Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Life After Star Wars

There used to be a time when people stopped caring about Star Wars.  Around 1985, Return of the Jedi had become a couple of years old, the children had moved on and well, adults were adults.  During that time the general public was not concerned with the “newest things”.  The general public wasn’t foaming at the mouth for more movie sequels, an over abundance of video games, and more information, like that of the internet.  There was no social media or not so clever memes of Willy Wonka basically saying the same condescending taunts on Facebook.  It was a time of new ideas, and breaking ground of our imaginations.  People experienced what they had, and a lot of the times, enjoyed it.

Don’t confuse people not caring for Star Wars as them not liking it.  They did…a lot.  But there was this dry spell from 85 to the early 90’s where people moved on.  I, however, did not.  I loved Star Wars every day of my life.  I wasn’t clamoring for more of it.  I enjoyed what I had, which were three, original visionary films created by my biggest influence as a writer/storyteller: George Lucas.  During this time the space was lonely.  There weren’t many people to talk to about it anymore, and there wasn’t anything Star Wars on the shelves, be it magazines, toys, clothes, and what-have-you.  This was fine.  Back then, we didn’t care as much.  These were my movies, and I held them sacred.  It was the greatest story ever told in my eyes. 

Flash forward to the early 90’s and the Star Wars resurgence began!  New toys?!?  Novels like Heir to the Empire?!?  Comics from Dark Horse?!?  It was an amazing time.  The drought had ended.  Star Wars wasn’t everywhere, but it was still hanging on.  But there were no new movies.  This was what was dubbed as the Expanded Universe (EU).  The premise behind it was these were new Star Wars stories, but they did not necessarily fit into the lore of the movies.  After all the movies were sacred.  If a story was awesome, great!   But if not, hey no skin off my back, it was just the EU.
Come 1997, George Lucas announced the Star Wars Special Editions where there would be new footage, and revamped special effects.  All of sudden the world was on fire again about Star Wars!  I wasn’t alone anymore.  People were again feeling the way I did every day (I always tell people, everyday is May the 4th for me).  This was awesome.  Then the movies came out.  I for one left the theater excited about the new editions, of what Lucas and current special effects were becoming capable of, and also what the future may hold for Star Wars with the announcement of Episodes 1-3.  Everyone else however, was less than ecstatic.  “My Childhood was Ruined!”  is the most common gripe.  And it was loud.  This was the general consensus.  I shrugged it off, and headed to the future:  The Star Wars Prequels.

Around 1998, the first marketing began to show up for the first of the SW Prequels, The Phantom Menace.  I remember walking in the mall with my cousin Justin, and we were stopped dead in our tracks by the teaser poster, of a young Anakin Skywalker, casting the shadow of the fateful villain he was to become.  Needless to say we lost our collective minds!  It was so ominous, and there was so much mystery in the brilliant poster.  We officially couldn’t wait.  A few months down the road, my good friend Dewey brought home the first Phantom Menace trailer home recorded on VHS!  It was amazing!  But what was amazing was it looked different to me.  There was something new happening in the SW Universe that we had never seen before.  It was bright, clean, and noble, with a splash of ominous darkness about it.  There was a contrast to what the original trilogy was, but it was still Star Wars.  I felt this way after leaving the theater the first night.  The prequel trilogies became an addition to my favorite movies, and story ever told.  Everyone else however hated them.  These movies were not the same, and yes they were clunky to begin, and smoothed out gradually in my opinion, but they were so imaginative, and visually striking while retaining all the subtle qualities that the original trilogy held.  Not many people felt the same.  This was fine.  It was okay that the people that loved Star Wars continued to be just a small group, to carry on the excitement, and joy of these stories alone.  But that isn’t what happened.  Hate and venom spewed out from everywhere regarding the prequels, and even worse, a lot of it was geared toward the creator himself, George Lucas.  Horrible, disgusting things have been said about the man on a personal level.  “He shouldn't have done this, Star War belongs to us!”  “Lucas a horrible writer/director!”  People even went as far to say “George Lucas should die”. 

