Meaningful parts for classic stars. Sure, it’s awesome that Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher are returning to their iconic roles of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia, respectively, but just showing up isn’t going to be enough. The Force Awakens could easily coast on nostalgia, but it will be a better movie if it brings these beloved characters forward in a significant way.
A truly menacing villain. Darth Vader is one of the greatest villains in the history of cinema, and George Lucas’ prequels completely failed to match him. Previews for The Force Awakens only hint at the movie’s bad guys, but they’re going to need to seriously outshine forgettable characters like Count Dooku and General Grievous in order to bring real stakes to the story.
A rediscovered sense of wonder. No jaded fan can re-create the experience of seeing Star Wars for the first time, but director J.J. Abrams’ goal should be to bring back some of that sense of awe and discovery. Star Wars might be a multibillion-dollar industry for a huge corporate behemoth, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be a genuine work of art and feat of storytelling that makes fans gasp and cheer.
Special effects that blend technology with substance. Lucas was so enamored of CGI effects that his Star Wars prequels often felt like they were taking place in a sterile vacuum. Obviously no modern blockbuster will eschew CGI entirely, but Abrams has promised a return to more tactile effects, and the movie’s world will be more immersive if he sticks to that.
A complete story. These days, everything is a cinematic universe with an ongoing story: superhero movies, adaptations of book series, even remakes of classics. Disney is committed to a slew of Star Wars movies, but each one will be more enjoyable if it tells a full story on its own, leaving audiences satisfied rather than frustrated, while still eager for what comes next.