Since Disney and Lucasfilm’s announcement of Star Wars: Episode VII, debates have raged over who should write, direct and star in the new film. While we now know that screenwriter Michael Arndt will write the script based on story treatments from George Lucas, the debate over the director, actors, subject and setting of the film continue.Among the matters being debated, the key question that interests me is the identity of the film’s protagonist or hero. This is the crucial question that not only will shape Episode VII‘s story but the future of the film franchise.
The idea of an aging Luke Skywalker as the star of a new Star Wars story works better in book then in a film. So it seems likely that Luke will take on more of a role as the mentor in Episode VII. While it is certainly possible as the Star Trek franchise has shown an older lead or leads can star in a film, the Star Wars film franchise has always had a youthful core.
So who should be the hero in Episode VII?
There are three broad categories from which the protagonist could be drawn from. The child of Luke Skywalker, the child of Han and Leia, or a new character unrelated to the Skywalker family.
Child(ren) of Luke Skywalker:
The direct heir of Luke presents both benefits and challenges. In the scope of the first six films, the fall of Anakin
Skywalker and the redemption by his son feels like a complete story. It begins with a classical tragedy and ends with the new hero’s journey. In some ways it would be nice to leave the Skywalkers in that pleasant place.If you feature a Skywalker you also are in danger of setting up a dynastic element that can rub some fans the wrong way. In such a large galaxy it somehow feels limiting if only a Skywalker can save the day. Does the galaxy simply fall to the man with the most midichlorians?
The other thing to consider is that in the Expanded Universe Luke’s wife Mara Jade has a very detailed and specific back story, as does their son Ben. It is clear that George Lucas is not and should not be bound by the stories created by the many talented individuals in the Expanded Universe. So it seems likely that Lucas who has written the treatment for Episode VII will want to take Luke and “his” other characters into the future in his own vision not someone else’s.
Lucas can take Luke in two basic directions, monastic or patriarchal. If he follows the monastic approach then he becomes an echo of Obi-Wan and the old Jedi Order. This would be a clear difference then the approach taken in the Expanded Universe with Luke and his new Jedi Order. The monastic Luke would not have children for him to mentor.
The Patriarchal Luke would give Lucas the chance to explore the family dynamic to an extent we haven’t really seen in either previous trilogy. In Episode IV we saw some of this with Uncle Ben and Aunt Beru, and their interaction with Luke. In Episode I we saw the dynamic between Anakin and Shmi, but in both cases it was simply the launching point of the hero’s journey and not something explored in detail. The patriarchal Luke would also fit in terms of Lucas’ own life, as a father with adult children now.
It would make sense that Lucas may have some perspective to look back on that familial relationship and be able to use his own life experience to craft a vision of a mature and fatherly Luke. In the Expanded Universe the use of Ben Skywalker as a foil to his father is interesting in that it allows for the supremely powerful Luke Skywalker to be humanized. The playful banter between Luke and Ben was one of the highlights of the recently completed Fate of the Jedi series.The debate whether or not Luke’s offspring should be a son or daughter or even multiple children is a complex one. If Luke’s offspring is the protagonist in Episode VII to has a cascading effect on the rest of the characters and story. Assuming that Lucas follows the formula and has a three character core to the story, you would figure that one of them would be the child of Luke, and one would be the child of Han and Leia and one would be a new and unrelated character. If Luke has a son, then it makes sense for Han and Leia to have a son as well, if Luke has a daughter, then Han and Leia would likely have a daughter as well. The reason is simple, there will have to be some romance in the plot somewhere and setting up the Skywalker and Solo kids as rivals for the affection of a third party would be the easiest trope to take.
It is possible for Luke to fill a patriarchal role without having his own offspring, which brings me to our next possibility…
Child(ren) of Han Solo and Leia Organa:
For much of the Expanded Universe’ history the focus on the next generation of heroes has been on the children of Han and Leia. In the EU, we had the twins Jacen and Jaina, and then the youngest son Anakin.
While it is once again unlikely that Lucas would re-use Expanded Universe characters, the son or daughter of the Princess and the Smuggler makes for interesting story fodder. Leia represents untapped Jedi potential, but also the epitome of the warrior-diplomat. In Han we have the ultimate reformed scoundrel, but where does his story go now? How does Han Solo adjust to family life? How does Leia balance the demands of duty and the demands of family?
It would be interesting to see if these traits present in Han and Leia are passed to the next generation. It would also allow Lucas to focus on maturing characters and relationships he introduced in the Original Trilogy instead of creating a new love interest and family for Luke.
In any event it seems that any child of Han and Leia would be precocious and certainly right at home in a cockpit. This confident and reckless youth would be compelling protagonist, as some of the dangers of Anakin Skywalker’s fall may be present. It would allow for patriarchal Luke to act as both uncle and Jedi Master in an attempt to mentor his nephew or niece to avoid the mistakes of Anakin.
An Unrelated Hero:
The possibility of a new and unrelated hero in Episode VII is an interesting idea. The characters of Luke, Han and Leia are so iconic that it will be a real challenge for any of their offspring to measure up to them. In a story, the potential drama this would create for their offspring could be compelling as they not only seek to face the exterior threat, but also grapple with their own internal struggle with being the son or daughter of these galactic heroes. The danger of course is that a new Solo or Skywalker character could feel like a pale imitation of the big three.
If Lucas and Episode VII writer Michael Arndt want the greatest creative freedom however, creating a completely new protagonist or set of heroes, unrelated but guided by Luke, Han and Leia could be a very alluring way to go.
We have a number of characters that could provide off-spring if Lucas wanted to provide some connection to the Original Trilogy. The two most obvious characters who’s progeny could show up in Episode VII are Chewie and Lando. Both characters already have kids in the EU, of course unless you give Chewie’s kid a translator droid like Lowbacca’s, it is hard to see how they could be more than a supporting character. The son or daughter of Lando would be interesting, particularly a daughter with Lando’s flirtatious nature would be a fun counterpoint to any offspring of Luke or Han and Leia. There are also more minor character such as Wedge Antilles who’s children would also make a cool addition to the movie franchise and Wedge’s friendship with Luke would give a reason for Wedge’s child to be interacting with any possible Skywalker or Solo kids.
The curve ball would be a non-human protagonist, if one of the three main characters was an alien who spoke basic it could be an interesting deviation from the Star Wars formula. A near human species may be the easiest to pull off in terms of production and the most relatable for a viewer to accept as a protagonist.
In the end I think Lucas and Arndt stick to the tried and true formula of having a trio of stars in Episode VII and we get a Solo, a Skywalker, and a stranger. As to who becomes the bright center of the story, your guess is as good as mine.]
~Peter Morrison (@PeteMorrisonLR)