I tend to think in terms of movies when I write, so if you ask me, The Empire Strikes Back [Star Wars Episode V] probably ranks as my all-time favorite sequel.
A lot of character development got packed into that movie and it contains some of the…
Oh, wait. For those of you who haven’t seen the original Star Wars trilogy since it was completed in 1983….
Anyway for the rest of us…
A lot of character development got packed into that movie and it contains some of the most well-known scenes in the Star Wars mythos. Luke finds out his father isn’t dead; he’s just the galaxy’s most feared villain… the one that has just used his friends as bait in a trap and cut off his hand. Not exactly Dad of the Year. We meet Yoda for the first time [if you’re older] or in a puppet reprise of his ‘earlier” CGI role [if you were young enough to view the episodes in order]. We also see the love story of a princess`and a scoundrel come to a tragic end. For a sci-fi fan, the most romantic words in film history are “I know.” [If you didn’t get this, go watch the movie again.] While Empire nearly founders in the Sargasso Sea of character development [there is a giveaway scene on Dagobah where Luke cuts the head off a fake version of Vader and ends up staring at his own face that was just overkill], it proves very effective as I’ll demonstrate in a bit.
Empire ends on a major cliffhanger because it was written as a stepping stone to Episode 6. This is pretty much unavoidable if you’re writing a trilogy. The cliffhanger is a hook to the next book, which would be unnecessary if everything were resolved. I definitely prefer a cliffhanger to a formula sequel, where the plot is pretty much a re-hash of the first movie or book.
Anyone who’s read Johnny Came Home knows that it set up the probability of another book, but didn’t necessarily end on a cliffhanger. Neither did Star Wars Episode 4. A New Hope ends with the Death Star destroyed and the Rebels having an awards ceremony. On the other hand, Vader got away and the Empire still owned most of galaxy far, far away, so there was definitely room for a sequel.
A New Hope was an action-adventure saga. Empire pushed its characters by putting them in the worst possible situations. Each of them comes out the other side changed.
Return of the Jedi finds Han re-evaluating what’s important to him. He finds himself embracing relationships and causes rather than displaying his previous self-interest.
He even takes an official leadership role. In the aftermath of Empire, Luke walks into Jabba’s palace with a cooler head and more confidence in his abilities.
And of course Vader finds out that his son’s belief that there is still good in his father isn’t misplaced. Empire had changed him too. Our favorite villain became our favorite anti-hero the moment Luke threw himself from the maintenance catwalk in Cloud City, even though none of us (including Vader) realized it until Vader chose to kill the Emperor to save his son in Return of the Jedi.
So what does this bit of analysis mean for a Johnny Came Home sequel? Let’s just say it won’t be pretty. Nor will it be what you necessarily expect.
In the meantime, I intend to release a 3rd edition of Johnny Came Home with a new cover and a few surprises.
Until we reach The Last Door,