A New Writer for Episode VII: Disappointment or Continued Optimism?

For anyone that read my article The Future of the Female Star Wars Fan knows that I was pretty excited about Michael Arndt’s involvement in the script of Episode VII. Ever since watching Padmé’s character destruction in the Prequel Trilogy I have been pining for a redo of female character roles in Star Wars. As the writer for The Hunger Games’ Catching Fire, Arndt made me more than a little excited about he upcoming Star Wars movie. He had the perfect experience of working closely with a strong female character as the main character of a movie.

Now with the knowledge that Arndt’s been replaced I am a little apprehensive about the movie. I have heard various reports on how they are proceeding. Some are saying that the new author is writing a completely new script and scrapping everything Arndt worked on. Other sources are saying that they are going to build upon the foundation of the story that Arndt created. I’m going to remain optimistic that they are going to build upon his story and hope he has laid the foundation for a female character centric story. Now I’ve mentioned before that J.J. Abrams also has experience writing strong female characters and he is still going to be involved in the script so there is still hope for a non-male centric story. It was interesting to see the reactions of people across the internet over the news that Lawrence Kasdan was taking over responsibilities as writer for Episode VII. This is the same man that brought us Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Let’s look closer at those movies, specifically from the female character perspective.

Empire Strikes Back

AlderLeia-ESB

Leia’s characterization on Hoth is one of the best strong female roles I’ve seen in a Star Wars movie and the fantasy genre. She is shown as being a strong leader and concerned for her people. She throws Han’s assumptions back in his face and says the classic line of “I’d rather kiss a Wookiee.” She is also one of the last to leave as the Rebels evacuate Hoth making sure everyone else has the best chance to escape before barely escaping herself. The romance on the Falcon as they make repairs is cute and not cheesy. Leia still manages to remain independent despite Han’s best scoundrel efforts and stealing kisses. Then on Cloud City we see Leia standing up to Lando and having to be held back as she watches Han become encased in carbonite. She takes charge of their rescue as soon as Lando breaks her free and directs the Falcon back to find Luke. Again, I can’t say enough about how much I adore how Leia is written in ESB.

Return of the Jedi

In ROTJ Leia knowingly walks into Jabba’s palace undercover in the hopes of being able to rescue Han. She knows she has a slim chance of making it out without being caught (thus the backup plan of Luke coming in) and she goes anyways. Leia, who is one of the main leaders of the Rebellion, puts her own life on the line to save the one she loves. Then we get Leia wearing a slave costume…that’s all I’ll say about that. She does kill Jabba the Hutt, but ultimately is still rescued by Luke and Lando. Again Leia asks to go on the mission to Endor risking her life in order to help their cause. She takes off after Luke on a speeder bike through the forest and forms an alliance with the ewoks. She helps to save Han, Luke, and Chewie from being roasted at the paws of the ewoks and enlists their help in the battle for the shield generator. Leia takes a shot and still manages to shoot the stormtrooper and save them. She is consistently written as a strong female up to the end of the trilogy, something we didn’t get with Padmé in the PT.

Raiders of the Lost Ark – analysis provided by Jay Shah

Indiana-Jones-and-Marion-Ravenwood-indy-and-marion-3014709-360-285Marion Ravenwood was an entirely unexpected sort of character for the adventure genre. Though Indiana Jones was conceived by George Lucas to be a cross between adventure serials and the James Bond movies, Marion emerged to be more than just Indy’s girl — she was her own character. Indeed, Marion put it best herself: “I’m your god-damned partner!” From the very first time the audience sees her, Marion was written as a woman of action. She quite famously drinks a man under the table in her opening sequence. Before agreeing to help Indiana Jones on his quest, she gives him a verbal lashing for the cruel way he treated her when she was a young girl in love with him. She handles herself well in the fight to come, and though she eventually has to be rescued by Indy at the end of the film, she shows that she is clever and resourceful when required to fend for herself. Though Indy’s rival Belloq sees her as a prize to be won, she proves herself to be a full-fledged action counterpart to Indy. She wasn’t just a tough-girl stereotype either though, as the audience sees her wrestling with personal issues with Indy through the course of the movie. Through well-written dialogue and action sequences, Marion Ravenwood shows herself to be a character of courage, resourcefulness, and will who is nobody’s lesser. It’s something the writers of the second Indiana Jones film should have kept in mind.

Thanks Jay! I know, I know, I should be more familiar with the Indiana Jones movies but unfortunately I am not.

Kasdan also hasn’t had anything of significance in 20 years. 20 years. Think about that for a minute. How much has changed in the movie industry in 20 years? How much has changed in the sci fi/fantasy world in 20 years? The answer to those questions is enough to make me concerned for Episode VII’s fate. Kasdan’s last movie writer credit is about a woman who loves her dog more than her husband and then the guy loses the dog and she forces her family to stay and try to find the dog. I am a little apprehensive about his involvement because he hasn’t been consistently writing movies in the genre when geek movies are ‘in’. One would think he would’ve been a catch for one of these companies to pick up, so why not him?

I like how he has used female characters in the past. He gave us a strong heroine in Leia many years ago before it was ok to have girls really be a focal point and a hero on the big screen. We know he knows how to make a movie feel Star Warsy since he pretty much invented the feeling in ESB which is often touted as the best Star Wars movie. It is my hope that the team of Abrams and Kasdan will give us a what we’ve been asking for. The talent is there, the experience is there and hopefully the foundation is there.

2 comments

  1. Timothy Maddocks says:

    You want a strong female Kasdan character, it’s hard to go past Kathleen Turner in Body Heat…

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