Culture

10 Stand-Alone Star Wars Films Which Can Take Our Money Now

Here’s what we know about the future of Star Wars on the big screen. Director JJ Abrams and his cast and crew are currently weaving dreams at Pinewood Studios in London, heading into production of Star Wars Episode VII. We’re going to get Episodes VIII and IX to complete a third trilogy. There will be a couple years between each new episode of the saga.

But Lucasfilm has also confirmed at least three “stand-alone” films which will release between the main episodes. The stated goal is to have a new Star Wars film every year starting in 2015. Gareth Edwards, the man behind the lens of the new Godzilla, has been tapped to direct the first of these stand-alone films. Josh Trank, director of the found footage superhero pic Chronicle and the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot, will helm the second.

Rumors have been circulating regarding the subject matter of these stand-alone films. The conventional wisdom, or perhaps just the communal wish, is that we’ll get films focused on popular characters from the franchise.

Assuming the purpose of these stand-alone films will be to flesh out the broader mythology of the fictional universe while remaining anchored to the core saga, here are ten stand-alone Star Wars films fans would love to see.

#10. Jedi Master Dooku

As the Star Wars prequels progressed, the Sith menace took phantom forms. One such manifestation was Darth Tyranus. Known by that name to few, Tyranus was known to the galaxy as Count Dooku.

Dooku’s choice to abandon the Jedi Order, reclaim the wealth and title of his birth, and rally opposition to the Republic led directly to the Clone Wars and the rise of the Empire. A prototype of Vader, Dooku once commanded the highest respect and confidence from his Jedi peers, before turning against them and everything they represent.

In the prequels, we learn far more about Dooku from what others say about him than from what we witness firsthand. A stand-alone film exploring the arc of this Jedi swordmaster turned Sith lord would add layers of depth to one of the saga’s most under-utilized characters.

#9. Connecticut Jedi

The only original character on this list would prove a cosmic twist on Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee. In Twain’s tale, a 19th century engineer is transported back in time to the court of King Arthur and marvels the denizens of the past with his knowledge of the future. Our Connecticut Jedi would travel forward through time, perhaps utilizing a familiar mechanic like carbon freezing, from the Clone Wars era to the height of Darth Vader’s Jedi purge.

Set in the meaty and largely untapped time between Episodes III and IV, this fish out of water tale would play out like a dystopian horror film. Through clumsy misfortune, our Connecticut Jedi would discover the passage of time, status as a fugitive of the new Galactic Empire, and a Jedi Order in ruins which had stood for a thousand generations. The arc would cut through the stages of grief, launching from shock through anger to a misguided quest to single-handedly restore the Republic.

#8. Obi-Wan Kenobi

Over the past four decades, our relationship with Obi-Wan Kenobi has taken many forms. From wise old mentor to guiding spirit, from impatient teacher to brother and friend, we have traveled alongside Obi-Wan at every stage of his life, and even a stage beyond.

The one leg of his journey which remains unexplored is his exile on the desert planet of Tatooine, watching over the last hope of the Jedi Order. We might presume Kenobi spent the years between Episodes III and IV meditating quietly in his desert hovel. But we might also presume he spent a fair amount of time tracking the activities of the Empire and warding off threats to Luke Skywalker. Word on the street is that Ewan McGregor loves playing the character, and his age tracks perfectly to reprise the role during the peak of the character’s exile.

#7. The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise

Sith Master Darth Sidious, hiding in plain sight as the Republic Chancellor Palpatine, baits the conflicted Anakin Skywalker with the promise of unnatural power. Palpatine relates “the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise,” the tale of a Sith lord so powerful that he could create life and stop people from dying. The tragedy, as Palpatine describes it, is that Plagueis could not save himself. His Sith apprentice, unnamed but hinted to be Palpatine himself, killed Plagueis in his sleep.

Among the many novels of the Star Wars expanded universe, a recent entry entitled Darth Plagueis confirms Palpatine’s relationship to the titular Sith lord and fills in many of the murky details behind the exiled order’s centuries long plot to exact revenge upon the Jedi and seize control of the galaxy. While a direct translation to film might prove tedious, mining the novel for a cinematic portrayal of Palpatine’s Sith initiation could prove very entertaining.

