Disregard this post. Once again, having trouble posting…
Or you can go with my alternate post title: “Why Does Rian Johnson hate JJ Abrams and Luke Skywalker So Much?”
I’m not usually one for conspiracy theories. But the force is suspicious with this one. I have never seen a major movie release with this much critical praise receive this much audience hate. On Rotten Tomatoes, the critic score for Last Jedi is at a towering 93%. Yet somehow, the fan score is at 57%. The disparity is so high, you have to wonder if some sort of manipulation was at play on the professional critics side. Just for comparison, Thor Ragnarok received a 92% critic score and an 88% audience score. Or, the first film in this trilogy, The Force Awakens. 93% with critics. 88% with audiences. Or, let’s go with Rian Johnson’s last film, Looper. 93% to 82%.
But it gets even more eyebrow raising if you go to Rotten Tomatoes and read the audience reviews. Everyone giving the film a negative score goes into detail about why they felt that way. Here’s one of thousands of those reviews…
“So utterly disappointing. Looks nice, sounds nice and some interesting ideas, more so visually. The story and dialogue were shocking. Fails to capitalize on anything set up for it in the previous films and disrespectfully handles every character.
They tried to introduce new characters and planets but they were completely unnecessary, dragged the film out and detracted from story arcs that actually mattered. Seen it twice and that’s enough.
Not looking forward to Ep. IX at all and Johnsons new trilogy, if it still gets the green light after this diabolical hemorrhoid of a film, then that’ll get a miss too!!
So gutted right now.”
Meanwhile, for nearly every positive review, there is no detail or thought put into the review at all. Here’s a quick sampling of these reviews…
“It was a fun romp full of unexpected twists and turns.”
“Wonderful film! Some of the greatest moments you’ll see in any movie this year! Definitely in my top 3 Star Wars movies.”
“The Last Jedi takes all your preconceived notions of what a Star Wars movie is, and flips them on its head, while being consistently entertaining and keeping tension high.”
Again, I don’t want to be a conspiracy theorist, but even if you’re looking at this objectively, something stinks. It’s plausible that the audience hatred for this film so caught Disney off guard that they are scrambling in every possible way to mitigate the fallout. Even going so far as to write fake positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes to offset the negative ones.
What’s fascinating about all this is that Disney has been in love with this film since the second Rian Johnson wrote “FADE IN.” Disney Head Bob Iger’s been leading the charge, gushing about not just the script and the film, but the experience of making a movie with director Rian Johnson. Kathleen Kennedy’s right behind him. When she’s not on set nodding her head after every take, she’s in her hotel room watching The Brothers Bloom on repeat. These guys have been ALL IN on this film, so much so that they greenlit another Rian Johnson trilogy without an idea! For them to be facing this unexpected backlash has them searching for answers about their own process for identifying what makes a good Star Wars director.
Enough with your conspiracies, Carson! Let us know what you thought of The Last Jedi! Oh, don’t worry. I have plenty of thoughts about The Last Jedi. They’re not all bad, believe it or not. But I do think this is a bad movie. And I do think Rian Johnson fundamentally doesn’t understand the franchises’s central character. Nor does he understand screenwriting. “But Looper!” everyone said. “Guys,” I tried to tell anyone who would listen, “Looper is the most narratively unfocused sci-fi movie of the past decade.” The reason that matters is because a good Star Wars movie requires lazer-sharp focus. It’s the one critique that even people who liked the film agree on. The big sprawling trip to Casino World was pointless. But I have some feelings about that too, some of which might surprise you. However, before I get into ALLLLL the problems with this movie, just to show you I’m not a total hater, I want to share with you the things I liked.
THINGS I LIKED ABOUT THE LAST JEDI
1) Rian Johnson took risks – Regardless of whether they hit or not, I always tell people here to take risks. And Rian Johnson took them.
2) Hamill was awesome – Mark Hamill did his best acting job ever.
3) Adam Driver is iconic – Adam Driver is the number one reason, and maybe the only reason left, to watch Star Wars. He’s impossible to look away from whenever he’s onscreen.
4) Porgs – I love Porgs. I want 20 of them for Christmas.
