Friday, December 22, 2017

How to Save Star Wars...A Writers Exercise

How to save Star Wars?

A damn good question because the mess Rian Johnson has created is nothing short of a complete mess.

The main villain is dead, leaving Kylo Ren in the position of being Overlord and he really isn't cut out for it.   All of the mystery subplots from the TFA were dropped. Luke is dead and complicating matters, so is Carrie Fisher (bad gamble there guys).  No character advancements were made. The #RESISTANCE has less than four hundred effectives and one pretty much untrained Jedi to fight a resurgent Galactic Empire.

The bigger problem is that Johnson didn't give the audience a reason to show up for a sequel.  Rey is kind of Rey at this point, not a lot of room to go with at this point.  No one ever cared about the SJW mandated romance between her and Finn.  A more interesting romance between her and Kylo was almost explored but then Johnson reeled away from it.  The Bromantic adventure of Po and Finn will now have to prominently feature Body Positive Asian Chick, so...pass.

When Star Wars first came out in 1977, the audience was left wanting more.  There were no cliff-hangers in play but none were needed. Everyone wanted to see more adventures of Luke, Han and Leia.

And interestingly, never really got them.  Han and Leia had adventures together and so did Luke and Leia.  But Luke and Han did almost nothing together for the rest of their character's lives.  In Empire it was pretty much limited to Luke looking cool when Leia kissed him in front of Han and then Luke, said good bye to Han before going into battle.   There was a bit more interaction between Luke and Han  in Return of the Jedi, but it felt forced and unnatural.  Another brief interaction between them at Jabba's palace and then on Jabba's floater barge.  Then a little bit more at Endor before Luke took off to try and save Vader.  That was it for one of the great screen bromances of all time.  There really wasn't much to it.

My own opinion which always seems to spark outrage is that they should have killed off Han in Empire.  And then never introduced the subplot of Luke and Leia being brother and sister.  George Lucas was lying through his teeth (as usual) when he claimed that he had conceived them as brother and sister from the start.

The Princess pressed close against Luke. He tried to comfort her without appearing anxious, but as the darkness closed to a stygian blackness around them and the night sounds turned to sepulchral moans and hootings, his arm instinctively went around her shoulders. She didn’t object. It made him feel good to sit there like that, leaning against her and trying to ignore the damp ground beneath.Something called out with an abyssal shrillness, startling Luke from his sleep. Nothing moved beyond the dying fire. With his free hand he tossed several shards of wood onto the embers, watched the fire blaze again.

Then he happened to glance down at his companion’s face. It was not the face of a Princess and a Senator or a leader of the Rebel Alliance, but instead that of a chilled child. Moistly parted in sleep, her lips seemed to beckon to him. He leaned closer, seeking refuge from the damp green and brown of the swamp in that hypnotic redness.

He hesitated, pulled back. She was an aristocrat and Rebel leader. For all he’d accomplished above Yavin, he was still only a pilot and, before that, a farmer’s nephew. Peasant and Princess, he mused disgustedly.

His assignment was to protect her. He wouldn’t abuse that trust, no matter his own hopeless hopes. He would defend against anything that leapt out of the darkness, crawled from the slime, dropped from the gnarled branches they walked under. He would do it out of respect and admiration and possibly out of the most powerful of emotions, unrequited love.  -- Splinter in the Mind's Eye (1978)

In case you are wondering. No, Harrison Ford hadn't been signed for Empire when that (fully approved by George Lucas), book was written.  Making them brother and sister was a weak attempt by a Gamma Male to defuse the problem of a romantic triangle.

But the point I failed to make was this.  The audience always had a reason to show up again.  Now it doesn't.

Star Wars has an even bigger problem now.  Having fucked up the Star Wars universe Rian Johnson has bounced.  He wasn't interested in taking back the wheel when the guy they hired to direct episode IX quit.  And now Force help us all, J.J. (MOAR Mystery Box) Abrams is back at the helm.  Abrams is a cotton candy film maker.  Sure it looks good and smells great but when you bite into it you have nothing but air, grit and an over-sweet aftertaste in your mouth.  There was never anything there but the promise of something good and Abrams never had any idea what that something was in the first place.

