Let's Talk About... STAR WARS!
Is Everything a Hot Button Topic?
In an age where raunchy comedies starring Seth Rogan and James Franco, female casted reboots of Ghostbusters, and villainous comic book clowns getting origin movies stir up a fuss among the masses; it appears as though everything is a controversy nowadays in regards to film. As it turns out within the last few years, Star Wars has also somehow become a controversial topic in the world of modern cinema. How? Why? I’m not sure. Something about Midi-Chlorians being the one truth in all of Star Wars mythology, Jar Jar Binks isn’t racist anymore, and The Last Jedi supposedly ruined the franchise because… Sure. Why not! All jokes aside (sort of) it appears that with the latest installments of the Star Wars series, there’s been a great divide amongst the fanbase. Seemingly half proclaiming to love and adore all the new possibilities being presented by Disney while the other side loathes it and accuses the new entries of being betrayals for what stood before. Personally, I don’t particularly stand on either side of the argument. At least not concretely, I do see (to an extent) where both sides of the dispute are coming from. With this article, I’d like to take a closer look at what’s going on presently in the Star Wars universe and the people who love/hate it. Meaning that I want to see what the franchise is doing in terms of its content nowadays, how the audiences are reacting to it and why, what direction we seem to be going with its future, and if there’s precedence for such controversy.
When you think of Star Wars, what is the first thought or image that comes to mind?
Lightsabers and X-Wings.
— Mr. Theron
Probably the Revenge of the Sith cover.
— Mr. Dylan
The poster for Return of the Jedi with Luke and Vader back to back.
— Mr. Colton
To Move Forward, Understand the Past.
A quick rundown on my perspective of how I feel about all things Star Wars; I’m a big fan. I love the original trilogy with all my heart and grew up with them in their theatrical and their special edition iterations. The original three are iconic sci-fi fantasies that are full of fun adventures, creative world building, mind blowing special effects, and unforgettable stories filled with classic characters. Darth Vader remains one of cinema’s most recognizable villains, Luke Skywalker carries a terrific character arc from starting as a headstrong and rambunctious kid to a total badass Jedi Master, the twists and turns in story helped change the landscape of film ever since, and they are an epic blast from beginning to end. There is a reason why they have stood the test of time and will continue to do so long after I’m dead to say the least. Out of the original three, Empire Strikes Back is easily my favorite. Yes, I know that’s the obvious choice. I don’t care. Empire is awesome. Nanna nanna, boo boo!
With that said, I also grew up with the prequel trilogy. At the time of childhood I definitely enjoyed them, now in my “adulthood” there are elements that I can still appreciate. For instance; Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi was absolute perfect casting, some of the fight choreographies were well done and thoroughly crafted certainly, the appearances of Darth Maul and Count Dooku were promising villains, a handful of visually interesting worlds, and some of the special effects were excellent. However the counter to all those positives were an abundance of issues pertaining to groan inducing dialog, stilted acting, over reliance of some truly horrendous CGI (even by their respective time’s standards), extremely abhorrent wasted potential in storytelling, comedy that utterly broke the tone of each prequel, and absolutely nothing in the way of character development or even charisma for the majority of screen time presented. They were definitely ambitious, but they lacked the spark and clear focus that the original trilogy so effortlessly maintained.
This latest “sequel trilogy”; Force Awakens, Last Jedi, and Rise of Skywalker, I will admit that I enjoy them even though I have some rather glaring qualms with each installment. They’re relatively fun space adventures that are reminiscent with the spirit of the original trilogy, there are colorful characters that are very likable, and the special effects have made a vast improvement on going somewhat back to basics into practical effects as opposed to strictly digital seen in the prequels. Not to mention, the inclusion of Kylo Ren played by Adam Driver is one of the best and most fleshed out villains to be seen from the entire franchise since Darth Vader. Ren is terrific with through and through an engaging character arc that I was constantly wondering what they would do with him next. That being said, my biggest criticism on all three of these sequels are how unambitiously safe their stories are written. Speaking specifically in terms of narrative; Force Awakens is no more than a retread of A New Hope, Last Jedi is a combination of Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi in disguise, and Rise of Skywalker is admittedly the most original… Until the last act where it turns into Return of the Jedi… Again.
So, while the newest trilogy has its fun moments and potential for exciting avenues to explore, they are ultimately tamed down rehashes of the original trilogy. Leaving out much of that infectious spark that we all hold so dear with Star Wars as a whole. At least, that is my point of view on the matter. Although that doesn’t seem to be exactly what others think necessarily. We’ll get to that later. I figured for the time being that it’s important to get my perspective revealed as soon as possible so that anyone reading can understand roughly where I am coming from on the subject at hand here.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was okay, but overrated. And Solo: A Star Wars Story is a lot of fun and underrated. Take that, internet!
What do you love/hate about Star Wars as a whole?
Love: The awesome space battles! And who doesn’t like lightsaber battles?!
Hate: When Disney bought it. They ruined a good story with the last 3.
— Mr. Theron
Love: I just love the style of combat and uniqueness it brings to "guns vs swords".
Hate: Not much, if anything it's the creating of Jar Jar Binks.
