By Max Eshraghi
With the under-performance of Solo: A Star Wars Story, Kathleen Kennedy, JJ Abrams and the rest of the creative team at the Mouse House are re-calibrating. If rumours are to be believed, they are abandoning a number of the standalone anthology movies planned and focusing solely on the main series going forward. But only Episode IX has a set release date so far, with details on future films fairly few and far between.
So where does Star Wars go from here? Here are some things that I would like to see the series explore going forward.
No more nostalgia
The Force Awakens was the love letter to Star Wars that we needed in 2015. Burned by the prequels, J.J. Abrams knew we needed the security of a Star Wars greatest hits (with just enough new elements to keep us wanting more). There were Death Stars, desert planets, and all the gang were back (at least in cameo) – albeit a little wrinklier.
But in the words of Kylo Ren: Let the past die.
Where The Force Awakens was a great celebration of what the franchise had been, The Last Jedi forged ahead with something fresh and bold, and I say, divisiveness be damned, embrace the new. No more distracting Ponda Baba cameos. No more blue milk. No more Death Stars. And leave the supporting characters of the old trilogy in the ’80s. (What’s that? They’ve brought back Lando for Episode IX? Oh…)
I beg the Star Wars creative team; please stop with the nostalgia. A series cannot survive on self-homage and the four instalments from Disney so far have all rested pretty heavily on the original trilogy.
They’ve included a myriad of homages, cameos, and even some outright rip-offs of OT (Original Trilogy) scenes. Rogue One could be (and has been) called a $200 million dollar fan movie and while it was a solid celebration of old Star Wars, one is enough.
From hereon out, it’s only going to hurt the franchise if it keeps referring to a glorious past and not a bright future.
More, not fewer, stand-alones
Just because Solo disappointed, it doesn’t mean that audiences’ appetites for standalone Star Wars stories has waned. I’d argue that its failure was a clear signal that prequels no one asked for should be avoided.
The financial success of Rogue One showed that standalone Star Wars movies can work, at least as financial endeavours. A few years ago a Zack Snyder-helmed Seven Samurai-inspired story was rumoured to be in the pipeline (‘The Magnificent Seven Jedi’ if you will).1 Remove Zack Snyder from the equation and that sounds like a strong foundation on which to build.
Bring in a left-field choice (David Mackenzie of Hell or High Water or Denis Villeneueve once he’s finished messing around in the Dune universe) and we’re a go. It could even be set in the time of the Old Republic.
Which is another thing… why not a Knights of the Old Republic film? It may be fan-baiting, but there’s a wealth of mythology to choose from and, crucially, no intersection with the current or former cast.
On which note…
Just please, enough with the direct prequels.
Solo was fine but superfluous and audiences clearly thought so en masse – they avoided it in droves.
Abandon the Boba Fett movie, we don’t need it. He’s not a protagonist and never was. James Mangold (he of Logan) being brought on is a promising development, but it’s not enough to get over the fact that the Boba Fett of Episodes V and VI is a costume and an attitude; not a character.
The only prequel that I think you can make a real case for is an Obi Wan movie.
A Fistful of Dollars but with Obi Wan as the Man with no Name would be ideal. Imagine a broken Obi Wan, tormented by his failure as a master; grappling, in the way Luke did in The Last Jedi, with the inadequacies and contradictions of the Jedi Order (which frankly would be a much more organic path story wise for Obi Wan to take than for Luke).
Imagine him arguing with Qui Gonn’s force ghost for leading him down a path that has led to the destruction of the Jedi Order. He comes across a small village under attack from bandits. He knows that he shouldn’t intervene, for fear of revealing himself and by extension Luke, to the Empire. But his conscience will not let him stand by while innocent men and women are in need. So, as in the Seven Samurai/A Fistful of Dollars/Magnificent Seven, he aids the villagers in their struggle against the bandits. In doing so, he finds his faith in the Jedi way restored.
You don’t need to bring back Darth Maul for a final showdown either (which some have speculated was partially a reason for his inclusion in Solo). Keep it stripped back, bare, emotional and intense. Which brings us to the next point.
