Wednesday, December 25, 2019
Selected Thoughts On The Disney Star Wars Trilogy
WARNING: If you have not seen THE RISE OF SKYWALKER yet, you shouldn't read this.
The cinematic Star Wars Skywalker saga has apparently reached its end. I say "apparently" because, didn't we think that after RETURN OF THE JEDI, and then after REVENGE OF THE SITH?
There's no way Disney is going to let the classic Star Wars characters go unused--no matter what the public or critical reception is to the company's product, they've all made a ton of money. There is a sense of Star Wars fatigue going around, but that isn't stopping anyone from viewing new product. But it does seem that now it's almost an obligation to watch new Star Wars titles, an idea that has been covered by an excellent article on the Flickering Myth website.
I have very mixed overall feelings about the Disney Star Wars trilogy. I have far more appreciation for the company's other Star Wars output. I loved ROGUE ONE, and I liked SOLO. STAR WARS: REBELS and THE MANDALORIAN are excellent shows, the latter in particular.
Notice, however, that the non-trilogy titles fit into the established Star Wars Universe, rather than define it. The non-trilogy titles are effective additions to what I know and love about Star Wars overall.
When it comes to the Star Wars Universe, my affection for the Original Trilogy is going to override everything else. I saw these films at a certain age and point in my life that can never be recaptured. The three films of the Original Trilogy are more important to me than any other filmed entertainment. Whatever is branded as "Star Wars" is going to have to hold up against my feelings for the Original Trilogy, and I make no apologies for that.
When I heard the news that Disney had acquired Lucasfilm, and that they were planning to make new Star Wars movies, I felt a bit uneasy about the prospect. Essentially, whatever they were going to come up with was never going to live up to my personal idea of what Star Wars is, or what it should be.
Timothy Zahn's "Heir to the Empire" novels, released in the early 1990s, cover a lot of the same ground that the Disney Star Wars Trilogy does. The problems of the galaxy after the fall of the Empire, Han and Leia having children, Luke's doubts about continuing the Jedi Order, a possible resurrection of the Emperor--all these elements are in the books. I started reading theses novels, but I never finished the series, because it just didn't seem like "real" Star Wars to me.
That's basically how I feel about the Disney Star Wars Trilogy--it just doesn't feel like real Star Wars to me. I understand that's a very simplistic line of reasoning, but there it is.
The biggest problem I have with the Disney Trilogy is that it brings back the "rag-tag group of rebels versus powerful evil regime" narrative of the Original Trilogy. We've been down that road before, and we saw it to the end--but now, it didn't really end, because we've got the same type of conflict, with X-Wings, TIE fighters, even planet-destroying devices.
This is a war that was fought already in the Original Trilogy, but now we have to go through it again. I'm well aware that people will say, "That's what Star Wars is all about!!" Okay, maybe....but when you are dealing within the genres of science-fiction and fantasy, your have unlimited access to ideas and concepts. Why do something that has been done before? I understand that when it comes to a Star Wars film, people expect space battles, and blaster shootouts, and dramatic conflict, but there's untold ways of doing it.
The Disney Star Wars Trilogy also shows that Han and Leia had a bad marriage, and had a son who went to the Dark Side, while Luke has become a grumpy old man who has decided to hide out on a backwater planet. That's not exactly how I wanted my heroes to wind up. The Disney Trilogy also shows Han, Luke, and Leia dying onscreen--that's not exactly something I wanted to see either.
THE FORCE AWAKENS is basically a remake of the very first STAR WARS. I know that Disney wanted to give the fans something familiar--but in my mind it was too familiar. If I wanted to see a story that reminded me of my favorite movie of all time--I'd go and watch my favorite movie of all time.
THE LAST JEDI is one of the most weirdly constructed films I have ever seen. It's as if Rian Johnson decided to spend all of his time setting up the audience and pulling the rug out from under them over and over again. If you want to show off that way while making a low-budget independent film, fine, but I don't believe that works in the context of a Star Wars story.
THE RISE OF SKYWALKER has the "everything but the kitchen sink" attitude of most big-budget 21st Century franchise films. About 30 minutes of the movie could have been cut without affecting the main plot. It has my favorite scene in the entire Disney Trilogy--the lightsaber duel between Rey and Kylo on the Death Star ruins. But the revelation that Rey is the Emperor's granddaughter brings up all sorts of questions. It explains why she has so much power (something that I felt needed to be addressed), but the very idea of the Emperor having offspring is a huge plot point that needs to be fully explained, and you can bet it will, in a future Disney production.
Is there anything I like about the Disney Trilogy? Well, John Williams' music is still great....actually, Adam Driver is very good as Kylo Ren (although I still can't help but think of him as Han Solo's punk kid).
Most of the other new characters in the Disney Trilogy didn't make that much of an impact on me. Daisy Ridley is okay as Rey, but because her character spends most of the trilogy as a total mystery, it's hard to have a connection with her. (I think that if we knew that she was a Palpatine all along, her character would have been more interesting.)
Poe, Finn, Rose, all the other ancillary characters of the trilogy--they never seemed all that important to me. Each film in the trilogy strains to give them something to do, because their characters are not very interesting.
When it comes to the villains, the First Order may be an offshoot of the Galactic Empire, but they come off as a rather lame organization. They are constantly derided and made fun of throughout the entire Disney Trilogy, to the point where they are almost on the same level as the Trade Federation in the Star Wars prequels. (Having THE LAST JEDI start off with General Hux being the victim of a prank phone call doesn't do much to help define the villains as a viable threat.) Characters like Hux and Captain Phasma attempt to act sinister, but they never really accomplish anything. The Galactic Empire certainly had its issues (such as the average stormtrooper not being able to hit the broadside of a barn with a laser blast), but you believed they were dangerous....the First Order seems silly in comparison.
By now I'm sure you all get how I feel about the Disney Trilogy. Instead of going on and on, I'll wrap things up by making one more point.
Disney is a billion-dollar corporation, and as a corporation their main goal is not to make Star Wars fans happy--it is to get as much value as they can out of the Star Wars brand. There's plenty of individual artists involved in the Disney Trilogy, such as J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, and Lawrence Kasdan, but in the end these films were created by a corporation.
Before Disney took over Lucasfilm, everything involved with Star Wars had to go through George Lucas. You can say what you want about George--heaven knows I certainly have--but no matter what, it was his universe, he was the boss, the creator.
With Disney controlling Star Wars, there is no overall creator. We see this in the fact that many of the Disney Star Wars productions have dealt with reshoots, replaced directors, etc. These films seem to be made by a committee, with the result that the Disney Trilogy, at least, has a haphazard overall feel to it.
As I mentioned earlier in this post, Disney has made some great Star Wars product. But I think it would be in their best interest to focus all their Star Wars efforts on one single project at a time, and not worry about having to meet a certain schedule.
And forget about future trilogies...and let the Skywalker family rest.