— Mr. Dylan
Love: Each trilogy has been able to tailor the movies to fit the climate of the times. The O.T. has a very authoritative villain because that's the kind of bad guy you feared out of the cold war. The prequels showed a lot of corruption within governments, which became more apparent in the late 90s-early 00s. The new sequels have a villain that everyone's met. The angry guy, who almost everyone agrees should not be in charge, but his grandpa started the company & no one's willing to tell him
— Mr. Colton
A New & Hopeful World
From what I understand, George Lucas set out to write what was essentially an homage to the weekly sci-fi action serials akin to Flash Gordon; originally he was actually attempting to adapt a feature film of said property until it became apparent that Lucas would not be able to acquire the rights to the characters. Developing several scripts during the early 1970s until he finalized what would become 1977’s Star Wars, which was later retitled Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope on video. The end result was a blend of grand scaled idea science fiction, fantasies of noble knights and princesses amongst mysterious magic, old samurai tales, classic westerns, and a whole lot of optimism. There was nothing quite like Star Wars at the time, especially with so many contrasting genres incorporating some of the most innovative special effects ever displayed on the big screen, paving the way for what would eventually become the ideal example of what all a blockbuster would entail; a simple story with epic scenery and action that practically bursts through the screen.
Lucas himself even found it hard to believe that Star Wars would become so successful, as many artists who doubt their own work, George temporarily presumed the film to have not struck the right cord with audiences upon the initial test screenings. All of those worries were put to bed when the space opera debuted in theaters the following year to significant praise and acclaim. Not to mention over $500 million worldwide at the box office helped a bit. Why though? Why did this become such a giant hit with moviegoers at the time? When we think about all of the elements woven in, this sounds like it could wind up being an utter mess on film; it’s a knight in shining armor tale to save a damsel in distress and blow up a giant ball in outer space with a bunch of laser guns, wizards that wield swords made of light, and a giant bear that our protagonists can speak with. The basic premise of this world is relatively kooky. Somehow the movie managed to maintain focus on story and character while walking the line between reality and absurdity in its world building. Occasionally the writing of dialog is not what one would consider to be “master class” by any stretch, but because the characters are so charismatic and the action is absolutely thrilling inside this excitingly new cinematic experience that it’s difficult not to be roped into everything going on.
Famous Chicago Sun-times film critic, Roger Ebert, awarded the first Star Wars feature with four out of four stars in his review; stating that the strength of Star Wars was the purity of its journey told and I tend to agree. We as the audience are on this journey with the heroes just as much as Luke, Han, and the rest of the gang are. A specific scene that Ebert points out is the cantina sequence taking place on Tatooine, striking him as “quietly sophisticated storytelling.” At first glance of the scene, one might not think much of it. It’s basically an alien bar, alrighty then. What’s all the fuss about? For me, the scene represents everything the franchise would ultimately symbolize: A collection of wildly imaginative visuals that are grounded in a reality we can connect with yet is completely of its own world and radically unpredictable all at once. That, to me, is brilliance all packed within a mere few minutes of screen time and keeps making a huge impact over forty years later.
The Cantina Scene
So, with all this high praise and surprising financial success. Where does one go from there? By making Empire Strikes Back of course! Known by cinephiles as not only one of the best sequels of all-time, but even one of the best films of all time. Period. Which its origins are somewhat humorous when it’s revealed that George Lucas planned the first Star Wars sequel to be nothing more than a low-budget adaptation of a proposed novelized sequel to his movie, then when it turned out Star Wars was such a major hit that small minded indie pictures was chucked right out the window! Although with this second outing, Lucas opted for someone else to take his place in the director’s chair as he had obtained the role of producer and preferred to oversee the special effects department of the picture instead. Another funny little fact about this is that when George Lucas had offered the position of director to his old film instructor, Irvin Kershner, Kershner actually originally declined in the belief that sequels never reach the quality of their predecessors. Well, how ironic when it turned out he would make this very sequel that is considered better than its predecessor.
To an extent, Kershner is correct in the opinions cited above. Many sequels go out of their way in an attempt to surpass the original with the mentality of “bigger, better, bolder, and more.” How is Empire any different? For all intents and purposes, Empire Strikes Back does adopt that type of mentality to achieve “more.” There are definitely grander scaled action set pieces, the special effects are even more ambitious, the worlds created are far more varied, the story encapsulates a more epic status and the was lore delved deeper than before, shocking twists that change the viewer’s perspective of everything learned prior, and the incest is off the charts! That last tidbit is just a joke for certain readers, but in all seriousness, Empire seemingly does what the majority of sequels try to do. Yet miraculously surpasses expectations where most who attempt and fail.
Why is Empire the exception to the rule of sequels being subpar to their predecessors? What does this particular sequel do differently to help establish the franchise rather than falter like so many others? For a moment I would like to draw one of the easiest comparisons I’ve ever had to write, at least in terms of paralleling sequels. Irvin Kershner not only directed one sci-fi sequel to one beloved blockbuster, but two; in 1980 with Empire Strikes Back and again in 1990 with RoboCop 2. Both films share quite a few odd similarities when we really look; ambitions of crafting a wider scope for the characters who inhabit it, branching storylines as a result of a sinister corporation making efforts to thwart the heroes, more bombastic action with inspired practical effects, revelations of our protagonist’s family, and at the end of it all we conclude the narrative with a cliffhanger where the villains are prevailing over the heroes. All these similarities between the two science fiction sequels, yet Empire is a world renowned classic and RoboCop 2 is either forgotten in time or simply regarded as relatively inferior to Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 original. Again I ask, why?
