May The Four Be With You
September 29, 2013 2:19 AM   Subscribe

4 Rules to Make Star Wars Great Again An animated open letter to JJ Abrams (SLYT)
posted by fearfulsymmetry (108 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's like he's saying all those things that we know, but haven't bothered to properly articulate!
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:58 AM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Christ, just let it be dead. The more you poke it, the more fluid comes out (in the form of lens flares).
posted by converge at 3:05 AM on September 29, 2013 [18 favorites]


IOW, stop making Star Wars.

Firefly, baby!
posted by markkraft at 3:16 AM on September 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Nah, that had a decent enough ending. Let's leave the Serenity serene.
posted by converge at 3:26 AM on September 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


I agree with #3 and #4 but you could have had good Star Wars without the first two. In fact it made a lot of sense to have a shiny and urbanized universe for the prequels to show what was later lost after the Republic fell. You just would have needed a better writer to show the rotten core eating away at the glorious shiny exterior of the civilization.
posted by octothorpe at 4:21 AM on September 29, 2013 [12 favorites]


#5: Make it 1977 again, and us 9 again, so that we'll just be amazed that it's not another New Hollywood tense and talk-heavy drama or grim fictional dystopian piece of self-hating propaganda sci-fi for the burned-out generation slouching into the genuine dystopian nightmare of Reaganism and thus not pay much attention to its myriad flaws.
posted by sonascope at 4:26 AM on September 29, 2013 [65 favorites]


#6: Casting. Find us another Harrison Ford, Alec Guinness, James Earl Jones, et al and we can forgive almost anything.
posted by mochapickle at 4:30 AM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know about the casting, it's hard to say that McGreger, Portman, Smitts, Jackson, Neeson, Lee aren't all great actors. And even though Christensen is pretty bad, it's not like Mark Hamill was all that great.
posted by octothorpe at 4:41 AM on September 29, 2013 [15 favorites]


How about we mine the wealth of science fiction going back almost a full century instead of putting all our eggs in the Star Wars basket? Anyone who's read a fraction of the print SF out there knows that Star Wars is pedestrian SF at best. And that's even before we get to the prequels, much less the current crop of Abrams films.

In other words, go out and read science fiction instead of crying over someone else's failed Hollywood vision.
posted by zardoz at 4:41 AM on September 29, 2013 [25 favorites]


octothorpe, you're right -- was just thinking about my comment and coming back to post a followup. I think it's more the right actors in the right roles. The prequels had some great actors but they didn't fit. McGregor and Jackson acquitted themselves as best as they could, but Natalie Portman's talents were wasted. She's usually a joy to watch.
posted by mochapickle at 4:47 AM on September 29, 2013


(I always thought Hamill's green-ness was endearing.)
posted by mochapickle at 4:47 AM on September 29, 2013 [8 favorites]


Anyone who's read a fraction of the print SF out there knows that Star Wars is pedestrian SF at best.

Congratulations. But as the animation itself says, the original trilogy is basically a Western.

I basically disagree with #1 - I think it can take place in cities and parliaments, if it has to. I'd be sad never to visit Coruscant again. I loved the concept the the galactic library. The problem, as octothorpe notes, is that the prequels were badly written, so these concepts were used badly.

In fact, I think #4 is the key factor for me - Star Wars isn't cute. That's what ruined the prequel trilogy for me, particularly the Phantom Menace. But I actually like the parliamentary stuff, because it shows the rise of Palpatine in an interesting way. And then the start of the Clone Wars happens in Episode II in a way I never expected.

The problem was it was surrounded by cutesy stuff and terribly written dialogue - and a romance that doesn't seem to have been written by anyone who has met another human being before.
posted by crossoverman at 5:00 AM on September 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


"THERE....ARE....FOUR....LIGHTS!!"
posted by Fizz at 5:53 AM on September 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have no strong opinions about Star Wars, but that animation was beautiful.
posted by donajo at 6:24 AM on September 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


I clicked on that link even though I assumed it would be another video of some guy talking rapidly while gesturing and looking straight into the camera. So this was way better than I expected.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 6:28 AM on September 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


Ugh. The wave of entitlement SW die-hards feel has finally crashed on my shore. For all the effort this guy put into his "open letter" he could have put that into making his own oroginal SF movie pitch that hits all the notes he talks about wanting to see in the SW sequels instead of hectoring Lucas/Abrams/Disney. Hell, it's what Lucas did in the first place-- inspired by old Flash Gordon comics and serials, he made his own movie that hit all the notes that inspired him while still making an original piece of work.
posted by KingEdRa at 6:29 AM on September 29, 2013 [15 favorites]


I think the makers of the video have made a fundamental error: Star Wars isn't a western--that would suggest it is part of a rich cinematic tradition always renewing itself. No, it's a pastiche of old serials, with a limited vocabulary of styles, characters and plots. You can only go to that well so many times before it runs dry. The fact that Star Wars has survived this long is down to it ignoring its roots as pastiche, the border towns, the broken-down tech, in order to spread to comics, games, and an entire library's worth of novels.

