Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Episode VII: Can It Bring Back Star Wars? - Part II

A Long Time Ago…There Was a Great Story  

So what will make Episode VII a success?

The Archetypal Characters
of Star Wars 
The same thing that has captivated audiences since the tribal elders spun yarns around the fire, eons ago will make Episode VII a success…a good story filled with interesting characters. Sure there are successful films with scripts not worth the paper that they were printed on, but crammed full of stars and special effects that make big money and are beloved by moviegoers, but they are rare. The true powerhouses of modern cinema history are all driven by a good story. Star Wars was a compelling tale told in theclassic mythological tradition and chock full of classic (archetypal) characters (the idealistic, adventure seeking youth, the wise old wizard, the swashbuckling pirate, etc.). Star Wars was unlike any film people had seen before 1977, but the special effects alone would not have made it the legend that it became. It was a very basic story that we could all relate to that drew us in and hooked us forever. What kid didn’t dream of being Luke Skywalker or Princess Leia? What dad didn’t secretly dream of being Han Solo, or for those with a darker soul, Darth Vader? It sounds simple, but it works…a good story filled with interesting characters. 

Great Performances 

Even the best story can crash and burn when told through weak performances. In my humble opinion, the casting of Anakin Skywalker doomed the prequel trilogy from realizing its true potential. We could have overlooked Jar Jar. We could have overlooked Darth Vader’s tragic wail of “Noooooooooooooooo” at the end of Revenge of the Sith.
 We could have overlooked some of the weak and cheesy dialog that peppers the prequels. Yet it is hard to overlook a subpar performance delivered by the principal character in all three films. To be fair, I have never seen Jake Lloyd or Hayden Christensen in any other films. They may be the best actors since Greek tragedy first debuted in Athens, but they are difficult to watch at times in Episodes I – III.
Hayden Christensen May Not Have
Been the Best Choice
True, Jake Lloyd was only a young child and he is not the worst child actor ever captured on film, but asking him to carry one of the most anticipated films of all time, may have been a burden too heavy for his little shoulders. Yet the blame shouldn’t fall on him. It is impossible to imagine that there were not better actors that tested for the part of Anakin (at both ages.) The performances are more glaring when held up against costars like Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, and Natalie Portman, all three of whom are among the best actors working today. 

In retrospect, good casting makes you unable to comprehend anyone portraying the characters other than those that appear in the movie. Could anyone else have played Han Solo? In 1976, you could probably have made a case for several other actors. But after the legend of Han Solo was enshrined in the hearts and minds (and action figures) of the world, we couldn’t even fathom Christopher Walken as the Corellian smuggler in anything other than an SNL skit. Who else but Ewan McGregor could have played young Obi Wan Kenobi? After watching Revenge of the Sith recently, I almost felt as though McGregor had been in the original trilogy and had pulled a Benjamin Button on us all. 

Ewan McGregor is Brilliant as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Prequel Films
Episode VII will have the benefit of familiar (and legendary) faces to bolster the cast. Recent reports all but confirm that Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher have been secured to reprise their iconic roles as Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia for Episode VII. Whether or not Han Solo lives through the new trilogy will remain to be seen. Harrison Ford tried talking George Lucas into killing Solo in The Empire Strikes Back. As if the ending of that film was not dark enough for my (at the time) seven year old mind!
Harrison Ford Thought Han Solo Should
Die in The Empire Strikes Back
Luckily, Lucas was stubborn back then too and having complete autonomy in the Star Wars universe, he got his way. The difference was that we all agreed with his point of view and there was no internet, so no one called for his head in 1980. Although the original trilogy principal actors will return, they will most likely be relegated to supporting roles. This means that the plot will be driven by a crop of newly cast, younger actors, in whose hands the Force, and the success of this next trilogy will be placed. All we can hope for is that the casting folks will, take a cue from the knight guarding the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and will “choose wisely” when filing the key roles for Episode VII. 

No Soap Opera Miracles

A sure fire way to doom the franchise would be to attempt to somehow resurrect Darth Vader, although one can’t imagine how when we all watched him die and saw his body incinerated on a funeral pyre. Oh, and we also saw him appear as a “force ghost” at the end of Return of the Jedi. Actually, we saw this twice, with two different actors, so one could assume, aside from a soap opera style resurrection, that Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader is dead.
The Circle is Now Complete
The Emperor, although less conclusive in terms of evidence, should also be dead based on what we saw in Return of the Jedi. Could he be brought back in some possible way? He could, but he would be ridiculously old and it would be a real stretch to believe that he made it out of the Death Star after essentially being in the middle of a nuclear meltdown. 

The point is that a new trilogy can be very successful with a new crop of villains. Darth Maul, Count Dooku, and General Grievous were all interesting and intriguing characters, all newly imagined for the prequel trilogy. The Star Wars audience is an intelligent and extremely invested group that takes the “universe” of Lucas’ creation very seriously. Bringing back Vader like Bobby Ewing in the shower on Dallas would insult their intelligence and be a monumental mistake. 
The Prequel Villains Held Their Own - They Should Not Try to Resurrect Darth Vader

Don’t Mess with the Force 
Although, I was a fan of JJ Abrams’ “Star Trek” reboot, there were many Star Trek fans that were twisted by his disregard for the decades-old Star Trek timeline. In the film, Abrams essentially creates a new alternate reality that Star Trek fans now have to deal with if they wish to continue following the movies. His tampering with the backstory and history of Star Trek is astounding considering the near biblical reverence and attention that was previously afforded to the Star Trek legacy before the new film. This history was preserved and guarded by so many people, across decades of time, five television series, and almost a dozen films, that it was near blasphemy to even consider changing a syllable of the Trek gospel. Yet, it was done. 
Episode VII Director
JJ Abrams 

How is it possible for this to happen? The answer is simple. Abrams was allowed to do it. The owners of the franchise were most likely desperate to reinvigorate Star Trek, as it has been dead since (and essentially during) the Enterprise television series. So how do they bring back a “brand” that has been in existence in popular culture since the 1960s? Obviously, you change what was has existed and endured for forty years, how else? New fans will never know anything was changed and you can hopefully lure them and their future kids, in for the next forty years. The risk is that you alienate the fans from the previous forty years. Luckily, the Star Trek reboot was faithful to much of the franchise’s classic lore, so previous fans can still follow if they can swallow the deviations. Also, it doesn’t hurt that Abrams made one hell of a movie. 
Longtime Collaborators & Friends
Steven Spielberg & Kathleen Kennedy
The fact that Episode VII will be a continuation of the Star Wars tale should eliminate the option of Disney taking too many liberties with the history. Also, the fact that George Lucas is still drawing breath on planet Earth assures me that no one is going to screw around with his story. He may have been given four billion dollars be Disney, but something tells me that there is a creative consultant clause buried under all that money as well. Another safeguard may be Kathleen Kennedy, the new queen of Lucasfilm. Being a lifelong collaborator with Lucas’ buddy Steven Spielberg, and I’m pretty sure fairly tight with George himself, it is hard to imagine that she will desecrate the gospel of Star Wars while the brand is under her stewardship.
All in all, the future appears to be bright for Episode VII. darthmaz314 is optimistic that Episode VII will reinvigorate the Star Wars franchise and bring back the glory days of the Force. So for those who heard about Episode VII and said, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” darthmaz314 understands your trepidation, but offers another tidbit from the Star Wars universe, “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”       

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