5) The Directing – This is the best directed Star Wars movie ever. By that I mean shot composition, the way sequences were crafted, the overall visual style of the film.
6) Leia Poppins – I seem to be in the minority on this. I thought it was badass seeing Leia use the force, and in such a unique way. The way it was shot was a little weird, which hurt the moment a bit. But I liked it.
7) Snoke’s Death – I loved the way Snoke’s death was shot. Seeing him fall over, split in half, via a blurry background, was really clever. But we’ll get back to Snoke later. Stay tuned.
8) Thank you Rian Johnson for killing Captain Phasma – One of the most worthless characters ever in Star Wars history. To this day I have no idea why everyone was trying to make her a thing. She was lame conceptually, had zero depth, and she couldn’t walk. I clapped when she died, to the annoyance of a couple of nearby audience members.
9) Leaving the Rebel Alliance with just 20 people for the next film is an interesting choice. We’ve never been given actual army numbers at any point in this mythology for either side. To have a clear understanding of how few people are left to fight the Empire in Ep 9 is cool.
10) Rey was better in this than she was in Force Awakens, especially in the scenes with Driver. I really wanted her and Kylo to make sweaty space love but alas, no happen.
THINGS ABOUT THE LAST JEDI THAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Might need an encyclopedia for this one. Let’s start with the main plot. Johnson introduces a plot unlike any other in Star Wars lore. The last Rebel ship is trying to outrun a Star Destroyer, but running out of gas. Somehow, the ship is able to stay just far enough out of range that the Destroyer can’t do the one thing its name suggests it can do – destroy. The Rebels need to figure out a solution before they run out of gas. Cause once that happens, the Destroyer will catch up and kill them.
This plot thread didn’t bother me as much as it did others. But I do remember thinking, “Is the average audience member going to buy this?” It was an odd plot for a Star Wars movie – an intergalactic 15 mph car chase. If I’m a kid, I’m asking, “Why can’t the big ship shoot down the little ship?” A screenwriting lesson I preach is that your Pillar plot points – the ones that hold up the core story – need to be airtight. They can’t invite doubt because if people don’t believe that, nothing else you write will matter. Their suspension of disbelief is broken at the core level.
Another issue with a faulty central plot is it tends to lead to other bad plot threads. Which is exactly what happened in The Last Jedi. Everybody agrees the Finn-Rose detour to Canto Blight, the Casino Planet, in search of a Hacker who can help the Rebels escape the Star Destroyer didn’t work. Here’s the funny thing about this storyline. I know exactly why Rian Johnson included it. Star Wars movies are about adventure – jumping from planet to planet and seeing a bunch of new crazy stuff we’ve never seen before. The current plot of The Last Jedi didn’t have that. All they had was the slow car chase and Rey and Luke’s island. They needed something fun to cut to, an adventure. Which is why Johnson created this subplot.
This leads us to Rose Tico (Kelly-Marie Tran), a character Johnson desperately wanted us to fall in love with. He talked about her non-stop on the press tour. He didn’t get to introduce all the core characters like JJ did. So this was his chance to make an impact with a character of his own. And she was a dud. It’s weird because people are trying hard to make Rose Tico a “thing,” despite the fact that nothing about her character or her storyline worked. It almost feels like there’s a fear of SJW backlash (with Rose being both a woman and a minority) if you say Rose’s character blows. Which is stupid. A bad character is a bad character. It’s okay to call it out.
And the misses don’t stop there. Both Benicio Del Toro’s odd hacker character and Admiral Holdo’s (Laura Dern) captain character were borderline disastrous additions to the Star Wars lore. When the only three major characters you introduce into a film are terrible, that’s a red flag about you being the right person for the job. And these characters left collateral damage in their wake. Take Finn, for example. He was never the greatest character to begin with. But his dumb team-up with Rose sealed his fate. There isn’t a single person who’s seen this film who’s now saying, “I can’t wait to see Finn in Ep 9!” Now I know why John Boyega attempted to ditch the premiere.
