First off, GO EAGLES!
Okay, now that we've gotten that out of the way...
If you watched the big game, or you don't happen to live under a rock on the dark side of a particularly backwater moon, you probably know that the new Star Wars prequel film SOLO is set to land this coming May.
Now, Disney has already stated that they are releasing a Star Wars movie every year for, I dunno, the rest of human existence and probably beyond that (we're gonna have machine-written films within the next 20 years, mark my words).
For a Star Wars fan such as myself, you'd think this would come as great news, right? More Star Wars, more better?
I could argue that there is a point of diminishing returns for a fandom. That quantity over quality as distribution technique seems positively idiotic. That taking time to truly develop a story and the characters, even at the risk of a delayed release, is preferable to unveiling a half-cooked Frankenstein monster on unwitting theater goers.
Put simply, I don't think prequels are necessary.
Now put down those pitchforks. I'm not going to blast the prequel trilogy as some sort of insane cash grab written in a fever dream with little consideration for proper storytelling techniques. Nor am I going to drag the director through the mud for clearly being surrounded by yes-men unwilling to question the decisions that led to unbearable dialogue and boorish action sequences. And far be it from me to doubt the wisdom of taking the most iconic characters in modern cinema and reducing them to whining children as a way of improving upon them.
But if I were to offer a simple criticism of the Star Wars Prequels, and prequels in general, it's this: Don't tell us what we don't need to know.
In storytelling, just as a rule, you are going to leave a lot of backstory on the cutting room floor. Audiences and readers don't need to know where your main character went to school. Or, if they DO need know where they went to school, I don't need to meet every teacher from every grade. I don't need to learn about the science projects that never amounted to anything, or their third boyfriend/girlfriend, or why they hate hearing the odds.
Writers of prequels often feel they need to demonstrate unnecessary connections between iconic characters. We, as the audience, do not need that. In fact, it makes the originals LESS believable.
How's that, you ask?
Take R2 and 3PO. In the original trilogy, there are A LOT of coincidences that take them around the galaxy. After being chased by an Imperial Star Destroyer, they happen to be caught above Tatooine.
- The home of Darth Vader
- Where his only living kin live
- Where his son is currently living, and sporting his same last name
- And they crash land (across this ENTIRE PLANET) within walking distance of Luke's home
- And Obiwan Kenobe, still dressed as a gorram Jedi, the EXACT PERSON THEY WERE SENT TO FIND, is also within landspeeder distance
But I can live with that. I can love that. I can accept that.
But the idea that Darth Vader INVENTED 3PO? Get the fuck outta here with that unnecessary connection.
You see, in a story, you're going to slam your characters together. The best stories start with everyone in different locations. Frodo is in the Shire, Boromir is in Gondor, Gandalf is with the elves in Rivendel. Everyone is far apart, living their lives. But something HUGE is happening, and each are driven to fight it in their own way and at their own time. And that leads them, on their own, toward a singular location and BAM! Fellowshipped.
But then you go an prequel it, and now you feel compelled to be like "Oh, what if Legolas' dad TOLD him to meet Aragorn (or to stalk him, the dialogue is a little hard to follow)?" "What if Luke and Leia's mom died in childbirth, even though in TOS Leia clearly remembers her mother from childhood?" "What if Han Solo KNOWS that a parsec is a unit of distance not time, and we get to learn the secret behind Chewie's catchphrase of BRAAAAAWR?"
No one asked for this. In fact, fans have asked for NUMEROUS better one-offs. I would unload a dump-truck of cash to see a Boba Fett movie, or a Knights of the Old Republic movie, or Darth Vader solo movie about hunting the Jedi (or, for that matter, just do Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and get Sam Witwer).
While Rogue One was enjoyable at times, it still retread so much ground as to be fairly middling. It forced itself into a corner with Grand Moff Tarkin and TOS Princess Leia, requiring uncanny-valley CGI to bring these characters into the film. And, in the end, it was so chopped up and re-shot that it really doesn't hold up to much scrutiny.
There are HUGE, GAPING issues with the original Star Wars, including mind-boggling leaps in logic from film to film (oh wait, there are ghosts now? But only some Jedi can be ghosts? Or can all Jedi be ghosts? What are the criteria for ghosts? And Vader is what? And Leia is who? What are Ewoks?). But all of that works because the originals were telling a singular story, and each new movie was an adventure with an unknown ending.
In a prequel, we know how it ends. We knew going in that Anakin would become Vader. We knew going in that the rebels get the Death Star plans. And we'll know going in that Han is a cool dude with a furry sidekick. There's no threat of death, no stakes too high, and that undercuts the point of the story. Why do I care about this new information? How will it benefit the stories already told about this character?
None of this is to say that, opening weekend, I'm not dropping my hard-earned cash to watch yet another Star Wars movie. I'm just saying that this is dangerous ground. Tread lightly.
And if you ever get the chance to write prequels (or anything canon), find that unique thread and pull.