Wednesday, May 8, 2013

BVC's suggestions for Star Wars VII

In my previous post about the upcoming Star Wars movies, I gave some reasons for optimism. Now that I have had more time to think about it, I would like to make some suggestions for ways in which the new films can be as good as, or even better than, the ones that came before. We have had several decades to enjoy the original trilogy and think about what else we would like to see in the Star Wars universe.

More than one major female character. The original trilogy has Leia. The prequel trilogy has Amidala. Both are central to the plot, and Leia still stands up as one of the strongest female characters in science fiction. But that's pretty much it. You have to look pretty hard to find more female characters. Mon Mothma is female, but all she does is give a speech in Return of the Jedi. After that, you might mention Anakin's mother from Phantom Menace. And I suppose Sy Snootles is female.

Interestingly, the Clone Wars cartoon is probably the best at including several interesting, central female characters, and some interesting supporting characters as well. Let's hope the new trilogy follows suit, and that it gives the female characters more interesting things to do. Let's see some ladies with lightsabers, at the helms of starfighters.

A strong central group of heroes. Everyone agrees that the main characters in the original trilogy are Luke, Leia, and Han. In the prequel trilogy, there's a lot of people, but their relationships are ill-defined and the audience never gets a sense for their personalities. It's unfocused. Having a central group of characters be the heart of the movies is good writing, and three is an ideal number. Three characters provides an interesting dynamic while leaving room for a strong supporting cast.

Agency. In the original trilogy, each of the main characters has his or her motivation for doing what they do. Luke wants to be a hero. Leia wants to overthrow the Empire and restore the Republic. Han is in it for the credits at first, and then later finds there is more to him than money. In the prequels, though, the characters all seem to be caught up in the grip of larger powers. The Republic, the Jedi Order, and "destiny" all conspire to sweep the characters along with little opportunity for them to pause and make their own decisions. An exciting space opera can only benefit from allowing its characters to move the plot forward, rather than to have the plot move the characters.

Contrast between the scoundrel and the do-gooder. One of the things I always liked about the original trilogy is that it contrasts Luke, with his naive optimism and desire to do good, with Han, who is cynical and realistic. Luke is on his way to becoming a noble Jedi, Han is a grimy smuggler. In the prequels, everyone is a little too squeaky clean, and everyone belongs to a larger organization. Let's have someone who's in it for themselves, so that they can provide an interesting contrast to the more selfless characters. It doesn't have to be a Jedi who's idealistic and a scoundrel who is jaded. It might be interesting to flip it around, with a world-weary Jedi in threadbare robes meeting up with a well-dressed, smooth-talking scoundrel looking to pilot his or her way to greatness.

A guy in a suit. Let's have a Chewie, not a Jar-Jar. No matter how good the CGI is, the brain will always think "that guy was added later." Let's have someone who was actually standing there. And no ridiculous accent, please. That never goes over well.

What about you, dear reader? What would you suggest to the makers of the new trilogy?

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