I’m just going to come out and say it because I’m getting old and we’re living in an instant noodle Easy Off Bam society: Star Wars was an accident.
Hear me out.
Once upon a time in a galaxy far away – well before the time of the Mouse – a young director toiled away at his script about intergalactic space cowboys, droids, aliens, lasers, swords that were also lasers, and a Princess. The Rebels were fighting an evil empire led by a masked villain wielding unimaginable power, and also one of those aforementioned laser swords.
This was some classic hoity toity space western shit, and George Lucas had our number.
He painted a relatable world in a supernatural destination, and in doing so, created a mega hit the likes of which had never existed before. He also happened to retain merchandising rights in perpetuity, and this made him stronger than you could possibly imagine.
But it wasn’t all roses. In the intervening years it was revealed that the original 1977 space opera known as “The Star Wars” was plagued by cost overruns, technical hurdles, a bloated mess of a first cut, and almost wasn’t finished at all. The production challenges basically mirrored the plot of the movie itself – but as we all know, the rebel in this case did indeed win by shooting that missle all down in there without using a targeting computer.
Many great things came out of the original three Star Wars films. Movie making changed forever through landmark technological innovation. Merchandising was appreciated as a real and additional income stream by movie studios. Kids grew up aspiring to be their very own Han, Leia, or Luke, and adults mourned the fact they would never be. But all of these successes came at a price: George.
Young George would never be the same again. The unbridled success and roaring franchise train he had created began to balloon out of control. Lucas could cut loose the shackles of financial deals with studios, hire who he wanted, and freely write and make the movies he desired to create. It’s the kind of deal any artist dreams of.
The problem is, a creator with no boundaries inevitably has clouded judgement, with absolutely no barometer to measure the quality of an idea. If you can afford to hire a team that says “Yes George” no matter what, you end up with Jar Jar Binks.
The reason the 1977 Star Wars was so damn good is that it was created within a set of heavy restrictions with an unbelievably talented team of artists, actors, and creators. The reason the 1980 sequel Empire Strikes Back was so damn good is because someone else wrote it. Return of the Jedi? Much the same; but the deliberate toy opportunity presented in the Ewoks was the beginning of Lucas’s slip into mediocrity.
As soon as any restrictions and boundaries were removed the whole thing was fucked. The “Special Edition” releases of Star Wars in 1997 were important – not only because they stopped the physical film from disintegrating in a manner Boba Fett would appreciate, but because George was able to freely alter the movies.
I’m not going to get bogged down in finer details of those changes, but I will say this – the movie has changed in every single home release since 1997. Including just last month when Disney+ launched, and Lucas’s ultimate pre-Mouse parting troll of his own fan base finally surfaced.
He simply got fatter – metaphorically and physically, as well as financially.
Oh, he had a choice alright.
The prequel films, otherwise referred to as “fan fiction” when they come up in conversation with the mates I grew up watching this series with, were a masterclass in garbage yes-men thinking – written, shot, and edited with an unlimited budget. Jar Jar? Yes George. Hayden Christensen? Yes George. That fucking horrible dialog? Yes George, rub it across my face George. Each of the three films had a high grossing return in hopelessly disappointing.
At first, altering his own art was just an innocent desire to patch up the blemishes of his rusty shackles from the past. In the later years, he would change the foundation of entire characters seemingly at a whim.
In 1977, Han Solo was a ruthless cowboy dispensing with an alien threatening his life in the famous Mos Eisley cantina. Since 1997, he has been shuffling awkwardly in his cantina seat, shooting at Greedo in defence, and decreasing the caution required to entire a wretched hive of scum and villainy ever since.
At what point does a child outgrow its creator(s)?
The 2012 sale of the Star Wars franchise to Disney was a shining beacon of hope for disappointed fans, leaving everybody as youthful and exuberant as a baby Yoda. The wood was being cast adrift, and fresh blood was about to dilute the midichlorian pool.
JJ Abrams got cracking on getting the band back together for a one last cute reunion tour, and arguably did a pretty good job. Rogue One was a cool exploration of a throw away line in A New Hope. Then Rian Johnson came along and took what JJ had left him in Episode VII, shit all over it, and wasted Carrie Fisher’s last performance in a $317-million fucking disaster that only gets worse in repeated viewings.
I can sum up The Last Jedi in four words: pointless casino planet subplot.
Side movie Solo was similarly mired in issues and ultimately released as a ‘meh’ outing. Disney, having done the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, was getting nervous about franchise fatigue.
It’s as if a million nerds (like me) cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. The worst had happened. It was all imploding again. But a new hope has emerged...
The Mandalorian is very good.
Star Wars had a 3,720 to 1 chance of succeeding – and it did. But it was eventually ruined by it’s very own creator who couldn’t let go, and whose bitterness grew larger than a sarlacc’s appetite for bounty hunters – directed toward the very people who had changed his life, as much as he had theirs.
The sequels, free of Lucas’s meddling, had good intentions but were derailed by an atrocious choice at a pivotal time. The newest film will be what Die Hard with a Vengeance was to Die Hard 2 – a fucking flat out denial of existence and pivot into a direct sequel to the first film.
With Episode IX now on our doorstep, I would like to sum up my feelings on Star Wars by transcribing a scene from the forgettable 2002 smash hit Attack of the Clones, mostly so you don’t actually need to watch it ever again (but you can do so right here so you know I’m not fibbing).
From the moment I met you, all those years ago, not a day has gone by when I haven’t thought of you. Now that I’m with you again, I’m in agony. The closer I get to you, the worse it gets. The thought of not being with you – I can’t breathe. I’m haunted by the kiss that you should never have given me. (Continues)
Sometimes, even when we won’t ask for help, we need it.