Pros & Cons: “Star Wars” Spinoffs

I’ve come to accept that whenever I check the trades, I’m bound to see something new regarding the upcoming Star Wars trilogy or something Star Wars related. This isn’t cynicism talking; it’s just a fact that I’ve come to painlessly accept.

As the self-appointed Star Wars fanatic here at Reel Reactions, I’ve been tirelessly finding out all that I can about Disney’s ballsy reopening of Pandora’s Box, i.e. the precious franchise property incepted by the now corrupt mind of George Lucas. Rumors are in abundance, but there are a few things that we’ve come to know as fact. These facts are limited, but they are big facts nonetheless and are enough to actually excite the hardcore Warsian residing inside me.

So far we know that there is a new trilogy – Episodes VII, VIII, IX – on the way, all happening under the watchful eye of producer Kathleen Kennedy who has been in cahoots with series creator, George Lucas, for some time. She championed director J.J. Abrams – creator of Lost and director of Star Trek and Super 8 – to direct part one of the upcoming trilogy, tentatively scheduled for a 2015 theatrical release. We also know that the script is being written by Oscar-winner Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3) based on a treatment by Lucas himself and it’s rumored to be such a strong story that it attracted Abrams to the project almost singlehandedly. Finally, we know that Lawrence Kasdan (Raiders of the Lost Ark) and Simon Kinberg (Sherlock Holmes) are working on standalone Star Wars films – movies that will completely stray away from the Skywalker story and still reside within the expansive Lucas universe. This last point is what’s up for discussion today.

Since the definitive statement that Abrams was going to direct Episode VII, there has been more recent news on the standalone films than on the new trilogy. Standalone films for Yoda, Boba Fett, and a young Han Solo are all swimming around the pools of potential and while these are somewhat exciting prospects, they all come, like upcoming Episodes VII-IX, with a sliver of skepticism.

Here are the Pros & Cons for the proposed standalone Star Wars films.

PROS:

  • World Building Continues: I’m not a fan of LOTR and I have many, many problems with the Harry Potter franchise, even though the books were a staple of my adolescence, but I have always acknowledged the wildly impressive world building that these fantasy franchises have done successfully. With Tolkien’s and Rowling’s vivid descriptions, it allowed the minds of readers to run freely with how they saw Rivendale or Hogwarts, but the way that Peter Jackson and the four directors that all helmed various installments of Harry Potter decided to construct the world always sufficed to no end (even the lackluster first part of The Hobbit trilogy had some awe-inspiring world construction going on). In Star Wars, the possibilities of what we can see or how the galaxy can be built is literally endless because it’s a f*cking GALAXY. Lucas’ interstellar space drama can now, as Trekkies would say, ‘boldly go where no one has gone before,’ and then further. The prequels, in all their haphazard glory, did succeed in bringing us to Coruscant, Kamino, Geonosis, Naboo, Mustafar, and Kashyyk as well as reuniting us with Tatooine and (incredibly briefly in a deleted scene) Dagobah. While I don’t think anyone would object to a reunion with the icy Hoth in one of these standalone Star Wars adventures, I see no end to the new locales that these single-serving adventures could take us.
  • The Periphery Comes to the Forefront: Out of the three characters that are supposedly slated to get their own Star Wars film, the one I am most excited for is Boba Fett. Why? Because he is hands down the most deserving of an adventure all to himself. One of the most secretive characters of the original trilogy, I remember being in the third grade and beyond stoked that a backstory to Boba Fett was going to be encapsulated within Attack of the Clones. The revelation that he was a slow-growing clone of his father, Jango, was enough for my nine-year-old mind, but over a decade later I’m thirsty for more. I imagine the Boba Fett film would take place in-between the events of Attack of the Clones and his introduction in The Empire Strikes Back, maybe showcasing his transition from orphaned son to emotionless bounty hunter. The possibilities for what a Boba Fett film could cover is really kind of exciting, as well is the idea of allowing other characters who just barely grace the periphery of the Star Wars universe to come a little closer to the spotlight. Whether it’s a young Han Solo movie, or a Yoda movie, or a Boba Fett movie that gets made first, there’s no reason why characters that viewers only get a fleeting glimpse of in the first six movies can’t play a bigger role or have a more substantial involvement in the plot progression. Don’t tell me you don’t want to know who, or why, Lobot is part of Lando Calrissian’s Bespin posse! I’ve been searching for the answer for years!
  • Everyone Dreams Of Working On Star Wars: Remember Boba Fett’s appearance in Empire and Return of the Jedi? Decked out in his gear with that famous helmet glued to his skull and nothing but a raspy voice giving him any kind of a personality. Think of how they could make that work now, whose voice they could put over that character or what actor could show the growing up Boba Fett first putting on that iconic helmet. Like Karl Urban in last fall’s Dredd 3D, this could be a really cool opportunity for an actor like Thomas Jane or maybe The Walking Dead’s Andrew Lincoln, who has the vocals to give a faceless protagonist a dynamic range. Aside from the acting, think about the writing and directing talent that could achieve their dream of working on a Star Wars movie. Like writer Michael Arndt, Lawrence Kasdan, and Simon Kinberg, imagine a Star Wars movie written by Alex Garland, David Webb Peoples, John Logan, Jonathan Nolan, Alan Ball, Alex Proyas, or David S. Goyer. And directors? Genre filmmakers or improving visionaries, the pool is literally endless. In fact, there’s a rumor (it’s been somewhat denounced but when it comes to properties like this, no rumor is ever completely off the table) that Zack Snyder was in talks to helm a standalone Star Wars film following this summer’s Man of Steel, one that would be inspired by Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. With all the Kurosawa DNA embedded in the Star Wars genome, who’s to say that wouldn’t be ABSOLUTELY AWESOME?

