Star Wars 44 years later - a blog, in 1000 Words or Less
A month ago all eleven Star Wars movies were on TV in a continuous loop and since I'm a fan, I thought I'd lighten things up after the last couple of posts, so...
Star Wars is the greatest movie ever.
That might be an alternate fact but for a ten-year-old boy in 1977, Star Wars was the greatest movie ever…until 1980 when The Empire Strikes Back came out.
In 1981, Raiders of the Lost Ark joined Star Wars as one of my favourite movies, followed later that year by For Your Eyes Only, my first Bond flick. As time passed, different movies came and went-the list is a dynamic thing-but Star Wars and Empire have never left the top shelf.
When it came to Star Wars, I absorbed the details. I read the books and scoured the magazines. I bought the models and on Saturday mornings, I built them on the kitchen table. As time passed, the passion faded but I was still a fan in the early nineties when Lucas released the remastered versions. What an outrage! The new versions did little to enhance the movies and in some instances weakened them…there’s only one answer to the question, “Who shot first?” and you can find it in the unaltered 1977 version of, A New Hope.
In the late nineties, the first movie in a new Star Wars trilogy hit the theatres and The Phantom Menace became unquestionably the biggest movie disappointment I’ve ever experienced.
Occasionally, some ass-hat on the internet will attempt to defend what has become known as, “The Sequels,” but it can’t be done. Aside from Anakin’s transition into Darth Vader, the plots were boring, the writing horrible and the use of green screen excessive and obvious. Ewan McGregor would be a fun guy to drink a beer with, but he couldn’t do much to make the movies good. They almost destroyed Natalie Portman’s career. Twenty-two years later, Jar-Jar Binks justifiably remains one of movie-world’s most hated characters.
I decided to pretend The Sequels didn’t exist. I still had A New Hope and Empire to sate my Star Wars fixation.
A few more years passed. Disney bought the franchise. Known for its hammer-to-the-temple subtlety, I wondered if Disney could re-boot the franchise in a way that was new, exciting and relevant.
I was right to be worried.
When the The Force Awakens was released, social change was on the wind. Every aspect of our lives was under microscope. “Offend” had become synonymous with “disagree.” Media of every kind was heavily scrutinized for political correctness. Unfortunately, Disney included all these elements in a watered-down version of A New Hope. BB-8 ticked the “cute” box. The rest of the characters were bland and boring. Without an ounce of training, knowledge or experience, Rey could do it all because…well…it was 2015 and nobody dared question female ability or empowerment. Other than breathing heavily and frequently shout, “Whoo!” Finn had little purpose. Poe had no personality whatsoever. Kylo Ren, the supposed antagonist, was as frightening as fluffy pink bunny.
The Force Awakens is like vanilla ice cream. It will do when nothing else is available.
Then came The Last Jedi. What an absolute piece of garbage. Other than the fight with Rey and Kylo Ren in the red throne room, the movie has nothing to offer. The desecration of Luke Skywalker showed a complete lack of understanding of his character. I wish Mark Hamill had refused to do the movie. Carrie Fisher made an appearance as General Leia Organa because for some reason, being a General is better than being royalty...I guess? In the movie, she died and came back to life, thanks to The Force, even though The Force doesn’t work that way and never has. Rey continued doing things for which she had no training. Finn yelled, “Whoo.” Next to Jar-Jar, The Last Jedi has the single worst character in the extended universe. In what could be used as a lesson on why it's important for writers to SHOW don't TELL, Rian Johnson gave us Vice Admiral Holdo. We're told several times about Holdo's spectacular career but she spends her entire time on screen showing us what an inept and unsuitable leader she is. If she'd told her people her plan from the beginning, the movie would have ended in half the time…and that would have been a blessing.