As for the rule on "cute," I am not sure these guys have seen the first movie. The Jawas were cute. R2D2 was cute. There were all these touches built for kids in the original. Also, let's all remember that long before Jar-Jar, there was Jaxxon, the alien jackrabbit (who used to confuse me to death in the comic books when I was a kid, because I couldn't remember having seen a big rabbit in the movie, and this was the days before video so it's not like we could go rent Star Wars for me to check my aching sanity).
posted by mittens at 6:30 AM on September 29, 2013 [12 favorites]


Thats's some some subtle racism there, when he says "It doesn't take place in cities" while showing an Ewok city. Our hirsute height-challenged brothers might disagree.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:34 AM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile in science fact - light sabres! (not really, but a lot less not really than before.)
posted by Devonian at 6:34 AM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


so that we'll just be amazed that it's not another New Hollywood tense and talk-heavy drama

Yeah, it was a refreshing break from watching Dog Day Afternoon and having to ask my mom lots of awkward questions.
posted by mittens at 6:35 AM on September 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


The last rule is just plain wrong. Star Wars wasn't gritty, it was understated.

It was always obviously for kids.
posted by pmv at 6:54 AM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


And stop writing the scenes as a setup for selling video-games.
posted by DreamerFi at 7:05 AM on September 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


Dear J. J. Abrams: Just make the exact same movies we've already had for 30 years because 40 year old uberfans are the only people you're doing this for, even though nothing you can do will possibly make them happy. Cheers!
posted by Legomancer at 7:11 AM on September 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


Well at least Abrams can't get Star Wars as completely wrong as he did with Star Trek Into Darkness!

Can he?
posted by fairmettle at 7:14 AM on September 29, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm going to join other people in this thread by saying the best thing to do for Star Wars is to stop caring about it. It's an enjoyable part of my childhood, but I can't work up the effort to worry about what Abrams does with it. I guess the suggestions in the video are decent enough, but many of those cats are already out of the bag in terms of the marketing force of Star Wars as a Disney product.

And stop writing the scenes as a setup for selling video-games.

Thankfully they shitcanned their games division, so looks like we have less to worry about on that front!
posted by codacorolla at 7:56 AM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


so looks like we have less to worry about on that front

Right, EA will be developing them, which means they can be ignored entirely.
posted by mittens at 8:03 AM on September 29, 2013


"Disney / EA Starwars Game based on a J.J. Abrams movie" *sad trombone sound*
posted by codacorolla at 8:07 AM on September 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


Cute, though it's basically "don't do the sequels", with a tiny bit of "don't do the annoying bits from the CGI Re-releases" and "no Ewoks"!

These are not revolutionary thoughts.
posted by Artw at 8:38 AM on September 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Weirdly, i agree with overall tenor of these here comments, and with the video. The propositions "please can we move on now to other SF and let those first three be what they were" and "If you're going to do Star Wars, go back to the original tone", are both reasonable.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:19 AM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm still stung by Elysium and unwilling to discuss the subject of original SF movies at this point.
posted by Artw at 9:28 AM on September 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


Not even if Guillermo del Toro -- or better yet, the next Guillermo del Toro -- made The Windup Girl or something? Or some other SF story with actual SF themes with little or nothing to do with doughty he-men fistpunching the bad in the face with their facepunching punchfist?
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:43 AM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Beat PunchBeef! Crunch ButtSteak! Punch RockGroin! Slate Fistcrunch! Thick McRunFast!
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:54 AM on September 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, io9 did an article along those lines, and I thought it was stupid - they'd never pick those books to start, and if they did what would come out would be awful.
posted by Artw at 9:55 AM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


How about we mine the wealth of science fiction going back almost a full century instead of putting all our eggs in the Star Wars basket?

I'm with you in spirit, but the really tragic thing is when well-meaning jerks like me say "If only they would make real SF films out of real SF stories and include the original authors as screenwriters so you know it'll be true to the vision." Because that's basically The Postman and Johnny Mnemonic right there, and, y'know, ow ow ow ow ow.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:57 AM on September 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Make an original story we've never before, like After Earth or Oblivion!
posted by Artw at 10:09 AM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Again"?
posted by Decani at 10:15 AM on September 29, 2013


I'd like to think it'd be OK for us to have new ideas and make new things, and not remake, reboot, remix or just rehash the franchises of our youth over and over again until they are bled dry of any quality, relevance or joy.
posted by mhoye at 10:23 AM on September 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Not even if Guillermo del Toro -- or better yet, the next Guillermo del Toro -- made The Windup Girl?

Then it wouldn't be original.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:25 AM on September 29, 2013


I'd like to think it'd be OK for us to have new ideas and make new things, and not remake, reboot, remix or just rehash the franchises of our youth over and over again until they are bled dry of any quality, relevance or joy.

