How Star Trek: The Next Generation can make the new Star Wars movies awesome


With the announcement that Disney would finish the Star Wars trilogy of trilogies by producing Episodes VII, VIII, and IX, fanboys everywhere are speculating how the movies will end up. And rumors are flying all over the place with the confirmation of character-specific movies in addition to the Sequel Trilogy. It’s like those years before 1999’s Episode I when you could cut the geek culture's anticipation with a knife.

Okay, maybe it’s more than a little different. After three less than stellar Prequels, an Expanded Universe that often relies on the crutch of shamelessly repackaging old elements of the Original Trilogy, and some flagrant over-merchandizing that robs the integrity of the classic characters, Star Wars isn’t quite the property it was prior to 1999. I feel like I've been through the ringer with Star Wars, and a lot needs to change to bring me back to full-blown fandom.

So what needs to happen? Well, for one thing, Episode VII needs to become...

STAR WARS: THE NEXT GENERATION

Star Wars should use Star Trek: The Next Generation as a model for success. Back in the 80’s, instead of rehashing Kirk and the gang for a new TV series, Gene Roddenberry decided to take Star Trek in an entirely new direction by setting TNG in a future 100 years beyond the original show. Sure, some of the elements were similar in both series: you had a strong charismatic leader (Kirk = Picard), a character who commented on the human condition (Spock = Data), and a cool starship on which all the adventures took place (the Enterprise). But it was also new and fresh, with brand new characters, new and updated environments and technology, and storylines that extended the series beyond TOS.

That’s what we need with Star Wars: a clean break with what has happened before, set in a future of the Star Wars Universe that’s separate enough to allow new and interesting story elements. Most especially:

NO IN-BETWEEN STORIES

Many, if not most, Star Wars stories take place between two existing storylines: Shadows of the Empire takes place between ESB and ROTJ; Clone Wars takes place between AOTC and ROTS. But Episode VII needs to move Star Wars progressively in new and unanticipated areas, so it should be set in a post-ROTJ future with its own independent storyline.

Star Wars needs to prove that it’s bigger than the Original Trilogy. The Prequels and the Expanded Universe have tried to chase the magic of the OT either by exploring backstories of OT characters (which is anti-climatic because you already know where the characters end up) or by directly rehashing OT elements (which end up as faux imitations). Star Wars needs to give up trying to relive the OT. It needs to prove that it can be bigger than the OT by expanding into story arcs that have nothing to do with what has happened before.

Take Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls. That movie tried to expand the Indy Universe with the introduction of his son Mutt so that future movies could follow his adventures. The idea was that the series could become more than just Indiana Jones himself. And it just didn’t work. The Indy Universe is not bigger than Indiana Jones. But I think the Star Wars Universe can be bigger than the OT’s characters, like Star Trek is bigger than Kirk and Spock.

That means we need an entirely new cast of characters. A couple of old favorites can make brief cameos (maybe Jedi Master Luke or Admiral Solo has a scene), but the focus needs to be on new characters and new character types. That goes for the stand-alone movies, too: they should follow the Marvel Avengers template and highlight the new characters in adventures that contribute to what happens in Episodes VII - IX. That also means that a new character shouldn’t be something we’ve already seen before, like a Jabba’s Palace alien or an Astromech droid.

That reminds me:

NO R2-D2 OR YODA

At all. Ever. No action scenes, no dialog, not even a background cameo. Nothing.

Yoda and Artoo were great secondary characters with wonderfully idiosyncratic distinctions in the OT that made them become some of the most popular characters in the Star Wars Universe. Unfortunately, that was also their undoing; since they became so popular, they were completely driven into the dirt by the Prequels and EU. Artoo was cool when he was hacking into the Death Star; he was completely overplayed when he was zooming around with jets in the droid factory. Yoda was cool when he was calmly lifting the X-Wing with the Force; he was completely overplayed when he was hopping around like a Jedi frog fighting Dooku.

For some characters, less is more. Artoo and Yoda were designed to be supporting characters. Transform them into action heroes with crazy fighting abilities and you lose the original characters.

Oh yeah, no Darth Vader either, for the same reason. Of course, if the movie is set post-ROTJ, neither Vader nor Yoda could be prominently featured, but I'm sure they could somehow shoe-horn them in. It’s not that I don’t like these characters, it’s just that they’ve had their day and doing anything else with them would only further damage their original integrity. We need new blood. And speaking of which...

NO JOHN WILLIAMS

I’m sure this will incite fans' ire the most, but hear me out.

The soundtrack is important to provide unity with the Original Trilogy. Although it needs to be Star Wars: The Next Generation, it also needs to feel like we’re still in the Star Wars Universe, and the music can go a long way in doing that.

So why not have John Williams do it? Because the music in the Prequels just wasn’t Star-Warsy enough. Maybe he’s advanced as a musician and his style has changed, but when I saw the Prequels, I never thought the music was Star Wars.

The best thing about Superman Returns (maybe the only good thing) was the cool intro with its booming soundtrack. But wait, you may say, that’s John Williams! Not exactly. That’s John Ottman’s take on John Williams’ theme. And it’s awesome. He knows what made the original score great, and he plays up on that. That’s what we need for the next Star Wars movies... hey, maybe even John Ottman himself should do the score.

So what’s the point of this rant? It’s not to take a dig at the Star Wars fans, and it’s not to spew hatred at Star Wars as a whole. Don’t get me wrong, I really do love the Original Trilogy, and even the Prequels and the Expanded Universe have many cool elements. It’s just that the new movies offer the perfect opportunity to redefine Star Wars and its future. I think Star Wars can be more than the Original Trilogy, but the new movies have to want to go there.

Also, this is a good time to record my thoughts so in 2015 I can look back and see at how wrong I was about Star Wars Episode VII - The Yoda and Artoo Saga.

2 comments:

  1. I kind of agree and disagree on Yoda. There are stories to be told with him- and Disney's telling them in a spin-off. Yes, Yoda fighting Dooku was lame. This doesn't mean Yoda can't carry a larger role, it just means, shock of shocks, what Lucas wrote in the prequels sucked. For a good Yoda story, I must recommend the Clone Wars episode Ambush. As well, the EU also has its selection of awesome characters we really don't know the fate of- like Ahsoka. (Casuals like to think she'll die in Order 66, but, we already have a list of over 100 who escaped- and as someone Anakin trained himself, and who has a true friend in Rex, it'd be disappointing to learn that. I'm betting if we learn one way or the other, she makes it out alive.)

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