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Star Wars – Why It Will Never Be Great Again

 

There was a time, a long time ago, if you said Star Wars everyone knew you were talking about Episode IV or A New Hope. But a lot of time has passed and the original trilogy has firmly taken its place at the middle of what is to be a nine-episode saga.  George Lucas, with a fraternity of talented filmmakers, has bequeathed us a sci-fi institution. Star Wars has become a popular culture juggernaut that rejuvenated Hollywood, inspired countless movie careers and arguably is the most influential movie in history. May 2017 marked the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, but now Disney is at the helm.  Although “always in motion, is the future,” we can assume “it’s not over yet.”

15. Darth Cynic

Star Wars Why It Will Never Be Great Again Hayden Christensen

The middle of the 1970’s was not considered to be much fun at the time.  There was the Cold War, gasoline lines and stagflation. Hollywood was making depressing character driven stories, often with unappealing antiheroes. Star Wars hit at a time when cynicism was on the rise and this amazing fantasy was a counter to the prevailing cultural trends. 40 years later the culture isn’t trending toward cynicism, it’s gleefully embraced it.  Star Wars cannot have the same impact today because its lack of ironic self-awareness means it doesn’t have the political edginess today’s critics and many fans expect.

14. Anger Leads to Hate

The fanboy culture of the last 20 years has been fueled by the internet and social media.  These fans tweet, blog and otherwise make their feelings known about the smallest detail of their chosen obsession.  Today’s Star Wars fans can be a demanding bunch. Most fans in the 1970’s and 1980’s were thrilled and grateful for the original trilogy released between 1977-1983.  However, they were not able to register their joy or their disgust in real time. After the drubbing Lucas took from some fans over the prequel trilogy, one gets the sense Disney is self-consciously trying to deliver what the demanding fanboy base seems to want.

13. Nostalgia Clouds Everything

The original trilogy wasn’t perfect and the prequel trilogy wasn’t horrible.  A dispassionate examination of these six films should lead one to the conclusion they are much closer in quality than many people are willing to admit.  It’s easy to empathize with fans who are emotionally attached to the original trilogy; for many it was a formative experience in their childhood.  We don’t like our childhood messed with, or at least the way we remember our childhood.  Star Wars represents a cherished piece of childhood for many who continue to be fans as adults and yearn to recapture the way it made them feel a long time ago.

12. I Have a Bad Feeling About This

The mouse is in charge now and love him or hate him he knows how to keep audiences coming back for more.  Since Disney took over, it officially set aside the expanded universe content and set about rebooting the Star Wars universe with new rounds of cartoons, games, books, comics, toys and of course the movies.  These different platforms have been carefully crafted to mesh and overlap into a unified storyline.  Fans can’t just watch the movies anymore – there is an ever growing Star Wars curriculum to master.  How many Star Wars movies will Disney make? It has released two so far and three are in various stages of production.  Many fans complained that Lucas failed to make six good movies so what about when Disney has released 10 movies and 30 novels?

11. Pick a Color

Everyone seems to love BB-8.  He’s a smaller, cuter orange version of R2-D2.  No problem right? Not if you don’t care about being repetitive and derivative.  Many fans pan the prequel trilogy, but at least Lucas tried to be imaginative and fresh – no little R2 rip-offs.  Instead we saw R2 introduced to C-3PO, which was a pretty cool Star Wars moment. Besides, the more BB-8 is in the new trilogy, the less R2 and 3PO will be featured.  This would be a shame because this pair of droids was meant to be the common thread throughout the saga as other characters came and went.

10. I Guess You Don’t Know Everything About Women Yet

Princes Leia captive of Darth Vader

Princess Leia Organa was a completely realized woman.  She was a princess, rebel, sister, daughter, lover and a general. She did all these things with guts, humor and style – even when the vile gangster Jabba the Hutt forced her to wear the infamous metal bikini. She didn’t wilt under the humiliation, she strangled her captor to death. Jynn Erso and Rey, the two prominent female characters of the recent movies, seem a little lacking.  Their characters come off essentially as males with females cast in the roles.  There is room for Rey to grow as a character, but so far the writers and directors seem more interested in making her an action hero than in making her a complete woman.

9. The Heroes Long Goodbye

The new Star Wars trilogy could be called “How to kill off your heroes in three movies or less.”  Han Solo was killed off in Episode VII, Carrie Fisher is no longer with us so general Leia will pass on in VII or IX.  The biggest question is which episode will see Luke Skywalker become one with the Force.  As the “Obiwan” character of the new trilogy, it could happen sooner rather than later – leaving Rey to continue her journey alone.  These developments may be good for the saga, but it might be difficult to wholeheartedly embrace movies that kill off some of the most beloved characters in Hollywood history.

8. Prequel Envy

Expectations for The Phantom Menace were unbelievably high when Lucas launched Episode I of his prequel trilogy in 1999.  Most fans did not walk out of those screenings disgruntled and complaining, many of them got back in line to watch it again.  But somewhere along the way Episodes I, II and III experienced a backlash from fans that they haven’t recovered from.  The complaints focus on two things. The first is the general lameness of Jar Jar Binks and although there’s not much of an argument against this, at least Lucas was willing to acknowledge fans’ disappointment with him and put clueless Jar Jar at pivot point in Star Wars lore. The second major complaint is the perceived shortcomings of both Anakin Skywalker and Hayden Christensen, the actor who played him in II and III. The more time that passes, the more these complaints should fade and be replaced with appreciation for an epic trilogy. 

