That Galaxy is Not as Far, Far Away as We Thought: Star Wars is Coming Back!
Star Wars, nothing says epic space fantasy series with millions of fans all over the world than these two words put together. Sure, die-hard Trekkies would beg to differ, but it is hard to deny the global appeal of George Lucas' six-tology (we refuse to spell that word properly without snickering like kids). Darth Vader is a cultural icon across three generations (and counting), people still argue whether Han shot first, and the black and white concept of good versus evil has never been so put in the spotlight in such a literal sense outside of this movie franchise (light side versus dark side anyone?). And now, it has been confirmed: we are getting a new Star Wars movie.
A new Star Wars movie; of course, with that much of a big name, there comes a whole host of questions. Will it be a sequel? Prequel? Remake? Reboot? Will the old cast come back? Should the old cast come back? Will it change the way filmmaking has been done like the first three Star Wars films? Will it make purists wish there were less films like the prequel trilogy? What happens to the non-movie based storylines that were established and accepted as canon –like the stuff you find in books, comics, and games with events that were set in and around the movie series? And of course: do we really need another Star Wars movie?
The Force is Strong in this One
On October of 2012, there was a very powerful disturbance in the Force, and millions of fans suddenly did not know if they should cry out in terror or joy. Literally speaking, the news finally broke out; George Lucas, the man who created Star Wars, has finally stepped away from it all. Lucasfilm was now the property of another company, and George's influence on the series would be greatly diminished. On paper, it sounded pretty harsh, and if anything else ominous. Well, but that is only if you read everything out of context.
The reality was that Disney bought off Lucasfilm from ol' George. And looking at Disney's history with Pixar and Marvel (which they also bought over the years), this is a positive sign. Marvel's The Avengers movie, released last year, was an outright success that easily surpassed expectations of many die-hard fans. Pixar, on the other hand, has been producing one hit film of another, with no sign of external influence affecting their design decisions.
Lucas did not make a knee jerk decision to sell the company, the man is turning 70 in a couple of years, so it would not be odd to guess that retirement has been in his mind for a long time now. The fact that he held on as the head of Lucasfilm for so long goes to show that this was not a simple decision, but one he made with utmost care. Robert Iger, Disney CEO, was the man behind the acquisition of Pixar and Marvel (which many would consider to be very smart decisions by Disney). It comes as no surprise that when Lucas was ready to let go of the helm, Edgar was the first person he went to.
Do or Do Not, There is No Try
Lucas called up Kathleen Kennedy (one of the founders of Amblin Entertainment –which handled plenty of Spielberg's works, and we all know that George and Steve are friends) to head Lucasfilm prior to his impending departure. And Iger made a smart move in keeping Kennedy during the acquisition –it was her call to bring in JJ Abrams as the director of the new Star Wars film. For Iger, keeping a company's leaders in place is common sense, and this was not a surprise move. Both Pixar and Marvel retained their respective heads after being brought under Disney. This is more than just a sign of things to come; this is Disney doing what is best for their acquired IPs, which is a great thing for both the companies and the fans.
The new director for Star Wars will be JJ Abrams. Most of you may already be familiar with his work in the recent Star Trek movie –which was both loved and hated by fans of the series. For those who are wondering why, it is because the new Star Trek movie was basically a reboot –despite the fact that you can fit into the story as an alternate timeline caused by Spock's use of red matter (the macgaffin of the movie). Anyway, canon storyline issues aside, Abrams brought fresh life to the series, bringing in a new cast and a whole approach to the much familiar sci-fi show.
However, he cannot do the exact same thing for Star Wars. The idea is that Star Wars is a set of nine films or episodes. Episodes 4 to 6 were the first ones shown and are considered to be the original trilogy. The prequel trilogy, episodes 1 to 3, was launched during the advent of new digital technology and made full use of new CG based special effects. The next trilogy, for lack of an existing term, is a sequel trilogy –and it will New Star Wars Movie Episodes 7, 8 & 9. With that existing setup, Abrams will not be retelling the story of the previous films, but he will be delivering a completely new one.
Our verdict about this: totally excited. JJ Abrams has been credited for plenty of great shows such as Fringe, Person of Interest, Super 8, Cloverfield, and he even helped write Armaggedon (let us just not remember that he also worked on Lost and Revolution). If you love all things sci-fi, it is hard to go wrong with this guy directing the film. Sure, some may argue that handling both Star Trek and Star Wars may be a conflicting thing –not true. With Star Trek, Abrams is able to get deep with the science. With Star Wars, he is able to indulge the audience with a sense of fantasy and wonder. Sure, he's got plenty to carry on his shoulders, but we can bet that dozens of other great sci-fi directors are drooling in envy.
