As the daily updates pour in, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that Episode VII will be Star Wars By Committee. The story probably won’t be one crafted from a singular vision with character arcs and themes working in concert to present a fully-formed idea, but will instead be a grabbag of audience-approved tropes culminating in a simultaneous lightsaber duel/space battle. And really, a bad Star Wars movie pretty much writes itself. If we just resign ourselves to that, we might be able to have some fun with it.
Let’s wager now, and compare notes in 2014. Which lazy tropes do you expect to see in Episode VII, and why?
Thrust into close quarters by fate, this band of unlikely heroes is out to save the galaxy from ultimate evil… if they don’t kill each other first. Hyuck hyuck! Episode VII’s A-Team will include at least two jedis, a pair of droids, and possibly a female smuggler. Bonus points if the team finally learns to work together during the last fifteen minutes.
Jar Jar notwithstanding, the stillborn prequels largely managed to avoid this trope, but a return to post-Old-Republic politics means more scrappy underdogs.
This trope isn’t necessarily Bad News. Some of the best films in history, and nearly every single Role Playing Game ever made, lean on the Band of Ragtag Misfits as their story center. But there are more interesting ways to craft an adventure than this. Even odds on this one.
“Hidden deep within a cave on Nar Shaddaa lies a crystal/holocron/ ambiguous plot trinket so devastating that it would give our antagonist all the power he needs to fulfill his destiny.” Star Wars has avoided this, the ultimate MacGuffin, so far, but that will only strengthen the writers’ temptation to use it. And it will be used poorly and inelegantly, a limp motivator that exists purely as a plot conveyor belt.
If your movie uses this trope and isn’t Raiders of the Lost Ark, you should probably give up now. I expect it to make a big splash in the new Star Wars movie, though!
3) An Ancient Sith Evil Awakens
For ages, he’s been watching… and waiting. Biding his time until his plans are ripe. His only weakness is heroic teamwork, with the amount of weakness being directly proportional to the amount of struggling the team had to do before the final confrontation.
This one dovetails nicely with #2. It sorta cropped up in in the prequels, which means that this time the ultimate evil be an amorphous ‘thingy’ like Sauron, or maybe a Sith ghost who finds a way to midichlorianize his holocron (or whatever).
4) The turncoat redemption
Someone in the ragtag band of rebels is really a spy for the Empire, or the Czerka corporation, or is a Sith Henchman, and it’s usually the one with a bad attitude and lots to learn about teamwork. In this kind of movie, they learn the error of their ways and perform a final selfless act at the end. “Holding the line” at a critical point, for example. There’s only 5:1 odds that this character, likely a smuggler, will die, because they need him in at least three movies to give him extra outfits for the toys.
5) Lightsaber innovations
If there’s anything the prequels taught us, it’s that there are a million different ways to use a lightsaber. Expect to see people with lightsabers for hands, spears with lightsabers on the end of them, and maybe a Russian-doll style lightsaber that contains lots of mini-lightsabers.
6) The protagonist will be an orphan
Writers like orphans because they’re the ultimate clean slate, and they’re usually introverts, so you don’t have to think up too much dialogue. It also gives the character a pain template to work from, so when he gets to killing bad guys, it makes total sense. This trope is EXTRA lazy if one of the orphan’s parents are still alive and are meaningful to the plot in some way, because… well, you know. And I say “he” here because the writers will probably view a female protagonist as a risk, unfortunately.
There are too many tropes to choose from, so I omitted a few, like the Reluctant Hero, who is 100% sure to make an appearance here. That’s just not an interesting wager.
A final word: Let it be known that I don’t relish this list. It would delight me if Star Wars: Episode VII was about a pair of gay rebel detectives investigating jedi ghost sightings, or something equally surprising. But new ideas are risky. While the next Star Wars will certainly be full of warfare and swordplay, it’ll play it safe on story to keep kids hooked on the franchise.
And while most tropes are lazy, they’re not always bad. The Avengers was lots of fun, and it includes nearly every trope on this list.