The weird thing in my mind was always “This man gave us this thing we claim to love so much, Star Wars.  Who are we to tell him what he should do with it, or that it even belongs to us.”  It isn’t ours.  It never was.  We are confusing our memories, or how we felt the first time we saw the A New Hope, with that of ownership.  We own those memories, and not the story that gave them to us.   Those stories belong to the creator first and foremost.  It doesn’t mean anyone has to like it, but if you don’t it is time to move on and let go of that personal attachment to what you think belongs to you and doesn’t.  The prequels are done, and made, and they are forever part of the lore of Star Wars. 
After Revenge of the Sith, the prequel stigmata stayed.  The excitement that I once received from any new Star Wars information was then destroyed by the internet.  It wasn’t just the trolls in the comments, but also the journalists, and writers of the articles and in the media.  It is almost impossible to find anything SW related without the hate for the prequels and its creator to come through.  It also became hard to talk about Star Wars with people in general without the animosity toward the Prequels coming out in the conversation.  People’s views on Star Wars were unfortunately tainted.  People will even go as far as to ask “what the hell is wrong with you for liking the Prequels”.  I explain myself with some people being respectful of my opinion, and some not.  So the cycle goes on and on.  But like a Jedi would tell us, “Let go of your feelings”.  These are people’s opinions and I cannot changes theirs, nor can they change mine.

Now we are in the midst of another Star Wars resurgence.  This time the difference is the creator George Lucas is nowhere to be seen.  As the rights to Star Wars was sold to Disney, Lucas has passed the torch of his creation to a new generation of SW fans and creators with promises of creating that feeling we once had in 1977 of seeing our beloved movies for the first time.  The problem is, you can’t recreate that.  I read an article about the Halloween movies once, where the producers talked about the 3rd movie in the rebooted series started by Rob Zombie.  The producer went on to say “They want to give the fans another Halloween movie that captures the feelings they received from watching the original, created by John Carpenter, for the first time.  IT IS WHAT THE FANS DESERVE”.  What is it that we deserve exactly?  The delusion of capturing a once in a lifetime feeling again?  With The Force Awakens, I feel that is what we got.

The Force Awakens was a decent movie.  And everyone else thought so too.  As a matter of fact, it has and is being treated as the savior of the Star Wars universe, from the wronging of the prequels and George Lucas himself.  But in all honesty what did George Lucas do that was really wrong?  He told a story that he wanted to tell, pure and simple.  He did not reboot a franchise, and he didn’t mess up something that was created by someone else.  I had someone today tell me that he loves The Force Awakens, and HATES Lucas.  This seems to be the reoccurring theme when it comes to peoples feeling about SW in general:  Biting the hand that fed them.  When Star Wars was first released in 1977, there was a reason it was so extraordinary:  it was a visionary film, created by a visionary writer/director.  It was something that literally, no one had seen before.  This is why it was so amazing.  There was a real gamble on the whole thing, but a young man, needed to tell his story.  And in 2015, JJ Abrams, told it again with The Force Awakens.  I feel this was a movie made by angry fans to tell a story they thought other angry fans would want.  If a great story is to be truly told, the writer/artist needs to stay true to themselves, and write the best story they can.  If it is deserved, it may be loved by the masses.  The Force Awakens is riding on the coat tails of these ideals, by drenching the story so much in nostalgia, and the stories that were already told in original movies, that if feels like a well done fan film, that takes little chances.  I know people are aware of it, and ironically they don’t want to hear about how TFA is the same as A New Hope, however, I fully believe Star Wars is better than this.

After seeing The Force Awakens, I left the movie theater angry.  I was angry that the movie played on our emotional connection to the originals, but I was also angry that everyone was happy about it.  After that feeling wore off, and I let it go, I started to feel a bit liberated.  Me hanging on the fact that I don’t like The Force Awakens means nothing in the grand scheme of things.  I don’t care either way anymore.  If the new Star Wars movies from here on out are good, than that is awesome.  If not, it isn’t a big deal either.  To me this is just the beginning of the new Expanded Universe, and I can accept that.  The complete Saga is that of its creator, Episodes 1-6, the Story of the Rise and Fall of Anakin Skywalker, by George Lucas.  I am not one for TV shows, or any kind of story lines that keep going forever.  I enjoy a more focused beginning middle and end.  I hate when I’m told to watch a TV show because of how good it is. The structure is that so it can drag people on, cliff hanger after cliff hanger.  The Original Star Wars Saga did not do this.  There was one big surprise, and the plot did not deviate from the greater story.  I guess that is why it is so sacred to me, and brought me to my conclusion:  I don’t want or need more Star Wars movies. 