Why not both?

I mean, I'm kind of excited to see someone else's wild and flashy vision of Star Wars AND I enjoy original and new things at the same time!
posted by history_denier at 10:28 AM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


First time it would have been on screen though. Hey everybody! We're getting a Big Screen version Enders Game!

Um, I'll get my coat...
posted by Artw at 10:33 AM on September 29, 2013


How about we mine the wealth of science fiction going back almost a full century instead of putting all our eggs in the Star Wars basket?

Because they'll just turn the book into a generic action/adventure movie that only shares the basic premise, character names and a couple plot points with the original novel. And then they'll change the ending to an unearned happy one after it does badly in previews.
posted by octothorpe at 10:56 AM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


The "I'm a fan so do what I say" tone of this is pretty off-putting.
posted by chrillsicka at 11:02 AM on September 29, 2013


Ep VII will be about the galactic Senate wrangling over universal access to the force via socialized midichlorian augmentation.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:11 AM on September 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


Then it wouldn't be original.

In Hollywood, "Original" means " based on a book that hasn't been adapted into a movie yet.

Anyway, I love the idea of mining the corpus of SF literature. Like say, "Minority Report" perhaps. Or "I Robot". Or hey, how about "Dune", or "Millennium", or "Bicentennisl Man", or "Lathe of Heaven", or "Starship Troopers", or "We can Remember it for you Wholesale", or " Watchmen", or " Day of the Triffids", or " Escape to Witch Mountain", or...or...

Yeah, I don't see any way that adapting SF books to movies can possibly go wrong.
posted by happyroach at 11:11 AM on September 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Lathe of Heaven is really my example of how to do a science fiction adaptation right. And for a PBS budget of about $250.
posted by octothorpe at 11:25 AM on September 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


How about we mine the wealth of science fiction

Why hasn't Slan been produced, because super intelligent people with Golden Tendrils! Psychic tendrils!
posted by sammyo at 11:25 AM on September 29, 2013


Lathe of Heaven is really my example of how to do a science fiction adaptation right. And for a PBS budget of about $250.

I was just thinking the same thing, but happyroach is presumably talking about the 2002 version, which was not well-received. (Haven't seen it, don't plan to.)

Also, I'm in the "Starship Troopers is a wonderfully subversive prank and not only better than the novel, it rips Heinlein a well-deserved new one" camp.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:28 AM on September 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


Not even if Guillermo del Toro -- or better yet, the next Guillermo del Toro -- made The Windup Girl or something?

since much of the book is a critical take on the cute/badass asian girl as sex-object trope.... could Hollywood do that?

Answer: Oh god no, can you really imagine the horror?
posted by ennui.bz at 11:30 AM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


The "I'm a fan so do what I say" tone of this is pretty off-putting.

Why hasn't Slan been produced, because super intelligent people with Golden Tendrils! Psychic tendrils!


Wait a second...
posted by Artw at 11:31 AM on September 29, 2013


Answer: Oh god no, can you really imagine the horror?

/will wait for Janes Cameron's Battle Angel Alita.
posted by Artw at 11:32 AM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I re-watched Starship Troopers for the first time in years a few months ago... it was awesome (though I think being pretty drunk at the time helped)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:32 AM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Or you could make a film of E. E. "Doc" Smith's novels and put all that lens flare to good use!
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:32 AM on September 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


Anyway, this is JJ Abrams we're talking about - he already knows which Star Wars movie is the cool one - we'll end up with a remix of Empire where Leah gets frozen in carbonate or done shit.
posted by Artw at 11:35 AM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Though sadly those days are long gone... any decently budgeted sf film will have been through the blandifier in order to get the max possible global audience. (And mid-budget films are basically dead in all genres, except possibly Oscar Baiters) If you want anything interesting you'll have to look for something low budget. Though I've got hopes that may be HBO or similar might do something interesting SF-wise.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:35 AM on September 29, 2013


Carbonite Mystery Box
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:36 AM on September 29, 2013


or can you imagine Hollywood's take on Oryx and Crake: asian sex-object plots to exterminate everybody... and succeeds!
posted by ennui.bz at 11:38 AM on September 29, 2013


Imagine the "it's not science-fiction... It's science-FACT!" marketing campaign...
posted by Artw at 11:43 AM on September 29, 2013


He lost me at #1. mittens is right: the original trilogy wasn't a Western. In fact, it's mostly a WWII movie. Admittedly I haven't watched a lot of Westerns, so there may be one where the hero rides his horse down a long canyon to drop a bomb.

The old trope was that adventures usually started outside your home area... in the middle Ages that was the closest forest; around 1900 that meant another continent. But that's been done a lot, and some of the best modern fantasy (Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Tim Powers) is urban. Plus, even the old serials could make good use of the city, e.g. Feuillade's Les Vampires.
posted by zompist at 12:49 PM on September 29, 2013


I recently read a science-fiction novel set in an unstated but near-to-mid-range future. During the book, the characters went to see a couple of movies - one was a new version of "Pride and Prejudice" and one was a new version of "Batman".