This leads us to the only part of The Last Jedi’s story that worked – the core character group of Kylo, Snoke, Rey, and Luke. This could’ve been the film’s saving grace if it wasn’t undermined by Johnson’s baffling mismanagement of Luke Skywalker, the character Johnson said was his favorite growing up. How could this be your favorite character when you gave us this sad crabby unlikable version of everyone’s childhood hero and then kill him off in a benign pointless lazy manner??? Ugh, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s talk about the training storyline.
The training “sequences” were odd. Luke agrees to train Rey in the Jedi Arts with 3 lessons. Not only is that the most contradictory statement ever, but Luke’s one job in this movie is to teach those three lessons AND I STILL HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THEY WERE. Luke would show up each day, say something vague like, “the Force is what’s between the stuff you imagine,” and that, I guess, is what constituted a lesson. The only cool moment on the island came when Rey went into the dark hole at the bottom of the island and had her Endless Mirror moment. While I’m not sure what was going on in this scene, it was the one time in the film where I lost myself. If you’re going to defend Johnson as director in Star Wars court, this was one of the half a dozen scenes you could build an actual argument around. It was cool.
But the sad truth is that Training Island never reached its stride. And most of that was due to this lame incarnation of Luke’s character. Let me get this straight. Luke Skywalker, the embodiment of heroism, the greatest hero in all of cinema history, has been reduced to a crabby, annoying, cowardly, selfish weakling who’s given up the awesomest thing about himself – his ability to wield the Force unlike any other. And the people next to Johnson signed off on this?? While I can understand Johnson’s desire to turn Luke’s character on its head, there’s a difference between doing something unexpected with a known paradigm and destroying the very essence of what made a character so beloved. By destroying everything we loved in Luke, you essentially destroyed everything we loved about the franchise. It’s one thing to fuck up a Star Wars film. It’s another to retoractively fuck up a franchise. That’s actually really hard to do. And Johnson did it.
After her three lessons (wink wink), Rey heads off to a general meeting with Kylo and Supreme Leader Snoke, hoping to put all of that “sage advice” to work and attempt to pull Kylo to the Light. This sequence is arguably the best in the film, and the main reason for that is that Rey and Kylo have great chemistry. I was waiting for them to make out, man. Like get it on already. Not to mention you had no idea what was going to happen in this scene. And even with all the possibilities you went over in your head, Johnson still managed to surprise you by having Kylo kill Snoke.
At first glance, this was a gasp-out-loud moment for the Star Wars ages, right? But as the shock wears off, an unanswerable question begins to emerge. What now? You just killed your big baddie. You don’t have time left in the franchise to introduce a new big baddie. So what the hell’s the point of us showing up for Episode 9? People may speculate that Kylo Ren now becomes the big baddie, but Kylo Ren’s character isn’t built that way. He’s a petulant child. You’re not threatened by him. You’re not scared of him the way you’re scared of Darth Vader. So who’s the threat in the next film?
Searching your feelings, this wasn’t some grand ballsy twist like everyone’s making it out to be. It was Johnson getting rid of a character he hated. There was no grand plan here. Just spite for being given such a, in Johnson’s eyes, lame character to begin with. And by killing off Snoke, he’s left the future of the trilogy in tatters. I’ll take that one step further. Johnson killing Snoke got Colin Trevorrow fired. Trevorrow notoriously couldn’t come up with a script for Ep 9 that Disney liked. Now we now why. How the hell do you come up with a script after this?? Johnson combined the 2nd and 3rd movies in the trilogy into one, leaving whoever’s responsible for the next film to basically come up with a fourth movie in a trilogy. People give Johnson credit for being daring. This wasn’t daring at all. This was stupid. And not just that. It was cowardly. Since he knew someone else other than him would have to clean up the mess he made.
And here’s the irony of Johnson killing this character. The more Snoke spoke in this scene, the more interesting he got. He was actually starting to sound like a cool character. And right as that was happening, they kill him.
This scene also highlighted a major missed opportunity. There was a moment after Snoke died where you thought, for a brief moment, oh my god, what if Kylo and Rey team up?? What if they become Dark Twins out to rule the galaxy. That would be fucking awesome. Imagine the final climax on Crait. Kylo and Rey on one side. Luke on the other. Lightsaber battle. Jesus. That would’ve been the greatest Star Wars lightsaber fight ever. Or hell, keep Luke alive. Have Rey and Kylo rule into Episode 9, and then Luke, once again, has to pull these two people back to the light. Jesus, I should be writing these things that idea is so good. For all the credit Johnson is getting for these faux-bold choices he made, this was a choice that would’ve earned him a place in Star Wars lore. And he chose to avoid it.
