“Star Wars” apologists are the worst. The excuses they make for the prequels are tenfold — they’re made for children, you’re just too old now, and you’re looking at things through a nostalgic lens, so quit being melodramatic and get a life. True, the “Star Wars” prequels are not a travesty and they didn’t ruin any sensibly-adjusted adult’s life that grew up loving the original “Star Wars” trilogy as created by George Lucas. But they’re not good films either. Not by a long stretch. At best, they are an entertaining lark relatively semi-full of imagination. At worst, they mostly robbed “Star Wars” of its mystery, power and allure by explaining everything unequivocally (and we’ll politely overlook the general execution of the films themselves).
While hindsight is 20/20, Damon Lindelof – who ironically still helped co-botch the sorta-prequel “Prometheus” – perfectly captures what’s wrong with most prequels, or at least what’s fundamentally wrong with the “Star Wars” prequels. They destroy myth-building, by pouring light on what was originally in the shadows. “With all due respect to anyone who makes a prequel, but why would you ruin the greatest twist in the history of cinema, ‘Luke, I am your father,’ by showing me three movies which basically spoil that surprise,” he’s said. “You can do movies which take place before ‘Star Wars’ but I don’t need to see the story of the Skywalker clan. Show me something else which I can’t guess the possible outcome of. There is no suspense in inevitability. So a true prequel should essentially proceed the events of the original film, but be about something entirely different, feature different characters, have an entirely different theme, although it takes place in that same world.”
Amen. The ‘SW’ prequels are boringly linear, they spell out a banal and uninspired six-degrees-of-separation world where everyone from the original films is connected, there is zero suspense, and these legends described in passing in “Star Wars” don’t ever seem so mythic or legendary in their presentation. So for the “Star Wars” films going forward, please: less history, more mystery. We feel, more so than most fans, pretty objective about “Star Wars.” We like, but don’t adore the originals like most do. And we don’t loathe the prequels as much as lament them as a huge missed opportunity. We have no horse in this race, but with such a gigantic, rich and mythic universe at hand, we would hate to see yet another squandered opportunity with any of these new “Star Wars” films.
Over the past week, word started percolating about Disney’s “Star Wars” spinoff plans — movies said to take place outside the central saga and story arc — and if they are to be believed, we’ll be seeing a young Han Solo film, a Boba Fett movie and possibly a solo Yoda film.
“Disney realizes they can come up with new characters if they want to, right? Or did Lucas forbid that in his contract?” Ain’t It Cool writer Eric Vespe wrote sarcastically on Twitter yesterday. And that was pretty much our initial thought. Can’t they create spin-off films from new characters? To many, these “Star Wars” spin-offs signify a creative team not really wanting to take risks. And/or maybe they’re just executing a Lucas/Disney vision to help keep the brand thriving (and more importantly, the merchandising), but frankly, none of these are great ideas. Why not start with ‘Episode VII’ and then spin-off films with new characters or simply take new original stories set within the “Star Wars” universe, much like the video games, comics, books and Extended Universe stories did. If those guys could do it, can’t the filmmakers? Are they to follow the same mistakes Lucas did? Those who forget recent history are generally doomed to repeat it. But Kathleen Kennedy, Simon Kinberg, Lawrence Kasdan and to a lesser degree (since he’ll be working on ‘Ep VII’ and not the spin-offs) J.J. Abrams are smarter than that, no?
In case they’re not, here are 5 ways how to not totally fuck up these “Star Wars” spin-off movies (or several ways you can easily fuck it up if you choose).
1. Don’t feel the need to connect every dot. Let the characters explore things independent of the Star Wars Universe.
Greedo knowing Anakin as a child made us all groan. Let’s grow and not connect every single character and event that we’re already familiar with. Let’s learn from our mistakes. According to yesterday’s report, the Han Solo story would take place in the time period between ‘Revenge of the Sith‘ and the first “Star Wars.” There are several ways to make this as banal and trite as possible. A) Show how Han Solo and Chewbacca first came together – the legend has it that he saved him from a form of empirical slavery. B) Show how Han got in dutch with Jabba The Hut. C) Show how Han Solo met and became friends with Lando Calrissian/how Solo won the Millennium Falcon from him – show that actual card game! Are there any more painfully obvious ways to connect this solo Solo film to what we saw in “Star Wars”? Is any of that really neccesary? Will they show how Solo made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs? Do we really need to see the story of Boba Fett going from orphan to bad-ass bounty hunter? Do we need to fill in those blanks? We’d love to see these stories forget the past (or the future) and just try to tell new and original stories based on these character’s various exploits.
