Why I’m Still Anxious About The New Star WarsPosted: June 23, 2014
The Star Wars Saga has been one of (if not the) defining stories of my life, and has shaped my view of and passion for storytelling and pop culture ever since. The original films were great, the prequels had their moments but ultimately disappointed, the Expanded Universe was fun but ridiculous. With the whole galaxy getting a fresh start under the oversight of Disney, there are plenty of reasons to get excited about Star Wars again, particularly for me, and it’s surprising that I’ve barely talked about either the old or new parts of the series on this blog. But with all that being said, I remain somewhat detached from this return to the galaxy blah blah blah, for what I think are very rational reasons… which is far from the sort of perspective I’d want to have on one of myfavorite franchises.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about this revamped Star Wars Universe. The most immediate, tangible and irrefutable of these is the cast itself. Besides bringing back the original Heroes of Yavin (Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker), the cast is a who’s who of stars, in a very modern approach to blockbuster casting. Just in Episode VII we have John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Gwendoline Christie, Andy Serkis, Max von Sydow and Domnhall Gleeson, plus newcomer Daisy Ridley; a stacked cast for any film. With so many notable (mostly) young stars, the film has a potential for a lot of great dynamics and relationships, and seeing how those might develop over the Sequel Trilogy could be really exciting.
Then there are the filmmakers behind the cameras, who aren’t slouches either. While JJ Abrams has been hit-or-miss throughout his career, he has always been good at getting the ball rolling and setting the table for a longform story (Star Trek, the Alias and Lost pilots), so having him kick things off makes sense. And bringing back Lawrence Kasdan hopefully means that there will be the same general tone as the Original Trilogy. From there, having Rian Johnson picking things up is just brilliant, and whatever flaws the Abrams/Kasdan Episode VII will have, I’m sure the Johnson Episode VIII will not. With him on board, we’re pretty much guaranteed at least one exciting, character-centric film out of the new franchise. And besides the central Episodes, the Josh Trank and Gareth Edwards/Gary Whitta spinoff films also sound enticing on their involvement alone. Their skill sets fit nicely into what the franchise needs, and having them do standalones with no ties to the overarching narrative should give them an exciting amount of freedom.
However, what is lacking in all of this, and which makes it hard for me to get unreservedly excited about it, is that we know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about the things that matter most, namely the characters and plot. While I can always get excited about new work from these cast and crew members, the fact that we know nothing about the stories they are telling is frustrating enough (and key enough) to keep it all at arm’s length for me. The fact that Rian Johnson has signed on to the main story is reassuring, if only because I doubt he would commit to it if the previous film was a narrative trainwreck. And hopefully Trank and Edwards & Whitta will get free reign to do things their way, but even then there aren’t many ways to do, say, Boba Fett or Han Solo films without it being stupid. Likewise, as great as the cast list for the Episodes is, until we know what roles they’re playing it’s difficult to judge/appreciate the casting (aside from Boyega being the lead apparently, which I’m fine with regardless of circumstance).
While much of the fandom is able to work themselves into a lather based on nothing of substance, I’m going to continue to keep my emotional distance. As excited as I can be for more Star Wars, and as much as I like all of these filmmakers, and as much as I think the combination of these things could result in something special, the story and character is what’s paramount, and that’s what will make-or-break this new era of Star Wars. The thing is, there are many of other great filmmakers committing to favorite franchises of mine that I’m much more positive about (hello, Jurassic World), so maybe beneath all the substance concerns I’m just scared that I’ll be let down. The idea of mediocre Star Wars movies being churned out every year like Paranormal Activity or Saw is depressing as hell for me, and I really hope that Lucasfilm can capture that Marvel Studios/Pixar quality. But in the meantime, I will try to stay optimistic, but it might be awhile before I get excited (and yes, there is a difference).