I am reasonably sure that this is because the author was entirely confident that, no matter what happens to civilization, there will ALWAYS be new versions of "Pride and Prejudice" and "Batman" coming out every decade or so, so the references will never become dated.

And I thought, "... Yep."
posted by kyrademon at 1:02 PM on September 29, 2013 [11 favorites]


5. Don't make it so goddamned chaste.

If I have to go there with a gaggle of children because it's some kid's stupid birthday, can you at least reward my patience with some boobage at the 1 hour mark?
posted by Renoroc at 1:05 PM on September 29, 2013


5. Almost everyone hates a capella singing except the people actually doing it at that moment.
posted by gurple at 1:09 PM on September 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm not too fond of this video. Written out it doesn't sound so impressive, and the petulant tone of the voice of the thing doesn't help it much.

(Following yet another remix of the Star Wars theme, a capella this time -- and please excuse the exclamation points, but it sounds a lot like they were in the script for this):

Rule 1: The setting is the frontier
"Star Wars... doesn't happen... in the city. It doesn't happen... in Parliment. Or in the library. It happens... out here. Away from civilization. Admist smugglers and bounty hunters! Star Wars is a Western! And it's set... in the frontier!"

Rule 2: The Future is Old
"Star Wars' beauty... isn't clean! It isn't new! It's dirty! Gritty! A second-hand world! The beauty of the frontier."

Rule 3: The Force is mysterious
"We don't always need an explanation. The greatest power of the Force... is the sense of magic... that comes from the unknown."

Rule 4: Stat Wars isn't cute
"Walk into the wrong bar? Lose your arm. Don't pay your debts? End up in carbonite. The frontier... is a dangerous place." (working himself up into a rage here) "It's not cute! Or silly!! It's not child-proofed!!! IT'S FREAKING STAR WARS!!! And Han always shoots first."

Personally, I think the mega-success of Star Wars has worked against it. I think it'd be better now if we let Star Wars, not die, but just age. In context. "Hey, do you remember those movies we saw when we were eight?" "Wait, Star Wars?! Wow, you remember that?" "Weren't they awesome? I was just about to write an AskMe about those! It's weird that no one remembers them."

My whole life has had the damn Star Wars theme on as a kind of background music, and it didn't help when for a few years I had a roommate who was kind of obsessive about it. Maybe it's not really as cool as we all think it is? I think sonascope is really on to something that it was a reaction to the 70s trend of "important" movies, that could rightly get old. But now it's 2013, and it's Star Wars that has gotten old. Bring back the talk-heavy dramas and self-hating propaganda sci-fi!

octothorpe: And even though Christensen is pretty bad, it's not like Mark Hamill was all that great.

Mark Hamill can be amazing. His voice work is incredible. I like to think of it that he took Star Wars as a lark, but that lark turned into Leviathan.
posted by JHarris at 1:13 PM on September 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Counterpoints

Rule 1: Cloud City? There have been plenty of urban environments in the beloved Star Wars universe. Dark Forces had all sorts of magnificent urban moments. Chunks of the canon trilogy happen in meeting rooms. Hell, the Death Star was about as non-frontier as you can get ... Classic scenes happen in industrial trash compactors and exhaust vents just as often as they happen in mud huts and log cabins. More importantly ... many of the worst moments from the prequels were set on the frontier. Yes, there are iconic Star Wars moments on the frontier ..... but the frontier ain't Star Wars.

Maybe it's more accurate to say that Star Wars is what happens in the cracks.

Rule 2: Again, take a deep breath and look at that moon. It's no moon, it's a BRAND NEW SPACE STATION. Imperial ships throughout the beloved Star Wars universe may not be shiny but they're certainly not old. But you know what is shiny? The milky polished suits stormtroopers wear — one of the most iconic elements of Star Wars.

The bad guys tend to be the ones in control of the futuristic future stuff, so maybe that's why telling a story at a time that the good guys are in control is a much more difficult task within the Star Wars universe.

Rule 3: Magic slugs are still magic. Mystery isn't the issue.

We know Spider-Man got his powers from being bit by a radioactive spider, and his powers still seem cool despite a stupid back story we've known from day one. The problem with the Force in the prequels is that it didn't seem all that cool. The Force in The Force Unleashed (well, the trailer at least)? Fuck yeah. That is what effects technology allows it to be. Look at this animation ... Yoda isn't just lifting an X-Wing anymore, that's a star destroyer. The Force needs to be more than parlor tricks. It can come from steamed jello ... if it's fun to watch.

Rule 4: R2D2? Cute. Jawas? Cute. Ewoks? Cute. Swathes of fan art? Cute. Star Wars can be absolutely adorable.

