Disney should continue the Star Wars Saga in perpetuity
Debate Rounds (3)
1. Don't beat a single storyline to death when you don't need to. As is what happens with most corporate-driven movie franchises, the series will eventually "Jump the Shark" and run into the ground. This did not happen with the (IMO badly-made) prequels, because the problem with those films wasn't a lack of ideas, but a sloppy execution of them. The more films get churned out in a franchise, the higher the probability it will meet that dreaded "nuke the fridge" moment. If they end the saga at IX, then that moment is more likely to occur in some other story. Who wants Star Wars Episode XXIII to be the film where Luke's great great great grandchild comes across the Starship Enterprise? Better that happen in an anthology film.
2. Stories with definitive endings are much more satisfying. The Star Wars saga is one long continuous story. Episode VI appeared to be the definitive ending until VII-IX was announced, and the story of how the Jedi rebuild the order became likely to be told onscreen. If the two existing trilogies were instead two completely separate stories, one might feel differently, but as it stands, the saga is a single storyline. All stories need an ending.
3. John Williams and saga consistency. There are many things that run consistent throughout the six existing films. Only one of them (the 20th Century Fox intro and fanfare) has to be eliminated by necessity. However, the more of the format that remains consistent, the better the saga will work as a single set of films. If we end at IX, there's a chance John Williams will live long enough to complete the whole saga and provide musical consistency. If we stretch beyond IX, there is no chance of that happening.
1. Not all long runners jumped the shark at any point in their existence. Franchises such as Doctor Who or the Amazing Spider-Man have followed a nearly uninterrupted thread of sequels for over 50 years, spanning various derivatives in the process. Long runners have their ups (Spider Island) and downs (One More Day), but the quality rollercoaster rarely stays down for long (they'd shut the franchise down if the fans' interest dropped for too long). The Star Wars saga may only be at its 7th movie in almost 35 years of existence, but there is no reason to believe it would make less good of a long runner than the previously mentioned Doctor Who and Spider-Man, whose average quality is at least the same today as it was at their beginning, despite sudden drops in quality from time to time.
2. While a story may end (such as the story of the war against the Empire), the expectation is that the universe in which the story happens continues to exist. The Empire is defeated, but many of the people that took part in the rebellion are still alive and well. The ending of episode VI was never too explicit on what happened to them afterwards, so how their life unfolded later on is a story untold. Maybe they will all be old or dead in episode VII, and must train younger heroes to take their mantle. Done right, this could be a form of poetic repetition between the second and third trilogy. And if they are successful in rebuilding the Jedi Order, the writers can afford to skip many generations of relative peace when going from the third to the fourth trilogy, where something else happens to change the status quo.
3. Consistency is obviously an issue that all long runners eventually end up facing. Either the actors grow too old (or too dead) for their role and they have to find new ones or get away with the character, or the other people on the franchise (writers, drawers, music-composers) retire. But consistency can be as much as boon as a curse: it can help the audience recognize that the sequel really is a continuation of the franchise, in which case the person looks essential to everyone involved until he dies or retires and they must find someone else to take his place (Doctor Who faces the same problem when an actor playing an older doctor dies, and they have to show the older doctor on-screen). Or it can also make the audience tired that the same things happen again and again until they become predictable.
As a concrete example where consistency proved detrimental for a serie, take Heroes. They initially planned to keep similar storylines across seasons but with a different cast each season. Due to the popularity of the first cast, they decided not to change it but went along with the same storyline, resulting in a repetition of the story. This, along with poor execution of plot twists (and the infamous case of writers forgeting an important character entirely), caused a progressive drop in serie quality. To keep quality of content, a franchise must always have original content to spare, and Heroes didn't have enough to keep its fanbase (season 4, which did have many of the content that gave the serie its charm, was too little, too late).
