In a peculiar twist, it is being reported that Michael Arndt did not leave Star Wars Episode VII due to time constraints, but rather due to the principle characters involved in the story. According to THR, JJ Abrams wants the storyline of Star Wars Episode VII to focus on the characters of the original films. This will act as a final farewell while and as a bridge to the next generation of characters:
Arndt is said to have focused on the offspring of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), with the original trilogy heroes taking on supporting roles. Abrams, however, wanted Episode VII to focus on the classic trio of characters, so audiences could have one more chance to enjoy them before a fitting send-off. The new characters, the offspring, will now be in supporting roles, according to these sources, and take center stage in Episode VIII and IX. Some characters have disappeared from the Arndt script and new ones are being drafted.
According to the same report, George Lucas was involved in discussions regarding the alterations to the script. Despite being opposed to the changes, he reluctantly accepted.
I can’t understand why JJ Abrams wants to switch the film’s focus to Han Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker. Their story came to a conclusion at the end of Return of the Jedi that in a clear and concise way, said their final farewell to fans. In the wake of Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, this has also become a way of passing the torch to the next generation.
By having the focus of Star Wars Episode VII on the original trilogy’s characters, we will be presented with a standalone film that loosely ties into the subsequent episodes with the added risk of an awkward and very traditional Hollywood ending. While this may tap into nostalgia, it opens the saga to ridicule, ignores the primary reason why we love the films and abandons the format already established.
The history of the Star Wars films is a topic that has been covered numerous times and there is little more that I can add other than to reaffirm that the story of Star Wars isn’t a new one. It’s a combination of ancient myths and legends; placed within a used and very old galaxy of characters that are interesting to look at. It also borrows elements from Japanese Cinema, American Westerns, swashbuckling tales and Saturday Morning Serials.
Suffice to say, the reason that we are able to relate to the characters is primarily because of the personal stories and hardships that they go through. While the events are based in exotic locales and feature bizarre and exciting aliens, when you look at the root of each storyline, it becomes clear that what the characters are going through the same hardships that affect us in the real world. Each of their storylines may conclude in an optimistic fashion; yet this leaves us with the hope that we too can act in a similar fashion when we face the same trials in life.
To add further dimensions to their stories, villains are strategically placed in order to show extreme juxtapositions to the heroes. This is no more prevalent than between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. Luke is a champion for good who struggles with the knowledge that to save the Galaxy, he must destroy the man he has idolised his entire life. Through Vader’s passion and greed for life, he forces his family away to be raised by strangers. His lust for power concludes with the belief that by involving his son in his life, they will share an unbreakable bond that will lead them to success in life. It isn’t until his final moments that Vader realises that through the selfless sacrifice of a parent for his child, he is able to redeem himself in the eyes of his son. Thus to abolish his desire for power and life is the route needed to become the loving father he has always wanted to be.
As a viewer, we can identify with both characters and acknowledge that similar decisions that we make in life will lead us down two very different paths. Perhaps we have already made these decisions and therefore are able to relate to particular characters. However, redemption is a strong theme throughout the final chapter, showing that both devilish rouges and malicious forces can still turn their lives around.
While I do not think that the new trilogy should go over the same themes as the previous films, I do feel that the fundamental hardships of life need to be addressed. Due to the involvement of the original cast, it would be natural to presume that there will be a focus on raising families and how the decisions we make as parents can shape and influence the lives of our children. By having the original cast as supporting characters, the storyline can delve into a number of new and exciting themes including: parents letting their children venture into adulthood by themselves, a parent’s worry as their child heads into battle, the horror of outliving your children and how even in the darkest moments of adulthood, our parent’s wisdom and love can inspire us to carry on to vanquish our demons.
From the children’s perspective, themes would include: having the live up to and exceed the legacy left behind by successful parents, the excitement of venturing into the world for the first time, the bitter resentment held towards parents, to repeat or avoid the mistakes made by parents or the absolute desire to appease a parent at the risk of sacrificing your own desires and lust for life.