Instead, we get a battle between Rey and Kylo and Snoke’s guards that everyone seems to be celebrating. Yet there was one problem. THERE WAS NO REASON FOR IT TO HAPPEN!!! As a guard, your duty is to defend your leader. The leader is dead! Why are you fighting Kylo and Rey, lol???? At that point you drop your stick and book a vacation to Endor.
If they weren’t going to team Kylo and Rey up, a much cooler reveal for the Prateorian Guards would’ve been to drop their helmets, walk up to Kylo and for us realize they were The Knights of Ren. Kylo planned this all along. And we’d finally get to meet the cool ass Knights of Ren, who are one of the only things I’m looking forward to seeing in Ep 9. But nope! We have to get this pointless battle between guards who are defending a dead leader.
Speaking of that battle, did anyone notice that there wasn’t a single lightsaber to lightsaber battle in a freaking main storyline Star Wars movie? I’m sorry. But that is a fireable offense. I’m not joking. That’s the one thing that every audience member going into a Star War movie wants. And Johnson said “fuck you” to them because all he cared about was subverting expectations, to the extent that he will literally steal your joy. Your Star Wars Ep 8 director, everyone!
Oh, I almost forgot – Rey’s big parental reveal! We learn, after 2 long years and lots of anticipation… that Rey’s parents were nobodies! Hip hip hooray!!! What an awesome revelation. Glad I waited for that! Look, I get that this is a “Damned if you do and damned if you don’t” scenario. If Rey ends up being a Kenobi or Skywalker, it’s like, “Oh, I knew it. Borrrrinnnng.” However, here’s why that’s not an excuse. When you’re chosen to take over the reins of the biggest franchise in the world… one of the primary reasons you are being paid so much and given more money than God to make your movie, is to figure out satisfying answers to tough questions. You don’t get to say, “But it’s difficult.” The reason you got the job was because you’re the guy who figures out difficult. Or else what are we paying you for??
There’s a bigger issue at play here, though – the idea of prioritizing theme over story. The theme of Johnson’s movie is that anybody can be heroic. Star Wars, in his eyes, is no longer about a single hero. Which is why he chose the least likely hero, Rose Tico, to become a new character. It’s why he ends his movie on Broom Boy. And it’s why he kills Luke. The message being pushed is that we don’t need deities anymore. Cause we’re all heroes!
It’s why in this moment, when it’s finally time to reveal Rey’s parents, Johnson roots the answer in theme. Rey is a nobody. Which means anybody can have the Force. I tell any writer who will listen that this is a disastrous way to approach storytelling. A good choice for your story ALWAYS beats a lesser choice that fits thematically. And Johnson forgot that, a huge reason why so many people are feeling duped. We waited 2 years for this reveal, and you gave us an answer whose only value is that it will be celebrated in English classes.
Looking back at the movie now, it’s almost bizarre how aggressively Rian Johnson attacks everything JJ set up. People are saying Johnson subverted expectations with all his choices. But it looks to me more like an assassination – like Johnson so hated the way JJ set the table, he spent the whole movie taking a lightsaber to it. Think about it. JJ spends his entire movie building up Rey offering Luke Skywalker his lightsaber. The first thing we see Luke do in Ep 8 is toss the lightsaber away. JJ loved Snoke. Rian killed him before we got to know anything about the guy. JJ loved Phasma. Rian killed her. JJ loved the Knights of Ren. Rian doesn’t even mention them. JJ lovingly built this mask for Kylo. Rian literally smashes it to pieces. Then keeps smashing it and smashing it and smashing it. JJ built all this mystery around Rey’s parents. Rian said, “Her parents were nobodies.” There’s never been anything like this before in cinema history – a director going into a movie with the specific intention of destroying every idea another director championed. I guess director on director crime is a thing now.
