the second film is connected to Luke’s deepening exploration of the Force.
The beauty of the Force is that it’s somewhat mysterious, but you also kind of instinctively know what it is and what it’s about. It has a mystique, not because there are unanswered questions about its nature, but more just because it’s personal and part of each person’s own individual journey. And because of the danger that any Force user could be turned to the Dark Side at any time.
So yeah, let’s hope any new Star Wars movie restores the wonder of the Force.
Bitchin’ Space Action
You could easily argue that we don’t really need any more Star Wars movies. You could make a similar argument for Star Trek, in fact. But even if you don’t believe that these are enduring universes that need to be reinvented and rediscovered by new generations, there’s just the fact that we don’t have all that many space action films any more. Space opera is a lost genre, on the big screen as well as the small screen.
The original Star Wars gave us a whole new visual language for space action, from the crazy dogfights to the hyperspace streaks to the X-Wings flying in formation to attack the Death Star. Some of it was borrowed from classic war movies, to be sure. But there’s a fun seat-of-your-pants quality to the space stuff in the first movie, that’s still just kind of amazing to watch.
And ILM’s visual effects in the original trilogy are just astonishing. It would be great if the new generation of VFX professionals could find ways to make space battles and space travel in general feel that exciting and visceral again. As unrealistic as that version of space is, it helped inspire a ton of people to work towards real-life space exploration.
And if Star Wars stood for amazing space action again, then just maybe we’d get a whole new generation of copycat movies.
Women With Blasters
And finally, a new generation of Star Wars needs more memorable female heroes (and villains, for that matter.) Pretty much the only notable female character in the prequel trilogy is Padme Amidala, and ditto for Leia in the original trilogy. The Expanded Universe includes some great characters, including Mara Jade and Morrigan Corde. And of course, the Clone Wars includes Ahsoka Tano, Aayla Secura and Asajj Ventress, among others.
But a new trilogy absolutely needs more female bounty hunters, Jedi, pilots and smugglers. A slightly more gender-balanced version of that long-ago, far-away galaxy wouldn’t be a bad thing at all.
What would you like to see from a brand new Star Wars trilogy?