With Abrams running this show I fully expect there to be a fourth Deathstar. Seriously, if you are a rebel, how scared are you of a Deathstar at this point?  Upside, we will almost certainly get to find out what Daisy Ridley looks like as a slave girl.  

Given the story problems this franchise faces, how do you save Star Wars?

Start by addressing the problems in the foundation.

Most of the problems that George Lucas built into the Star Wars universe in the late seventies were sort of excusable at the time.   The internet wasn't even a fart in a windstorm let alone an intrinsic life support system.  The Ludditism of the era was pretty much a constant.  The World War II imagery that predominates was really the only thing a general audience could connect with back then and in truth it was a call back to simpler time with simpler enemies.  The Star Wars universe feels like it was a future from a different world because 1977 was a different world. 

Pretty much all of those things are limiters at this point.

How to fix it?

Well first of all fire Kathleen Kennedy.  But that isn't going to happen until three Star Wars movies lose money in a row.  And I suspect that may take a while since the hardcore omega fans can't admit there is anything wrong with it.

But then this was a storyteller's exercise anyway.

Possible solutions.

1.  Just drop the current storyline (because there is no current storyline) and advance the plot a few decades into the future.  Give Kylo and Rey a few kids and let the kids duke it out.  Possible twist have the kids be born of Kylo and Rey.  Ditch the WWII imagery it is all way past it's sell by date.  Fighters that only shoot laser beams at each other have been a joke for a while.  A more advance design for droids wouldn't be a problem either.  And maybe it's time to retire the Millennium Falcon.

The fans will scream but they are already screaming.

 2.  Time travel.  It's never been done in the Star Wars universe but SW is nominally science fiction.  Just moon walk everything away.  Restart right after the battle of the Second Deathstar and revive the Extended Universe.

Restoring the Extended Universe will win back a lot of the fans that wandered off because J.J. Abrams is a talentless hack who had to do a soft remake of the original, create a bunch of completely empty Mystery Boxes, then wander off after having set up his successor for failure.

3.  Speaking of remakes.  Just do a remake. Star Wars is a forty year old movie.  Film school grammar has changed since 1977 Millenials and Gen Z are bored to tears by the original trilology.  While I'm not usually in favor of remakes, they do work from time to time.  It's not like Zorro was put to bed forever when Douglas Fairbanks died.  I recently started watching a remake of Starblazers (new name Yamato 2199).  It is indeed a beat for beat remake but the makers expanded and updated the story enough so that the story is engrossing.  There are enough new characters that I like and I that don't know what their fates are going to be, to keep me coming back each week.

So dear readers, what are your ideas?

How would you save Star Wars?


Lovekraft said...

Write a story from the villain's perspective, but in a sympathetic light.

I know they kind of tried that with little Annakin being so precocious and all that, then the next one with the Sulker.

But move forward into the machinations of the Empire, see the childhood and environment the typical First Order higher up had. Even those on the lower echelons may have seen some purpose in the "Dark Side."

Also, perhaps show the galactic power structure and how the unworkability of certain groups somehow forced the First Order to gradually become more extreme. I think the first two prequels tried to show the complexity of various alliances and cabals, but these were blamed primarily on Palapatine's evil machinations IIRC.

buscaraons said...

My suggestion:

Go back to the return of the jedi but move it forward a few years and use the Expanded universe.
The Republic is having a hell of a time reconstituting because the underlying tensions regarding corruption and its sheer size haven't been resolved.
And which world get the credit for blasting Deathstar II is another headache

Quickly explain that the destruction of the Second death star ironically made the Empire remnant is far more effective as it has less baggage to worry about and is a real threat to the new Republic.

Luke is reconstituting the Jedi but he wants it to be a truly independent entity serving only the force and not the republic. Bring back a stunning surprise: Asoka: older, wiser, with kids who shares Luke's vision. And add yet another twist with another surviving jedi who didn't get whacked during the Order 666 massacre who opposes them and sees the jedi as the sword of the Republic

owlish said...

