After a week of over-thinking The Force Awakens, I thought I would share some of my hopes for its sequel, Episode VIII. The Force Awakens felt very much like the opening of a new chapter in the Star Wars saga, and left many unanswered questions, hanging plot threds, and development yet to be done. Episode VIII will really secure the relationship of this new Star Wars trilogy to those which preceded it – thus far it feels as if it’s created new heroes in the vein of the original trilogy, but more inclusive; on the other hand, its stepped back from the moral complexity of the prequel trilogy (and, to some extent, Return of the Jedi and The Empire Strikes Back) in favour of a simplistic “good versus evil” narrative more in keeping with the original trilogy. While prequels may have had their faults, moral complexity is not one of them (attempted plot complexity may have been). In general, Episode VIII needs to be braver, take a few risks, and yet still ground itself in the preceding seven films. At least, that’s my take. Here is entirely subjective list of hopes for Episode VII chocked full of spoilers for all preceding Star Wars films:
- Poe Dameron is gay.
One of the key triumphs of The Force Awakens over the previous trilogies was its inclusive cast – more than one woman! And one was a Jedi! A Black Stormtrooper! A Latino X-Wing pilot! But there has been another debate going on alongside this celebration, which is the central romantic dynamic of the film. Now, Finn made it pretty clear that he’s interested in Rey (which she doesn’t clearly reciprocate) but there were hints that Poe saw something else in Finn, something a little more than how good he looked in that jacket. Perhaps there could be romance blossoming there?
A friend pointed out to me that the only romantic relationships in previous Star Wars films have been those which were necessary to the plot. I’m not entirely convinced by this argument – of course it applies to Anakin and Padmé, but Han and Leia? Largely, I think the romantic subplots of the previous saga have been hindered by heteronormativity and the one-in-one-out policy the galaxy applied to women. But, in any case, Poe’s sexuality might only be confirmed on-screen if it’s relevant to the plot. If the new trilogy still wants to follow the beats of the originals (but please don’t – see below) I hope the love triangle puts Rey in Luke’s place, Poe in Han’s, and Finn as Leia. Or, perhaps, just introduce Poe’s husband with whom he had to flee the Empire which forbade their marriage. I can see a number of ways this would work for the plot, and cement this new trilogy’s socially progressive stance over the previous two. Plus it would make the Resistance seem that much easier to root for than the amorphous, Manichaean “good versus evil” battle with which we were presented in Awakens.
- Less pastiche, more integration.
The Force Awakens employed many story beats from the original trilogy, primarily A New Hope but also The Empire Strikes Back (I am your father!) and Return of the Jedi (the three-tiered battle and Han’s suicide mission). It was nice, I suppose, but it’s the main reason why I could never say Awakens is as good as the original trilogy. I hope that Episode VIII moves away from the cyclical story beats and emphasises the fact that this story takes place in the same universe with some of the same characters: let’s revisit some old locations (not Tatooine)! What’s been going down on Naboo? Perhaps Luke could run away again, but this time end up on Dagobah? Also, remember how the rebellion and Empire had, like, fleets of ships of different designs, not just X-Wings and TIE Fighters? Maybe the Resistance and the First Order could incorporate some of that variety? So much of Awakens felt like a reboot, a pastiche, or a remake rather than a continuation of events in a shared universe. I’m perhaps unclear about how to do it, but I don’t want to just see The Empire Strikes Back with the new characters. I Empire‘s complexity mixed with the charm and excitement of the new cast.
- Something about Padmé.
Perhaps the greatest contribution of the prequels to the Star Wars Saga was the introduction of Luke and Leia’s Mum, who did some wonderful things when she wasn’t delivering crappy dialogue in her “romantic” scenes with Anakin or dying in childbirth because of the Star Wars universe’s (now suspended) one-in-one-out policy regarding women. As a result of her not having been invented, Padmé gets scarcely a mention in the original trilogy (only when Luke asks Leia what she remembers about her mother in Return of the Jedi). I had hoped that Luke’s disappearance would be related to their mother, and that he might have spent some of the last thirty years looking for her (although many people tried to cover up her identity after her death). It didn’t come up in The Force Awakens, but Episode VIII could really tie the trilogies together by giving Luke (and Leia) a connection to their less volotile parent, perhaps remembering how great Padmé was when she was fighting for the freedom of Naboo, rescuing Obi-Wan on Geonosis, or founding the rebellion with Bail Organa, rather than interacting with their father.
