Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Star Wars Episode VII Speculation: Here's What I Would Do...

After last week’s massive Star Wars/Disney announcement I’ve followed up with a couple of articles, firstly about the challenges that an Episode VII must overcome, and then about who I would cast as Luke, Leia, Han and Lando (assuming the story goes down that path).

But what would these characters actually be doing? How would the core group move forward during the reforming of the republic and the crumbling of the empire? We have expanded universe novels that provide their own take on the post Return of the Jedi universe but they have never been a very satisfying solution for me, particularly when it comes to character growth.

So if I’m so smart, then what would I would do with these characters if given the chance? Find out exactly that after the jump.

I’ve never written fan-fiction, nor do I have any interest in it, but with something as huge as Episode VII it’s time to be indulgent. For those that grew up with the original characters, we’ve had a lot of time to speculate as to where their futures may take them. We all have different expectations and I think it will be fun to put some of those in writing and then see where the movies actually end up taking us. Will there be common threads, or is this a Phantom Menace scenario where everything changes?

I’m going to post this from the perspective of my initial article which states that the biggest challenge is to create a scenario that will lead to classic Star Wars lightsaber battles, so that means that new Sith and Jedi need to be introduced into the world. I’m going to write from the assumption that Palpatine in all his planning wisdom has some sort of secret Sith Academy brewing who are ready to respond in the instance of his death.

I still like the idea that the tables have been turned and the bad guys are now the fringe insurgents making surprise attacks and the rebels are now part of a quickly forming empire - the new republic. I don’t know what these bad guys ultimately want, but I do like the idea of them gradually recruiting new elements (bounty hunters, hutts etc) to build their forces for their eventual attack - whatever shape that may take, and for whatever purpose it must achieve. (I would not be adverse to them trying to resurrect the Emperor as I’m sure that was part of his initial plan).

But that’s all in the background... what are our main characters doing?

Han Solo.
I think the biggest mistake that the expanded universe has made is with their treatment of Han. The idea that Han and Leia are in love and destined to be together is nice enough, but to have Han married and hanging out with politicians kind of neuters the character. I understand that he was supposed to have grown throughout the original trilogy but you can’t completely remove the essence of his character. He’s best when he’s a scoundrel and an opportunist and I think that dramatically a new arc works better if he’s struggling to fit in.

Leia would have a huge set of responsibilities as a leader of the new republic and I think that would alienate Han. I don’t think he could turn into something he’s not and I think all the political wrangling and bickering would become too much for him, and she’s not too pleasant to be around on a good day, so if the republic is forming and everyone is stressed then she’s probably a nightmare.

What I’m getting at in a way is that I think these characters should be realising that things aren’t happily ever after just because the figurehead of the empire has been killed. There’s still a lot of mess to clean up and people aren’t happy and everyone has a differing opinion on how it should be done. I think this should become too much for Han who doesn’t really have government forming on his agenda.

At the beginning of Episode VII I’d let Han fulfill what he wanted to do at the beginning of Empire Strikes Back. Let him leave. Let him have a messy break up with Leia, get in the Millenium Falcon and leave everyone to it. Let Chewie be supportive but mournful and admonishing. Chewie knows Han has made the wrong choice, as does the audience, but let him do it. And with all his ties messily severed let him go back to what he knows - smuggling and piloting.

But don’t get rid of him from the story. Let the trouble that’s brewing find Han and let him be the one that ends up alerting the others and being forced back into service. What if Han was back in a bar drinking and carousing when our new Sith friends come in looking for a pilot? What if Han gets caught up in a crazy, action-packed side adventure where he suddenly is aware of what a huge threat Leia and the others are actually about to face, but is trapped and estranged and can’t easily get back to alert them?

There’s your dramatic tension - he’s left her planning never to return but suddenly he is the only one that can save her. He’s back to having to put duty before his own selfishness, and even if he does alert/save her, they still have all this anger/baggage to deal with. That refreshes their relationship and gives them somewhere to go for three more movies.

Let Leia be stretched so thin that she’s about to crack. Everyone wants answers and direction from her and she is struggling to keep everyone happy and to maintain her personal relationships. In Episode IV she was torn between Han and Luke so let that happen again, but in a different way. Luke would want her to train with him and to become a Jedi, but let her turn her back on the force. Let her dismiss the thing he’s most passionate about and thereby become isolated from him too. But don’t let the force turn its back on her.

What if Leia’s force powers started to reveal themselves in moments of stress? What if her political wranglings are compromised because she is inadvertently affecting the world around her? Smashing glasses at meetings. Making everyone uncomfortable.

I’d like to see Leia come to the realisation that she can’t avoid the force - that maybe her destiny is completely different to what she initially thinks it is. And to save what she loves she may need to go down a very different path. But that gives her time and this can be her three movie arc. Get Leia reluctant Jedi-ing by the end of it when she realises that the threat is too huge to handle any other way.

