Discussion in 'Star Wars: Episode VII - Spoilers Allowed' started by Darth Archimage, Oct 17, 2013.
He did bring Artoo, who fixed the hyperdrive
True... R2, the true savior of the Saga.
R2 can fix anything except for broken hearts.
Apologize in advance for a long post.
I thought I'd try to get us back on the hero discussion by bringing up the role and function of a protagonist in narrative. And why I personally don't want to see a multi-protagonist structure in the ST (multiple heroes and heroines yes; multi-protagonists no). Although we do sometimes see this in ensemble movies, they rarely work well, and if they do work, there's specific reasons -- things they're doing -- that make it work. In general, in screenwriting 101, multiple protag structures are considered a bad idea for a good reason: lack of time. Films don't generally run long enough to develop significant depth in more than one character. If you're a writer or viewer that privileges character over the other elements of narrative (although you love those elements too), then you want enough time devoted to your main character to do them justice. Focusing on one character as your POV character also tends to benefit the rest of the film, as the theme, action, imagery, and plot can all support the struggle of the main character, allowing everything to develop and resonate to the fullest degree possible. Everything works together towards one goal, creating narrative clarity as well as depth.
Multi-protag structures can do this too, but there have to be sacrifices:
1) Adding more time to the film to round out flat characters. This is why Dostoevsky novels are so damn long. Fyodor can't stop himself from diving into the depth of every character he introduces. The upshot of this approach is depth and complexity. The downside is slower pacing and possible narrative instability. Why does the narrative potentially become unstable? Characters are not all the same, or at least they should not have the same desires and beliefs. After all, if you make them all the same, you're not really making multiple characters, but copies of one. So why not just have one protagonist in that case, with distinct supporting characters? That would usually be my choice, at least for a traditional narrative. It adds focus and contrast without slowing the pacing too much. The alternative is Dostoevsky's approach: it's possible to pull this off, but the key challenge is making the different desires and goals of the characters, which should be distinct from each other, resonate in a way that adds to narrative coherence and focus rather than detracting from it (Charles Baxter calls this counterpointed characterization). Most screenwriters can't pull this off in 90 mins, and even with an additional 30 mins, it's not possible to give a large collection of characters the equal time necessary to round them all out sufficiently. So even in a multi-protag structure, it's best to limit the POV characters as much as possible. If not, the pacing, narrative coherence, and depth of characterization will likely suffer.
2) Giving the protagonists similar desires and goals. If you want to avoid the problems of slow pacing and narrative incoherence, one solution is to give the protagonists similar desires and goals. In a more shallow action film, similar goals -- which, schematically speaking, are to be understood as external to characters -- is often enough to get the job done. We ignore depth and distinctness of interiority (character's beliefs and desires for self-formation) and privilege surface (external) goals. This isn't to say that surfaces can't suggest interior, but simply that the surfaces typically function to shorthand it, which means we don't spend a lot of time developing unique individuals, but welcome types with open arms. The surface tells us Han is a scoundrel for example -- he only shares Luke's external goal insofar as it will lead to him getting paid (his actual goal). But the surface is also able to show us, without resorting to deep explorations of Han's past and his psychological motivations, that Han has a soft spot for friends, and even that this soft spot can bring out his heroic side, his courage. The surface shows us this in the way he helps Luke and Leia survive while in the Death Star, but particularly when he comes to Luke's rescue at the end of ANH. Han and Luke don't share the same interior or external goal in ANH. I would argue this makes Han more of a supporting player and contrast to Luke's idealism. He's not really a POV character because his desires don't shape the adventure from beginning to end in the way Luke's do. Not that they don't affect the narrative in important ways, but simply that Luke's arc takes precedent. The story of ANH is essentially a kind of coming of age story, which makes it Luke's story. He starts off innocent and naive about his place in the world, and his journey changes this. Unlike Han and Leia, we begin in Luke's world and see his basic human yearning for identity and life experience. Han and Leia, on the other hand, already have identities, and we don't spend any time exploring how they were formed. With Luke, we watch as his identity begins to take shape. The other characters exist mainly to give Luke options and choices as he decides what kind of person he wants to be. Their initial goals are distinct, and they only overlap out of necessity: Luke's exterior goals are related to his internal desire of self-formation. He wants to get out in the world and develop himself. So he decides to become a Jedi Knight, an external goal which overlaps with saving the princess, but which is distinct and primary. In contrast, Han, in ANH, wants money. This isn't directly related to self-formation, but self-preservation. This goal doesn't develop character; it is a reflection of it. Same goes with Princess Leia (ANH): her external goal of defeating the Empire is a reflection of her identity, not a development of it. She is already courageous. A heroine. Even Han's ability to be a good friend isn't a real development for his character. We see this capacity already in him through the loyal friendship he has with Chewie. So ANH is pretty much a classic protagonist structure; we have one main POV character and the supporting characters support his journey of self-discovery.