1. Dr. Who and The Amazing Spider Man are relevantly different from the Star Wars franchise in two ways. 1)Their popularity centers around television series while the popularity of Star Wars centers around a film series. This is relevant because a sustainable film series is much more difficult to produce than a sustainable TV series. A TV episode need only be interesting to get the audience to tune in to the next installment. A film needs to not only be interesting, but memorable, since the time between installments is always at least a year and usually more. A single bad installment in a film series is likely to put many people off the series for good, where as a singe bad episode of a TV series is far more negligible. Consider the current marketing campaign by Disney and JJ Abrams to remind viewers at every turn that they are going back to using real film, more practical sets and creature designs, and less CGI or digital photography for Episode VII. This is clearly to lure back former fans of the series who left at the beginning of the century because of what they perceived as overuse of digital technology in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. If you get a bad episode of Dr. Who, oh well just skip it. No harm no foul. If you get a bad episode of Star Wars, you have eternal backlash and condemnation, as did the Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. Never underestimate the kind of damage a bad installment of a film series, especially Star Wars, can do. 2)The aforementioned series centers on characters that have caught on with audiences. The characters of Dr. Who and Spiderman are present in every episode. The Star Wars franchise, on the other hand, focuses on different characters, constantly creating new ones, and are thus more likely to end up with something unappealing to audiences. Having a character catch on with audiences is like catching lightning in a bottle. It's rare and unpredictable. If you have the same basic character(s) for the whole run, you can more or less bank on audience appeal. Star Wars spans generations and worlds. There always the need for something new, and so there is bound to be plenty of unappealing attempts at Star Wars entertainment at some point. Finally, besides the difference between Dr.Who/Amazing Spiderman and Star Wars is that fact that those sustainable long runners are more the exception than the rule. You will always have anomaly series that are able, for one reason or another, to enjoy a lengthy stay. That doesn't mean it's probable from the outset. The default assumption is that a series will be run into the ground and if it's doesn't, it's beaten the odds.
2. I'm actually in complete agreement with Pro on everything he or she said regarding the great potential of Episodes VII-IX and the opportunities for further stories set many years afterwards. The only problem is that Pro is arguing my very point, which is to say that what would be ideal is a NEW story! That is what I'm saying as well. Don't continue this same single narrative indefinitely, but begin a new story. What may not be clear to my opponent is that in Star Wars, a new story means a new saga. The current saga is ONE story. Therein lies the rub. It seems much more practical and smart to start a NEW saga with a NEW Episode I than add yet another roman numeral to this one story we have going now.
3. I also agree with my opponent that consistency can be a curse if gone on for too long. If we end the saga at IX, it needn't do that. The thing of it is, this saga has already laid out the consistencies it uses: The "long time ago" card, the Star Wars logo blasting into space with the famous opening score, the Episode numeral and title followed by the opening scroll, the iris out at the end, the same blue font against the black backdrop for end credits. Other types of consistences enhance the experience because they are variants of a single idea, thus simultaneously identifying an element as both unique and part of a larger whole. For example there a few consistencies better at doing this then the idea of the leitmotif, employed by John Williams in each film. The Imperial March identifies Darth Vader and the Empire as unique elements, but the very fact that they have such a pronounced theme also declares them part of Star Wars. Even beyond the leitmotif is the consistency of music style which is unique to John Williams. His scoring is so nuanced, that no one can really replace him. To have this run throughout the whole saga would add import to both the style and the saga. Hopefully Williams will live ably until 2018/19 when Episode IX nears completion.
1. They may still attract the audience that was captivated by it and wish to see a sequel being made. Most fans are receptive when their favorite show gets a canon sequel, at least until they see it. Star Wars may date back from the 1980's, but the universe still has many strong adherents to the franchise and even more casual watchers who are more likely to watch future movies than to read extended universe material (especially since the main saga's canon takes precedence over the extended universe's canon). There is an expectation from the audience that, if a story has an obviously sequel hook that is fun enough to have its own movie, and the movie itself was well received, a sequel will eventually be made.
2. Because Star Wars has so many fans, it can certainly pay itself from one movie to the next as long as the saga remains good. This is the basis of what is called a cash cow franchise, after all. While the name has a pejorative tone, there is not fact nothing intrisically bad about it, as long as the audience thinks paying to watch the movie is a good investment. In a sense, I'm saying that as long as the serie remains sufficiently good and continues to make money, there is an undeniable advantage for Disney to keep making it. And who knows, maybe they can use the money to promote even better movies?
