Very little happens in a vacuum (no space pun intended), and this is true of my perspective on Star Wars. I’ve always been a fan—the first movie came out when I was five, and though the only one I remember seeing in the theater was Return of the Jedi, the films were part of my youth. I had some action figures, and I always thought Star Wars was cool. It wasn’t until I introduced my kids to it in 2012 that I entered the ranks of Star Wars nerd-dom. I blame it on my son, who quickly became obsessed with it.
With my “back story” out of the way, here are my thoughts on Star Wars, circa 2016.
Back in the early ‘70s, a young director named George Lucas wanted to make a movie of Buck Rogers, but was unable to get the rights, so he decided to make up his own space movie. He said he simply wanted to make a “fun, wholesome action movie.” I love the fact that he only had a vague idea what it would be about when he started laying the production groundwork for the first movie. He continued to modify it, making major plot/script changes even while filming.
The first movie was unlike anything anyone had ever seen, and it was a sensation.
In some ways, I wish he would’ve left it at that. But there was more to the story, so he made two more. The movies changed the film industry and popular culture itself. The original Star Wars trilogy fulfilled Lucas’ vision: they were fun, wholesome action movies.
But as is often the case with people, he couldn’t leave well enough alone. By cryptically numbering his movies as episodes IV, V, and VI, Lucas left the impression that he had a much larger story in mind. It was rumored that there were nine (or at one point even twelve) parts to this epic.
Yet, for all that, there were no more movies. Again, a part of me wishes Lucas would’ve left it at that. Those three movies would’ve remained as mandatory viewing in pop culture, and its characters and iconic moments (“I am your father”) would have passed into legend. Besides, Star Wars was cooler than Star Trek. The latter was for nerds, and had such a sprawling, complicated universe that only die-hard fans could really follow it.
Star Wars wasn’t like that. It was more hip, because one didn’t need to devote themselves to learning all the minutia of its world to appreciate the films.
That all ended in November 1994, when George Lucas sat down to start writing episode I (the movie wouldn’t hit theaters until 1999). At that point, Star Wars moved from fun pop culture phenomenon to geeky super-fandom institution.
Lucas wrote and directed episodes I through III, with the last installment released in 2005. He then said that was it—no more Star Wars movies. The common take on these movies (the “prequels”) is that they’re bad. The storylines are complicated and hard to swallow, the acting is terrible, and the dialogue is worse. The most hated aspect of the prequels is the character Jar Jar Binks, a clumsy alien with a prominent role in episode I.
Although I much prefer the original trilogy over the prequels, I don’t think they’re that bad. They’re still generally fun, entertaining movies with creative characters, locales and stunning visual effects. And while Jar Jar is by no means my favorite character, my kids love him and think he’s hilarious. Take that, critics!
Despite any shortcomings of the prequels, I was happy with six Star Wars movies. I did often dream of what it might be like if they made episodes VII, VIII, and IX. However, Lucas insisted it was over, and that was that.
Then suddenly one day in late 2012 came the galaxy-shattering news that George Lucas sold his company, Lucasfilm, to Disney, and that they were indeed going to make episodes VII-IX, which would include many of the same beloved actors from the original movies! I actually felt a little light-headed when I heard this. I was in the middle of teaching a class when I first heard the news, and had trouble thinking of anything other than Star Wars the rest of the day.
As exciting as it was, George Lucas’ decision to sell the franchise to Disney marked the death of Star Wars as we knew it.
If there’s anything Disney isn’t known for, it’s restraint. Not only are they making a new trilogy, they’re also making “spin-off” movies focusing on individual characters and events outside the main episodes. A few years back, Lucasfilm gave us a computer-animated TV series called The Clone Wars, which takes place between episodes II and III, and now they’ve moved on to a new one entitled Rebels, that takes place five years before the original movie (episode IV). I’ve really enjoyed these shows, but now I think they’re just the tip of the iceberg. It seems inevitable that the slew of upcoming feature films will be joined by more television series.
If following the Star Trek storyline is roughly the equivalent to a graduate-level course (thanks to numerous movies and TV series), then Star Wars may well take a PhD in nerdology to understand.
I thoroughly enjoyed the newest movie (episode VII), and will probably watch all the upcoming films, but I also mourn what we are losing. Some of the iconic characters, lines, and music from the original movies will gradually become lost in a sea of new movies and characters who, no matter how good they are, just won’t be the same. It’s like ice cream: it can be a delightful treat, but if you eat it every day, it’s not so special any more.
We’re now being told that there will be a fifth Indiana Jones film, and that Harrison Ford will reprise his role. He’s currently 73 years old. I understand that movies like Star Wars, Star Trek, and Indiana Jones are cool, but sometimes you’ve got to be able to say enough’s enough.
I don’t think Hollywood will ever figure that out.
I've included some old blogs along with the new. Should you ever find yourself suffering from insomnia, this is the place for you! That's as poetic as I get...