Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (J. J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt) has been released and it’s… well, it’s not good. But I’ll be seeing Star Wars: Episode VIII (Rian Johnson) anyway, to see if Snoke turns-out to be Plagueis. That’s the kind of twist that would make Star Wars: Episode VIII remembered by fans. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens drew on Star Wars Episode IV (George Lucas), and it’s likely that Star Wars: Episode VIII will draw on Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan) to be a “dark sequel” while also being the low point of the trilogy before the expectedly triumphant third act.
So here are some suggestions that will make Star Wars: Episode VIII better than Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens failed because Kylo Ren was a weak antagonist. A large part of that was the ambiguity as to who the protagonist was – Rey or Han – and thus couldn’t focus on the right aspects of his personality. There wasn’t enough time to reveal Kylo Ren as Han’s son and develop that part of him, making it seem like a Forced twist.
Similarly, there also wasn’t enough time to develop the sub-plot of Rey searching for Luke, making the map toward him completely irrelevant by the end and also seeing Forced. See how a weak antagonist can affect everything else? The plot of Star Wars: Episode VIII will probably involve Luke explaining more of what happened during his absence, and hopefully why Kylo Ren abandoned the new Jedi. The Knights of Ren should have some relevance as well.
This is a good opportunity to really substantiate the plot a bit more – is Rey Luke’s daughter? If so, Kylo is her cousin. That would add to the tension – there’d be a familial relationship between them. And it’s likely that Luke and Kylo Ren know each other, which would skip the establishment of their relationship too.
Basically, Luke’s involvement will provide the opportunity to make the Sequel Trilogy more interesting. The amount of exposition he knows could potentially fill-in the gaps not yet explained, all within the first act, leaving the remaining screen time to actually do something with it. Kylo Ren’s motivations should be properly explained, Rey should be tested more as a character to make her less unbelievable, and Luke can be the one to do this – tell Rey who Kylo Ren is, then train her to fight him. All culminating in some sort of personal showdown with Kylo Ren giving us a reason to actually dislike him, as opposed to us simply being told we’re supposed to.
If Star Wars: Episode VIII is successful, I’ll come away thinking that it’s a great science-fiction film that works because of its antagonist. An antagonist that is well-written this time, who isn’t simply “evil” because he is, but has his own, justified agenda that makes me question my own position in that situation. I never really expected Abrams to do it, given the way he directs his other antagonists… but Rian Johnson? Well, I don’t know much of his work, but let’s just say that this time, he’s working with someone else’s character, not his own, so there’s some possibility of restraint from Lucasfilm.
Will that be good or bad? Who knows? I just hope they realise the fault with Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. They probably won’t, though.
The critics adore it. I can’t think why. Rian Johnson, I anticipate your May 2017 film. It’s on you now.
Because I’m probably not going to let this go until then…