Unsolicited Advice for Disney's New STAR WARS Trilogy

<p>After months of speculation, rumors, reports, and probably some outright lies, <b>Star Wars: Episode VII</b> <a href=>finally has an official cast</a>. There are some surprises, like Andy Serkis, some newcomers like Daisy Ridley, and of course the who-were-you-fooling returns of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill. <p>But even with an official cast and the beginning of filming, we know next-to-nothing about the December 18, 2015 release from director J.J. Abrams. It’s fair to assume they’re going back to Tattooine, thanks to some early on-location shooting, but that’s really about it! <p>So what will a Disney <b>Star Wars</b> movie look like? Details are still very slim at this point, but that hasn't stopped us from backseat-driving the Millennium Falcon and revisiting a few early suggestions of what to embrace and what to avoid, that we first checked in with all the way back in October, 2012.


Look, no one's perfect, and far be it for us to critique how anyone ages. Everyone deserves the dignity of getting older on his or her own terms. <i>However</i>... now that we know the pair are returning, they must be ready to convincingly once again play the Jedi twins. <p>With a now 70-year-old Harrison Ford morphing into a new Sean Connery (a legitimate, credible geriatric action star), Hamill and Fisher are going to have to follow his lead to appear on screen as two people who can believably say they continue to train as Jedi Knights, as well as mentor and train the next generation of Jedi Knights. Fisher doesn't have to fit into the metal bikini again and Hamill doesn't have to look like Daniel Craig, but if Yoda and Ben Kenobi could still be going toe-to-toe with Sith Lords well past retirement age, both need to look like they can pick up a lightsaber and go a few rounds. Luckily, both have been seen around London in the best shape of their last couple decades, and seem up to the challenge. <p>Was that too mean...? (<i>Michael Doran</i>.)


When people talk about the failings of the prequel trilogy, certain things always come up. There's of course the ubiquitous answer of Jar-Jar Binks. There's the creepiness of little orphan Anakin flirting with the teenage Queen Amidala (well, the creepy part is her returning the affection). And of course, there's the wooden acting of a certain leading man (more on that later). <p>But when we tell you to keep it simple, we mean one other thing: those damn midi-chlorians. Look, we've heard from those in the know that if you happen to have a sit-down with George Lucas and let him explain the midi-chlorians and their reason for inclusion to you, it all makes sense. But if something needs <i>that much</i> extraneous explanation outside of the films, it's not worth having in them at all. Remember your roots, and how great it is when all you need is that scrolling text to a soaring John Williams score to understand everything that's happening in a galaxy far, far away. (<i>Lucas Siegel</i>.)


This is a tough one. We don't mean completely, because, hey, that's impossible. This is more of a reminder that sets like the Cantina Bar and the snowy tundra of Hoth just wouldn't be as visceral, as real, or as fun if they were filmed against a green screen and added in later. <p>The same goes for the creatures and aliens around the galaxy. Yes, a huge and mobile CGI rancor has its uses, but an animatronic Tauntaun just can't be beat by some Adobe after effect. Film on location when you can, don't be afraid to build sets and creatures, then use some of that ILM magic to top it all off. (<i>Lucas Siegel</i>.)


One of the several clean breaks Episodes VII-IX needs to make from the first six (and more so the newer three) is to <i>not</i> make R2-D2 and C-3PO major, through-line players. Again. <p>Yes, the droids are back for the new trilogy, but we're just saying, they don't have to be around <i>that</i> much. <p>If you want to keep Artoo around for continuity's sake okay, but in the late '70s/early '80s a foppish, way-too talkative "robot" was a novelty. Any robot with a very "human" personality was. But as Episodes I-III demonstrated, the once Star Wars "golden" boy didn't really age well, becoming more annoying than nostalgically entertaining. C-3PO has earned a gold watch and a fitting retirement away from the main storyline of the new films. (<i>Michael Doran</i>.)


Speaking of clean breaks, since the remastered <i>Return of the Jedi</i> features Hayden Christensen as Anakin along with Obi-Wan (Sir Alec Guinness) and Yoda in spirit form, there may be a temptation to have Christensen come back for a somewhat robust role in his Jedi spirit form, as Guinness did in V and VI. <p>Don't do it, Disney. Hell, we'd advocate reviving Guinness in Tupac-like hologram form before so closely tying the new films to the modern disasters that were I through III. <p>And we're sorry, that means you too, Sam Jackson. Disney doesn't need you in <i>both</i> their blockbuster franchises. (<i>Michael Doran</i>.)