Medium-budgeted Star Wars movies
Big budgets bring with them certain expectations. Studios will be waiting for them to make mega-bucks and in order to do that, a Star Wars movie is expected to bring the spectacle. Massive space battles, multiple planets and flashy light-sabre duels are a given. But to grow as a franchise, Star Wars needs to do movies of differing scales.
Disney should not be afraid to take risks from now on and give auteurs a canvas to create smaller-scale stories, driven by character. These won’t have the pressure of having to be the highest grossing movie of the year and they will allow for some smaller-scale storytelling that could help expand the definition of what a Star Wars movie is.
Commit to left-field choices (like Lord and Miller) and let them do their thing. Even if the end result is not necessarily an archetypal Star Wars movie, if it’s a strong movie, then people will show up.
Bring back the weirdness
In 1977, Star Wars was a movie that embraced the weird.
The Cantina scene alone is one of the most distinctly bizarre sequences in any mainstream blockbuster, populated by Biths, Chachi De Maal and poor, fried Greedo. It exemplifies how Star Wars dove head first into the more outlandish parts of George Lucas’ imagination.
Hideous creature designs and strange worlds are a part of Star Wars. Force Awakens and Last Jedi have done a lot of things right but they neglected to explore the full potential of a whole galaxy of designs. George Lucas criticised them for this and he was right.2
Why isn’t the series that gave us Felucia, Jabba the Hutt and Mynocks delivering more of these outlandish ideas? Why aren’t we getting more sights like that of an Exogorth chomping at the bumper of the Millennium Falcon? Or of Luke decapitating Vader only to find his own face behind the mask?
As a side note, I felt one of the more striking minor moments in The Last Jedi was Luke squirting green milk from the teet of some sort of space bovine, followed by a beard-drenching swig. It was weird, sure, and, in my opinion, sorta glorious.
End the Skywalker saga
Rian Johnson was a pariah in some quarters for what he did wth the Skywalkers in The Last Jedi (Luke dies of exhaustion and Leia becomes Supergirl). However, he did undeniably get at least one thing right in the face of fan expectation. He did NOT make Rey a Skywalker.
Not only is the galaxy far too large to just focus on one family for the current trilogy and maybe the next (for a grand total of 12 movies) but it also opened up the possibility for the first time in this series that a great destiny is not something determined by your blood. You don’t need to be of the Skywalker lineage to be a great protagonist and nor should you need to be.
Rian Johnson is allegedly working on a trilogy that will have little or no connection to the Skywalker saga and I say bring it on. The Skywalker plot line has run its course. J.J. Abrams is the right man for the job in that respect. His reverence for the past has severed him well when it comes to continuing plot threads left over from the OT. However, after Episode IX, it is time for the Skywalkers to end.
Explore different genres
Star Wars has ostensibly been one genre; space fantasy. It is not quite science fiction (its non-existent relationship with real world physics and its lack of real science has seen to that). It is now time to change this. In order to have longevity, the series needs to embrace other genres.
Imagine a political thriller in the Star Wars Universe, set against the backdrop of a crumbling, corrupt Republic. Think of the possibilities: ‘The Mandalorian Candidate’. ‘The Rebel Who Knew Too Much’. ‘All The Emperor’s Men’.
With Thor Ragnarok, Taika Waititi showed you can successfully rejuvenate an action/fantasy franchise by turning it into a full-blown comedy. A Star Wars standalone comedy movie could work with a pair of bickering droids or some underworld scoundrels.
I have seen online some quarters suggesting a Star Wars horror movie should be made. The Galaxy of Fear book series from the 90s (‘tepid) and the more recent and successful Death Troopers (quite fun) have pushed Star Wars into this genre in the Extended Universe. However, we are still a long way off a world in which a Star Wars horror movie would be acceptable.
Baby steps, people.
- Editor’s note: George Lucas himself is already indebted to Akira Kurosawa, who heavily influenced the original Star Wars trilogy – from robed warriors wielding legendary blades right down to those iconic screen-wipes.
- Editor’s note: even if we could have done without a few of those added CG critters from the tinkered-with OT.
- Editor: It bloody well doesn’t. It sounds ace!