This week on the Geek Beat, I’ve decided to devote the piece to my thoughts on the news that Disney has decided to make some Star Wars spin-off films. Is this really a good idea? What would be the best one?
But before that, here are the top three geek articles found this last week at Movies.com.
Five Ways to Make a 'Justice League' Film Work
Lawrence Kasdan Talks 'Star Wars: Episode VII,' Spin-offs and the Extended Universe in New Interviews
Real-Life Wolverine Saves Coworkers from Methane Explosion
Star Wars Spin-offs: Good Idea or Bad Idea?
I’ve been going back and forth about whether or not Disney should make spin-off films based on Star Wars, especially when the rumor is that they’ll be based on the original trilogy. On the one hand, it seems like giving it a solid time frame within previously released films could be a serious handicap, because it potentially boxes the screenwriters in creatively. This can potentially be a problem with any spin-off or prequel that isn’t also a reboot, as can largely be evidenced by the Star Wars prequel trilogy itself.
Even though there’s no rule that says this has to happen, many writers feel like they have to insert characters or situations that give a sort of “wink” to the audience about the films they already know. In the prequel trilogy, one of the most quizzical additions was surrounding C-3PO. Dragging that character’s story into the time of the prequels, George Lucas retconned 3PO’s history in Episode I by making his creator none other than Anakin Skywalker, figurehead for the entire six-part saga and future Darth Vader. For many fans, this was a pointless addition that did little, if anything, to advance the story of either Skywalker or 3PO. Was there a narrative purpose that it served other than, “Hey! Look! It’s that one character that you know, and now he’s tied into that OTHER character you know! Cool, huh?!” In the words of Jar Jar Binks of all people, “No, not really, no.”
How about the new backstory of Boba Fett? Definitely a favorite among fans, the mysterious bounty hunter who was a thorn in Han Solo’s side for Episodes V-VI had practically all of the mystery and intrigue stripped away, and for what? For a character so beloved, I think many fans expected more from Mr. Lucas in this regard.
But, even with these criticisms, these changes have one predominant theme in common: they were deviations from what we expected out of the saga. As far as the expected characters are concerned, the prequels maintained a decent tone and reliance on what we learned of their pasts from the original trilogy. The best example of this exploitation has to be Obi-Wan Kenobi, as played by Ewan McGregor. Obi-Wan was expected to play a large role establishing Anakin’s fall to the dark side, and some more conservative writing coupled with McGregor’s performances in all three films excelled more than the other character deviations.
So, are they good ideas or bad ideas? It depends on the characters, mostly. Han Solo is too heavily established to have a lot of meat for his story (not even mentioning the fact that the actor playing him would be under enormous pressure to ape Harrison Ford). Boba Fett? Again, he was exploited so much in Episode II that the wind may have been taken out of those sails as well. In short, every one of the rumored ideas has the potential to be bad, save for one.
Yoda is the best idea for a Star Wars spin-off for one major reason: his story would begin so long before the time frame of the original films that the story wouldn’t have to be that concerned with lining up with their established history. By the time of Return of the Jedi, Yoda was pushing 900 years old. His life began when the Old Republic was thriving, and when the Jedi Knights were definitively the guardians of peace and justice throughout the galaxy. What would Yoda’s beginning look like?
A story about Yoda’s origins and the start of his training to be a Jedi Knight would potentially allow for the first feature film to be set during the time frame of some of the best expanded Star Wars stories. Video games and books with titles like Knights of the Old Republic allow for a fundamentally different take on the Star Wars universe, allowing for epic, all-out war between the Jedi and the Sith. In Episode I, Ki-Adi Mundi said that the Sith had been extinct for “a millennium.” Yoda’s about that old. I know a lot of expanded universe stories have told the fall of the Sith, but there’s no guarantee Disney will adhere to anything having to do with the games, comics or novels. What if a young Yoda forged his blade at war with the Sith?
For a greater idea of the potential that time frame can have in a Star Wars feature film, take a look at this incredible cinematic trailer for the MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic.
With images like those, seeing a Star Wars film delve into that history could make for a potentially fascinating film, and definitely one where some of the most palpable conflicts between good and evil can come between red and blue Lightsaber blades. What do you think?
This Week at the Comic Shop (Releasing 2/13)
This week, the terrifying story of “Death of the Family” comes to a head in the pages of Batman #17, written by Scott Snyder with art chores by Greg Capullo. The story, which began in October’s issue #13, has been the New 52’s first in-depth exploration of the Joker, and has also happened to be one of the most terrifying incarnations of the character in his storied history. Joker’s plot to “relieve” Batman of all of his allies has been building for months, and with several chilling cliffhangers to the tie-ins feeding into this concluding issue, the stakes couldn't be higher leading into what’s sure to be a very interesting read.
Snyder’s interpretation of Joker as court jester to Batman’s role as king in Gotham City has made for an interesting twist on the characters’ relationship, and has been made even creepier by Snyder taking the mystery out of it: Joker loves his Dark Knight. He just has a funny (NOT “ha ha”) way of showing it. The issue is available in comic shops everywhere this Wednesday, so if you’re curious about what’s been going on in Gotham City with the return of the Harlequin of Hate, see if you can snag issues #13-17 this week.
That does it this week on the Geek Beat, thanks for reading and we’ll see you in seven days.
Chris Clow is a geek. He is a comic book expert and retailer, and geeky contributor to GeekNation.com, Batman-On-Film.com and ModernMythMedia.com. You can find his weekly piece The Geek Beat every Tuesday and the Star Trek Into Darkness Countdown every other Wednesday right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.