As far as liking Star Wars, personally, it will always be difficult going forward.  If anything, I hope that the excitement of the new movies help people move on from what they hate about the prequels, or Special Editions, so that I can read an article, or even talk to someone about SW that is not overflowing with malicious contempt. It makes me wish that it was still the early 90’s when everything was quiet, and I could read a new Star Wars article that wasn’t based off of hate, and was more about excitement.   Believe it or not there are people who like all the original Star Wars movies, just as I am going to have to accept that most people love The Force Awakens.  However I will never accept the unadulterated hate for George Lucas himself.  I could almost understand if he was an awful person.  But he is a man who raised his children by himself, and donated the money he received from Disney to children’s charity.  He is the man who paid the fines of every crew member of The Empire Strikes Back out of his own pocket, because he insisted the opening crawl be included in his film.  He is the man, who fought to do something different than everything else Hollywood shoved down people’s throats, as they continue to do today.  He gave us our childhoods, and helped create a slew of writers, and artists, by showing us what is capable of a visionary imagination.  He is the man that gave us Star Wars, and he doesn’t owe me anything.


  1. One of the biggest regrets I have now that we're a continent apart is that I didn't get to tag along to watch this with you. Your enthusiasm is infectious - when Avengers came out, I was a Marvel n00b, and in the course of that opening day you had me up to speed with their cinematic universe; I still remember we nearly had to peel you off the ceiling when Thanos was revealed. ;)

    We did have to agree to disagree on the quality of the prequels. I'm not a huge Star Wars fan, so I never mustered the energy to be angry at Lucas, but I definitely recall the disappointment of Episode 1. For the first time I was getting to see a brand new Star Wars on the big screen, and I was probably unrealistically pumped (nostalgia tends to overwhelm the problems with the original trilogy). Enough so that I only ever saw Episodes 2 and 3 on DVD well after release. By the time I saw those two movies, I think my main thought was still just... disappointment. Not in the story Lucas was telling, but in the missed opportunities to make that story shine. We never did get a sense of Obi-Wan's and Anakin's close friendship, the politics used up too much screen time and still had plot holes you could drive a star destroyer through, and the wise and powerful Jedi Knights of Old Ben Kenobi's tales turned out to be flashy, arrogant, and inflated with their own hubris. So my overall feel on the prequels was just a resigned sadness.

    That having been said, I agree with you on the Force Awakens. Is it a good, well-paced movie? Absolutely. Does it feel like the original trilogy? Actually, yes... probably too much so. I loved the styles, the visuals, the return to practical effects; I even like their choice to make the villain a pretty boy under the mask - it pulls us back a bit from the first six movies and their blatantly evil, disfigured antagonists. But it felt like Abrams and Disney were playing it safe - replicating a winning formula without really breaking new ground.

    It actually felt like Star Wars: The Next Generation. We had our desert planet, our forest planet, our ice planet, our giant spherical doomsday weapon, our cantina, our plucky novice force user, our top gun pilot... even our original princess, smuggler, droids, and Chewie. It also missed a few elements of drama - while the visuals of the doomsday weapon were very cool (if unlikely), it didn't have the drama or personal connection of Alderaan... I'd actually have to consult the wiki to find out what planets those even were. In a lot of ways, it made the same mistakes the second Abrams Star Trek movie made. But overall, I enjoyed the experience.

    With any luck, this was Disney and Abrams figuring out that a Star Wars *not* directly from Lucas was a money-maker, and the plot will head off in its own direction with more creative freedom, and give the new core cast more time to develop; we spent so much time with Han and Chewie that we didn't have the same character-building time we had in A New Hope with those same characters. I want to see more from Finn, Rey, and Poe - and a lot more development between Rey and Kylo Ren; their lightsaber battle was a bit short on the dialogue compared to the contest of wills whenever Vader and Luke battled.

    Here's hoping.

    1. Hey man! Yeah, I wish that we could have experienced TFA together too! The Avengers experience was crazy, and yeah we should have brought a spatula with us to get me out of my seat haha!

