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For the many Star Wars fans out there, the day of May 4th is not any day. Rather, it’s Star Wars Day! In light of the franchise’s purchase by Disney, there’s been no shortage of news and rumors regarding the franchises’s future, and today is no better a day to dish out just a few of my own hopes for the series. As a Star Wars fanatic since my earliest memories, I do not take the day lightly, if not reflected in the long wish-list that follows. To end the day off, enjoy my personal dictionary from A to Z of what Star Wars can do in the future.
A is for Acting
The prequel trilogy may have been ruined by many things (annoying CG characters, useless plots pieces, etc.) but good acting was not one of them. Rather, terrible performances full of monotone Padawans and air-headed queens dominated the prequels potentially good characters and the depth of the prequels certainly paid for it. Simply put, Star Wars is good when it's acted well and J.J. Abrams's Star Wars hopes would be all the better for it.
B is for Better Storytelling
Fans will remember the Original Trilogy of Star Wars for many things, but story-telling was something special. Though a space-saga of epic battles and Jedi vs. Sith, at its heart, Star Wars was the story of a smuggler winning the heart of a princess and a humble farm boy discovering and redeeming the father he never knew. Meanwhile, the prequels told the story of a young man destined for greatness only to succumb to the temptations of power. Only we had to see that equally great story be hammered to death with long monologues about trade-tariffs, Jedi council meetings, Twilight staring, and artificially drawn-out character angst. Despite what Anakin failed to capture within the prequels, Episode VII should know that it could still do differently. Cut to the chase, prove to us why and how your characters are likable, and worth caring about. Most of all, show us that there's emotion to your core and not ILM's showcasing of special effects.
C is for Casting
Star Wars characters can be as easily recognized for their warmth and charm as the incredible cast members that play them. Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, James Earl Jones, these are the names that we think of when we say their characters' names aloud. Episode VII faces the immense challenge of pairing up these incredible legacies. Unknowns would be may be the best option in forming identities totally free of typecasting or off-putting familiarity, but talent should be looked for in any place. A-list actors can certainly hold their own coming into a well-known seres of course (Samuel L. and Christopher Lee come to mind), but Star Wars casting is best not relying on name-recognition alone. Simply pick the people that are appropriate for the film and not because you want their names on the poster. If J.J. Abrams has any sense in him, there'll be more Zachary Quintos in Episode VII in comparison to more Tom Cruises.
D is for Darth
It always seems that every hero is only as good as their villain. It's no wonder that Star Wars's heroes rock as much as they do when they have people like the Sith Lords challenging them. While characters like Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine are easily the some of the most iconic figures in film history, the Expanded Universe has blessed us with nearly equal villains. The likes of Darth Bane, Malak, Revan, and Krayt have all menaced the screens and pages of Star Wars for years, so why is it that 90% of every Darth seems to fade into the crowd? At some point, the whole former friend, betrayal, and revenge formula needs to be reinvented for the big-screen. A Heath Ledger Sith who just wants to watch the world burn could be just as wickedly engaging. . .
E is for Ending the Secrecy
Big production movies have always been under the cloak of secrecy, and the production of Star Wars: Episode VII has been no exception. J.J. Abrams and Lucasfilm have very coyly dodged question after question about the film's progress and both their oddly low levels of commitment is as odd as it is frustrating. At times I feel like Moby Dick Studios' Joaqim Mogren is heading Episode VII's production and I dearly wish that fans would be more valued. Plot details and casting contracts aren't to be expected, but really, give us a sense of being a part of the process.
F is for Force Powers
From the moment Obi-wan Jedi mind-tricked that Stormtrooper in Mos Eisley or Yoda lifted Luke's X-wing from Dagobah's swamp, the power of the Force has been the Jedi Knights' coolest attribute. We've seen them slice up baddies with it and level starships in movies and games, but at some point, it needs some variety. Force Pushes and Lightning are always going to be cool, but why be so limiting when you have the power of essentially your mind at work? If Episode VII's really goes off the wall with its ideas, shooting fire from your finger tips would be a cinch or, for that matter, Jedi would be chucking Force beams, Green Lantern-style.
