Friday, May 25, 2007

An Open Letter to George Lucas

Today is the 30th anniversary of the release of Star Wars. Seeing as how I have two light sabers, an official Jedi robe and life-size cardboard cutouts of Han and Leia in my bedroom, I figure I should participate in the old blogathon to commemorate the day.

I love the original trilogy as much as the next sci-fi nerd, but just like most of the planet am sorely concerned about George Lucas' loss of storytelling skill in the most recent installments. We need to get back to form.

George Lucas has said frequently about how much he wants to produce a live action TV show based on the Star Wars universe. He's already had remarkable success with the Clone Wars animated series on Cartoon Network, which is run by Genndy Tartakovsky (Samurai Jack, Dexter's Laboratory), but I think the live action show could be more amazing than that if he just sticks to one idea.

Here it is, George. You listening?

Go back in time.

Let me explain. No, it's too much. Let me sum up.

No, actually I'll just explain.

I'm not very good at video games. I have an N64 at home and have yet to get past the first level on Mortal Kombat Trilogy. Sad, I know. I had a little success with Legend of Zelda but had a Walkthrough standing open on my computer to consult during my constant puzzle jams. Anything involving shooting you can forget about. I have no aim. Racing games I can kind of almost handle.

I once tried to play Half Life on my computer and had to take it back the next day because it gave me motion sickness.

So when I moved in with my ex and his X-Box it didn't really affect my life that much at first. Halo has an interesting habit of putting me right to sleep. It doesn't matter how loud those little aliens are squealing, the first sound of the monk tabernacle choir ahhhhhing in the background knocks me out instantly.

Then, one magical day, I discovered Knights of the Old Republic.

Knights of the Old Republic
is a role-playing game that takes place in the Star Wars universe, but thousands of years before the film trilogy begins. The Jedi are in full force across the Republic, doing their thing and battling crazy creatures and evil doers everywhere they go. You are a mysterious recruit with amnesia who must stop an evil Sith lord from destroying the Republic. Not only do you select what you look like, but you select what your powers are and you choose which side of the force you play for. You don't make a conscious choice. Your actions decide whether or not you're evil.

I never could master being evil. I felt so guilty stealing people's money that I was always a good Jedi. I don't care if they're fictional. Cartoon people have feelings too. And they don't like it when you steal the beastie they killed fair and square in the desert of Tattoine and then sell it and smack them when they ask for the money. I just can't handle when the game makes me feel responsible.

But it wasn't just the fact that you could force choke people that got me into the game. What was great about this game, much more so than its disappointing sequel, was the story. You had a romantic interest and a surprise twist in the middle and all the major elements that make a story great. I got really involved and cared about the people I got to know through the game.

And it didn't have any cameos by little Yoda or baby Qui Gon. Instead it showed you the homeworld of the Wookies and introduced you to cultures you'd only heard of in passing in the original trilogy. I was able to get involved because although I understood the world these people lived in, there was a new set of twists to follow because it was an entirely new story. I wanted to see how these people turned out. Although there was a lot of dialogue for a video game, there was some excellent humor and every character had a richly developed backstory I wanted to explore.

So listen up, George. If you do this live action thing take notes on the stories you didn't write and learn a little something on getting back to basics. Give me a story I haven't already seen. Give me characters I can learn and care about. And if you're going to do inside jokes, use them sparingly and make them advance the story. Please don't keep bashing us over the head with the people we already know. They were great in the beginning, but they're played out now.

If this story really did take place a long time ago, you have plenty of centuries to draw from besides the Emperor's. I, for one, would like to see the origin of the Sith. Wouldn't you?


  1. Anonymous11:19 AM

    I think the problem is he was never a good, or even competent writer. He had help from Coppola and others and didn't even direct the best one. The first draft of Star Wars is online and it is atrocius. He should stick with retirement.

  2. Isn't this less about writing and more about audience? I too am of (what I term) the Star Wars generation - so much more expressive than "GenX" and I have a deep affinity for the original trilogy and the same take it or leave it indifference or worse to the second trilogy. But when Star Wars came out I was 9. By the time we got to Phantom Menace I was 31. As much as I feel like my generation OWNS Star Wars, the second set of movies wasn't written for us. It was written for our children and although I don't think they made the impression on the youth of their day that the earlier movies did on my friends and I; I also don't think the average 9 year old was nearly as disappointed with the newer films. Some of those kids actually liked Jar-Jar. That's because they were the audience.

    So, will a live action TV show be good? There's certainly enough material to work from. The original storyline has been fleshed out to no end in comics and books. But will those of us that adored the original movies like it? That'll depend on if it is written for us.

    If I could give George Lucas one instruction for the new venture it would be this: Make this series for the Star Wars generation. When I have kids, I will explain it to them.


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