What I Think about Star Wars VII

star-wars-vii-cast

Well, the cast for Star Wars VII has been announced.  I have plenty of thoughts about SW7, but I’m worried that the recent announcement of the nullification of decades of “expanded universe” fiction will all but nullify my hopes for what the movies will focus on.  I like the casting choices, but the plot choices could still put the whole thing in jeopardy.

So, for the new site, let me “re-post” my blog entry from January 7, 2013 when Disney bought the rights to Star Wars with a few revisions:

With the recent purchase of LucasFilm by Disney and the appointment of J.J. Abrams to helm the next Star Wars film, it’s time to start looking hard into just what that film will be like.  It’s a monumental undertaking, and while I do think they’ve picked the right people to do it, they need to do it carefully.  There have been dozens of books written about various events that took place after Return of the Jedi (ROTG).  There has been almost 30 years of fan fiction, fan speculation and hundreds of great ideas and characters that have been given to Star Wars fans to take or leave at their leisure.  There has been nothing out of LucasFilm, in books, games or movies, that could be considered “canon” … until now.  The folks at Disney and the creative minds that Abrams will have need to think things through and not just make a movie that will make money, but make a movie that will properly continue to tell a story of the SW Universe in the spirit in which the first stories were told (while avoiding the mistakes made in the second trilogy, please!).

Make no mistake … I don’t think there should be a SW7.  I really don’t need to know what happened after ROTJ.  It’s like wondering what Rik and Louis did after walking off the air field, or what Samwise made in his garden after Frodo sailed away.  Stories have endings for a reason, and sometimes you need to respect the ending.  Abrams knows that as well as anyone since it was he who worked so hard to put a final ending onto two of his babies: “Lost” and “Fringe.”  But, we’re committed at this point, so the next chapter in the story needs to be a good one.

So, far be it from me not to throw my thoughts into the ring (well, at least out into the Ether) on what elements I think are needed to setup the next chapter successfully.  I think it goes without saying that I am a MASSIVE Star Wars fan.  It was the defining movie of my youth, and the one of the core examples of science fiction that inspires my own writing.  I want SW7 and beyond to be a success.  I want it to be good storytelling and good movie making.  I want Alex and other kids to be captured by the same wonder that I was as a kid.  So, with all that in mind, let’s jump right into it.

Some core elements to start with:

  1. Star Wars VII needs to start some time after Return of the Jedi.  Let’s say 25 years.  Why?  Many reasons: (Update 4/30/2014 – Abrams has confirmed SW7 will take place almost 30 years after ROTJ.  Glad he listened to me on that one!)
    1. The new movies will not follow the principal characters of Luke, Leia and Han.  These movies will follow their children, the inheritors of the SW Universe of the end of the rule of the Sith.  So you need some time to pass so those characters can grow up and be put into the fire that is the plot of SW7 and beyond.
    2. After any civil war the nation remaining is thrown into turmoil.  Economic recession, smaller factions claiming independence or the ability to rule better than others, fractured alliances, etc.  The first 5 years after Jedi would be all about two things:  re-establishing the Republic without the corruption and problems before the rise of Palpatine, and dealing with the remnants of the Galactic Empire.  That’s a pretty boring world and hard to play in, so we need to jump ahead to a time when all that boring political crap has been played through but isn’t completely resolved.
    3. The actors who played the main roles, with the possible exception of Harrison Ford, are too old to take up the roles they played for an entire movie.  Re-casting actors in the same roles has rarely worked well for other movies (ex. Jack Ryan, Spider-Man movies) because it feels more like a re-make than a continuation of the same story.  Harrison Ford could show up as Han Solo the Elder in a small role, but the story needs to move on to talk about the world they created after ROTJ. (Update 4/30/2014 – the original actors, including Harrison Ford, are confirmed to be in SW7.  There is still speculation on how much of the movie will focus on the original characters and not the new ones.)
  2. After ROTJ there are 4 factions that will exist in the Star Wars world:
    1. The Alliance of Planets – This is the new Republic formed by the former leaders of the Rebellion (Mon Mothma, Leia, Lando Calrissian, etc.).  They will seek to immediately establish governmental control over the worlds and convince them to rejoin the Alliance.  They’ll have to setup a government that works like the Republic but lacked the corruption the Sith took advantage of.  That takes decades to accomplish on even a small scale.  In the massive galaxy of Star Wars, the Alliance would only be a few core planets that still have to go out and try to convince other outer planets to join.  They’ll also have to deal with the war trials of all the Imperial leaders who destroyed entire worlds during their reign.  The work is still on-going at the start of SW7.
    2. The remnants of the Galactic Empire – The Empire didn’t just surrender with the deaths of the Emperor and Darth Vader.  There were Grand Moffs, Admirals, an uncertain number of clone troops and plenty of Star Destroyers and fighters to form a massive army.  The war against the Empire would continue well after ROTJ.  Who leads the Empire?  I like the idea of Grand Admiral Thrawn coming in and taking over.  Certainly you need a main antagonist for the movie.  It’s not a Sith Lord, so it’ll have to be someone who can control the troops and the fleet, and that means a soldier.  Plus, it’s a strong character and a nod to SW Fans if they keep him in the storyline.
    3. The Jedi – At the end of ROTJ there is 1 known trained Jedi in the galaxy.  You better believe there are hundreds of kids, teenagers and adults who still have miticlorians floating in their veins and are able to manipulate the Force.  Luke alone has the task to rebuild the Jedi Order his father destroyed.  He’ll start by training Leia and then her twin children.  At the same time he’ll have the help of ghost Obi-Wan, Yoda and Anakin to assist him with all the things he doesn’t know.  He’ll setup a system to find Younglings and adults who have mastered Jedi talents on their own and rebuild the Jedi ranks.  There will be no Padawans for a while, only Jedi.  By the time of SW7 there will be a small Jedi Council made of the few fully-trained Jedi Knights, including Leia’s twins.  They will be the main characters of the new films.
    4. The Criminals – With the demise of Jabba the Hutt, there’s a whole galaxy full of criminals with no Godfather running things.  You’ve got petty criminals running rampant without fear of infringing on each others’ territory.  In comes the new Hutt Family, most likely Talon Kaarde and his cronies if not someone left over from The Clone Wars cartoons, to take over and organize the criminal elements.  In building the Alliance, dealing with the Empire and finding Jedi the criminals are the end-around the main characters have to live with to get things done.  Their allegiance is questionable, and betrayal will certainly be a part of their story.
  3. The story will still follow C3PO and R2-D2 around.
  4. The Millennium Falcon will be the main spaceship in the story.
  5. They’ll need plenty of new starships and fighters for the Alliance Army.  The Jedi starfighters need to make a return in a way that enhances their new space battle tactics.  The Empire will continue to use the classic Star Destroyers and TIE fighters, but some new ships and forces should be introduced.
  6. The movie must open with the appearance of a Star Destroyer.
  7. The classic lines must be included.  “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”  “It’s not my fault!”
  8. There must be at least 1-2 scenes with heavy lightsaber use along with Jedi abilities that are more like the video games and cartoon series than previous movies.  The use of the Force is not going to be as disciplined as it was in Obi-Wan’s days since all the trainers from those days are dead and gone.  While the Force may not be used for attack (although in these violent times maybe it should from time to time), it is used to control things in a way that follows the will of the Jedi even if it is violence for self-defense, etc.
  9. There must be at least 1-2 space battles with amazing special effects.  The new Force abilities in space (see below) must look as cool as they sound.
  10. You need at least 1-2 characters providing comic relief through scoundrel ways.  Not everyone is Han Solo, but sometimes they’ll act like him.
  11. Any event that ties back to the first 6 movies should be encouraged.  Remeber, this is the third chapter in a larger story.  You can’t just forget what happened in chapters 1-2.
  12. No loveable creatures.  Nothing more than a playful Jawa.  Sarcastic scoundrels go a long way to provide enough humor.
  13. The battle between Jedi and Sith never really ends.  It’s scale changes, but it will always be.  As the Jedi rebuild, so to should the Sith.  The lure of the Dark Side is too strong for 100% of Jedi to ignore.  Those who embrace it will need to organize and gather their power.  The next trilogy shouldn’t be about defeating the Sith again, instead setting up the next chapter of their battle.