Admittedly I do enjoy RoboCop 2 to an extent, however the quality between RoboCop 2 and Empire Strikes Back is quite vast. Maybe it’s because Star Wars for many years, including the production of Empire, there was mostly one artist in the form of Lucas who was guiding the narrative along with a more focused waypoint. While on the other end of the spectrum, RoboCop 2 felt more of a reaction to the success of its predecessor with no clear path to follow rather than a gradually determined story. Another reason why one triumphs over the other could be that Empire was a sequel committed to telling its own new tale and to not try recreating what was done before; for instance having our group of do-gooders facing off against a giant floating ball in outer space blowing up planets… most of the other Star Wars sequels made that their ultimate goal instead. Looking back at RoboCop 2… it’s essentially striving to recapture the original with RoboCop himself rivaling against another sadistically murderous gang that he eventually seeks revenge upon. The fundamental story beats hold nothing special or unique while Empire is anything except derivative. From what I am able to gather, these are the elements that sets this initial Star Wars follow-up lightyears ahead of the long sequel list that has emerged from the Hollywood assembly line.
Which out of the 9 official, theatrically released episodes to date is your favorite and least favorite movie from Star Wars? And why?
My favorite one is Empire, I like the training with Yoda and Luke growing into who he is. My least favorite is Episode One, way too much talking not enough action. Who cares about Senate meetings!
— Mr. Theron
Return of the Jedi. It was my favorite as a child, then it was Juniper's [Daughter] favorite, so it's got a lot of nostalgia for me.
— Mr. Colton
Trilogies Are Tricky
At this point of 1983, trilogies weren’t necessarily a common event. When it came to the subject of Star Wars and thinking of a manner to close an overarching, three part story in which millions have been on the edge of their seat to witness is likely no easy task. The only way for this riveting trilogy to end is obvious, the Jedi must revenge! I mean… Return. Remember when I said sequels are apparently difficult to achieve a product that is at the very least on par with the original? Trilogies are oddly enough even more cumbersome as they have to follow-up what was so great about the first two pictures while naturally finding a proper and satisfying conclusion to wrap everything up in a tight bow.
Where have we truly seen this work out for a trilogy? The Godfather: Part III? That’s a nope. Spider-Man 3? Try again… Oh wait, they did try again… Twice. The Dark Knight Rises? Not really. Blade: Trinity? God, no! Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome? I’d argue not even close. The Hangover Part 3? Did anyone give a crap by the time we made it to the third Hangover? Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines? Pretty sure that anyone who remembers that one only sees the contrast of how bad the series became later on. X-Men: The Last Stand? Somehow the script from this movie plagued comic book fans not once, but twice in the form of 2019’s Dark Phoenix. The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause? Alright, that’s it. I’m done. A lot of trilogies end up as a punchline to a horrid joke; Escape Clause is just embarrassing.
Are there exceptions to the rule? Of course there are! Toy Story 3, Back to the Future Part 3, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Day of the Dead, Die Hard with a Vengeance, along with select others are tremendous examples that accomplish an enjoyable continuation of what we adore about the series as well as a fitting end to it. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi can also be included in those legendary third parts in cinematic history.
How the Hell Do We End This Trilogy?!
Riding high on what was a smash hit with Empire Strikes Back, which made nearly $550 million worldwide, the story needed to be followed with something memorable. Lucas, along with a handful of other writers during pre-production, penned the script for what was temporarily entitled Revenge of the Jedi only to be changed back to Return of the Jedi. During the writing process it seemed that the direction had constantly shifted from one hand to the next as to where the next logical step for our heroes would go. Would Han Solo be saved or be killed off? Did Harrison Ford care to come back to the role? Would the narrative conclude on a triumphant note or bittersweet akin to Empire? What were the best avenues to take in order to keep up merchandise sales? Who would even direct this picture?! A lot of questions left up in the air for a short time during the production of Return and they were thankfully resolved enough to leave the audiences mostly appeased with this final space adventure hoorah. A “final hoorah” that fell slightly short of the revenues seen by the previous two installments, but still made $475 million worldwide.
Going from Steven Spielberg to David Lynch to David Cronenberg to Lamont Johnson, it strangely seemed as though no one had an interest in directing what was an almost guaranteed success in the third Star Wars installment. Not until George Lucas came across a filmmaking newcomer, Richard Marquand, did the film finally gain a director. To think that Star Wars still to this day has issues holding onto directors for productions, how funny. During Marquand’s direction, it appeared that he was hoping to take a few risks narratively speaking much like how Empire had; suggesting to kill the character of Han Solo off in order to present a more foreboding sense of danger for the rest of the heroes and possibly leaving the Luke Skywalker character portrayed as the exhausted hero walking into the sunset alone after the day is saved, which would have definitely been a bleaker conclusion. However, all ideas like these were scrapped by Lucas himself for more optimistic and positive avenues in order to maintain toy sales. Even in the early 1980s, story was heavily affected by producers keeping in mind merchandising numbers.