This leads us to the climax – the battle on Crait. After Rose Tico solidifies herself as the third worst character in this movie by knocking Finn out of the way just as he’s about to win the battle for them because she wants to kiss him, Luke shows up. And this is it, man. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for. You see, the people telling Johnson he ruined their childhood hero would’ve forgiven him if he would’ve done the right thing in this moment. You have Luke Skywalker, the culmination of The Force. What is this motherfucker going to do after 30 extra years of growing and learning everything about The Force? He’s been acting like this annoying crabby little bitch the whole movie. But that doesn’t matter because we’re about to see Jedi shit we’ve never imagined before. I swear to God, I thought Luke was going to raise his hand and simply flick away those AT-ATs. And if that happened? Rian Johnson would’ve become my hero.
But no. Because, you know, theme.
Instead, we have a “battle” between Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker. What happens in this battle? Anyone care to guess? Well, for starters, they did what any great battle does – they don’t battle! Right? Cause subverting expectations is way more important than giving the audience what they want. Then, after a single swing of Kylo’s lightsaber, we find out that Luke isn’t there! He’s not on Crait. He’s back on his home planet astral-projecting himself!
This is supposed to be some giant amazing reveal. And yet I have never seen a choice land with a more confusing thud in a major motion picture before. Even if you wanted to do this stupid thing where Luke doesn’t actually fight Kylo, what the hell is the rationale of Luke not being there???? Why not show up? What’s different in this scenario if he’s there? You still beat Kylo. You still “give the rebels time” which is, according to Poe Dameeron, the reason Luke is doing this. I don’t understand, lol, what Luke gains by astral-projecting himself instead of being there! Is the lesson that Luke is lazy? It was such a stupid choice that it’s borderline laughable. And THEN! On top of that, Luke dies because, I guess, Astral Projection takes a lot of energy! Yet another reason Luke should’ve physically shown up. He wouldn’t have died!!
Here’s the scariest thing about this movie. After Crabby Lame Luke is offed by a director who clearly hates him. After one more shot is tacked onto this abomination of a film to hammer home this story-killing theme of “anybody can be special” – aka Broom Boy – you leave the theater realizing… we’re right back where we started. Rey hasn’t learned anything. Neither has Kylo. What was the point of the movie????
So here’s the big question. How did a Star Wars movie this bad escape Disney’s notoriously intense evaluation process? I have a theory about this. Bob Iger has been VERY PUBLIC about how much he likes this film. I have a feeling that from the beginning, from the second he read the script, he loved it. And what that did is it relieved anyone under him of blame. For the first time, Kathleen Kennedy didn’t have to micro-manage the production because it didn’t matter how the film turned out. If it’s bad, you blame Bob Iger. So she relaxed, let Rian do whatever he wanted, and created a work hierarchy reminiscent of George Lucas on the prequels, where everyone nodded and said, “Great idea!” I predict that this movie sinks fast once word of how bad it is gets out. And that in 3 months, we’ll hear that Rian’s new trilogy has been canceled. I mean, honestly, how could you endorse any new Johnson Star Wars movie after this one? The guy only had to introduce 3 new characters in The Last Jedi. THREE! And all of them were terrible. You’re now going to allow him to create hundreds of new Star Wars characters? Johnson also managed to do something that, before this film, you’d think was impossible. He destroyed the memory of the most beloved movie hero of all time. Mark Hamill tried to warn him. “I fundamentally disagree with everything you’ve done with this character” he famously told Johnson when he read his script. It turns out Hamill was the only one who stood up to Johnson.
I’ll end this review with a comment I read on another site which encapsulates why Johnson’s depiction of Luke was so wrong…
So you get Mark Hamill to reprise an iconic role 30 years later and keep him on an island the whole time and have his hologram tease a light saber fight… then have him die. That definitely was one way to go.
[ ] What the hell did I just watch?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the price of admission (only if you hate Luke Skywalker)
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Never EVER be a slave to your theme. If staying consistent with your theme is hurting your screenplay, ditch the theme or replace it with a better one. This is the most prominent example I’ve ever seen of how prioritizing theme over storytelling can kill a movie.
Save us JJ. You’re our only hope.
