Thursday, December 24, 2015

How I Would Have Done STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015)

It's a philosophy of mine that criticism is easy but suggesting useful alternatives is hard. I've applied that philosophy to my critique of the movie Mortal Kombat and suggested some ways to improve the movie while retaining the basic plot.

So now I'm going to apply this philosophy to the science-fiction film Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which I saw last weekend but thought was mediocre. Here there be spoilers, so be ye warned...

*The non-movie new canon as I understand (I haven't reach much of it, other than Delilah S. Dawson's story "The Perfect Weapon") has the Empire implode relatively quickly after the death of the Emperor and Vader at Endor. Disarmed and forced to pay reparations but otherwise left alone by the New Republic, it reorganizes as the "First Order" like it does in the new canon. That aspect can stay. The Republic, preoccupied with internal issues, writes off the First Order as some kooky non-problem, much like how many people view North Korea.

*However, the First Order is secretly in league with a Dark Side cult called the Knights of Ren. Luke Skywalker has revived the Jedi with trainees of his own, possible survivors of Order 66 or those they trained (think Kanan and Ezra from the Rebels television series), but one of his students early in the film horribly betrays Luke and massacres most of the New Jedi Order alongside the Knights of Ren. Luke is married to Mara Jade at this point and they have a daughter Rey--and during the betrayal, Mara is killed and Luke and the young Rey are separated. This could be the prologue to the film. The Knights of Ren are led by a masked "Darth Caedus" and Luke seems to know who he is, but we never get the name or relationship during the prologue. In the aftermath, Luke disappears to seek out the first Jedi temple and learn how he went wrong. Some suspect the First Order was involved, but the First Order denies it and the Republic doesn't pursue the matter.

*In the new canonical Star Wars comics, we meet a character named General Tagge, who Palpatine puts in charge of crushing the Rebellion after the destruction of the Death Star. Tagge believes in more conventional military tactics like an enlarged fleet and army, as opposed to superweapons like the Death Star. With the destruction of the Death Stars in A New Hope and The Return of the Jedi, one would hope Tagge's way of thinking would win out.

To that end, the First Order is conducting a massive military buildup. Mon Mothma or whoever is in charge of the Republic at this point does not take the threat seriously, so Leia (a civilian politician), Han Solo (one of the Republic's generals), and some other heroes of the first story resign from the government and set up their own private military effort against the First Order. Enough people believe that the First Order is in league with the Knights of Ren and their years-ago attack on the Jedi Order that they get a lot of support from within the Republic.

They find that the First Order is seeking the lost Katana Fleet, which would give them a massive advantage over the increasingly-complacent New Republic. Han has to go back into the underworld he'd long abandoned to reactivate old contacts and search for the Katana Fleet. This causes him to run into trouble with old enemies who now know he's not an untouchable military hero anymore. Perhaps we can even bring back Boba Fett?

*As part of Han and Leia's secret war, Poe Dameron finds the location of the Katana Fleet and is forced to hide it within his droid BB-8. We have the whole canonical plot with Poe and Finn escaping the First Order and finding the droid on the custody of Rey, who's grown up into an anti-social scavenger type like in the canonical film. The trio encounter Han and Chewbacca (perhaps they're on some kind of secret mission) and then try to get the droid to Leia per the film. They do--but not before the First Order somehow gets hold of the location of the Katana Fleet. We can still have Captain Phasma, General Hux, etc. Rey can find the old lightsaber and have flashbacks to her past (which she doesn't remember due to PTSD) and "take up the sword" so to speak.

*Instead of the attack on Starkiller Base (far too derivative of A New Hope and Yavin 4 for my tastes), the Resistance races the First Order to the Katana Fleet and starts capturing and/or destroying as much of it as possible before the First Order can take control. The First Order and the Knights of Ren led by "Darth Caedus" arrive and we have the confrontation between Han Solo and what turns out to be his son, Jacen Solo aboard one of the lost ships. I liked how Han reveals Kylo's real name by shouting "BEN!" to get his attention. Have Han shout "JACEN!" and you'd get the same effect. Jacen can then kill Han. Chewbacca wounds Jacen and he fights Finn and Rey. Even wounded he's still a dangerous opponent and stalemates Finn and Rey (possibly incapacitating the former like in the movie), but the arrival of Luke Skywalker and some new Jedi trainees forces Jacen and the Knights of Ren to flee. The Resistance has captured much of the Katana Fleet, but most of it has fallen into the hands of the First Order.

*The movie ends with the First Order, having taken control of much of the Katana Fleet, declaring war against the Republic and the Jedi. The admiral who will command the First Order's enlarged fleet is revealed to be none other than Grand Admiral Thrawn.

This would be the best of both worlds--it would be Disney "starting afresh" after de-canonizing most of the Expanded Universe but would retain enough of the EU to satisfy the EU fans. After all, the new canon includes characters like Quinlan Vos and Depa Billaba from the original canon, so it's not like Disney is averse to including EU elements.

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