What Disney must do to succeed with the new Star Wars

Star Wars is obviously known for being an action-packed space opera leading the industry with innovative special effects. But the movies themselves used intelligent storytelling techniques as they unfolded for the viewers.

With The Force Awakens, the franchise now led by Disney must find a new path, as it expands beyond the six films put out by George Lucas. They must find a story to tell, to match the predecessors.

Photo by JD Hancock on Flickr
Photo by JD Hancock on Flickr

Star Wars itself, now known as Episode IV: A New Hope, told an old story. It followed the structure of the Monomyth, the ancient structure of the journey of an adventurer. This is a plot far older than movies. Luke Skywalker followed in the footsteps of Gilgamesh, Odysseus, and Bilbo Baggins.

The Monomyth is a pattern of storytelling centered on a hero who goes on an adventure. The hero changes the world and the world changes the hero. Its structure is full of action, excitement, and myths throughout history have followed it. Star Wars, by leaning on it, told a better story than George Lucas might otherwise have managed.

However as the story evolved into three movies, and then six, a greater structure emerged. The movies became a ring cycle, depicting the rise, fall, and redemption of Anakin Skywalker. And as much as some purists loathe the prequels, they have been hugely popular in a way that other monomyth-swiping, special effects-showering series have failed in the past. Star Wars could have gone the way of the Matrix, but it did not.

Star Trek succeeded because it told stories about friendship, in the context of social and geopolitics. Star Wars succeeded because because of its epic narratives. However Luke’s tale is told, and so is Anakin’s, yet we have a new move coming out. But if Disney is going to make this work, they must play on the strengths of the past.

Therefore, if these movies are going to be good, they must weave a new myth. We learned about Luke and his adventure, then we learned about Anakin and his legend. There must be an epic hero in The Force Awakens who is the center of a mythical narrative. If there is, the movies should be great. If there is not, and we instead get the same dumb plot every Hollywood movie uses these days, I expect disappointment.