Society faces similar problems on a daily basis, yet through escapism and expert storytelling, these themes can be used in new ways to build a relationship between the characters on film and as a way for the audience to relate to them.
The audition script for Star Wars Episode VII is as follows:
Rachel labors to bear Thomas’s weight as they inch their way down a deserted road, blood dripping from his leg.
He’s trying to stomach an apple
THOMAS (kidding): Can’t you go any faster?
RACHEL: Shut up and eat your apple.
He enjoyed that, but every step is sheer agony on the leg.
RACHEL: There’s a barn a little farther up the road…
A big barn, dark and damp. Rachel covers the floor with hay, then lays out her sleeping bag. Thomas looks through her backpack for anything he can use as a bandage.
RACHEL: You need rest.
She lowers him down – which puts her face mere inches from his open would. She cringes without meaning to.
THOMAS: Sorry. I know it’s –
RACHEL: It’s fine. I’m just not a big fan of blood.
THOMAS: You know, for such a tough girl, you’re kind of squeamish.
RACHEL: Your fever’s still up. And we have to get some more food in you.
THOMAS: I’m not hungry.
RACHEL: It wasn’t a request.
She sits down next to him and takes out a loaf of bread.
THOMAS: Rachel, thanks for coming to get me.
RACHEL: Family has to stick together, right?
She starts to rise. He grabs her hand, dead serious.
THOMAS: Listen, if I don’t make it –
THOMAS: But if I don’t…
Before he can finish, she drops down next to him and looks him dead in the eye.
RACHEL: You’re not going to die. I forbid it. Okay?
RACHEL: Get some sleep.
THOMAS: What about you?
RACHEL: I will. In a bit.
Taking the above script into consideration and presuming that similar themes will be explored within the next film, it would be safe to surmise that the children of Solo and Skywalker are either captured (and ultimately break free) or become tangled in events that involve the remnants of The Old Empire.
The original characters of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Princess Leia and Lando Calrissian will dust themselves off, make a few cracks about their age and will be driven by the love of their children to free them from whichever oppressive force they face. Over the course of the events, the younger generation will prove their worth and thus the proverbial torch will in a very obvious way, be passed to the next generation.
It will be a film that will be similar to JJ Abram’s take on Wrath of Kahn. A terrorist in the shape of Hugo Weaving is an Imperial Admiral. He will causes chaos in the New Republic and seeking a way to enact revenge on the heroes of old, their children will be captured with malicious intent. The parents will then embark on a mission to stop the evil terrorist and after being victorious, will view their children as being ready to step into the world by themselves. During the course of the events, the children will uncover that the Admiral is under the instruction of a new, evil Sith Lord, thus establishing that the story has not yet reached its final conclusion.
With regards to nostalgia, Princess Leia from A New Hope will be substituted by the children. The Death Star rescue is replaced by a rescue on the Admiral’s Imperial ship, planets being destroyed by laser beams is absconded for the destruction of society through terrorist actions (and to tap into America’s fear of terrorism) with the film will concluding with a space battle that will see the villain’s fleet destroyed and restoration brought back to the galaxy.
The above is a boring and uninspired plot that lacks the creativity needed to strengthen the ties between characters and to highlight the characteristics and abilities of the younger generation. In The Phantom Menace, Qui Gon Jin took on this role while Obi Wan Kenobi is used in a similar way in A New Hope. Indeed Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade is a story about the sour relationship between a father and son that is rekindled by the conclusion of the film.
Should THR be correct, then Star Wars Episode VII falls into four traps: (It’s A Trap!)
- 1) Star Wars Episode VII will establish that the old cast of character still ‘have it’, while hardships experienced by the younger cast, highlights their individual strengths and weaknesses.
- 2) Neither generation acts as a way to show the changes to the original characters personalities or help to convey the relationships between parent and child.
