So, last week or thereabouts I purchased the Kindle edition of J.W. Rinzler's The Making of RETURN OF THE JEDI and last night I finished the epilogue. It was a very interesting read, mostly. Some sections were too full of technical jargon that made me glaze over, but the bits where we got quotes from the actors and crew, the insight into the development of the story and its scenes, the reactions upon its release, the planning and designing, all that stuff was entertaining. I bought JEDI because I feel I already know so much about STAR WARS and EMPIRE; yet I knew a lot of the stuff presented in the JEDI book as well, but that did not really diminish its entertainment value. One interesting quote from George Lucas himself was, and I am paraphrasing here, something about how special effects should support the story and that is all about the characters. Guess he forgot his own advice when he came to the prequel trilogy, though I was also kind of warmed by Lucas' strong feelings about family and how he wanted to please children with his films, which kind of wants me to give him a somewhat reluctant approving nod when it comes to his vision for the first three episodes of the saga (I-III, that is, although I do not find the Senate scenes or the immolation scene very kid-friendly to be honest). I highly recommend the book to any fan of Star Wars or film-making in general. I have a feeling I might end up buying Rinzler's other two books as well - as e-books, because those printed editions sure cost a heap of money. Perhaps especially enlightening in JEDI was the development of the Ewoks, what Lucas thought of them, what the other crew members of the production thought of them, and all that
jazz Ewokese rhythmic folk.
And, of course, this book with all its insight into the making of Return of the Jedi, made me think and wonder - and hope - about Episode VII, of course. Before the release of The Phantom Menace, I was constantly pondering what I would get to see, because Star Wars was so important to me, to the point that you could call me a Star Wars zealot. It blew over, fortunately, but now I find myself getting all hyped up again, two full years before its proposed release date, 18th December 2015. Shit.
So far, what little news we've had is kind of promising, though. They want to make a good movie. That's a good start. We have confirmation that Artoo-Detoo will be in it, which is nice, because we've always been told that the two droids would be the characters that would link the whole saga together by their very presence (although Lucas kind of changed this with Darth Vader and Ben Kenobi also being in each and every film). Still no official news on Hammil, Ford, Fisher, Mayhews, Daniels, Williams; I kind of hope they won't be in it. I'd like a fresher trilogy, you know? No need for the elderly. Mark Hamill as an aging Jedi Knight is fine with me, but the rest isn't all that necessary in my opinion. Maybe Chewbacca has been hanging around with Luke Skywalker, and the droids, but we really don't need a doddering Han Solo, a feisty Princess Leia with dementia and Billy Dee Williams trying to score with the ladies of the galactic old home.
Personally, I would love to see a return to the use of the film's subtitle as a main title of sorts; I much preferred Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi over the added Episode titles in the prequels which made them cumbersome and ruined the movie logos. The classic logos are so cool; they did not need an attached Episode for people to know what they were. The Star Wars title is incorporated into the logo, and that's how I wish to see Episode VII's logo as well. A nitpick if there ever was one, but it would help give that "classic" feeling to the new trilogy. A small, but important step in reclaiming the feeling of awe and wonder and spectacle that the original trilogy provided. I am sure many people were awed by the prequel trilogy too, of course, but I think they could cope without the Episodes in the titles and we grumpy old-time fans could be happy.
So that's one of my first decisions as an imaginary producer and director of Star Wars: The Dark Legacy (note how I left out the Episode VII in there). I really need to change the blog's logo to reflect this decision. And I will!
As for returning character from the existing movies, this is my decision and I will try not to change my mind as we learn more about the seventh episode of the saga:
LUKE SKYWALKER. Yeah, I am putting him in. It is, after all, he who has to struggle with the "dark legacy" of my chosen working title. He won't be a main character though, more like Obi-Wan in the original.
ARTOO-DETOO and SEE-THREEPIO. It just isn't Star Wars without them.
CHEWBACCA. He's a maybe. They put him in Revenge of the Sith and he was worthless in there.
Other characters might be mentioned by name or title when they are referred to; for example, Luke might have a line like, "My father was Darth Vader", or "My sister is on Coruscant", you know what I mean?
I am rather opposed to the STAR WARS Expanded Universe, in the way that I think it should have nothing to do with the actual film saga. I have been entertained by some of the novels but in general they are all bad and repeating the same ideas ad infinitum, so I would not consider anything presented in the EU necessary for The Dark Legacy. Still, I might borrow a name or two if I feel like it, much like Lucas did with 'Coruscant' (which originally appeared in Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire).
I will mine a few nuggets from Lucas' early scripts - bits and pieces that never made it into the final screenplays. I own a copy of Laurent Bouzereau's Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays which can help me with that. Also, I'll be checking back on some Kurosawa films for inspiration. In other words, I want The Dark Legacy to be a continuation of the original trilogy in terms of style, storytelling and influences, yet with a fresh story that doesn't tread too much on old grounds. I get Lucas' explanations of how his movies are "symphonic" in terms of repeating motifs but I think he went too far. An example of this would be in Attack of the Clones where you have a chase through an asteroid belt which we already had in The Empire Strikes Back. More obvious violations of this is of course having a second Death Star in Return of the Jedi. I want a fresh Star Wars story that feels like Star Wars without repeating it, if you know what I mean.
Most of all, and this one is hard to convey in words, is that I want to be wowed by the designs of everything from starships to costumes. The original trilogy continued to outdo itself with regards to this, while I felt the retro-look of the prequel trilogy didn't work as well. The original trilogy has so many iconic design elements its ridiculous. I want new, cool designs. Of course, this one will be an amazing challenge for whoever gets to design the real Star Wars VII, considering how much coolness we've already had - such an amazing variety of aliens, spacecraft, costumes, helmets, weapons, locations and so on and so forth. I am worried that Doug Chiang is on the team, because the designs for the prequel trilogy weren't all that, but at the same time it was Lucas who OK'd those designs so with someone else calling the shots on design, maybe we can be wowed again with the sequel trilogy. Where there any designs in the prequels that wowed me personally? Not many. Their best design was, ironically enough considering the budget for special effects, Darth Maul's face paint. Those Republic gunships were pretty cool, too. And maybe Count Dooku's solar-thing-ship, which was a bit "out there" in Star Wars terms but worked as a charming, Flash Gordon-like vehicle.
I'm not going to spend time designing stuff for my imaginary Episode VII, though. I'm mainly concerned about the story and want to see if I can get to a core story that would satisfy me as a life-long Star Wars nut. Something that would make me leave the cinema thrilled and ecstatic and hurting for Episode VIII like a bantha on the highway.
SO, a few classic characters, lots of new characters, new great designs, new interesting locations (I really don't need to see Tatooine again), style and charm of the original trilogy in modern high-tech presentation; all Episode VII needs is a good story that follows logically from JEDI. And that's the big one, isn't it?