Thursday, June 13, 2013

Opinion: Responding To The Hysteria Surrounding Star Wars Episode VII

By: Benjamin Hart

"Disney Buys Lucasfilm For 4.5 Billion Dollars..... Star Wars Episode VII Coming In 2015!"

Almost every Star Wars fan can remember where they were when they heard this news. And as always, every fan made their opinion know loud & clear. Reactions to this bombshell was all over the board, from joyous excitement, to confusion, to extreme negativity. Still, months later, anxieties run high as we await the next chapter in the Star Wars Saga.  In this article, I will respond to some logical, and some not so logical comments about Episode VII that I've seen floating around the Interwebs...

"More Films Will Ruin The Closure Of Return Of The Jedi!"
Return of the Jedi wraps up the Saga pretty neatly, essentially all the bad guys meet their end and the good guys live happily ever after. I have always been a critic of the Expanded Universe after Jedi because I felt that it ruined the film, telling of Boba Fett's escape from the Sarlaac and a "Reborn" Emperor Palpatine. But on the contrary, stories like Timothy Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy of Novels are fantastic and are worthy sequels to the Saga.

Let's look at it this way, A New Hope ended with satisfying closure, but the story continued. No matter how many films were in George Lucas' head at the time, Episode IV was presented as a standalone film in 1977. Yes the Empire was still out there somewhere and destroying the Death Star did not signify the fall of the Empire, but the same can be said for Return Of The Jedi. Basically the only difference between episodes IV & VI is the death of Palpatine and Anakin/Vader. Both films do not address what happened to the rest of the Empire, leaving the Empire Strikes Back, and in Jedi's case, the aforementioned EU to fill in the blanks. If the story can be continued in the Expanded Universe, why not a film as well?

Also, many People have pointed out that the Six Film Saga is supposed to be Anakin Skywalker's story, and he died in Episode VI. That's a good point. But this obviously wasn't the original idea, Luke was obviously the main character of the Original Trilogy, and Vader was the villain. On top of that, Mark Hamill recounted that George Lucas was talking about nine, or even twelve films during the production of A New Hope, and in 1980 George said  the films were "Like a saga, the story of a group of people, a family"  It wasn't until the Prequels came about that he started insisting that the film's story was focused on Anakin, on top of claiming that that only six films were ever going to be made. It made perfect sense but in reality it was just an afterthought. George's original idea, of the story being focused on the Family and not one person, is much more logical. To paraphrase Yoda, we must unlearn what we have learned and except that the the Skywalker story did not end at the Battle of Endor.

"Disney Is Going To Make It A Kid's Movie!"
Wait, I thought Star Wars was a kid's movie? By that, I mean, Star Wars has always been a family friendly franchise. It has always resonated with children the most. Heck, most of us were kids when we fell in love with the 'Wars! We already have Revenge Of The Sith, which is incredibly violent and is considered unsafe for young kids. I say it's time Star Wars films returned to their roots of creating epic adventures that can be enjoyed by anyone from 2 to 92!

Now some of you may just be worried about Disney dumbing down Star Wars, so much so that Adults won't be able to enjoy it. Now I can sympathize, knowing that the same company that made Snow White and Wizards of Waverly place is making the next Star Wars movie can be quite disturbing. But here's the thing; Disney isn't making Episode VII, Lucasfilm is. The same company that made Episodes I - VI will be creating Episode VII & beyond. Disney has given it's other property Marvel free rein to create amazing, mature films over the past several years. Their treatment of Lucasfilm should be no different. 

"J.J Abrams Is Going To Ruin it With Lens Flare!"
For a while now J.J Abrams has been infamous for his use of lens flare in several of his films, most notably Star Trek. Even Abrams himself has been quoted as saying that the amount of Lens flare in Trek was "Ridiculous". Now many fans believe that Abrams' fascination with Lens flare will somehow affect Episode VII. It's not going to happen. J.J is a massive fan of Star Wars himself, he understands the style of these films and he knows how important it is to make Episode VII feel like the Star Wars we already know and love. Star Trek was a reboot and he had a lot of freedom to make that film his own. Episode VII is simply a continuation of the Saga. Under the watchful eyes of Kathleen Kennedy and George Lucas himself, J.J will stay true to the vision laid out in the original six films.

"If They Don't Do _____ It's Going To Suck!"
Okay, now you're just being silly. It's a shame so many fans have adopted this "my way or the highway" attitude. Are you really going to write off a Movie you haven't even seen yet just because it won't feature your favorite character, or that they won't be adapting it from your favorite Comic or Novel? If you choose to degrade and bash a film that hasn't even been made yet, please, stay home in 2015. Don't watch Episode VII or any of its sequels because I don't want to hear you in 20 years talking about how Disney "raped" your childhood.

"This Is Just A Cash Grab, George Lucas Is Greedy!"
Please... Do some research. Contrary to popular belief, George is one of the most generous people in the World, he has donated tons of Money to charity over the years.  In fact, a majority of the 4.5 Billion dollars he got from Disney will go straight to Philanthropy education. In 2005 he gave $1 Million to benefit the construction of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in Washington D.C. And he donated hundreds of millions of Dollars to the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, where he himself studied. He's also pledged half his fortune to the Giving Pledge. So no, he isn't selling his company to Disney out of greed. When wondering what his motivations are, I suggest taking it from the man himself:

“It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. I’ve always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime. I’m confident that with Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, and having a new home within the Disney organization, Star Wars will certainly live on and flourish for many generations to come. Disney’s reach and experience give Lucasfilm the opportunity to blaze new trails in film, television, interactive media, theme parks, live entertainment and consumer products.”

