My Japanese Mythology-inspired short story, Do Not Stare Into The Eyes Of A Kitsune, is finally available. You can buy it on Amazon or wherever ebooks are sold. Help a debut author make his debut worth it.
I announced other works, including a kaiju-themed “mini-novel” (which you can learn about here) and a short story anthology in the near future. This is only the beginning for me and I have more to share.
Beyond the Stars is a series of Science Fiction related posts where I discuss different aspects of the genre and the many tropes and plot lines associated with it. Today, I talk about what Star Wars has to do to survive the backlash of previous films.
Beyond The Stars: What Star Wars Needs To Do To Get Back On Track
I’m what you could consider a super casual Star Wars fan. I’m very familiar with the series, all the pop culture nods and all that, but I haven’t paid that much attention to the franchise as a whole. The only film I saw in its entirety when I was a kid prior to the Sequel Movies was Phantom Menace, and I think I saw it in theaters, but I remember seeing it on DVD. And I’ve seen a handful of films since then. It never pulled me in as much as other franchises have, but part of that has been due to the fanbase itself.
They’ve always been a loud bunch to the point where its hard for me to associate with them. I’m sure plenty of Star Wars fans are well behaved, but there seems to be a highbrow attitude when mentioning anything other than the original trilogy, the Holy Grail of Pop Culture. Since Force Awakens, I’ve seen a surge of renewed interest in Star Wars that hasn’t been seen in a long time. I figured this was a renaissance for the series. That this franchise had a bright future. Now, I’m getting a little worried.
The Last Jedi, while flawed, had its moments. Rey’s character development was well executed and seeing Kylo ascend as leader was a smart move. Everything else was not great. And don’t get me started on Solo. To be clear, I did like what those movies tried to do, but none of them stood as close as Episode VII.
So today, I’d like to have a chat of what Star Wars needs to do to get back to what made Episode VII so memorable.
The problems it has now
Let’s start with the most obvious one. The plot is a mess. The Last Jedi wasn’t too bad, even if it had a strange pacing, but Solo was what did it for me. I’ve mentioned before how it felt like two separate movies with two separate plots interjoined and felt disjointed beyond words. The biggest thing is how exactly they need to structure the new canon and how they can incorporate all of these stories together.
Having a new canon needs to have something coherent that ties everything together. If you have dangling plot threads or retcons that conflict with the established canon, then is the new canon really all that’s hyped up to be?
I didn’t mention it in the film review, but I feel most of these “Star Wars Story” films could have been relegated as TV Shows like what Marvel has with Agents of Shield and all the Netflix series like Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Movies, by nature, are more condensed. They have to contain a full plot with a 1 hour 30 minute to 3-hour time frame. As a result, there’s little room for error. Think of movies as Short Stories and TV shows as novels, if that analogy makes sense.
And if the story is supposed to be standalone, it has to be complete. There can be room in sequels, but even writing a series, a story has to bring closure. They can’t set up for a sequel with a cliffhanger, even if a confirmed sequel exists. If it’s the middle story, that’s one thing, but standalone movies don’t have time for sequels like novels do.
Plus, there could be a decent audience for these as TV shows. They don’t work as well since for all intents and purposes, they don’t move the plot forward. Sure, they provide a good look at the Star Wars mythos, but for a casual fan, it’s pointless to pay 10-20 dollars to see filler.
That’s also another problem. There’s no reason for all these “Star Wars story movies” because all it is for many is filler. They talk about characters that have no reason for a standalone film. If anything, the Episodes are all the fans care about. They’re trying to make it like Marvel, but the two are following different paths despite being owned by Disney.
The problems it needs to solve
To start, it needs to figure out how movies are going to be structured going forward. Will there still be episodes? Will the movies have a new plot entirely, do away with all of the established cast and refresh the saga every trilogy? (Kinda like how Final Fantasy, despite being numbered, has a new cast in every game and can have sequels within sequels) This would make more sense and bring new characters into the spotlight.
This would also examine different parts of the lore and introduce new concepts. Maybe one day, the Sith falls completely and a whole new Dark power rises (that doesn’t have to copy Nazis.). Or perhaps they could have a non-Dark Side antagonist as the villain. Maybe the Light Side goes rogue and starts a crusade that doesn’t mesh well with old Jedis.
They could expand the world without relying on characters. And to those that say that older characters were what made them successes, I assure you if Han, Luke, Leia didn’t exist in Episode VII, this still would have made a ton of money. Perhaps after Rey’s story is done, they could introduce a black protagonist, or maybe an Asian or Arab one. The fans want diversity in Star Wars, and this seems like the best way to do it.
