No, ladies and gentlemen, this isn’t a Star Wars and business reality TV hybrid film with Donald Trump as the lead. This is a bonafide, crotch to the wall pitch at an inspired adaptation of a video game. What video game, you ask? Well none other than the late Lucasarts’ Star Wars The Force Unleashed.
Recently, the new owners of the Star Wars franchise, Disney, announced that not only were they making new, core episodic stories VII-IX, but they were also looking to create new side story Star Wars films that went along with the core episodes. Think of it as Marvel’s “Phase I” that led into The Avengers film. Anyways, this opens up an opportunity to explore the Star Wars Universe in a new vehicle other than comics, novels, TV and video games.
We all know that the world of Star Wars is huge with the Expanded Universe as well as movies, The Clone Wars series and video games that add into an ever-growing host of stories and characters. However, one video game was released in September of 2008 that was stated as “official film storyline canon” taking place between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope and that game was Star Wars The Force Unleashed.
TFU told the story of a secret apprentice that Darth Vader obtained while occupying the Wookie world of Kashyyk during the end of the Clone Wars. Vader killed the boy’s father and saw the child stand up to Vader, ignited lightsaber in hand. Vader, already having preconceived thoughts of overthrowing the Emperor, took the boy in and secretly trained him as a personal assassin and all around bad-ass. Now doesn’t that sound like an interesting film plot…?
The game released with reviews all culminating into a resounding “meh”. While I enjoyed kicking some tail as one of the most powerful Jedi in the galaxy, I, too, found the game to be all around mediocre, but the story was indeed official film canon and it bridged the gap perfectly between episodes III and IV.
SPOILERS BELOW! IF YOU HAVE NOT PLAYED THE FORCE UNLEASHED TO COMPLETION AND DO NOT WANT TO KNOW THE END, STOP READING HERE.
My pitch for a side story film would be called Star Wars: The Apprentice or just The Apprentice. “The Force Unleashed” sounds, to me, too forthcoming. I would want something that people could question in the title and present titillation. Anyways, although Disney, with their kid-friendly attitude, would never go for an “R-rated” Star Wars flick, I would push it towards that rating, but would settle for a “PG-13” if they would let me push the envelope a bit.
We would follow Galen Marek, “Starkiller”, from child, to trainee, to full-fledged Jedi BOSS who took out enemies with the flick of his wrist. The movie would begin without the famed Star Wars text crawl and there would be no explosively amazing John Williams theme. Instead, in silence and over black, studio stamps would fade in and out, the Star Wars name would fade in colored white instead of yellow and then fade out.
Cut to intense battles on Kashyyk. Clones are annihilating Wookies and taking some prisoners to enslave and build the new Death Star. In the midst of mid-air battles and laser fire, we see a Lambda – class shuttle land on the beach while Clone Troopers continued ground assaults. The wings would fold up, the ramp of the ship would open and out would come Vader, as the “Imperial Theme” would roar in the background. Vader would exit the ship and onto the sand, totally ignoring the battle. A Clone Commander would come up to him and tell him the situation.
“Lord Vader. The rogue Jedi is protecting something. We can’t get passed him. He’s too dangerous.”
(or something like that)…
Vader would walk through the battleground as troopers would sacrifice themselves protecting their leader. We would see the dark figure traversing the elaborate tree huts and wooded cities of the Wookie landscape until he came upon a small hut out of the way from the main battle and guarded by troops.
A Jedi possessing a green lightsaber slashes his way through trooper after trooper, protecting something located in or around a pile of rubble behind him, but he freezes when the Dark Lord of the Sith slowly steps in. From there, Vader powers his lightsaber and without a second thought, cuts down the Jedi only to find that a young boy, hiding behind the rubble, witnessed the whole thing. As in the game, the boy takes his father’s green lightsaber and holds it up to Vader in defense. Now, instead of slashing the boy, Vader powers down his blade and reaches out his hand. This was the son that he may have always wanted.
Fade to black. Slow fade in of the title card: “The Apprentice”.
From there, we explore Starkiller’s rise and fall as Vader’s secret apprentice complete with the baddest lightsaber duels and the most intricate use of Force abilities ever captured on screen. The film would be dark and would please the fans of an older Star Wars generation because they’re still around and this is the dark take on the franchise that they’ve always wanted.
What I would want the movie to focus on would be the troubled relationship between Vader and the Apprentice. Sure, I would love to see extravagant action set pieces and CG imagery flying all over the screen, but I wouldn’t want the writers or directors to forget what would ground this story in a real world even though it is in the Star Wars Universe.
Speaking of writers and directors, who would take on this feat of penning and leading The Apprentice. Lets start with the writing candidates first:
Even though Lawrence Kasdan is co-penning the new Star Wars film, I would like for him to be at least a consultant on this project. The beautiful thing about The Empire Strikes Back was how every character was personable and rooted within the script like they were real people and I think that’s one of the main things that The Apprentice would need in order to make the surrogate father thing work with Vader and Starkiller.
Now I’m going to go a little bit under the radar here and nominate a little writer named Alex Garland. Who in all of God’s green Earth is this fellow? Oh, no one important. Only the writer of films such as 28 Days Later, Sunshine and Never Let Me Go. Who also wrote the 2012 “reboot” of Dredd which I enjoyed. This guy’s skills can bring a fresh take on the franchise and give a feel for Star Wars like no one has ever felt before. He knows how to pace and slow down between action and drama. He would do well in separating the two in this flick.