Now, what if we were to make Han and Leia co-protagonists? As we have seen, an authentic protagonist has an interior that is developed (for me, development isn't necessarily positive or negative; as we see with anti-heroes, it can be both). Often movies ignore this development, and what you end up with is a shallow action movie. Shallow doesn't mean the movie can't be entertaining or deep in other ways. But it's not getting the depth from the development of character, which is the traditional way to do it.
So how would ANH look if it were an authentic co-protag structure? If we're not making the film 3 hrs long, we need to save time in some way. One practical solution is to make the protagonists desires and goals as similar as possible. Also the structure of the film would have to change to show this. Instead of just opening on Tatooine to show Luke in his unrealized state, you also must open in similar ways with Han and Leia. You maybe give us a scene that establishes Leia's internal desire to develop her identity into a heroine. First you have to show her yearning, like we do with Luke. We'd want to see her stuck in some way, maybe in the life of a princess restricted to the boring duties and proprieties of state. Instead of beginning with an act of heroism on the Tantive IV, you begin on Alderaan or Coruscant, with her yearning for something different. Same with Han. Maybe you begin with him a slave on Kessel. He yearns like Leia and Luke to escape and become a hero. All three of these characters start out (now) in vastly different settings, but they all sort of feel like or are captives. Even if this doesn't make them exact copies of each other, it does make them different iterations (repetitions) of each other. They have the same or similar enough set of desires. If you give them all similar desires, then it's okay for their external goals to be distinct as long as they overlap for the main goals of ANH: rescuing the princess and blowing up the Death Star. If you don't give them similar internal desires, then you run the risk of narrative incoherence, lack of depth, or making the characters antagonists rather than co-protagonists.
Importantly, in this kind of co-protagonist structure, the key in making it work well is for the protags to be different enough to not to feel as though we're just watching three versions of the same character on screen. Maybe that Han, Leia, and Luke come from different classes is enough difference, and the enjoyment we get out of them having similar desires is that we see that people from different backgrounds can desire the same things and succeed together at doing them. In this case, the celebration at the end of ANH feels a lot different. We celebrate with all three characters not merely the destruction of the Death Star, but that they all achieved their goals of self-realization and escape.
What mistake do movies normally make then when they deploy a co-protagonist structure? Instead of giving the protags similar desires and internal development, they only give them external goals to achieve. In a real sense, the protags aren't really protags. They are simply flat characters (already developed types) going through the motions of identity as they try to achieve external goals (stealing a diamond, saving the world). This is the typical form of the Hollywood blockbuster. People watch these films not for depth, but for explosions and the cliches of surface character. There's nothing wrong with films like this if they're entertaining. But I would suggest that films like these are boring. If they're not getting some significant depth from externalities like action and image, then there's probably little reason to pay attention, or care enough to watch again.
Having written all this, it might be a little surprising to hear me argue for a co-protagonist structure for the ST (I'd like a son and daughter team). It could be done well if thought out properly. It would technically be "multi" but would have the tight focus of just developing two characters. I'm mainly against multi protagonist structures when they're more than two characters.
But since lack of depth is always cause for concern in big budget films under time constraints, the safest choice would be to pick one main protagonist and let everything else coalesce around it.
What kind of protagonist structure would you like? And, if non-traditional, how would it work?
You didn't do the required "tldr summary".
Great post. And this:
Yeah, this exactly. I've been holding out hope for this very thing since the ST was first announced.
There's something interesting about the structure of the OT. If you watch the movies the way they were released, Vader is the clear antagonist until the very end, but if you watch them in order something different happens. In a way, Anakin never actually stops being a protagonist. He and Luke are in conflict, but neither wants to be once they find out who the other is. As an audience we're following both of their journeys... Padme says there's still good in Anakin, and Luke believes the same thing, so we should be invested in hoping that they're right despite all the terrible things Anakin does. There are plenty of movies where the protagonist does terrible things, and usually there's a point where we lose faith in their capacity for goodness, but Star Wars is a little different in that respect because it's more of a fable or a fairy tale than a story about real people.
So by this rationale, now that Anakin is dead could we still see Luke in as much of a protagonist role as he had in the OT, only sharing that role with someone from the next generation now? I don't think he will have completed his hero journey until we see that he has passed on his knowledge and come to terms with his own mortality. He faced and accepted his death in ROTJ to an extent, but he didn't die and I would argue that he could still have further to travel as a character before he is truly ready for that final step into the netherworld.