      Yeah, I totally respect anyone's opinion about anything, as they are just that: opinions. I have though recently, been challenged constantly by people, coming up to me and making broad general statements about how bad the movies "suck", just to get a rise out of me. That never happened discussing with us. We always had fun conversations about the subject. That along with all the click bait negativity about the prequels on the internet lately has inspired me to write this blog, which is weird, because I'm really not a blog guy. Just had a whole lot bottled up about it, and need to get this out.

      The new movie is hard to deal with for me. Mainly because it totes an Episode "" title which it doesn't deserve. For instance, if one of the spin off movies had this feel to it, I could accept it more, particularly with the break neck action movie pacing, and the total disregard to the rules of the SW universe (mainly how Han so ridiculously put it, "The Force doesn't work that way".) For some reason or another, Kylo Ren, can stop a Blaster bolt in mid air, and probe minds, but can't kill a janitor in two seconds flat (and I don't care if he was injured). They also dialed in Han and Leia, and I feel they ruined who Luke turned out to be at the end of Jedi.

      The worst part was the soft reboot method of doing the story. It was disgraceful, and completely disrespectful to SW and Lucas. Again, an homage to that extent would be better served in a spin off, and not something that is continuing the story of the trilogy it immediately proceeds.

      That being said, I am excited about ep. 8. I really dig Rian Johnson, and think his style is more on par with the SW feel. Also I heard that the next movie will be "weird" which I think is awesome. But I will be taking everything going forward with a grain of salt, and not much invested in it personally. After all not matter what, even if the following movies are great, ep. 7 is a serious stain on the episodic SW for me, so nothing after ep. 6 counts as canon for me.

    2. I can't argue with you on some of those points, and some of those are objections I had myself. In a lot of ways, your issues with TFA mirror the problems I had (as a more invested fan) with the second Abrams Star Trek movie. It tried to parrot too much of an excellent movie, without seeming to understand the qualities that made it excellent in the first place; and there was really no excuse for it.

      The first Star Trek movie was a pretty hard reboot, and for all of the silly science and giant plot holes, the casting was excellent and it kept to the classic Kirk/Spock/McCoy Ego/Superego/Id characterizations, if not quite as well as it could have. But essentially it spun off a new universe, without shitting on everything that came before it.

      Into Darkness by contrast was a mess - it threw characterizations out the window, smashed even their brand new universe to flinders, and it centered on an idiot plot that tried to recycle elements from the excellent Wrath of Khan with no attention to why they worked in the first place. When Spock died at the end of Wrath of Khan, it wasn't its own ridiculous action sequence, and it wasn't solved five minutes later; as far as the audience was concerned, Spock was actually dead. By then, that was a crew that had been serving together on and off for twenty years, and we had spent at least three seasons with Kirk, Spock and McCoy watching their friendship develop.

      But suddenly they're trying to recycle that moment in the new movie... even though we've only seen the crew together for one movie, and they've basically served together for maybe a year; the emotional investment isn't there, and we knew from the start that Kirk wasn't going to stay dead. It just ended up feeling hollow and kinda stupid. A lot stupid.

      TFA I think has similar issues - it was basically an action-oriented remake of A New Hope, but with longer action sequences and less time establishing the new cast. But some of the choices had that problem - the "freezing the blaster bolt scene" was pretty damned awesome, but it set Kylo Ren up as a serious threat... only to reveal that he's basically a Darth Vader wannabe, and not remotely as powerful as he thinks he is. That part I actually find interesting; but that first scene comes off as too strong then. Other choices just seemed to be weird callbacks - why did Han and Leia name their kid Ben? Solo only knew him as that annoying old dude, and Leia only knew him as General Kenobi. Did Starkiller base (I see what you did there, JJ!) actually take out the entire New Republic? And if so, how? Surely they didn't have their entire governing force and military fleet all on those five random planets?

      That said, I enjoyed the feel of the movie - it had a lot of issues, but avoided some of the mistakes the prequels made; a lesser reliance on CG, a return to the "lived-in" look of the original universe, and much tighter dialogue. Basically, if I don't think too hard about it, I had fun.

  2. Thank you. I am one of those fans hated and reviled for DARING to love the prequels and merely requesting the original EU be continued (or at least have the open story arcs finished). I am not alone...I know of others. The thing that totally turned me off their movie was not that it went in a different direction, it was that it claimed to. It undermined the entire POINT of the saga, of Anakin's fall and redemption that undid the Empire's dominance, allowed new Jedi and a new Republic. And it did it with the same elements people claimed to hate the EU for! All they did was change the names and rearrange a few details!

