May 29, 2018
7 ideas for the next A Star Wars Story
It was a golden moment when Lucasfilm and Disney announced their intention to make a series of standalone Star Wars movies in addition to the sequel trilogy. For the first time in history, the Star Wars franchise wasn’t penned in by its own history. They could make any kind of movie they wanted. Any character, any period, any genre they liked. So what did they do with this much creative freedom? They made Rogue One, a heist movie set in between Episodes III and IV, and Solo, a heist movie… set in between Episodes III and IV. Well then.
For now, I’m reserving judgment on Solo; it could be really good. But I think they need to branch out a little bit if they’re going to justify all these standalone entries. They’ve got a massive fictional universe to play around in, and pretty much anything they make is going to be a hit, so there’s no excuse not to swing for the fences, and give at least some consideration to the seven entries below.
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Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. For many fans, the main takeaway from the Solo trailer was how much better of an idea it would have been to make a Lando Calrissian movie instead. While Alden Ehrenreich forces himself into the Han Solo character like a piece of clunky old machinery, Donald Glover slides into his role with cool ease and sexually ambiguous panache. Moreover, in plot terms, a Lando movie would’ve been more satisfying than an origin story of a character who I’m pretty sure we already know everything about. It would also be a big step in bringing more minority representation into the famously undiverse Star Wars franchise. (And yes, I know that’s what Finn was intended to accomplish. Counterpoint: Finn suuucks.)
But just because Lucasfilm dropped the ball on this particular decision doesn’t mean we can’t still have a Lando movie. This is the twenty-teens, where no movie franchise ever ends and you’re allowed as many sequels, reboots, and reimaginings as you need to get it right. So let’s do a Lando movie, and let’s get bonkers with it. Make it as colorful, stylish, and flamboyant as the man himself.
2. Sifo-Dyas: A Star Wars Story
One thing that the prequels don’t get enough credit for is faithfully upholding the Star Wars tradition of drawing influence from mid-century pulp and genre film. Attack of the Clones in particular had some real cool noir shit going on that no one ever talks about. The first two acts were a circuitous, hard-boiled mystery, filled with detective work, intrigue, hired guns, and ambiguous loyalties, which started in a grimy big-city diner and ended up on a planet where it was literally dark and rainy all the time.
The noir-est touch of all was the character of Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas, who never appears, and is probably dead, but whose name keeps cropping up as a plot lynchpin, much like Sean Regan in The Big Sleep or Floyd Thursby in The Maltese Falcon. Supposedly, Sifo-Dyas was singlehandedly responsible for organizing the clone army which eventually destroyed the Republic and killed all the Jedi. You never find out what his deal really was. Was he a naive, idealistic Jedi lied to by Count Dooku? A disaffected Jedi, reacting against the Jedi’s hidebound conservatism? A straight-up Sith? Count Dooku himself under an alias? Is he really dead? Did he ever exist?
There’s plenty of room here for a super-cool story which should be noir’ed up as much as possible. Imagine a labyrinthine plot with lots of obscure players. Double-crossings. Spies. Double agents. A central conspiracy that careens out of control. And of course, plenty of cinematographic and directorial touches hearkening back to Golden Age crime films. It could work.
3. Snoke: A Star Wars Story
As many people have noted, Snoke, the Big Bad of the sequel trilogy, really came out of nowhere. We don’t know much about him. How did he come to power? How did he learn the ways of the Force? What’s his personality like, aside from generically evil? How did he find/corrupt Kylo Ren? How did his face get so fucked up? It doesn’t look like we’ll learn much more about him, now that he’s (spoilers!) dead.
I’m not saying we need an exhaustive backstory for Snoke. He got about as much backstory as the Emperor did in the original trilogy, and no one ever complained they didn’t know enough about that guy. Also, it should be noted that Rian Johnson, writer and director of The Last Jedi, cut his teeth on Breaking Bad, and one of that show’s biggest narrative strengths was its insistence on keeping some of its characters’ backstories a total mystery.
But this is less about Snoke himself than about the much less forgivable narrative gaps in between the original and sequel trilogy. In its yen to recreate all the story beats of the original trilogy, Abrams did what amounts to a full narrative reset without any good reason given for it. How did the First Order, a ragtag junta operating at the fringe of Republic space, get the resources to build a bigger military and a bigger super-weapon than the Empire at its height? Why was the New Republic so complacent about this threat? How did the whole galaxy forget that Jedi used to exist? In short, why is everything just like it was before?
