Apr 04 2012

Why I’ve Given Up on Star Wars at Last

Published by at 12:00 pm under Editorials,Movies

Yesterday I posted a video from Star Wars Kinect which showed a CGI Han Solo dancing to a space-themed rewrite of a Jason DeRulo song. For a series that has had many low points throughout the years, it’s right up there with the Christmas Special and Anakin Skywalker’s lamentations about sand.

But something about it got me thinking on a deeper level. When was the last time I actually ENJOYED something set in the Star Wars universe? I tried to play The Old Republic, but found it stiff and dull. I tried to watch The Clone Wars, but found it to be aimed at an audience a decade younger than myself. As for the prequel movies? Though I may have liked The Phantom Menace at age eleven, it didn’t take long for me to grow up and realize how truly terrible they were.

The  far, far away Star Wars galaxy used to be amazing. Yes, we had the original three movies which were incredible and entrenched the entire series in the hearts of millions. But past that, we had a whole stable of books and video games that were almost just as awesome. Tales of the Jedi, Dark Empire, Jedi Knight, Knights of the Old Republic, Shadows of the Empire (the book AND the game). These were supplementary titles that proved that the universe was vast and promising far beyond three mere films.

But there has been a drought for so long now of quality Star Wars content that I’ve finally completely and utterly lost hope. I’ve always been of the opinion that someday, Star Wars will be awesome again. George Lucas will have a road to Damascus moment and come out with a brand new trilogy or an epic TV series or phenomenal game that restores all faith in the universe. The world that exists for Star Wars has such potential, surely there are more great stories to be told from it, right?

I don’t think so. Not anymore. George Lucas is like Colonel Kurtz. He’s gone too far up the river, driven to madness aided by those around him who deem everything he does as godlike. The descent into insanity is easy to see if you look at the timeline of events.

For both A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, the story was George’s vision, but he was always being challenged by friends and advisors who would question his ideas, and force the films to evolve in positive ways. But by the third film, George was a legend, and who would dare question such a genius?

Creative vision took a back seat to consumerism. Most of Lucas’s money was coming from merchandising, and it became clear that aiming the films more toward toy-demanding children was the recipe for financial success. It’s how the Ewoks were created, over the objections of longtime collaborators. In one small step, the film became infinitely more commercial (Ewoks make great plush toys) and kid-friendly.

By the time the prequel trilogy was announced, Lucas was a god. His word was gospel, and he crafted the trilogy almost entirely by himself with no outside input whatsoever. As such, there was no one to tell him about all the stupidity contained within, from midichlorians to Jar Jar Binks. There was no one to tell him that his script was flat and was drawing out horrible performances from otherwise great actors. There was no one to tell him to maybe not have every scene in front of a greenscreen. There was no one to tell him that maybe making three films leading up to events that were already known was not a good idea, that fans would rather see the series move forward than backward.

Perhaps the new films weren’t the abominations many fans proclaim, but they certainly aren’t “good” in any sense of the word, and if they were the original three movies instead of episodes IV-VI, Star Wars would not have become the franchise it is today. And don’t even get me started on Lucas’s truly bizarre obsession with “re-editing” the old movies with updated effects and actor swaps.

Unfortunately, Lucas’s bad judgment and apathy has seeped into all other Star Wars related projects. It’s become clear that him wielding complete control over the series has caused it to be almost entirely aimed at children. The Clone Wars is fine entertainment for an eight year old, but Lucas forgets that his original fans have all grown up, and the series they loved has left them behind.

The Clone Wars is a perfect example of how safe Lucas wants to be with Star Wars these days. He has an entire show based around a war that’s robots fighting clones (all being controlled by one man), featuring a cast of characters that we know can never, ever be in any real danger because the entire series is a prequel. There is quite literally nothing at stake at any point in time. Again, like the prequel trilogy, Lucas is terrified to try and move the series forward, and simply wants to rehash familiar elements with a known outcome.

I’m not saying Star Wars can’t cater to children, but why does it have to be entirely for them? With how much the series is beloved, we should have an Star Wars HBO show in its tenth season (it doesn’t have to be dirty, but simply have a good budget). The movie series should be longer running than James Bond, and there could be a new installment out every other year, as envisioned by a different director. Can you imagine if Lucas would relinquish control to someone like , JJ Abrams, Ridley Scott or Christopher Nolan? But no, it’s his baby and he’ll never let it grow up. He has the right to do so, as yes, it’s his creation, but that doesn’t mean he’s not doing a huge disservice to millions of his fans.

