What Star Wars Fans Want

by Shelt Garner

It seems pretty clear to me what Star Wars fans want from the franchise. First, what they REALLY want is their youth back. They want that sense of wonder that came with seeing the Star Wars or Empire Strikes Back for the first time in theatres. All of their complaints about modern Star Wars says more about them and their angst about growing older than it does the art that is Star Wars.

Anyway, it occured to me today that there is a solution to the perplexing issue of how to make a good Star Wars movie — call it the Top Gun: Maverick option. This seems to me the only way to produce a good Star Wars movie and, yet, given Disney is fucking greedy and not run by people who aren’t fans of Star Wars….it’s highly unlikely that it will happen.

There are two reasons why gong the Top Gun: Maverick route for the next Star Wars movie won’t happen.

One, is Disney is greedy and wants to sell toys. So they will do anything to cram as many potential toys into the movies because they see any Star Wars movie is just one big add for the toys that go along with it.

Meanwhile, the other problem, call it the “woke” problem, isn’t going to go away for Star Wars because the franchise is so huge that Disney simply can not resist the temptation to throw in A Message to indoctrinate the little forming minds of all those tykes who will be looking for Star Wars action figures for Chrismas.

But if you somehow pry Disney away from these two issues and just give fans A Star Wars Movie just like Top Gun: Maverick is just A Movie, then I think it would be a huge success. You would have to do the “transgressive” act of having a male lead who saves a princess from the forces of evil using the force. Just be sure that you don’t fall into having to figure out how to blow up YET ANOTHER Death Star.

Please, Disney, be a little bit more original going forward.

Fixing Star Wars

A lot of ink has been spilled by people complaining about Disney’s handling of the Star Wars franchise. They’re slowly getting better, but that improvement has come largely on the edges. The main franchise continues to be a shit show of half-measures and muddled movies that seem to be just crap put together in a hap-hazarded way.

The last few franchise movies have been so God-awful that I have simply walked out of them. The issue is not Kathleen Kennedy being “woke,” is that apparently Disney on an institutional level is not fans of the franchise and have no idea what to do with them.

For me, Disney has not one, but several existential problems they have to fix with the main franchise of Star Wars. All of these are extremely difficult to fix because of what Star Wars has become as a cultural and, most importantly financial standpoint.

Off the top of my head, the biggest problem of Star Wars is what you might call the “Bloatware Problem” Disney looks at Star Wars and sees dollah bills — selling toys — and also an opportunity to sell the “woke” agenda to a fan base of mostly center-Right men. Disney has done this to the point that the whole thing is unwatchable now.

But it gets worse.

Star Wars has always been camp for little kids. Despite the best efforts of middle-aged fanboys, Star Wars has no internal logic that functions. Things just happen for no fucking reason. They have begun to try to fix this problem by using the rubric “A Star Wars Movie” for some of the darker films, but Disney wants to sell toys, so it’s difficult to have sex or gore in a Star Wars movie.

There are no ready fixes to these problems.

I do think if they just would cool it with do ANY Star Wars movies for a few years, it might help to clear the air. Then I would really lean into using the massive universe that Star Wars has and explore the stories of lesser known characters.

Go to a planet that doesn’t have just one type of climate, for instance. Anyway, whatever. Until Star Wars gets its act together, I’m going to try to make my own interesting worlds for people to play in.

Of Alien’s Ripley, Star Wars & Modern Storytelling

by Shelt Garner

The character of Ellen Ripley in the Alien franchise was originally written as a man. I find myself working on my first screenplay and in my mind, I’m using Star Wars as my guide for structure.

But as I really begin to get into the development of this story, I realize that following the Star Wars plot too closely just doesn’t make any sense for modern audiences. People have grown so accustomed to a tough as nails woman in stories that they might feel any variation from that in a story like I’m working on is rather quaint.

Having given it even more thought, the idea now is we will have a Hero like in Star Wars, but the context is different. Or, the spin on how our Boy Hero becomes a Man Hero is different than you might expect. If things work out the way I hope, the story will have a lot of heart.

It’s a real relief that I’ve figured out how to pivot what I know about developing a novel to doing the same with a screenplay. It really speeds up the process of getting myself to the point where I can start to attempt to get past the learning curve of Final Draft.

But my main focus is going to be on the four novels I’m working on. It’s just occasionally, I need to distract myself from working on the novels so I can look at them with fresh eyes.

