Tuesday, June 11, 2019

My Star Wars pitches

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Now that Star Wars is officially on hiatus for...some period of time with...some part of the franchise, I want to take the opportunity and pitch some ideas for Star Wars movies. We know that the background for the decision to take a little break from theatrical releases lay in the disappointing performance of "Solo", a movie that was famously regarded as a bad idea by illustrious hosts of this here show even when it was announced. The other foray into movies independent from the main saga, "Rogue One", fared much better.

In one of our older podcasts, I pitched the idea to Sean that Lucasfilm could essentially repeat the Marvel trick and put out movies with differing genres each year. While the gruelling Marvel schedule is now out of the question for the franchise - I guess Sean was right that they need to keep it more special instead of chugging them out like clockwork - I stand by the idea to explore more genres. This seems now to be the premise of the TV shows, where "The Mandalorian" seems to tap into the Western genre, whereas the yet unnamed Cassian Andor mini-series seems a rehash of "Rogue One".
So, what more settings could be explored, you ask? Ah, quite a lot, I answer. Let me indulge you with some ideas. I want to sort the movies by timeline, in order to give this some structure.

I) The Old Republic
The setting here is centuries, if not millenia before the main saga. There is the Old Republic, and there are quite a lot of Sith and Jedi running around. The main draw here is that you can go batshit crazy with powers and lightsabres, even more so than the Clone Wars era did. There's also a lot of room to go really, really big.

1) The Anime epic
A lot of Star Wars imagery is inspired by classical Manga and Anime sensibilities. So why not lean into this more heavily, and do an epic that's not only borrowing its structure from the Japanese masters, but also its asthetics? If you need a guide how this could look, rewatch the 2003 Clone Wars miniseries, which did this to a large degree (and on a small budget). Jedi and Sith families could square off with feudal retainers, basically "Ran" in space. You can already see the mass appeal of this, I'm sure.

2) The political thriller
A Galactic Republic is a setting rife with intrigue and deal making of all sorts. If you want to do a lower budget Star Wars, or at least one without big battles, you could go full "tax dispute with the Trade Federation" and produce a political thriller. There's a myriad of weird aliens to incorporate.

3) To boldly go...
Why not copy Star Trek? You could do an exploration show, in which official envoys from a young and strifing Republic venture out into the unknown and offer new worlds a place in this great system that will totally never ever tear itself apart in sectarian extremist religious violence. Follow along as a space cruiser shaped like a proto-Star-Destroyer has adventures in unknown systems.

II) The Clone Wars
Pretty self-explanatory; it's the era from the around "The Phantom Menace" to "Revenge of the Sith". This is a well-explored era; not only do we have three movies set in it, but also a cartoon mini-series and a fully-fledged, six (soon to be seven) season cartoon series. But instead of following the adventures of Obi-Wan and Anakin (and Ahsoka Tano), there are more possibilities.

1) Maul
Not that I think it's a good idea, but you COULD make a movie about Darth Maul and his travails after Obi-Wan cuts him in half. This is nothing that works all that well since Maul is a very one-dimensional villain and, well, a villain, but the success of Suicide Squad proved that you can make shitty movies upon this premise and succeed.

2) The Seperatist side
One of the charms of the prequel era is that good and evil don't really line up neatly with the frontlines, so you could easily do a story about some people that got swept up in the Seperatist cause over a legitimate grievance with the Republic. This might also be a setting that's rich for some Lost-Cause-deconstruction, as you could parallel some of the arguments (planet's rights!) of the Civil War that were bullshit with the Seperatist propaganda. If you want to go all-in on this analogy, you could equate the droids with slaves, but that's not a good idea in my opinion. For a "Rogue One" style, grey morality area thing, this setting would be a generally rewarding premise, though.

3) A Jedi story
I don't feel that the Jedi order presents itself very competently, sympathetically or overly sensibly in the movies, unfortunately. They often talk about corruption, inaction and bureaucracy, but we don't really see these problems coming up. The conflict could tell a story about Padawan and Master as they should be, rather than the perenially flawed versions we get in Anakin and Obi-Wan, and how they try to navigate the murky waters of this conflict, in which peacekeepers become soldiers. It could be very contained drama à la UN Blue Helmets in a crisis zone, trying to keep with all the rules while being in mortal danger and trying to save the civilians at the same time.

III) The Galactical Civil War
This period is obviously the best explored of all, as the original setting likely is to be. It spans the beginnings of the rebellion (some 10-odd years before the Battle of Yavin) to the foundation of the New Republic (some 5-odd years after the Battle of Endor).

1) An Imperial story
A story about soldiers within the Imperial army à la the TIE Fighter cartoon short could be quite something. The original TIE Fighter video game could serve as a foil for this. The obvious pitfalls is to avoid the two major missteps with a story like this. On the one hand, you don't want to have the protagonists being fully evil in service of an evil cause, because that alienates the audience, but on the other hand, letting them discover how evil the Empire is and changing side is a cheap cop-out.

2) Sparks of Rebellion
Rogue One gave us a look into the messy inner workings of the Rebellion, and the animated series "Rebels" showed the foundation of the Rebellion from some small cells. There are more stories to be told in this setting, in which a small group could become part of something bigger. I'm imagining this as a more contained, adult version of "Rebels", basically.

3) Gap filling
Before "Rogue One", we didn't know that the story of the Death Star plans theft needed to be told. There are longer stretches of time between "A New Hope" and "The Empire strikes back" as well between "Empire" and "Return of the Jedi". I think the latter is more interesting to flesh out, especially since all the major characters are accounted for (Luke is training, Leia, Chewie and Lando rescue Han, and Han is in carbonite). What's the rest of the rebellion up to? Between the evacuation of Hoth and the Battle of Endor, the Rebels switch base to a whole rag-tag fleet of survivors. One could imagine a Battlestar-Galactica-scenario in which we follow the fleet under Admiral Ackbar and Senator Mon Mothma. Too close to home, maybe.

IV) The new era
This is the era in which the new movies are set in. There's the formation of the First Order, the trials of the New Republic and the training of the Knights of Ren, the rise of Snoke, and what have you. A lot of ground to cover, intentionally so.

1) The Spy that Loved Me
The Resistance was founded as what basically amounts to a terrorist group sanctioned by the New Republic, which weirdly gives the First Order a valid casus belli (I'm not quite sure if J. J. Abrams thought this whole concept through). But in that period, we have people like Poe Dameron flying for the skeleton New Republic force (the planets keep their own armies, as far as I understand it, which is also singularily stupid) while serving in the Resistance at the same time. There's a lot of story to be told where facades need to be maintained while spies from both factions battle it out on the floor of ritzy international conference settings. It would be James Bond in space, basically, and the New Republic would always disown their agents with a licence to hop in an X-Wing and blow stuff up.

2) Jedi Knight
This version is essentially a recreation of the old Jedi Knight video games, in which we see Luke train a new generation of Jedi Knights (including, maybe, young Kylo Ren). This could either tie in heavily the movies and feature Kylo more prominently, or, which I regard as the much better idea, showcase Luke's early training and the attempts to recreate the order and its teachings. And you only need Mark Hamill back, so no pressure.

3) Aftermath
It's hard to speculate about this since we don't know the plot of "The Rise of Skywalker" yet, but a story exploring what happens after the trilogy finale will almost surely be interesting enough on its own merits. Consider this a placeholder.

So, Lucasfilm, if you use any of these ideas, I'm going to sue you. This is how with works, right? Right?

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