There’s that moment when you’re watching Empire Strikes Back, right near the beginning, when you hear the hum and roar of the Echo Base hangar and watch Han cuss out Chewie for taking something apart he just tried to fix, when you realize: I love these guys. And you do. You want to live with them; you want to sling up a hammock in the Falcon and ride along for their adventures, no matter where they lead, because Han is awesome and Chewie is like the best friend you never had and you want to know what the inside of that ship smells like or how the air on Hoth feels against your cheeks. It is at that moment that, against all reason, the world of Star Wars has you. Your heart is in your throat for the rest of it, come what may, because Han and Chewie and Luke and Leia are your friends.
It happens again, at least for me, in Willow. There is Mad Martigan, still partially in drag, still loopy from the brownie’s true-love dust, getting screamed at by Willow (again), being charged by Nokmar soldiers…
…and then he gets a sword. Magic happens.
It happens with Indiana Jones running through the South American jungles in Raiders, it happens with Tyrion when he walks out of the Eyrie with a smile on his face, it happens with Jack Sparrow and Long John Silver, with Mal Reynolds and Buffy, with Kirk and McCoy – that single, almost unquantifiable thing that happens when you discover that you really do love these people. You could read stories about them forever, or so you think.
Yet, it isn’t really true.
How we fall in love and out of love with characters (or how we never manage to) is the sort of bottled lightning that probably every author seeks to capture. You try to make your characters relatable, flawed, but also idealized and perfect (somehow). You give them senses of humor, you have them complain about stuff just like a regular person, and then, once you’ve tied the audience to them as tightly as a ship to its anchor, you heave those characters overboard and watch the people squirm. When you watch Han let Lando borrow the Falcon to fly in the Battle of Endor, your heart is in your throat. You can scarcely look as the flames burn up around the cockpit as the ship is trying to make it out of the Death Star and then, for that brief fleeting moment that you think Lando is gone, your breathing stops. You’re frozen, almost as in grief for a real person, but before you can figure it out the ship shoots out into space, the music rises, and you’re there cheering.
Then, wierdly, you can find yourself down the road a bit and looking over the latest atrocious Pirates of the Caribbean sequel and find you no longer care. They lost you. You couldn’t care less if (Captain) Jack Sparrow is tossed over the side with cannonballs around his ankles ten minutes into the movie. Whatever. He’s just some fictional character now; you don’t know him from Adam.
What is the magic formula, then? How can you whip yourself up a batch of loveable characters and keep them that way? The fact is that the answer isn’t an easily quantifiable one. If it were, movies like GI Joe: Rise of Cobra or Cutthroat Island, which try so very hard, wouldn’t fail so miserably. If once you made it you kept it by default, I wouldn’t find myself reading A Dance with Dragons and deciding I don’t really care what happens to Tyrion anymore. There’s a kind of storytelling alchemy at work here, a theoretical paradigm we are all trying to achieve, and there seems to be no sure way to pull it off. Like the perfect game or the hole in one, it only happens once a career if you’re lucky.
But we all keep trying, don’t we? We want that moment where the audience cares for our characters as much as we do, but, like any loving parent, it is sometimes so very hard to see the flaws in those you love with all your heart.
You may have heard that there was a petition to the White House recently to advocate the construction of the Death Star. It received so many advocates, the White House was compelled to respond, and they produced this little gem.
This got me thinking about the purpose of building the Death Star in the first place, and whenever I do this, I invariably start wondering ‘why would the Empire do this?’ The Death Star would be enormously expensive to build, staff, maintain, and operate. It is essentially guaranteed to be plagued with design flaws, since what you’re doing is taking a design originally devised by Geonosians (who are hive-oriented, flying insectoid creatures) and adapting it to human occupants and then building it under contract from the lowest bidder. Also, if you find yourself in the midst of trying to quell a burgeoning rebellion, making a super-weapon that blows up planets is more likely to increase the sympathy for the Rebellion than decrease it.