I used to think that someday he’d wise up and realize that his creation could be so much more if he just started trusting talented people to help him craft his stories. Instead we get dancing Han Solo. I honestly don’t think he’s ever going to learn, and I feel by the time someone competent is able to take the reigns of the Star Wars universe, I might be as old as Lucas is now, and he’ll be encased in carbonite six feet underground.

I know the arguments against this kind of thinking. I know how people say fans like me are just yelling at kids with Jar Jar action figures to get off our lawn. That we all just need to lighten up and accept that Han Solo can go from an iconic badass space pilot to a dancing buffoon with Lucas’s blessing and it’s OK. I guess I now agree with what appears to be their general sentiment. Star Wars isn’t for us anymore, and it hasn’t been for a long time. It’s time to let the kids have it, and stop pretending that someday we’ll get it back. It pains me to say that I’m not a Star Wars fan any more. I guess the best defense mechanism is to abandon it completely so you can’t be disappointed further.

All I wanted was for Star Wars to grow up with  me, but it never did, and I don’t think it ever will.

 





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38 responses so far

  • William

    I agree. The original Star Wars movies will always be classics (even Return of the Jedi), but the passion of the trilogy was finally completely squashed with episodes I, II, and III. In the future, our only hope for a redemption of what made Star Wars great will be done in the same fashion that’s been done for Star Trek, with new directors with fresh ideas and firm grasp on what makes movies great.

  • Nicholas

    “For both A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, the story was George’s vision, but he was always being challenged by friends and advisors who would question his ideas, and force the films to evolve in positive ways”

    Well said. You can also throw Indiana Jones in there too.

    I’m like you and was a Star Wars fan (Read all the books past Return of the Jedi) but now…. So it’s ok for clones to fight robots because we don’t consider them people? How does that work? Or every Jedi is a General just because they are a Jedi.

    LOL, or what is Stormtrooper armor protect against if Ewok spears and rocks can hurt it?

    So I agree the series isn’t for us older folk anymore. I was 7 when New Hope came out.

  • Mark

    I agree with you that a lot of the mass media marketing of Star Wars (i.e. Clone Wars, MMO, etc.) has gone down tremendously, I have really enjoyed the books. From the Yuuzahn Vong war to the current Fate of the Jedi series (love the Lost Tribe of the Sith concept), the books have really captured the spirit of the Star Wars universe. It would be great to see the books translated into mass media. It would be a lot better than what’s out there now.

  • Sideshow

    I was watching Episode V on the weekend and was thinking to myself, “Man, these are real people with real feelings in a bad situation.”.

    You can’t relate at all to any of the characters from the new films. You could leave all the action the way it is, change the dialogue and characters slighty, and end up with something so much more than what exists now.

  • mfillmore

    you are correct, Lucas has surrounded himself with yes-men.

  • Mutant Turd

    Last time I enjoyed anything Star Wars related was with the Star Wars: Battlefield games and the original Knights of the Old Republic games. So much fun and why can’t they make a new one? Other than those games the series has been dead to me since I lost the original trilogy on VHS in Hurricane Katrina.

  • Sideshow

    I always like to think about how much better they would have been with different directors.

    Episode I – Joss Whedon or Ridley Scott. Joss for his amazing, lovable, relatable characters and great ability to tell origin/background stories, and Ridley for his almost 100% character focus and epic nature.

    Episode II – Joe Wright and/or JJ Abrams. Mr. Wright for his amazing style and character focus, and Mr. Abrams for his 1970’s/1980’s Speilberg style.

    Episode III – David Fincher or Darren Aronofsky. Either of these two gentlemen would produce such a deep, dark, character focused story that the turn of Anakin would be devestating and almost justified from his point of view.

    I think that any of these people could have a directed a movie with half the special effects but still have a sense of wonder and awe.

  • mo5ef

    I was reading an article today about how much more potential the films have when watched in a different order, basically IV, V, II, III, VI, missing out episode one all together.

    The writer makes a good point about the improvements this order makes, and I’m inclined to agree with him, haven’t tested his theory yet, but I’m tempted to try it soon.

    The full article is here http://static.nomachetejuggling.com/machete_order.html, be interested to hear your thoughts if you give it a go

  • Diva D

    The Star Wars gaming scene is in dire straights, but I don’t see what that has to do with the movies.

    Lucas lets others play in his sandbox. That’s why I leave a lot of the EU alone, and don’t consider games and the like to be canonical additions to the series: the quality is too scattershot.