Those are my picks for writers, but what about directors? Let’s cut to the chase:
Duncan Jones would be my top pick for this franchise and, hell, the guy could even write it or co-write it with any of the writers listed above. This guy wrote and directed an amazing film called Moon with Sam Rockwell and definitely has the chops to let his camera capture coherent action as well as deliver strong character development. Remember, we want to care about Starkiller, not just think all of his flips, lightsaber swings and force pushes are cool. Substance, people, substance.
My second director I would nominate would be Paul McGuigan. This guy has just the write amount of style and focus to give The Apprentice an edge that separates it from the glossy, clean look of a Star Wars film. McGuigan has recently been on the television front-lines attached to shows like Sherlock, Smash and Scandal, but he’s dabbled in films that I am a fan of even if other critics are not like Push, Wicker Park and The Reckoning. His style would definitely be a break from form and that’s what this particular picture would need in order to make a statement.
Finally, my last director for submission would be Alfonso Cuaron who directed one of my favorite sci-fi dramas, Children of Men. We’re talking about a guy who single-handidly saved the Harry Potter film franchise with his take on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Not only does this man’s raw techniques fit within my personal vision of The Apprentice, but his writing would suffice as well. He’s like the full package and would be my top nominee for writing and directing. If you have not been educated on Mr. Cuaron, please, go and watch Children of Men. Your life depends on it.
Now, as you know, there’s a cast that comes along with a game like this. Here are the main players: Starkiller, Juno Eclipse, Vader, The Emperor, Proxy, General Rahm Kota, Maris Brood, Shaak Ti, Leia and Bail Organa.
First, while I would definitely go with Sam Witwer as the guy to play Starkiller (after all, that’s who the character was modeled after and voiced by in the game), I would suggest a different route. Ever heard of a guy named Wentworth Miller? No? Well, look him up and see how he looked during his run as Michael Scofield in the Fox show Prison Break and he’s also Chris Redfield in the joke Resident Evil films. He’s definitely got the build and his acting chops are acceptable but with the right director, I’m sure more could be pulled out of him.
For Juno Eclipse, Starkiller’s love interest, I’m looking for a woman who can give off an air of strength because of her Imperial background and someone who can really dive into the action scenes. The recently released Star Trek Into Darkness terribly under-used the new feminine presence in Alice Eve and I think that she would fit quite nicely into this world and give her more of a substantial part. Also, while she’s been under the radar, I would get on board with Kate Bosworth. Now she doesn’t have the most impressive track record on the face of the planet, but again, with the right director, I’m sure she could hold her own.
It would be no small feat to get James Earl Jones back as Darth Vader’s voice and Ian McDiarmid back as Emperor Palpatine. I would bank on them first and hope we wouldn’t have to result to a plan B. Voice Actor Matt Sloan didn’t do a terrible job as the voice of Vader in the games, but it just isn’t right without Jones. Those two would be a pivotal part in the casting.
Another major player in this story would be General Rahm Kota who plays as a father figure to Starkiller but on the light side as opposed to Vader’s dark side. He’s a hardened Jedi with sort of a Samurai inspiration in his fighting style and teachings. My perfect casting for him would be British heavy-hitter, Mark Strong who I’ve seen enough work from to definitely fit in this role. Strong has the physical capability to handle the action while maintaining a close connection with character. He’s definitely an amazing actor and I’ve always loved watching him on screen.
Minor characters like Shaak Ti, Maris Brood, Leia (she’s minor in the game) and Bail Organa would have to bea mix of familiar faces and new ones. Bail would obviously be played by Jimmy Smits who played the character in Revenge of the Sith. Shaak Ti was played by, I believe, a stunt woman in the third prequel film so since she has a little more screen time in the game (provided she’s not cut from the script) I would nominate Olga Kurylenko. Shaak Ti is a majestic Jedi who’s tall and very disciplined and I could see the model turned actress pulling off the heavy makeup and giving substance to the role. The character of Maris Brood, a Jedi on the verge of the dark side as wellas Shaak Ti’s apprentice, plays a bit of a bigger part in the game as she relates to Starkiller with struggles on which side they actually belong to. Again, we’re looking for a physical actress who can also handle heavy dramatic moments so my nominee would be an up and comer named Adelaide Clemens. She was the main screamer in the forgotten sequel Silent Hill: Revelations, but she also played a very small part in the recent Great Gatsby adaptation and that’s where I think you can see here playing a character like Maris Brood. Finally, Leia, who’s merely a youngster in the game, could be played by either actress: Hailee Steinfeld or Kiernan Shipka. Both are capable, however, this all depends on what age they’re going to try to make Leia look in the film.Steinfeld looks older while Shipka (from Mad Men fame) looks a little more like a little girl. I’m just not sure what type of role that Leia would play within the script, but either wouldwork.
Last but certainly not least, I would nominate Paul Bettany as Proxy because his voice is awesome and it works for Jarvis in the Iron Man films.
Well, this article has certainly gone on long enough. You know my dream cast for the film, who I want as the writers and directors and everything in between. This film would definitely play to the older crowd, but I would want to alienate everyone from the Star Wars Universe. I personally believe that exploring this heavy territory could give a new substance to Star Wars that many people rarely think about giving a chance, but the odds of a film like this ever happening are slip to none so I’m not going to get my hopes up.