Why It's so Frustrating Being an Old School Star Wars Fan
Let me get this out of the way up front. I know there are a lot of fanboys on the interwebs complaining about SJW agendas and forced diversity in Star Wars. Quite simply, fuck those guys. Star Wars, besides being about the eternal struggle of good versus evil, is about how every life form in the galaxy is important. I personally think the cast of the new Star Wars movies is pretty great. Daisy Ridley especially has an onscreen charisma. It's just a shame that this great cast doesn't get better movies to star in. The new Star Wars movies have problems that have nothing to do with agendas or diversity. Unfortunately it seems that fans can't express their feelings about these problems without being lumped in with a bunch of racist and sexist assholes. Let's take a look at the things that make it so frustrating to be an old school Star Wars fan.
The Force Awakens
Before it came out The Force Awakens was the most exciting thing to hit theaters since, well the Phantom Menace I guess. And for the most part it managed to avoid some of big problems of that first prequel. There was no Jar Jar character. There were no major changes to our understanding of the Force (Fuck midichlorians). The cast was good and it looked and felt mostly like a Star Wars movie.
Now, I know that a movie cannot run on fan service alone. But for a beloved franchise like this it seems only right to throw the loyal fan base a few bones. And there were certain things we were super excited to see. We couldn't wait to see Han, Luke and Leia together on the big screen again at last. We imagined Luke as the powerful Jedi Master laying waste to Imperial troops. We were looking forward to seeing Leia as the confident and powerful leader of the new government she helped make possible. None of these things happened. The movie has Luke MIA until the final scene. Han is killed by his son, forever robbing us of the chance to see the old gang back together again. Leia is off running what it seems is a technically illegal military operation, and we barely see her doing that.
Now I understand that Abrams wanted to subvert our expectations. I would actually have been fine with all of the choices of this movie had they been for the sake of an outstanding story. But what we got was a rehash of the original Star Wars, only not as good. The political situation didn't make much sense. Why did the Empire become the First Order? Why did the Republic have to disown the Resistance? Why did the stormtrooper helmets look like they had smiley faces now? None of it made much sense. Many people have told me, "If you read the novels leading up to the movie it makes everything clear". Here's the thing, I gave up on Star Wars novels after The Courtship Of Princess Leia lifted a storyline from Spaceballs. Besides, if the viewer has to do preliminary reading to understand your movie, you made a bad movie. But the movie was still kind of fun, and I came out a little disappointed but willing to give the benefit of the doubt.
This movie for me is the exception that proves the rule. This was a great Star Wars movie. The cast was great, the story was great, it looked and felt like the original Star Wars. And that scene of Vader tearing through the rebel troops alone was worth the price of admission. Sure, Tarkin and Leia's weird CGI faces were a little off-putting. But I could live with that.
This movie gave me renewed hope for the franchise, fitting since that was kind of the theme of the movie. It lulled me into thinking the powers that be at Lucasfilm still got what makes Star Wars great. I couldn't wait now for the next Episode of the new trilogy. They had got the whole homage thing out of the way and were ready to forge new paths. Unfortunately I had forgotten the lessons of The Phantom Menace, that new paths were not always good ones.
The Last Jedi
And now we come to the point where it all falls apart for me. I actually kind of get what they were trying to do with this movie. They don't want to only aim for the aging fanbase of the 70's and 80's. They want to set the stage to move forward and attract new fans. That's all well and good. But did they need to go so far out of their way to alienate the old fans? Crazy hermit Luke and giggling Yoda and space Leia felt like a slap in the face from people that I trusted. The story didn't make any sense, and had so many holes that you could drive a Corellian freighter through.
Once again they decided to subvert expectations. They made Rey's parents not connected to the previous stories in any way. Snoke was summarily killed off with no explanation of who he was or where he came from. These felt less like exciting twists, and more like I had been made to waste my time with story lelments that went nowhere. Luke's big climactic showdown with Kylo Ren ended up being the Force equivalent of a Tupac hologram show. Then the final indignity. Without getting a chance to come back into the action and maybe redeem the bad character choices the film made for him, Luke dies. He dies not because of any wounds, but because he's really fucking tired. I could have forgiven seeing the Luke who believed enough in the goodness of Darth Vader to turn him back from the dark side almost killing his nephew. I could have forgiven Luke the idealist who managed to drag a cynical smuggler into a war he wanted nothing to do with hiding in seclusion on a remote island on a remote planet instead of getting involved in making the galaxy a better place. This could have been made right by giving the character a noble and fitting send off. But there was no time for that because the movie needed to have the slowest chase scene in science fiction history, and a pointless side mission by Rose and Finn. I'll leave it at that for now, but if you want to see more of my thoughts on this movie you can do so here.
As of this writing Solo has been out for a week. I haven't seen it yet. I will, but I'm in no hurry. For perspective, I have been to the opening night of every Star Wars movie since the original trilogy. (I was two when Star Wars came out, and as a kid I had to wait to see Empire and Jedi whenever my parents got around to taking me.) Apparently I'm not the only one who isn't in a hurry to see this new installment. And yeah, some of it has to do with assholes who were offended because Lando is pansexual. (It's not like they are going to show him having sex with anyone in a Star Wars movie anyway, so I don't understand why this matters so much one way or the other.) But a lot of it has to do with old school fans like me who feel betrayed.
The Last Jedi felt like Lucasfilm telling us they didn't really want us as fans anymore. The characters from the original trilogy were treated so shabbily, and the canon was so warped in an attempt to hit the reset button without actually doing a reboot, it felt like a slap in the face. And even with all of this all could have been forgiven with great stories that looked really cool. But the stories didn' make much sense, and I have seen fewer things that looked as dumb as space Leia. (I had someone defend this scene by basically saying that Jedi are space wizards, and invoking Harry Potter. If you want to enrage a Star Wars fan, compare Star Wars to Harry Potter.)
Disney and Lucasfilm absolutely need to try to expand the reach of Star Wars to new fans and a younger fanbase. What they shouldn't do though, is turn their backs on fans who have been loyal for decades. After all, new fans will never love Star Wars the way we do. How could they? They can't understand what a revelation the original was and how different it was from anything else that was around at the time, because they have grown up in a world full of Star Wars imitations. At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter. I have the original cuts of the original films as special features on a dvd set that came out many years ago. I can enjoy the Star Wars that I love any time I want, and fans of the new films can enjoy those. And if Lucasfilm decides that I am welcome back as a Star Wars fan, maybe I'll even give future films a chance. Or maybe I'll read a good book instead, at this point who can say?