Setting aside the somewhat cynical motivations of certain producers, Return of the Jedi managed to win big once again with audiences by blowing the box office away and leaving fans with a joyful goodbye to a story they were invested in for six whole years at that point. Maybe Return wasn’t exactly a perfect movie as it left a bad taste in some viewers’ mouths with the introduction to the alien creatures known as Ewoks, blatantly showing audiences how much the movie preoccupies its time in order to become a toy commercial for young children. Other than that glaring factor, most praise the movie for being another exciting fantasy that visually treats the eye and warms the heart. Story wise, all seemed to be in order; Han was saved and finally reunited with Leia, Luke becomes a badass Jedi, Darth Vader found redemption in saving the galaxy from the Emperor’s tyranny, the Ewoks decided to not eat our heroes but instead the invading Stormtroopers, Jabba the Hutt was burning in hell after being choked out by his potential sex slave, Boba Fett got screwed over for screen time, all seemed to be right with the world. Theatrically speaking, this was the last we would see the Star Wars family for many years.
What are your thoughts about the “original trilogy”? [A New Hope (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983)]
Best of the 3 sets. The original trilogy will always trump the others with the best storytelling and it looked great for its time.
— Mr. Theron
Easy. They’re classic! With knowing the plot of the series, I love watching the effects of how the world has changed since the fall of the Jedi.
— Mr. Dylan
The Special Editions
Enter 1997, celebrating the twentieth anniversary of Star Wars, George Lucas treated the public with his very own altered versions of the classic trilogy. Literally removing all traces of the original trilogy from all video stores in their theatrical form the previous year to make way for the newer and more “modernized” versions in order to create consistency between the first three films and his soon to be released prequel trilogy in 1999. These alterations consisted of several CGI insertions of creatures/vehicles/backgrounds/etc., completely changed or never before seen footage added back into the editing, brand new scenes filmed during the mid-1990s and spliced into the original movies, dialog not featured previously, audio mixing, digital removal of eyebrows, and of course the revamped Max Rebo Band playing a righteous little jazzy rift in Jabba’s palace. These alterations over the years were met with a lot of controversy; some praising specific elements bringing in much needed enhancements to the visual medium while others deem the changes unnecessary and distracting.
Jabba’s Palace Song Alterations Over the Years - The Original Scene:
Jabba’s Palace Song Alterations Over the Years - The Special Edition Scene:
Personally, I’m split down the middle with the special editions. On one end I think there are a ton of changes made by Lucas that add to the Star Wars experience and aid the immersion greatly. For instance, the removal of specific walls to add windows within the Cloud City from Empire Strikes Back, acquiring a far less claustrophobic environment and opening up the world in a newfound glory. On the other hand, there are whole camera shots from A New Hope completely clustered by CGI filling the screen so much that it is literally impossible to tell what is going on with our lead characters. Drawing the line on what is great and what is not so great with the special editions is no doubt a difficult one to define. Regardless of their quality though, I disagree with George Lucas’s decision to withhold the original cuts of all three films from the public for the last two decades. Refusing to release any form of a digital remaster of his theatrical versions and only including more alterations with every new special edition. Just recently it was discovered that there was yet another change made to A New Hope in the scene of Han Solo facing off against Greedo inside the cantina; this time around adding the random line “Maclunky” uttered from Greedo mere seconds before he is shot dead. Why this strange decision seemed mandatory to Lucas is anyone’s guess, but I’m sure that if George has his way then there won’t be a future copy of the film without that line included.
The Altered Han vs Greedo Scene Over the Years:
Who shot first? Han Solo or Greedo?
Han did… Obviously!
— Mr. Theron
Greedo, he just missed Han.
— Mr. Dylan
Now if Lucas was willing to distribute both his original cuts and his special editions, I feel as though there would be a nice middle ground for everyone to be happy. There’s no reason not to release the original versions, they are the ones that most grew to love first and they deserve to view them any time they so wish. According to Lucas though, his special editions are the “definitive versions” and he only wants audiences to view his work in what he sees as their greatest capacity. To an extent, I understand the artist’s point of view on the argument and how he should have some creative control when it comes to the viewing of his art. Then again, why can’t we have both? If people find the alterations jarring and prefer how it was crafted originally, then why not let them have that first version? I’m not saying to take away the special editions, but don’t completely trash the originals as though they never mattered either. Hopefully one day we’ll be privileged with a remaster of the original Star Wars cuts to finally bring them to DVD and Blu Ray. We’ll simply have to wait and see what happens on that front.
Examples of Changes Made
How do you feel about George Lucas for several years now refusing to allow the unaltered theatrical versions of the original trilogy readily available to the public while only providing his special editions including several changed scenes and particularly apparent CGI effects?
I think he tried to make things better, but he didn't know it was already perfect, he tried to focus a problem that didn't exist.
