A few months ago, Walt Disney Studios announced that they had acquired the intellectual properties of Lucasfilm Limited, which included franchises like Indiana Jones and Star Wars. Now, I know us film nerds were excited for a potential Marvel Studios produced remake of the classic Howard the Duck movie, but instead Disney announced that several new Star Wars films would be produced. This not only includes a new trilogy of films that would chronologically follow Return of the Jedi, but also several spin offs for fan favorite characters like Yoda and Boba Fett.
Naturally this brings up a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Sure, the geek in all of us is naturally super excited by the prospect of a new Star Wars movie. I mean, it’s Star Wars! It’s the series that’s produced endless amounts of merchandise, left a permanent imprint on worldwide pop culture and captured the imagination of hundreds of millions of people over the last near forty years. However, the last decade or so has severely damaged the brand for many, what with the prequel trilogy, the Clone Wars cartoon and the endless amount of Special Editions George Lucas has released of the older films.
So, with the tentative release of Episode VII being in 2015, the question is simple; what do we want from a new Star Wars film? I’ll admit, I can’t speak for everyone. I know plenty of young people in my age range who enjoy the prequels, boring senate scenes and all. I’ve heard some arguments that hold enough water for why the prequels work (none of which include Jar-Jar, mind you) and, even if I still don’t agree, I can see that some elements from those films should probably be carried over into the new trilogy, the main thing being the visuals.
Now that being said, I think many fans would be quite comfortable without the heavy use of green screen environments. Lucasfilm film head, Star Wars brand manager and legendary producer Kathleen Kennedy already confirmed at a recent European Star Wars celebration event that the new entries in the franchise will focus on using real locations and combining practical & CG effects, which sounds like a step in the right direction. After all, giving us a basis in reality with a real location and putting a fantastical creature over it has worked more times than not with modern special effects and we can’t honestly expect a modern Star Wars film to not use modern special effects techniques. If they create a balance in traditional and computer effects similar to what Peter Jackson managed to achieve with the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, then we could really see a dazzling blend of techniques.
Another thing Kennedy mentioned during the Star Wars celebration was that the new films would also have a central focus on story and character rather than eye-catching visuals. Obviously, this is partially to sway fans at the event, but the fact that she’s even publicly announcing this is another sign that this could work. Putting Kennedy in the potion she’s in also shows that Disney is learning from what’s worked for their other properties. Kennedy is basically going to spearhead the Star Wars franchise in a fashion similar to producer Kevin Feige for Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe properties, as someone who godfathers over every film so that they sync together as one larger universe. Given Kennedy’s experience and track record in the business, I’m confident in saying that she has earned the reigns of this franchise.
However, some of the recent rumors coming from all over the place do have me worried. “Hey, Darth Vader may return!” “Oh, we may see The Emperor come back!” “Hey, we’re gonna have Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford come back as their classic roles!” The idea of cashing in on previous efforts like this really isn’t what we should be looking forward to either. When they announced that Star Trek director JJ Abrams was behind the project, I fully supported it. Abrams has already breathed new life into one starchy sci-fi premise, so he could likely do it again. I am slightly more cautious after certain elements of his last effort Star Trek Into Darkness were blatantly stolen from very memorable pieces of canon in that universe. Star Wars doesn’t need to go back to the well. That’s part of what many didn’t enjoy about the prequels. Blatant fan service like Jango Fett, C-3PO being built by Anikan and shoehorning Chewbacca into the Kashyyyk fight turned off many fans, especially since they had little lasting impact on the story overall.
Above all, what we need for the new Star Wars is, well, something new. Relying too much on what happened before is far from the way to go. Resting on old laurels without trying to do something different could potentially sour this franchise for everyone. We don’t need epically choreographed Jedi fights or revisiting older characters for that long. We want new characters to watch develop, more exploration of the universe that we haven’t seen and more of an emphasis on how we move on from the events of before. Probably the best example of how to do this would be the new animated series Legend of Korra, which serves as a sequel series to Avatar: The Last Airbender, taking place two generations after the first series’ time period. This allowed the creators to focus on a new set of characters while having small flashbacks to the older series’ characters in a different state of their lives and further development of the world they had previously established. Taking that same tact with Star Wars would be the best option and I have confidence that Little Miss Sunshine/Toy Story 3 screenwriter Michael Ardnt can take that road with his work on the upcoming Episode VII.
The reason Star Wars captivated so many people back in 1977 was because it was something they hadn’t really seen before. Even if it was simplistic and based on outdated serials of the 1940s, it was still something new. Something new to be dazzled by. Something new to attach ourselves to. Something new that could give us hope in a cynical post-Vietnam age. Hell, with all the issues happening in today’s modern world, we really could use a great new Star Wars trilogy. So far, Disney seems to be on track by bringing in talents like JJ Abrams and Michael Ardnt who know how to reinvigorate the franchise, putting a strong producer like Kathleen Kennedy at the helm and (most importantly) kicking George Lucas out of the major proceedings by giving him a consulting position. So, there’s plenty to hope for with the new Star Wars films. And if it doesn’t all pan out in the new trilogy… well, there’s always that Boba Fett spin off, right?