Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Yoda Star Wars Movie (5 Reasons Not to Make It)

(Author's Note: This was a sample pitch that served as my audition for a website. Put on the blog since it took the better part of an afternoon.)

Everyone loves Yoda - but I don't care if Lawrence Kasdan writes it and Irvin Kershner's zombie directs it, a Yoda movie just won't work. And other Star Wars characters are more deserving of their own film - Boba Fett, Mace Windu, Nien Nunb...

A Yoda film can only lead to disappointment. It would work just about as well as an Ewok movie. At least the latter's a prospect so frightening that no one - not even Disney - would ever dare make a...

Oh yeah. Crap. They already made some Ewok movies ... I was able to block that out for a while.

Here's a few reasons why Yoda should stay on the bench, along with a few dark scenarios of where this movie might go.

5) He's Too Much of a Badass

Forget about Vader and Boba Fett, Yoda is the baddest mother in the galaxy. How bad? Samuel L. Jackson looked up to him.

In fact, Yoda's too badass to carry his own movie. Unless Disney goes for a Top Gun-esque prequel ("My wingman, you can be..."), where a young Yoda goes through his Jedi training, I can't imagine a story that would actually challenge the character. In the unlikely event that Disney goes the Top Gun route, two things should happen: 1) I get my cut of the rights for saying it here first, and 2) I vote for Val Kilmer to play the Val Kilmer character.
Since Return of the Jedi, every writer who's taken on Star Wars has had to play fast and loose with the Jedi's abilities. They're just too powerful - and Yoda's the most formidable of them all. As the prequels established, there's little Yoda can't do ... except being tall enough for roller coasters. Yoda wasn't even defeated by Count Dooku or the Emperor. His worst enemy in the prequels was poorly developed plot devices.

Another poorly developed - but interesting - beat in the prequels was that Yoda represented the old guard... past his prime, stuck in ways. His inability to adapt to the times helped the Emperor rise to power. That's actually a pretty solid basis for a movie - but Disney isn't going to make a dark political thriller about Yoda's hubris.

4) Attack of the Mickey Mouse Club Clones

There's a surprisingly charming scene in Attack Of The Clones where Obi-Wan interrupts Yoda while he's teaching the Jedi equivalent of kindergarten. Yoda teaching little kids is a pretty cute notion ... possibly a little too cute for Disney to pass up.

Imagine a family action-comedy starring Yoda and the latest brood of Mickey Mouse Clubbers. Sure, a version of Lone Wolf And The Cub starring Yoda sounds cool, but would it survive the Disney treatment? Would it play more like Honey, I Shrunk The Jedi than a Akira Kurosawa film?

Even without the kids, it's a little too easy to go cute with Yoda. Disney's done right by Marvel and Pixar - but they're still going to want to move tons of Yoda merchandise. Would the grumpy old badass from Empire fit that bill?

3) CGI Yoda

Ah ... CGI. One of the great nerd debates of our time.

Practical models and creatures effects aren't necessarily better than their computer-generated counterparts. But Yoda works better as a puppet. Having Yoda on the set, literally sharing the scene with Mark Hamill, grounds his scenes in Empire and Jedi. It feels like there were just two actors on the set, with Yoda bitching between takes that the catering table was out of pumpernickel bagels again. ("In two minutes, a Coke Zero I not have in my hands, fired you shall be."). There's an immediacy to Yoda's scenes in those movies - an immediacy missing from Star Wars since The Phantom Menace.

Yoda loses something in the translation to computer animation, but it's better than going back and forth between a puppet and an animated character.

2) Two Hours of Backward Speak, There Would Be

Fans of my generation, who were just old enough to see Jedi in theaters, have a long history with Yoda. We imitated him as kids on the playground. In college, we got high and made each other laugh by taking movie quotes from other films and saying them as Yoda ("Only two things from Texas comes..."). Once the internet became available, we spammed the world with more Yoda jokes which were nowhere near as clever as we imagined (hey, just like the ones in this blog!).

Two hours of Yoda speak is a bit much. Also, there's a danger that the writers will try to get a little too clever with his dialog. Also, isn't Frank Oz retired? He wasn't even in the last Muppet movie. Frank Oz is the soul of that character, and movie starring Yoda wouldn't work without him.

1) He's a Supporting Character. Plain and Simple.

Few things make a movie memorable like a great supporting character. As great as these characters are, few of them deserve their own film. Take a few supporting characters from history's great films. Does Claude Rain's character from Casablanca deserve his own film? Paulie from The Godfather? Red from The Shawshank Redemption? Ruby Rhod from The Fifth Element? None of them work - not even Yoda.

Yoda works because he's mysterious. He's the guy with all the secrets. A mentor. Sometimes, he's the cavalry that shows up at the last second. If Yoda became the hero of his own story, most of that goes away, and there's not much left except for the monkey ninja stuff. We all want more Yoda ... but sometimes wanting more is a good thing. It's better than overkill, or even worse, giving fans answers to questions they really don't want answered.

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