G: is for Giving Us New Heroes
No matter how much I hate to admit it, Star Wars's former cast is old. The cast are in their 50s to late 60s and won't be around forever, so new heroes are inevitable. It's how they integrate them that's key. Don't just throw out the old, splice it together with the new. Give Han, Luke, and Leia something to do, and not just stand there, but let them guide the younger generation that's meaningful and logical. Make them mentors ready to step aside and, in the end, make that matter to their students. That way, it feels like the new heroes we're left with at the end of the new trilogy have bridged that gap, having grown out of the saga and into something new.
H: is for Handling Canon
Star Wars is a giant series, and with the kind of complexity it's universe has crafted has come a crushing level of canon. Understanding the Star Wars franchise has led me to own almost every book you actually see in this picture (from Google Images, not mine) and more. While the series history is fascinating, at times it's almost burdening. So many great ideas are kept off the workbench because some book or comic or game has already ruled it out, and the canon rules out. Besides that, people interpret that notion of "canon" any which way. Some view the movies as the only canon, others call every Star Wars story canon. It's a confusing and often restricting system, and while I don't call for canon to be abandoned entirely, but for Episode VII or the rest of the franchise, it's really not vital. Star Wars deserves to be an open-frontier for making whatever good ideas it can without a strict rule-book, no matter how many bad ideas it already has come up with.
I: is for Interesting Worlds
When thinking of the galaxy that Star Wars is, I imagine it as a snowflake. From Hoth to Tatooine to Coruscant, no world is the same and nor should they ever be. After all, Star Wars is on a galactic scale. No part of it should ever be For games or movies, never rip-off Earth or create more carbon copies of one anther. Keep the Star Wars galaxy strange and unique.
J: is for Joining Universes
The original trilogy is and always will be what Star Wars will be most remembered for, but it's just as worthwhile to consider it's amazing Expanded Universe as well. The Solo and Skywalker children have already made their impressions upon their fiction, so why not join the best of both film and books together? I'd love to see what the Harrison Ford Han and Carrie Fisher Leia would be like on-screen with their children and Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker passing down the torch would be only the best way to carry on the series.
K: is for Keeping it Old-School
As much as Star Wars evolves, there's a part of me that'll always be attached to its roots. Bigger and better effects and set pieces are nice, but what's timeless about Star Wars is what it captured over 30 yrs. ago: it's trio. Han, Luke, and Leia are focal points for the series for countless generations and deserve to be kept in some fashion or another.
L: is for Legos
If there was one piece of merchandise that I’ve bought more of than anything else thanks to Star Wars, it has to be Legos. They fill my home from top to bottom and with every set I see, some kind of addiction tells me to get more. Lego undoubtedly made me fall in love with every ship and character that Lego could embody in their adorable plastic goodness. It's probably more of a guarantee than a mere hope that Episode VII will provide more Star Wars sets than ever before and I'll probably be there to buy them, no matter how the movie even turns out to be.
M: is for More Variety
Star Wars may be synonymous with the tale of the Skywalkers, but fans of the Expanded Universe certainly know that the Star Wars universe is made up of more than just Jedi and Sith. Filled with smugglers, bounty hunters, witches, and even just your ordinary soldiers, the franchise holds so many timeless stories that capture every walk of life. From Mara Jade to Admiral Thrawn, The Expanded Universe has captured more than its share of interesting characters that could be their own movie. Stories like there's prove that we don't always need Force tricks to engage us and it'd only be better to see Star Wars break out of its Jedi shell and explore more stories in its collection.
