I don’t like starting internet fights (any more), but every so often, I do like to engage in a bit of contrarianism, just to keep the waters muddied. So this morning, I read Ferrett Steinmetz’s blog post about active old folks and the upcoming Star Wars movie, and didn’t so much decide to disagree as just sort of found it happening. Now, overall, I like his point: I too kind of have a hate on for the trope of dragging old heroes out of retirement for One Last Adventure. I’d rather they, like Pratchett’s Cohen the Barbarian, keep adventuring right up to the very end. (And as an aside, I don’t personally care much for the stories that revolve around the “I’m too old for this shit” trope. I get it, we’re all getting older, it’s nice to relate to in that way. But can I have some more adventures before we get to that?)
Anyway, I found myself disagreeing in two parts. In one case, despite having a hate on for the “out of retirement” trope (Is that on TV Tropes? I dare not go look…) I disagree because it makes sense from a meta-storytelling perspective. Especially, let’s say, in the Star Trek reboot, which Ferrett references. It is actually shown that Spock is off doing stuff and has been all this time. (He’s got his own little ship! Red matter!) But it’s also useful to at least imply he’s being pulled out of retirement because, for the audience, that’s true. There haven’t been ongoing adventures (for the most part, tie-in novels aside) for Spock or the rest of the crew. They are effectively retired, so it creates some resonance when the character is brought back to us if the character is being brought out of cold storage within the universe.
I was all set to say just that when I got to the end of the post and Ferrett mentioned the announced, canonical tie-in novels, and how he was sure those wouldn’t figure in. On the whole, I’m sure he’s right. They won’t even have time to reference much in them, if anything at all, and still serve the main story. Yes, having them reference stuff can add some depth and resonance. When used as it was in the first movie, reminiscing about the lost, it worked well.
When it was used in the prequels, however… well, there it went horribly wrong as Mike Stoklasa pointed out in his Mr. Plinkett reviews. There it was used simply to stand in for character development of Obi-Wan and Anakin and fell utterly flat. Now, we probably won’t need much character development for Han, Luke, & Leia… but then again, we will need a little something to show how they’ve grown and changed over the intervening years. And there are lots of ways they can do that, just as there’s lots of ways to show that they’ve been out adventuring, rather than just lounging around in idle retirement. Just showing the Millennium Falcon, for starters, goes a long way toward this. Do you think that thing was just sitting in the garage for the last 30 years? Pffft.