MY SHAMELESS SELFISH LIST OF WANTS FOR STAR WARS: EPISODE VII.
By Eric Peterson
I’m going to preface this by saying I’m completely open to whatever I’m about to get with Star Wars: Episode VII. I’m just happy to get more movies. I was born in 1983, and so I don’t have the original trilogy street cred for waiting in line for those movies. But some of my happiest memories are waiting eagerly for the trailers for the prequels– going to see A Bug’s Life to catch the Star Wars: Episode I trailer for example– and then of course waiting in line for the movies themselves. Star Wars was the first movie I saw as a kid, and it changed my life. I was an 80s Star Wars kid fan for sure. And then of course I got the pleasure of being an adult when the prequels came out. Now, I get to be in my 30s when the sequels come out. And my good friend Jason has a child to take to the movies! Awesome.
But, here are some things I kind of really hope I get in the new movies. This isn’t a “I’ll be letdown if these things don’t happen” list. This is a fun “Man, I really would dig this stuff.” This is the stuff I think about that just gets me excited, while I play the waiting game for another year.
SLOWNESS IN THE RIGHT AREAS. KINETIC ADVENTURE IN THE OTHER AREAS.
Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness are fast movies. Frantically fast. Faster than the original trilogy. Faster than the prequels. They barely pause. I think they kind of had a pre-requisite for that pacing based on the prioritization of “This aint your Dada’s Star Trek.” But, frankly, I kind of hope that we get Star Wars pacing in the next Star Wars. That’s a big deal to me. Probably the most important. Not that changing that will make these movies “bad” or “good”, its just that I love the little beats in between the big action set pieces in Star Wars movies. I love that stuff. Anakin hunting for his mom and talking to Jawas against the dawn (or dusk, I can’t remember). Luke staring at the twin suns. Music swelling. You know what I mean. One of my favorite moments, probably my favorite moment overall, in Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith is when we just have the orange sky against Padmé and Anakin both searing with emotion. In fact, for two cast members sometimes criticized for their acting in those movies, I actually was amazed at those shots. That sequence, to me, as a fledgling noob director of animated and live action stuff, is the best acting from those two. I love that stuff. No words. But their faces say it all. And the music is so edgy. Its like “A Social Network” edgy. It just simmers. You know the badness is coming. Its perfect. That’s just one example. Of course everyone recalls Luke staring at the twin suns. Those music-takes-center moments are some of my strongest memories in each of the 6 movies. Luke staring at the twin suns still is the real benchmark memory for me, all these years later. As a kid, that is the scene that just made me feel like I was Luke… Like I wasn’t alone in the galaxy. I know, I’ll move on. I don’t want to get all Fieval here. Somewhere out there….
I hazard a guess this may be a point of debate between me and Jason, but I am a fan of digital technology being used with classical cinematography. I think the prequels use this well, with the exception of one single shot. This shot is my least favorite shot in any Star Wars movies. Its the rack zoom (a completely CGI rack zoom actually) on a Clone Trooper transport in the Battle of Geonosis. People didn’t use that stuff in cinematography until really the late 90s, and even then it was due to TV. You rarely see that kind of WOOSH-ZOOM in on something in the far background, with such clarity. Really, at the time, I remember thinking “Yeah, that shot can’t really happen. We’re too far and there’s too much movement.” I mean, of course the whole scene is CGI anyway, so they did it. But I don’t tend to like that stuff. This isn’t hatred towards CGI at all. I love the Revenge of the Sith opening battle, and that is all CGI. I love the Battle of Geonosis from Attack of the Clones, and think its really well composed except for that one single shot. I don’t recall them ever doing it again, nor ever before. To me, its a “language of visual storytelling” that doesn’t quite fit in Star Wars. Hell, its George’s movies (or was– though I like to think with his outlines the new movies are still “his” largely), so he can do whatever he wants. But thats one of those things that sticks out as against the language of Star Wars. I actually am getting myself thinking here, too. I wonder if we saw more of that in Star Wars: The Clone Wars? I think we may have once or twice. I wonder if we did. I would check, but I just watched the whole series so someone else will have to tell me. Look, my point is that when I think of Star Wars, I do not think of practical effects. I just don’t think its as important as it seems due to the amount of matte screen and “might as well have been CGI” effects that are in the originals. “What about the Star Destroyer sets? Those are so cool.” Yeah they are. And also, they had blue screen everywhere, if you look at Behind the Scenes photos. So I don’t buy that CGI ruins Star Wars argument. To me, its much more important that the visual language of the movies matches the language of all the other movies. Locked off cameras. No shaky cam.
I want a ton of wipes. Not for any incontinent reasons. I mean, I want those cross-wipes, like we have everywhere else. Star Wars is like the one place in the universe of film where these are accepted. It calls back to classic pulp fiction tales. It has an aura of “Flash Gordon” in it. And even though its old fashioned, even in the newest Star Wars released (The Clone Wars) it is there, and fits.
Despite popular belief, the Joseph Campbell monomyth structure doesn’t box movies in as much as some may believe. I’ll give a quick brief. Joseph Campbell wrote a book called Hero with a Thousand Faces. Now Jason and I have talked a bit about whether or not George Lucas relied on that book as much as folk lore would have us believe. But, well, Star Wars does tend to follow “A Hero Adventure” rather closely in structure. Like, really really closely. In fact, I believe that the reason The Clone Wars works so well with adults as well as children is due to this structure being present in a kid show. And really, the cool thing about structure is that it doesn’t decide “what happens” so much as “where characters go.” So I, somewhat selfishly, just hope that the new movies have the same sensibilities as the others, as opposed to what I like to call “post modern fiction.” Technically Star Wars was made in an era when post-modern fiction was already here and present, but it is a classical story in almost every sense of the word. Structurally. It still is a space fantasy, which is kind of post-modern in itself, but not entirely. Thematically and at its core, its a story about good and evil, and the balance therein and atonement. Definitely atonement. We may not see atonement in the first movie. We didn’t really in Episode IV. We did with Luke. He atoned with the demons he was facing on Tatooine, but a lot of the final atonement happens later in the saga. That’s okay. But I hope we get a sense of us being on the same path, or on a similarly structured path, as we do in the other 6 films. Important note: “Atonement” doesn’t mean “the hero must atone.” At the end of episode 3, Anakin fails that test. And that’s okay. It’s just that its dealt with. The Godfather is my favorite example of this. Michael Corleone (spoiler) atones with his duty, at the sacrifice of his soul. Atonement does not mean a happy ending. In most stories, the character is faced with a moral and psychological dilemma– the choice of atoning between two things. And the harder that moral decision is the better. That’s why Michael Corleone’s dilemma works so well. He must atone with the old family at the sacrifice of his new family, or the opposite.
Either way I cannot wait. I really am excited. But these are the things that to me really typify the language of Star Wars, and I’m always looking out for it.