Just tell a good story within the universe and don't invent a new universe within it. That'll make it easier than what George tried to do.
posted by pokermonk at 1:18 PM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


But If its a Western you can do Stealth Firefly!
posted by Artw at 1:34 PM on September 29, 2013


Considering ST:2009 blowed up a big planet-destroying ship by flying into the middle of it with the destructo-stuff, and ST:ID mostly destroyed up a big-ass ship by beaming explodyness into the middle of it, I think J.J. Abrams is exactly the guy to make Star Wars movies.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:17 PM on September 29, 2013


If Star Wars is just about exploding things, then sure. In fact, why not just dump the series into the loving clutches of the king of exploding things himself, Michael Bay?
posted by JHarris at 3:11 PM on September 29, 2013


It needs hokey religions and ancient weapons.
posted by Artw at 3:23 PM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Rule 4: R2D2? Cute. Jawas? Cute. Ewoks? Cute.

I have never found Jawas cute - and people have been complaining about Ewoks cutifying Star Wars since Return of the Jedi came out.
posted by crossoverman at 3:30 PM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


start by getting rid of all the Joseph Campbell crap
posted by thelonius at 3:48 PM on September 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Look at this animation ... Yoda isn't just lifting an X-Wing anymore, that's a star destroyer.

That's no Star Destroyer, that's a Jedi Starfighter. Probably how Yoda got to Dagobah.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 4:50 PM on September 29, 2013


And mid-budget films are basically dead in all genres

I think Looper shows that mid-budget SF is a profitable area full of creative possibilites, if approached correctly. It was $30 mil or so, cheaper than a lot of mid-budget video games these days.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 5:03 PM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


My wish list for the next trilogy is relatively simple. Show that winning the revolution is often almost as bad as losing.

Or, go down the smuggler / bounty hunter / criminal underground road. "Empire? Rebels? Who cares... I just want to make some money."
posted by honestcoyote at 5:39 PM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine said the thing she wanted was awesome female characters (Princess Leia being the absolute minimum acceptable here).

On top of endorsing that idea, I think whoever made that film missed a lot of Clone Wars, which was very Star Wars in feel and broke the four rules a lot. On the other hand, I'm a middle-aged fan and I'm not letting myself get excited, because I got excited for the prequels, and I'm sorry, Ewan not withstanding, they pretty much sucked.
posted by immlass at 5:46 PM on September 29, 2013


Mining the rich vein of sci fi to make a new movie won't scratch the itch - many people aren't looking for a movie, they're subconsciously looking for a world, a familiar place that they can return to year after year after year, an ongoing open-ended escapism. New IP can do that, it doesn't need to be star wars. It can maybe sort of come from books (they're managing to drag quite a few years out of the works of Tolkien), but that's not ideal (other than to bean counters who want built-in fan base). It doesn't come from endless Batman reboots.
The market has an itch that Hollywood is not quite scratching... yet.
posted by anonymisc at 5:59 PM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


On top of endorsing that idea, I think whoever made that film missed a lot of Clone Wars, which was very Star Wars in feel and broke the four rules a lot.

A really great demonstration of what a great sandbox the Star Wars universe is for telling any kind of story.
posted by Artw at 6:04 PM on September 29, 2013


The market has an itch that Hollywood is not quite scratching... yet.

I've always thought Asimov's robot stories would be good for this: Science fiction that is really a puzzle-mystery. You could violence it up if you had to for the proper suspense-and-explosions ratio, but at core you'd be presenting a mystery that wasn't too hard, so everyone could feel smart when they realized what was happening. Enough repeat characters and themes to make a franchise, a relatable, cozy world.

But then "I, Robot" came out and ruined Asimov for the next thousand years.
posted by mittens at 6:19 PM on September 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


people have been complaining about Ewoks cutifying Star Wars since Return of the Jedi came out.

Right, but then pointing to Return of the Jedi and the forest moon of Endor (with Ewok popping up) as examples of what Star Wars needs to be isn't really fair for the other points.
posted by pokermonk at 7:21 PM on September 29, 2013


My wish list for the next trilogy is relatively simple. Show that winniing the revolution is often almost as bad as losing.

Words can not adequately convert my sheer loathing for that sort of cynical crap. The whole "things are just as bad as they were before" scenario leads to the obvious question: "So why the fuck did I waste my time watching the prequel if nothing changes? What's the point of doing anything?" It's the SF/fantasy equivalent of those rom-com sequels where they break up the couple between movies in order to the same thing over again.

One example of getting things right ( despite its flaws) was Legend of Korra, where they showed that society had improved and developed in the time since the previous series. That actually increased the tension in the series, as there were things worth protecting.