As bad as The Last Jedi is, The Rise of Skywalker is worse. There isn’t a single moment that redeems that movie. I saw it in the theatres twice. I found it so astoundingly awful the first time that I thought I’d missed some crucial plot device. But no, after a second viewing, the plot still didn’t make a shred of sense. Rey was insufferable. Finn yelled, “Whoo.” Both times I watched the movie, I grew angrier and with every passing minute: Rian Johnston and JJ Abrams had destroyed everything I loved about Star Wars.
I wonder how Kathleen Kennedy feels about helming three atrociously terrible movies that alienated and enraged fans around the world.
Thanks for nothing Disney.
The first spin off story, Rogue One, is an enjoyable action-adventure. It's worth watching for the last two minutes. In one of movie-world's best action sequences, Darth Vader proves why he’s such a frightening and powerful antagonist.
The second spin off story, Han Solo isn’t nearly as bad as it’s made out to be, although there isn’t anything memorable about it. The Kessel run, what should have been a highlight (because of its nostalgic importance), is big on visual drama while simultaneously lacking tension or anything intelligent.
Forty-four years after A New Hope, there are eleven Star Wars movies. Ranked from excellent to tolerable to unwatchable, the list is as follows:
The Empire Strikes Back
A New Hope
Return of the Jedi
The Force Awakens
Revenge of the Sith
Attack of the Clones
The Last Jedi
The Phantom Menace
The Rise of Skywalker
A success rate of twenty-seven percent is not great, which begs the question, why am I still a fan? I’ve asked myself that many times and think the answer is nostalgia and hope.
Star Wars was a huge part of my childhood. The idea of recapturing some of that magic is understandable. To this day I remember meeting Han Solo for the first time, the confident pirate negotiating with Guido. I remember how heroism beat cynicism at the end of the movie, when Han and Chewie came out of nowhere in the Millennium Falcon, giving Luke a chance to destroy the death star. I loved Princess Leia from the second she said, “Somebody has to save our skins!” and then blasts a hole in the trash compactor. Tough, confident and beautiful, Leia was everything a Princess should be…thirty-years before I was “told” I had to like her because this is what a strong female protagonist looks like. Then there was Luke Skywalker, the naïve farm boy who becomes the hero of the resistance through hard work, training and talent...the hero everyone wanted to be.
I waited years hoping a smart person in charge of the Star Wars would recognize what made the first two movies great. I was sure that talented writers would pen new stories. Everyone would agree to keep woke sensibilities, social commentary and political influence out of the finished product. It could have happened: there are shelves of novels at Chapters telling stories of the expanded universe. Regrettably, Disney ignored them all. The results speak for themselves.
All I could do was cling to history and hope…
…and then, The Mandalorian came along.
The Mandalorian is far from perfect. As usual, Disney leans heavily on cute. Mando spends a great deal of time performing quests that look unimaginatively similar to the one that came before. Busy work, in other words. But, the program is the heroic space western we all want from Star Wars. There’s storm troopers and tie fighters, laser battles, strange creatures and crucially, Mando and baby Yoda, two unlikely friends who are interesting and sympathetic.
And, there’s the last episode. How awesome was the last five minutes of the last episode?
Mando and his allies are trapped and out numbered by a far superior force. Escape is impossible. And then a single X-Wing slides into a docking bay. A cloaked figure strides down a hallway, a green light-sabre clenched in his gloved right hand. Could it be...Luke Skywalker? It is, and he's back the way he is supposed to be, before Rian Johnston ruined the character, and Luke shows us why he is the most powerful Jedi ever. The man who defeated Darth Vader slices through Dark Troopers, deflects blaster bolts with his light-sabre and pushes opponents aside with a wave of his hand. He uses the power of The Force to crush his foes and at the same time, the power of The Force uses him to bring renewed hope to the angry, disenchanted and disillusioned people of the galaxy.
Five minutes. That fast, The Prequels don’t exist and Kathleen Kennedy’s woke versions of Star Wars don’t matter. This is Luke Skywalker. This is Star Wars.