Raising the Star Wars Stakes

A bit of housekeeping – those of you who weren’t directed here via the Deseret News ought to know that I’ve got a column over there that’s being published on a semi-regular basis. I’ve praised Skyfall before I’d actually seen it, beaten up on The Star Wars Holiday Special, and, as of yesterday, excoriated bad Christmas music. If you want to see if there’s a column you’ve missed, here’s my Table of Contents, or whatever they call it in this hip Internet age.

This post is a follow-up to my November 1 column entitled “Who should be the bad guy in the next Star Wars movie?” In that piece, if you’re too lazy to read it, I point out that the biggest challenge facing a continuation of the Star Wars narrative is the absence of any credible villain. J.K. Rowling has repeatedly noted that the reason she can’t keep writing Harry Potter books is that no bad guy could top Voldemort. So the Star Wars folks are intent on bringing back Luke, Han, and Leia, but what baddie could hope to compete with Darth Vader, who is both dead and redeemed and therefore precluded from further midichlorianized mischief?

There is talk of resurrecting our friend Mr. Vader, but I doubt anything will come of it. There’s just no way to do that that wouldn’t be unforgivably stupid. Granted, George Lucas used up his fair share of unforgivable stupidity with just the first five minutes of Jar Jar Binks’ screen time, but the torch has thankfully been passed to actual writers who don’t think space operas should include romantic musings about the nature of sand.

So what to do? How do you go forward and create a conflict when you’ve already won?

You raise the stakes. There’s no other way to do it.

I’ve dabbled in some of the Expanded Universe offerings over the years, but none of them have held my interest. Most of them take place during the Clone Wars and don’t try to continue the story, while the few that do move beyond Return of the Jedi just don’t have enough at stake to be compelling. Lots of folks are clamoring for a new trilogy based on Timothy Zahn’s novels, where some dude named Grand Admiral Thrawn is doing all he can to take the Emperor’s place. Long ago, I tried to read the first one, and I put it down after just a couple of chapters. Honestly, who cares? Star Wars was a story of rebels fighting overwhelming odds, making it far more satisfying when the underdogs finally win. When the bad guys are the underdogs, it screws up the whole vibe. No, the only way to move forward is to make the good guys the underdogs, and do it in a credible way.

But how?

Well, one route is the Rocky V method – strip the good guy of his wins and humiliate him, putting him back at square one. Given that Rocky V sucks, it should have been enough of an object lesson to keep anyone else from doing the same thing. But this tends to be the way sequels work, as most sequels are just remakes of the first film. So through tortured writing and convoluted coincidences, protagonists find themselves in identical sitautions to what they’d faced previously, and you don’t care, because you saw it all the first time. So a new budding emperor can’t possibly be as threatening as the old emperor, so why bother?

Raise the stakes, and do it as follows:

The rebel alliance has already defeated the greatest galactic threat possible. So now they face some sort of INTERgalactic threat that isn’t goofy. It can be done, and here’s how you do it.

I never understood the idea of just two Siths at any given time. It just never seemed right, especially since there were so many Jedi. Doesn’t everyone want to see some kind of Justice League/Legion of Doom style battle with the Jedi and Sith evenly matched, or, even better, with the Jedi hopelessly outnumbered? Well, what if the Sith are extensions of an elemental part of a universal Force with thousands, perhaps millions, of them scattered throughout scads of galaxies? What if they swarm through galaxies and either dominate or devour them? What if the Emperor, as powerful as he was, was only one agent of the Sith, preparing his galaxy for the eventual assault of the numberless Sith hordes, only to be unexpectedly defeated by these cocky rebels, who have no idea what horrors await them when the Sith armies finally arrive?

The new film should begin with a galaxy at peace. Luke is the new Yoda, and Leia has finally been elected the Chancellor. She divorced Han long ago, and the poor guy now runs some seedy backwater bar someplace, grumbling at anyone who recognizes him as the great General Solo from the days when the Empire was overthrown. (Maybe he’s running Mos Eisley, although that might be just a tad too cute.) Yet it’s on Han’s world that the swarm of Sith make their grand entrance into the galaxy, and Han is the only one on the planet who escapes alive. He flees to safety with the Skywalkers, but Leia won’t see him. Luke will, though, and with his help, he enlists Leia and the fledgling strength of the new Republic against an enemy that cannot be defeated. How can the forces of good hope to counter infinite darkness?

And off we go.

So potential screenwriters, feel free to use any and all of this proposal, as well as to send me any number of royalty checks. Anything less than this just won’t work. Indeed, Star Wars hasn’t really worked as a concept since The Empire Strikes Back. The only way to keep moving forward is to have an enemy that is bigger and better than what has gone before, kind of like me and Languatron.

And with any mention of Langy, I know it’s time to stop.

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