In fact I think one of the big problems with the Star Wars Extended Universe is that it does give the impression, contrary to the feeling in the original trilogy, that nothing really changes. Sith empires will come and go, Republics will rise and fall, who cares? Why bother doing anything?
posted by happyroach at 7:26 PM on September 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


ruined Asimov for the next thousand years

Personally, I'm waiting for the non-stop, pulse-pounding action thriller sci-fi extravaganza:

Foundation, starring Shia Lebouf and Megan Fox! "At the edge of the galaxy, they've got a plan..."
posted by Ghidorah at 8:30 PM on September 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


can you at least reward my patience with some boobage at the 1 hour mark?

There is no jiggling in the Empire.
posted by nubs at 8:36 PM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Foundation, starring Shia Lebouf and Megan Fox! "At the edge of the galaxy, they've got a plan..."

I'm sure the Scientologists would be all over it - just a few minor changes...
posted by Artw at 8:42 PM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Having just recently gone back and read a couple of Foundation books, let's just say they haven't aged well. Granted, rampant sexism was pretty much par for the course at the time, but wow. Women are essentially meant to be seen, not heard, until a couple books in, when one is a main character, whose main character trait seems to be that she's a woman who says words (and, of course, cooks for the men).
posted by Ghidorah at 8:53 PM on September 29, 2013


Given what I've heard about Asimov's behavior at conventions, I think we might be happy that women are largely absent from his works.

Remember, by and large any progressive element of classic SF pretty much stopped at technology. When it came to social issues, it tended to be regressive. In that respect, Star Wars avoided the worst of classic SF failings by having Princess Leah actually do proactive stuff. It could be better, and the prequel is an embarrassment, but it tried.
posted by happyroach at 11:25 PM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


First published 1942. A lot has changed.
posted by Artw at 11:51 PM on September 29, 2013


Red Letter Media has pretty much covered this, but the reasons for the success of Star Wars are simple. Its a tighly plotted story with a simple through line, which leads us carefully from clearly shot action scenes which are character focused.

In the opening we get the mighty empire intimidating the tiny rebellion. We have the spectacle of the massive Star Destroyer which clearly establishes the Empire as this intimidating force. We get a clear introduction of the characters and the stakes. There are some plans, Darth Vader, the decisive villain wants them. The robots are slightly goofy, Leia is determined and not afraid of a fight (she shoots a solider before getting taken down).

The next action scene is the sand people: this accomplishes a bit of world building, as these sand people will never be seen again but they appear to have a history, and fears and desires. This gives the world a sense of scale (similarly with the trader jawas), and allows our introduction to Obi Wan, the mysterious mentor who is smart enough to run them off. Luke is inexperienced and initially hesitant about leaving home. It takes the destruction by the Empire (again, clearly establishing they are the bad guys without too much exposition) of his foster family to propel him to action.

We keep getting reminded of Luke's naivety at the bar, where he gets into a fight, only to be saved by Obi Wan (and a demonstration of the power of the light sabre!) Meanwhile we establish Han and Chewie as the dangerous rogue.

I could go in, but these are all clearly defined characters with goals which interact in realistic ways, and informs the action. When Luke enthusiastically shoots down enemy fighters we get to share his sudden enthusiasm, and laugh at Han's jealousy of the hot shot kid.

Its not that hard. The trick to Star Wars is solid writing, character building and arcing leading to action which demonstrates who the characters are. There is a rich world which should be carefully evoked, not crammed onto the screen. The prequels pretty much singularly failed to acheive any of these things.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 1:51 AM on September 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mr. Abrams, I would also like to add that anyone who insists that Empire is the best of the original trilogy is not to be listened to.
posted by Legomancer at 2:46 AM on September 30, 2013


First published 1942. A lot has changed

Indeed. The thing is, unfilmable as it is (nearly the whole series is characters talking about decisive events that happened off screen, as it were), I'd imagine massive changes would be needed to get it anywhere near modern standards (which, as has been discussed, are still pretty woeful). Without a doubt, 'purists' who see nothing wrong with the book as is (as seen in present daywould decry the 'travesties' done to the original. Ugliness. Lots of ugliness.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:47 AM on September 30, 2013


The trick to Star Wars is solid writing, character building and arcing leading to action which demonstrates who the characters are

I would argue that is the trick to all good stories, Star Wars or not.

Well, that and a coherent mythos, which the prequels also mucked about with to their peril.
posted by nubs at 8:30 AM on September 30, 2013


The thing is, unfilmable as it is (nearly the whole series is characters talking about decisive events that happened off screen, as it were), I'd imagine massive changes would be needed to get it anywhere near modern standards (which, as has been discussed, are still pretty woeful)

Not necessarily. The filmmakers could approach Foundation by leaving the sexism alone but treating it as a future that for some (or no) reason went deeply sexist, and showing it as almost dystopically sexist. Like Mad Men with psychohistory.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:53 AM on September 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


So, just so I'm on the same page as everyone else, this guy went through all this trouble to basically say "I really liked Firefly", right?
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:30 AM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Foundation is super episodic (unsurprisingly, since it was originally written as short stories). I think an HBO mini-series would be a much better treatment than a single film.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:36 AM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


How about we mine the wealth of science fiction going back almost a full century instead of putting all our eggs in the Star Wars basket?

