Episode IX – Why It Has to be Different
Nostalgia worked for The Force Awakens, but it won’t be an effective strategy for Episode IX. If Episode IX was based on Return of the Jedi (1983), the rehashing of the original trilogy would be a disaster. Star Wars fans came out to theaters for The Force Awakens because of Luke, Leia, and Han – but they are going to be coming to theaters for Episode IX for Rey, Poe, and Finn. These characters, who Abrams introduced in The Force Awakens, need to grow out of the shadows of their original trilogy counterparts. They can’t do that if they’re are facing off with Rabba the Rutt on Jakku or fighting stormtroopers on the forest moon of Rendor with the Rewoks as the Megadeath Starkiller Five hovers menacingly above.
What Abrams needs to do differently for Episode IX is reward fans who are now reinvested in the Star Wars universe with new stories, new characters, and new adventures from the galaxy far, far away. Star Wars fans were captivated by the original and risky ideas of the original trilogy, and replicating the content of the original trilogy will not replicate the effect that it had on audiences. A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Return of the Jedi captivated audiences because they offered new and innovative special effects and adventures. If Abrams takes note of Rogue One (2016), then Episode IX could offer a fresh take on Star Wars that is spiritually aligned with the earlier films even though it doesn’t heavily borrow from their plots or characters.
Nostalgia can only go so far, and Episode IX needs to mature along with its characters and fans. As Rey, Poe, Finn, and Kylo Ren are given more time to develop, their stories can be more adventurous and take bigger risks. This wasn’t necessarily possible with The Force Awakens, which was focused on uniting the Star Wars fandom for a new era of Star Wars films. But if The Force Awakens was the safe foundation which established the new heroes and villains, then Episode IX should explore these characters to their fullest – not just create a bigger superweapon to be destroyed by X-wings.
Hopefully, copying Return of the Jedi is out of the question. J. J. Abrams’ nostalgia may be tempered by his co-writer Chris Terrio, who wrote Argo (2012), Batman v. Superman (2016), and the upcoming Justice League (2017). Additionally, Abrams himself has illustrated a self-awareness around how The Force Awakens heavily borrows from A New Hope. That awareness along with inspiration from Rian Johnson’s Episode VIII will hopefully propel Abrams to explore new and unexplored Star Wars stories. Still, even if copying Return of the Jedi point-by-point seems ludicrous, Abrams needs to push past the market-tested and the fan-pleasing and go into uncharted territory.
It may be better to think about the true success of The Force Awakens and the sequel trilogy lying in the successful completion of Episode IX. If The Force Awakens shows how much history can repeat itself, then Episode IX must show how different individuals put into similar roles or situations can break the cycle and come to different conclusions. Rey, Poe, and Finn aren’t Luke, Leia, and Han – and Kylo Ren isn’t Darth Vader. These new characters deserve an ending that reflects how far Star Wars has come.
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