The Original Cast Comes Back
Lucas has been pretty transparent about the fact that he has had his people work on getting old familiar names back on set. And that means Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher; and if your name recall is not so good –Luke Skywalker, Hand Solo, and Princess Leia. So far, only Carrie Fisher has publicly announced that she will indeed be part of the new Star Wars movies. Hamill and Ford have yet to confirm anything, but that may change at any time (so here's to us hoping for the best) considering that they have both been approached an seem to have given a positive response regarding an invovlement with the new films. .
Now as much as a fan-fest it would be to have all three of the original actors coming back, we also have to remember, age has caught up with them. So let us assume that all three do say yes, the question is: would they still be playing the same roles? It has been decades since Return of the Jedi –the last of the Star Wars films these three have been in. And naturally, the actors have all aged. Ford was certainly showing it in the last Indiana Jones movie, and the same goes for Fisher and Hamill. If they still get to play Luke, Han, and Leia, the story would have to be set many years after Palpatine's defeat.
And considering the pattern of the trilogies, this “generation jump” is perfectly fine. The Revenge of the Sith ends with the birth of Luke and Leia (along with Anakin turning into the heavy breathing version of Vader that we have all come to be familiar with). The start of a New Hope introduced Luke who has already grown into a young man. So if the next three movies introduce us to an aged Luke Skywalker leading a new set of Jedi, it would fit right in.
The Canon Menace
Fans of any kind of series are familiar with this word and protect it with religious fervor: canon. Okay, purist elitism is not always practiced (that would be an exaggeration), but fans of all degrees still care. After all, when you are following the storyline of a series that spans the size of an entire galaxy across the time of a few centuries, details like continuity start to matter.
When it comes to canon material, the films take priority. If it happens on film, it is indisputable and anything else in other media should complement it. If the story content in the books, comics, games, and other spin-offs contradict the events of the films, then it is considered as a non-canon story.
Fans of Star Wars have regarded all canon spinoff material as part of the Expanded Universe of Star Wars. And these include a vast number of books, comics, games, and other media content. The settings for these stories vary, some happen before the events of the movies. Some have settings that are set during the events or in between the events of the films. And of course, some of the books discuss the fate of the characters after the events of the last movie. Will Disney be able to pay respect to this large body of work that is practically worshipped by the most hardcore fans of Star Wars?
Just as Yoda has done his best to prepare Luke, Lucas has ensured that an “expert” on the expanded universe stays aboard Lucasfilm: Pablo Hidalgo. His primary occupation is an employee of Lucasfilm, but his real value lies in why he was hired in the first place: Hidalgo is the author of several published works about the various little details in the Star Wars universe, a founding member of one of the biggest SW fan groups, and prior to his employment under Lucasfilm, he also wrote plenty of content (and managed) major Star Wars fan sites. He cares about the little stuff –all the fine details that the authors of books, and writers of screenplays tend to miss, he catches. He is as much a fanboy as the others, and considering how much he has done for Star Wars fandom, he may be the biggest one there is.
So what does he do for Lucasfilm? He serves as the expert on all things canon –and no one knows the Holocron better than him. In Star Wars fiction, a Holocron is a massive data storage archive (both the Jedi and the Sith use Holocron technology to store important information). In real life, it is the nickname for the massive database that Lucasfilm has kept with regards to all the known and accepted characters of the Star Wars series. According to sources, it has at least 17,000 unique characters on file. So for those of you wondering about the voice of Star Wars fans going unheeded, fear not. Hidalgo may be employed by Lucasfilm (and ergo, Disney), but he is still one of the most avid Star Wars fans around. Canon continuity has never found a better champion.
A New Script
Of course, one of the biggest questions on everyone's mind is: what will the sequels be about? When the prequel trilogy came out, nobody knew the specifics of the story, but everyone knows where it was going. Anakin would have a tragic life that would lead him into becoming Darth Vader, Palpatine will rise to power as the Emperor, Padme would die, the Jedi Academy would be brought down -forcing Yoda into exile in Dagobah (and Obi Wan on Tatooine), and so forth. After all, these three were prequels, and it all leads to the events of the original trilogy.
But a sequel trilogy means a completely new story. This will be a new era set long after the fall of the empire. And we are placing our bets on a third generation Skywalker as the new protagonist. It makes sense; Anakin for 1 to 3, Luke for 4 to 6, the last set to feature Luke's son follows the pattern. Also, we expect Jedis, plenty of them.
