Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Star Wars Episode VII Speculation: “You and Leia Turn Out Fine. It's Your Kids, Han, Something Has Got to be Done About Your Kids!”

Although Disney has remained tight-lipped about it, over the past weeks Lucas himself has confirmed that Star Wars Episode VII would see the return of an older original cast, and I imagine that Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher are doing a lot of sit-ups right about now. This appears to confirm that Episode VII will be set some 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi, and seeing as how Disney isn’t likely to centre a sci-fi fantasy trilogy around a trio of actors in their fifties and seventies, the focus will indubitably shift to the next generation of Star Wars characters. Is it time to talk about the kids?

WTF is this noise?
Most speculators jump instantly to expanded universe sources (mostly novels) assuming that these new films will at least pay tribute to the characters, if not the stories themselves. So you may be reading many assumptions about Jacen, Jaina and Anakin Solo, and Ben Skywalker. Well I’m here to tell you that those people who think that are WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.

I’ll tell you why they’re wrong, and what sort of thing we should expect... after the jump!

Now I do think that children will definitely be a factor, as Star Wars is strongly focused on legacies and the tale of the Skywalker lineage dominates the saga. It’s even strongly hinted that Palpatine manipulated the force to create Anakin (virgin birth/midichlorians) which means that the end of Jedi shows us a grandfather/father/son brouhaha. So how all this affects the next generation, i.e. Luke and Leia’s children, is likely to be crucial to the plot. It’s practical too. Mark Hamill probably can’t pull off a backflip anymore. But his kid/s will be limber!

But here’s why I don’t think those kids are going to be Ben, Jacen, Jaina or Anakin...

1) Let’s Avoid a Messy Rights Issue.

Let’s be clear, the Star Wars expanded universe novels are work-for-hire and any author who introduced new characters or ideas willinging turned over ownership of said characters to Lucasfilm. But the creators of Superman sold their creation too and that hasn’t stopped decades of messy legal battles and fan rallying.

The audience for the novels is infinitesimally small compared to the films. Fans may love them, but their stakes are low in the grand scheme of things. J.J. Abrams probably makes more money drinking his morning coffee than many of these authors make for writing one of these books. So if these characters were suddenly to be the focus of a trilogy and a WHOLE LOT of merchandising, perhaps there’d be some fan rallying to get the original authors a piece of the action. Or how about Disney just avoids all that entirely and does their own thing?

2) Mara Jade.

Ben Skywalker is the son of Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade (a character that Lucas hates). Have you seen the Star Wars movies? Do you look at the structure of the Empire that Palpatine has set up and honestly believe that he has a hot redhead behind the scenes for special missions? And then that the hot redhead (who was working for the most evil mass murderer ever) settles down to make babies with Luke Skywalker. That is the dopiest fan fiction imaginable and will never be seen in a movie.

3) You.

If you’re an Expanded Universe fan and I’ve already upset and offended you, then you understand the third and biggest reason that these characters won’t appear. Disney/Lucasfilm should actively avoid a situation where the fans think that they know more about the characters than they do. If your urge so far has been to post in the comments section something along the lines of, “No you’ve got it wrong because Jacen and Jaina would blah-de-blah-blah-blah”, or “in the sixth book of The Young Jedi Junior Whatchamacallit Series it’s clearly established that Ben blahdy-blahdy-blah” or “Mara Jade is actually a wonderful character because of some bullshit or other” then you’re exactly who Disney needs to avoid.

No future Star Wars screenwriter should be catering to your expectations or inviting your know-it-all scorn. If they want to surprise us with this new trilogy (and I assume they do) and they want us desperate to find out what happens next (and I’m sure that’s a plus, right) then it would make sense to completely reinvent things going forward and start afresh with the kids.

So... What Are We Going to Get?

Whatever is going to work. And I mean that from both a storytelling perspective, a practical/logistics perspective, and a marketing perspective.

I’d be surprised if the filmmakers will want to deal with really young kids, certainly not after Episode One. I think we’re going to see teenagers at the very youngest and this movie will try to win back the teenage crowd. It’s more likely that the Skywalker/Solo children will be young adults, especially given the ages of their parents.

