I loved the new Star Wars… until I didn’t. It’s been a feeling that’s been growing on me like a cancerous tumor defying detection.
With the upcoming 9th installment of the Skywalker saga part of the Star Wars universe, I’ve been reflecting a lot of the goings on in all things Star Wars. Now I’ve said for quite a long time to my friends that even though I love Star Wars, it is a poorly written fairytale in space. A fairytale I often obsess over.
Only now that Disney has gotten a hold of it… it’s gotten worse in a way. And there’s a part of me that’s been losing my love for Star Wars because of it.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love Disney. I LOVE Disney. I drank that Kool-Aid and asked for more, and then stole even more while they weren’t looking. I even cried as my son went up for Jedi training and sparred against Darth Vader. The allure of it all is still there for me.
It’s just that the Star Wars Universe movies have been far better than the treatment of the main Skywalker Saga, the story line that started it all. I am tempted to pretend that episodes 7 & 8 never happened, much like I pretend that “X-men 3” was never made, or “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”.
“Rogue One” was an absolute masterpiece and “Solo” really wasn’t as bad as some claim it to be. I really liked it. However, the other two? “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi”? I’ve turned to the Dark Side on my appreciation for them.
It didn’t start that way. I rather enjoyed “The Force Awakens” when I first saw it. I explained away the issues with how Fin could suddenly pick up a lightsaber and even have some skill in fighting with it, enough to even be a casual annoyance to Kylo… I especially ignored the behaviors of Kylo and Hux being more like spoiled school children than the high-level officers/leaders of the dark side they were supposed to be. Sure, Kylo had the raging anger thing going on, but that ended up feeling more like a whiney teenager than an angry god.
A key element to any great epic is the villain. Star Wars has failed at that post Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine. Without a villain that truly tests the mettle of the hero, the journey feels empty and pointless. Darth Vader challenged Luke’s resolve. Palpatine did the same for Yoda, Obi-Wan, and the rest. And as silly as the prequels were in ways, they can still hold up today. Sure, Anakin whined, but it now sounds almost mature compared to how Kylo and Hux behave. Basically, I don’t quite understand the mental gymnastics required to explain how the First Order were victorious over the rebellion with how inept, silly, and childish they appeared compared to the more reserved and mature actions of the rebellion (Luke not included of course). Well there was the chance of Snoke— oh nevermind. It’s taken villainy from the pure political savvy that Palpatine played against the Republic and Jedi’s alike to the equivalent of the good guys just getting overwhelmed by too many idiotic bullies. Spaceballs were smarter villains.
“The Last Jedi”, besides a single scene, ended up being a cavalcade of terrible story decisions and shoddy character development— I shall deem to be called character abandonment as a more appropriate description. And I want to like it so bad. So bad. But alas, all the characters were weak, the story had more holes than a screen door, and the villains continued their pitiful display of villainy. And I won’t begin to describe how Luke was ruined.
Another thing that I picked up on but tried to ignore was a #metoo-esque angle in The Last Jedi that felt out of place and forced. Art and politics are strange bedfellows, but there are times where the union feels misplaced… or at least poorly handled. Women aren’t made stronger by making men look brash or foolish where it isn’t necessary as one cannot claim to have climbed a mountain by tearing it down. The men all behaved like utter morons, even abandoning better behaviors displayed in the preceding movie. Besides Leia (and maybe Rey), the women aren’t strong characters either… they are only better when compared against the men in the story. Are we not capable of writing both strong female and male characters while providing the women equal or grander prominence? It only reinforced the poor choices made in storytelling that the latest installment brought.
Star Wars is a good vs evil, light vs dark fantasy story set in a sci-fi universe; it’s escapism. It can be made better though if they spend more time with writing better characters all around. I want to love the latest episodes as much as I love the originals, even the prequels, and how much I loved the side-stories like “Rogue One” and others. Where Disney has done great things with the Marvel franchise, they’ve made some huge missteps with Star Wars with the main arc.
I will of course be at the theater to see “Rise of Skywalker”. Given the setup of the possible return of Palpatine, it does seem more intriguing. Have they course corrected in this last installment? It will remain to be seen. I’ll be there, all full of hope and excitement just as I was with all the other Star Wars movies. I still love the franchise. Let’s hope that they redeem themselves some with the next one.