Also, if they still want these “Star Wars Story” movies, then make them TV shows. Put them on Netflix or Hulu or ABC (Which I believe Disney also owns, which is why a few Marvel shows have appeared). These do not need to be movies. They can even be mini-series they can air on YouTube or something.
Plus, if they continue using the same characters, they’ll become stale. Yes, Han and Boba Fett are iconic characters, but there’s more to the Star Wars world than just them. Rogue One was a good start, but again, I don’t want to see the same cast. I want to see new worlds and new characters I can root for. Solo had a good start but threw them out after the first half.
There are comments about too many male directors (actually, all of them are male), but I’m unsure what having a non-white-male director will solve when the suits are calling the shots. They want the story to be a specific way, and the director has to do their best to make it happen. Is having a diverse directing board really going to solve that? Do they have something we don’t?
The story and direction of the franchise are what’s at issue here, not the directors being white men. They need to put down what they have to do with the future, and then they can work on getting diversity in their works.
Reset the canon?
This might be a controversial idea, but I feel they should throw out the current canon and start over fresh. Yes, that includes the original trilogy. I feel they’re relying on older material too much and labeling the original trilogy Episodes IV-VI from the get-go was a big mistake and one that had bad ramifications since day one. The prequels are proof of this, trying to make everything line up when this should have existed from the start.
I think it’s gutsy, I doubt fans would like it, but they wouldn’t have to throw everything out. The Jedi, Sith, Lightsabers, The Force, Rebels, and Imperials could stay, but do we need to see Han, Leia, Luke and all of them again? Do we need another story of Darth Vader AKA Anakin? Do we need any movies to showcase them when all of the pop culture nods have been Storm Troopers, Jedi, Sith, Bounty Hunters, Alien Races, and all that?
Look at the Star Wars games. Battlefront (Old and New), Jedi Academy, Knights of the Old Republic, Shadows of the Empire, Rogue Squadron. Those games are popular that, aside from being Star Wars, they had original casts with their own storyline. It’s not unreasonable for them to add a new storyline on top of the existing canon.
But I think starting new and going from there would be a better route. Not only would you expand on the original lore, but you’d be introducing new parts that could give even the most casual Star Wars fan investment in the universe. What they have now is too dysfunctional to be considered canon at this point.
What it can learn from Marvel
Marvel seems to have organization down to a science. Introduce a few major characters, and then gather them all for one big showdown. Star Wars doesn’t have that luxury, but like I mentioned before, they can create new trilogies and work from there. Of course, you’d have so many Star Wars movies that it’d be hard to follow, and the extended canon should only, well, expand on the existing world.
That said, they can’t blatantly copy Marvel. Back to the Final Fantasy example, think of how long it takes for them to come out with new Games. We’ve had XIII in 2011, XIV in 2014 (an MMO, but still…) and XV in 2016. It’s taken them a while, but if Star Wars can spread them out little by little, they won’t drown Star Wars fans in film after film.
Even with the past two trilogies, they did the same thing. Episode IV was in 1977, V in 1980 and VI in 1983. Episode I was in 1999, then Episode II in 2002, and Episode III in 2005. So far, we’ve had one Star Wars Film per year, with IX coming in 2019, I think. I feel even bi-yearly is too much of a stretch. Granted, they can’t wait TOO long, but the series needs to grow long enough that people can still be invested in it, as well as bring new audiences into the fold.
I feel, even with the past few films, they should let the sequels finish their run. Give Episode IX a redemption, and then start fresh. New canon, new storyline, Start Episode X with a wholly new plot and adventure. No more Luke, no more Han, no more Kylo Ren, no more Rey (Yeah, she’s amazing, but my point of refreshing every trilogy means she’ll have to be shelved as well) and so on. New lore, new characters, new everything. Keep the Sith, the Jedi, maybe a few worlds like Tatooine, Jakku and all that, but we need freshness in this world. A new world that feels like Star Wars yet brings it back to what made the franchise so beloved.
If they can do that, end IX on a high note and then refresh the series every so often by prolonging each film release, they stand a better chance. Episode IX has one final chance to do Star Wars justice, because if not, then I doubt the series has a future.
I might have been harsh, but I do it out of love. I do it because I care about the worlds and the creators. I want to see this franchise succeed, but they need to realize that some of the criticism over the years has some validity to it. This is THE science fiction (well, arguably Science Fantasy) storyline that is an icon for generations to come.
Make it the new MCU. I have faith that they can turn it around, but I don’t want to be let down again. Like the old saying goes: fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Three times, and that’s when we break out the tweets and YouTube rants.
Don’t want it? Then take your time with the films.
That’s all for today. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.
If you have any suggestions for future topics and reviews, hit me up on my social media channels and let me know your thoughts. I always read the feedback, even if I don’t respond. Your feedback is what keeps me going, so thank you for supporting me.