Bring back Billy Dee!
After having done everything in his power to ruin one of the most beloved movie franchises of all time, George Lucas this year officially sold the purple-lighting-charred remains of Star Wars to Disney. Disney, looking to salvage the series and make proper sequels to the original trilogy, immediately put Star Trek resuscitator J.J. Abrams on the case.
Say what you will about Abrams and his well-documented penchant for “lens flare,” but the man at least knows how to do fan service. This stands in direct contrast to Lucas, who apparently thought a three-volume “fuck you” to the people who made him insanely wealthy would be the best method of repayment for their loyalty and money after 25 years.
Not that J.J. needs too much in the way of advice from us (he’s allegedly more of a Star Wars guy than a Star Trek guy), but here are a few things we’d like to see (and not see) in the forthcoming films.
1. Luke turns to the Dark Side
The possibility of Luke turning to the Dark Side was touched on in the early ‘90s comic series Dark Empire, but what would a galaxy under the jackboot of Evil Luke actually look like on the big screen? George Lucas allegedly considered this grisly turn of events, but somewhat ominously opted instead for dancing Ewoks to round out the initial trilogy. Without the Emperor around to caress him with his suggestive lightsaber fondling, what possible reason could Luke, the Jedi who has everything, have for breaking bad? My guess is that democracy doesn’t work so well in holding together such a far-flung civilization, and that it needs a Jedi strongman to hold it all together. After all, it’s his destiny.
Luke Skywalker: Looks good in black
2. Freedom from Star Wars’ Expanded Universe Canon
This isn’t to say that there aren’t some great stories being told out there in the world of books, comics and video games, but it would be a mistake to hew too closely to the many competing narratives imagined by artists working under the Star Wars aegis for the past two decades. Author Timothy Zahn wrote the original sanctioned sequels in 1991, but since then many dozens (hundreds?) of books have charted the universe following the deaths of Vader and the Emperor.
I just read something on something called Wookiepedia [WIKI SPOILER ALERT] that suggests Han Solo and Leia’s kid becomes a Jedi, turns to the Dark Side, kills Luke’s wife, has his arm cut off by his twin Jedi sister, and ultimately dies sort of redeemed, a la Vader. [END WIKI SPOILER] I mean, that’s a lot to chew on in two hours, or even six. Abrams would be best served by cherry-picking intriguing characters out of these tales and using them to serve his own vision for the series.
3. More Wookies, fewer CGI Muppets
George Lucas’s green-screen fetishism is one of the big reasons the prequels stunk. His well-documented love of Muppety aliens is another. Besides the universally loathed Jar Jar Binks, everything from the Phantom Menace forward felt phony, even for a nonsensical space opera set in a galaxy far, far away. There was something solid, something real, about Chewie, that big hairy lummox, fiddling with the Millennium Falcon’s hyperdrive in The Empire Strikes Back. And when Han informs Threepio that Wookies are known to pull people’s arms out their sockets when they lose, you knew that was a threat with teeth.
4. Boba Fett’s return
So the galaxy’s most fearsome bounty hunter died in the belly of the Sarlaac on Tattooine. But what if he didn’t? Jabba said that the fearsome desert beast would slowly digest prey over the course of a thousand years. That’s pretty slow, and it would give the wily Fett plenty of time to figure a way out. There’s no way a digestive system that methodical would eat through his Mandalorian Battle Armor in anything less than 50 years. At least. And after he gets out, what is the first thing Fett is going to do? Wage an all-out assault on Luke, Han, Leia and anyone else responsible for putting him in that fetid prison. And this job is pro bono.
Wedge Antilles: Ready for his due
5. Bring back Wedge Antilles and Lando Calrissian
As far as I know, ace Rebel Alliance pilot Wedge Antilles is the only non-major character to appear in all three of the original films. He’s on Luke’s wing in the first near-suicidal Death Star assault; he’s on the frozen planet of Hoth covering the Rebels evacuation; and he has another go at the refurbished Death Star in Return of the Jedi. He’s one of the unsung heroes of Star Wars, and that should be acknowledged somewhere in Episode VII. And then there’s that old pirate Lando, former mayor of Cloud City and longtime promoter of Colt .45 malted adult beverages. It doesn’t seem likely that Billy Dee is too busy these days for an encore Star Wars performance, and his cape and smooth baritone are just what these movies need to win back their alienated adult audience.