— Mr. Theron
Duel of the Prequels
The relationship between audiences and the “prequel trilogy” has been no less than a rollercoaster ride for the last two decades since their conception was released in the cinemas. During the summer of 1999, people at the time mostly praised the first installment, The Phantom Menace, as it also earned big numbers at the box office. Grossing more than any other Star Wars flick at the time with nearly one billion dollars worldwide, which also made it the second-highest grossing film internationally and domestically barely behind James Cameron’s Titanic. In fact, The Phantom Menace did so unbelievably well financially that it was estimated by employment consultants that approximately over two million employees bailed out on work days just to see the movie in theaters, resulting in a 293 million dollar loss of productivity. Damn, America… Priorities! Anyways, much how the original Star Wars trilogy revolutionized special effects, George Lucas set out to accomplish the same with his opening prequel episode to introduce computer generated imagery never before seen in such significant capacity to truly bring his vision to life.
After a few years had passed with the general hype dwindling down a bit from Phantom Menace, fans began to realize that Lucas’s vision wasn’t quite what they were expecting or even what they wanted out of a Star Wars adventure. Focusing far less on charismatic chemistry between likable characters or astonishing world building amidst action spectacles and rather more attention to screen time was drawn to senatorial meetings that discuss planetary trade laws or Jar Jar Binks stepping in poop. You know… The truly riveting material. For many years after Phantom Menace’s initial release, dozens if not hundreds of issues have been discussed amongst the fanbase. Universally coming to the ultimate conclusion that while the 1999 effort held potential and the occasional glimmer of entertainment, there was no denying that it failed at embracing the true Star Wars spirit. Or that was the popular public opinion until very recently, sometime after 2017’s The Last Jedi, fans took another look that emerged a new perspective on the matter. More on that later. Although Jar Jar Binks seems to be a subject that everyone still to this day agrees to be abysmal.
Jar Jar Binks… Mooey mooey wizard, right?
The whole Gungan race is an annoying bunch! The character [Jar Jar] was the worst. He sucked big doo doo!
— Mr. Theron
F*ck Jar Jar!
— Mr. Dylan
My most prominent grievance with the franchise is the lack of development of Jar Jar as a Sith lord.
— Mr. Colton
If you groaned at that last question or are simply confused by it, just know I’m laughing.
I did and it brought back memories, thanks for that.
— Mr. Theron
As the prequels went on in 2002 with Attack of the Clones and again in 2005’s Revenge of the Sith, general audiences and critics alike were catching on to Lucas’s shortcomings as a storyteller who’s twenty year gap in directing seemed to hinder the quality of his motion pictures. Dialog between characters, especially those of Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman), felt completely bottom of the barrel generic and far too eye-rollingly corny to take remotely serious. Underwhelming political speeches and an overabundance of CGI became the primary focus for each passing picture instead of interesting character development or fundamental narrative structure. The rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker’s character arc was greatly underdeveloped, supplied the briefest of snippets to his story while the screenplays were unmotivated to delve any deeper. Actors were given zilch in the way of constructive direction, resulting in constant clunky and wooden line deliveries. Humor was almost nonexistent among the leads, with the exception of side characters whose comedic material usually broke the film’s tone. The negatives slowly outweighed the positives with one prequel after another. When everything was said and done, the best thing to come out of the prequel trilogy was a onslaught of enjoyable video games an animated series in The Clone Wars. The prequels themselves, on the other hand, were disregarded as disappointments holding massive potential.
What are your thoughts about the “prequel trilogy”? [The Phantom Menace (1999), Attack of the Clones (2002), Revenge of the Sith (2005)]
Episode 2 and 3 were great, Episode 1 not so much. The lightsaber battles were the saving grace of those 3.
— Mr. Theron
Prequels are great. Yes it does create plot holes for the originals, but the buildup and showing of how the force really works along with battles on Geonosis and Naboo were amazing to see. The leading up to the plot twist in Episode 3 makes the prequels worth it.
— Mr. Dylan
It feels less serious, the use of CGI feels almost cartoony.
— Mr. Colton
Shimmers in Darkness
Setting aside the disappointment factor of the prequels, that promise of potential stood out clear as day to the fans who withstood Lucas’s newfound direction. Ewan McGregor portraying Obi-Wan Kenobi in all three prequel entries has garnered huge acclaim, deservedly so as he delivers everything for what anyone can picture a younger version of this character encapsulating; witty, charming, calm yet eager, optimistic yet pragmatic, and not to mention he rocks a stylin’ Jedi mullet. The sword duel choreography was most impressive with the sheer dedication provided by the entire cast, although I’d argue the saber fights were a little too polished for my liking, they were still extremely cinematic to behold. Villains such as Darth Maul (Ray Park), Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), and General Grievous (Matthew Wood) either held a commanding presence or amusing fight sequences, however they were ridiculously underutilized. Ian McDiarmid reprising the role of Palpatine was also an appreciated touch as his performance is undoubtedly a highlight of the series, particularly in Revenge of the Sith.
Which out of the 9 official, theatrically released episodes to date is your favorite and least favorite movie from Star Wars? And why?
Probably Revenge of the Sith, easily most combat and best plot of the series as it builds up to the originals. Least favorite The Last Jedi because it felt so Disney stuck and not in the direction of a Star Wars way. Also because of how Episode 9 completely negates the plot of the first two films (I liked Force Awakens).