I suppose there’s an outside chance that the filmmakers will throw a bone to the EU and use a name like Ben, Jacen, or Jaina, but these will be older versions than the books and I’m sure will be distanced from that material in almost every regard. (It will fall upon the small contingent of continuity nerds to desperately try to shoehorn everything together to satisfy an even smaller contingent). So I guess that’s possible, but I don’t think it will prove important.

But another thought - do you recall the rumour that, if Matthew Vaughn had been chosen as director, he would have cast Chloe Moretz in the main role. Regardless of whether there’s any truth to this, it raises an interesting point. Does Luke even have to have a son? Why not have a daughter instead?

I think a daughter is practical in the sense that it distances the story enough from the expanded universe to tether those links and steer this on a new course. It will ruffle hardcore fan’s feathers when first announced, but by the time the film rolls around they’ll all be used to it and hopefully a little more receptive. Plus young boys/men are already going to see this movie in droves. If Disney wants to appeal to teenage girls too then they may very well push a female protagonist. Lucasfilm certainly weren’t afraid to mine a similar tactic with Ahsoka in the Clone Wars.

I feel like a son would be pushed into the very traditional role of following in the footsteps of the father, and I’m not sure if we need another echo of Anakin and Luke. There’s more leeway with a daughter who might be somewhat removed from the ideals of the Jedi and be looking to forge her own path. And age has stopped us from seeing a film version of Leia as an active Jedi, so maybe these ideas can be explored here instead.

As always, I look forward to seeing how all this continues to unfold. What do you think?


  1. I think I want to read Star Wars Fanfiction written by you. You're on point with everything that I'm looking for. I don't want to see young kids, not even teenagers (well, I don't mind some just as secondary characters) and I don't believe JJ Abrams has done a movie with kids before? Let's hope this isn't his first.

    30 years after ROTJ, their kids better be about 18-20.

    1. Abrams did Super 8, which is all kids, but he did it well. That said, the ages just don't align. If Han Solo has a 12 year old then he was a father at 58. Interesting as well is that the screenwriter wrote Toy Story 3 which is all about legacies as well in a way. It's about moving on and passing down the torch and I wonder if that was a factor in his hiring.

  2. Haha I washed the dishes between reading points 2 and 3...and was composing a defence of Mara Jade in my mind whilst doing so...not that I think they will or SHOULD use her or any AU character...I'm totally with you on every point. BUT I do like the Zahn books...

    Man Chloe Moretz as fill-in-the-blank Skywalker (Amidala?) would be AWESOME! BUT never happen...Hasbro knows very well that little boys don't want action figures of girls!

    1. *Padme Skywalker probably makes more sense than Amidala doesn't it? :D

    2. Hasbro might be shy of action figures of girls, but they dealt with that in Clone Wars by making sure there were stacks of Anakin and clones to balance her out. They'll just need to throw in an older male badass to make fun of her.

    3. I haven't read his Thrawn trilogy in probably 10+ years, but I remember enjoying it a lot. Though, at the time I also enjoyed 'The Courtship of Princess Leia' which is the biggest piece of official fluff fan fiction out there.

    4. Stryder - I think female action figures have done fine for Star Wars, providing they were main characters. There's certainly plenty of them, with a ton of different Leias and Padmes, and the expanded universe characters do quite well too. Ahsoka did well enough to get at least four versions of her made even though she barely changes costume throughout the series.

      Jacinta - Thrawn trilogy left me cold even at a time when I wanted to consume new Star Wars and that was the only option. It just doesn't feel like the films. None of the novels have nearly enough swashbuckle for a start.

  3. New characters please. I enjoyed the Thrawn Trilogy, but it didn't feel like Star Wars. As someone who spent a lot of time playing the SW RPG, I feel there is a lot of room for new stories.

  4. I think you're right on the money and it's a shame because Mara Jade is one of my favorite characters. Where have you heard that George Lucas hates her?

    If Luke is to be a mentor role like Obi-Wan in Episode IV, Mara Jade wouldn't have a place. If the new movies rewrite the canon, does that mean characters like her don't exist anymore?

    1. Seth Green has talked about Lucas' dislike for Mara Jade which was something that came up while they were working on Robot Chicken I believe. And I think they spoof this on a special feature. And as to whether Episode VII will mean that none of that "exists" anymore - I guess the answer is that none of it exists anyway! But the Zahn books can still be read and enjoyed regardless. I think we just have to relax as fans. Like you can enjoy both Moonraker and Skyfall without having to worry about how they fit together.