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Star Wars: Flawed Perfection

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It’s been a long, drunken journey

Yeah, I’m going there.

I will start off by saying that I enjoy the Star Wars movies. I was introduced to them as far back as three years old. My earliest memory involves me picking out a Darth Vader light saber and insisting that the red one was the good guy’s sword.

That said, the Star Wars saga is a twisted, convoluted mess of a series. There was no clear plan for the very first movie, let alone for a nine-movie-long saga. Quite frankly, George Lucas didn’t know what the hell he was doing.

Lest anyone forget, Lucas’ first movie, THX 1138 was not a success by any measure.  It could be argued that the only reason American Graffiti turned out as well as it did was due to it largely being based on Lucas’ own life. Star Wars was similarly based on a love of Lucas’.

No, I’m not saying that George Lucas is an alien. Everyone knows that, anyway. As many people know now, Star Wars was a love letter to the old Flash Gordon serials of Lucas’ youth. When he couldn’t obtain the rights to Flash Gordon, he basically set out to make a rip-off of it.

Writing the original Star Wars was a giant mess in and of itself. Looking back over the Wikipedia article about the writing process, Lucas didn’t seem to know what to do beyond write something science-fictiony. Looking over it as a whole, Lucas was relatively clueless as to what he was doing.

It would take him three years and uncountable rewrites and reimaginings before he finally put down the script… just as they started filming the movie. Lucas has admitted he was heavily influenced by numerous different sci-fi adventures he had seen and read. Star Wars was a lasagna whose different layers were built upon other writers’ works.

It kinda worked out okay though, in the end. Star Wars was a huge hit, and it is a good movie, but I think a large part of that is owed to luck. The movie is a veritable hodgepodge of other movies and books mixed together with a heaping helping of classical adventure archetypes added in for spice. That said, it would seem that Lucas had found his footing in Star Wars.

Except he had not. Lucas didn’t even write the base script for The Empire Strikes Back, though he would ultimately polish it into the story we saw on the big screen. It also wasn’t until this point that the trilogy… well… became a trilogy. It’s also the point that Darth Vader became Luke Skywalker’s daddy.

Darth Vader had not been destined to be Luke’s father when the first film was made. This introduced the first of many contradictions in the continuity of the series. It’s also the main crux of my argument, here.

From the beginning, Star Wars has always been a crapshoot. The first movie was supposed to be another movie entirely. The second movie morphed the series into a trilogy. The third movie, as far as I know, was supposed to end the trilogy.

Also, as far as I know, there was no grand plan of doing three prequels to the original trilogy. Insert your “Spaceballs: The Search for More Money” joke here. It should be said that Lucas claims he always wanted to do the prequel trilogy, however.

Whatever the truth is, the prequel movies were made, and the nerds rejoiced. Again, I enjoyed all three movies, though many swear they were terrible. Both sides are right.

The prequel trilogy showed a level of writing not seen in the first three movies. The plots and storylines were much more polished and coherent. It was evident that careful thought and planning had gone into the over-arching story that bound not only the three movies, but the prequel trilogy to the original triology.

My main beef with the prequels is twofold. Firstly, while the writing is cohesive, it is also emotionally flat. George Lucas has come a long way in his writing, but handles emotion with all the grace and nuance of a mentally deficient refrigerator.

The other major problem with the prequels was that the story they had to tell was set in stone, and had to be spread out across three movies. This problem can be seen the most in the first movie, which feels like it could be simplified to “pod racing and baffling good luck.” While The Phantom Menace does a good job of setting up the rest of the trilogy, it meanders relentlessly on its way there.

That brings us to the sequel trilogy. I can honestly understand at this point why George Lucas didn’t have much interest in doing the “final” trilogy. These movies, thus far, epitomize everything that’s wrong with Hollywood today.

There is no clear outline for this trilogy. It is literally being hammered out as they go along. The first movie was a total and complete send-up of the original Star Wars film. Kylo Ren is Darth Vader, rebels are trying to bring down the establishment, Starkiller Base is the Death Star, a lot of time is spent on a desert planet, etc.

The Last Jedi, if anything, seems to be an even more confused mess. It feels more like a generic sci-fi action/adventure movie than ever before. Without getting too deep into the plot of the film, it epitomizes the idea of delivering over-the-top moments versus building plot and character.

Speaking of character, Luke Skywalker comes off as more of a convenient plot device then the continuing arc of a beloved character. Leia Organa similarly seems to be there simply for the character recognition and as a place-holder. Her big “force” moment in the film feels like tacked-on lip service for the nerds in the audience.

At this point, I don’t know if there will be a truly satisfying end to this third trilogy. Disney seems more interested in delivering over-the-top cinematic moments than developing a mythos. Bottom line: Disney gonna Disney. And if their past is any indication, the third movie in the trilogy will not be the last.

Sure enough, there’s already been an indication that the original main movie line will continue, though not necessarily continuing with the Skywalker clan. These movies will undoubtedly continue to make way more money than they have any right to. These movies will continue to spawn more movies and spin-offs, and I’ll probably watch them all.

I truly am a fan of the Star Wars universe. I truly enjoy watching the movies. I’m simply disappointed that, after all these years and all these movies, the powers that be still can’t get their shit together and create a cohesive universe.  Flying by the seat of one’s pants might have worked out for Han Solo, but that doesn’t mean it will continue to work for Disney.

The Star Wars films are great popcorn movies, but they can be so. Much. MORE. Disney has the power and the talent to weave a storyline to rival that of the Marvel movies. The only real question now is, why aren’t they doing it?

 

 

 

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