Friday, 7 December 2012

What Makes Star Wars Star Wars?

This is my checklist for the 2015 Star Wars sequel, the as yet unnamed Episode VII

What do we know and love about Episodes IV-VI? The story is simple, things are black and white. Ok, light and dark.

Bad Guys are cruel and come in two styles:

English Nazis attended by American junior Nazis and faceless drones.
No one smiles unless their evil plan is about to succeed.
Their evil plans never succeed.

Scum & Villainy:
Revolting aliens, cool humans, scary monsters. Scruffy gangsters all. They laugh when others suffer.

“He’s the brains, sweetheart!”
Good Guys aren’t always so good, but they do the right thing:
Classic all-American heroes, short on schemes and long on courage.
Relaxed mavericks or zealous newbies, they all have some growing up to do. Luckily there are mentor types on hand to guide them, and then die.
Supported by trustworthy WW2 Allied forces, they fight against terrible odds and win.

Well-used, covered in unfathomable ‘greeblies’, with no fixtures, fittings or fastenings in sight
Impossible to tell what button does what or even what a display screen is displaying. On the rare occasion a screen is visible, the display is very basic.
There are no Health & Safety considerations whatsoever!
There is a very cool spaceship.

Things that need to change:
There is only one person of ethnicity in the galaxy.
When women do appear they need rescuing.

What I definitely do not want to see:
• Roddy McDowell as a cloned Emperor Palpatine building a third Death Star which gets destroyed by two guys, their sidekick mutual girlfriend/sister and a big, non-speaking alien.
• A bunch of Force Ghosts hanging out, like the dead princes in Stardust.
• A blue alien in charge of what’s left of the Empire.
• Tattooine as the bright centre of the galaxy. Again.
• Anyone saying “Yippee!”

What I want to see:
• Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford.
• Jedi Master Luke Skywalker mentoring a Padawan. A female one would be good.
• The Millennium Falcon, patched up and still in service, used by the new heroes after Han Solo builds up their expectations then reveals the ‘hunk of junk’ he’s giving them to use.
• Chewbacca with grey fur.
• Leia as a Jedi.
• A film that is recognisably Star Wars and rooted in the original trilogy, true to their spirit and style (well, the first two anyway), but not just a re-hash of Episode IV.

Am I asking too much? No! Of course not! The producers and the director will be paid millions and, if the original cast are involved, I’ll bet Episode VII breaks all box office records. They have at least two years to get it right. It’s worth thinking it through properly and getting the fans on board. Yes, they will still make money. Do it right and they could make history too.

(Edit 21.12.2012)

Let’s all first agree to forget the epic continuity error that was Ben Kenobi’s Tattooine desert peasant wear becoming the basis of the Jedi Order uniform in the prequels.

Actually, let’s just spend a little time with it first.
Ben Kenobi and Yoda go into hiding for 20 years…AND THEY STAY IN UNIFORM THE WHOLE TIME!
In the original trilogy the robes are seen on several non-Jedi. Uncle Owen dresses this way, as do several of the background characters in Mos Eisley. Even in the prequels many Tattooine residents are seen dressed in a similar fashion. Because light, cheap fabrics in voluminous layers is what poor people wear in deserts.
This stupid costume decision wasn’t always the plan. George Lucas had other (better) ideas, but dropped them in favour of keeping the Jedi “instantly recognisable”. Follow this link for a chance to say “Oh for f…. Why didn’t he stick with the original plan???”
If Jedi costumes in Episode VII follow the same desert robe theme, as I suspect they will, it will at least be justified because Luke only encounters Ben and Yoda while they’re dressed in desert clothes (floor-length clothing in a swamp, Master Yoda? Is that such a good idea?).

A monk in simple robes is a well known real world thing and it could add to an atmosphere of humility the Jedi badly need to hold onto in the sequels. It’ll probably be the ONLY token of humility, though, because Jedi are thugs.
In the prequels the Jedi rough people up, intimidate and manipulate them. They get their own way by strong-arm tactics supporting a corrupt and ineffective Republic while easily switching between roles as law enforcement and military commanders. If there is a New Republic, it will be interesting to see whether the Jedi will become the bullies they were before. If not, if they maintain a humble disposition as shown by Ben Kenobi in Episode IV and by Luke in Episode VI, even in the face of death, perhaps it will justify all that nonsense and slaughter after a prophecy said The Chosen One would ‘return balance to The Force’. Maybe the Jedi were on the wrong path and needed to be purged; the Sith were, according to George, like a cancer sapping life from The Force and needed to be removed. Seems a bit of a harsh way to do it though. So now what?
The problem is how to include the mandatory lightsabre battles without reviving the Sith and making an even bigger nonsense of the prequels. I predict at least one previously unknown former Jedi (like Count Dooku) who escaped the slaughter due to his (it will almost certainly be a man) inactive status. There’ll be a complex reason why he left the Jedi Order and why he now feels he can reappear with a red lightsabre and start a ruckus, but he may just appear in a black costume with a bad temper and we’ll get no further explanation. I think I prefer the second option.
So, on to the other costumes.

Arguably the most iconic things in the films are the legions faceless armoured minions. Stormtroopers quite possibly inspired a generation or two of film-makers and costume-makers to learn their trades. I know they were the main reason I became a costume prop-maker, along with several of my friends who still work in that field. Stormtroopers and TIE fighter pilots are my absolute favourite things about the original trilogy. I’ve wanted a Stormtrooper costume since I was eight. The 501st are a testament to the sustained popularity of the costumes.

Will there be Stormtroopers in Episode VII? I hope so, but I may be hoping for too much. Do we want a new type of minion or a familiar one? Will using the old ones make it look like they’re not trying? And that 40 years have gone by and the enemy are still in the same suits? This could be a deal maker or breaker for me, but I honestly don’t know what they should do.
I do want to see weird, complicated hairstyles on the women though!

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