The original Star Wars trilogy is a classic for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it exploited the traditional storytelling method (setup, conflict, resolution) in quite possibly the most effective way ever. A New Hope establishes the Rebellion’s fight against the Galactic Empire and Luke Skywalker’s desire to become a Jedi. The Empire Strikes Back chronicles the Rebellion’s losses and the revelation that Luke’s enemy is his father. Return of the Jedi concludes the story of the Rebellion’s triumph over the Empire and Luke’s redemption of his father.
The Star Wars prequels attempted to recreate this same structure, but with much less success. The Phantom Menace establishes that there is some ambiguous threat to the Republic while Anakin Skywalker is recruited to become a Jedi. Attack of the Clones chronicles the Republic’s war with a group of separatists and Anakin’s descent into evil. Revenge of the Sith concludes the story of the Republic’s transformation into the Galactic Empire and Anakin’s fall.
Beyond their basic stories, the two trilogies follow a similar narrative structure, as well. In the first film, the main characters go from one location to another, picking up new companions along the way. They all pretty much stick together until the climax when they split apart for a short time only to reunite in the end (minus one Jedi knight). In the second one, the main characters are split into two camps and they have their own separate adventures until they converge at the end. A lot of romantic tension is present, too. The third film has the most somber tone of the trilogy as the heroes try to end a war once and for all and the Emperor is fully revealed. Plus, we get to see a planet full of Teddy Bear-like creatures (Ewoks and Wookiees).
It was perfectly fine for the prequels to repeat this formula. I daresay most Star Wars fans even expected it. But I don’t think they could get away with it a third time.
Think of the Godfather series. The first two films are masterpieces and they follow a similar pattern, starting with an attempt on the Don’s life and ending with a montage of murders. By the time The Godfather Part III came along everyone knew what to expect from it. It was hopelessly constricted by what had come before and it was unable to break free and establish itself as anything but a mediocre copy of past greatness.
The next film in the Star Wars series is a make-or-break situation. Some fans have been disheartened by the poor quality of the most recent films in the series, and the brand has lost some of its luster. The next film needs to do what Star Trek (2009) did to that faltering science-fiction series. And it appears Disney completely understands this because they hired director J.J. Abrams to helm Star Wars: Episode VII. If anyone can breathe new life into the series, he can.
A New Start
The next Star Wars film is a blank canvas ready to be turned into anything the filmmakers want it to be. There have been innumerable books written about what happens after Return of the Jedi – many of them excellent. But the filmmakers have said they’re going to pursue a completely original story idea, which means we really have no clue what to expect. I hope they’ll do something really bold that will be faithful to what came before and try some unexpected things the other films never even attempted. New characters, relationships, story arcs, and other developments will hopefully be welcome additions.
In addition to the story, how will changes to other aspects of the production affect the upcoming films? John Williams said he plans to provide the score for the next Star Wars film, but that’s just delaying the inevitable. We all have to deal with the fact that someday Williams will die (he’s already 81 years old) and someone else will have to fill his shoes on future Star Wars projects. Could James Horner, Michael Giacchino or some other composer do as good a job as he? Will Star Wars be worse off without him? I don’t know. He was certainly responsible for making the original trilogy so memorable and timeless. Perhaps our generation has a musician who is capable of doing the same for future films in the series.
I Have a Good Feeling About This
There are a lot of reasons to be hopeful for the new crop of Star Wars films. Just as superhero films are enjoying a Renaissance of sorts thanks to Disney’s involvement, Star Wars might be on its way to returning to its former glory for the same reason. As long as the filmmakers don’t stick too close to the pattern set by the first two trilogies and they instead create a distinct identity for their new trilogy, I think the force will be very strong with this one.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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