"It Just Won't Be The Same Without The 20th Century Fox Logo."
I'll miss it too, but once "A long time ago in a Galaxy far, far away..." appears on screen, it won't matter.

"The Expanded Universe is going to be destroyed!"
Mark my words, the #1 complaint about the Sequels will not be about acting, plot or writing, it will be about it "destroying" the Expanded Universe. With the news that Episode VII and beyond will be an original story makes it in inevitable that a large portion, if not all post-Return Of The Jedi EU will be deemed non-canon. Now if you've paid attention to Star Wars: The Clones Wars at all you will know that this is going to be a big deal. The Clone Wars has contradicted the EU numerous times throughout it's five seasons, leading many EU fans to completely disown the series. Now that is a story all it's own, but it definitely gives us an example of how fans will react to more EU contradiction. You think people were mad when the Mandalorians were turned into Pacifists? Just wait until more than half the Expanded Universe is wiped from the Star Wars timeline.

Even though this news has been confirmed, many still insist there's a way to save the EU. A lot of them say that stories like the Thrawn Trilogy and the Yuuzhan Vong invasion should be adapted into film. Now I would love to see that personally, but think about it, rarely are movies based on books exactly like the source material. If any EU Novel or comic were adapted into a movie, the story would undoubtedly be tweaked or changed completely. Fans of those stories would be not be pleased. The only option that would keep everyone happy is to place the Sequel Trilogy 50 years after Return of the Jedi. Why? Because the EU writers haven't written that far into the future yet, with the exception of the Legacy comic series. But what about fans not familiar with the Expanded Universe? Much has happened in those 50 years; Both Anakin & Jacen Solo are dead(Jacen having turned to the Dark Side), Mara Jade is dead, Chewbacca is dead, several wars happened including the second Galactic Civil war and the Yuuzhan Vong war... Do you really think all that can be summed up in Episode VII's opening crawl?

I think the best we can hope for is references to the Expanded Universe. George Lucas himself has drawn from the EU. Timothy Zahn  came up with the name "Coruscant" and George liked it enough to use in the Prequels. Lucas also chose Aayla Secura to be a part of the films, she was created for the Star Wars: Republic comic series. And, if you've followed the production of Star Wars: The Clone Wars at all, you'll know that many of the "New" characters, ships & creatures are actually inspired, or even direct copies of concept designs that went unused in the Original & Prequel trilogies. So rest assured, Lucasfilm doesn't throw anything away.

The best choice for Episode VII's story is a new & fresh story, not one based in or around the Expanded Universe. Perfect continuity has been a thing of the past for a long time now. In my opinion, it went out the window when the Tantive IV's appearance in Revenge Of The Sith was ridiculously retconned to be the Sundered Heart. It's a fictional Universe, all of its stories cannot co-exist and work together without problems. Star Wars fans must accept this fact and let go of their obsession with canon. 

"Mark, Carrie & Harrison Will Be Too Old!"
Believe me, I don't want Episode VII to be "Geriatric Wars" either. It's been over 30 years since the release of Return Of The Jedi, and the "big four"(Can't forget Billy Dee)are unfortunately past their prime. But the story in the Sequel Trilogy cannot, and will not, be dependent on Luke, Leia, Han & Lando. I think the most we can expect from these characters are extended cameos. Han & Leia would presumably be married and they're children could carry the story into the future while Luke trains them to be Jedi. And Lando? Well, he can just keep being Lando.

In the Prequels a large array of characters are introduced, but by the time we get to A New Hope only six of the main cast remain alive; Bail Organa, Obi-Wan, Yoda, Palpatine, Anakin/Vader & Chewbacca. They all subsequently die in the Original trilogy trilogy(Chewie being an exception), leaving only the "New" characters left at the end of Return Of The Jedi. I believe we could see something similar in the Sequels. Han, Luke, Leia & the gang, as much as I hate to say it, could all meet their fates over the course of the next trilogy.  Leaving room for new characters, and actors to play them, to take their places.

"Episode VII Is Going To Be The Best Thing EVER!"
Not that I don't like your enthusiasm, but we must be careful not to let our expectations get the best of us. What I mean is, part of the reason the Prequel films were so poorly received is because many fans had built their expectations so high they couldn't possibly be met. Ever since '77 everyone wondered "What were the Clone Wars like?... What was Anakin like?.." Ect. When the time came in '99 to see all those dreams come to life on the big screen, The Phantom Menace wasn't what they were expecting to see. But since then younger fans, such as myself, have grown up with these films and love them. Why? Because we had no expectations, we watched them with open minds and didn't carry any "baggage" into the experience.

Now with the Sequel Trilogy things are different. Instead of going into a story that you know the ending of and can expect certain things, the Sequels are completely uncharted territory. We have no idea where this could go, and that uncertainty could be a factor in how much we enjoy these Films. The Empire Strikes Back is considered by many to be the best Star Wars movie, and one of the biggest plot twists in cinema history happens in that film. What kind of mind blowing bombshells do they have in store for us in episodes VII, VIII & IX? Could they be as Galaxy shattering as Darth Vader's revelation in Episode V?

"Mickey, Minnie & Goofy Are Going To Be In Episode VII!!"



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