The Fatal Flaw Of The Star Wars Franchise

by Shelt Garner

I’ve written about this before, but I thought I would mention it again because it’s on my mind for some reason. I can pinpoint for you the moment the Star Wars franchise was dealt a mortal blow — when Lando Calrissian is introduced as a man in Empire Strikes Back.

That’s the moment when the whole Star Wars universe met its doom.

The reason — it’s natural for characters to pair off as a franchise matures. As such, Leia and Han pair off…leaving Luke Skywalker with nothing (or no one) to do. Just think, if Lando was a woman, you open the first movie of the new trilogy with a brown Ray.

Ta-da, you have a whole new avenue for the Skywalker family to go down.

But, obviously, that can’t happen now.

I honestly don’t know what happens with Star Wars now. I guess they just keep selling toys and blowing up bigger and bigger Deathstars until the sun goes dark or something.

A Tale of Two Franchises: The Real Reason Why ‘James Bond’ Succeeds While ‘Star Wars’ is a Dumpster Fire

by Shelt Garner

You hear a lot of bullshit among the Joe Rogan types about how Kathleen Kennedy has “ruined” Star Wars for this or that reason. They think up a lot of thinly veiled misogynistic rhetoric that boils down to a MAGA circle jerk. And, yet, another franchise run by a woman that men love — James Bond — continues to do well on both a commercial and artistic level.

I would suggest that it’s not a matter of Ms. Kennedy being too woke for her own good. I would suggest that the difference between Ms. Kennedy of Disney and Barbara Broccoli of Eon is one of fandom. Given the steaming pile of dreck that Ms. Kennedy has managed to churn out from the Star Wars universe compared to what Ms. Broccoli has produced it definitely seems as though Ms. Broccoli is a Bond fan while Ms. Kennedy is not a Star Wars fan.

I have no idea if I’m right or not, but just as an audience member — an aspiring novelist obsessed with story — the most recent Star Wars movies suck so bad because they’re not seen as movies so much as vehicles to sell toys and a “message.” The Bond movies, meanwhile, are, on their merits, good movies. Ms. Broccoli “gets” Bond in a way that Ms. Kennedy does not “get” Star Wars.

Now, I’m pleased that Eon is working to update Bond by bringing in someone like Phoebe Waller-Bridge to spice up the script. That’s really cool and makes a lot of sense. But it’s still being done within the context of understanding what the audience goes to see a James Bond movie for — girls, guns and gadgets.

Meanwhile, Star Wars movies are all over the place. They totally misunderstand the origin of the passion associated with franchise. The whole thing is so top heavy with identity politics, “slaying the patriarchy” and, most of all making that sweet, sweet cash from selling toys that the thing that brings people to the movies — a swashbuckling space opera — is totally muddled into oblivian.

The sad thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. The Star Wars universe is massive. There are soooooooo many secondary characters that are beloved. There’s a whole canon to be referenced and riffted upon in a way that would bring tears of joy to millions of fans. But they have totally squandered all of that in an effort to get little kids woke and to get them to buy toys along the way.

Part of the problem Star Wars faces is it each movie is such a cultural event — and it’s so associated with little kids — that’s its difficult for them to pair back the edifice and get back to the fundamentals of good storytelling. Just by using the Star Wars brand, you can’t really have any type of sex and your violence has to be comic in nature.

In an ideal world, you would have an “adult” Star Wars franchise and a “kiddy” Star Wars franchise. For adults, you would have The Empire Strikes Back with sex and violence. For the kids, you have the more campy aspects of A New Hope. As it stands, you have a Star Wars movie with a 30 minute subplot designed specifically to get kids to buy toys. What’s more, you have a very contrived and painful to watch plot point that creates a massive hole in the entire Star Wars canon simply to bludgeon audiences with the idea of “trust women.”

This is not brain surgery. You could very well get an actual Star Wars fan like Kevin Smith to write and direct a really good Star Wars movie that would bring back the magic of A New Hope and The Empires Strikes Back. But I would suggest trying to be a least a little bit original by thinking up an entirely new clan to follow the exploits of. You have an entire galaxy to play with — why do we have to keep getting Skywalkers to blow up bigger and bigger Death Stars? It’s becoming quite ridiculous.

The James Bond franchise, meanwhile, has a winning formula and runs with it. What’s more, they’ve managed to turn the campy Roger Moore James Bond that I grew up with into a very serious, dark Daniel Craig James Bond that really takes the whole franchise to the next level.