When we first presented this countdown right after the purchase of Lucasfilm by Disney, this was one of the first things that came to mind. Of course, <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/20950-lucasfilm-clarifies-future-of-star-wars-expanded-universe-announces-new-prose-novels.html>recent news has pretty much rendered this entry moot</a>. Still, the confirmation of their plans for the Expanded Universe <i>also</i> seem to make this entry prophetic. Here is its original form presented in full: The Expanded Universe is beloved and hated by Star Wars fans. It gives them near-endless tales in novel, comic book, and video game formats, making the galaxy far, far away more robust and lifelike. With over 150 novels, over 30 years of comics, and games that vary from "Pretty fun with a cool story" to "incredibly sucktacular," though, there's just too much there to build the film franchise around. <p>So our advice to you, Disney, is to simply pick and choose. Now this is going to make some Expanded Universe fans cringe, but it's still probably the best way to approach things moving forward. If you're going to make a VII, VIII, and IX (then continue with 10 and 15, and 30), you're simply <i>going</i> to overlap with the stories already in the books and comics. So take what you like, and what absolutely works: Mara Jade, former Empire Assassin now in love with Luke, Leia and Han's twins, imperial remnants, and of course fun with bounty hunters, and leave all the other baggage behind. <p>Remember, telling tales in a different direction with a new twist has worked very well for your Marvel movies, so it can work here too. And fans, don't worry, this doesn't make the Thrawn trilogy any less awesome. (<i>Lucas Siegel</i>.)


Please Disney, remember that this is <i>not</i> a science fiction franchise; it's a <i>fantasy</i>. <p>The story of Star Wars follows a group of Knights who use swords and mystical abilities to take down monsters both symbolic and literal. They go on grand quests, save princesses (who usually don't need saving and wind up returning the favor, let's be honest), and thwart their evil counterparts in grand hand-to-hand duels. Technology largely stays the same for thousands of years, and the code of these Knights is more important than how they all came to be. <p>Yes, this takes place in space, and an epic space battle with laser bolts blasting away can and should appear, but make no mistake: Star Wars is fantasy, and it should stay that way. Use the Force, Disney. (<i>Lucas Siegel</i>.)


Remember when we noted that favorite introduction, with scrolling text and John Williams? Yeah, that <i>needs</i> to be there. But that's not really what we mean when we say "remember the originals." <p>Instead, we mean more to remember the spirit of those original three films. There was a sense of discovery and adventure. There's a tenuous connection to the characters (and between them) that can change in an instant. There's mystery, and comedy, and action, and romance, and drama. And of course, there are characters and stories that mean a whole lot to a whole lot of people. Don't let that go as you forge ahead with a new series of tales. <p>However... (<i>Lucas Siegel</i>.)


There's a part of us that wants an Episode VII, VIII, and IX that somehow follows-up on the immediate aftermath of <i>Return of the Jedi</i>. There's a part of us that wants that one last story of Luke, and Leia, and Han (all of whom we're definitely getting), and throw a little Lando freakin' Calrissian in there while you're at it, thankyouverymuch. <p>But then there's that part of us that remembers that their stories may well be over, or darn close to it. So while you're remembering and respecting the original stories, don't think you have to pick up every single thread and give every character their moment in the spotlight, especially not right away in Episode VII. The beautiful thing about Star Wars, and the reason the Expanded Universe worked so well, is that it has a literal galaxy and eons worth of stories to tell. <p>Since you have decided to pick up on the threads of the next generation of Skywalkers, some of this will be downright necessary, just don't go shoe-horning it in. (<i>Lucas Siegel</i>.)


Disney, you now have 1.5 billion reasons (and more when you consider the success of the solo films that have come after) to be very proud of how you've handled Marvel and their mighty cast of characters. So please, remember what made <i>Marvel's The Avengers</i> such a rousing success. <p>First, it's right in that title. Now, most people just called it "Avengers," but you remembered what made it great: it's Marvel's. Marvel had already shepherded these characters through half a century of development, trials, and triumphs, and you let them do it again here. We're not saying this movie should be called "Lucasfilm's Star Wars Episode VII" but that philosophy should be considered. <p>Next, remember to let it be <i>fun</i>. When people walked out of the theater, they talked about "Puny god" and that one punch and those things that made us proud to be fans for decades. That's the real key to Episode VII, letting it capture and support a real sense of awe in the Star Wars fan in all of us once more or for the very first time for new fans. <p>And look, we (almost) all agree that <i>Empire Strikes Back</i> was the best of the films, but that doesn't mean everything should end on a series of down endings. Don't abandon filmmaking basics in an attempt to cash in too quickly. Just go with the flow, tell your story, and sometimes you'll need to let it be awesome simply because it is awesome. <i>Avengers</i> needed a couple of leaps of faith (and plot), and Episode VII probably will, too. But that's OK. <p>Because it's freaking <b>Star Wars</b>! (<i>Lucas Siegel</i>.)

Unsolicited Advice for Disney's New STAR WARS Trilogy

Date: 29 April 2014 Time: 06:30 PM ET