Since there’s no putting that poorly-written genie back in its unambitious bottle, a story about Snoke’s rise to power is the most graceful way I can think of to weave in those particular narrative threads.
4. Droids: A Star Wars Story
Interwoven with the tale of Darth Vader’s rise to power and eventual downfall are two unassuming characters: R2-D2 and C-3PO. These two humble droids have witnessed more pivotal moments of galactic history than any other beings who ever existed. They’re so intertwined with the Star Wars series that they appeared in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi even though they had absolutely nothing to do. And there’s a 19-year gap during which the two just tooled around the galaxy, programming binary load lifters and living through a battle or two.
Am I the only one who thinks it would be interesting to see some of the things they were up to in those forgotten years? The duo has always been a reliable source of comic relief, and the increasingly grimdark direction the series has taken would benefit from a breezy entry full of screwball comedy and farcical misadventures. The plot needn’t be entirely frivolous, however; there’s got to be some reason Bail Organa wiped Threepio’s memory but not Artoo’s, and it has to tie in with the fact that they somehow ended up serving the Organa family’s purposes through all their wanderings.
A droid movie could also shed some light on the place of droids in the Star Wars universe. Legally, they seem to be closer to appliances than slaves, though they’re shown to be sentient, have their own personalities, develop strong emotional bonds with organic lifeforms, and even occasionally get commended for valor. These attributes aren’t lost on the “good” characters, who treat the droids kindly, while the evil characters callously throw droids away or even torture them with impunity. The Star Wars series has never encouraged us to think too deeply about this situation before, but a droid-centric movie could be a great way for the series to sneak in overtly political themes about social stratification. Crazier things have happened.
5. Bounty Hunters: A Star Wars Story
When I was a little geekling, among the wealth of Star Wars ancillary literature available in its ‘90s heyday was a series of “Tales” books that left an impression on me. These were anthologies in which a bunch of veteran Star Wars authors wrote short stories around a certain setting or theme: Tales of the New Republic, Tales from Jabba’s Palace, Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina, that kind of thing. Objectively, the best of the whole bunch was Tales of the Bounty Hunters, which contained one story about each of the bounty hunters seen briefly on the bridge of the Executor in The Empire Strikes Back.
It shouldn’t have surprised anyone that Boba Fett attained popularity far out of proportion to his tiny role in the Star Wars trilogy. Bounty hunters are cool. They conjure up impressions of lawlessness, violence, and danger, and they fit the Star Wars aesthetic very well indeed.
A Boba Fett movie would be too obvious, though (and also, to hell with that chump; he got killed by a blind man). Why focus on just one bounty hunter, when you could follow the example of Tales from the Bounty Hunters and make an anthology out of several of them? Pick out a few up-and-coming filmmakers, and have them each write and direct a short movie about one particular bounty hunter. Get a bunch of characters, a bunch of styles, and a bunch of different looks at the bounty hunting profession. It’s not as wild an idea as it sounds; think of how many action figures they could sell.
6. Rise of the Sith: A Star Wars Story
I’ve never been much of a comics reader, but I’ve always made an exception for Star Wars licensed comics. As a young’un, I snapped up all the Star Wars comics I could get my hands on. There was so much good stuff out there: Dark Empire, Droids, Republic, Clone Wars Adventures, Crimson Empire; But my favorite ones of all were the Tales of the Jedi series, which had two main installments that took place 4,000 and 5,000 years before the events of the Star Wars trilogy (respectively), and chronicled the first couple of full-scale conflicts between the Sith and the Jedi.
What I loved about this series was its sense of historicity. Everything looks convincingly antiquated, with characters in classical- and medieval- inspired outfits, urban areas dominated by stone towers and pyramids, and the weapons and technology sporting a decidedly steampunk look.
Many fans know this period in the Star Wars universe’s history only from the Knights of the Old Republic video games, which are excellent games to be sure, but in terms of art direction and worldbuilding are functionally identical to “present” Star Wars. They even sprinkle in surnames like Fett and Calrissian as fanservice, destroying the illusion of authenticity in the process.
It’d be really cool to see a big-screen take on the Republic of antiquity; the ancient Jedi and Sith duking it out in olden tymes, bedecked with cool armor and big greatsword-style lightsabers. And they wouldn’t have to follow the Tales of the Jedi storyline, either; none of that stuff’s canon anymore. All I’d want is a world that looks and feels like Tales of the Jedi did, and really digs into the series’ fantasy roots.
7. Lobot: A Star Wars Story
This guy whips ass and I would see this movie eight hundred times.