— Mr. Dylan
What Could Have Been…
From my understanding of goals meant to be achieved by the prequels were to shed a light on a time that depicts exactly how Darth Vader and the Empire were created. Yet the reasons given are so shallow and lack any real development until the third installment that by the time the screenplays care to elaborate it seems superfluous. Instead of barely mentioning the fact that Anakin was a slave, why not actually be granted a thorough look on the tribulations he faced under enslavement? Or better yet, use his knowledge of slavery as a basis for the relationship that blossoms between him and his future wife Padme? Instead of a rushed and two-dimensional romance with melodramatic lines on love that a pre-teen would come up with, why not create a bond worth caring about with chemistry that charms the audience? Instead of getting maybe all of an hour’s worth of screen time shared to expand on Obi-Wan and Anakin’s kinship, why not bring that element to the forefront of the story so we don’t waste about six whole hours of a trilogy.
Why did it take until the third prequel in order to even get the characters of Palpatine and Anakin in a room together when the events leading to the original trilogy hinge on everything that goes down because of these two people? Anakin’s faith shaken in his fellow Jedi and shifted towards the dark side is something fans wanted to see for a long time and for the prequels to have given such little effort is aggravating. With all this said, the biggest problem here is clearly the fact that Samuel L. Jackson is in three full films without once uttering the line “mother f*cker”. Seriously, that’s like a sin or something. A crime against filmmaking!
Sequels to the Sequels to the Prequels
For a number of years it seemed that 2005’s Revenge of the Sith was destined to be the final live-action theatrically released Star Wars flick that anyone would ever see. No real plans were made public for future installments as Lucasfilm studios seemed more preoccupied with producing assembly lines of video games and television media regarding The Clone Wars animated show. Then came swiftly was Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012, retaining the rights to Star Wars for the large sum of four billion dollars in cash directly into the pockets of George Lucas. At that point of the Disney buyout, production for a new theatrical installment to the franchise was in full effect.
Supposedly Lucas had several ideas for what all a sequel to his beloved saga would entail, but Disney thought it was best if the new set of sequels went with their own direction separate from Lucas’s vision. What we got from this direction for Christmas was 2015’s A New Hope 2.0… I mean, The Force Awakens. Upon release of Force Awakens, the masses ate every second of this movie up and praised it for being the franchise’s true return to form. Earning over two billion dollars worldwide, breaking numerous box office records and also became the highest-grossing film out of the entire Star Wars franchise. Adored by everyone with general audiences and critics alike praising this nostalgic venture back into the world we were introduced to back in 1977. While many slightly criticized the new picture for following too closely with the narrative of 1977’s A New Hope, most shrugged it off as they were simply happy with the fact that Star Wars was back.
The next year seemed even more promising for Star Wars under the Disney ownership as the next cinematic installment was that of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which earned the studio yet another billion dollar profit. Again, audiences were wowed by the obvious love the filmmakers showed for the original trilogy as it visually channeled the spirit down to a t. Despite the production troubles that went on with Rogue One, including various reshoots that were mandated by Disney executives, the movie hit big with fans and only solidifying to them that Star Wars was in good hands.
And Then There Was Trouble
2017 held the release for one of the most anticipated films of the last decade, Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Everyone under the sun was ecstatic to see where this new story was heading with all the exciting possibilities to come, in hopes that this next installment would be fairly more original than Force Awakens. What fans were met with on Christmas that year was not exactly the gift they were hoping for. Opinions split right down the middle with fans either loving or hating the movie. Fans who love it claim that it is a movie that is far more original than Force Awakens, evolves “the force” in a way that is unique and clever, and takes risks that are visually creative. Fans who hate the movie on the other hand argue that Last Jedi is a betrayal of all that they hold dear and breaks the lore of Star Wars forever. Even though I didn’t love or hate the movie, I did like it, but I also can’t side with either debate on the matter fully.
At this point, it was pretty clear the Star Wars community was more divided than ever. Luckily that all changed in 2018 with the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story where basically everyone joined together to rag on their displeasure of the Harrison Ford-less spin-off prequel picture. In all honesty, I might be all of a handful of people who legitimately enjoyed Solo. The rivaling general consensus of my opinion more or less paints the movie as unnecessary. To an extent, I can agree that Solo is technically an unnecessary look into a younger version of a massively beloved character; doesn’t mean that it’s not entertaining as hell though. But I digress…
Sadly 2019 didn’t bring the fandom any closer as the latest and final entry of the “sequel trilogy”, Rise of Skywalker, may have divided the public’s opinion of the series even further. More or less it seems that the compliments and criticisms of Rise sound mostly the same as Last Jedi; betrayal of the franchise, more original, less original, convoluted, perfect love letter, lore breaking, lore improving, the perspectives on this movie is all over the map. No one seems to be in full agreement with Episodes VIII and IX, to the point where the fans have retroactively re-evaluated The Force Awakens as a disappointment rather than the return to form it once used to be. To put it simply, this dispute is a volatile sh*t show. So what is causing the problems?
- 'Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker' (2019) A Spacey Movie Review
'Star Wars' is concluding the latest trilogy in 'Rise of Skywalker'. Does it wrap everything up in a tight little bow? Why don't we have a chat about that!
