Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Star Wars: What Not to Do

Is there any franchise that has had such a diverse span of soaring success and painful failure as Star Wars?

And I don't mean movies with superfluous sequels, tacked on every few years to make a buck (ahem, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jaws... Land Before Time, I'm looking at you with no small amount of contempt. Die in your shame).

Whether or not another franchise can compete with the iconic status of The Empire Strikes Back and the woeful agony of The Attack of the Clones all under the same name is hard to say, but one thing is certain as regards the next installment of Star Wars: they have everything to gain, and far less to lose thanks to the low bar set by the most recent three movies.

With the internet abuzz about the upcoming Episode VII The Force Awakens, my Yahoo news featuring a daily article countdown to the movie's release, and very few plot leaks escaping to the cyber-world of nerddom, my sci-fi loving side waits with anticipation. My critical side stalwartly refuses to have expectations.

Respectfully, I must acknowledge that pre-production has already made some wise steps that spark some hope for the future of one of sci-fi's most recognizable pieces. For example, Lawrence Kasdan is back on the screenplay team. For those of you who don't care what that means, Kasdan penned The Empire Strikes Back, The Return of the Jedi, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Wyatt Earp. Aka, good movies. NOT to his credit are any Star Wars attempts from the early millennium years. GOLD STAR! Furthermore, controversial as the choice may be, J.J. Abrams as the director will at least put some finesse back into the general cinematography.

But anyway now that I've laid my groundwork, let's get to one of my famous lists! What follows is a cautionary post that simultaneously warns Star Wars about the pitfalls found by so many other prequels and sequels, and reminds those movies that their sins have not been forgotten. Readers, I present:

Star Wars: What Not to Do 
Brought to you by: the failures of others

1. Don't over-villainize

Spider-Man 3 ended its otherwise semi-respectable reign with a colossal fiasco of a finale, featuring: 

And still featuring the whispers of this guy: 

The name of the movie was Spider-Man 3, not The League of Baddies. 

2. Don't over-plot
X-Men 3: The Last Stand is the unfortunate exhibit of over-plotting. There was simply too much going on at once, with no real focus-- it was just all over the map. Mutant cure is causing an uproar, Dark Phoenix has emerged out of the presumed dead Jean Grey, mutant rights are under attack from the government, Magneto is rallying an army of rogue mutants to bring genocide upon the non-mutants of the country. Amid all this there's Rogue's teen angst over Bobby and Kitty's relationship, Logan's angst over Jean's mental state, and a randomly introduced character named Warren ("Angel") who appears about three times and serves no real purpose due to lack of character development. 

3.  Don't add women, just for the sake of adding women. 

#1 Offender: Tauriel in The Desolation of Smaug and The Battle of the Five Armies
The book "The Hobbit" did not feature any women, therefore the presence of Tauriel serves to "fix" that. Add to this that her purpose is merely to defy orders, create soapy drama, and fall in love with a short guy who plays with a rock, her existence is pointless and rather insulting. 

#2 Offender: Natasha Romanov in Iron Man 2
Natasha Romanov's entire purpose in Iron Man 2 was to do exactly what she's doing in the above picture. Up until this moment, her only purpose is to have curves and great hair. When Natasha reappears for The Avengers, she gets it right by having a duty-driven sense of purpose, a little bit of heart, and a fair amount of intelligence. But here, no real purpose unless you count sliding down a hallway, which I don't. 

4. Don't try too hard when reviving classic characters

The fact that original actors Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fischer are all slated for some sort of return to the new movies is both exciting and concerning. Exciting because it's the characters we know and love. Concerning because they've all aged a good bit and...well.... this has been attempted before, and the result was Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  

Doesn't have quite the same appeal does it? 

5. Don't use CGI to detract from bad acting and poor story-lines. We'll still notice. 

Star Wars Episodes I, II, and III
Transformers (all of them)
G.I. Joe
Jurassic Park 3
The Matrix (all of them)

6. Don't waste a good villain

A pawn the whole time.

Killed too early. 

7. Don't kill off main characters just because you can

When writers ran out of ideas, they decided to kill Captain Kirk in Star Trek Generations in what is arguably the most anti-climatic death of a major character in sci-fi history. 
     I'm a little nervous about the original Star Wars characters for this reason. So don't kill off anyone important without a really good reason for doing so, and a proper sendoff. 

8. Don't bring back dead characters and think no one will notice. 
X-Men: Days of Future Past. You can't pretend the past didn't happen. 

And most importantly of all....

9. Don't fail to acknowledge when it's time to quit. 
Don't ruin a good thing by overdoing it. Let a good thing have it's heyday, and then let it rest in peace.