I’m getting ahead of myself, though. Let’s go through this more methodically.
Blowing Up Planets? Why?
Okay, so the Death Star has the destructive power to blow up a whole planet’s mass. Fine. Here’s my question: Why is this necessary?
You don’t particularly need to destroy the actual physical mass of the planet, do you? Wouldn’t wiping out all life on the surface be sufficient? I would think so, since the thing you object to is not so much the sphere of matter upon which your enemies walk, but rather your enemies themselves. Killing everything on the surface of a planet isn’t really all that hard, when you consider that the Star Wars universe has access to things like tractor beams. Why shoot a super-laser when you can just get together a couple big tractor-beam ships and drag a huge asteroid on a collision course. Hell, you could just drag the asteroid over there, let her go, and BOOM–planet is screwed. This is bound to be cheaper and less prone to catastrophic failure. I mean, worse case scenario is your giant asteroid floats off and doesn’t hit the planet and you lose a few capital ships. You’re the Galactic Empire–you can soak that loss.
Then, even supposing you can blow up the planet and want to do so, that still makes it rather a bad idea. Planets, you see, are fairly useful entities to have around. Not only do they tend to contain things like minerals and water and so on, which are handy, they also act as good places to hide, establish bases, and are in all ways more useful than the massive debris field you’re seeking to replace them with. Seems like not the most efficient use of resources.
What About the Doctrine of Fear?
The whole reason the Death Star was built, though, wasn’t a tactical one; it was a political one. The idea was to create a weapon so damned scary that the whole galaxy would do what the Emperor wanted except without the need of a Senate to inconveniently disagree with him. It sounds okay on the surface, but it doesn’t actually work in practice. Never has. Sure, when the Death Star is in the neighborhood, folks will behave, but when it flies off somewhere, they’re still going to hate Palpatine’s guts. In fact, they seem all the more likely to help out (secretly of course) that rebellion that’s trying to overthrow the Empire. Why? Well, perhaps Machiavelli put it best:
…so long as you do not deprive [the people] of either their property or their honor, the majority of men live happily; and you only have to deal with the ambition of a few, who can be restrained without difficulty and by many means.
~Machiavelli, The Prince
What Machiavelli is getting at here is that you can do a lot of shit to people as their ruler and nobody will give you crap, but if you touch their homes or their families (specifically their spouses), they will go from simply being afraid of you to hating your guts. This a very, very important distinction. People who are afraid of you see there as being some chance of remaining on your good side indefinitely by simply listening to you, which will then allow them to live in relative peace. People who hate you have decided that there is no way they can live under your rule because they cannot tolerate your existence anymore. This happens if you blow up somebody’s planet (or somebody’s sister’s planet, or cousin’s, or wife’s, or if your kid was vacationing there).
Of note, most real-world despots who attempted to operate by the Doctrine of Fear have not come to good ends, and the speed with which they came to those bad ends was directly proportional to the amount by which the collected people of Earth hated their guts. The entire idea of rapacious tyranny has a long history of terrible, awful failure. It’s hard to imagine the Star Wars universe is substantially different.
Honestly, there is nothing wrong with the Imperial Fleet by itself. A fleet is hard to blow up all at once, you need it for a variety of purposes (not all of which are oppression related), it can do a number of things at the same time over a vast area, and, most importantly, you’ve already got one. The Death Star probably cost the same as, what, 150 Star Destroyers? Wouldn’t 150 additional Star Destroyers been a better buy? 150 Star Destroyers can destroy planets (or everything on top of them, and that’s what counts), they can be scary, and they are unlikely to go kablooey from one errant proton torpedo.
I imagine there were a couple accountants and high-level Imperial Bureaucrats who were thinking this, too. Of course, since they didn’t particularly relish being strangled by the Force, I’d bet they kept their mouths shut. Just goes to show, you should always ask your accountant’s honest advice before making massive investments like this. Then again, if Palpatine didn’t catch the hint the first time the Death Star exploded, I think we can safely say that a long and fruitful reign wasn’t in the cards for him.