So, what could Star Wars VII be about?

  1. Leia and Han have given birth and raised two twins, Jaina and Jacen Solo, both of whom have been trained by Luke and become the first class of new Jedi Knights.  Luke has done the best he can to train them to avoid the Dark Side of the Force, but Jacen has always felt pulled by the darker side of his being, the scoundrel side from his father.
  2. Luke is now the head of the Jedi Council and spends all his time on Yavin 4 training and deploying Jedi.  Their top priority is to rekindle their numbers so he sends his Jedi out to conduct tests/screenings and bring potentials back for training.  He tries to avoid interacting with the Alliance, but his close relationship with their leaders keeps pulling him back in.  The Army of the Alliance, made of the troops and pilots from the Rebellion, maintain the peace and battle the Empire until the Jedi strength is rebuilt.
  3. The Empire has finally rallied all of its forces and is planning on making a grand push against the Alliance.  They continue to bring in more allies from the outer planets who feel abandoned by the Alliance.  The clone troops are starting to die out, so they must make their move now.  Grand Admiral Thrawn is convinced the best way to defeat the Alliance is to prove the Empire is the better peacekeeping force in the galaxy.  They use diplomats to convince planets to join them while battling the Alliance Army.
  4. Leia and Luke decide to send Jaina and Jacen out on two separate but similar missions.  Jaina in the Millennium Falcon (with C3PO and Chewbacca) will go to Tattonine and visit Kaarde and convince him and the criminal elements to fight for the Alliance.  Jacen (with R2-D2) is sent to meet with Thrawn to discuss an armistice.
  5. Rogue Squadron discovers the Imperial Fleet amassing for a major strike.  They begin plans to repel the attack.
  6. Jaina arrives to find that the criminals are also aware of the impending Imperial attack, choosing to wait it out and see who wins before picking a side.  They attempt to capture her.  She is able to escape and she and the Falcon engage a small fleet of ships.  She’s able to defeat them using her Jedi abilities during space fights (ex. using the Force to pull fighters into firing position, blind the pilots, deflect missiles, shutdown power plants, etc.)  She is not able to get out of range of communications jammers before the Imperial fleet attacks.
  7. Jacen meets with Thrawn and slowly comes to understand his perspective on how to rule the galaxy.  When Thrawn offers him command of the remaining clone troopers, Jacen gives into his desire for power and control and accepts command.  Jacen also comes across a database that Palpatine had left behind with the history of the Sith, including documented instructions on embracing the Dark Side of the Force.  Jacen begins practicing some of these techniques and slowly starts his path to the Dark Side.
  8. The end of the movie is the space battle between the Imperial Fleet and the Alliance Army.  Thrawn has studied their tactics and starts to get the upper hand on them.  Jacen and the clone troops are winning  their battle but must retreat when the arrival of Jaina and loyal criminal elements arrive, along with Luke’s new Jedi Armada whose use of the Force in space battle make quick work of the Empire.  Thrawn retreats, but it’s all according to his master plan.  He is happy to learn that the combined fleets of the outer world allies will arrive around Couresent and hold the Alliance government hostage until they return control of policing the galaxy to the Imperial forces.
  9. Jacen falls deeper into the Dark Side of the Force, proclaiming himself to be a Sith Lord.

I have no doubt that Abrams and his team will come up with a plot even more twisting and unpredictable as this one, pitting old characters and situations against new characters in a way that does honor to the books, etc. that have been written while creating something fresh and entertaining.

But please, J.J., no flashing strobe lights.  I can stand to be blinded by them in your movies anymore.  Please, get rid of them.

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