Unless you’ve been living under a stack of rocks, you’ve spotted the news that Disney bought Lucasfilm Ltd., “Star Wars” creator George Lucas’s production company and is planning on releasing a new trilogy of “Star Wars” movies, if not more.
I am less than happy about this, and my devotion to the “Star Wars” film franchise may best be measured by the fact that I considered buying a “Greedo shot first” shirt to wear to bed. I may still ask for it for Christmas. (The line refers to a fan argument about a plot point in the updated version of the first "Star Wars" film.)
I don’t know when I first saw the original “Star Wars” trilogy, but I assume it was when I was very little. Whatever age we were when we first saw the movies, my sister and I were young enough that I distinctly remember my mother consoling my sister, who was aghast that one of the teddy bear-like Ewoks seemed to have bit the dust, and telling her that the Ewok was “only sleeping.” It wasn’t.
In any case, I went to go see “Phantom Menace” in theaters when it came out and wish I remembered the cultural phenomenon that must have surrounded it. It was a new “Star Wars” movie when fans still kind of trusted George Lucas. It was the origin story of Darth Vader, a premise that does sound fairly promising on paper. Obi-Wan was back – Liam Neeson, a respected actor, was on board as a new Jedi – and everything sounded great.
Well, one Jar Jar Binks later (an annoying aquatic creature with strange speech patterns, for the uninitiated) and the future-Darth Vader shouting “Yippee!” a few too many times, fans were distinctly unimpressed. But hey, a new actor was coming on board as Anakin Skywalker, a.k.a. future-Vader, for the next movie, so maybe this thing could be saved.
Long story short: it couldn’t. Anakin was whiny in “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones” and “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith,” the final two films in the prequel trilogy. While the trilogy had a couple of good points – Ewan McGregor, playing the younger version of Alec Guinness’ Obi-Wan Kenobi, was uncannily good at imitating the older actor’s speech patterns and did as much as he could to save the movies – the three movies were, overall, a snooze.
Part of the problem with them, at least in my mind, was too many callbacks to the older films. Yes, we all love C-3PO and R2D2, protagonist Luke Skywalker’s robot sidekicks in the first three films. Did they need to be shoehorned into every important event in the prequel trilogy, though? No. Some are okay – seeing a younger version of the villain Jabba the Hutt before the “Phantom Menace” podrace isn’t terribly distracting. But throwing in old characters and references to the future films all over the place gets old and doesn’t let the new story you’re trying to build grow on its own.
(Also, George Lucas needs to reread his own scripts, because in “Return of the Jedi,” Leia says she remembers her mother, something that one would assume to be impossible if her mother died minutes after giving birth to her. But I digress.)
The extent to which the prequel trilogy relied on the beloved older films is precisely what gave me a spark of hope (a New Hope, if you will. Sorry.) when I heard the news about the upcoming movies.
While some fan sites speculated that the new movies would be based on stories already tackled in the novels written about the “Star Wars” universe after “Return of the Jedi,” E! News said a Lucasfilm source told them that the plotline of the new movies would be “original.” E! writer Leslie Gornstein writes that according to her source, the new films “will literally be nothing you've ever seen or read before from the Star Wars universe.”
So, one would assume, that means no Luke. No Han Solo. No Princess Leia. No Mara Jade (the assassin Luke falls in love with and marries in the novels, in case you were wondering). It sounds like it would be all-new characters, an all-new plotline.
Get a good director like Joss Whedon or J.J. Abrams behind the camera, take the time to work out a good, imaginative plot that isn’t retreading what you’ve done for the last six films, and this could be… not terrible.
My preference, of course, would be for everyone to drop the “Star Wars” property and back away slowly and leave fans, including me, with the memories of the fantastic first three films (and let them try to forget the last three). But if you have to make another three movies… there are worse ways to do it.