First I wrote and produced the four rules video. Then I did the follow-up essay about why they were important. Honestly, I don’t want to turn into another self-proclaimed Star Wars expert. But I also couldn’t spend five months working on the video without thinking about what I want in Episode VII. Plus, it’s my blog, a safe place to rant and rave. I swear this will be the last time I post about Star Wars… in the meantime here are two more of my cents.
Rule 1 – The Setting is the Frontier
Whatever the Youtube comments may say, I did not mean for my four rules to be draconian edicts. It was not my intent that the rules were unbreakable (except maybe Rule 3). Episode VII doesn’t need to take place entirely on the frontier. I just think Star Wars was more successful as a backwater adventure than an urban political thriller. So yes, I hope most of the movie will take place on the fringes of society. Having said that, I think there’s good reason to start Episode VII on Corusant.
Here’s my pitch: A young protagonist, possibly a Skywalker, has lived on Corusant all her life. She knows nothing but its claustrophobic urban corridors. But fate lures her off the planet, and strands her in the frontier. She’s the city girl to Luke’s country bumpkin. Yet their backstories are similar, two young souls out to see a new world.
Why start with a city slicker, fish-out-of-water story? First, because it allows the audience to see the galaxy afresh, through the eyes of someone unaccustomed to space travel. Presumably, a lot has changed in 40 years. Even locations familiar to Star Wars fans can feel exotic. Second, because I think it will help modern audiences explore the frontier. Since the original trilogy was released, global population has increased from 5 billion to 7 billion people. Most of that growth has happened in urban areas. A modern audience is better equipped to relate to an urban protagonist over a rural Tatooine farm boy. Lastly, the Star Wars we most recently visited in Episode III was very urban. By starting in the city, there will be a natural continuity with the prequels. And then we can quickly distance ourselves from those movies, leaving the cities behind.
Rule 2 – The Future is Old
I’m not advocating the exact same aesthetic as in the original trilogy. However, I think this rule offers some really exciting opportunity. It’s been 40 years since the Empire was overthrown. They had control over much of the galaxy. What happened to all their technology, ships, settlements?
I want to see the remains of the empire decaying on planets across the galaxy. I want to see pieces of a crashed star destroyer rebuilt into a fortress by some primitive alien race. I want to see dirty, patched up storm trooper armor worn by a bounty hunter. I want to see a tie fighter entangled in vines and moss. Episode VII is a great opportunity to build on the fantastic Star Wars look, while transforming it into something uniquely it’s own.
Rule 3 – The Force is Mysterious
K, plug your ears. I’m about to be heretical. Kill the force.
Crazy, right? How could we have Star Wars without the Force? Bear with me. Here's what I'm thinking: Something has happened in the galaxy. Maybe it was caused by the extinction of the jedi. Maybe the Force just atrophied from lack of use. But the force is dying out. Perhaps it’s already gone, and now only lives in myth and legend. Then, halfway through the movie, allow it to make a slow comeback. Allow someone to find it, and learn it again. Allow the audience to welcome it back like an old friend.
The force has to be made special again. In the prequels it was almost an afterthought, a lazy tool for exposition and superhuman abilities. Because of episodes I – III, audiences expect furious lightsaber battles and force pushes. But the force is like a fine spice. Too much ruins the meal. So I say take it away for a while. Give us some cool characters and story to digest. Let our palate come back. When we finally get a whiff of the force, we’ll be drooling for more.
Rule 4 – Star Wars isn’t Cute
Again, more controversy. I want the Jedi to go back to being pacifists. Remember when Yoda didn’t wield a lightsaber? Remember when Obi Wan let Darth Vader MURDER him? How radical was that? Can you imagine a movie nowadays where a good guy lets himself be killed? The Jedi in the original trilogy were boring, play-by-the-rules pacifists. And that was what made the story so interesting! Luke’s decision wasn’t “Do I want awesome good guy powers, or awesome bad guy powers?" It was: “Do I want to sit around meditating as a good guy, or kick ass as a bad guy”. That’s a tough decision. With shows like Breaking Bad, I think today’s audience would probably choose the later. And there’s nothing wrong with that: Let’s use it!
Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars movie because Luke has to make a difficult choice: Either be a good guy, or save your friends. He, of course, chooses his friends over the path of righteous, and at the movie's end the future looked pretty grim. The problem was that he never really had to face the consequence of his decision. In Return of the Jedi, he saved his father and defeated the Emperor. He had his cake, and then he ate it.
In the new trilogy, I want to see the consequences of those tough choices! Make the Skywalker of this series decide between increasingly tough options. Let him choose his friends, his lover, his adventure and excitement: All the stuff that, yeah, duh, a 20 year old is gonna crave. By the end of the movies, this Skywalker becomes an amoral master of the force who walks his own path, apart from the Jedi or the Sith. In fact, this Skywalker ends both the Jedi order and the Sith. The moral code of the Knights of the Old Republic is dead, he declares. We have a truly modern Star Wars, with Walter White as our Jedi protagonist. Holy cow, that's good! If only Disney would allow it…
Or, just do something totally unexpected. Blow our minds, pull the rug out, and keep the Star Wars franchise alive for another thirty years. I have faith in Abrams and Kasdan. Even if they don't take my awesome ideas, those two are masters of their craft. I can't wait to fork over my $14 to see what they come up with.