    Clone Wars is actually pretty good (if a little inconsistent) in my opinion. How much of it have you actually watched? It’s surprisingly dark at times and treats the clones very much like real people.

    @Nicholas
    You must have missed the part of the movies/shows where they don’t say that treating clones like expendable property is something to be celebrated. It’s an ethical problem from the very first time they show up.

    @Sideshow
    JJ Abrams? He’s way more style than substance (although Super 8 was an improvement). I love the guy’s movies, but not as anything other than a good time. He’d be out of his depth in a modern-myth setting like Star Wars. Other than that, Lucas deserves his place among the Ridley Scotts and Darren Aronofskys of the world anyway.

  • Sideshow

    @ Diva D

    Sorry, I meant to specify that. Abrams isn’t into character studies but he really brings back that feeling of adventure that Speilberg really encasulates in some of his movies.

  • Dzuksi

    I also heard that Clone Wars after season 2 becomes really dark. However i haven’t seen it.

  • Mr B

    Ep 3 was far from perfect but I didnt think it was that bad overall- certainly leagues better than eps 1 & 2.

    But yes, the franchise isnt in the best of shape.

    Clone Wars does have some dark moments-when dealing with the expendability of clones & such but as mentioned, in the back of your mind, you know nothing terribly consequential is going to happen to the principle characters.

    As for the games, The Force Unleashed was a pretty good addition to the franchise. Unfortunately, the sequel was so god-awful it lost any kudos it had gained.

    As for the rumoured TV show. Meh. You cant make a single episode of star wars tv without movie budgets? WTF George. Rent Battlestar Galactica, they managed miracles, without the muscle Lucasfilm has. Also see aforementioned show for better character writing than most recent star wars efforts.

    At least there are some artists out there that produce some wicked star wars art for sale at various conventions. Guess thats all the old guard have got at the moment.

  • trashcanman

    Better to let it go than let it make you bitter. I actually enjoyed the prequels in spite of every single criticism of them being true because I didn’t expect too much to begin with and the story is overall a good one, but I do think now is a really good time to jump off the fan train. Clone Wars is pushing me, man. If it wasn’t canon, it wouldn’t bug me, but they have done so much to fuck up the entire premise of the films that I’m about ready to cash out. Bringing back Darth Maul with a spider’s body? Fucking seriously?! Star Wars will indeed be awesome again some day. But that day will not come until we are all dancing on Lucas’ grave or Bioware gives us another single player KOTOR.

  • Hamburglar

    The last thing I enjoyed was this photo of Ham Solo:

    http://tosh.comedycentral.com/blog/files/2011/04/ham-solo.jpg

  • Barretstrife

    I still haven’t lost hope yet in star wars, it is such a vast universe, and there is still so much to be explored. As of right now, in this generation, star wars is kinda lacking, but that is not to be said when more people take the reigns and go forward with this series.

    But I cannot hate on Lucas to much, everything he does, he tries to make it for the fans. But he is still handcuffed by the Studios, all the way back to the original trilogy. The only way the studio would allow Return of the Jedi was to make it more marketable. Luke and Leia werent even supposed to be brother and sister, but since Solo became the fan favorite, Lucas had to write it for him to get the girl. And since these were such successes, he has kinda gone a little crazy with the franchise.

    But as to say, Im not going to let a few things ruin star wars or me, the dance dance thing is not the first time the franchise has sold out, and it is far from the last. But I believe there is still hope for the franchise… I guess we just have to wait for… A New Hope

  • Bobby

    @ mo5ef

    Thank you for that link, that actually does seem to be a good way to watch the series, and I’ll have to get on it. At first I was offended not seeing I on the list with II included (I didn’t think I was THAT bad, although the point brought up in that post makes a lot of sense).

  • Zak

    My advice is ignore the movies and reads the books. The first bit of books were a bit of a mixed bag but they’ve been pretty consistently good since the Yuuzahn vong invasion happens.