What are your thoughts about the “sequel trilogy”? [The Force Awakens (2015), The Last Jedi (2017), The Rise of Skywalker (2019)]
These are my least favorite of the 3 sets of trilogies. Everything felt rushed and some of it didn't make much sense, but if you watched the first 6 then you might as well finish it off with the last 3.
— Mr. Theron
I do like them, don’t get me wrong, I just hate what Disney did to Luke and where it went plot wise. The first two films of [the sequel trilogy] are completely negated by Episode 9. So I mean Disney's take is good for going their own direction I guess, just not how I imagine George Lucas would have done it.
— Mr. Dylan
Great use of modern CGI. Plot provides more questions than answers.
— Mr. Colton
What is the Problem?
The fans were turning on Disney all of the sudden, now that there was a brand new Star Wars film coming out every single year since 2015, it appeared as though the viewers hit burnout on the property extremely fast. Why though? Was it because there really was too much content coming out too frequently? It could be very well possible that the studios are not allowing enough time for the audiences to have a chance to miss the property. Think about it. When the original trilogy was released, they were all three released three years apart from one another. In terms of waiting for a movie, especially in the modern era of film, that is an exceptionally long time to wait for a sequel. Same can be said for the round of prequels that came out, three years apart for each installment again. None of which had any form of theatrical spin-offs like Solo or Rogue One. Could it be that we as moviegoers need that time to appreciate a series and for the filmmakers to craft the best story possible?
Truth be told, it’s difficult to say exactly where the issue resides amongst the fanbase. A common factor that I have seen mentioned that the sequels are… “too Disney.” After coming across the same complaint multiple times I thought to myself, “What the hell does ‘too Disney’ even mean?” Does it mean that the movies have become too kid friendly and lost its adult edge? Tonally speaking, I don’t personally find anything too drastically different from that of the original trilogy. For the most part the newest trilogy attempts to ride the line to appease both younger and more mature members. If anything, I recall the prequel trilogy to be more immature and childish with its writing of certain supporting characters and romantic subplots. On that level, I don’t believe that the sequel trilogy is too guilty of condescending anyone’s intelligence.
What else could “too Disney” mean? Is that supposed to be an insinuation that Disney is known for making “safe” movies? Which is a somewhat strange connotation to associate Disney with since the studio was originally regarded as one of the most ambitious auteur film studios for many decades. Creating family pictures that took real risks in their crafting of story and character development, the filmmakers didn’t shy away from injecting dark material within a wholehearted tale, designing breathtaking visuals and innovative cinematic worlds never before imagined; sounds like a match made in heaven to connect with Star Wars, right?
Then I realized something, the people who mentioned that the new Star Wars movies being “too Disney” do not mean the Disney that I described. They mean the Disney that puts out “live-action” remakes of their own classic cartoons. The Disney that puts out 2019’s The Lion King to manufacture a shot-for-shot remake that includes no shred of innovation. The productions where not a single soul actually tries to do something different or risky to challenge their audience. That is the Disney I think people are truly referring to. To that affect, there is a fair point made with the term “too Disney” because the Disney Star Wars sequels are essentially reboots of the original trilogy. Grabbing significant plot elements that everyone knows and loves, only to barely rework the material to refit it as a pseudo “all-new” feature; an orphan growing up on a desert planet who turns out to be empowered with “the force” who temporarily follows an old man who teaches them the ropes a bit before inevitably being slain by an evildoer dressed in all black. Therefore our heroes must destroy a giant floating space station ball before it blows up a bunch of other planets. After the heroes succeed in blowing up the Death Star 2.0, in the next sequel the Empire 2.0 retaliate by seeking out the rebels who are on the run. In the meantime, the force sensitive orphan from a desert planet goes off to a strangely abandoned planet to find a Jedi hiding in exile to train as a Jedi as well. Eventually all of this leads to our hero striving to turn another Darth Vader type towards the good side, there are two throne room sequences where our hero is put through physical and mental torture while their friends are fighting for their lives in a space battle. There are just too many similarities with no sense of the filmmakers trying to make the story unique or interesting.
Where to Go from Here
In terms of the films and where to go with future stories; I truthfully have no real answer other than if the studios do decide to continue with the movies that they need to be far more inspired and ambitious. From the sound of things, that initiative missing in the most recent trilogy has shown up in other mediums such as video games and television shows. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is one of the most highly praised video games under the title and made a huge splash in late 2019. EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront II has made a major turnaround with the fanbase since its 2017 launch and now is regarded as one of the most fun Star Wars experiences around and played by thousands of gamers on a daily basis; which is still being supported by the developers with plans to keep going for possibly yet another year. Disney+ also earned a lot of love from the fans with its release of The Mandalorian television series, even being renewed for a second season that will be airing later this very year. With all of those factors considered, maybe there is hope yet. Possibly not in the movies, but in other platforms to be enjoyed at home. Although I will never lose hope for the next theatrical release from the franchise to be the one that will really win the hearts of everyone again.
If there was a way you could improve the Star Wars franchise, how would you do so? Or do you find it near perfect enough as it currently is?