Lots of people freaking out about Lucasfilm being sold to Disney today. Not that you asked, but here’s my take:
Everybody needs to chill out.
Seriously, this isn’t the end of the world. My argument goes as follows:
Disney Isn’t Such a Poor Steward
Disney, particularly in the last decade, has produced a lot of quality. You probably can’t accuse much of it of being ‘high art’, but neither is Star Wars, when you come right down to it. It’s space opera, which isn’t exactly rocket science (get it? No? Well…study your sub-genres, nerds) and is, exactly, melodrama. Do you know anyone consistently better at melodrama than Disney? Show of hands for all those who cried during Up (a Disney property)? How many of your hearts go all a-flutter when you hear the opening bars of “Circle of Life?”
Star Wars is melodrama; Disney has made melodrama a science. They got you covered.
It Isn’t Like Star Wars Was Doing Anything Good, Anyway
Let’s face it, George Lucas has become more machine now, than man. Twisted and evil. Is the Mouse better? I don’t know; I don’t really ascribe to those who accuse Disney of being the Great Satan. It’s a giant production company that churns out feel-good stories about self-discovery and adventure, that’s all. Lucas, however, has degenerated into ‘that guy who shoves more and more random effects into his otherwise decent movies.’ He hasn’t made a good movie in decades and I rather doubt he has one in him. What he has spent most of his time doing these past few years is seeing who will pay him to use his Star Wars franchise. We were never going to get an Episode VII out of the guy, so why are we complaining that someone bought him out and is now going to give us what we (presumably) want?
What’s that? You’re worried it might suck? Well, yes, it might. Then again, Star Wars sucks right now. Are you going to try and sell me on the argument that the prequel trilogy hasn’t already bled away any warm feelings we still had towards the original trilogy? Bah. Stuff and nonsense. I would provisionally make the argument that Star Wars hasn’t produced a top-of-the-line entry since Return of the Jedi. Some of the books were okay, the Clone Wars cartoon series was fun, but nothing has successfully caught that lightning in the bottle since. Disney probably can’t, either, but so what if they don’t? Disney can’t do any worse than has already been done.
It Is Physically Impossible For Star Wars to Become Any More Commercial
If you want to make the argument that Disney will ‘cheapen’ the Star Wars brand, you need to throw yourself out a window. That simply isn’t possible. Star Wars has sold itself out in every single conceivable way it can think of. Hell, that’s probably much of the reason Disney bought it; they looked at it and said ‘hell, our work’s already done!’ You’ve eaten the breakfast cereal, worn the underoos, and bought all fifteen versions of the same damn movie; you have no dignity left to sell, guys.
It Might, Maybe, If We’re Really Lucky…Be AWESOME.
This is a new day for Star Wars. Change for this bloated, stagnant, decaying franchise is a good thing. All of that nostalgia we feel for Lucasfilm is just so much rose-tinted glass and all-too-human fear of change. Get past it. If you really love Star Wars, you know something like this was bound to happen – had to happen, dammit. Yeah, we would have preferred Lucas, in a fit of socialist madness, made the whole damned thing Open License (then I’d get to do this or this), but we all know that was about as likely as Santa Claus kicking in our door and giving us an actual flying pony for our 40th birthday. Passing the torch is the next best thing. There are talented people at Disney and it’s affiliates – young, hungry people with stories left to tell and the imagination and funding to make it happen. Let’s sit back and watch – it may just be the best thing ever.
Now, if you want to argue about whether Disney owning all the fun is a good idea in general, that’s a slightly different discussion. Just because they have all the good IP, that doesn’t mean they’ll mistreat them while under their care. It just means they’ll sue us if we mess with them.
Or, I guess, unless we pony up 5 billion dollars and put in a phone call.
Dreamers build castles in the sky;
Lunatics live in them.
