Disclaimer: I’ve never read an EU Star Wars novel. So these are the opinions of a movie Canon only fan. Nor have I read very many of the Spoilers/leaks about the new Trilogy. As you read on, you’ll see why.
The internet is abuzz with anticipation for the upcoming JJ Abrams Stars Wars films. The YouTube Channel Screen Junkies has several videos discussing the upcoming films. Star Wars fans seem thrilled that JJ Abrams is taking the helm to captain the franchise into the 21st century. In fact, I don’t know a SF/Fantasy geek who isn’t, at the very least, intrigued about the upcoming film franchise. Lucas is gone. Abrams is on board. Members of the original cast are returning. What more could Star Wars fans hope for, right?
Well, I’m not with my fellow Geeks and Star Wars fans on this one. I have almost zero interest in this upcoming Sequel Trilogy. And what little interest I do have it is to see if JJ Abrams can do any better than Lucas did with the Prequel Trilogy.
In the past I’ve made no secret about the fact I’m not the biggest fan of JJ Abrams’ method of story telling. I didn’t care for Lost. I didn’t care much for Cloverfield (though the monster was cool) and while I enjoyed the first Star Trek reboot, I thought the second one was pretty terrible.
Yes, I’m one of those Star Trek fans, who actually likes Star Trek for being Star Trek, and not a Star Wars “rip-off.” Of course, since Star Trek pre-dates the existence of Star Wars, and always did something very different from pure Space Opera, making it “more like Star Wars” wasn’t my idea of a good Star Trek film. But, I digress . . . .
To be honest, my indifference to the upcoming Star Wars Sequels has nothing to do with the director. I judge a movie or TV show upon whether or not I enjoy it — and if part of a franchise — whether or not it does what that particular franchise is supposed to do. I actually Star Wars is where JJ Abrams’ skill set will shine. He’s said time and again he is a Star Wars fan (and not a Star Trek fan). And that’s great he’s on board. He just might pull it off. But, I do not have any sense of anticipation for these films — and here is why.
The Original Trilogy, regardless of the multiple and mutually exclusives claims about what Lucas and Co. intended, is a self contained story. It has a beginning, middle, and end. A satisfying end where the heroes essentially avoid the Apocalypse, or at least what the Apocalypse would look like in the Star Wars Universe. They defeat the bad guys, overthrow the Emperor (kind of the Star Wars version of the Dark Lord Sauron) and renew an age of peace where a revived ancient religion (I’m ignoring the Prequels now) has helped save the Galaxy.
And we follow-up this epic defeat of good over evil with . . . ?
Lucas already tried the internal “character stories” in the Prequels. Abrams isn’t going to try that, again. So what’s next? The revived Jedi will do some mop-up work across the Galaxy defeating a few nuts still loyal to the Empire?
Of course not!
The only way to make the Sequels interesting is to come up with an even bigger, badder set of villains to fight. Someone WORSE than Darth Vader. Worse than the Emperor! And that’s the problem. And frankly, it’s the problem so many Epic Fantasy novels have made over the years. Defeat one Dark Lord. And oh, look . . . there’s another, even WORSE Dark Lord waiting in the wings. You’ve averted the Apocalypse — but watch out! We have ANOTHER Apocalypse waiting in the wings. And now, it’s not just Galaxy at stake, but the entire Cosmos!
I personally don’t find this sort of story telling very interesting. It cheapens the original story (whatever it was) and ends up making the original villains (whoever they were) look weaker than they first appeared.
IMO, the best films and books — in which there is an epic consequence at stake — come to end when the epic villain is defeated in an epic manner. Star Wars already did that. So for me, there’s no place to go.
The Lord of the Rings ends after Sauron is defeated. Why? Because there isn’t any place (interesting) to go once you’ve averted the end of the freaking world! Tolkien never contemplated writing a sequel to LOTR. And while it’s not precisely a one to one analogy (granted, Sauron was for all intents and purposes a god, the Emperor is not) it does feel very similar.