Sell it back to Lucas, scrub anything related to Disney from it.
— Mr. Theron
Star Wars is unpredictable. F*ck it, let [Disney] do as they see fit.
— Mr. Dylan
I think it's fine. Like I said, I've got criticisms for individual movies, but overall the franchise shows a great story of war through generations.
— Mr. Colton
Have you seen any of the television shows or played any of the video games falling within the Star Wars franchise? Such as Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, The Mandalorian, Star Wars: Battlefront (2004), The Force Unleashed (2008), Knights of the Old Republic (2003), The Old Republic (2011), Jedi: Fallen Order (2019), etc. If you have, please cite what series’ you have seen and what your thoughts are on them.
I have seen the Clone Wars animated series and I did enjoy it. It was good to know what happened during the Clone Wars, I believe that counted as cannon to the main story line. I also watched The Mandalorian and that show was awesome! Can’t wait for the second season with the show’s great storytelling and all around production.
Fallen Order is everything you want a jedi game to be; cool lightsaber moves, beating up on stormtroopers, using the force to push people around, very fun.
— Mr. Theron
I watched clips and sh*t on the cartoons, so I know a decent amount but never watched a full episode... Mandalorian is amazing and I'm kind of hoping that's where they take the next era and trilogy of Star Wars.
Battlefront – Amazing, best diverse Star Wars game around in my opinion and I doubt they will ever top it.
— Mr. Dylan
The Mandalorian, great series. It shows the common life after the fall of the Empire.
KOTOR was a good game, though the story arcs get a little repetitive. You can play through a dozen times and hit different plot points each time.
Battlefront is okay, though seems lacking in plot for the Star Wars franchise.
— Mr. Colton
Lucas the Victim?
Something I would like to touch upon is the strange and sudden shift in public opinion on George Lucas, as well as his prequel trilogy, recently. Information came out about Disney’s decision to ignore suggestions and story concepts made by Lucas himself, resulting in Lucas feeling betrayed as the company promised him that they would be willing to work with him and take his ideas into consideration for the future of Star Wars, but soon disregarded those terms to go with their own direction. When word hit to the public about this, there was a sporadic change in opinion about Lucas and the prequels to the point where they are now considered by fans to be better than the recent “sequel trilogy.”
While to a degree I can empathize with an artist feeling as though their work is being taken from them and changed into something unrecognizable… Then again, this is the same man who also sold this art for literally billions of dollars and also refused to listen to everyone who loved his original work yet changed it and took away its original form to begin with so… Honestly I don’t feel all that bad for the dude. Maybe that’s cruel of me to say, but the dude is probably swimming around in cash after decades of basically giving his own fans the middle finger with his dozens of alterations and prequels, etc. Pretty sure Lucas is just fine. Also, I don’t quite understand how this re-evaluation of his prequels came about as it seems so oddly random and out of the blue. Although maybe because the “sequel trilogy” failed to deliver on what fans hoped for, they now look back at the prequels in appreciation of being at least focused with one single person’s pure vision while the “sequel trilogy” was more scattered and uninspired.
Overall, What Have We Learned?
Well, we know that Star Wars is one of the most influential movie franchises of all time and has brought a lot of joy to probably billions of people around the world for over forty years. Despite all the ups and downs throughout the years, there are more than plenty who adore this galaxy far, far away. Myself included. Now is “Star Wars dead” according to certain extremist opinions on the topic? I highly doubt that Star Wars is anywhere close to dying off any time soon as there is still numerous current projects under the title delighting and inspiring the fans now. Is Disney really destroying the property? Not necessarily, as I said about many fans maybe not loving the latest movies, but the TV shows and games are still highly acclaimed at this time; which are also obviously under the control of Disney. So I don’t think that Disney is the source of evil ruining Star Wars by “Disney-fying” it. I think that maybe some studio heads may have left some notes on scripts which should have been ignored, but I don’t blame Disney as a whole for the problems found in the “sequel trilogy.”
At the end of the day, I believe Star Wars is running into probably the same issues that it has always faced; too much focus on merchandising, repeating story beats, promising massive amounts of potential to be squandered off a bit, and George Lucas being George Lucas. For some reason, people are under the impression that this is the first time Star Wars has ever misfired when it’s clearly not. Looking back at its history, there have been numerous misfires in the past. Like any other series, not everything is perfect. Star Wars has never been perfect, even the original trilogy has its flaws. To me, it’s not about collecting all of the flaws, it’s about how well the positives are able to overwhelm those flaws to the point that I don’t care or hardly notice. And while most would disagree, I say there are still more positives than negatives with Star Wars. Although as climates change in society, it seems that rage culture will argue to their dying breath that The Last Jedi has killed Star Wars and everything it stood for… Go watch The Star Wars Holiday Special if anyone reading is of that mindset please. Now if you will excuse me, I’m going to go watch some more Star Wars and enjoy my day.
What Star Wars Was Best?
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Star Wars... What are your thoughts on the franchise? Like or dislike? Agree or disagree? Curious why I don't despise The Last Jedi like half the world's population does? Comment down below and let me know! Also, if you so happened to have enjoyed my writing then please do me a favor and share this article around the social media world. Thank you all so much