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CONS:

  • We Want New Characters, and We Want Them Now: Boba Fett is the one exception to this desire mainly because he was such a small part of the original trilogy and provided so little in Attack of the Clones that a standalone film centering on him actually seems overdue by this point. But why take such a centerpiece character like Han Solo and Yoda and try to make an entire story about them. I always considered Indiana Jones to be the Han Solo standalone trilogy (well, quadrilogy), showing what Han Solo was like in a previous life (or what Han Solo was like in a later life…A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…), I’ve always felt that Han Solo has had his showcase and it would be a misguided move for any young actor to believe he could best Harrison Ford in his prime. We don’t need to revisit these characters, what we need is new characters to guide us through the Star Wars universe with characters that we’ve come to know appearing on the sidelines. New characters are exciting and refreshing, and we need Star Wars to feel refreshing for this extensive continuation to feel warranted.
  • When Does the Milk Go Sour?: The cow can only be milked so far before it’s got nothing left in it. This idea goes for the entire franchise – here is that skepticism I alluded to earlier. Disney can make the three new movies and expand the Skywalker story and all that surrounds them for a whole new, Lucas-less trilogy, but with these standalone movies, how much of it can be accepted before it gets heaped into the endless pile of fan fiction? When I was younger I read a few of the Jedi Apprentice novels that covered the early parts of a teenage Obi-Wan’s relationship with the then-Jedi Knight, Qui-Gon Jin. They stimulated my Star Wars-obsessed mind for a short while before I never went back to them again. Fan fiction has continued with more novels, novelizations of the films, and a bunch of TV series’ (a live action TV series has also become a heavy discussion). With standalone movies, will we get more satisfaction from the Star Wars franchise or will they just seem like an extra push for merchandising and massive ticket sales? They will make money, no doubt about that, but will they quench the thirst of my inner Warsian and the assuredly Star Wars loving kids of later generations? Let’s hope the cow isn’t completely used up. Fingers are crossed, indefinitely.

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Where do you stand on the Star Wars standalones? What characters do you think deserve his or her own Star Wars movie, if any? Hitfix’s Drew McWeeny wrote, “I think it’s going to be fascinating to see what happens over the next fifteen to twenty years with the property…,” and it’s a little unsettling to think that Star Wars could possibly extend that far into the future. Let more discussions begin; sound off below.

Article by Mike Murphy

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