Because they'll just turn the book into a generic action/adventure movie that only shares the basic premise, character names and a couple plot points with the original novel. And then they'll change the ending to an unearned happy one after it does badly in previews.


Surprised no one mentioned Philip K. Dick here. Amazing and totally original sci-fi, almost always butchered by film. Even though Blade Runner was great, it wasn't as close to the book ideas. Not even getting into the movies that made his heroes not the everyman he wrote, but big shots, with hot romantic interests.
posted by usagizero at 11:44 AM on September 30, 2013


I have to laugh at Rule 2, "the future is old," considering the words that appear before the logo in each movie.

The prequels had a lot of problems but cities and shiny ships were not among them. (That said, I totally prefer the beat-to-hell aesthetic.)
posted by entropicamericana at 1:37 PM on September 30, 2013


Another thing that RLM points out is that the original trilogy was very much a product of its circumstances, and also a huge team effort. It's not so much that Lucas changed a whole lot between the two series, but rather that he lost a lot of the oversight and editorial pressure which crafted his interesting take on genre-fiction into a coherent and enjoyable fantasy story. When he was going at it more or less as an auteur with infinite resources things turned out far differently.

Star Wars now has so much baggage that it seems impossible to meet those original circumstances (even as seen with increasing success of the movies in the OT). So, really, let it go.
posted by codacorolla at 1:57 PM on September 30, 2013


Its a tighly plotted story with a simple through line, which leads us carefully from clearly shot action scenes which are character focused.

Willow is a terrible film by many accounts (Lucas among them who expected it - or said he expected it - to be some sort of foundational fantasy film).
What it fails completely to do is take itself seriously and that's its greatest strength.
Oh, they tried.
But somewhere the actors and director (Ron Howard) went ahead and just had fun with it and that pokes through and it's a fun movie (IMHO).

There was, and still is, this huge resistance to fantasy, science fiction, etc. as legitimate entertainment (and really, wtf is 'legitimate' entertainment) and the resultant pushback geeked the whole thing into this "Syfy!" end of the pool where it's serious because it makes money.

I mean what was comic con a while back? There seems to be an arc where something is just for the fanboys. Then it's fringe. Then it's genuinely recognized while still being what it is...for about 5 minutes. Then it's co-opted. Then it's gone. Unrecognizable.
Weightlifting maybe. Or martial arts films.
There's Blood in the Sun or Bad Day at Black Rock maybe. Then Bruce Lee happens. Then there's Bruce Li. Bruce Lu. Bruce Le. Then it's American Ninja on flying motorcycles. Then Never Back Down.
Star Wars seems to have done this to itself. Which wouldn't be a problem except you don't get any other kind of film from the genre.

And I think that's part of the argument here. That Star Wars is a sub-genre of its own. It's not science fiction exactly. Not fantasy. But whatever it is, people want more of it.
And you don't get the good stuff along with the bad, like Crouching Tiger. Where you get a guerrilla film that still gets popular attention.

There's no way you're going to see a lightsaber in another film where people have telekinetic or psychic powers.
Plenty of wuxia films where the heroes can superleap or float and have magic weapons though.

For star wars, I think that stranglehold they have is never going to let them make another movie where they don't take themselves so seriously ever again. I mean, serious within the film (no tarzan yell b.s. from wookies) but not serious - perhaps I mean self-conscious - about making it.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:21 PM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I liked Star Wars just fine in its day, and I notably attended dozens of showings of Return of the Jedi with my best friend at the old movie theater in Laurel, Maryland when we were broke teenagers and had to ride two-digit mileages on our bicycles and spend scant Tempest machine money on tickets to do so, and we knew the film well enough that our mouths moved through all the dialogue, even the Huttese stuff.

Now, though, I just wish it would fade and leave some room.

I'm in the camp that thinks that novels generally make terrible movies, but you know what short story would kick so much ass on the big screen? "The Phantom of Kansas," that's what. It's huge, it's intimate, it could be a showcase for astonishing CGI work and still have room for serious Oscar-grade acting. Honestly, almost any of dozens of short stories out of the Eight Worlds line would make amazing sci-fi film, but we're all stuck between Wars, Trek, dystopia, and disaster pictures forever and ever and ever, it seems. Sigh sigh sigh.


Huff.
posted by sonascope at 6:41 PM on September 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Man, god is the guy so wrong and so, so typical. There are other flavors of good besides "grimdark" and Star Wars, the original Star Wars, was definitely that--all about hope in a shiny new future, away from your crappy hometown with the sand and the heat and the rot, all about young, corny naivety. I mean, there are smugglers, sure. But they have hearts of gold.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:54 PM on September 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


almost any of dozens of short stories out of the Eight Worlds line would make amazing sci-fi film

Yeah, just please don't make Steel Beach, so I don't die from crying and crying at the end.
posted by mittens at 5:09 AM on October 1, 2013


Steel Beach is just way, way too much narrative for either a single movie or a movie franchise. IMO, this is why books are still better, but mileage may vary.