With Luke introducing himself to Jabba as a Jedi, the most obvious next move for him is to establish a new Jedi Academy –one that has surpassed the failures of the original in Coruscant. Yoda, Mace, and the other masters had a good thing going, but they were completely oblivious to the threat of Palpatine until it was too late. In many ways, their rigorous laws were as much responsible for the corruption of Anakin as Palpatine's actions were. Even the expanded universe agrees upon this: the accepted canon in the books is that Luke re-establishes a new Jedi temple.
Movie-wise, it is the smart thing to do. Sure, a Star Wars movie should have great space battles. But more importantly, nothing is as iconic in the Star Wars franchise as a glowing laser sword and the magic-wielding samurai-monks who wield these impressive weapons (and yes, among them all, Vader is the most iconic). No matter how much fans complained about the prequel movies, it gave us all something important: the sight of the Jedi fighting a war.
Luke may have been the last Jedi by the end of episode 6. But despite the fact that Yoda called him by such, expanded universe states that there's plenty of other Jedi out there who are unaccounted for and may have managed to survive Order 66. And with a huge time gap between the movies, Luke will have plenty of time to train new Jedi (not strictly starting from younglings either, this may be the Jedi Academy, but this will be Luke's new rules). Of course, we'd expect Luke's child to be a student here. Now, those of you might be wondering –who would Luke marry? Well, the expanded universe has an answer for that: Mara Jade; though telling that whole story deserves its own movie.
And in the event that the movie studio feels that fans do not need to know content that only die-hard fans know, they have a nice little alternative: Leia's kids. We all know the love story behind Han and Leia, so for them to have kids would need no further backstory; and we still get the pattern of having a Skywalker as a lead character (except this one will be named Solo).
Return of the Stereotype
Modern era has brought about the fame of anti-heroes. Characters like the Punisher, Batman, and many other “gray area” heroes are getting plenty of fans. And it is not surprising, considering that life is not always so clear on what is black and what is white. So we totally believe the increased odds that the new Skywalker would be a bit of a rebel. After all, it will be hard for people to relate to another Luke-type character.
For the overall story however, it will still be the classic good versus bad –and in Star Wars, that literally translates into Light Side versus Dark Side. And nothing in the SW universe states bad guy more that the red lightsaber wielding Sith. Even with the Emperor gone, it is quite easy for any force user to fall into corruption, and thus, a new Sith lord causing new problems would be the perfect
Questions Leads to Speculation, Speculation Leads to Fandom
Disney and Lucasfilm have a big responsibility on their shoulders, the Star Wars franchise is not a simple one to trifle with. To start off, they would have to live up to Lucas' expectations (which should not be so hard, he has confirmed that he'll still be working as a consultant on the project –and since he is now a major shareholder in Disney, he's still got clout). More importantly, they have got to impress the fans.
What they have going for them: an all star team. Mark Hamill has positively expressed interest in the project (but has yet to sign any contracts), Carrie Fisher has said yes, and according to reports, Harrison Ford will also be in on the fun. Micheal Arndt, the man who made us all cry with a bunch of children's playthings in a span of three CGI movies (Toy Story), will be penning the script (and from the Star Wars jokes he inserted for Toy Story 2, you can tell that he's a fan). JJ Abrams is the director, and no other man in Hollywood has as much modern day science fiction cred as he does. Lastly, to ensure that all things follow the true spirit of the films, SW veteran Lawrence Kasdan will also be working on the new films (Kasdan was a screenwriter for episode 5).
What they are up against: a culture of Star Wars that goes beyond the movies. While not all of the Star Wars post-movie books were critically acclaimed or even well received by critics, the content of these materials still stand as canon for many of the fans. To create a movie that does not contradict most of these little storylines will be hard –especially since there's a huge existing storyline about Ben Skywalker and the Solo twins (yes, Ben is Luke's while Leia and Han had twins). Did we mention that (spoiler!) Chewbacca dies in one of the books as well. And this is all before Luke is as old as he will be when Hamill reprises the role. Will the new movie be able to connect with this timeline of events? Or will it create a completely new storyline (which will certainly devalue the existing media set post-movies)?
At this point, it is far too early to speculate on what path Abrams, Arndt, and the rest of the team will take. But if they intend to cast Mark Hamill as an aged and wizened Luke Skywalker, then they might as well listen to what he said about the upcoming movies: "I said to George that I wanted to go back to the way it was, in the sense that ours was much more carefree and lighthearted and humorous."