I have seen The Last Jedi! And you know what? Let’s just get into it. Starting with the Porgs. What’s the deal with… heh heh heh. You didn’t think it would be that easy, did you? My Last Jedi review isn’t coming until Monday. And I’ll just say this. It may be my longest review ever.
In the meantime, let’s find ourselves another great amateur writer and launch their career! Here’s how to play: Read as much of each script as you can and submit your winning vote in the comments section. Votes will be counted through Sunday, 11:59pm Pacific Time. Winner gets a script review next Friday!
To Sumbit For Future Amateur Offerings: Send me a PDF of your script, along with the title, genre, logline, and why you think people should read it (your chance to really pitch your story). All submissions should be sent to Carsonreeves3@gmail.com.
Note: Due to strange Uploading Problems, I can’t display first pages this weekend. :(
Genre: Sci-Fi / Adventure
Logline: Having survived a deadly plane crash, an expectant father to be awakens inside the mythical city of Atlantis in a parallel universe. In order to get back to his version of reality, he must play an active role in the planet’s civil war.
Why Should You Read: CHARACTERS! If a chef cooks without love, you will get served sad food. If a doctor checks out during a consultation, you will be misdiagnosed. If an escort had a bad morning.. well, you get the idea. Parallel is the only screenplay on the open market that has characters with personality in a high stakes battle to the death in an underwater city. If I’m wrong, I’ll wash your car.
Title: DO NOT OPEN
Genre: Christmas Horror!
Logline: After receiving a mysterious Christmas present, an agoraphobic young woman must face her deepest fears when she finds herself trapped inside her apartment building with three ghoulish entities.
Why You Should Read: Believe it or not, horror fans really love Christmas! Sure, Halloween is our big day, but there’s just something liberating about the holiday season that nicely offsets our darker sensibilities. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many movies out there that successfully bring those disparate aspects of our personalities together. GREMLINS and THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS are kind of the gold standard in this arena, but both of those are family films and don’t exactly qualify as horror. We need more good Christmas horror flicks that we can revisit each year, damn it! — ‘DO NOT OPEN’ started out as a short script. But, thanks to the November writing challenge that a few of us took part in, I’ve expanded that set-up into a modern day, horror re-imagining of a certain Dickens holiday classic. The result is basically ‘A CHRISTMAS CAROL’ meets ‘IT’. — Thanks for taking a look. I can only hope that it’s as much fun to read as it was to write!
Title: The Writhing
Logline: When a vain actress ingests a dangerous parasite to help her lose weight for the Oscars, it’s up to her stay-at-home husband to save their family.
Why You Should Read: I’ve always wanted to take a B-movie premise and try to make it as realistic as possible. The idea of doing that with a parasitic, slug-like creature was too promising for me to resist. To find the heart of the story, I had to look, not only at the world around me, but deep down within myself. What could this creature be a metaphor for? What came out was vanity, pride and the poisoning effect of today’s self-image obsession. Hopefully, some kind souls on the site will give my script a shot and help me make it better!
Genre: Sports Drama
Logline: A humble MMA fighter descends to a state of self-destruction after rising fame and fortune, tense family dynamics, and strained relationships get the better of him.
Why You Should Read: Sports movies are an underrated aspect of the movie lineup each year. Every other month there seems to be a new boxing movie, a new football movie, a tennis movie. Sports are a huge part of cultures all across the globe, and at the moment, the UFC has risen rapidly over the past several years. Yet, the only notable MMA movie is “Warrior”. I’m looking to get ahead of the curve on MMA movies, and I believe Octagon can do the trick.
Title: The Sphinx
Genre: Historical Drama
Logline: In the Golden Age of Hollywood, the mysterious silent-actress GRETA GARBO determined to change the Status Quo, arises as myth in the midst of a war of Gods & Beasts.
