News item: Disney has hired Rian Johnson, the director of "The Last Jedi," the eighth episode of the "Star Wars" films, to write and direct an all-new trilogy of "Star Wars" movies with new characters set in a different galaxy.

Memo to: Rian Johnson.

From: Mike McInally.

Regarding: Your new "Star Wars" movies.

First, Rian — and I hope I can call you Rian — congratulations! It's obvious that you have the Force (and, by the Force, of course, I mean Disney accountants) with you to get the green light to create a new trilogy of "Star Wars" flicks. And I know that, while you have said that you're having a blast working inside the "Star Wars" universe (and you appear to be, to your credit, the only director working on one of the new "Star Wars" movies to not get sacked), it must be a lot of pressure to try to create an entirely new trilogy.

That's why I thought I could be of assistance. Feel free to take any of the ideas outlined in this memo for your use, as you see fit. There's no need to pay me for any of these — have those Disney accountants put their checkbooks away! — but I wouldn't mind being listed as an assistant producer in the end credits. As I noted before in another column, no one really knows what those people do anyway.

As I started work on this column, I couldn't help but recall the opening crawl to Episode I, "The Phantom Menace." You know the one: "Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute."

During the screening I was at, I remember the audience members around me groaning, saying things like "This movie is about taxation?" But I was excited! I thought to myself: "At last, a movie that will explain how the Empire raises all that money to build all those new Death Stars!"

So, as you might imagine, I was disappointed that "The Phantom Menace" did not appear to be about taxation. In fact, I still am not sure what exactly the movie was about. If you find the time to reply to this note, Rian, I would be grateful if you could explain the precise identify of "The Phantom Menace." Was it ... taxation? I can only hope.

In any event, surely you have noticed by now that the "Star Wars" movies (at least the ones with storylines that can be followed) have only one basic plot: The evil Empire or First Order or what have you somehow manages to build itself a massive weapon. Sometimes it's a Death Star. Sometimes it's an even bigger Death Star. Sometimes it's called Starkiller Base. You get the idea: It's a big damn thing that, in the words of the opening crawl to Episode VI, "Return of the Jedi," "will spell certain doom for the small band of rebels struggling to restore freedom to the galaxy."

I see no reason why you should stray from this basic plot, which has worked extremely well, not just for the "Star Wars" franchise but also for every James Bond movie. But it's time for a "Star Wars" movie to answer two important questions: First, how does the Empire or whatever find the dough to keep building these massive weapons? And second, even though the Empire presumably has at its disposal the finest engineers in the galaxy, how is it that they always leave behind one fatal design flaw that the rebels can use to destroy the weapon? I swear, it's kind of like that Highway 20 reconstruction project west of Corvallis, but in a different way.

In any event, I would start your "Episode I" ("Episode X?") with the bond-measure campaign the empire launches to raise money to build its new Death Star. Which sinister Sith lord will lead the political action committee that puts yard signs on every planet from Naboo to Alderaan? Oh, wait — Alderaan no longer is available for yard-sign placement. Who will lead what the Episode I crawl termed the "endless debate" in the Congress of the Republic to set the precise tax rate? How much of the money raised will go to cover the unfunded liability in the pension fund for retired imperial troopers? And is it true about Jar Jar Binks and those sex harassment charges? You know, I always suspected something, but I never wanted to pursue it. 

And if any of these ideas, Rian, seem to reflect on recent events in the mid-valley of Oregon, where I live, I can only say this: All of these occurrences, of course, could only occur "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away."

Mike McInally is editor of the Democrat-Herald and the Gazette-Times. Disney accountants (or, for that matter, Disney lawyers) can contact him at mike.mcinally@lee.net.

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