7. Darth Solo

You could almost picture Luke saying to Ben Solo/Kylo Ren “I knew Darth Vader and you’re no Darth Vader.” Kylo Ren is the archetypal villain of the new trilogy introduced in Episode VII – The Force Awakens. Or at least he’s supposed to be, but he has a big mask to fill as his grandfather is Anakin/Darth Vader.  J.J. Abrams and Disney seemed to understand that they couldn’t outdo Vader so introduced a character who wants to be Vader.  Having a complicated family history is a part of the Star Wars saga, but it remains to be seen how Kylo Ren can ever be anything other than a weak reflection of the Dark Lord of the Sith.

6. Snoke What?

Supreme Leader Snoke, mysterious ruler of the First Order, has a problem much like his apprentice Kylo Ren.  He’s forced to follow in the footsteps of Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious, one of the iconic villains in movie history. Compared to  the emperor, Darth Vader and Darth Tyranus, Snoke is a pretty mediocre character.  This could spell trouble for the new trilogy because every great franchise needs at least one great villain.  His curious facial scarring is reminiscent of Anakin’s wounds and spawned a number of fan theories online. But other than this, Snoke is off to a disappointing start.

5. Heirs to the Empire

The studio has hired a succession of talented directors including JJ Abrams, Gareth Edwards, Colin Trevorrow and Rian Johnson. The Force Awakens and Rogue One were both big money makers and were well-received by fans. However, J.J. Abrams, a life-long Star Wars fan, arguably paid homage to the original Star Wars complete with a young hero on a desert planet, a droid carrying vital information pursued by villain in flowing black obsessed with retrieving said vital information, a bar scene filled with alien creatures, an aging mentor being killed by villain in flowing black and a climatic X-Wing – Tie Fighter battle over a giant planet killing space station. The Force Awakens is a well-made movie but can’t the new trilogy, which was made and set 30 years after Return of the Jedi, be a little more original?

4. Fearless and Inventive?

Some movie critics and industry watchers have argued that by mastering the big budget summer event movie, Star Wars largely killed off Hollywood’s more artistic impulses.  The late movie critic Roger Ebert once observed that since Star Wars was released in 1977 Hollywood has been obsessed with recreating that success. The movie franchises, such as Star Trek, Terminator, Transformers, lord of the Rings, Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy make it hard to quarrel with Ebert’s take.  The thrilling experience of seeing a movie like Star Wars has been repackaged so many times, and in many cases badly, that audiences have become desensitized. Has the success of Star Wars killed the power movies had to capture the imagination of a new generation?

3. Attack of the Mouse

Disney/Lucasfilm has wholeheartedly embraced the notion that content is king. Not that Lucasfilm under George Lucas was shy about advancing Star Wars as a commercial property: there was the expanded universe of books and comics and of course the toy/collectables juggernaut. Lucas’s sale of Lucasfilm in 2012 for $4 billion to Disney surprised a lot of people, but its not surprising the behemoth would want to get its hands on one of the biggest money-making machines in entertainment history.  The Mouse did not buy it out of nostalgia; it intends to make more money than you can imagine. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to make money, we have to acknowledge this is the reason Star Wars is back.

2. The Problem With Vader

Darth Vader is the Sith name given to fallen Jedi Anakin Skywalker, who it was said was the Chosen One and would restore balance to the Force and vanquish the Sith. None of this backstory was known to fans when Vader stepped onto the deck of the rebel ship with his black armor and ominous mechanical breathing.  A movie legend was born and a generation of fans would forever equate movie villains with the dark lord of the Sith. Only after all but destroying the Jedi Order and menacing the galaxy for 20 years did his son convince him to fulfill his destiny.  A highlight of the prequel trilogy was a crippled Anakin wearing the suit.  A highlight of The Force Awakens was Vader’s twisted helmet kept by Kylo Ren. A highlight of Rogue One was Vader’s rampage through a squad of rebel soldiers like they’re paper dolls as Princess Leia flees with the stolen data tapes.  The problem is he died in Return of the Jedi so how many times can Disney go back to the lava pit?

1. Thank the Maker

The new Lucasfilm is living off the accomplishments of the two previous trilogies, but this cant’t last forever. Let’s be clear: George Lucas made those trilogies because he believed it was his destiny to get his vision onto the big screen. With a shoestring budget and a torturous production, Star Wars became a groundbreaking phenomenon in 1977. Disney has all the talent and money anyone could ever throw at a movie studio and what are the results so far? We’ve enjoyed two good movies that have done very well at the box office. However, The Force Awakens is nearly a fan’s homage to A New Hope, and Rogue One is the product of a throw away line from the opening crawl of A New Hope. The new creative team is not Lucas and the more time passes the more the lack of vision will become evident.

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