The Force Awakens Best Star Wars? 4 Keys for the New Movie

4 things that The Force Awakens must get right.

The Force Awakens best Star Wars

More of this guy, please.

The Force Awakens the best Star Wars movie? It certainly seems possible just a few weeks ahead of release. Sweet Jesus, the final trailer makes it look amazing. Kylo Ren looks just as fearsome and impressive as Darth Vader ever did. Han, Leia and Chewbacca are back and all look exactly how you expected. And there’s nary a Jar Jar or Gungan in sight.

Disney looks to be on track to make the best Star Wars movie ever in its first crack at the franchise since purchasing Lucasfilm back in 2012. But of course, trailers can be deceiving. Remember how awesome The Phantom Menace trailer looked in 1999? Only a handful of deluded souls now say that was the best Star Wars movie. No one wants a repeat of the Episode I debacle, and it’s unlikely that The Force Awakens will be that bad, but here are four things that The Force Awakens absolutely must nail if it truly is going to be the best Star Wars movie of them all.

4. Kylo Ren Must Be A Modern Day Darth Vader

The Force Awakens best Star Wars

Seriously, we love this guy.

The latest trailer for The Force Awakens shows Kylo Ren staring at what’s left of Darth Vader’s helmet, vowing “Nothing will stand in our way. I will finish what you started.” Kylo Ren has been described as “obsessed” with Vader, and rumor has it that his quest for Vader’s lightsaber factors heavily into the plot of The Force Awakens. That’s good news for the direction the new trilogy is taking. What made Darth Vader a great villain is that he became more of a threat throughout the original trilogy. In the first film he killed Obi-Wan. In The Empire Strikes Back, he cut off Luke’s hand, and there was a serious question of whether Luke could ever defeat him as Return of the Jedi opened. In fact, if Vader hadn’t had a change of heart at the last minute, it’s very likely that Luke would have fallen to the combined power of Vader and the Emperor.

Now look at the villains in the prequel trilogy. None of them had enough screen time to be built up as real threats. Darth Maul’s tattooed, horned face and double-sided lightsaber were incredibly imposing (and hopefully we see more double-sided lightsabers in the new trilogy). He still might be the coolest looking villain in all of the Star Wars films. But he had all of three lines and was unceremoniously killed off at the end of The Phantom Menace. Count Dooku was a much better villain in Attack of the Clones; at least we learned about his back story and motivation. And it’s hard not to love any character played by the late Christopher Lee. He even survived the movie after an epic lightsaber battle with Yoda… only to die in the first 15 minutes of Episode III. The final film of the prequel trilogy introduced another antagonist, General Grievous, who didn’t even fit into the film’s climax, and somehow seemed less threatening than either Maul or Dooku despite wielding four lightsabers simultaneously.

You can argue that Emperor Palpatine was always meant to be the main villain who was built up throughout the prequel trilogy, and he was the guy calling the shots for Maul, Dooku and Grievous, but none of the film’s heroes even suspected Palpatine of anything nefarious until midway through Episode III. The Star Wars films have always been about action, not Machiavellian plotting. It’s nice to see Kylo Ren out in front as the bad guy who’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. Hopefully he doesn’t get sliced in half by a lucky lightsaber strike from a rookie user at the end of The Force Awakens, and sticks around through Episode IX.

3. The Right Story at the Right Time

The Force Awakens best Star Wars

Now this is bad storytelling.

From a narrative perspective, A New Hope started at the perfect moment, with Princess Leia hiding the plans for the Death Star in R2-D2 – the movie may have been about Luke and the other characters, but the plans were the narrative glue of the whole shebang. Empire picks up with the next major battle between the Rebels and and the Empire on Hoth, and sets the tone for a Rebellion running ragged across the galaxy, not yet ready to come into its own. Return of the Jedi begins with the rescue of Han Solo, which was the biggest lingering plotline in Empire and establishes that, while they’re still a little green, in the time between Empire and Jedi the heroes have grown far more capable.

Then came the prequels and a whole mess of bad storytelling. The biggest takeaway from The Phantom Menace is that Anakin Skywalker was upset that he had to leave his mother at a young age. That’s it. Vader misses his mommy. That could have been a couple throwaway lines in a good first movie in the prequel trilogy, not the entire focus of Episode I. From a storytelling standpoint, there’s no reason for this movie to exist. Then having Attack of the Clones pick up a decade later and having Anakin and Padme randomly fall in love despite a creepy age difference seems more like bad fan-fiction than the work of a master storyteller. And Revenge of the Sith skipped so much potentially fertile ground to showcase the evolution of Anakin’s characters as a battle-hardened war veteran that they had to fill in the gaps with a cartoon series. (Two, in fact.)

The Force Awakens picks up roughly 30 years after the end of Jedi. It does seem like the story is picking up at right point for the characters to be doing interesting things, but setting the new trilogy that far into the future could harm how the characters in the original trilogy are viewed. From Han’s comments to Rey in the trailer that “It’s all true…” it almost sounds as if the Rebels have been forgotten over the past three decades. Luke has apparently been in hiding since the Battle of Endor, but let’s hope that everyone else didn’t just find quiet backwaters to cool their heels for all that time. Giving so many great characters nothing to do for 30 years would be a real slap in the face to fans.