- 3) By having two separate storylines, the writers will have to create obvious, in your face examples as to how the younger characters are similar, yet subtly different to their parents.
- 4) By focusing on the original cast of characters, the film devalues the skills of next generation of characters.
Audiences will be introduced to a new band of Star Wars characters, who in their mid twenties to early thirties, are unable to fend for themselves in the real world and need mummy and daddy to bail them out of trouble. While this may make for an interesting comedy that makes comment on how the greed of 80’s parents effected the upbringing of their children, it is in no way a traditional tale of heroism that inspires us to become better people.
I’m most likely wrong and at the point of the film’s release, I will praise JJ Abrams for taking the direction that he did. However, I just can’t see why it would be more beneficial for Star Wars Episode VII to focus on the existing cast. We don’t need to learn anything more about characters who are entering their final farewell – a moment that only ever happens at the conclusion of a storyline to wrap up any loose ends.
By having their final farewell in Star Wars Episode VII, the filmmakers have to establish a new hardship for the characters to face, to display their current relationships with one another, how they have changed since the last film, to completely resolve the storyline without any loose ends, to highlight how the events have shaped their lives for the better, to introduce numerous new characters without focusing on them and to loosely tie into Star Wars Episode VIII. To do this in a creative and natural way is inexplicably difficult to achieve – no more so than with a last-ditch rewrite of a two-hour film.
Disney have stated that they intend to proceed with a number of standalone films that focus on one specific character within the Star Wars Universe. Rumours suggest that Han Solo, Yoda and Darth Maul films are in development and will be released in the years between Episodes VII, VIII, IX.
This will not act as a way to enrich the Star Wars Universe or to add importance to the events in the main Episodes. The main films will not be styled after an Avengers conglomeration of characters, who are brought together to fight a foe that they are unable to defeat alone. Instead, they will tell a Star Wars tale that cannot be weaved into the linear, primary storyline.
Why can Disney not tell the primary themes of the standalone films in the main storyline? The proposed format does not appear to support or enrich the main Universe of characters and they will have to rush to a satisfying conclusion. Audiences are far more demanding than they have ever been before. We demand high quality television series with budgets to rival any Hollywood film. Unlike cinema, television has the distinct advantage of time which allows the luxury of subtle characterisation.
A property such as Game of Thrones would be impossible to correctly depict on film without making sacrifices to the storyline and shifting the entire focus of the plot to one family. Indeed, telling the entire tale of one family or perhaps even one character, would require multiple films. It’s baffling to learn that the standalone films serve no other purpose than to fill time between the proper installments.
The above is perhaps an overreaction. I have not read the script for Star Wars Episode VII, nor do I know the inner workings of both companies. History would dictate that the franchise is in safe hands. However, we must take into consideration that at the last-minute, the entire plot of Star Wars Episode VII is being altered and that this will have a knock on effect with the following films.
Star Wars is a saga that is told over a series of generations. This plan has been in effect for over forty years and is a very deliberate plot device. This mirrors traditional tales and human history. In Ancient Greece, Zeus eventually overcomes his father to rule Mount Olympus. His numerous Demigod sons then embark on their own adventures – some of which span decades. In history, we are able to follow each subsequent generation or entire lineages as well as their effect on the world around them including: a legacy of absolute horror and oppression, the eradication of blood lines to gain power and the valiant defiance of those who offer hope where there is none.
I’m tired of imagining the perfect Star Wars storyline. I want to be transported to a Galaxy far, far, away, to speculate with glee and wonder as to what may happen in the next installment. I want a tale that touches the very core of my soul and to not be appeased by nostalgic, fanboy fluff.
While I may attempt to remain positive about the direction that the Star Wars franchise is headed, I worry about the decisions made by JJ Abrams and Disney; a suggestion that the original trilogy was a mere fluke and that the only way to replicate it’s success is by producing a paperthin copy.
It’s wrong considering that this is completely avoidable. I also worry that my son will not be enthralled by a Universe of characters that he deserves to be excited about.