2. Forget origin stories, let them go off on their own adventures
“Star Wars” likes to take its coolest characters and make them uncool by revealing everything. In an origin story, it’ll be difficult not to undo all of Han Solo’s hip cachet as the bad boy, but there are a few ways it could be done. One way is to just learn who Solo is – and who he one day might become – along the way. Start the story smackdab in the middle of the action like the original “Star Wars” – Solo on the run from one of his smuggling exploits and from there drop in the kernels of what he’s all about. Yes, it runs the risk of an episode of “the further adventures of Han Solo,” but better that than a spelled-out version of his origin and how it connects to “Star Wars.” We don’t need to see him become a smuggler. He can just be one. Sure, throw in all the (hopefully small) fanboy-ish nods, but Solo’s smuggling escapades and adventures sound pretty interesting on their own. Why not tell one of these stories and have it in no way, shape or form relate to “Star Wars.” Hell, it’s a huge galaxy, right? Is it possible that this story can be told without including Tatooine on it?
3. We’ve been to Tatooine, let’s go somewhere else.
Speaking of…. If the “Star Wars” universe is to be believed, Tatooine must be its epicenter. This is where Darth Vader was born. This is where his son, Luke was raised (though he was born on a spaceship and conceivably could have been raised anywhere). This is where one of the greatest ruthless gangsters, Jabba The Hut, held his base of operations. This is where Luke met Obi Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, Chewbacca. This is where Boba Fett died. Enough already. The Empire controlled the entire Galaxy. Even if there’s only say, nine planets in that galaxy, hyper drive allows these people to travel to entirely different systems, no? Expand your horizons “Star Wars” writers. Invent and invent. Let’s take a break from Tatooine, shall we?
4. Less is much more
What’s the percentage win in creating a “young Yoda” film? He’s a great minor character that again, has or at least had some mystery to him. A strange, odd budda/sensei discovered on a swampy bog of a planet, taking refuge there when most of his Jedi kin were wiped out – a lot of this already shown in montages in prequels. And we’ve already seen a younger Yoda in the prequels, the films detailing how he controlled the Jedi council with Mace Windu, how he sensed a disturbance in the force and how he watched the hopeful young Anakin Skywalker go bad. We even saw him – to much fan boy delight – go all ninja-like in ‘Attack Of The Clones.’ Fans seemingly got what they wanted. What could possibly be interesting beyond that? Yoda at 600 years old instead of 700? Showing him train young padewans in the glory days of the Jedi? Facing against other, earlier incarnations of Sith that threatened the order of things? How is this going to be remotely different or engaging?
5. The “Star Wars” galaxy is huge, let Han and Boba face-off against foes that aren’t Jedis/Siths or the Empire.
Honestly, can the writers break out of this formula? If anything, that’s the small appeal of both a Han Solo spin-off and a Boba Fett film – ostensibly, both films could exist outside this framework. Both characters needn’t interact with Jedis or Sith (hopefully) and while the Empire would clearly be in power, both characters could exist and operate with that dictatorship being in the background and not part of the central story. In fact, the Solo film could be like a “Star Wars” gangster/heist/crime picture; a cool outlaw kind of flick. This would be interesting. Similarly, Boba Fett’s film could be more of a Western type story. An outlaw, mercenary figure who has to track down criminals he’s paid to hunt down and capture, bringing them in dead or alive (“Boba Unchained“). We’d argue, Fett is another cool, middle eight character that should be left in the shadows. But regardless, the less history there is, the better, but we’re pretty sure the new “Star Wars” creative team will not be able to resist the urge to a) indulge in fanboy service, b) pull back the curtain on his shade. Either way, we don’t have to show Han or Boba facing off or crossing paths with Siths or the Empire as adversaries. Sure, they can be texture and they can be in the background, but goddammit, for such a huge universe, the storylines have been so small in everything since the original trilogy.
Thoughts? Do you share any of these concerns? Do you not care? Are you ok with these “Star Wars” films acting as we believe they might – simply filling in the blanks of history that we haven’t seen? – or do you believe there’s a better way to tell these tales? Let us know below.