I’ve been thinking about this statement a bit today, and specifically how it applies to those of us in the world who spend a great deal of our time building those castles and, to some extent, wishing we lived there at the same time. I’m not sure where this is going, precisely, but I think it’s going to have something to do with fanboyism. Hold on:
I am a sci-fi/fantasy writer. I am a role-player who has custom build games, worlds, and whole mythologies in which to immerse my friends. One setting, Alandar, has been undergoing formation every since I was thirteen or fourteen years old, which means it’s been growing for twenty years. It has countries, people, elaborate histories, economies, religions, languages, cultures and so on and so forth. I know what it’s like to be a tanner in Galaspin and a thaumaturge in Kalsaar just as well as I know what it’s like to be an English teacher and writer in Boston. Close, anyway.
As a sci-fi/fantasy fan, there are the worlds of other authors I also know and love so well I feel as if I could dwell there. I know the sands of Tatooine and of Arrakis; I can imagine what it would be like to be accepted to Starfleet Academy or how I would feel if I were to see the Golden Throne looming before me beneath the blackened skies of Holy Terra. The thing is, though, I don’t live in those places and I don’t want to. I like where I am just fine.
There was a period in my early to mid-teens where the idea of living in something like the Star Wars universe seemed appealing to me. Not only was it an awkward period as it is for most folks, I also had the added complication of watching my brother slowly die from a wasting disease thrown into the mix. Going somewhere where I could be free of all that and have my own ship and fly around and have adventures seemed like a pretty great idea. I knew it wasn’t possible, of course, but it was a convenient psychological retreat. I imagine the specfic genres act or acted in that fashion for a great many of us. Very few of us lose so much perspective that we cease to readily define the difference between fiction and reality.
I have gotten to the point where I don’t get easily immersed in a world anymore. I see it for what it is; I see the gaps and can perceive the structural elements holding the thing together. I recognize the illusion of world-building for what it is–illusion. No author can realistically fill in every single gap in their world, and so they cheat by eliding certain details in preference to focusing on others. Scott Lynch, for instance, builds the city of Camorr out of food as much as anything else, spending inordinate amounts of time on what his characters cook, eat, and drink. This layered over architecture, custom, and a keen eye for dress creates a simply masterful illusion of a fully-realized world. We have every expectation that we could sit down in a Camorri bar, tug on the bartender’s sleeve, and order some Austershalin Brandy so long as we produced a bucket-load of gold coins. If you keep hunting, however, you see that Lynch pays much less attention to some other aspects of his world. The geography of the place, for instance, seems hard to follow. Industry and manufacturing aren’t explored, and the existence of people outside of the city and how they interact with those within is barely addressed. It hardly matters, though; Lynch’s world is one of the best realized you’ll find. I still don’t want to live there, though. It isn’t real.
There are those out there, though, who get unreasonably frustrated with tiny gaps in the illusion. These ‘fanboy’ types will go at an author hammer-and-tongs so that they can somehow shore up some slight imperfection in the fabric of their artificial world. These are the people who, if you challenge the accepted ‘canonical’ truth of a fantasy world, will jump all over you with ‘no ways’ and ‘it can’ts’. Nevermind that what they’re arguing over isn’t real and can, upon whim, be changed by the author. Sometimes when authors do this they actually damage the integrity of their previous work (medichlorians anyone?), but most of the time they simply change something that, in the end, doesn’t really matter. The place isn’t real, after all, so the author can do whatever they want. The fanboy, though, cannot accept this. They freak out and complain and argue and plead. It is important to them that this fanciful place maintain its image in their heads; the loss, on some level, is unbearable.
I confess to not understanding such people. They frustrate me. Their willingness to look at works established within a certain world (Star Trek novels, for instance) and deny the ‘truth’ of them because the information therein conflicts with their preconceived worldview of a non-existent place and time is baffling. Look, everybody, as much as I think it’s dumb, medichlorians are a thing in Star Wars. The story would have been better without them, but I’m not going to complain anymore. Lucas made his world less spiritual and more delusional, so that’s his problem. There’s no point ranting and raving about it. I’m not going to go to conventions wearing a ‘Han Shot First’ shirt, even if I do agree it was a better character choice the other way. I’m not going to rant and rave about the end of Mass Effect 3 because it should have been some other way. The world isn’t real, so there is no ‘should’. There only ‘is’.