[Edited to add] Also regarding #6 below, I had a vision of Episode VIII including a sub-plot in which Luke and Rey travel together (much like Luke and Obi-Wan) with Chewie and the droids in search of their mothers, and it was beautiful. If this isn’t part of the plot of Episode VIII (or IX, if I have to wait that long) then I will be very disappointed. [/Edit]
The key figure from the original trilogy missing in Awakens was Lando Calrissian: charmer, swindler, and businessman. Lando might be considered to be a fourth Ghostbuster by some (I have literally no idea who) but part of making this universe feel like the same one as we’ve seen before could be to revisit Lando. Rey saw a city in the clouds in her vision… perhaps we’ll see him back where we met him, about the retire but drawn back into the conflict?
- A little darker?
Kylo Ren is an excellent villain for the twenty-first century. He’s the kind of boy who thinks darkness is cool; he’s aptly summed up by the Twitter account Emo Kylo Ren (@KyloR3n) as an arrogant, misogynistic teenager; I’ve seen him describes as the kind of guy you wouldn’t accept a drink from at a party. But despite the volatile streak he shares with his grandfather we haven’t seen him commit violence the way we see Anakin slaughter the Sand People or the Younglings. The worst he’s done is kill his father, and there is still speculation about his possible redemption in the future of the trilogy. I have mixed feelings about that. To be honest, I think I’d rather see him descend into the depths of awfulness that he represents and ultimately (although not until Episode IX) be destroyed. In Episode VIII, I’d like to see him split from the First Order to commit his own atrocities, to become a violent, volatile force in the galaxy. Part of me had been hoping that his admiration for Vader meant that he’d ultimately turn on Supreme Leader Snoke and destroy him, like his grandfather. But I’m more inclined now to think that sticking so close to the story beats of the original trilogy will ruin this trilogy. Kylo Ren has to go further off the deep end than his grandfather. I don’t need to see him killing Luke, but finding the darkness within him would be a good progression.
But alongside this darkness, I’d like to see some reflection and commentary on the darkness and Kylo’s descent. It’s not just about “good” and “evil”. I’d like to see a little more bravery in dealing with the reasons why people are bad and the consequences of that badness and the ways people have to deal with it. Something, dare I say it, a little more like the prequels?
- Make Rey’s past interesting, please.
I’ve seen a fair bit of speculation about Rey’s parentage. On the basis that she’s basically Jaina Solo, perhaps she’s Kylo Ren’s twin. Because she speaks in an English accent, perhaps she’s Obi-Wan’s daughter (although the same argument could apply to Emperor Palpatine). She could be Luke’s daughter, or her family might be entirely new characters. I honestly don’t care which of these it is. Even if she’s not Han and Leia’s daughter, she’s still as close to my favourite character from the old expanded universe that I’m ever going to see on the big screen. All I want is for her past to be interesting, to be revealed in an interesting way, and to be stated with as much conviction as Luke’s parentage and siblingage so that even if it makes no sense whatsoever we just go with it. Although, if she were Palpatine’s daughter, that would give her a brilliant dynamic with Kylo Ren.
- It’s directed by Rian Johnson so maybe Joseph Gordon-Levitt could be in it?
I’ve seen two of Rian Johnson’s films – Brick and Looper – and I loved them. Both stared Joseph Gordon-Levitt, so I assume they’re pals? So maybe Gordon-Levitt could have a cameo in this film? Perhaps as Poe’s husband? If this happens I will assume I am a badass Jedi having a vision because I touched Anakin/Luke/Rey’s lightsaber.