And keep in mind that Vader didn't have an extremely large role in ANH. He's still a major presence in the movie, but he mostly takes a backseat as we get to know Luke. His actual role in the story comes back into play much more in the next two movies. Could something similar happen with Luke in the ST?
I think Luke will be in more of a supporting role like Obi-Wan was in ANH. That means he gets a lot of screen time, but he's not the protagonist. With a protagonist you pick someone who has a lot of room to grow -- especially for a three film structure. I think Luke will have accomplished most of what he needed to offscreen prior to the ST. Except dying, of course.
I'm a big believer that the ST must create a strong emotional connection between the protagonist and the audience. The best way to do that is to focus on them as much as we did with Luke in ANH.
I've wondered lately if the Skywalker children themselves are necessarily the best choices for protagonists. If you pick some outsider character, maybe someone who was living on the streets, a rogue, then that gives you 1) ample room to develop the character as well as 2) the outsider view that could help the audience understand the world better.
The Skywalkers would still be main characters, but in support of this new person.
I agree with the above. Luke in VII as a support, the New Hero with VIII to themselves and perhaps an appearance by Anakin bookends the hero at the end of IX. Perhaps the visage of Vader shows up in the middle, too. This could be a very interesting mystery. I'm also becoming a big believer that Vader's Mask will not be sidelined in the ST as an important part of the story, not as a cheap commercial gimmick. Although my son received for Christmas, from various of relatives, a 1 foot tall Anakin turns into Vader doll, a 3 foot tall Vader, and a Vader Helmet/Mask, all of which recite various Vader dialogue. He is a very important part of the franchise.
I agree with Mystery Roach here (I know, no surprise). Luke's passing on what he learned will be the focus as Lucas has stated. It's the final unresolved story structure we haven't seen yet of the hero's journey.
What everyone seems to be looking past is that there are multiple POV's to tell a story from. The OT and PT used the young/apprentice POV. This makes sense because they were parts 1-6 of a 1-9 episode saga. Since 7-9 are the concluding episodes of the 1-9 saga, it makes little sense to use the same POV method and start yet another hero's journey ending when the character is still 20 something. That's open ended.
What follows Lucas' previous statements and makes sense as a concluding trilogy is to use the mentor POV and follow Luke's/the mentor's interactions with the new generation. This serves multiple purposes. It concludes the saga. It isn't a rehash of the previous trilogy structures and adds something new. It solves Dra's concern of creating a strong emotional connection between protagonist and audience. It will allow the introduction of new heroes without riding the saga and previous episodes on them (setting them up for use in spin off movies a la Marvel).
I do think Luke will have a larger role overall than many are assuming, but I'd imagine that Episode VII will me much more about a new character than Luke, and that only by the end of the trilogy will both of their stories be given equal weight. Think about it this way...
PT: Obi-Wan/Anakin, OT: Anakin/Luke, ST: Luke/?
I'd like the hero to be a female non-force-user. If she's of Skywalker descent, then it could be a twist or surprise that she is not a force user. She could start out in a seedier place, like Tatooine, but not Tatooine, and get drawn into this stuff that is of galactic importance. Possibly galactic importance involving the Force and Jedi. But she has no force talent whatsoever, and will have to find another way to be a hero (and that's OK).
Basically, we've seen the whole training-to-be-a-jedi thing in two trilogies now. We need more scoundrel or force-insensitive representation. Jedi shouldn't be the be-all-end-all of everything all the time. Heck, they were kinda dumb in the PT there, weren't they?
For lightsaber fights, the hero can meet and ally herself with a Jedi/trainee along the way. The (main) hero, however, fights with a blaster.
Neum Numb is the hero.
Ahsoka just kidding
Luke will be hero.
probably Luke/Ben (if he does have a son in the movies and he names him after Obi-Wan).
I was really on board with the idea of a female lead, so if it's true that Plemons is the new lead I must admit that will be a bit disappointing to me.
I believe we will have the big 3 playing a big role in VII but passing the torch to Jaina Solo who is married to Jagged Fel who can be the Han/Leia replacement. You also have Ben Skywalker who can take the torch from dad and throw a love interest struggles with a sith girl Vestara. I would also throw in there little Jacen Solo's daugther Allana who has the force and inline to be queen and she can appeal to the youngsters.
According to the latest news, the "Big 3" will be the main heroes in Eps. VII.
it's all rumors until we hear something concreate.
The mynocks will be the heroes.
Perhaps the rumored Kenobi relative is Luke's adopted child. Something happened to the parents like they were killed by pirates and Luke decided to raise the child. Nomi Kenobi/Nomi Skywalker.
I thought the new Kenobi was debunked? Am I misremembering?
Well, Latino Review said it wasn't his daughter or granddaughter but that the Kenobi family would play a role in the films. Whether it was a niece or nephew or something else they weren't certain.