So anyway, picking up where I left off … having a vision. My philosophy is that you can’t write a script without an outline, you can’t write an outline without a treatment, you can’t write a treatment without a story, and you can’t write a story without a vision.
What should The Force Awakens have really been about?
I was struck by the first trailer I saw in early 2015:
Prior to seeing that trailer, I had no interest in the new Disney trilogy. I thought the story was over, it had already been told, and all I cared about was “just give me the damn OOT”.
But then I saw that trailer (it was awesome), and I thought, you know what? Yeah, a new generation of young people should have their own Star Wars too. I was sold on the idea of passing the torch to the next generation.
So what gives with the story we got? I think Luke Skywalker should have played the mentor role and not Han Solo. Harrison Ford was terrific in this movie, no question. He wasn’t old Harrison Ford; he was Han Solo, just like old times. But what was his role in the film? Why have him (instead of Luke) act as a father figure for Rey? Especially since it seems like Luke is going to teach her in the next movie anyway.
And so, I think, that makes TFA look like a pointless 2 hour 16 minute setup just to kill off Han Solo.
Gratuitous. A freakin’ waste of time.
Look, I know Harrison took down $25 million, and everyone else only made $400k - $1.5 million, so this was his show. Maybe he told Disney that he would only come back if they granted him his decades long wish and killed off his character, I don’t know, but it was just bad storytelling. An actor’s salary and prestige, mandates from studio execs … these things should never conspire to ruin what otherwise could have been a fantastic story.
So that’s the first thing I would have changed … I would have sidelined Han, and made Luke the mentor to Rey.
Why would I have done that? Because Han was the skeptic in the OT, that was the nature of his character. By the conclusion of ROTJ, he was no longer a skeptic. His arc had been completed. He missed out on his chance to martyr. After everything he went through in three films, on screen over and over again with Luke, Leia, and Chewie, the people he (and we) loved the most … how could any death with someone he was in one scene with yield any emotional impact whatsoever?
Han just hogged screen time in TFA, and the idea of Kylo being his son was terrible and a monumental waste of time.
So now that we’ve established that Luke should have been the mentor and father figure in TFA, what about the new cast of characters? Here’s what I would have done …
First, Rey should’ve been and was the main character in the story. I would have written her as a brave young woman, strong in the force, but untrained, and unrelated to any other character in the story. She needs a teacher, and until she’s fully trained, she needs someone to keep her safe from the First Order.
Finn’s character is more problematic, but I think I could’ve still worked with the idea that he was a mutinous stormtrooper stranded on Jakku. One thing I would have changed though is that I would NOT have had him fleeing Kylo’s and Captain Phasma’s unit. The nature of his desertion did not need to be shown on screen. Rey just meets him on Jakku and that’s the first time we see him (we’ll get to that in my synopsis), and I would have made his character more mysterious, harder to trust and pin down. He should have been the morally gray character, the skeptic, the Han Solo of this movie. That kind of characterization would have been more believable (given his background), and it would have made his good deeds all that more heroic later on down the line.
Poe Dameron, meanwhile, was billed as a main character, but he was absent from most of the film. As a result, the writers and director turned him into a cartoon. Instead of giving him screen time and scenes to show him bonding and evolving with the rest of the cast in a believable way, they tried to tell us over and over again how awesome he was. Out of all the good characters we’ve ever had in Star Wars, Poe Dameron is my least favorite by far.
So…how to fix him? Well, I would have introduced him later in the film. The opening sequence was completely unnecessary. Somewhere later in the film, maybe around the midpoint, I would have had him join the team. Dameron’s character should also have been more downplayed (at least until he’s more important in future films), and I would have liked to see him suspicious of Finn, you know, kind of like how Luke and Han were frenemies throughout much of the first movie. That dynamic could have paid off in spades.
Last you have the villains: Kylo Ren, Captain Phasma, General Hux, and Snoke. First of all, I would have completely cut Snoke and General Hux out of the story. Those two characters are worse than useless. Kylo should’ve been unrelated to any of the legacy cast members, and I like the idea of Kylo and Phasma operating as teammates and co-villains. That would have given Phasma more presence, and not turned her into a total joke in the film.
Finally, what about the setting? The world of the story, in my opinion, really completes the idea of the vision.
I loved the opening shot in that trailer, with Rey speeding past the hazy wreckage of the Star Destroyer and the X-wing lying in the background. What a fantastic shot. The war between the Empire and the Rebellion has long since passed, but has the galaxy been at peace for the last thirty years? No!
Power vacuums don’t lead to peace and prosperity – they lead to more conflict. That’s good, because we need conflict for stories. In my world for TFA, the New Republic is in the process of installing peace and order throughout the galaxy, but there are still dangerous elements out there – terrorists, gangsters / criminals, evil breakaway organizations, etc.
And TFA seems to have been going in that direction with The First Order. Well done.
But what’s the angle here? What’s the last piece of the puzzle that makes the First Order’s antagonism so compelling? This is where we come back to the idea of the vision.
If Skywalker and the rest of our legacy heroes are trying to pass the torch to the next generation, then the antagonists, The First Order, have to be doing the opposite. They should be preying on people’s fears of chaos and disorder, and trying to bring back the days of The Empire. General Leia Organa, General Solo, Admiral Ackbar, Lando Calrissian(?) … these people should all be leading the forces of the New Republic, not something called “The Resistance”.
Luke should not be hiding somewhere like a coward – he should be looking to find and train any new potential Jedi (Rey, hint hint). The First Order should be trying to rewrite history. Discredit heroes. Prevent new ones from rising.
In my next and hopefully final post, I’ll offer a synopsis for my TFA-Revised story. Stay tuned.