This one is more straightforward. Luke needs to reform the Jedi. He needs to discover everything he can about the force/Jedi and start afresh.

But keep the force marginalised. The events in the original trilogy that were sith/jedi/force related were very much confined to Luke’s own experience. The rest of the universe shouldn’t have much faith or interest in what Luke is undertaking (including his sister). Luke should also be somewhat of an outcast - too serious - too introspective, so I think he needs to go on a journey alone (okay, with Artoo).

I’d like to see Luke have some reflective time like in Empire Strikes Back. Let Han get caught up in crazy skirmishes, let Leia and the rebels deal with surprise attacks from insurgents and let Luke rediscover the force. I think Anakin’s ghost is unavoidable. Let Luke be taught by Anakin and finally get to know his father. Let the two of them figure out what went wrong and how to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

But when the shit hits the fan, especially if it’s Sith shit, then the republic is going to find itself very unprepared. That’s when suddenly, probably after a huge loss, they’re going to become incredibly reliant on Luke. They’re going to have to finally listen to Luke and give him the resources he needs to rebuild. I doubt there’s time to train Jedi from some scratch so they’re going to have to reach out to all the lost Jedi who have been hiding since the purge.

Keep Luke battling his own demons through the bulk of the film but have him kick some ass Jedi style during the climax. We need a big show of force that convinces us, and all the other characters, that the Jedi are back.

Let Lando do for Leia what Han couldn’t. Sure, Lando is a scoundrel as well, but he’s also an administrator. Guy knows how to run things. And while Leia is stressing out and ready to punch someone, Lando is cool and charming enough to handle difficult politicians and get what the republic wants. Lando should shine in this situation. I don’t think Leia and Lando should be romantically linked at all, but I do think the fact that they get along so well and that Lando can handle these tasks should be a point of tension, particularly for Han. It could form a part of why he leaves. And if Leia does end up drifting towards the Jedi later, then Lando can take over. If a farmboy can lead the Jedi, then a gambling rogue can lead the Republic. I mean a lobster already became an admiral.

Okay, he wasn’t on my initial list but a quick word about him too. Artoo will be roughing it with Luke, Threepio should be working for Leia. And he should simply be there to make every situation even worse. As camp and fussy as he is, never forget that Threepio is primarily a jerk. For example, if a character is tearfully talking about a miscarriage, Threepio should enter and say, “Would you like the baby’s room painted pink or blue?” He should always be clueless as to what’s going and say the worst possible thing. I miss that with this character.

But there is a trick to all of this. You don't want to go the prequel route and have characters standing around sterile rooms talking about their relationships. Star Wars always has to be, above all, epic sci-fi/fantasy action adventure. What works so well about Empire Strikes Back is that we find out about these characters' emotions through large action set-pieces. Leia and Han have their big moments during an attack on Hoth, after an asteroid belt chase, and while Han is tortured and frozen by Vader. All of these things I'm talking about here need to be applied to an epic adventure story and need to be teased out through the action. 

And there you have it. I love you if you read this far, because it means you’re either a real fan of the franchise (or you wanted to make fun of me). Either way, I’m interested to know what you think.


  1. Not at all bad ideas...only thing to add is that I might start with all of the cast (except maybe leia and lando) separated already and leave the explanations of WHY till later on...

    Also, I know they shouldn't use the books, but I would like to see them introduce Mara Jade somehow...or if not her, someone else. Maybe Han's got a new girlfriend and seems even jerkier...

  2. Since we're speculating... I was always hoping in the back of my mind that the prequels would deliver the one mega-twist I was expecting, the one twist that could top, "Luke, I am your father" and send fanboys screaming from the movie-theatre and talking for years to come...

    Have it be revealed that OBIWAN is actually Luke's father.

    Would put the entire series in a new context, add a much needed love-triangle to the prequel films, and a mega big betrayal in the Obiwan/Annie dynamic. Plus it'd add a much needed surprise to the events in the prequels.

    In my mind thats how things played out... I can dream!

  3. I think it's a mistake to have Luke, Leia and Han return as the main characters for the new trilogy. For me, this is a sign that Disney/Lucasfilm lack the guts to take the saga to a new generation. Instead, they are overreacting to the Darth Media's reaction to the PT by trying to rehash the vibe of the OT. Even if the movies become hits . . . from an artistic POV, I believe this is still a big mistake.

  4. ["Have it be revealed that OBIWAN is actually Luke's father.

    Would put the entire series in a new context, add a much needed love-triangle to the prequel films, and a mega big betrayal in the Obiwan/Annie dynamic. Plus it'd add a much needed surprise to the events in the prequels."]

    What . . . the . . . hell????