As you may have heard — if you weren’t getting blown away or flooded — there’s going to be another Star Wars trilogy of movies starting in 2015, episodes VII, VIII and IX. At this point, we have not a clue what the this trilogy is going to be about; I suspect that the people in charge at Disney/Lucasfilm don’t have much more of an idea than we do.
There’s some sentiment out there that the new trilogy should be adaptations of Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire novels. Well, it makes sense. Those books cover the events immediately following Return of the Jedi, and they were the launching point for pretty much all of the Star Wars extended universe. I have to admit that, even though I generally dislike media tie-ins like this, I read Heir to the Empire when it came out — bought the hardback and everything. It was OK. I really liked the idea that Grand Admiral Thrawn used a culture’s art to understand its population, and thus determine how to defeat them. That being said, I didn’t enjoy it enough to pick up the other books in the series.
My thinking is that the new trilogy shouldn’t adapt Heir to the Empire, or any of the rest of the existing extended universe materials. I think — I hope — that the new movies will be original stories, albeit ones that allow themselves to be informed by the extended universe where appropriate.
Chronologically, there was a 20-year gap between the events of Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, a whole generation. For the sake of balance, I think the new trilogy should do the same, a 20-year gap between the events of Return of the Jedi and Episode VII.
I’m not all that familiar with the extended universe, so I don’t know if creators have done much in this time period yet. Even if they have, though, I think it’s the best plan. As for integrating the extended universe with the movies, if I were the person in charge, I’d say that the extended universe is canon — until it isn’t. The movies are the ultimate arbiter of canon, so if there’s a conflict between the movies and the extended universe, the movies will out. If there is no conflict, then the extended universe is canon. Whenever possible, though, I hope that the powers-that-be respect the EU as much as possible.
Beyond that, there are quite a few elements that I believe the new trilogy will have to have. Here they are, in no particular order.
- The new trilogy must continue to be about the Skywalker clan. A 20-plus-year gap would allow a new generation of Skywalkers to take the stage. Have there been EU stories about Luke and Leia’s children? Probably. It would need to be worked out. Even so, the new trilogy needs to continue that family saga.
- Both of the previous trilogies concerned the hero’s journey in some respect — Anakin goes down one path and becomes evil, while Luke goes down another path and embraces good. That conflict needs to be the heart of this trilogy’s storytelling.
- There has to be interstellar war. The series is called “Star Wars,” after all. While there certainly was war in the prequel trilogy, it never really felt central to the plot to me, because the galactic civil war was just a diversion to allow the Sith to corrupt and overthrow the Republic, transforming it into the Empire. Believe it or not, I think Lucas was too subtle in his storytelling on this point. Star Wars isn’t about shades of gray; it’s about black and white. The new trilogy, I think, needs to reflect that.
- The Force needs to be more mystical. Although Star Wars is often called “science fiction,” it really isn’t at all. It’s purely epic fantasy that has adopted the tropes of classic space opera instead of a pseudo-medieval Europe. That’s one of the reasons that Lucas’s attempts to give the Force a pseudo-scientific explanation felt out of place in The Phantom Menace. Of course, even the original trilogy didn’t do more than hint at the nature of the Force, most notably when Luke went into the cave on Dagobah.
- The concept that Anakin was created in order to bring balance to the Force could well be explored. Why was the Force out of balance in the first place? The prequels never really deal with that issue, but the implication was that it was because there were a lot of Jedi and very few Sith. The implication of that is that the dark side of the Force is just as important as the light side, and that the mistake that the Jedi made was to completely reject the dark side instead of acknowledging and integrating it into their philosophy. I know the EU has a series or two on the new Jedi order, but I don’t know if these issues are addressed there at all. I think it’s an interesting issue that could be at the heart of the conflict of the new trilogy. While he’s building a new Jedi order, is Luke also secretly nurturing a new cabal of Sith lords so the Force remains in balance? Now, that would be an interesting twist.
- The new trilogy must have C-3PO and R2-D2. That’s just a given.
It will be interesting to see how the new trilogy shapes up.