But forget Lord of the Rings. Let’s take Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series (which I believe is often unfairly maligned, but just as often fairly critiqued). In the first book of the series we are introduced to a villain that, as Patrick Rothfuss once pointed out, is akin to the God Emperor of Dune. He’s the most powerful wizard in the world. He communes with Goodkind’s version of the Christian Devil, and if he opens up the Boxes of Orden, he will rule the world — forever! In book one, the good guys kick his ass! It’s actually a pretty decent book. And the villain is a pretty decent villain (by early 90’s Fantasy standards).
So, where to go after that? Well, in the next book we’re introduced to an actual god/villain (The Keeper) along with being told that the “world” we thought existed is much, much bigger and that there is a super-Emperor who is WORSE than the first and second villains put together. Goodkind was forced to continually ratchet up the villain’s “badness” until there wasn’t any place left to go. But this is not, in any way, Goodkind’s fault. That was the nature of 80’s and 90’s Epic Fantasy. And quite frankly, a lot of Hollywood movies too.
This constant ratcheting up is the same reason I do not want to see a sequel to certain movies, like (for example) Independence Day. Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum defeat an entire alien civilization. The end! Once you’ve escaped the end of the world, what is the point of continuing on? I just don’t care to see it. Next time it’ll be TWO alien motherships?
That’s not to say sequels to a movie or book, where the end of the world is averted, can’t be interesting. They certainly can.
The best way, IMO, to make it work is to push the sequel off into the far future — like Terry Brooks has done throughout his Shannara Series. We got an original Trilogy (only loosely connected) and then it pushes off to hundreds of years later. By then, it’s believable that some other menace could have come to fruition.
Brandon Sanderson is doing something similar with his Mistborn Series. Tell a single story, then move into the future by hundreds of years. That way people get the same world, mythology, magic system but the story itself isn’t locked into a single group of characters.
If that is what Star Wars was doing, I’d be excited. Instead, we’re going to get Han Solo’s kids! I for one do not care about Han Solo’s children. Frankly, I didn’t want to see Harry Potter’s kids 20 years after Hogwarts. I want to imagine what happens to these characters. I don’t want to see it. As a reader/viewer, I want to see them beat the bad guys, fall in love (when appropriate) and all that. I don’t want to see Harry pushing his kids in a stroller though. Just like I don’t want to see Frodo in Valinor. We know he WENT there, but I don’t want to SEE it. I want THAT to be left to my imagination.
Similarly, I don’t want to see Aragorn signing kingly decrees 75 years after the defeat of Sauron, and I don’t want to see him go on “one last quest” to take on one last band of Orcs in his declining years. The story ended where it ended. I want the rest of that to be left up to my imagination. We know Sam gets married and has children. i LOVE that aspect to the end of LOTR. But I do NOT want to see a movie about Sam raising his kids, even if his kids become awesome Hobbit warriors who fight . . . what exactly? They’ve defeated a GOD (yes I know, Sauron is not “technically” a god as there is only one “god” in Tolkien’s mythology, but bear with me here). Anything after that isn’t going to give me the same kind of experience. It might give me a DIFFERENT kind of experience, equally compelling. And that would be great. Just as a character driven story about Han’s kids would be compelling. But I don’t think that’s what Disney and Abrams are going to shoot for. I think they’re going to go with the “bigger, better villain than the first” thing. And that, I find a little ho-hum.
Of course, I WILL go to see Star Wars Episode VII when it comes out. But I cannot say that I’m excited about these films or am hopeful they will do something awesome. I think there will be cool space battles, light saber duels, and some nice homages to the Original Trilogy. But I personally see this akin to the Epilogue of the Harry Potter series — except with a new “evil Lord” to fight. Which really just kind of sucks.
Of course, only time will tell. But for now, I can honestly say I will have no problem waiting for this movie to be released. I’m not interested in it, in the least.