Those castles the storytellers have built for you? They’re for dreaming about, not for living in. If you don’t like what they do with the wallpaper, find a different castle. Better yet, go and build your own.
I saw GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra the other day. It was on television and nothing else was on, just to defend myself a bit. I caught it somewhere in the second act or so and managed to watch the entire thing, even though it had commercials. I did it more as a thought exercise than because I was enjoying the movie.
Years ago, when it came out in theaters, a couple friends of mine were going to see it and were excited. “Have you seen it yet?” they asked me. My answer was no, I haven’t seen it specifically, but that I had seen it before, and so had they. I then told them the approximate plot of the movie, based largely off of the trailer and what kind of movie it was. Now that I’ve seen the film, I am (dis)pleased to see that I was, for the most part, exactly correct. I even predicted who would betray whom and when and more-or-less why, the location of Cobra’s secret base, and the general timbre of the final battle.
I was able to do this for one reason and one reason alone: Star Wars. The original trilogy, Lucas’ masterwork, has had a
pervasive influence on how big budget action/sci-fi movies are made pretty much since the original trilogy completed with Return of the Jedi. The GI Joe movie was worse than most. They had the super death fortress, the guys getting thrown down pits full of lightning, the big gun turrets (and, by the way, why would you install underwater gun turrets on your secret arctic base? Isn’t that sort of a waste of resources? How often will you be attacked by fleets of mini-subs?), the Death Star-esque super weapon, the plucky band of
X-wings minisubs going head-to-head with Cobra TIE fighters minisubs, and even the race against the clock to keep the doomsday weapon from
destroying the good guys’ base. It was so re-hashed it was embarrassing. Even the sets looked extremely similar.
GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra might be a particularly egregious example, but there are plenty of others. Avatar and its pseudonatural mysticism, for instance, or Independence Day and its multi-layered battle to destroy the enemy superweapon before it destroyed home base. There are lots of others, too. Now, some of this is understandable and, to some extent, inevitable – the reason Star Wars is so popular is because it, itself, is drawing upon very old adventure story tropes. It isn’t necessarily bad, either - there are always ways to make tropes fresh and fun and interesting. Tropes can create a kind of conversation among works, a progression of innovation and growth within a genre, in the same sense that one can write a variety of waltzes or marches or bluegrass music and not be boring or uncreative.
GI Joe, though, wasn’t doing this. It wasn’t even interested in being interesting, per se. They were being formulaic for the sake of safety. The producers were investing vast sums of money into that film and they wanted a guaranteed return on that investment. The best way to do that, of course, is to mimic those properties which did just that. In this case, that means Star Wars. In a fit of irony that boggles the mind, Lucas himself opted to mimic his own work in Episode I to attempt to achieve the same effect. He didn’t add anything new, though, and he failed to gain the audience’s sympathies for the characters which, itself, undermined the entire enterprise. He couldn’t escape from his own shadow.
It is important, though, for writers (screenwriters or otherwise) to escape from the shadow of Star Wars if writing a story in that genre. Joss Whedon, for instance, managed to do it well in Avengers and Firefly. It can be done. It should be done, so that the geeks of the universe aren’t constantly pandered to by Hollywood with more formulaic nonsense which, honestly, we shouldn’t indulge. I’m not going to call for a moratorium on doomsday weapons or giant space battles or swordfights near power generators, but I think we can all ask ourselves to strive to go a bit further than the minimum when trying to amaze and stupefy the audience. Right?