N: is for No More Prequels
Star Wars defined many things for the film industry, and among them was the concept of the prequel. Under the guise of rediscovering characters in their younger forms and exploring its past lore, the prequel idea was a sound one and seemed like the ideal way of helping to re-imagine a franchise in some of the most meaningful ways possible. However, the execution of that dream proved far from realistic. Many fans today, of course, may look back at the enormous blunders of the Star Wars prequel trilogy: badly cast characters, the trampling of series canon, cheap plot-devices, certain annoying CG characters, etc. More than anything, though, all these mistakes have always hinged on the very fact that the prequel can't reinvent itself when it relies on replicating what fans already know. We knew Anakin would turn evil, we knew Palpatine was a slime-ball underneath, and we knew that somewhere, sometime, the Jedi would be exterminated, so there were little surprises to be had outside of how much Jar Jar would be featured. The best surprises and mystery comes with sequels, and moving forward into uncharted territory can only be good for Star Wars. If its prequels created a monster that nearly every other series seems to have unfortunately followed (X-Men Origins, Oz the Great and Powerful) then maybe the sequel trilogy could only encourage a welcome turn-around of so many other franchises.
O: is for Opening Up the Universe
As Episode VII approaches, Disney's main focus will no doubt be in promoting its main film, but that's not to say that they shouldn't allow more of the universe to be explored. Books, comics, games, they're just as much the backbone of Star Wars now as the movies ever were. For that matter, they filled the drought when there weren't any more films to be anticipated. Just as with Paramount's Star Trek reboots, the entirety of the Star Wars doesn't deserve to be limited to whatever's in theaters.
P: is for Plot
Star Wars is always full of action and explosive effects, but remember that visuals aren't the only thing to rely on for watching a movie. Give us a plot that's more than the opening scrawl of "Taxation of Free Trade zones." Give us suspense, give us drama, and most of all, give us a story that carries characters and not merely getting from Point A to Point B.
Q is for Quit Canceling Projects
Star Wars's games of Battlefront III and 1313 certainly made the headlines, not for their releases, but rather for their cancellations. Lucas Arts set that trend right up until it's closure and it's a pain to see so many great titles gone before they come out. Whatever Disney does with its new gaming or film projects, it should know that going half-way isn't a job well done, much less covering it up and not talking about it afterwards.
R is for Remakes
It’s no secret that the Star Wars movies have already been remade, rereleased, or re-imagined to death, but I’m not suggesting more Blu-ray releases of George Lucas’s saga, no. I’m clamoring for video-games. Like many others, they're plenty of Star Wars titles I missed long ago when they were released, either because I was too young for them at the time or because I simply didn't have the systems to play them on. Knights of the Old Republic and Republic Commando are gaps in my Star Wars experiences that have always haunted me. So what better to do than re-release them to the next generation of gamers? Or better yet, why not HD remakes while you're at it? With the likelihood of new Star Wars games still in question, it's more than reasonable to simply ask Disney to re-release such classics again to make a few more dollars, if not to please so many like me that either missed them or crave the chance to play them on the big screen with better graphics and even achievements.
S is for Spin-offs
While Disney busies itself with the no doubt painfully long production of Episode VII, the prospect of spin-off films may be just as soon on their to-do list. As Lucasfilm announced earlier this year, Episode VII is hopefully the trend-setter for a Star Wars movie a year, with spin-offs and or interquels in between each numbered film, Marvel style. The idea of a Pixar Yoda film or a gritty Boba Fett intergalactic crime-thriller is intriguing to be sure, and Disney is more than right in experimenting with the untapped potential that spin-offs could bring. What they need to consider is what characters are right to explore for 2 and a half hours. Yoda, Count Dooku, Darth Maul, heck yes. Jabba the Hutt, Padme, Jar Jar Binks? No. Just, no.
T is for Tone
With the prequels, Star Wars faced a dilemma: do we sell toys or a film? The result was that Episode I opened the new Star Wars flick with a goofy, cartoonish feel that overjoyed kids and isolated their parents. Many adults could never relate to the series that now just pelted them with action-figures and sparkly effects and kids got a kick out of all the toys and cool battles but had little of a message to walk away with. So what's the solution? Just splice in more blood and gore and make an R-rated Star Wars? Or make it more into just another cartoon? As Pixar's success stories prove, movies don't have to be more violent or more kiddy, most of them can be accessible for everyone. Star Wars won over audiences when it invited everyone to watch them, and if it can find that balance for the hard-core fans and families, then maybe it won't become one with the Force just yet.
