What can STAR WARS EPISODE VII learn from the past? - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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What can STAR WARS EPISODE VII learn from the past?

After yesterday's official announcement that the new Star Wars movie will begin shooting in May at Pinewood Studios, London, Tom Pheby stays up all night to re-watch the previous films in the franchise and formulates a plan for Episode VII.

You have to question the decision of global brand and chief pleasure giver to the under eights, Walt Disney, to purchase the Star Wars franchise (Lucasfilms) and then make three new films. Consider making a sequel to 'Gone with the Wind' to fully appreciate the scale of the task. Even George Lucas himself ran into trouble with his prequels when the whole thing failed to ignite.

The scripts were saggy and overly long, they provided sporadic action and seemed to last longer than time itself. In the marathon trilogy of everyday freedom fighting folk in Space, we waited and waited for something to get the blood circulating and all we got for our trouble was the super irritating Jar Jar Binks, a cross between a goat, a fish and a builder from Preston! Fact becomes stranger than fiction when this unintelligible life form represents his species at the galactic senate, a sort of floppy eared Jimmy Carter without the peanuts.

All three prequel films trundle along at the pace of a bus in busy traffic and the story grinds out explanations leading to the creation of Darth Vader. Hayden Christensen hardly helped matters with his almost wooden delivery of the troubled Anakin Skywalker, and we rarely sensed any genuine turmoil within this long haired, nostril flaring Jedi protege.

There was a solid and dependable performance from the likeable Liam Neeson as Qui -Gon Jinn (where does Lucas get these names?) up until the point he got skewered by the angry horn head Darth Maul. Ewan McGregor dutifully played Obi-Wan Kenobi, although he never gave us a Guinness like performance which was pure genius (pun intended). Then there was the accent, of course we didn't want an impersonation of the great man but it was miles apart from what we were familiar with, like a Chinese man pretending to be Irish, so McGregor played it safe and treated us to a Scottish train announcer instead.

Natalie Portman, as Padme Amidala, did what she could with the duel roles she was given, delving into ridiculous vocal range which alternated between a husky stripper and squeaky school girl.  Samuel L Jackson put in another shift as Samuel L Jackson (Mace Windu) and there were times when I thought he was going to dip into his bag of expletives and Cuss his adversaries.

There were good bits of course, the fight scene between Obi-Wan and the emerging Darth Vader in 'Revenge of the Sith' - or due to Christensen's acting, it might be better referred to as 'Revenge of the Stiff '. We were treated to a slicker version of Yoda which offered crumbs of reassurance to the audience but you know you're in a spot of bother when you need a lime coloured Elf to make things more credible. There was the contribution of Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine/Darth Sidious, which although at times was like that of a pantomime villain, he still managed to make the most of it whilst keeping us in booing and hissing mode. Yet even with the high points, there was not enough to make any of it work.

Compared to the tightly scripted first three Films, which subsequently became the last (for now), it was a chalk and cheese affair and I don't know about you but I prefer the taste of cheese to that of chalk.

J.J. Abrams is the right man for the job though, having worked on the other 'Star' franchise by making it an action packed, humorous and faithful reinterpretation of a much loved classic. That is apart from the needless introduction of Leonard Nimoy, which was probably considered clever but was ultimately pointless.

The script will have to be as good, if not better to make it the success it was nearly forty years ago and I am slightly anxious about seeing the original cast again. Harrison Ford seems as if he has settled in to retirement in recent roles, giving no hint of wise cracking, quick witted Han Solo that made him a global star, and for all we know Mark Hamill was quite content flipping burgers in Louisiana before being prised out of obscurity and told to cut out the pancakes. C3PO and R2D2 were working in Currys/PC World up until six months ago but would enjoy the chance to rekindle past glories.

For the script writer or writers, it promises to be a thankless and almost impossible task, we were delighted first time around, disappointed and short changed on the second, so anything other than perfect may not be enough. Here's my plan, draw a line under the first three films, abandon the idea of using any of the original actors and ignore the prequels all together, I'll pass this on to J.J if it helps.

Disney have spent a fortune on this already (around $4 Billion) and it's hard to see what they will get in return if it's not a success. Let's also remember that Disney are not noted for 'real life' films, unless you enjoyed the dire Herbie or 'Pirates' series. They are still best known for their animated efforts which continue to charm us from the cradle to the grave, so a disastrous Star Wars outing may have a devastating effect on the company and legacy.

But with the talent of Abrams, you have to keep the faith and he will be nothing short of a magician if he manages to get it spot on .As we speak there are a group of geeks sitting around a table with the left over letters from a game of scrabble trying to come up with new and wonderful names for the personnel and a depressed team of scriptwriters trying to fathom out a plot that doesn't require too much stamina or a degree. Let's hope once the pot is simmered and stirred, it lives up to all our expectations and we can forget about all the stuff we never liked about the last three.

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