  • Austin

    I was 6 years old when Episode I came out, and I essentially grew up on all of the Star Wars movies, I through VI. As a child, I was in LOVE with the prequel films. I thought that the originals were trash compared to the newer ones. I thought a movie’s special effects were what made it good, and the newer ones had the BEST effects to date. Of course, I was a child, and I couldn’t grasp the beauty of impeccable acting and story-telling. But as I grew older, I decided to have a Star Wars marathon with my friends, starting in chronological order. I found my attention waning halfway through Ep. II, and the only thing that kept it was the Lightsaber battle in Episode III, yet it wasn’t as epic and emotional as I remembered it. Once we reached Episode IV, I was enraptured immediately, and stayed that way until Ep. VI concluded. I realized what worthless pieces of trash the prequels were, in regards to story-telling and acting. I also realized what consumerism and greed does to a universe with infinite potential. The only thing that i can say that the prequels had on par with the originals was its soundtrack. Duel of the Fates is a fantastic piece of music, and I listen to it for pleasure often. Also, Knights of the Old Republic is my all time favorite video game, despite it being one of the oldest RPG’s in existence. I wish they would re-make it into a more open world concept. It would be a fantastic revamp of a legendary game. In conclusion, Star Wars as it is disgusts me. I can only hope it is given to someone who sees it potential and respects the fanbase it commands.

  • Odin

    Like Zak said, move on to the books, and you can still love Star Wars. From the invasion of the Yuuzhan Vong, to the Fate of the Jedi series, to a good many more past that, they’re all good. There are even books from the clone wars era (The Republic Commando series and the Dark Lord Trilogy, for example) and older (Revan and the Darth Bane trilogy) that are just plain amazing. With the Republic Commando series, for example, it’s all new characters, whose outcomes you aren’t guaranteed and can change in an instant. The most any of the ‘major’ characters get mentioned is when they call Obi-Wan an egotistical blowhard, Palpatine an oily douche, and a few passing comments about how if Boba Fett’s still alive, how he’s gonna have a whole lotta hate and rage and no Jedi to take it out on.

    What I’m saying is I just read the series again and it’s fresh in my mind. But really, it’s damn good stuff.

  • Chelsea

    I feel like 95% of the bitterness from people our age or older is the nostalgia factor.

    Who’s to say in 20 years, kids won’t be blogging the same sentiments about the days of The Clone Wars and how everything is geared toward “children” nowadays.

    I think many fans put the original trilogy too high up on a pedestal because it came first (therefore, it’s better) and it was when they were young.

    Now, I’m not the biggest Star Wars fan on the planet or anything, however I’ve seen both trilogies multiple times as well as played some of the games and read some of the great stories. I even went and saw the Clone Wars movie when it came out a few years ago. However, I personally prefer Obi-Wan Kenobi in his younger ass-kicking days to Luke “Whiny Wussy” Skywalker.

    Let’s not forget the original trilogy featured a muppet and Mark Hamill who has the acting chops of Kristen Stewart. Han Solo and Chewy are awesome, however don’t let nostalgia cloud your judgment.

    You know what? I effing LOVED My Little Pony Tales when I was younger, but I got over it. It doesn’t mean it was crappy to begin with. I just grew up. I’m not going to defend it to my grave just because of nostalgia. It is what it is.

  • http://http://www.facebook.com/TwiztidT Toby Daniels

    If you want to enjoy Star Wars, read the books, they are amazing. Lucas will die someday and someone will make them into something he would have loved back in the day. But I cannot fault him on what he has done. It was his story to tell, if you didn’t like it you didn’t have to watch. I myself have been a fan since I was 8 years old in 1977 and watched E IV for the first time. I enjoyed them all.

  • catmanstu

    This is legitimately one of the saddest things I’ve ever read. Almost got teary-eyed at the end, like you were writing about a best friend you’ve always thought would stop doing drugs and get his life on track, but you’ve now finally given up hope.

    On a lighter note, one day George Lucas will die. Just sayin’.

  • Charlie Ward

    Comparing Mark Hamill to Kristen Stewart? Really? Shut up. Never speak again.

    That being said, I agree with your other opinions. It’s all about the nostalgia.

  • Tangaloa

    The last thing to come out of the starwars universe that I enjoyed was a series of books by Karen Traviss called Republic Commando, that was ultimately killed midway through because of the canon being changed for the clone wars tv show (as well as contractual issues). Starwars to me had evolved between the original films and the prequels to the point where there was so much input from authors and artists beyond george lucas, that what is being done today has killed the brand’s integrity as a whole for more profit.
    Yes it’s fine to make a profit out of one’s creation, but when something has become as large a phenomenon as starwars – with countless fans and people contributing to the lore – should it be allowed to be corrupted against the wishes of the wider populace?

  • Alaric

    Comparing Lucas with Kurtz was spot on. “The horror…the horror…”, so much horror lol. But I have to wonder, if George Lucas did hand the flight controls to someone else, would he even be capable of giving it to someone worthy? He’d probably hand it over to someone who would screw it up like Michael Bay or *shudders* Uwe Boll, just so his own mistakes would look better by comparison and he could say “told you so” to all the naysayers.