  3. We are not alone

    Oh, wait...


  4. After seeing The Force Awakens, I left the movie theater angry. I was angry that the movie played on our emotional connection to the originals, but I was also angry that everyone was happy about it.

    I'm not angry, but I am disappointed. I also fear that originality is something that is disappearing in movies - both in Hollywood and on the other side of the Atlantic.

    And yes, I am a big fan of not only the Prequel films, but all of the six films made by Lucas.

  5. Hi Jason, I came across your blog from a link at the Star Wars Prequel Appreciation Society.

    I feel for the most part the same as you. I feel that somewhere along the line people adopted this idea that Star Wars, as an idea, belongs to the everyman and was not for Lucas to leave his mark on. But as you say without him we would have none of this. Personally I think there was so much time between Jedi and Menace that by the time Menace came out people had just imagined a million and one scenarios and were disappointed when their own ideas didn't make it into the film. I didn't even see the OT until 1995 (I was 9) and I still wasn't prepared for the idea of the Jedi being an intergalactic police force by the time of TPM - I don't think anyone was! At least among most of my friends, we had imagined Jedi as these noble, nomadic monks who just kind of wandered the galaxy. So of course accepting the Jedi as these bureaucratic quasi-politicians went against everything the Jedi had previously seemed to stand for. But people seem to have missed the point! That the Jedi probably *were* those wandering nomads at some point but by the time of TPM they had allowed their order to be compromised to the larger political picture! But I'm preaching to the choir here.

    Anyway - the 97 editions came out, I was blown away and even now, as an adult filmmaker, I still have respect for Lucas to go back 20 years later and want to touch up his original work. And I personally don't blame him for wanting that to be the definitive edition - Is a painter who adds additional strokes years later obligated to continue releasing prints of his 'unmodified' original just because it was put on display years earlier? Is a composer who adds new motifs to his greatest symphony obligated to continue performing the older version just because it was originally performed that way? Lucas didn't want Star Wars to be a Save As... He is thinking forward, in terms of how do I want these films to be remembered as long after I'm dead, and if you prefer the theatricals they just don't mesh as well with the prequels as a cohesive whole. But the Special Editions do. And I think possibly that the one mistake Lucas made was to release the special editions before the prequels. I get that they were kind of a test of the effects workflow, but in my opinion as 1-6 tells a much more suspenseful, meaningful story and in all reality the *only* reason to show someone 4-6 first is to preserve the Vader twist (which, ironically, knowing ahead of time ruins the much bigger twist that Anakin falls to the Dark Side and becomes Darth Vader). So a new generation of fans was introduced to 4-6, eagerly anticipated 1-3 only to find out they already knew how the story turned out. Acting, writing, Jar Jar, all of that gets criticized, but the one major complaint I hear is that the whole Prequel saga just feels like a too-convenient point A to point B with no suspense because we already know the characters' fates. Well, of course it does when you watch the originals first! If you read the last half of a book, then read the first half would you really complain that the first three chapters just felt like they were tacked on, unnecessary exposition? I can't completely blame the fans here, as how can they be expected to enjoy three films that they already know the outcome of. (continued in part 2)

    1. But herein lies the problems of the hater fans - they are completely unwilling to try new things. Special editions? Hate 'em. Prequels? Hate 'em? TFA, which basically just hits the same beats as the originals and features a lot more of based god Han Solo? LOVE IT. I thought Episode I was OK when it first came out, Episode II was passable, and I hated III (mostly because I had dreamed up my own ideas of how it should have gone down), but I didn't truly appreciate them as the amazingly ambitious work they are until I sat down and watched Episodes 1-6, one each night, over the course of a week. I was absolutely blown away at the scope and attention to detail, and as a film student at the time, the subtle (and some not so subtle) genre references of everything from Rebel Without A Cause to Ben-Hur. The films as a six part saga are an incredible homage to ancient storytelling and a love letter to film history. And every. single. person that says the prequels sucked, I ask have you tried watching in episodic order, and they refuse to because that's 'not how they experienced them the first time.' Well no wonder you hate them when you're *watching the story out of order*!! I believe you are absolutely right, that the average unhappy fan has become completely obsessed with the idea of recapturing that magic of the very first time they saw them. Unfortunately, they are so obsessed with the technical details (release/machete order, theatrical versions only, Han shoots first, groaning about Jedi Rocks, pretending Jar Jar is a secret Sith Lord) that they completely miss the point of the *magic* of Star Wars.

