Last year, Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens arrived in cinemas throughout the world and was welcomed positively. If you think about it, Episode VII had to make up for the prequels, satisfy old fans, attract new fans, bring back the original cast in a way that didn’t feel forced (no pun intended), while also introducing a new cast that are interesting enough to take the original cast's place as the focus of the franchise. With that in mind, I feel the real success Episode VII achieved was achieving everything it needed to do without collapsing in on itself.
On top of this, it had to emulate the style and tone of the original trilogy, while also feeling new and having its own identity. It had to pay homage to the original films without being direct rip-offs, and introduce a new threat interesting enough to rival Darth Vader, while at the same time not being too similar to Darth Vader. Abrams pulled it off, but there are still two more episodes to go.
With Episode VIII's release next year, they are finally free of all the pressures that Episode VII had to battle through (most of them at least) and now have much more freedom to do what they want with their central characters. Here’s my list of the top five things Star Wars VIII needs be the great film we all want it to be.
5. That's No Moon, It's A Space Station: No More Death Stars
Now let’s get one thing straight: I love the Death Star. In 1977 George Lucas introduced the world to the planet-destroying, terror-inducing, moon-sized space station and the world loved it. The Death Star brought a sense of urgency to the end of the film, as the rebels were on the clock and the Death Star represented the ultimate annihilation of everything they stood for. In 1983, we were reintroduced to the Death Star and although it didn’t have the effect of the first, enough things were different that we gave it a free pass. This was Star Wars after all.
Fast forward all the way to 1999, an increasingly pressured Gungan army faced destruction at the hands of the separatist droids unless a young Skywalker could destroy the orbiting ship in time. It was starting to get old now. People didn’t really complain about this obvious Death Star rip off in The Phantom Menace because, let's face it, there was so much else to complain about. So, when The Force Awakens came along last year and did the whole Death Star thing again with Starkiller Base, it’s safe to assume a lot of fans were unhappy. This is why Episode VIII needs to mark the end of the Death Star story forever. After all, The Empire Strikes Back is the most critically acclaimed of all Star Wars films and had no Death Star plot whatsoever.
4. The Power Of The Dark Side: Have A Dark Ending
Now it might seem a little hypocritical to suggest the worst thing about Episode VII was its over-reliance on the original Star Wars and then go on to say that Episode VIII should emulate the ending of The Empire Strikes Back, but I’m going to say it anyway.
The truth is that the ending to The Empire Strikes Back marks one of the finest points in the entire saga. The feeling of hopelessness and overwhelming odds that audiences were left with after the triple whammy of Han getting frozen in carbonite, Luke’s defeat at the hands of Vader and the reveal of Luke’s true parentage is far more interesting than the joyful, optimistic ending to the first film. Not all Star Wars films should have a dark ending like Empire, but the middle film is the perfect time to do it and raise the stakes before the final act.
It's not just Star Wars that has done this to make a great trilogy. Whether it be the Delorean being struck by lightning, Batman fleeing the police for crimes he did not commit or Gollum leading an unaware Frodo and Sam to their deaths, many of the best trilogies in history have everything go wrong for the heroes at the end of the second film, and I believe a dark ending would suit the new Star Wars trilogy perfectly.
3. The Best Pilot In The Resistance: More Poe, More Trinity
A further attempt to emulate the original trilogy emerged in the introduction of a new trinity of characters, Rey, Finn and Poe. While Poe was the first properly introduced to the audience, he received far less screen time than Rey and Finn. However, Poe brought the same charm to the film that Han brought to the original trilogy and his character seems destined for bigger things than a side role. Presumably, he was given less screen time to allow for the reintroduction of Han and Chewie, but in Episode VIII, I want to see more Poe Dameron and a real interactions develop between the new trinity, much like it did in the original films.
2. Who Are You?: Surprise Us With Rey’s Parentage
Both my biggest annoyance and my biggest fear with the new Star Wars trilogy is people’s insistence that Rey and Luke are related. Annoyance that people are so convinced by what would be extremely lazy over-obvious storytelling, and fear that they could be right. Honestly, I don’t believe for a second that Rey is Luke’s daughter, too much about it just doesn’t add up and considering what they accomplished with Episode VII — I can’t see the writers going ahead with it.
In fact, I think any obvious relation to the Skywalker family needs to be avoided entirely. I want them to surprise us, or at the very least give us a story that is so interesting there’s no need for surprise. I’ve read a very interesting fan theory about Rey possibly being the granddaughter of Emperor Palpatine, which to me is far more interesting than a link to the Skywalkers. I find the idea of the dynamic shift where a Skywalker is now the villain and a Palpatine is now a hero a fascinating idea and although this is just a fan theory (and very likely not true) I want to see some originality in the reveal of Rey’s parents so Star Wars can escape this Skywalker trope.
1. The Dark Side, And The Light: The Knights Of Ren
I’ve saved this one till last because I find the Knights of Ren to be one of the most mysterious and intriguing parts from the new Star Wars trilogy, yet it has barely been touched upon.
Who are the Knights of Ren? What part did they play in the fall of Luke’s Jedi Academy? Whilst this may be saved for Episode IX, I believe Episode VIII should shed light on exactly what happened that caused Luke to flee into exile. The Knights of Ren represent the true originality of the new trilogy and I want to see it handled right. Why not cast Sebastian Stan (who looks eerily similar to a young Hamill) as a young Luke Skywalker and give us a proper flashback of the dark side’s resurgence and the fall of Luke’s academy.
This could easily be linked in to a reveal about Rey’s parentage also. If played right episode VIII could give us a dark ending that reveals terrible truths about Luke and Rey and leaving us salivating for Episode IX.
Having trouble keeping track of all the events in the Star Wars timeline? This video lays all of the movies and TV shows out in one narrative that's easy to follow:
Those are my picks, but what do you think? Let me know what you want to see in Episode 8 with a comment.