Commit to telling a story of a hero’s journey/destiny in the face of darkness/evil over the course of three films
If you have to boil down “Star Wars” to its essence, you’ve got the statement above. What made this series work was not as much its inventive universe and “cool sci fi” factor as its story, a tried and true good vs. evil tale of a young hero thrust into greatness who must overthrow an evil empire. The prequel trilogy didn’t work as well because at its core, it was about the rise of evil and corruption, about setting/leading up to the original trilogy and explaining how something came to be rather than standing on its own.
The success of “Avatar” can be dissected the same way. We all know how familiar that story was — nothing new there. As a rule pretty much, the universally beloved sci-fi films build an imaginative and unpredictable context around an otherwise predictable story.
Create a completely new hero and set of core characters and make sure they are the primary focus of the plot for 60-75 percent of the trilogy.
A lot of rumors have been fluttering about as to whether the new trilogy will follow Luke, Leia, Han and the gang. My thoughts on this? For the love of the Rebel Alliance, no.
When it comes to long-delayed sequels and reboots, the further that you can separate yourself from comparisons to the past, the better off your film is. Having the same characters involved in this new trilogy would mean that audiences are going to bring all of their emotions/feelings toward those characters and a very specific set of expectations into the theater. You’ve basically set yourself up for failure.
Cameos or slightly more involved roles later in the new trilogy from Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher would suffice, but following them in any significant way in the new movies would be a big mistake. Have you seen what Hamill and Fisher look like now? Go with new fresh faces like all three of these names were once upon a time before 1977.
As long as fans believe these new characters exist in the “Star Wars” universe, they’ll embrace them. And to address my first point, you can’t have a hero’s journey story/embracing of destiny if you’re following characters that have already experienced that journey once before.
The last piece of this should be to keep the focus on these characters. As we get into Episodes VIII and IX, the story and number of characters can open up, but we don’t want to find ourselves following too many disparate plots at once too early in the series.