      Now - on to The Force Awakens. I was watching with a ridiculously critical eye in the theater and wasn't really giving it a fair chance on its own. The more time that has passed since I saw it, I actually like it more. But as a concept, when I read that Disney basically shooed Lucas from the project to make something 'for the fans,' it kind of burst the bubble for me. The saga is timeless - biblical even - and I kind of felt like they took the weird parts that make Star Wars what it is, and turned them into mass appeal that would 'offend' as few people as possible. Basically, it felt a little like Disney said, OK, the bar is already *so low*, all we have to do is NOT do the weird Lucas stuff that people hate. So instead of taking any risks they stuck to everything that made the OT work. That said, it was a very enjoyable movie, seemed very well made, and a few moments did take my breath away. But I am still coming to terms with it being an official Episode in the Star Wars saga. I think to some degree its permanence will be determined by where the story goes next. And while I think Rian Johnson will make a decent movie, I'm honestly most looking forward to Colin Trevorrow's Episode IX, as between the three directors he seems to take himself the least seriously. I'm slowly coming to terms with the future of the franchise, and as you said, accepting whether these films are a kind of 'new EU' or glorified fan films, or whether they will cement themselves as a worthy addition to the already masterful saga George had completed.

      Finally - I do implore you to give the CGI animated The Clone Wars series a shot. I know you said a TV show is not your thing, but Lucas served as executive producer and all but a few of the storylines directly came from him. It *is* officially canon, it *does* come from Lucas, and I think it will satiate that desire for more 'real' Star Wars. It also adds a ton of depth to the prequels and the saga in general.

      Thank you for your blog and it was refreshing to see someone with similar feelings out there. May the Force Be With You!


    2. Hi Kyle! Thanks for your awesome post. I agree, that I feel much of the negative feelings towards the prequels derives from the way people imagined them for the past 16 years, post ROTJ. And this is somewhat understandable. Even I envisioned Anakin wearing clothes similar to Luke, on Bespin, and flying an X-Wing in those stories when I was a kid. It wasn't until they came out that made me realize, "Wait, it was all there to begin with in the OT, I just never noticed." Mostly things like Luke's robes in ROTJ, and Ben's in ANH. One of the favorite call backs to the PT was when Vader tells Luke to give into the Dark Side as it is the only way to save his friends. Amazing.

      Anyway, We built up these things in our heads for so long, that when the movies came out, it was weird, even for me at first. No Stormtroopers, Battledroids, and political setups, were so different, that some people never gave it a chance. I didn't take me long to realize, "Holy crap, this is why this is amazing: We are getting to see a whole new Star Wars." Kind of a pre WWII Europe. I find it funny that people don't see this about them. It is a whole different generation in the SW universe. Why would it be the same?

      About TFA, though, I have a really hard time enjoying it, because it almost feels like the creators were making fun of SW the whole way, as if they were a step below Deadpool in almost breaking that 4th wall. I couldn't take it seriously, and it didn't seem like the characters did either, like when Han Solo comments "Oh these things always have a weak point.", or telling Finn "That isn't how the Force works!". Don't get me wrong, its funny, just to me, it is cheapening the self awareness that is a SW movie.

      I could go on all day about TFA, but I won't, lol. However, let me rephrase: I don't watch too many TV shows. I own all the seasons of The Clone Wars and the frist Season of SW Rebels. I love these shows! They are absolutely wonderful. I think it is because it is made with heart, where-as I think TFA suffers, is that is is made with unguided excitement if that makes sense. So, yes, I totally watch TCW.

      I also agree that the PT stands up so much better when it is included with the OT. I remember watching all 6 movies in a row for the first time, and it was seriously emotional. When you watch the reasons Anakin falls to the Dark Side (which I feel is one of the most tragic things I've ever seen put to film) and finally see him reject it in ROTJ to save his son, it is intense. I think if you let all the big ideas in, the movies become, like you said, almost biblical.

      Thanks again for reading Kyle, and May the Force be with you as well!