The topic of this post is probably nothing new. People have been sounding off on what is wrong with the prequels ever since the ‘New Star Wars Glow’ wore off Episode 1 and all of us, collectively, realized that the troubling feeling in our guts whenever we watched the movie was the fact that it was, after all, a bad movie. I and my friends (most notably my friend Matt M and I) have discussed at length how to fix the prequels and make them good movies–an edit, if you will–and, seeing as the films are getting released again in
MoneyVision…err…I mean ’3D’, now seems as good a time as any to give you my theory for how to make the movies better. I’ll probably write one of these as they are released, just for the hell of it.
Here we go:
Step 1: Stop Complaining About Jar-Jar
Yes, Jar-jar sucks. We all know he sucks. We all wish he weren’t there. Jar-jar isn’t the problem, though. There are plenty of annoying characters in actually good movies and we forgive them and still like the movie just fine (think Roger Rabbit, C3P0, Billie from Temple of Doom, Data, etc.). Why can’t we forgive Jar-Jar?
We can’t because there is no other interesting characters to watch!
Qui-Gon Jinn is exhaustingly boring, Obi Wan is a rebel with nothing and nobody to rebel against, Amidala is like a piece of talking furniture, and Annakin is played like a kid dragged out of central casting and asked to play, well, a kid. Jar-Jar is put in the movie for comic relief, right? But we don’t need or want comic relief in this film because there is no dramatic tension to be relieved.
The Solution: We need to change up the characters, and badly. Here’s my suggestion, as follows:
- Obi Wan should be a bad Padawan–rebellious, defiant, and headstrong. How do we make this work? Simple: It is Obi Wan, not Qui-Gon who wants to bring Annakin back to Coruscant. It is Obi Wan who pleads the case before the masters. It is Obi Wan who somehow convinces Qui Gon this is the right move. This, incidentally, gives Obi Wan even more to be miserable about later. Obi Wan is about improving the Jedi, see? He’s going to make things better, save the galaxy, etc. It’s a tragic flaw.
- Qui Gon should make bad choices. He should be wrong about things, and in such a way that, in the end, he chooses to defer to Obi Wan’s judgement. He should be indignant until, in the end, he dies humble and contrite before his former student.
- Amidala should be attracted to Obi Wan. Yes, I said it. This episode needs a little sexual tension, even if it is one-sided. Having a love triangle to play with later isn’t a bad idea, either. Obi Wan is cool, after all, and Amidala, though a queen, is a teenage girl. Teenage girls love cool bad-boys with magic swords–it’s a law.
- Annakin should be older and angrier. If he’s a character in The Goonies, he should be Mouth and not Mikey. Make him eleven, give him a chip on his shoulder (he’s a slave, after all–we can reasonably infer his innocence is shot). Have him appeal to Obi Wan–Obi Wan sees the same rebellious spirit he has. He’s a powerful proto-jedi already teetering on the edge of the Dark Side.
- Yes, no Jar-Jar. We’ve already got R2-D2 and Amidala/Obi Wan/Annakin to play with if we want to make things light. The Gungans can stay, though.
Step 2: Nobody Cares About Trade Embargoes
Economics-based conflicts play poorly in a space opera. I get it that Palpatine wants to spark a war that allows him to buy a private army, but that doesn’t mean he needs to spark it over a trade imbalance and legal technicalities. It lacks tension for the audience and doesn’t sustain the kind of heart-stopping action the movie needs.
The Solution: The species occupying Naboo wants it for its natural resources–notably it’s biomass. They’re strip miners, loggers, and so on and feel that the Naboo haven’t been taking their pleas seriously. With Darth Sideous backing them up, they finally have the balls to go over and take what they want. If you want to demonstrate that the Trade Confederation are bad guys, have them clear-logging forests, draining Gungan swamps, building giant, ugly droid factories and forcing the people into labor camps. There–evil–we get it.