Why You Should Read: My name is Elena Gallen, writer/director and art director working in film, fashion, art and culture for over 10 years. After reading my feature treatment, I was encouraged by Spanish writer/director Paco Cabezas (Penny Dreadful, Dirk Gently, Into The Badlands, Fear the Walking Dead) to develop this script. He has been very supportive and trusting on my artistic voice. I am now determined to find a way to get my story noticed to materialise ‘The Sphinx’ and/or the coral drama series ‘Dames’ that sprout from it as a side-project. But Hollywood is a sick endogamic bastard I trust you might be impelled to introduce me to. As an artist and an independent working woman in a men’s world, I have become the medium to a voice that shines a light on the historical questioning of gender-roles, who claims those avant-garde women that a century ago fought for achieving equality treatment within Hollywood, in spite of the repressingly patriarchal system reigning in the world at their time. It is a culturally, historically and aesthetically significant story — and today America’s socio-political context makes it profoundly current and relevant.
We’re one day away from the opening of the new Star Wars movie and you know, I have to say, this Star Wars press junket is the best junket for any movie I can remember. A big reason for that is Mark Hamill. The guy’s so darned earnest. He’ll answer any question and he genuinely seems to be enjoying himself. You have to remember that Mark Hamill ran from this part for a long time. He wanted nothing to do with Luke Skywalker because he wanted a career as an actor and Luke was typecasting him. To see him embracing the character again is awesome.
Gwendolyn Christie is hilarious. John Boyega looks like he enjoys doing junkets more than shooting movies. Watching Laura Dern react to anything is as fun as watching kittens play. Kelly-Marie Tran still can’t believe she’s in a Star Wars movie. Even Rian Johnson, who looks a bit shy and reserved, is surprisingly forthright with information. JJ has a lot of charisma but he didn’t give you jack squat during the Force Awakens tour. If you ask Rian Johnson about Porgs, he’ll straight up tell you some of his cast hates them. Ask him about his new trilogy – something you’d think would be completely off limits – and he’ll tell you everything he’s got so far.
All of this has me rooting for the film, even though I’m tempering my expectations as much as possible. I honestly don’t think Johnson’s a good writer, guys. And these rumors about the over-the-top humor and some prequel-like moments has me worried. But hey, a man can only worry so much. It’s a new Star Wars film, baby. There’s reason to celebrate.
Which brings me to today’s topic. How can YOU write the next Star Wars? That zeitgeist-altering journey to another time and place that’s so magical and so affects its audiences, it becomes a part of their very being? It becomes an inspiration that affects their lives moving forward? Sound impossible? Eh, it’s not easy. But it can be done. And I’m here to tell you how to do it. Here are ten tips that will help you write the next Star Wars (or Harry Potter, or Lord of the Rings)…
1) DON’T WRITE THE NEXT STAR WARS – The trick to writing the next Star Wars is to not write the next Star Wars. Or Harry Potter. Or The Matrix. You see, one of the reasons Star Wars became Star Wars was because there was nothing else like it. The fact that it stood out so much from all the other offerings was a big reason for why it became so popular. In other words, don’t write a science fiction space-opera. Star Wars has that market cornered. Don’t write about kid magicians. That market’s been cornered. If your idea doesn’t surprise people, you haven’t written the next Star Wars.
2) COMBINE TWO THINGS THAT HAVEN’T BEEN COMBINED BEFORE – One of the tricks to creating something original is to take what we know and combine it with something we don’t expect. Star Wars took the world of science-fiction and said, “What if we combined this with the world of Westerns?” Harry Potter took magicians, who had been doing generic magic things for 300 years, and said, “What if we combined that with going to school?” It sounds easy but it’s true. And it’s fun. Just start plugging things together you don’t think go together and see if you come up with something cool. I’ll get you started. The story of King Arthur. What can you combine that with that we haven’t seen before? Give us your take in the Comments Section.
3) BUILD AN EXTENSIVE MYTHOLOGY – If there’s one commonality between Star Wars, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, it’s how elaborate and deep the mythology is. And that doesn’t come by accident. You have to do tons of backstory research into how this world came about, who’s involved, how it operates, the lineage of the characters, the lineage of the factions (Jedi, Elves, etc.) the lineage of the political climate. You often have to go back tens, even hundreds of years, to figure out how your world came together. Half-baked mythology leads to half-baked movies. So do your homework. Maybe don’t spend a year inventing a language like Tolkien did. But do your homework.
