The Future of Star Wars and Why I’m Worried

A critical look at the Star Wars franchise through the ages


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by Dan Meyers on August 24th, 2017

star wars new hope
Spigot / via planwallpaper.com

I still remember the first time I left a movie theater and felt genuinely disappointed. That was back in May of 2002 after screening a little film titled Attack of the Clones. Throughout my childhood Star Wars was everything to me. It kept me company during the lonely hours of my childhood and expanded my imagination. Unfortunately, I was just old enough to recognize that Clones was utter drivel. The rose colored glasses of my youth were officially gone and unlike The Phantom Menace, Clones faults could not be overlooked. But enough about the prequels, we’re going to have a new Star Wars film every year or so until we die! The opportunity for new characters, story lines, and planets is endless, right!? Not so fast…

Chapter One: Nostalgia, Droids and X-Wings, Oh My!

star wars x-wing
Lucasfilm / via hdwallsbox.com

When Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012, we the film fan community should’ve seen the writing on the wall. We were blinded over the simple fact that Star Wars was going to be revived. Like a Rocky film, our beloved Star Wars will have a shot at redemption after the sterile CGI orgy that was the prequels. In the weeks following the release of The Force Awakens I began to get a sinking feeling that gone was the chance for original and fresh ideas was, begun the focus group era has. Yoda, anyone? Like a well-oiled machine every single decision was seemingly was passed down the assembly line for approval. The Force Awakens was a total rehash and still I couldn’t bring myself to bash it. It had great characters! Han Solo was killed by his son (spoiler)! Light sabers in the snow! It had just enough to keep us distracted from the nearly identical story beats of A New Hope. So the majority of us gave it a pass. Eagerly awaiting the first standalone film, Rogue One

Chapter Two: Vader with the save!

star wars darth vader baseball
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez / via theatlantic.com

Here we are, bottom of the ninth inning, Jyn Erso is on third, a rebel scout on first. Two outs, Vader delivers. Strike Out! The Empire wins, Disney wins! Rogue One is a success! That is absolutely true, this film was a success based on the box office and general fan buzz. Me personally, I actually found the film to be entertaining. I’m a big fan of Gareth Edwards and his style regardless of how much of this film he was responsible for. That’s the ultimate goal of a film, right? To entertain. But us Star Wars fans are different, entertaining us isn’t enough, we want every film to be the next philosophical breakthrough. We demand perfection, is that so much to ask? All jokes aside, strip the final scene with Vader from this film and it doesn’t have the same feel. They’re over relying on fan service and nostalgia. This is becoming more concerning with every future film announced. Han Solo confirmed and currently a mess. Standalone Obi-Wan film rumored but why? Why shrink this universe and revisit characters whose arcs have been finished? It’s because it’s safe and Disney is in the business of making money not appeasing us die hard fans. We’re meant to think that Rogue One was a massive risk. There were certainly elements of the film that would be considered so. Ultimately it was so heavy handed with fan service and Vader action that it was quite the opposite. It was safer than a Yankees lead with Mariano Rivera jogging to the mound. 

Chapter Three: The Chosen One?

star wars rian johnson yes
Stuart C. Wilson/Getty

Here we are a mere four months from the release of Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi and I’m cautiously optimistic. My heart says this auteur director will deliver an original film that breaks free from the shackles of Disney’s brass. My brain tells me to get real, we’re in for another “soft reboot”, this time of The Empire Strikes Back.  I compare it to a pop song, there are only so many ways you can rearrange the beats. Maybe we’re being too hard on this franchise and us fans will inevitably find a way to scrutinize TLJ. The Internet believes no one hates Star Wars more than it’s fans, perhaps that’s true. I however believe it’s more of a defense mechanism. We were handed lightning in a bottle with the original trilogy. Films that helped mold our young minds and showed us an epic tale of good versus evil. George Lucas was always interested in marketing and toy sales but it never seemed to be at the expense of the original films (minus the ewoks). We just want our Star Wars films to be organically materialized by true visionary directors and writers. I will make a promise to Disney that we will stick through any missteps as long as your intentions with the future films are pure.   