Fast forward 100 to 200 years. All galaxy wide governments are gone, most governments span a handful of planets at most. No known jedi or sith. Until one day, a particularly lucky or unlucky human steals the wrong jedi artifact, and gets a grumpy old force ghost as a companion.

Johnny said...

I am not a big enough fan to see all the Star Wars flicks. Thinking about the original and the last one I have seen, it seems to me the original used the war and the (non PC) political stuff as a background subplot, with the major story being the lives of the major players. Often they weren't trying to win the war, they were just trying to survive. Not so now. For escapist fiction it has all gotten kind of serious.

cavalier973 said...

I would have set it 900 years later, but have Luke Skywalker still alive (Yoda: "When 900 years *you* reach, look as good, you will not.").

The whole idea of the Force is viewed as a myth from a simpler time, except that certain people still show adeptness, with the force. These people are usually "disappeared" by the ruling elite, who do not want their gravy train to end by a bunch of hippies who might get people to see there is more to life than the latest fad in food and film.

Luke has a secret organization where he rescues these force a delta, and brings them to a hidden location, but he is betrayed, and the only,ones who can save the day are the plucky kids who were Luke's most recent students.

cavalier973 said...

I would have started with an escape heist, with Luke helping rescue the protagonist. It is at a university, where the research labs are that are conducting secret experiments on force-sensitive people. At,one point, Luke has to duck into a history class, where the professor is lecturing about the legendary Luke Skywalker, who almost certainly didn't exist, and was most likely a conglomerate of different people, and may or may not have been the same person as Anakin Skywalker, although the records from that time have been lost. Luke chuckles, then sneaks away.

Bies Podkrakowski said...

"Upside, we will almost certainly get to find out what Daisy Ridley looks like as a slave girl."

Daisy Ridley or Body Positive Asian Chick. Which one is more probable?

Lovekraft said...

This may support my argument above:

Johnny said...

Lucas is a person of considerable accomplishment. But he is not a deep thinker and now he wants to sell himself as such.

Anonymous said...

Tell a completely new story in the same setting. Out on the fringes of the empire (or whatever), something Chulhu-esque stirs in the great void between galaxies, and only our two unlikely buddy heroes: a dark force user and a light force user, have a chance of stopping it.

That is: the dark side of the force is the primal survival instinct. It's not evil in itself, it was corrupted by the Sith.

Harsh said...

The big problem with Abrams Wars is character. None of the new characters is as compelling as Luke, Han, and Leia were in the first trilogy and the movies suffer for it. We simply don't care much about Kylo, Rey, Finn, and Po. Good characters need good conflicts and motivations to drive them. Fix that and the plot doesn't matter much because we want to follow the characters and see where they go. The plots of the first three movies were simplistic: rescue the princess and destroy the Death Star; escape the Empire; rescue Han and destroy the Death Star. No one really cared how simplistic the plots were because they loved the characters.

The first thing I'd do is get rid of Rey. Boring character anyway. (See what I did there?) Her motivation to find her family was silly. Her instant expert ability at using the Force was dumb and boring. Just get rid of her.

Kylo is halfway interesting as is so keep him but pump up his role. He's kind of the Luke of this trilogy (not Rey). Luke was optimistic and wanted to help the Rebellion but doubted his own abilities and if he could become a Jedi. Kylo is young and wants to help the First Order but doubts his abilities to be truly of the Dark Side. Run with it. Give him an aging mentor, an old dark Jedi who trains him in true power (Snoke is not an interesting enough character for that role IMO). As he becomes more powerful he must also deal with the conflict of light/dark within himself.

Po also has potential but instead of the Resistance's poster-boy fighter he's a disgraced pilot. Full of talent but too arrogant. His arrogance gets him kicked out of the Resistance and he becomes a pilot-for-hire for criminals and pirates until he gets drawn back into the war. Like Han he's conflicted between helping others and doing what he has to save his own skin.

Finn is just a Resistance leader. Drop the fallen stormtrooper angle. Like Leia he believes in the Cause and will do anything to defeat the First Order. He gets to drive the plot along and gather all the forces for the final battle.

Once you get the characters right you can plug them into any plot. Plot just isn't a big thing in Star Wars. The more complicated plot gets, the less we care. (Hello, prequels.)