Saturday, November 3, 2012

5 Steps to Making Star Wars: Episode VII Not Suck

By now you all know that Disney has purchased Lucasfilm Ltd. for the handsome sum of $4.05 billion dollars.....with a B! What does this mean? This means we're getting a brand spanking new Star Wars movie in about 3 years! This both exhilarates me to no end, and causes me to quiver in fear at the prospect of yet another prequel trilogy mishap. But alas, I truly believe there is hope. Disney is not one to let the integrity of their property be tarnished, and they will do everything in their power to make a Star Wars trilogy that lives up to the name created by the original films. But, there are many, many things they need to get right for Episode VII to not's my top 5.

1. It's Time for a Change

The best news out of all of this chaos, is that the first step to making Episode VII incredible has already taken place. Taking the reins from George Lucas! Now don't get me wrong, I will eternally be grateful for this beautiful world that Mr. Lucas breathed life into 25 years ago. Star Wars has been a bigger part of my life than I care to admit and without the brilliant mind and incredible risk taking of George, it is something that none of us would have ever fallen in love with in the first place. But, I fear that somewhere along the way, Lucas' creation became something that he didn't fully understand. The prequel trilogy was the first time we saw the results of Lucas having total control over his Star Wars movies. He was never questioned, challenged or flat out told that his ideas were ridiculous; and the result was a disaster. I won't go into too much detail here, but ask me why Yoda shouldn't use a lightsaber and I'll tell you why there was so much more wrong with episodes 1, 2 and 3 than Jar Jar Binks. Bringing in some new minds, fresh faces, and true lovers of the Star Wars universe is just what is needed for the next trilogy to have a chance at capturing the magic of the original films. George Lucas created this incredible world that we have fallen so deeply in love with, but this time around, I think it's best that someone new will be bringing us back.

2. A New Direction
Which leads me to my next point. Want to know why The Avengers was so damn incredible? It's because the man behind the camera was the absolute, unconditional, best human being on the planet to direct that film. Joss Whedon is a massive nerd; but having a passion for the subject matter is not nearly enough. You need a director who understands how to tell a story; and this takes much more than being able to write out a coherent plot. You need someone who truly understands the nature of the characters, of the world, of the adventure that is being shared. You need a director who is willing to take input, good or bad, from all sides. I believe it is important to find someone who is truly a fan of the original Star Wars movies; someone who was touched by them on a deeper level than most. These characters, and this universe, mean so much to so many people; and if a director is brought in who does not feel the same way, I feel that the end result will be nothing but bitter disappointment for those of us who care. You see a director's passion eek out into every frame of their films, and if they love the story they are telling, it truly shows. So get out there, sign a Peter Jackson, a JJ Abrams, or a Joss Whedon and make sure the captain of this ship knows where he's going!

3. Location, Location, Location!
Want to know why Hoth felt so real? Want to know why Tatooine felt so hot? Want to know why Endor felt so lush? Because they were real effin places! Yes, when filming the original trilogy, not every single scene was filmed in front of a massive green (blue) screen! This is why we wanted to live in the universe of Star Wars. It LOOKED real! There were real rocks, real snow, real wind, real swamps and real trees! Yes, there is certainly a place for special effects in the Star Wars films, but to be honest they should take a back seat to gorgeous set pieces and location shoots. That is perhaps the greatest strength of The Lord of the Rings films; they trek all the way out to New Zealand to film in real places and the result is astonishingly gorgeous and convincing. Plus, it makes it infinitely easier for the actors to get into their roles. Nearly every actor from the prequel trilogy talks about how maddening it was acting in front of a green screen every day on set. CG environments feel fake and stale, as well as the characters that live in them. So get out there, find some beautiful locations, build some actual sets and bring a sense of reality back to this fantasy world.

4. Jar You Kidding Me?
This one is interesting, allow me to explain. What makes kids love the original Star Wars movies? Honestly, think about it. It's the awesome spaceships, the glowing swords, the daring heroes, the big Wookie and the funny little green guy. There is no character like Jar Jar Binks in the original trilogy and that is just fine for the kids of this world. You do not need to resort to slapstick comedy and "poodoo" jokes to keep kids interested. We were absorbed in every scene of the original trilogy because we were marveling at the world in which the story took place. Even if we didn't completely understand what was going on (which I realize none of us were even close to doing until we were at least teenagers), we still loved what we were watching. We didn't need big funny characters, or cheap gags to keep us engaged; the wonderful universe of Star Wars did all the work. So please, please do not include a character that is meant for 10 and under comic relief. It truly, truly is not necessary.

5. Let's Move On
Like way forward, like a minimum of 20-30 years forward. If they choose to pick up right where Return of the Jedi left off and recast Han, Luke and Leia, then we are doomed from the start. Recasting characters that are already so deeply admired cannot be done. How weird was it watching Michael Gambon be the new Dumbledore after just two movies in which Richard Harris held the same role; or watching Maggie Gyllenhaal be the new Rachel Dawes in The Dark Knight after Katie Holmes played her in Batman Begins? You cannot bring in a new face, no matter how well disguised, and tell us it is the same person and expect us to feel the same way about the character. That's not how our brains work, they're smarter than that. So, pick the story up 25 years after Return of the Jedi. Luke is now the Yoda-figure of the Jedi order, training the new era of Knights to defend the galaxy. Han and Leia maybe appear briefly but to be honest, I don't feel they need to be too heavily involved for the movies to work. Bring in a new cast of characters, a new generation, and a new evil to be faced. Forcing the story to continue to revolve around the same three characters would, in my opinion, be a dire mistake.

So there you have it. The briefest summary I could create about what needs to happen for the new Star Wars to be wonderful. I truly, deeply believe that there is hope for this trilogy to live up to the standards of episodes IV-VI. With Disney in charge, Lucas moved on, a talented director with a passion for the material, real sets and location shoots, a targeted audience and a new story, Star Wars: Episode VII could be the best one yet. And now for three years of speculation, rumors, leaked set photos, and pissing my pants as 2015 inches ever closer.

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