I can’t wait to see The Force Awakens, but like any fan, I’m hoping they’ll bring back the good stuff and leave out the bad. Here’s my take on what that might look like…
Five things I want to see
The prequels are far worse than the original trilogy in just about every respect – but the settings are an exception. Whereas the first three instalments had to opt for generic sand, ice, swamp and forest environments found on Earth, the prequels gave us the computer-generated gorgeousness of Naboo and the awesome Manhattan-on-crack intensity of Coruscant. CGI has come a long way since the days when Natalie Portman was strangling her vowel sounds as Queen Amidala, and I can’t wait to see what the designers have come up with for The Force Awakens.
I know he didn’t make it out of the original trilogy alive, but I don’t care – besides Darth Vader, the little green grand master is the best character in the series. Even if we can’t bring him back, surely another wise yet adorable cousin who puts verbs at the end of sentences Yoda has? Do or do not, JJ Abrams. As Star Trek: Into Darkness proves, there is no try.
There are a few in the Clone Wars cartoon series, apparently. But come on, Lucasfilm – lady Jedis are long overdue in the live action series. The shots of Rey wielding a lightsabre in recent trailers are promising, but if the Jedi Order is being reconstructed, it’s high time some gender balance came into the Force. And speaking of which, I hope the series doesn’t get too fancy with its weapons – there is nothing like a lightsabre battle – or perhaps a light-sword battle, Kylo Ren?
Dark, or darkish, Luke
We don’t yet know what’s happened to Luke – he isn’t in any of the posters. Has the ageing process done what even the Emperor’s lightning bolts couldn’t, and turned our boy to the dark side? Probably not, let’s face it – I suspect he’s taking a soggy leaf out of Yoda’s swamp and becoming the new reclusive trainer.
But a bit of character complexity wouldn’t go astray for a character who has always been not only kind of short for a stormtrooper, but kind of dorky for the main hero of the greatest sci-fi trilogy ever. I’m not entirely sure that Mark Hamill has the acting chops to pull off a more sophisticated version of Luke, but I hope we get to find out.
Darth Vader’s is a tough helmet to fit into – especially now that it’s all melted, as seen in the trailer – but in the Emperor, the original series unleashed an even scarier villain. The prequels struggled to match these baddies – Palpatine was just getting started on his nefarious schemes, while Darth Maul was a squib despite his awesome face paint and double lightsabre. And Count Dooku … was called Count Dooku, c’mon. Even if he was played by the ever-reliable Christopher Lee.
I’m sceptical about just how terrifying Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren will be – he seems like the kind of guy whose wrath would extend to sending you to only the second-best craft beer bar in Williamsburg – but we can hope there’s some genuinely spine-chilling scenes in store.
And five things I don’t want to see
For some reason, George Lucas packed The Phantom Menace with enough racial stereotypes for a Bill Leak cartoon. Jar Jar Binks invoked all kinds of jaded, horrible African-American caricatures, while the mendacious merchants of the Trade Federation were a throwback to perceptions of Asians that felt more reminiscent of the Opium Wars than Star Wars. The greedy junk shop owner Watto has also been perceived as anti-Semitic.
While George Lucas denies that these characters have any racial connotations, and it’s hard to imagine that it was done intentionally, it doesn’t matter – these uncomfortable associations would have gone a long way towards ruining Episode I if the terrible dialogue and cringe-inducing acting hadn’t done so already.
This would also mean no Jar Jar, obviously. Good.
The Star Wars universe was already laden with Force mumbo-jumbo, but that was kind of OK when it meant Jedis could play mind tricks, do athletic leaps and wield those awesome lightsabres.
For some reason, though, the notion of Anakin’s elevated midichlorian count really broke the tauntaun’s back. What’s more, it led to the deeply silly notion of Anakin’s immaculate conception. From which we can gather, since Ani’s mum Shmi Skywalker is a brunette, that the physical embodiment of the Force is whiny, has blonde hair and is partial to bowl cuts.
I know Jabba’s not a good guy. Not only is he a crime lord whose foul tentacles extend far beyond Tatooine, he wanted Han Solo encased in carbonite even though Han was well on the way to assembling the credit needed to repay his debt. But please – did he have to be morbidly obese? Why couldn’t it have been a coincidence that the Hutt shares his species with an all-you-can-eat pizza place?
One of the many reasons Episode I is so terrible is because a great deal of screen time is given to those dumb races where Anakin wins the freedom we all know he was destined to win from the dastardly Watto (see above). We all know he succeeds, so there’s no suspense, just crappy special effects as the pods zoom around that boring canyon.
I can only assume that the podracing was included to sell toys and videogames, but since it’s an axiom that all Star Wars videogames stink like Chewie after a dip in a trash compactor, I do wish they hadn’t bothered.
Another Death Star
The Death Star is a brilliant and truly sinister concept, but come on – they shouldn’t have gone back to the same idea for the climax of Return of the Jedi. And while it was foolish of the initial designers to render the first one vulnerable to Luke’s proton torpedoes, surely you’d get rid of any such vulnerabilities for #2? If I was Emperor Palpatine’s insurer, I would have refused to pay out on the loss of the first Death Star until they came up with a design that was fully Rebel air raid-proof.
When the major difference between the endings of A New Hope and Return of the Jedi is a bunch of ewoks, it’s clear they were out of ideas. So they really had better not resort to a third Death Star in any of the new sequels, or I swear I’ll breed my very own Sarlaac and feed it JJ Abrams.