It’s wild how out of all the franchises that exist in Hollywood today, Bond is the only one that hasn’t either run out of steam (MCU) or that hasn’t been strip mined into irrelevance (Star Wars, Star Trek, Alien, Terminator.)

But no one listens to me. And maybe they shouldn’t. But it’s a tragedy to me that Star Wars has all this unlocked value and its producers are such non-fans that they don’t understand what to do with it.

Mulling The State Of Star Wars

by Shelt Garner

As I have said before, I’m not really much of a fan of Star Wars. But the franchise is such a cultural powerhouse, that it is interesting to try to understand where it stands.

To me, the existential crisis of Star Wars has nothing to do with the franchise itself. It has everything to do with how the bolts are popping off civil society in the United States. Throw in the quirks of the modern Hollywood economy and you have a recipe for the entire edifice to collapse in on itself.

The reason why what’s “wrong” with Star Wars is so difficult to understand is there’s a lot going on with the franchise. The convention wisdom on YouTube, often advocated by angry young men, is Star Wars where it is because of the malfeasance of Kathleen Kennedy. She’s a very convenient scapegoat for some legitimate problems with Star Wars.

I’m of the opinion that things just aren’t that simple. Disney paid something like $2 billion for LucasFilm and, as such, they decided to use it as a money tree. It seems to me that what all the complains are about has more to do with modern Hollywood in general than Ms. Kennedy.

Three major things are warping Star Wars so as to cause a major rift between the studio and the fanbase.

  1. MAGA-Qanon is consuming America
    A lot of unhappiness in the Star Wars fanbase likely comes from how the United States, in general, is extremely divided. This is out of the control of anyone involved. Everything — EVERYTHING — is seen through the prism of politics, and, as such, given that the Star Wars fanbase is made up of young men, it’s inevitable that they will be unhappy if there’s a whiff of “liberal bias” in the storytelling.
  2. Disney wants to sell toys
    Next, Disney really, really, REALLY wants that sweet, sweet toy money. So that bends the storytelling associated with Star Wars to such an extent that they throw in an entire subplot that’s devoted exclusively to featuring creatures that are to be sold as toys.
  3. “Woke” Hollywood
    This is probably the most conspicuous problem with the franchise and, in a sense, the most intractable. Woke Hollywood screws with some basic tenants of storytelling to such an extent that even the average casual Star Wars audience member can be left a little annoyed.
  4. Disney isn’t a fan of Star Wars
    I think this is the real problem with Star Wars. They just don’t “get” Star Wars and where the magic comes from. It’s like a bookworm trying to be a basketball coach when they don’t even know the rules of the game. They know how to make money, but they have lost sight on how to tell a Star Wars story the way the fans will really like.

I honestly don’t have a solution to any of these problems. Disney does run a real risk, however, of driving the franchise into the ground to such an extent that they can’t make any more money off of it. I have suggested before than someone like Kevin Smith (who is a huge fan of Star Wars) should be given a three picture deal and a lot of creative control.

One thing that is really staring Disney in the face and they’re ignoring it is how huge the Star Wars universe is. It makes you start to think whomever is in charge of Star Wars (Ms. Kennedy?) is either not very creative or too timid to do what is needed.

Why not just find a minor fan favorite character and think completely out of the box with them. No Skywalker. No Darth Vader. Nothing from the known canon of the franchise. They’ve got a whole galaxy mapped out in various ways in “Lore” and so forth, why not just pick a direction, any direction and run with it? Why be so absolutely tied down to the major aspects of the canon?

But I guess all that would require money and risk that Disney isn’t prepare to get into. Though there may come a day when they grow so desperate that they don’t have any choice.

The Problem With Star Wars

by Shelt Garner

I beginning the process of writing a screenplay as something of a creative “Plan B” and I am using the original Star Wars screenplay as my “textbook.” The interesting thing is, I find myself worrying if I can use its character concepts and structure beat-for-beat now or not. Is it even possible to have a traditional Hero-saves-the-princess type story in the modern media environment?

This gets me thinking about the clusterfuck that is the state of the Star Wars franchise. Now, let me begin by saying, I honestly don’t know how much of this problem is “real” and how much of it is the Russians testing out new ratfucking strategies. I say this because I’m not really the fanbase of the franchise. I love the first two original movies and all the rest of them I can take or leave.

It is easy to accept the narrative that the Star Wars fanbase is male and the executives at Disney — specifically Kathleen Kennedy — are all woke feminists who want to cram their ideology down the throats of the misogynistic fanboys.

I simply don’t think things are that cut and dried.