Keep dreaming, right? I’ll see you in line in 2020 for Obi-Wan Part 2: Tatooine Sunsets…

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Comments (16)
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Great stuff. As a hardcore SW fan, I agree with every word.

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You are not being unfair and i tend to agree...but i STILL love the new generation of movies (and the renewed public attention on the franchise) and will happily spend a fortune on tickets and t-shirts and action figures etc til the end of time ! I guess im just a fool lololol
Keep writing...your'e good!

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I was born 5 days before Star Wars, which went on to be called A New Hope, and obviously I have always loved the series. I found things to like with the prequels. But I gotta be fair: George Lucas overall is less creative and less satisfying than a lot of the Disney brass. He was at his best when others were keeping him in check. Thus, I had no problem with Disney taking over and giving Star Wars the same attention and freedom they do with Marvel.

In the end, I was amazed with The Force Awakens. I consider it second best to Empire Strikes Back. It was similar to A New Hope on purpose, the same way that Return of the Jedi was itself practically a remake of ANH. The same way that Terminator 2 was essentially a remake of The Terminator.

I think Force Awakens was better than A New Hope, easily. ANH is too basic, it's too much of an obviously renamed Flash Gordon adaptation (which is fact, not interpretation).

I don't care for Rian Johnson, but then again, I didn't care for J.J. Abrams either. I'm hoping for good things from The Last Jedi, but I'm not expecting anything other than what Star Wars really delivers: PEW PEW WHOOM WHOOM POW BOOM! (The whoom was a lightsaber).

These things aren't actually important. Empire Strikes Back is one of the best movies ever made, and it evokes real emotions (as does TFA), but overall it's pretty much meaningless entertainment, a distraction. Being a distraction technically makes it the opposite of meaning, it's meant to get your mind off things that truly matter.

I'm a Star Wars superfan, I'm 40 years old and I recently spent $30 on an Ultra Titanium series diecast snowspeeder, and I have a $15 diecast First Order TIE fighter coming in the mail right now (it's almost 5 inches high!).

With all that, I still recognize that these movies aren't actually important. Hell, I might even like the artistry behind the ship/alien/costume designs better than anything else. The prequels had some amazing stuff in that category.

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My biggest problem with the new franchise is that it steamrolled over two decades of the expanded universe that picked up where Return of the Jedi left off. You had over 300 books written by dozens of authors since the early 90s, along with video games, reference books, etc, meaning thousands of people working diligently to remain consistent with each other and millions of fans treating this all as canon because it had the Lucas seal of approval.

Then Disney and JJ Abrams, who isn't a Star Wars fan, come along and decide they want to make a quick buck off the brand name recognition so all that goes out the window.

The expanded universe told a much better story than Abrams did. It built logically on the original trilogy and treated it as if it mattered. While The Force Awakens was just a less compelling rehash of the original movie's plot, in the EU new plots were developed and original, interesting villains introduced (starting with Grand Admiral Thrawn).

The character arcs continued. Han Solo went from smuggler to hero to general in the movies. In the EU he and Leia took the next step of being prominent leaders in the New Republic, while struggling successfully to make their marriage work and raising twins.

Abrams just had Solo become a smuggler again, falsely claiming it was all he was ever good at, and quickly kills him off.

Luke goes from farm boy to hero to Jedi in the movies, and continues that grand destiny in the EU by traveling the galaxy having adventures and saving worlds. He ultimately marries Mara Jade, a great character introduced early who was initially a villain, but more misguided than evil, whom he gradually turns good. As the years pass in the EU their and Solo's children grow up and have their own adventures, with the parents still around playing important parts.

By contrast in Abram's story something bad happens while Luke is training Jedi so he goes and stands on an uninhabited planet for 25 years. That's character abuse.

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Making this worse was that it was unnecessary. The EU had progressed to the point timeline-wise where new movies with the same actors could have picked up right where it was at without contradicting all the work of the past two decades. Abrams, again not a Star Wars fan, just didn't give a damn. So I'll always be soured on this new franchise.

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I'm just going to hop in here to say that I was blown away when I first started reading the Star Wars EU books this summer, especially the original Thrawn trilogy. There have been some ups and downs, hits and misses. And I still have quite a ways to go. I only have 16 books read so far.

