The things we'd like to see from Star Wars: Underworld

Odd List 18 Jan 2012 - 14:02

We've high hopes that George Lucas' long-in-the-works TV show, Star Wars: Underworld, will still be made. Here’s what we’d like to see from it…

We’ve only learned recently that George Lucas’s live action Star Wars series now has a working title – Star Wars: Underworld. Because of the cost of digital effects, the series is currently somewhere in development hell, but we’re still hoping the series will eventually emerge onto our TV screens. A large number of scripts have been finished, and plans for it are still being made.

So it looks like we will be seeing a live-action Star Wars TV show, though it will take a while. But let’s be honest, George Lucas doesn’t exactly have a spotless track record when it comes to expanding the Star Wars mythos. So, here is my list of suggestions for Star Wars: Underworld…

Make it dark

The Star Wars films are intended as space adventure tales for the whole family. But that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case for its spin-offs. The PlayStation 2 release of The Force Unleashed was rated 16, and there are various elements of the expanded universe that are decidedly adult. So I say let that carry over to Star Wars: Underworld.

The Clone Wars may have had more than a few dark moments, but it was still an animation mainly aimed at a younger audience. I think that George Lucas should redress the balance and give us a hard-edged Star Wars with plot elements like drug trafficking, violence, and kidnap. After all, Underworld is set during a 19-year-long period of Imperial tyranny. So logic dictates that it should have a very dark feel to it. 

No comic relief characters

This is one thing that will, without doubt, kill Underworld stone dead.

A comedy character would be incredibly jarring, and would inevitably conflict with the tone of the series. Jar Jar Binks did a lot of harm to the first two prequels, and his presence in The Clone Wars was definitely not a high point, but all three of these were aimed at a family audience – we may not like Jar Jar, but he served a purpose to a certain extent.  But including a character like him in Underworld would be the equivalent of drop-kicking the series out of the nearest window.

The period between Revenge Of The Sith and A New Hope is supposed to be one of the darkest in the entire saga. Other stories that took place in this time period were suitably grim such as the comic book story that chronicled Jedi Master Quinlan Vos attempting to survive in the forests of Kashyyyk after Order 66. The character PROXY in The Force Unleashed was there for comic relief as well as exposition, but his particular brand of comedy was dark humour, not infuriating pratfalls and stepping in manure like Jar Jar. 

No gratuitous fanservice

Personally, I’m not averse to the idea of a few things from the films cropping up in Underworld – in moderation, of course. But don’t build entire storylines around the appearance of a single character. If George Lucas feels he must have Darth Vader or Boba Fett making a cameo, then he needs to make sure it fits into the story instead of writing a scene with them and working backwards to make it fit. 

Use varied camera angles

Anyone who’s seen RedLetterMedia’s review of Revenge Of The Sith will know that a flaw in George Lucas’s directing style in his most recent films is that he’s not putting the same effort he did in the earlier stages of his career. The behind the scenes videos for Revenge Of The Sith show Lucas shooting dialogue scenes between two characters in an incredibly pedestrian way.

He gets his actors where he wants them, and sets up two cameras, each one shooting the scene from behind one of the actor’s shoulders. The way you shoot a scene, even if it’s just two characters talking on a sofa, is crucial to the scene’s success.

If you’ve got the same two camera angles for almost an entire scene, it detracts hugely from any sense of drama or comedy that you’re trying to create. Arguably, the positioning of a camera is almost as important to crafting the emotion of a scene as the dialogue. Luke leaving Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back wouldn’t have been nearly as powerful if all of the shots of Luke had been shot from behind Alec Guinness’s shoulder.

The camerawork for the original Star Wars trilogy was amazing – and not just the camerawork on the model sequences and the fight scenes. Lucas, Irvin Kershner, and Richard Marquand all strove to get the best and most varied camera angles they could, and subsequently, have the best variety of shots for editing raw footage. This is what is needed for Underworld

Build proper sets

If the Doctor Who crew can build such brilliant sets on what American television producers would consider a minute amount of money, then surely George Lucas (even though he’s funding the first series himself) can afford to build a couple of sets and film on location rather than doing everything in a couple of studios and totally on green-screen. An actual set not only gives a series a feel of realism (and in a science fiction series, that’s something you really need), but it also helps an actor’s performance.

Case in point: Obi-Wan’s duel with General Grievous in Revenge Of The Sith. When Grievous ignites all four of his Lightsabers, Obi-Wan doesn’t even move. The behind the scenes videos show that, for that shot, Ewan McGregor was standing in front a green-screen with a few markers on it to show him where to look, hence his total lack of reaction to something that would probably unnerve his character a fair bit.

If you want to get the best possible performance from your actors when making any kind of television, you need a certain amount of practical FX and real surroundings so they can better immerse themselves in the fictional world they are helping to create. 

Let the writers play to their strengths

So far, very little is known about the writing for Star Wars: Underworld. The only information we have is that 50 hour-long episodes have been written and that one of the writers is Life On Mars co-creator Matthew Graham. That's a really good start.

So, given that the writing is all but finished, we can only hope that George Lucas has followed the choice of Graham, and recruited a team of skilled writers that are up the challenge. But regardless of how talented a writer you may be, if you don’t play to your strengths, the story you create probably won’t be up to the standard of your previous works.

Attack Of The Clones showed us that even though George Lucas is capable of writing adventure stories, love stories are something he can’t write without them being forced and cringe-inducing.  

Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes showed that Matthew Graham has a great affinity for both mind-bending story arcs, elements of science fiction, and police procedural stories. So the obvious direction to go in is to get him to write some kind of detective story set in Coruscant’s lower levels, or on the crime-ridden moon of Nar Shaddaa. 

And if you want a straight-up horror story, recruit somebody like Mark Gatiss. The horror genre is Gatiss’ bread and butter. You only have to look at The League Of Gentlemen and some of his Doctor Who episodes to see that.

When constructing a television series, not only choose the right people for the job but don’t take the risk of removing them from their comfort zone when you’re series is still in an embryonic stage.

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