Good Friday

crucifixion

 

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Peace is boring. You should become a Sith.

The bad guys are dead. They died in a good way. So what now? What could the story of Episodes 7-9 possibly be?

First, they’ll need a villain, because they all died in the other movies. Who can be the villain?

Either one of the good guys goes bad, a new bad guy shows up, or an old bad guy wasn’t as dead as we thought.

None of these sound interesting to me.

Good guy goes bad – well, this has been covered in the EU. And it’s tired. Leia went Sith in my script for Episode VII. It was stupid.

New bad guy shows up – I did this too. Darth Seethe. At the time, I thought it was stupid to call the Emperor Darth Sidious, because ‘insidious’ is a real word that means … well, phantom menace. So I wanted to write about a Sith who was ticked off all the time, so I named him Seethe. Stupid. But what kind of new bad guy would be interesting enough to justify a new series? Palpatine’s old roommate from space college has shown up.

Resurrected bad guy – Please oh please do not do this. I enjoy some of the EU, but I seriously got bored when Palpatine was cloned and basically resurrected. Nothing kills a story like making one of the characters immortal.

All of these options are troubling to me actually. All of them make the point that evil is never truly destroyed. I’ve always thought of Star Wars as being a pretty clear metaphor for Christ’s work. Like Luke, He came from a humble rural childhood and rose to achieve victory and peace, against all assumptions that could be made about his age and appearance and rank. Like Christ, Luke finally overthrew the villain and won peace for the galaxy.

So to continue the story would seem to dismiss Luke’s ultimate victory as just one in a series of necessary victories. Palpatine’s gone, sure, but now there are new bad guys that need to be dealt with before we can have peace. At what point will peace finally be achieved? If Star Wars will continue toward a new grand finale, the stakes will have to be raised. Will the sequels feature a villain more twisted and evil than Palpatine. And could they possibly culminate in a final battle as meaningful as Luke repairing his father’s broken spirit and the ultimate destruction of the Empire and its evil Emperor?

To just keep the story going suggests a hierarchy of villains would be built. Palpatine will no longer be the big baddie of the Star Wars universe. Episodes 1-3 are devoted to his rise to power. Episodes 4-6 document his downfall. Episodes 7-9 will be about … his stupid clone? His trusty friend that’s been hiding out this whole time? Any way you play it, it minimizes Palpatine as the big baddie and it minimizes Luke as the guy that restored peace and justice to the galaxy. The new villain will have to be stronger, meaner, and uglier to make any impact, and to not detract from the effectiveness of Palpatine. Star Wars will become like Bruce Lee’s Game of Death, rising from one challenger to another, until finally confronting the big boss.

That doesn’t work for me. Star Wars is myth, not a video game.

(Who am I kidding? They already have my ticket!)

 

 

Thinking through JJ’s career and what it reveals about Star Wars 7

Nobody knows what the next Star Wars movie will be about.

Well, a few people know. And one of those few people is JJ Abrams.

Here’s my JJ knowledge, and what each experience has taught me about his work:

A handful of “Alias” episodes. (He loves Hitchcock. The twisting, turning plot is like techie version of North by Nothwest, which is a good thing. Twisty plots in a Star Wars movie sound good to me!)

One or two of “Felicity.” (Well, again, he loves Hitchcock. The Psycho episode was fantastic. The big hope for Star Wars based on this show is that SW would finally have a full female character. Leia is great. But her last movie really damaged her character. And Padme had potential. But, like everything else in those movies, she was wasted. Here’s hoping JJ can give life to the next generation’s female characters.)

The first four seasons of “Fringe.” (Great show. Regarding the latent Star Wars potential. Well, for one thing, this show demonstrates JJ’s team’s masterful casting. The three leads on this show are excellent. And even better together. If JJ wants to put Pacey on the new Jedi Council, I would be totally cool with that.)

Mission Impossible 3 (He likes the gritty, frenetic take on the classics. I do not like this.)

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (It’s hard to know where his influence begins and ends with this one. He neither wrote or directed it. This is tied with the first as best in the series. It’s fun, over the top, and more or less realistic to that universe’s laws.)

Revolution (Again, don’t know how involved he was. Fantastic premise, lame execution.)

What About Brian? (The first ten minutes of this sitcom/drama were wonderful. The lone single guy in a group of friends otherwise populated by couples would have been a good “Thirtysomething” style dramedy. But they abandoned that aspect within the first episode and the rest of the show hobbled along as Brian whined his way from girlfriend to girlfriend.)

Super 8 (The first half is near excellence. He nailed the ET/Poltergeist vibe. Once the aliens showed up, I lost interest. But of all his movies and shows, this is the one that gives me the most hope for his Star Wars movie. He was a boy when Star Wars started, and he is able to relay that feeling of being a little boy that loves Star Wars. Even though they’re mostly crummy, there’s a wildness to Marvel’s Star Wars comics of the time. They were produced between the movies, when the universe was huge and mysterious. The rapacious EU has only expanded the universe by giving fans a longer list of names to learn. Otherwise, it has been destructive to the purity of the original trilogy. Abrams gets how fans have ruined things with their thirst for information. Fake information. And I think he’ll be able to bring Star Wars back to something magical, unexplained, and wild.)