Oh, and you spoiled Luke's marriage, btw. Out of curiosity, what book does he marry Mara Jade in? Do you remember?

On the subject of this blog post, I do like the newer Star Wars movies. Before TFA, I wasn't a die-hard fan, but that movie rekindled a dormant spark in me and now I love the franchise. Of course it still has it flaws. Nothing is 100% perfect.

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You may have already read about as many EU books as I did. I mostly read the first several and then drifted away from reading fiction as an adult except on rare occasions. But I did check up on the major events in the expanded universe from time to time. Like you I really enjoyed the Thrawn arc, and heard from fans later that there were low and high points in quality in later books. I read some more selected books over the years. Luke and Mara get engaged in Vision of the Future, part of another trilogy by Timothy Zahn. I don't recall if the actual wedding happens in a book or between books, though searching around just now it's apparently covered in a comic miniseries I haven't read.

The writing itself in those books can be hit or miss. But I was much more impressed with the overall outline of events and character arcs than I was by what Disney and Abrams did with TFA.

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Hm. Okay. I believe I have that book on my bookshelf, but not the first book in that trilogy or something. I'll look into it.

The one EU trilogy that I could not stand was the Callista trilogy, especially Planet of Twilight. TFA was infinitely better than those books. Other than that, most of the ones I read have been decent.

There are pros and cons to TFA, but I don't feel like arguing about it, so I'll stop there.

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A lot of misguided hate goes to JJ but, as directors do, he likely only wrote the shooting script and had little control over the actual storyline, which was loosely mapped out before JJ ever came on board.

Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote Empire Strikes Back, was one of the major people involved in writing The Force Awakens, and I understand he had input on the arc of this entire trilogy.

https://www.wired.com/2015/11/lawrence-kasdan-qa/

I didn't even realize he was involved until after I saw Force Awakens, and then I was not surprised that I considered it second best to Empire.

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I said Disney and JJ Abrams. And I don't absolve George Lucas for literally selling out. A lot of big Star Wars fans haven't been happy with Lucas for years anyway. Execution can fluctuate from movie to movie or book to book. TFA was fine if viewed in a vacuum (so to speak). It was a reasonably entertaining stand alone movie. The problem is that it wrecked the Star Wars universe. That's not something that's fixable as long one considers these new movies canon.

JJ Abrams also helped screw up Star Trek, which he admitted not being a fan of but that made him a ton of money. It's as if he's taking a wrecking ball to beloved franchises from my childhood one by one. And that's not just "nostalgia" talking. The classic Star Trek canon and the original Star Wars trilogy plus the Expanded Universe really are much better than these new movies.

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The new movies just frankly aren't very good and sound like they're going to get worse. You're completely right is saying Disney's concocting the fullest possible films to generate marketing and merchandising galore. The force awakens was genuinely bad, rogue one semi-entertaining.

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You're completely right is saying Disney's concocting the fullest possible films to generate marketing and merchandising galore.

So how is Lucas so revered for doing the exact same thing with his trilogy? Hell, Lucas himself started this precedent of over-merchandising movies. He turned away other Star Wars income streams in order to retain the merchandising rights to himself, which made him extremely rich.

Lucas WAS a one-man Disney back then. There's a lot of blind nostalgia (and movie deification of childhood films) involved in the kind of lopsided criticism of Disney that you're doing here.

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Lucas did it very differently. The merchandising was extremely restricted for decades. Limited to very specific brands. Now it's literally anyone who wants to pay disney.

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So it's been about a year since the release of The Last Jedi. How's that sinking feeling suit you now? lol What a piece of crap. Then again, The Force Awakens was really bad and I don't think people realized it because they were so happy to get a new SW movie.

To be fair, George Lucas has a hand in this travesty. Aside from the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney, he had the chance for decades to do more films. Instead, he just doubled down on his weird "vision" that didn't exist. It baffles me how he's getting a free pass now when he could've developed the franchise on his own and used new people to do it. Why let an megalithic corporation like the evil mouse take over the greatest sci-fi soap opera ever?

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It seems the blog author was most worried about TLJ being a rehash of Empire, like TFA was a rehash of A New Hope. I'm curious what he thought of TLJ, since it definitely was not a rehash.

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