4) FOCUS ON THE STORY – Here’s where so many writers trying to write the next Star Wars screw it up. They create this mythology that’s so huge and so extensive and took so much time to come up with, that they want to show it off! So their movie becomes one big promotion for all the research they did. That’s not the point of creating a mythology. The point of creating a mythology is so you have the freedom to write a cool story within that universe. The mythology should exist in the background, only occasionally making its way into the story (“I fought with your father in the Clone Wars.”). This is one of the primary differences between Star Wars and The Phantom Menace. Star Wars was a relentless race to save the galaxy. The Phantom Menace was a show-off reel for all the political mythology Lucas constructed for the prequels.
5) AN UNDERDOG HERO WE CAN RELATE TO – When you write a protagonist into any script, but especially these types of scripts, you need to ask, “Is he relatable?” If you’re going to capture the imaginations of hundreds of millions of people, your main character has to be living a life that the vast majority of people feel like they’re living as well. To achieve this, anchor your story with an ordinary guy/gal. And to manipulate the audience into a little more sympathy, make that guy/gal an underdog. This is the formula for Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, Frodo, and Neo.
6) DRAW ON ARCHETYPES, THEN DESTROY THEM LIKE THE REBEL SCUM THEY ARE – Archetypes (the Hero, the Jester, the Sage, the Rebel) are your best friends when creating something for the masses. These are the types of characters audiences understand best. But remember, you’re not adapting The Hero’s Journey. You’re trying to create something fresh and different. That means for every archetype you embrace, you should destroy one. Luke is as archetypal as a hero can get. He’s a straight up everyday guy. Princess Leia, however, is nothing like the princesses we’ve come to know. She’s a get-your-hands-dirty fast-talking princess with an attitude. It’s how you play with archetypes that really sets your screenplay apart.
7) IT’S GOTTA BE PG OR PG-13 – If you want the most people possible falling in love with your story, you need the story to be accessible to children. Yes, you can write 50 Shades of Gray or Terminator. But something doesn’t truly tap into the zeitgeist unless you’re playing to the Age 5-25 demographic. This is your most impressionable audience. This is the audience who will most fervently champion your material. This doesn’t mean your writing shouldn’t have edge. Quite the contrary. It’s the “edge” that sets your material apart and makes that younger audience feel like they’re getting away with something. But if your material would clearly be rated R, it’s not the next Star Wars.
8) CHANGE WITH THE TIMES – If Lucas were writing Star Wars today, I’m pretty sure he’d be using the internet and social media in some for to do so. He would write an online graphic novel. Self-publish a novel. Drum up a kickstarter to shoot the trash compactor scene as proof-of-concept. We live in a different world than 1977 so the same rules don’t apply. A big part of Star Wars’s success was being on the cutting edge of so many ideas, taking chances in areas no one had taken chances in before. You must bring that same spirit to your own Star Wars. The rules are changing daily. Be creative and think outside the box to get your idea out there.
9) TAKE RISKS – If you want to create something as great as Star Wars, you have to be willing to take massive risks. The reason something takes over the zeitgeist is because it’s unlike anything that’s come before it. It’s new. Fresh. Different. Remember, before Star Wars premiered, Lucas’s friends were making fun of “the Force.” They thought it was weird and hokey. But that chance ended up paying off. The trick to taking chances is to ground those chances in your mythology. The Force was an integral part of Lucas’s world-building. It wasn’t like George said, “I have to take risks!” so he came up with something called the “KABLOWIE!” where every time Luke yells “Kablowie” everyone around him freezes. That’s not taking a risk. That’s stupid. The Force was existent in every corner of Lucas’s story, so when Obi-Wan or Luke used it, it made sense. But yeah, you have to take the kind of risks that are either going to result in Yoda or Jar-Jar. And the scary thing is, you won’t know until people see it. Gosh I love writing.
10) MAKE IT FUN! – I know this advice sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised at how few writers follow it. They want to write something that’s “Important” and shows what a “serious writer” they are. And look, I’m not not saying you can’t do that. But if you’re trying to write the next Star Wars or Harry Potter, the overall feeling of your story needs to be optimistic and fun. Not Blade Runner 2149.6.
Having trouble uploading new posts, guys. Disregard this. :)