  • Diva D

    *sigh*

    @Alaric
    There’s absolutely zero evidence that Lucas respects Michael Bay or Uwe Boll on any level. I’m sure you’re just trying to make a point about how bad you think Lucas is, and reaching for the two most commonly used “worst” directors of the day to do it, but that doesn’t make your point any less absurd.

    Lucas’s contemporaries are who he seems to respect the most. That includes Spielberg, Scorsese, Coppola, and probably folks like Brian De Palma and Ridley Scott as well.

    I’m all for having a debate on the subject, but let’s try to restrain it to things that make some sort of sense.

  • Diva Don’t

    @ Diva D

    ” Lucas deserves his place among the Ridley Scotts and Darren Aronofskys of the world anyway. ”

    I remember the first time I hallucinated beyond reality and made stupid comments also, so with that, no hard feelings.

  • Lakawak

    Sorry…but if you were born in 1988, you don’t get to lament about how they ruined the Star Wars trilogy. You were never old enough to understand Star Wars before Lucas ruined it with the Special Editions.

  • Sams

    @Chelsea

    Spot on in all accounts, that’s how I feel about it all.

  • http://www.afternoontiger.com Dimitrios

    The first force unleashed was a fun little romp, and the story wasn’t bad either, surprisingly.

  • Scythe

    I thought The Old Republic was great and I don’t know why anyone would take the dancing in the Kinect game seriously. It’s apparent that the developers had a lot of fun with this game mode and it’s in no way supposed to represent the actual Star Wars universe. I only have seen videos of it, but I think it’s pretty funny. It’s just a gimmick, the same as having Arthas in a game like Guitar Hero or Ezio in Soul Calibur. The Lego Star Wars games were designed to be cute and funny and as far as I know nobody trashes them.

  • Diva D

    @Scythe
    +1

    Nobody involved in making this game was concerned with continuing Han’s character arc. It’s just supposed to be goofy. And yes, it looks dumb but I have yet to see a dancing game that doesn’t. I’d the songs were better I’d probably think it amusing too.

    Either way I don’t see what it has to do with the movies, at least not really.

  • Tim

    Thank you for coming to your senses, Paul.

  • http://www.torchship.at Aether McLoud

    AFAIK you never played KOTOR 1+2 Paul? Those are the pinnacle of Star Wars storytelling. You mind gets blown while playing them.

    The same is true for the SWTOR class storylines.

    For me these days: Bioware = grade A Star Wars stories.
    LucarArts: some guy who simply wants to make more and more money.

  • Mark Jr

    @Aether McLoud Thanks for saying what I was about to. I trust BioWare could very easily make another KotOR 3 still.

    *SW:TOR: REVAN/SW:TOR SPOILER ALERTS:*

    There’s a flashpoint for the Republic where you break Revan out of a Maelstrom Prison, and a flashpoint for the Empire where you “kill” Revan. It’s left fairly ambiguous whether or not he actually dies. My point is: it’s still possible to continue Revan’s storyline after this, preferably outside of SW:TOR and in a ME-style KotOR (I’m hopeful for this).

    *END SPOILERS*

    As others have said, the books are still fantastic but seem to be referring to the Post-Ep. VI books. I can personally recommend the Pre-Ep. I books as well, namely the Darth Bane Trilogy and the SW:TOR trilogy (well, two-thirds of it, Fatal Alliance is such a letdown compared to Deceived and Revan). I haven’t lost hope for the Star Wars universe (lost hope for Lucas looooong ago) because of one thing: Drew Karphyshyn.

    In case you don’t know, he was a writer for BioWare (worked on KotOR, ME 1 and half of ME2, as well as the stories for the SW:TOR classes) till he recently left to focus on his books (as well as a new SW:TOR novel) and screenplays. Anyway, the reason my hope lies in him is because he’s an extremely competent writer (he wrote Revan as well as the Darth Bane trilogy) and everything he writes ends up being amazing.

    And on a somewhat cynical/dark/light note: George Lucas is old. He could die any day now.

  • Nick D Pags

    Great article Paul.

  • http://s14.zetaboards.com/applesaucerecords/index/ RadioSlayer

    I just said to a friend yesterday that it would be amazing if Ridley Scott directed Star Wars: Episodes VII-IX

  • Alot_Hunter

    Other than the Gendy Tartakovsky Clone Wars Series and the Republic Commando series (both the game and the books, but mainly the game), I’m inclined to agree with you.

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