Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Star Wars: One Step Forward, Two Back

Have you seen the new trailer for Star Wars: Rogue One or Rogue One: A Star Wars Story or whatever it's called? I have to admit it looks pretty awesome, and much, much better than I expected. Disney's certainly done their research, and have recreated the look and feel of the Original Trilogy down to the smallest detail.

Rogue One is a prequel to A New Hope, and tells the tale of how the original Death Star plans were stolen by the Rebellion. You know, the plans that Princess Leia was delivering to Alderaan when she was captured by the Empire.

This is a story so vitally important that it was covered in the opening crawl of the first movie. If this particular element of the story was really that significant, then why wasn't it included in the original film to begin with?

Disney also recently announced they're making a Young Han Solo movie, which details the essential story of how he met Chewie and became a smuggler. An adventure that's so crucial to the saga that nothing about it was ever mentioned in any of Solo's four appearances.

George Lucas didn't include these elements in the Original Trilogy because he knew they weren't central to the movie he was making. It's called "in media res," which means "in the middle of things." You should always start your story in progress as much as possible— it's Writing 101. 

All the original Star Wars films used this technique. The Rebels already have the Death Star plans in hand at the beginning of A New HopeHow they got them isn't important. The Rebels have a new hidden base on Hoth as The Empire Strikes Back opens. We don't need to see them surveying hundreds of worlds until they find just the right one. Lando's already infiltrated Jabba's Palace at the beginning of The Return Of The Jedi. Lucas wisely skipped the scenes of Bib Fortuna interviewing Lando for a job.

These elements are all backstory. They're not critical to our understanding or enjoyment of the films.

I have a feeling we're going to see a lot more of this "strip mining" of the Original Trilogy in days to come. Disney paid FOUR BILLION DOLLARS to acquire Star Wars (and all Lucasfilm properties), and they want a return on that investment as quickly as possible. There's no way they're going to risk making a film with new ideas which might not resonate with the audience or dominate the box office. 

So instead of moving forward with brand new adventures, they're looking backward. They're examining every nook and cranny of the already established Star Wars Universe, scouring them for any tiny detail or offhand remark they can develop into a new film.

Plus, since these new films are both prequels to the Original Trilogy, I can't imagine they'll contain many surprises. We know the Rebels will successfully steal the plans in Rogue One, because Leia has them in A New Hope. And no matter how much trouble Han and Chewie get into in Young Han Solo, they're in absolutely no danger of being killed. So what's the point?

Don't be surprised if we get a prequel showing us Admiral Akbar's early life on Mon Cala, and how he became a trusted leader in the Rebel fleet. Remember Mon Mothma's classic line "Many Bothans died to bring us this information?" Expect Disney to announce a Bothan movie any day now.

One could argue that The Force Awakens was a step forward, and managed to move the story ahead a bit. While that's true, it was also a virtual remake of A New Hope, duplicating that film's elements and structure almost to the letter. There's no denying that Disney's new Star Wars films are rooted firmly in the past. 

It's one (slight) step forward, two back. Way, way back.

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