It’s been an amazing, winding road, hasn’t it? In 1977, a sci-fi space opera came out in movie theaters and not only changed a genre in filmmaking, but the entire entertainment industry and arguably the whole world at large. Star Wars had arrived and there was no going back. Almost forty years later gave us five more feature films, four animated television series, countless novels, comic books, video games, theme park attractions, and one lousy Christmas Special. It all added to the story and mythos of the franchise.
After Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith in 2005 we all thought the live action Star Wars movie franchise was over for good. After all; creator George Lucas even said so. Therefore, it came as an immense shock to everyone, fans and the general public alike, when it was announced in 2012 that The Walt Disney Company had purchased LucasFilm for over four billion dollars and planned to make the next three movies in the epic series, with the first to be directed by J.J. Abrams.
Still, the release of Episode VII is still about a year away and it has got me thinking. What does this new saga need to live up to the legacy of the first set of films and nearly forty years of mythos, fan appreciation, and expectations? I have come up with a list of seven things that in my option need to be included in Episode VII to set the proper tone for the next several installments in the Star Wars saga.
Just remember: What you want isn’t always what you need.
VII) A Female Main Character
Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) was a farm boy who traveled the galaxy, faced an evil Empire, and became the first in a new generation of Jedi Knights. His father, Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd / Hayden Christensen), was a slave as a boy who became a Jedi Knight, but was corrupted and helped form that same Empire. Through both of the previous trilogies, the lead protagonists have been young men. Why mess with proven success? If you stick with what’s safe – based on prior successes – you can only hope to reach that same plateau of success, but if you are the first to successfully break from the mold you become that new standard of success yourself.
Until recently; a male protagonist has always been the standard for science fiction and action/adventure franchises. However, we have seen evidence that a female character can lead in a Star Wars franchise. Recently Ahoska Tano severed as a primary focal character alongside her Jedi master, Anakin Skywalker, in both Star Wars: The Clone Wars the 2008 film and the following television series. Even more so, in the now defunct Star Wars Expanded Universe, Jaina Solo, daughter of Han Solo and Princess Leia, grew up to become the “Sword of the Jedi”. Although most stories still focused on her parents and uncle Luke, the Expanded Universe followed Jaina and her twin brother Jacen since their birth in Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy, their adolescence as Young Jedi Knights, all the way through adulthood. It chronicles the way that they fight many new wars, avenge the death of their younger brother, and finally face each other when Jacen falls to the Dark Side of the Force, leaving her the only surviving child of Han and Leia. If you want an outside example, look at Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games Trilogy and tell me a female lead can’t carry a sci-fi/action franchise.
While I don’t believe this new trilogy will fail without a female as the main focal character and will still be at least a huge financial success regardless, I do believe the galaxy is ready for it.
VI) An Elaborate Lightsaber Battle
This one seems to be a given. If you had to simplify the entirety of the Star Wars franchise in a single word, it would be Lightsaber. The fictional luminescent blade wielded by both Jedi and Sith and used to protect and destroy. However, it’s easy for some people to want the whole movie to be just a two and a half hour lightsaber fight, with Wookies throwing exploding Ewoks, and a fleet of remote-controlled solid gold Death Stars. The draw of these flashy weapons was their uniqueness and rarity in the original trilogy. There may have been plenty of Jedi in the prequel trilogy, but the climatic lightsaber duel between a young Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson), and Darth Maul (Ray Park) in Episode I: The Phantom Menace is still my personal favorite (and arguably one of the few things the movie did right).
However, in this new set of films, if we hope to retain the mystique and grandeur of the weapons, they should be used in epic duels sparingly. Sure, any Jedi can use their lightsaber as a tool throughout the film, but the duel itself should traditionally be saved for the climax.