#6. Darth Maul

Another highly underutilized villain from the prequel films, Darth Maul met a sudden and inglorious end at the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi in Episode I. Or did he?

The animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars, considered official canon by the newly christened Lucasfilm Story Group, revealed that Maul survived his duel with Kenobi and subsisted for years in a hate-fueled madness. The series saw him joined by a long lost brother, and provoked to seek revenge upon Kenobi and the broader galaxy.

Rather than retread that, a Maul stand-alone film could explore Maul’s Sith initiation and early covert missions. A duology of expanded universe novels provide a basis to build a story.

#5. Shadows of the Empire

In what may stand as the oddest experiment in the Star Wars expanded universe, the Lucas family of companies collaborated to produce Shadows of the Empire. Executed as movie merchandising without the actual movie, Shadows emerged as books, a video game, toys, and even a fully orchestrated original soundtrack.

The story of Shadows linked Episodes V and VI, explaining how the saga’s core heroes got from the end of The Empire Strikes Back to the beginning of Return of the Jedi. A film version would require recasting iconic characters, and would therefore prove risky. But it would capitalize on nostalgia, taking us back to the heart of the original trilogy during its darkest hour.

Alongside Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia, Shadows introduced intriguing new characters which have never been portrayed on screen. Prince Xizor, head of the criminal empire Black Sun and overload of Jabba the Hutt, vies with Vader for influence in the emperor’s court. He’s served by his “human replica droid,” the seductive female assassin Guri, a prototype of Tricia Helfer’s Cylon Number Six in the SyFy reboot of Battlestar Galactica.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMUKGTkiWik

#4. Yoda

The name alone would sell tickets. Over the evolution of the film saga, Yoda has shifted from an enigmatic myth to grandfatherly oracle to mighty warrior. Though we’ve seen him in five of the six films thus far, we still know very little about this last grand master of the Jedi Order.

What is he anyway? George Lucas has maintained fanatical secrecy on the subject for nearly 35 years. We glimpse another member of Yoda’s species in the prequels, the female Yaddle. Aside from that, we don’t know who these beings are or where they come from.

Revealing such secrets is tricky business, and could backfire or fall flat like midichlorians or cloned Boba Fett. But it could also add much weight to the Star Wars mythology if executed intelligently.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09n1YLuWfug

#3. Lords of the Sith

This upcoming novel by Paul S. Kemp, which will be considered canon by the Lucasfilm Story Group, sounds too good to leave to readers’ imaginations. The synopsis from Del Ray Books:

When the Emperor and his notorious apprentice, Darth Vader, find themselves stranded in the middle of insurgent action on an inhospitable planet, they must rely solely on each other, the Force, and their awesome martial skills to prevail.

We need to see this, not just read about it. The fighting prowess of back-to-back Sith lords, especially the definitive duo of Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader, deserves cinematic portrayl. It would also provide an opportunity to explore the personal ties which bind these villains in common purpose.

#2. Boba Fett

As we move toward the top of the list, the choices become more obvious. Boba Fett is widely anticipated to be the focus of a stand-alone film. Fans have craved more face time with the character since he first debuted in the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special.

While Fett’s screen-time has been minimal throughout the saga, I wouldn’t call him under-utilized. Fett works best in the background. His mask befits his purpose. We really don’t need to know much about him, and the more we learn, the less intriguing he becomes.

So why make him the focus of a whole movie? A film doesn’t need to be a character study to entertain. After 50 years onscreen, we still don’t know much about James Bond, and we never really need to. We know who he is through what he does. The same can be said of Fett.

#1. Han Solo

This is the one Lucasfilm would be stupid not to do. Everybody loves Han Solo. For many, he’s the most accessible character in the entire Star Wars universe. Neither mystic nor idealist, both informal and irreverent, Solo stands in for us normal people in a highly abnormal world.

While Harrison Ford undoubtedly owns the character, a stand-alone film would likely need to mine Solo’s youth. Thus the role would have to be recast. That could make or break the end product.

It may be tempting to serve fans with moments like Solo winning the Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian, or earning Chewbacca’s life debt, or encountering Boba Fett for the first time. But a Solo film would probably be better without any of that. Just give us a good, old fashioned spaghetti western set in a cosmic backdrop, with a profit-seeking scoundrel stumbling into trouble and emerging the reluctant hero.