Before I start my soon-to-be-obsolete diatribe, let’s get into the poll results from last week!
Well it looks like with the Disney aquisition came a little ray of sunshine in our poll regarding reactions to the Star Wars news. 8/12 of you voted for “Cautious Optimism,” while only 4/12 voted for “Low Expectations.” I think we can all agree, however, that there is hope out there. Maybe not A New Hope, but still… Anyway, onto the article!
There are some rumors about the director for the upcoming Star Wars sequel by Disney/Lucasfilm. Before things get official or out of hand as far as rumors go, I’d like to offer my seasoned advice for Episodes 7-9, being a long-time OT fan, and a rational hater of the prequels.
First off, let’s talk director. With the OT, we had three different people, all with varying degrees of success. For the PT, we had one director. Both of these options have their merits and cons, but out of respect for the Lucasfilm “family,” I’d like to suggest (at least for the first flick), that Star Wars’ cool, friendly uncle Steven Spielberg be given right of first refusal. If he took the wheel for the new trilogy, I think I would be satisfied, as I imagine most people would be (including the cast). Edit: And apparently Mr. Spielberg has decided to go ahead and accept that first refusal with this quote, “No! No! It’s not my genre. It’s my best friend George’s genre.”
If Steve’s out, though, I think the idea of three separate directors works really well. Another franchise that has a lot of experience with this approach is the Harry Potter series of films. Say what you will, but the idea of each installment directed by someone that matches the tone and feel of that “book,” is a really successful idea. If the stories were written so each film satisfied a different story “beat,” this method probably works the best. As far as theories go, I’d have to see a script first. I cannot imagine the “perfect director” for these stories, since I know nothing about them. It’s why I say Spielberg gets right of first refusal– story or not, the guy’s got the chops. Just off-the-cuff, though? I could see Joseph Kosinski do at least one of them rather handily.
Someone we can speculate on is the writer. I think these scripts should probably have a similar voice carried throughout, so if we need separate script-writers for each film, let’s at least get one person for the overall treatment. I don’t have a suggestion, as much as I have a request: not David Koepp. I say this because he’s a go-to scriptwriter, seasoned, tried-and-true, and an easy choice; he’s got a lot of experience with film franchises and has one good credit to his name. But his body of work and level of quality clearly speaks for itself, and these films need a more delicate hand than Koepp’s dialogue-writing clubfoot can handle. I feel like it’s an obvious choice to suggest Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, but for my money? Brad Bird would write a fun-as-shit Star Wars movie.
Now for subject matter. While a lot of people would probably salivate over the prospect of seeing some of their favorite Expanded Universe adventures brought to life, but I feel like there’s a real opportunity, here. An opportunity to be surprised. Legitimately (but more important, pleasantly) surprised. Let’s leave the EU entirely out of it, and let the writers tell something wholly original. No references, no allusions, and only foreshadowing need apply to this sequel. Let’s tell a new, fresh, fun story without all the unnecessary baggage. We don’t need to see Thrawn. Hell, we don’t need to see Tatooine! Let’s do something new and interesting, without all the window dressing. Besides, the prop department can add all that stuff during filming, which can spawn a whole new generation of speculation. I think as long as we accomplish this, it’ll be fine.
However, let’s try to keep something in mind. Star Wars is steeped in Joseph Campbell’s opus. There are story and character beats that directly translate into the Hero’s Journey, or the Hero with a Thousand Faces. These are universal elements that appeal across generations, creeds, cultures, etc. Part of the colossal failure of the PT is how thoroughly unapproachable these movies are. You cannot invest in that movie from any angle, other than from a simple child, or fanboy, perspective. I say that because in the first example, you have “hilarious” colorful characters, explosions, lightsabers; spectacle. Kids like that. And for the fanboys, you have meaningless exposition for questions nobody asked, but were answered to satisfy that demographic. These do not a good movie make. It needs to be enduring and worth writing. Tell a story, use characters, and make it matter. In the end, character and story wins over all.
A word about casting: if they’re right for the part, don’t be afraid to cast them. Unknowns, famous actors, go for it. I only stress this: don’t hire someone because they desperately just “want to be in Star Wars,” and don’t cast someone because “they look a lot like Mark Hamill.” If they’re right for the part, we as an audience will accept them. This goes for the kid off the bus in West Hollywood to Christopher Walken as a Crime Lord. Sure, people will fancast, and everyone will form an opinion, but at the end of the day what matters is whether the actor did a good job. But if I can make one request: please leave Shia Labeouf out of this one.
My final point is one that has always gnawed at me regarding the last 10 years of Star Wars. There are some things that you need in a film to make it work. Not just a science fiction, or in fantasy. You need some seemingly mundane things to make the film work with its audience: sets, props, and locations. James Bond movies go on location. When they don’t, people notice. Aliens movies need great props. When you CG it, people notice. All movies need great sets. When you shoot all on green screen, people notice. And it may not even be due to the technology. It’s about the actors, and their connection with the audience. The actors are our avatars, going on the adventure for us. If the actors aren’t convinced, or invested in their adventure, neither are we. Props, sets, locations all help maintain the illusion, and allow us to let our guard down and invite them into our brains.
You don’t need puppets to make a Star Wars movie.
But it helps.