V) A New Galactic Threat
The Jedi vs. the Sith. The Republic vs. the Separatists. The Rebels vs. the Empire. It would seem silly not to have an actual war of some kind in Star Wars. While I think the remnants of the Empire should still be out there, I believe having them as the main threat of this next trilogy would be like beating a dead tauntaun. The Rebels have won. There’s nothing to rebel against. What new threat to the safety and peace of the galaxy should our heroes fight against? I have no idea, but half the run of revisiting an old favorite is seeing what new things you can find.
IV) New Faceless Minions
The Storm Troopers; the skull-helmeted foot soldiers that serve as a daunting army to stand in the way of our heroes. Admit it, as iconic as Storm Troopers are, they’ve lost some of their intimidation factor over the years. True, they are the quintessential “faceless minion” that countless other movies and media franchises have tried to emulate, but their general effectiveness tended to degrade in the original trilogy alone. They went from killing Luke Skywalker’s aunt and uncle to being beaten by Ewoks.
Even though it is something of an action movie cliché to have the enemy forces always miss when shooting at the good guys it has become a running gag synonymous with Storm Troopers. In the real world, Storm Troopers are often used at charity events and as a comedic opening act. Storm Troopers will always be awesome, but as mentioned previously, if we have a new galactic threat they’re going to need a new breed of cannon fodder top throw at our heroes.
The Battle Droids from the prequel trilogy aren’t even worth mentioning. They were beaten by Jar Jar Binks.
Just Jar Jar Binks.
III) Comedy Relief Characters
This one is probably the most controversial suggestions on my list as there are a few fans who don’t even like C-3PO and R2-D2 in the original trilogy. Let me be perfectly clear though. I am not talking about another Jar Jar Binks. I like C-3PO and R2-D2 just fine, I think they added just enough levity to the film to be entertaining, but still proved a useful and necessary part of the plot throughout all three films.
Jar Jar, however, was just a bit too much. There was no relief from his “comedy”. That being said, I still think this new trilogy would benefit from just one or two new characters that will add a bit of lightheartedness to the films without disrupting the gravitas of the plot.
II) A Nod (or two) to the Expanded Universe
For those who don’t know, the Star Wars Expanded Universe pretty much encompassed every form of media outside of the six live-action theatrical films and the 2008 computer animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars series (including the movie). Novels, comic books, video games, all carefully crafted together to (generally) form a single, cohesive mythos effectively continuing the story far beyond Return of the Jedi and setting hundreds of years of history long before Episode I and everything in between. New worlds, characters, and stories all lovingly crafted by multiple authors and creators to add to the Star Wars adventure. However, with Episode VII announced as an “all new, original story” the entire Expanded Universe has been rendered null and void. A pity as I was a huge fan. Still, it would be nice if Disney and J.J. Abrams worked in some kind of recognition to the decades of now forgotten stories. They don’t have to necessarily add in any characters or include specific plot points from the EU, just some casual mention of it.
Thankfully, there is some precedence for this. Specifically, the Night Sisters were officially adapted into the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series. True, they were changed heavily from their depiction in the various other media, but at least they made it in before Disney gave the ax to the rest of the EU. It’d just be nice to have the creators at least acknowledge that almost forty years of fandom and creativity weren’t all for naught.
Speaking of which…
I) Mara Jade
If there is one Expanded Universe character I think should be officially acknowledged in official canon of the new trilogy it’s Mara Jade. Having been introduced in 1991’s Heir to the Force, the first novel in the Thrawn Trilogy, largely exemplified the EU as its primary character outside the cast of the original trilogy. From her dark history as the Emperor’s Hand, to her battles and eventual romance and marriage to Luke Skywalker, to giving birth to his son and helping him raise a new generation of Jedi Knights to keep peace in the galaxy. No character is more deserving of being allowed to continue in an official capacity in some form or another. I’m not saying she even needs to have an actual part in the movie, just an honorable mention of some kind. Luke Skywalker looks out of a viewport at the stars wistfully and sighs just one word before being interrupted and moving on with the plot.
There you have it. That’s my opinion on what we should see in Star Wars Episode VII. Will my theories come to pass? Impossible to see the future is. Wait, we must. Soon enough we will see what happened a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…