Oops, wrong franchise.
But surely you are all pumped for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, and seeing how the world of this galaxy far, far away will grow through the imagination of J.J. Abrams. Like everyone else, I am ever so hopeful that Abrams does not mess this saga up with political talks about trade federations, Hayden Christensen talking about sand, awkward love stories, or *shudders* gungans. So what exactly should we hope for? Rather, a better question to ask is: what made Star Wars a success in the first place that this new saga must exploit?
10. Simplicity in Complexity
What has always been so intriguing about the Star Wars universe stems from how much detail went into defining the government and rules of the system. Yet at the same time, these rules were expressed in a lighthearted straightforward manner that even the average eight-year-old viewer can understand. One reason why the prequels failed to impress was largely because of the huge lengths of political language that nobody of any age wants to listen to (just try to sit through The Phantom Menace without checking your watch). With The Force Awakens, it will need to capture that same detailed lightheartedness.
9. Nostalgic Undertones
Think about everyone who was between the ages of 15 and 25 when the first Star Wars came out. What were they raised on? Space operas, televised westerns, basically the same types of adventure stories inspired by the works of Joseph Campbell. What type of nostalgia did George Lucas bring into the second trilogy? Just attempted cameos of famous characters (just because Jabba the Hutt appears at the pod race doesn’t make the race more exciting). It may be fun for a minute, but will the impact last? Never. J.J. Abrams will have to prove an understanding of what appeals to the baby boomers as well as this current generation.
8. Cultural Resonance of the Time
To see why Star Wars resonated with so many Americans in 1977, it’s important to think about what was happening in America at the time. Remember Watergate? Remember the public’s attack on government and media? Remember how people were so discouraged about what they thought was the American dream? Now set that side-by-side with Star Wars. People felt empowered by seeing the story of a lonely farm boy who became a pilot to destroy the dictating weapon of the overruling empire of the galaxy. The Force Awakens already seems promising to resonate with 2015 with its female lead and supposed Black Stormtrooper seeking redemption. But is it enough? We’ll see.
7. Anticipation: What Will Happen Next?
Obi Wan lets himself die but comes back as a force ghost. Darth Vader is Luke’s daddy. Leia is Luke’s sister. The original trilogy was full of plot twists that maintained the interest and imagination of viewers. What sort of pressing questions were you asking in Attack of the Clones? Nothing happens in this trilogy by surprise, except of disappointment. So Abrams, let’s hope you remembered that detail without going full-on Shyamalan.
6. The Detailed Worlds that Feel Real
At this point, the world of the Jawas must feel real to you. The spaceport of Mos Eisley may already look like a true place in spite of how little of it was explored. Now what about the Tusken Raiders? What about the Ewoks? The reason these worlds felt so real and rich with culture was because they were taken off of real history, including ancient Indian tribes and old Western saloons. The prequels made some fair efforts at culture with the water world of Naboo and the New York like Coruscant, but the ways the people lived and how the world defined their identity was never explored.
5. Inspiring of New Technology
What has science fiction done better for our world than provide a potential future for us as people? Maybe Back to the Future Part II didn’t get everything right about what this year would look like, but take a look around us: inventions for light sabers are in the works, along with holographic telecommunication, and important military strategies (remember Reagan’s battle plan?) Did the new movies inspire anything for our technological advancement? Let’s hope that Abrams, having Star Trek experience in his resume, will know how to take sci-fi a step further.
4. The Fun, Easily Recognizable Characters
When I say “recognizable” I don’t mean they look great on a toy shelf. But rather, their personalities and ways of approaching conflict are close enough to home for us to see ourselves in the space adventure. Surely most of us would feel skittish about space travel like C-3P0, or caught in a love-hate relationship like Han and Leia, or in search for self-worth in whatever else is out there like Luke. But did any of you feel inspired by the angst of Anakin Skywalker? The new cast we have seen so far in The Force Awakens better not be graduates of the George Lucas School of continuing a classic franchise.
3. Growth in Characters that Carries over All the Films
This is self-explanatory: most to all the characters have a story arc that has a complete beginning, middle, and end throughout the saga. Luke faces his inner battle between the light and the dark sides of the force, Han Solo learns how to put his friends above his affinity for smuggling, and Anakin becomes one with the force. In spite of Anakin though, there really are not as many characters in the new trilogy that had this sort of realized arc. What was the story of Qui Gon Ginn? What about Obi Wan? What about Padme? Does The Phantom Menace even have a clear protagonist? Okay, maybe some of the characters had a story arc, but none of them were as realized or as complete as they had potential for. Abrams remember: character is key!
2. The Mythological Influence of the World
Probably the greatest reason why this galaxy far, far away touches us to such a core is purely the concept of the force. This force could be interpreted as several religious meanings for any one of us, whether it is influence of God or Karma (and don’t anybody get the idea of Midi-chlorians). But aside from the force, mythological and religious influence on Star Wars can be seen everywhere, including the Chinese emperor appearance of Darth Vader, and the Buddhist monk lifestyles of Obi Wan and Yoda, and the Arabian overlord power of Jabba the Hutt. The truths of what made us the people we are today continues to touch us deeply, and the original approach of Star Wars encompassed it so perfectly.
1. History That Can Easily Be Explored and Expanded Upon
When people are looking for a fictional realm to explore in their mind and imagination, they are looking for authenticity. And when they look for authenticity, they look for the world’s history. Guess what? Star Wars has that. While the prequels excelled in offering some expositional information that added further richness into the galaxy, it also took away from what the first three movies did so well: captivate the viewer to wonder, “what happened that led up to these events?” We already knew that Luke and Leia were separated at birth to be protected from the empire, but how it happened was the real question (up until 2005 at least). As for this upcoming saga, I hope to see an expansion of the history of the galaxy, bringing out new ideas that were never brought up before and draws us further toward the reality of this world.
J.J. Abrams has possibly the greatest burden he has ever held in his life, one that will define even further the course of action for an entirely new generation. So Abrams, I am now warning you, if you fail to meet these ten criteria, you shall forever be known as Jar Jar Abrams.