If Disney and Lucasfilm plan on making a new “Star Wars” movie for 2015, there are a few things they’re going to need to learn — and fast.
The statute of limitations on all prequel complaints has passed, and those films have been officially and eternally marked as failures. Fanboys can make any appeals they want, but those films simply didn’t honor the legacy created by the first three, something that this new Disney-Lucasfilm venture can hopefully fix.
But is it still possible to make a good “Star Wars” movie? It’s been so long since Episodes IV, V and VI that the idea seems like a relic of the ’70s and ’80s, but as the Jedi returned from extinction, so too can “Star Wars,” and this is how you do it.
Keep It Fun
What audiences loved about “Marvel’s The Avengers” and what they will love about “Skyfall” in a few weeks is that they are big action movie that aren’t afraid to have fun. Somewhere between “Return of the Jedi” and “Phantom Menace,” the “Star Wars” series forgot how to have fun and got bogged down in trade wars and political maneuvering. At almost no point during the second trilogy could a viewer describe whatever CGI set piece they were watching as “fun.” Pod-racing doesn’t cut it. Step one in bringing back the series is to channel the mix of fun of narrative weight that made the originals so entertaining.
And no, Jar Jar Binks, “silly” isn’t “fun.”
It’s About Character
When Red Letter Media did their unrelenting feature-length takedowns of the prequel trilogy, one of the most salient points made was that the characters in those movies lacked any life. Princess Leia is brave, but stubborn yet principled. Queen Amidala likes funny clothes. To make an audience care about anything that’s going on, the characters have to be relatable, and to make people who live in space relatable means giving them familiar traits like being smooth and crass, but a good guy at heart, in the case of Han Solo.
Forget About Luke, Han, Leia and Anakin
While we’re on the topic of characters, it’s probably best to leave anyone we already know behind. The principal characters from IV, V and VI, their story is over. Plus there’s only one Han Solo, and his name is Harrison Ford, and he’s old. Disney needs to do itself a favor and see this new phase of films as a fresh start. Introduce new characters, people that the audience has no preconceived notions of or that are involved in precious childhood memories. The name “Star Wars” and props like lightsabers should be enough brand recognition to get audiences into theaters.
The exception to this rule is, of course, in the case of a minor character getting a spin-off because who would say “no” to a Western-inspired Boba Fett movie?
A Reboot Is Not the Answer
I know it’s hip to go back in the chronology of a series, mix up a few things. Before long you have Chris Pine playing a younger version of Han Solo, but this is not the remedy for “Star Wars.” For a series of movies made 30 years ago, the original blueprints were always remarkably modern, even before the horrible special effects update in 1997. Don’t go dark. Don’t create an alternate timeline. Simply set a new story set on different planets with new characters and have them go on an adventure. The world Lucas created will do most of the heavy lifting.
Don’t Ignore the Expanded Universe
Long before the “Clone Wars” animated series, the only other place to get “Star Wars” characters outside the movies was the Expanded Universe, a world of officially licensed books, comics, and video games that didn’t impact the official storyline of the films and never saw big screen adaptations. On this note, Disney could take a cue from their colleagues at Marvel about how to create a unique storyline while acknowledging a backlog of material at the same time. Pulling inspiration from a beloved “Star Wars” book wouldn’t be the end of the world, and it would be a quick way to earn the trust of the die-hards.
Invest in Talent
A close second behind creating the world, the greatest contribution George Lucas has ever made to the “Star Wars,” may be leaving it behind. For as grateful as we are to him for giving us the characters and stories we love, his unyielding control over the property has, until now, kept a fresh set of eyes from trying something bold and different with the universe. A generation of filmmakers raised on the original trilogy has come of age, and there is unquestionably someone who can nurture this series back to its peak health.
Leave your advice for Disney and Lucasfilm in the comments below!