Let me preface this by saying that I love The Force Awakens. Between its visceral action sequences, countless nods to the original trilogy and lovable new characters, this is the modern-day Star Wars film we’ve been waiting for. Who didn’t get goosebumps when Rey handed Luke’s lightsaber to him in the closing scene?
Yet amidst its sheer fan service and general mainstream appeal, the one major criticism Episode VII received was its overt reliance on themes and story elements from Episodes IV-VI. From a droid falling into the hands of an orphan from a desert planet to a giant ice world to another Death Star, it’s no secret that J.J. Abrams and company sought to adhere as closely as possible to the originals, primarily A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, and with good reason. After the overwhelming backlash from fans regarding the prequels, a more traditional and nostalgic Star Wars sequel was certainly necessary to reinvigorate the franchise.
Now that this has been done however, it’s time for the folks at Disney and Lucasfilm to take the series in a new direction. To do this, let’s take a look at one of the best and more original sequel series’ in recent years. The Legend of Korra is not only a fantastic follow up to the fan favorite Avatar: The Last Airbender, but the way it sets itself apart from its parent series is something worth looking at. So get your notepads ready Rian Johnson and Colin Trevorrow, as here are three things Star Wars can learn from The Legend of Korra.
Its Diverse Villains
In The Last Airbender, the line between good and evil is pretty straightforward. The tyrannical Fire Lord leads the Fire Nation to war against the other nations of Earth, Water and Air; and it’s up to the Avatar, master of all four elements, to defeat this monster and bring balance to the world. With Korra, a new and more complex rogues gallery is introduced. In book one, Amon is a masked political revolutionary leader who seeks to overthrow the Republic City and eliminate all bending from the world. He’s a communist through and through whose mysterious backstory makes him all the more interesting. In book two, Korra’s uncle Unalaq launches a civil war within the Water Nation, thereby propelling Korra to seek allies from the Spirit World. Then in Book Three, the air bending criminal Zaheer escapes prison to lead the anarchist secret society the Red Lotus, and wreak havoc upon the world.
Just before Episode VII came out, I actually speculated that Disney might make Kylo Ren an Amon of sorts, given his obsession with Vader. There’s also the fact that Vader and Palpatine were never fully on the same page, an idea which I hope this trilogy will explore through Kylo Ren and Snoke. What if a hidden tension exists between them? What if the First Order is more than just a successor to the Empire? What if there’s internal turmoil going on there? Who is Benicio del Toro’s character in Episode VIII? These are the kinds of questions I hope Episodes VIII and IX will explore, and hopefully the villains will become more complex as a result, like they are in Korra.
New Locations and Technologies
For all the failures of the prequels, no one can deny that George Lucas did expand the Star Wars universe with them. Planets like Geonosis, Kamino, Utapau, Coruscant and Mustafar are vastly different from the worlds visited in the original trilogy. The “new” planets in The Force Awakens are essentially Tatooine, Endor and Hoth with different names. Furthermore, it is staggering how little the technology seems to have evolved in the thirty years between Episodes VI and VII. People are still flying X-Wings and TIE-Fighters, and aside from the brief Rey cooking scene we didn’t get to see much non-military tech in Episode VII.
In Korra, we get all kinds of new locations and technologies. There’s the Industrial Age setting, the new kinds of bending, machines we never saw in The Last Airbender, plus locations like Republic City. Take note of this Mr. Johnson: I and many other fans want to visit worlds we have never been to in Episode VIII. No more deserts!
In book two of Korra, the titular protagonist finds herself inside the spirit world at one point, where she learns the origins of the first Avatar. This two-parter is without a doubt one of the best episodes in both Korra and Last Airbender. It also gets me thinking how awesome it would be if a Star Wars film were to explore the origins of the first Jedi, even through just a flashback sequence. In the current run of the comics from Marvel (set between Episodes IV and V), Luke goes on a mission in the second story arc to try to find the Jedi temple, which is then interrupted by a relative of Jabba the Hutt. Then there’s the widely discussed scene in The Force Awakens in which Rey stumbles into a corner of Maz Kanata’s palace and sees a strange mix of past and seemingly future images.
That scene was easily one that stuck with me, and is one which I hope will be expanded upon in the sequels. Also we did see new Force abilities used, such as when Kylo Ren stopped a blaster bolt in midair or used the Dark Side to extract information from Poe Dameron’s thoughts, but I hope there’s even more to come. Hopefully there will be a Force ability revealed in the coming films worthy of comparison to the lava-bending in Korra.
With Episode VIII currently in the early stages of production and Rogue One set to hit theaters this December, the future of Star Wars is ripe with possibilities. What are your thoughts? Are there any other elements of Korra Disney can learn from? Sound off in the comments!
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