"Tango Charlie and Foxtrot Romeo" would be another astonishing film, but the Hollywood cabal would never let it be as disturbing and frustratingly sad (and therefore as beautiful) as the original short story.
posted by sonascope at 5:48 AM on October 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


There was, and still is, this huge resistance to fantasy, science fiction, etc. as legitimate entertainment (and really, wtf is 'legitimate' entertainment)

My current working theory is that comedy (in the classic Greek dramatic sense = anything with a happy ending) is now considered unserious filmmaking, and only tragedy is serious/legitimate. With SF movies, the method of approach to srs bzns is currently dystopian/grimdark. E.g., Nolan's Batman gets praised but the Marvel movies are all just making a buttload of money without critical admiration.

Personally, in terms of comic-bookiness, I hope they go for the Marvel approach and not the DC approach. I really do not want to see The Dark Jedi Knight.
posted by immlass at 8:10 AM on October 1, 2013


There was a time and place for "grimdark" (I hate that reductive cutesy word) in Star Wars and that was the fall of Anakin Skywalker. I think everyone is hoping for the sequels will be a fun romp like the OT. That said, you can have a fun romp without walking teddy bears, farting critters, poo jokes, and shitty "wacky" CGI characters. (See: ANH)
posted by entropicamericana at 8:36 AM on October 1, 2013


I was pretty negative on the idea that there were more Star Wars films coming, until I mentioned it to my kids. Their eyes lit up and they got very excited.

For me, one of the many joys of having children was being able to share with them the things I love(d) and re-experience it through their joy and happiness and excitement. Watching my oldest son (he was about six I think) watch Empire for the first time, and he's out of his seat with excitement during the Luke/Vader lightsaber duel, dancing around, become dead still at the revelation that Vader is Luke's father - well, that was a wonderful moment

And so I have come to a place where I am looking forward to being able to take both my boys to a new Star Wars film - one we can watch in the theatre (probably even in 3D, if we want) together. The film may not be everything I hope for, but the excitement and joy my sons will have in going to it will make it into something special.
posted by nubs at 11:39 AM on October 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, "Air Raid" certainly didn't work out very well as a film....
posted by Chrysostom at 11:49 AM on October 1, 2013


Production troubles on that one. It's the Dune of Varley, alas.
posted by sonascope at 1:10 PM on October 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


There was a time and place for "grimdark" (I hate that reductive cutesy word) in Star Wars and that was the fall of Anakin Skywalker.

The term got its start in internet culture from people joking about Warhammer 40,000, with its tagline "In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war." The funny thing is, W40K started out as much as a sly parody of that kind of thing as anything else, that came eventually to be played so straight that now there is no parody left, and the tagline efficently mocks itself.

Last week I saw a boxed set on the shelf of a local gaming store titled WARHAMMER 40,000 DARK VENGENCE. They might as well have called it DARK GRIM GRAY DARK DARK GRAY GRIM DARK GRIM. While things like that are still available, and popular, the term will probably survive.
posted by JHarris at 3:10 PM on October 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Greg_Ace: "Beat PunchBeef! Crunch ButtSteak! Punch RockGroin! Slate Fistcrunch! Thick McRunFast!"

My favorite was always Big McLargehuge!
posted by barnacles at 8:10 PM on October 1, 2013


Warhammer 40,000, with its tagline "In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war." The funny thing is, W40K started out as much as a sly parody of that kind of thing as anything else, that came eventually to be played so straight that now there is no parody left, and the tagline efficently mocks itself...While things like that are still available, and popular, the term will probably survive.

"In grim darkness of the far future there is only grimdarkness. Or darkgrimness. Or grimmygrimmydarkdark. Or something. Whatever, it's pretty fucking bleak and all in greyscale."
posted by nubs at 8:15 AM on October 2, 2013


Words can not adequately convert my sheer loathing for that sort of cynical crap

My point wasn't being cynical but rather pointing out the obvious. It's easy to fight against the big bad but it's not so easy making a new society out of the ruins of the old. And the ideals and dreams you fought for in the long struggle often die a death by a thousand cuts in the day to day compromises which come from actually governing, and many of the old revolutionaries burn out brightly or fade away to become footnotes to the current government, all the while wondering why they felt so alive during the struggle and now feel so empty.

This is not to say the new regime is worse than the old. The new regime may be completely better than the old one, it may be better in some ways and worse in others, or it may completely betray the old revolutionary principles. This is a complicated and interesting story and typical of practically every successful uprising and changing of the guard.
posted by honestcoyote at 7:17 AM on October 3, 2013


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