Step 3: Better Understood Action
Many of the action scenes in The Phantom Menace, while well choreographed, aren’t all that much fun. Why? We don’t care about the outcome. I’ve written about this before , and much of the problem ought to be amended by having better characters, but there are still things that can be fixed. Here, in order, is how I’d run the plot:
- At the start, the Jedi go directly to Naboo where the Trade Federation’s Controller Ship has landed to host a parley between Amidala and the Directors (or whatever they’re called). It is, of course, a trap. When the poison gas pours into the room, the only way to save Amidala is for Obi Wan to seal his lips over hers and breathe for her (bingo–cue infatuation of a young girl for a handsome hero somewhat older than her). What follows is a mad-cap race through the city to the water, where they barely escape (insert CGI robot villains here) by taking the risky course through the Planet Core (over Qui Gon’s objections). We then meet with the Gungan and Amidala/Qui Gon have to negotiate a ship to escape the planet.
- The escape from the planet goes pretty much the same as before, and we wind up at Tatooine. Here Darth Maul is hunting them the whole time and tries to assassinate Amidala. Maul outsmarts Qui Gon and almost gets her, save for the intervention of a young slave who is curiously strong in the force. Obi Wan advocates for his release and, eventually, Qui Gon is convinced after he meets Annakin’s mother. Cue Pod Race for kid’s freedom and then Touching Goodbye (unchanged–Schmi Skywalker is the best part of Episode 1, kid you not). There is no mention of metichlorians, cause who the hell cares *why* the Force works?
- Go to Coruscant, cue drama with Annakin/Obi Wan/Qui Gon. The backdrop is with Amidala/Palpatine. Have Obi Wan explain that he and Amidala can never be together (silly girl). Suddenly Coruscant becomes more interesting, doesn’t it?
- Return, cue big fight. This is roughly unchanged, but sees our characters finish their now-existent arcs: Annakin finds his calling, Obi Wan is (finally) given power, but at the terrible price of his Master’s death, Amidala, hurt by Obi Wan, gives them a hero’s send-off, and Yoda pronounces his terrible prophesy.
See? The movie really isn’t that bad if you just give your characters something to do for a reason. These changes also set things up for the next two movies, too–we’re telling a tragedy here, so we need to work on building pathos. Anyway, there’s my .02, for what they’re worth. Not much, I know, but hey, a guy’s entitled to his opinions, right?
I’d go see this movie, anyway. There’s no way Lucas is getting $15 from me to watch his dull version again. I saw it four times when it came out and twice since then–I’m done.
About six years ago now (wow–how times flies!) I ran a Star Wars RPG campaign. Its structure was to mimic a trilogy of Star Wars movies–tightly paced, action-packed, complete with credits, text crawl on starfield at the start, a full cast, etc.. The players knew going in that the game wasn’t going to be as ‘open-ended’ as some other campaigns I had run, in that we had plot points to hit and a pre-defined conflict to resolve. The three ’films’ would take place between Episode III and Episode IV and covered the founding and establishment of the Rebel Alliance. They wound up being great, great fun.
Cast of Characters
- Cordelia Algodon: The Last Jedi (so far as she’s aware), who’s been on the run from the ISB and Vader ever since the Jedi holocaust of Episode 3. A Padawan who saw her master murdered before her eyes by ISB Operative Sammar, her story arc saw her midwifing the Alliance into existence and, finally, sacrificing her life to ensure it’s survival. Played by my friend Melissa.
- Bi-Fi Doon: A space pirate played by my friend Bobby who winds up finding his calling as the fledgling Allaince’s best operative. Love interest of Mon Mothma (who was a major NPC). Partners with Heidel Thann (played by my friend Fisher). Wound up as one of those bearded guys in the background at the Battle of Yavin
- Heidel Thann: First officer aboard Doon’s pirate vessel, the Totally Legitimate. Though Doon retained his skepticism of the Alliance’s high ideals, Thann jumped in with both feet. Wound up being the founder of Red Squadron.
