In case you’ve been living in a cave for the last year or so, the new Star Wars film is out next week. Anticipation and expectation have reached fever pitch, and the trailers suggest we’re going back to the classic formula and the disappointing prequel trilogy can finally be put behind us. The real question is though, can anything really live up to this astronomical expectation? If The Force Awakens is to do so, here are a few things which will help bring balance to the force…
Yoda, you seek Yoda.
The ancient Jedi Master is the perfect example of what first must be set right: characters must be characters. In The Empire Strikes Back Yoda is a small, green wizened thing living in a swamp; his entrance is wonderfully entertaining and this is entirely due to his eccentricity. His scenes with Luke on Dagabah are some of the best in the entire saga and if the Force Awakens is to be a success any “alien” life forms must be created along this line. Give me some fantastically bizarre puppet with a funny voice, over some gangly, slapstick mess any day. This is one of the most important aspects which gave the original trilogy its charm and cannot be ignored. Do, or do not, there is no try.
If this is ignored, and we fall into the do not category, we are left with things like Jar-Jar Binks, who represents a lot of what went wrong in Episode 1&2: he is hideously irritating, he isn’t funny, he isn’t quirky, and the only reason I’d like to see him in The Force Awakens is to watch Chewie rip his arms from his sockets. He was created using CGI and it seems the emphasis was upon using this new technology and not developing him into a proper character: the result, Jar-Jar Binks is one of the most despised characters in film history.
You don’t know the power of the Dark Side.
In the original trilogy Darth Vader, The Empire and The Emperor are as bad ass as you can get. Between them they have the Death Star, Super Star Destroyers, red lightsabers, and electricity shooting out their hands. But in Revenge of the Sith (which I am actually very fond of), The Emperor was turned into some bizarre caricature of himself and at times made noises reminiscent of Sadam Hussein in South Park. The scene where Mace Windoo comes to arrest Chancellor Palpatine and the resulting fight is embarrassing, and it is almost impossible to believe that he is the same man who delights in torturing Luke Skywalker so callously in The Return of the Jedi.
We need a return to the old Dark Side. The Sith, or those aspiring to become the Sith at least, need to be genuinely evil; they need to be feared, ruthless, and seemingly all powerful. Admirals and Generals must be disposed of willy-nilly, and if there is to be any vocal evil at all it should be acted properly and not layered with any unnecessary sound effects. Basically, everyone has to fear the power of the Dark Side.
You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy
In the original trilogy there were some truly memorable settings: just take Tatooine, which is crawling with Tuskan Raiders, awesome little creatures called Jawas, and a spaceport crammed full of murderous rogues. By following R2D2 and C3PO we were given what would now be considered far too long to get to know the planet, but this is much better than virtually anything in the prequels. Too much action does not allow us to truly sink into the universe. I quite liked the Blade Runner-esq quality on Coruscant at the start of Attack of the Clones which was unfortunately soon lost; and the battle on Kashyyyk in which Yoda helps the Wookies in Revenge of the Sith felt random and just an excuse to include a beloved species. Yes, we need action: but we also need time to sink into our surroundings.
You can’t help but be excited by the appearance of the Millennium Falcon in trailers for The Force Awakens, but if it is to return in earnest, it shouldn’t work properly for about 80% of the film. The Falcon is like a classic car, it’s the best thing in the world when it works on those two days a year, but otherwise it should constantly be braking down and need repairing. Han and Chewie struggling at the controls trying to get to light-speed are iconic, and it also provides the setting for Han and Leia’s relationship to blossom. Problems with the Falcon take up a good portion of The Empire Strikes Back, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this is by far the best film of the franchise…
Quicker, easier, more seductive
While these ingredients are important, there are one or two aspects of The Force Awakens which gave me cause for pause: has J.J. Abrams joined the Dark Side?
First of all there is Kylo Ren’s lightsabre: while on the surface it looks a little odd, it could well be pointing to something more sinister: that Abrams is pandering to those who loved Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace and could well include other irksome elements. I liked the double-ended lightsabre, but these things cannot be included as gimmicks.
This might sound like I am overreacting, but then I heard new that Abrams has included a fresh take on the Cantina scene, and I’m now a bit worried The Force Awakens is just going to be one big parody. There is a difference between being faithful to the originals, and lending heavily from them in a desperate attempt to appease diehard fans and return to the good old days. Let’s just hope that Abrams hasn’t been seduced by the quicker, easier path to the Dark Side of the Force and still strives to give us something fresh.
I’m not expecting miracles and I’m certainly not expecting The Force Awakens to be comparable with the originals (it won’t have Darth Vader, Obi-Wan or Yoda in for a start) but I am hoping it will be a film worthy of the franchise.
Come on J.J. ol’ buddy don’t let me down…