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New Star Wars Scribe Michael Arndt Can Reignite the Franchise

Posted: 16/11/2012 14:47

The news Michael Arndt is to write the screenplay for Star Wars Episode VII shows Disney are taking their new acquisition seriously - and fans of the franchise should be excited not apprehensive about making another journey to a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Arndt is the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Little Miss Sunshine and Toy Story 3, and has written extensive treatments for a proposed new trilogy of Star Wars films, suggesting Disney are ready to get the franchise back on track to what made it so successful in the first place - basing the films around well-written, likeable and believable characters that can be emotionally invested in.

To be blunt, the Star Wars prequels were the biggest cinematic disappointments in recent history, fundamentally flawed at every basic level of cinema but none more so than in terms of script, and it is this problem Arndt is presumably there to fix.

The most glaring issue with the prequel scripts was the inherent lack of a protagonist whereas Luke Skywalker is clearly outlined as a fish-out-of-water hero in A New Hope who the audience could empathise with, whose eyes we saw through and emotions we felt. We consequently cared about his internal struggles and the affects they had on his surroundings.

These internal and external dilemmas were underpinned by a mythological battle between the primordial forces of good and evil, of Jedi fighting Sith and the Rebellion overcoming the Empire, making the journey we undertook with Luke all the more emotionally involving.

George Lucas deserves credit for writing the original Star Wars script but the fact Lawrence Kasdan was on hand to share screenwriting duties for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi cannot be overlooked - when Lucas was left to his own devices again for the prequels the result was a mess from start to finish.

It would have made sense to have Obi-Wan Kenobi, already a character Star Wars fans were familiar with, drive the prequels forward as the apprentice learning at the feet of Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn.

Given the two characters become so closely tied in the events of the next five films, would it not also have been more logical for Obi-Wan and not Qui-Gon to discover Anakin Skywalker and express a desire to train him, with the wiser Qui-Gon warning of the danger?

This could have added a new layer to Obi-Wan's character, that it was ultimately his fault for Anakin's training, something that would resonate with the character in the original trilogy, perhaps hoping to atone for his mistake by training Luke to defeat his father who has become the evil Darth Vader.

Instead there is almost no character growth in Obi-Wan over the entire prequel trilogy. We do not care about him because there are few if any moments where he faces tension between the choices he can make which will have a direct impact on him emotionally as well as the plot, unlike Luke who had to choose whether to respond to Princess Leia's distress call and abandon everything he had ever known, whether to quit his Jedi training with Yoda to save his friends, whether to kill his father knowing it might lead to him joining the dark side.

And instead of advancing Obi-Wan and Anakin's relationship, the two become tangled in separate subplots for most of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. By the time they come to blows at the climax of the third film, we have no reason to emotionally invest ourselves in the fight because there was nothing to show us they were genuine, believable friends in the first place.

There is speculation Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher are being lined up to reprise their roles from the original trilogy in the new films. But as long as Arndt and Disney can steer the franchise back to what originally made it successful - characters we care about who undergo change with clear motivations and desires - it does not matter whether they use Luke, Han Solo and Leia or a new breed of galaxy-saving heroes and heroines.

It is a seemingly simple formula but one which is hard to master - if you could 'bottle' what made Star Wars so revered and loved then there would have been hundreds of films just as successful.

The fact Arndt is a self-confessed Star Wars fanatic bodes well though - he surely understands what made the original films tick, and if he can recreate that formula then Star Wars fans could yet have a follow up to their beloved films worthy of the title, that takes them back to that day when they first saw and fell in love with Star Wars.

 

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