- Kthaar, DC4P, et al.: There was a disaffected Nohgri Assassin, a grumpy protocol droid, and a variety of guest stars, all PCs, and, while they were all awesome, they weren’t central to the main plot of the ’films’
- Sammar: An Imperial Security Agent hot on Cordelia’s tail (and secretly in love with her). He is trained in the Dark Side by Palpatine in secret from Darth Vader (Palpatine was grooming him as an insurance policy should Vader betray him). Sammar killed Cordelia’s master prior to the start of the first ‘film’.
There were other characters, too, but I don’t want to bother going too in-depth here. Suffice to say we had a whole functioning trilogy with lots of awesome moments and tons of fun had. It’s very possible what we did conflicted with the Expanded Universe (I never read much beyond the Timothy Zahn novels), but we didn’t care (hell, Lucas doesn’t care, either, so whatever). Episode 3.3, Freedom’s Embers, involved the PCs rescuing Mon Mothma from Coruscant and establishing a safe haven on Dantooine; 3.6, Clash at Corellia, involved the theft of the plans for the X-Wing fighter and the rescue of key scientists from the Kessel Spice Mines; Episode 3.9 was about the recruitment of Admiral Ackbar and the first naval victory of the Alliance over Mon Calamari.
I even went so far as to write up trailers for the films, and, to be honest, if someone gave me a chunk of cash to write and produce the things we came up with here, they would make damned good movies. Anyway, what follows in the trailer to the second episode. I hope you enjoy it:
INT: MEETING HALL: NIGHT
(Mon Mothma stands at a podium. It is dark, and the shadows of various aliens in a variety of martial and rugged attire hang on her every word.)
To the Emperor Palpatine, we say this:
EXT: ORD MANTELL MARKETPLACE: DAY
(Sammar emerges from the crowd, blaster in hand, and shoots Tamik in the back of the head)
MON MOTHMA (VOICE OVER)
You have murdered and imprisoned millions…
(We see Cordelia in the crowd, screaming)
(A fleet of Star Destroyers comes into orbit around a blue-green planet)
MON MOTHMA (V.O.)
You have stolen our land and our property…
(We see TIE fighters strafing a city)
EXT: BARREN MOONSCAPE: DAY
(Stormtroopers stand watch over a prison-camp, where exhausted slaves trudge into the depths of a mine)
MON MOTHMA (V.O.)
You have used your military for the sole purpose of oppressing your subjects.
(We see an old man collapse. A Stormtrooper stands over him, takes aim, and as the blaster fires we…)
INT: MEETING HALL: NIGHT
(close shot of Mothma, her voice hard)
This will not stand. We will fight you.
(As Mothma speaks, the following images are seen:)
(A heavily forested world where ancient ruins pierce the trees)
MON MOTHMA (VO)
So it is that we…
(A shot of Rebel pilots running to their Y-Wings)
MON MOTHMA (VO)
…the free beings of the Galaxy, do solemnly pledge…
(A shot of Doon running a hand along the underbelly of the Legitimate)
MON MOTHMA (VO)
(A shot of Cordelia and Sammar raising their lightsabers in a dark hall)
MON MOTHMA (VO)
(a shot of K’thaar leaping in front of somebody to take a blaster shot)
MON MOTHMA (VO)
…and our lives…
(a shot of a massive space battle between Star Destroyers and lots and lots of corvettes)
MON MOTHMA (VO)
…until the Empire is destroyed…
INT: MEETING HALL: NIGHT
(close shot of Mothma)
…or we are.
(following images flash across the screen)
(A giant Imperial wheeled vehicle smashing through walls)
(Cordelia engaged in lightsaber duel atop some kind vehicle at high speed)
(A man throwing a tarp off of a concealed object)
(DC4P fleeing an explosion)
(The Legitimate pursued by TIE fighters)
(Cordelia running through an ancient stone hall)
INT: STONE HALL
(Cordelia stops up short, her lightsaber drawn, her face terrified)
(block lettering appears: “Episode 3.6: Clash at Corellia)
(Vader’s tell-tale respirator starts up)
No more running, little girl.
(block lettering: Coming 11-13-05)