Star Trek (Abrams’ alternate respect/disdain for old franchises is worked to a wonderful frenzy of old, new, legendary, and dangerous in this movie. This is the best movie he has yet made and it’s precisely because of that mixture of respect and disdain he has for Star Trek fans. Being a mild Trek fan himself, he knows the big moments. Being confounded by the explosion of the franchise in the 80s and 90s, he was able to pare down what “wasn’t working,” and focus on what had worked for large audiences in the movie series’ heyday.)

Star Trek Into Darkness (Okay. This one makes me a little scared for what he might do to Star Wars. The first big fear that came to mind was sex. I really don’t want Star Wars to get sexy. Sadly, there is a stupid precedent for it in Leai’s outfit at the beginning of ROTJ. But after that, I do worry about the story. The story in this Trek movie was contrived and derivative. I would hate to see Star Wars continue down that path.)

Favorite Star Trek movies. Fourth

Star Trek III : The Search for Spock

First Contact might be better, but this is my list of personal favorites, and the original cast trumps the Next Generation almost every time. (Guess which movie with the original cast gets ranked lowest.)

When I was a kid, I loved this one for all its great moments. Stealing the Enterprise, thwarting that jerk captain, and hanging around in weird alien bars. But as I got older, I found those fun scenes to be only bright spots in a movie that just felt like it was a dreary in-between for better movies. And I do still prefer II and IV to this. But I thought of it as only a linking movie, in which nothing really happens. I mean there’s no Khan and there’s no whales. C’mon!

I haven’t watched it in years, but I have thought about it a lot. (That’s usual for me, by the way. I rarely re-watch movies.) On reflection, it’s a totally necessary Star Trek movie. Spock demonstrated his love for his team in the previous movie. He and Kirk showed us how close they had become, and how well they were able to work together. And here we get a whole movie to see Kirk without his Spock. The ramifications of Spock’s death are surprisingly long-lasting for a sci-fi franchise. Characters usually spring back to life (to protect the precious fans?) within the same movie, or story.

The DC Comics published between movies II and III present a fascinating alternate Trek. Saavik becomes the new science officer (and maybe first officer too…I can’t recall). And business carries on. We get what amounts to a whole season of adventures for the Spock-less Enterprise. Then the comic creators jumped the gun and revived Spock, only to learn that they had to hurry up and kill him again if they wanted their stories to dovetail into the beginning of the third movie. They do work it out. For any Trek fans who want to freshen the movies up, reading the comics alongside them can offer another perspective on the whole series.

I will admit that this movie has its problems. Spock’s absence was a brave choice. I know that the first time in the director’s chair occupied most of Mr Nimoy’s time, but excluding Spock from 95% of a Star Trek movie was still pretty gutsy. It worked as far as demonstrating Kirk’s need for a Spock. Shatner plays Kirk confident, as usual, but he seems lacking something in his confidence. Maybe it’s direction? Or structure? Whatever it is that Kirk is missing, it’s apparently present when he and Spock are together. The benefits of showing Spock-less Kirk might not outweigh the detriment of not having Spock around.

I’m very sensitive to the size of the world any given story is set inside of. Not that I can visualize what a light year really is. But I have what I can only describe as a feel for the scope of the world. The old show felt like space was as it is now. We’ve seen the view of earth from the moon, but it is blackness past that. Some pioneers ventured out, but who knows what’s happened to them? (A good few episodes will tell us.) The world of TOS is massive. The crew just huddles inside the Enterprise and rockets (or warps) to the next bright spot. The world of the Next Generation is much smaller. That show has always struck me as less about exploration and more about management. It seems that there are starbases conveniently placed throughout the Enterprise-D‘s supposed path of exploration. Each movie offers another scale to the universe. The Search for Spock presents my personal favorite size of the Star Trek world. Here is Star Trek in the Hyborian Age. Points of civilization are separated by vast deserts of space. Illicit trading is easy because the wilderness is everywhere. The reach of the Federation, which seems all-powerful by the time we get to TNG, is localized around earth but stretches across the quadrant in thin tendrils of occupied space and a thousand unreliable outposts. The wildness of the original series is felt here, but with a peek at the underbelly that would logically exist in a world like that.

Of course the big moment that sells this movie, the pivotal scene that makes this movie soar is the destruction of the Enterprise. Kirk kills his ship to get Spock back. Sort of. I guess he kills his ship to get rid of the Klingons to facilitate getting Spock to life. Spock died to save the Enterprise. Kirk killed the Enterprise to save Spock. There’s something there… Anyway, it gives us one of the great images from any episode. There’s also an intriguing bit of dialogue, which I admit to not fully understanding.

“My god, Bones. What have I done?”

“What you had to do. What you always do. Turn death into a fighting chance to live.”

First of all, is Bones saying that Kirk always does what needs doing? Or is he saying that Kirk needs to do what he’s always done before? Or, am I missing the point that what Kirk always does is what needs doing, which is to death into a fighting chance to live? It’s probably that. McCoy wasn’t talking about the death of the spaceship though. He was talking about the death of Kirk’s only son, a horrible act, being leveraged by Kirk himself to end this battle and ultimately to save the lives of the crew and restore the life of Spock.

Geeks of Christ could spend a whole year in this movie.

I should note that these first four movies on my list are all beloved by me. How one movie gets ranked higher than another is a question of which I like more. The latter eight movies are ranked by which I like better AND by which I dislike more. So far, I only have affection for the movies on the list. These are my top four.

The list so far:

The Wrath of Khan

The Undiscovered Country

The Voyage Home

The Search for Spock