Editorial: Why the 'Star Wars' Spin-Offs Should Avoid the Origin Story
by Dan Marcus
September 22, 2015
The Star Wars universe has untapped cinematic potential. Even though we've already seen six Star Wars films and a seventh is on the way, Lucasfilm has barely scratched the surface of the expansive universe that exists within the Star Wars mythology. This is undoubtedly why many are very excited for the first spin-off movie in the Star Wars pantheon, Rogue One (subtitled "A Star Wars Story"). The film aims to explore a ragtag group of Rebels and their attempt to steal the Death Star plans, acting as a prequel to A New Hope. However, even though Rogue One is a prequel, it's not necessarily an origin story. It's not about any one particular individual or how they came to be – and it's all the more better for it. With that said, let's explore why the upcoming Star Wars spin-offs should avoid the origin story approach altogether.
One could argue that the origin story first became popular in this modern era starting with Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins in 2005. Nolan successfully rebooted the Batman franchise with a movie that explored how Bruce Wayne became Batman, something that had not been done before in live-action. Nolan's attempt was to make Bruce Wayne as interesting as Batman – and it worked. However, the impetus for that creative decision partly came as a result of the Bruce Wayne character being fundamentally underdeveloped in the previous live-action movies. Batman Begins was really the first Batman film that was invested in both the Bruce Wayne persona just as much as the Batman persona, if not more so.
This approach had a huge impact on Hollywood. Soon enough, almost every popular franchise was rebooted with an origin story. James Bond got the reboot & origin story treatment with Casino Royale in 2006. The first Iron Man film, while not a reboot, was an origin story. The X-Men went back to the 1960's to explore how the X-Men came to be with X-Men: First Class in 2011. Even this summer 20th Century Fox tried to reboot the Fantastic Four with an origin story that was more grounded and realistic, echoing back to Nolan's Batman. J.J. Abrams, who would end up directing Star Wars: The Force Awakens, explored some of the origins of James T. Kirk and Spock in a relaunch of the Star Trek franchise.
However, after a decade of reboots and origin stories, it seems most audiences might be getting tired of exploring the "how the hero came to be" storyline. When Sony and Columbia rebooted Spider-Man for the second time in ten years with The Amazing Spider-Man, many fans sighed in annoyance. "I have to sit through the origin story again? I just saw this." This might explain why Marvel Studios and Sony are avoiding the origin story for the third cinematic reincarnation of Spider-Man in thirteen years. They heard the fans and they listened. It might be a good idea for Lucasfilm to listen to some passionate Star Wars fans who might not want to endure seeing two hours of how Boba Fett came to be, for example, especially since most of his backstory was covered in Attack of the Clones. Do we really need to see his origin story again?
Boba Fett is a noteworthy example because rumors are circulating Lucasfilm is developing a Boba Fett spin-off movie – perhaps one that Josh Trank was scheduled to direct until he left the project earlier this year. Now, one could argue that Boba Fett works best as a mysterious loner and a supporting player rather than the star of his own film – much like how Wolverine works best when he's the loner sidekick and not leading the X-Men. However, if Lucasfilm is going to do a Boba Fett standalone movie, here is one thing they should consider: leave his origins alone. A lot of fans were annoyed with Boba Fett's backstory in Attack of the Clones and regardless one can safely say by exploring Boba Fett's origins it removed a lot of the mystery and allure of the character. Some characters work best – especially villains – when you don't know that much about them. Hannibal Lecter is more terrifying when he's just slithering behind a glass cell taunting FBI profilers. When you try to explain how he became a cannibal – like in Hannibal Rising – people seem to stop finding him all that interesting.
Take this fan-made film (via Vimeo) directed by Eric Demeusy called Star Wars: The New Republic Anthology. Even though it's only 90 seconds long, it acts as an ostensible teaser for a Boba Fett standalone film. What really makes the film or trailer stand out is how it positions Fett, having escaped the Scarlacc Pitt in which he fell into in Return of the Jedi. The trailer teases a story where Fett, having recently escaped the Pitt, takes on new adventures post-Jedi. The story potential there is practically limitless. Here you have unexplored cinematic material with a story focusing on Fett, most likely forgotten and left for dead, having to re-define himself as a bounty hunter for hire. Perhaps many in the galaxy don't fear him like they used to, so Fett must prove himself again if he wants to be valued as a bounty hunter in the galaxy. That seems a lot more interesting than a two hour origin story explaining the man behind the mask that we've seen before.
Quite frankly, Boba Fett is going to be a more interesting character the less we know about him. Audiences don't care about what makes him tick – they care more about what he does when he's ticked off. Bryan Fuller's "Hannibal" TV show is a great example of redefining a classic character but not ruining him by exploring the origins of how he came to be. When Hannibal begins, he is fully formed. The interesting aspect of the show is how he cunningly navigates Will Graham and those around him. In a similar sense, it would be interesting to see Fett react to a galaxy that has since forgotten about him, where he must prove himself worthy again, not a story where he doesn't really become Boba Fett until the end. That's what people come to see anyway – their favorite character, not a story of how they became their favorite character.
According to the plot synopsis, Star Wars: The Force Awakens picks up some 30 years after Return of the Jedi ends. With the Expanded Universe being essentially ignored and with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy confirming the new films won't acknowledge those stories, that's 30 years of unexplored material that could make for some really interesting films. Chris Miller and Phil Lord are reportedly developing and will direct a Han Solo spin-off movie that will allegedly explore the origins of Han Solo – but why? People might argue Harrison Ford is a big reason why that character works and that argument has credence – even though Abrams' own Star Trek proved you can take iconic characters and reinterpret them with new actors – and it can work.
The Star Wars mythology is about to become a lot less unexplored on film, which means famous characters will likely get reinterpreted with new actors. Instead of exploring Solo's origins, what about that 30 year gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens? It might be difficult to find an actor that looks exactly like 30 year-old Harrison Ford, but de-aging digital technology has come a long way – Marvel's own Ant-Man proved that earlier this year. If you can de-age an actor, you can certainly use prosthetics or CGI to make someone look like a middle-age Harrison Ford.
Regardless, if Lord & Miller do tackle a Han Solo story in his earlier years, hopefully it doesn't painstakingly explore Solo as a child – the last thing fans want to see is another Jake Lloyd fiasco. It would be more interesting if Han Solo was already a space pilot trying to make his way into the universe. You could even explore how he first comes across Chewbecca, but the last thing fans probably want to see is Solo and Chewy meeting in elementary school. However, a story where a young Han Solo, Chewy and maybe even Lando Calrissian get into trouble and explore the galaxy? That could be interesting. You don't need to explain how Han Solo came to be in order to tell a story about Solo in his younger years – and that's what I hope filmmakers like Lord & Miller take into consideration when developing their spin-off movies.
After all, the stories that you could tell in the Star Wars universe are practically limitless and don't need to rely on exploring how every popular Star Wars character came to be in order for them to be successful or thematically interesting. Sure, you could tell an Obi-Wan Kenobi origin story – or you could explore the 20-30 year time gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, focusing on an aging Obi-Wan who tries to avoid detection and looks over a young Luke Skywalker. The story could even take a page out of The Clone Wars and feature the return of a fan favorite – Darth Maul, who could help Darth Vader in destroying the rest of the Jedi. How cool would a Ronin type story be featuring Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan again and one of Star Wars' coolest but most underdeveloped villains? The possibilities are about as endless as the stars in the Star Wars galaxy… or rather, galaxies. Do you agree the Star Wars spin-offs should avoid the origin story? What do you want to see in the spin-offs? Sound Off in the comments below!