October 31, 2012

Star Wars Episode VII-IX?

So the internet went nuts yesterday when Disney bought Star Wars (and Indiana Jones!) and announced immediately that they're having Kathleen Kennedy produce more sequels starting in 2015.  Some see this as a bad thing.  But I have evidence that while it may not be the best thing ever, it at least has the possibility of not sucking.

Some points to consider:

Disney bought Pixar and they are still autonomous and awesome.

Disney bought Marvel, they are still autonomous and awesome, and we have some great superhero movies including Iron Man and The Avengers.

George Lucas is to Star Wars as Gene Roddenberry was to Star Trek.  The original series is cheesy fun and established some great ideas, but it wasn't until he was gone that The Next Generation really took off.  Most of the Roddenberry written episodes are not very good and you only have to think about how much better subsequent seasons of The Next Generation were to the Roddenberry-produced first season.

Which is to say, the best Star Wars movie was The Empire Strikes Back which Lucas neither wrote or directed.

Kathleen Kennedy is no slouch. Producer of E.T.; The Goonies; Back to the Future; Who Framed Roger Rabbit; Cape Fear; Jurassic Park; Schindler's List; The Sixth Sense; Seabiscuit and more.  Now I'm not saying they're all great (Congo; Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull), but they are all well-produced, found their audiences and the directors clearly had some artistic freedom.

And remember Episodes I, II, and III?  Yeah, it can't be any worse, that's for sure.

With that out of the way, let's speculate on the story arcs of the next three films!  Might as well be wrong in print.

Things they need to keep: Jedis, The Force, John Williams, cool space battles and space ships, funny robots and interesting aliens. And most importantly: A SENSE OF FUN.  That's what separates the original films from the prequels.

Things they need to ax: midi-chlorians, Jar-Jar, CGI yoda, trade agreements, replicating elements of the other films just because they're there.

In my humble opinion the best approach would be to put a wide distance between the new films and the old.  Even if you like the prequels, the only connection is the babies of the queen (Luke & Leia), Yoda, an old Obi-Wan, and Darth Vader.  The closest they should come is that.  The main characters could be children of either Luke and whoever and/or Han and Leia.  The robots could stick around.  There could be a different actor playing an old, wise Luke or some other Jedi and we could have all new adventures.

But that's not what I would recommend.  I'd separate them even further.  Go with the Old Republic, which takes place hundreds and thousands of years before the prequels, or go a century or two after the events in Return of the Jedi.  Sort of like the very healthy distance The Next Generation had from the original series.

With the Old Republic story lines, they already have built in mythology from comics and games to tap (and sell) and it mixes the familiar elements of the Jedi and the Force with an elegant and retro style blending the best of fantasy and science fiction.  New CGI technology creating a technologically advanced, but Old world style would be different and fun.  But there might be rights issues with the creators of the comics and games.

By going two hundred years into the future, they could keep all the familiar locations, add more and put in completely new, but of course familiar-type characters with new adventures.  At the end of Return of the Jedi the Emperor is destroyed but is the entire Empire?  The rebels have won, but how long will it take to bring peace to the galaxy?  In two hundred years there would still be the Sith and hopefully Luke has passed on the knowledge of the Jedis.  Would the Galaxy be full of Europe-type factions?  Would there be the galactic version of a Cold War? A Galactic Berlin Wall? Would R2D2 still work?  Sure he would!  Remember, for the first movie, Lucas' major touchstones were WWII fighter films and Flash Gordon serials.  There's no reason to abandon those influences and remix them for a new generation of films that stand on their own as well.

So I'm hopeful for a good, new beginning.  There are few enough fun things in our culture that I can talk to with new Kindergarten students every year and Star Wars is one of them.  Let's hope the Force is with the new caretakers of the franchise.