U is for Using Your Characters
Star Wars is filled with cool people, but it should pay in mind that that using them is just as cool. General Grievous and Jango Fett were some of the neatest Expanded Universe characters to show up in the prequel tie-in fiction, but in the movies, they only seemed to be around for brief fights and flexing ILM's CG skillz. Instead, don't use your characters to build up effects, use them to build up your story.
V is for Vendetta; No, sorry, couldn’t resist. . .
(*ahem*) V is for Video-Games
From such titles like Rogue Squadron to Knights of the Old Republic, Star Wars long ago put itself on the map for as many successful games as it has movies. Since then, such successes faded into the past as fans were long left with fewer and fewer new releases to look forward too. With the further closure of Lucas Arts, it’s clearer than ever that its properties were dying already through neglect and, though sad to see, the result was justified.
The real question is, where to go from here? For me, there's no question that massive 3rd party talent is more than needed. Disney Interactive, besides already being swamped with its other licensed games like Disney Infinity to handle, has little in its more kiddy history to qualify it making Star Wars games. Other successful studios like Ubisoft, Firaxis, Ninja Theory, and Bethsesda, Rocksteady, could be more than willing and capable of lending their expertise. An Assassin's Creed-style Jedi/Sith game? A Star Wars Civilization title? An over-the-top Jedi brawler or a Fallout style Coruscant?! The possibilities are endless.
With all that said, Disney should make it clear that quality is still something it puts into more Star Wars games and not quantity. Either give Star Wars over to the people who most deserve it or and leave us with our memories and don't do anything at all. Activision, EA, Sega, please, look far, far away from this. . .
W is for Writing
Remember Darth Vader's awesome "The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am"? Remember Han Solo's one-liners of "Never tell me the odds"? Remember any number of Hayden Christiansen's lines? "I don't like sand. It's course, and rough and irritating, and it gets everywhere." 'Bout summarizes what Star Wars's dialogue had gotten to be by Episode II's time. Please, Michael Arndt, just don't write Episode VII in your sleep. . .
X is for X-Wing
When I think of my favorite Star Wars ships, X-Wings are right up there with the Millennium Falcon and Tie Fighters. They're sleek, they're fast, they're flown by Luke Skywalker, they blew up the Death Star, how can you not like them? Sure, this doesn't have anything to do with my Star Wars wish-list, but isn't cool looking? Honestly folks, X is a pretty hard letter to come up with something for. X-Wing baby!
Y is for Yearly Releases
With Star Wars Disney will probably be milking Star Wars for all it's worth, but it should pay in mind that quality should ring true with every entry it makes. I look forward to the idea of an awesome Star Wars film every 10-12 months, but I'm just as wary about rush-jobs. If annual-release cycles have to be, don't just spend a year on them. Plan ahead and have each already 2-3 years in progress and release them in a domino set that connects them all in a way that doesn't just feel like filer 'til the next Episode.
Z is for Zero Cross-Overs
Now the child of its parent company Disney, Star Wars is obviously part of an enormous family of franchises. Despite sharing such crowded quarters with that of Mickey Mouse, Marvel, and Pixar, Star Wars has as many reasons not to integrate as much as it does. Call me selfish if you like, but I've never been privy on seeing Star Wars be shared with any other universe. On one hand, Star Wars is a corporate entity now that warrants every chance at exploitation for profit possible. On the other, Star Wars has evolved into more than a series over the years, it's its own mythology. As such, there's a kind of sacredness that its universe carries with it for fans and violating that with nosy Disney character rubbing elbows with it just feel strange as it does wrong. Granted, there's a greater sensitivity that comes with being a fan of the series, but Disney's other series' should have their own considerations at stake. The more that Mickey and friends change identities, the more they water down their own substance, and that's something even they don't deserve either. At the end of the day, though, the sight of Darth Vader kart-racing with Goofy is just something that brings back memories of Han Solo's Kinect dancing, and its something that I just don't want to see.
What do you want from Star Wars? Can you think of something else Star Wars related starting with X?. . .Thanks for reading, and remember, May the 4th be with you. . . always.