The whole thing, in fact, is extremely murky and and open to a whole lot of different interpretations. The reason for this is Star Wars is such a potent cultural force — and a lucrative one to boot — that the whole thing is being torn in a number of different directions for a number of different reasons.

I’m not going to play Joe Rogan and try to square the circle in some hyper masculine, yet earnest way. Sometimes, you have to actually have an opinion and own it.

With that in mind, I would say, the problem with Star Wars is, at its core, an issue with storytelling. If Disney would simply go back to storytelling basics, then a lot of the problems the franchise has would be solved. Of course, even the “basics” of storytelling are loaded in this era of Woke Hollywood. I’m of the opinion that if you simply tell a good story, the audience will follow.

As such, maybe Disney needs to lay off trying to sell toys or use the culture significance of Star Wars to change the world. Maybe start a new Star Wars trilogy that is all fan service.

Though, I will note that the more I think about it, the more there’s one specific issue that is causing all these problems for Disney when it comes to Star Wars — they don’t have one, specific visionary to guide it into the future. They have J.J. Abrams, but he just doesn’t seem like a fan of the series.

If I could wave a magic wand, I would give Kevin Smith a three picture deal to fix Star Wars. He’s a huge fan and probably has a good sense of what the fanbase is looking for.

Anyway, I don’t really have any skin in this battle. Star Wars has always suffered from a problem with a consistency of tone. It’s just sad that the problems — be they real or not — are apparently intractable and unlikely to be solved any time soon, if ever.

Some Thoughts On #StarWars As A #Screenplay

Some thoughts.

‘Star Wars’ In Trouble & How I Would Fix It Going Forward

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner

I have a theory about Star Wars that goes like this — the moment Lando Calrissian was not a woman, the entire thing was doomed. The reason is — if that character’s gender was flipped, instantly Luke would have had a romantic interest and a major flaw in the whole saga would have been fixed. But, whoops!

So, really, this is what I would do.

I would let Episode 9 come out. Then I would take a long, hard look at the state of the franchise. I would blow the whole thing up. Burn it to the ground. Then boil it down to what the fan base loves about it and use that as the foundation of a new cycle.

Some suggestions.

A young male protagonist.
A strong-willed female romantic lead.
A rake.
Cool robots and aliens.
A task (NOT Death Star related)
Lots of call backs to the original universe.

To top it all off, I would stop being greedy and “woke.” Make the movie far more serious — in a sense — and think about storytelling not selling toys or a not-so-subtle liberal-progressive message. Just tell a damn good story and if you get to subtly tell a story that gets your political agenda across, all the better.

The issue is the “base” of Star Wars is center-Right and the management of Disney is center-Left and very, very greedy. I think there’s even some sort of media theory about this situation. I would, if I was in charge of Disney, accept that the base is center-Right and embrace it while also “dog whistling,” if you will more woke people. It’s not impossible, people.

No one listens to me.

The Death Of Star Wars & The Potential Rise of “Foundation” In The Age Of MX

by Shelton Bumgarner

I’m developing and writing a novel and as such I have storytelling on the brain. The more professional in my mentality towards this endeavor, the less I want to talk about exactly what I’m doing and how.

But I do find the future of storytelling worth writing about while all of this is going on. It seems to me that the traditional film industry is about to have its Napster moment. Not because some punch in his bedroom creates and app that destroys the movie industry’s business model, but because at some point we’re going to find ourselves in the Ready Player One universe for real for real.

I just don’t see the titans of the movie industry being as fleet footed as the gaming industry. There’s going to come a point between now and, say, 2030, when some upstart gaming startup figures out a way to give us OASIS. When that happens, the passive movies will become the vinyl of Generation Z or beyond.

This is not something I look forward to. I love traditional movies, but the writing is on the wall as they say. All that needs to happen is for MX gear’s price point to be low enough and wireless broadband speeds to be fast enough that it makes economic sense. Traditional Hollywood film studios aren’t going to know what hit them.

Why watch Star Wars, A New Hope, when you can “play” it (or something similar) with a few million other people. The Star Wars universe is big enough that should a MX startup, say, buy Disney, they could create an OASIS-type environment large enough for that to happen. Now, I also love the Foundation series, so logically, it would make more sense for such a startup to buy the rights to Foundation, flesh out the saga’s universe in an MX environment and make $1 trillion.

But, sadly, no one — but no one — listens to me.

And, yet, this is on the horizon. This is happening. It’s just a matter of the details of how, exactly, it does so.