3. Long runners can obviously exist on different medias. I chose the examples of Spider-Man and Doctor Who to reflect that. Doctor Who is a TV serie, so a new episode can be made once a week. Spider-Man is a comic book, which can be released once a month. In general, a long runner retains the format it originally had, other formats being used for extended universes, alternate universes, and reboots. Terminator, for example, is nearly as old a franchise as Star Wars and the first installment of its new trilogy has just been released. For now it's too soon to know if that trilogy will end the whole serie or if they will just find a different way to twist the serie and keep it running.
4. If it logically follows from one movie to the next, and there is an advantage to watching all of them in sequence, it clearly can be the same saga. The second trilogy can be watched separately from the first; both make for great story. But together, the stories make more sense (and are far more interesting) than alone. So could it be from the following trilogies.
Pro argues very sensibly for the Star Wars franchise to continue indefinitely. I am in complete agreement, as is evidenced in my opening argument when, instead of suggesting that Disney shut down Star Wars after the conclusion of this saga, I suggest they begin a new saga or trilogy.
Where Pro's argument becomes problematic is when it hinges on a conditional that is actually near impossible to be true. The conditional is: "If it logically follows from one movie to the next, and there is an advantage to watching all of them in sequence, it clearly can be the same saga." The conjunctive antecedent of this conditional is only true *when there are loose threads*. Watching the saga in order of Episode number leaves us with only two loose story threads at the end of Episode VI: A power vacuum that needs to be filled and only one trained Force user in the galaxy. Once the power vacuum is filled in a fixed way and the question of the renewal of the Jedi order is settled, there's no more story to tell. The only exception is if there are *new* story threads left loose once these things are accomplished. If this kind of pattern continues indefinitely, with the ending of one story overlapping the beginning of another, the audience will always be left wanting to know what's going to happen next until the saga becomes unpopular enough to end it. At that point, you'll have a saga that dips in quality at the end. However, ending the saga at the first tying up of all loose threads and then beginning a new one will avoid this situation. It will also free the creators of the new saga from the formal restrictions of the old, allowing more creativity and freshness into the series.
In conclusion, Pro and I both agree that the Star Wars *franchise* should continue indefinitely, but for reasons already explained, the best way to do this is through multiple sagas or trilogies (along with the anthology films) rather than a single saga trotted out to the point of mass distinterest. It was a pleasure participating in this debate. Thank you for reading and thank you, Network, for taking up the Pro position.
One way to do it is to plan a plot twist many movies in advance, allowing for its progressive introduction through clever foreshadowing. Plot twists have always been a major element of the Star Wars saga experience, so hopefully the writers will pave the way for many more of them as the serie goes. On the long term, plot hooks followed by reveals are the best way to hook up the audience.
On the matter of loose threads from episode VI, allow me to mention one more. The consequences of the defeat of the Sith on the dark side is ambiguous. Since the Force still visibly exists, so should the dark side, so it's only a matter of time before we see people use it on screen. For now we still don't know who are going to make use of the dark side; maybe Luke will, but since the old Jedi Order steadfastly refused to use or teach the dark side it's unlikely the new one will. Another possibility is that there are Sith survivors who continue to practice it and to take up new disciples. Or maybe the dark side is going to be spontaneously rediscovered at some dramatic moment in a later installment of the saga. No matter what is going to happen, it is undeniably a loose end from the original trilogy, and I expect to see an answer for it on screen.
Of course, to continue the same saga in a way that make sense, there must be a logical connection between the movies. Unresolved loose ends are one, and so is the trilogy format, among others. But apart from these, they are still free to push the story in whatever direction they are comfortable with, and doing so is not harder than adding the relevant loose threads where they are needed in order to take the saga is whatever direction the writers want it to. As long as the audience likes it, of course!
In conclusion, I continue to postulate that continuing the same saga indefinitely is an excellent way to reach the audience, because sequel hooks are the best way to get fans to watch the next movie, and because the saga, being the main installment of the franchise, innately has the best format to use hooks. I appreciated debating with you, AaronMC. I thank you too and I look forward to reading from you again.
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