While an opinion heavy breakdown of a future unwritten may sound like irresponsible conjecture, I implore you to come along simply for the fun of it. Who knows, I may turn out to be the Nostradamus of the Star Wars franchise. Plus, the first part of this story begins with a sure thing and only a little guesswork.
Star Wars Episode VII is already in development, with screenwriter Michael Arndt on script and J.J. Abrams directing. Arndt, who penned Toy Story 3 and Brave, has the stellar Pixar writing team behind him, and Abrams successfully rebooted Star Trek. These guys are both solid choices and should make a great team. But what will Star Wars VII look like? What’s the story?
Known so far is that Episode VII is the first part in a final trilogy set after Return of the Jedi. Lucas originally mapped out an idea for a final trilogy in the early 1980’s. I wouldn’t doubt that Episode VII picks up some thirty or forty years past Jedi. Here, we’ll surely see Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher return as an older Han, Luke and Leia. We’ll also likely see the return of some of the other major players like Lando, Chewbacca, C3PO and R2D2. With the Republic rebuilding and the Jedi order reignited by Luke, this would be a great place to also introduce the next generation.
There’s a ton already written in the Expanded Universe books, comics and video games, some good and some meh, but it’s wholly unclear if any of this external canon will cross over into the new films. If anything does however, Disney would be wise to introduce the children of Han and Leia and Luke and his wife as a fresh new cast primed to push the series into the future. This would also be a smart business move, capitalizing on both a younger and older audience simultaneously. The timing works out perfectly as well. Hamill, Ford and Fisher are older, so it makes sense that there kids would be in their late teens or early twenties.
In the Expanded Universe, Han and Leia are married and have a twin son and daughter, Jaina and Jacen, and a younger child they named Anakin. Luke marries Mara Jade, one of the strongest female characters in the Expanded Universe. The complexity of the Mara Jade character lies in her covert role in the books as the Emperor’s Hand. When Vader kills the Emperor it is written that Mara received one final message from her master; kill Luke Skywalker. Years later, while working as a smuggler, she actually ends up saving Luke, and slowly over time the two align in fighting the growing Imperial forces of Grand Admiral Thrawn (more on him in a sec). Luke ends up opening a Jedi training Academy on the moon Yavin Four, where he eventually realigns Mara with the force. This would have been a great place to pick up the story had it been filmed fifteen years ago. Outside of recasting Luke or relying on flashbacks, the Luke and Mara back-story won’t work with an aged Mark Hamill. For this reason, the new trilogy, if it follows any Expanded Universe canon at all, will likely pick up on Yavin Four, with Luke and Mara now married with their teenage son Ben Skywalker. An interweaving plot-line between the older characters and their young-adult children could create a wonderfully juxtaposed story arc across the next three films.
In the books, the younger Ben is taught the ways of the Jedi by his cousin Jacen, who later falls to the dark side to become Darth Caedus. I’d hope Arndt and the other rumored writers Lawrence Kasdan (Empire Strikes Back) and Simon Kinberg (Sherlock Holmes) at least entertain this angle as a possibility.
When it comes to creating a villain for the new films it will be tough to beat the evil, cult-like complexities of Darth Vader. There is a rumor circulating that Fringe and Return of the King star John Noble may be cast as a villain in Episode VII. I can’t begin to guess who the next great Star Wars villain may be, but there is one great character from the Expanded Universe that would be worth considering. Grand Admiral Thrawn is the ruthless, blue-skinned heir to the Empire post Return of the Jedi. In Timothy Zahn’s celebrated series of novels, Thrawn became a favorite character among fans of the Expanded Universe fiction. Though the timeline would need adjusting, who wouldn’t like to imagine a blue faced John Noble in an Empirical military uniform?
Something else that’s unclear is whether Kasdan and Kinberg will be writing Episodes VIII and IX or if each is writing one of the planned spinoff films instead. Then there’s the list of possible directors for those spinoffs and the question of whether Abrams will go on to direct Episode VIII and IX or Disney will bring on a fresh director for each film. There’s a ton of likely candidates for Episode VIII and IX if Abrams doesn’t proceed, from Neil Blomkamp (District 9), Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class) and Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) to Disney veterans Joe Johnston (Captain America) and Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy). Who knows, maybe even Dave Filoni, director of the animated Clone Wars series will get promoted to helm one of the live action sequels. Whatever happens, I hope Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ghost Protocol) is given the reigns to at least one of these films.
Coming soon, in part two of this three part “Forecasting the Force” series I’ll be looking into possible angles for the heavily rumored spinoff films including Boba Fett, Yoda and Han Solo. Shortly after that, in part three I’ll pitch some unlikely, but potentially awesome ideas I think Disney should entertain for even more spinoff films. Stay Tuned!
– Tony Nunes