I love Star Wars. While I was too young to watch any of the original trilogy in theaters when they were released, I grew up watching them repeatedly both on VHS and when they would constantly run on the USA Network (those old enough will surely remember). A big fun space adventure full of excitement and memorable places and characters, what was not to love?! However, things lately have been a lot less lovely. Ever since the Mouse bought A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far, Far Away this growing sense of discontent has been building. At first there was also a sense of optimism to counteract all the grumpiness, the prequel trilogy had been a rough time for fans so we were wary but looked hopefully to this new beginning, but with the mixed reactions to The Last Jedi and Solo: A Star Wars Story the internet has scraped the new hope and given in to the dark side. With the internet ablaze with hostility, some justified and a whole lot that isn’t I’m going to cut through the crap and toxic venom and get to the heart of what’s broken and what can be done to correct them.
To properly discuss the genuine problems we first must excise from our view all the garbage ones. While The Last Jedi is an admittedly heavily flawed movie that breaks away from some traditional Star Wars tropes and characters such as Rose do offer several problems it is not a fair assessment to say the film or new characters are totally without value and the racist, sexist, body-shaming bullshit actors like Kelly Marie Tran has had to put up with is equal parts ignorant and intolerable. Some people seem to have missed the part where the folks who hated multiculturalism and diversity were the Empire and The First Order, y’know, the bad guys! If Star Wars is going to stay relevant and not stagnate it is going to have to embrace the occasional twist and diversion from the established path. For example, you might not like the revelation that Rey’s parents are nobody important (I like this change by the way) as important hidden lineages are a reoccurring theme for the franchise, but this break from expectation allows for a new and interesting tale to be told. Star Wars should never abandon its roots, but it is going to have to grow and branch off from time to time lest it die. True, that attempts to add something different is also what gave us the horribleness that is Jar Jar Binks, but not all deviations and changes are Jar Jar level cock-ups so cool it with your strike this or that movie from continuity angry tirades already!
With that all out of the way, lets get down to the real issues.
The first and most pressing problem is the general lack of direction the franchise has right now. It seems all too content to drift about putting out safe middle of the road movies that are supposed for all ages and all demographics everywhere for all the time. This is not how you get people excited in a franchise. What we need immediately is a creative mind in the realms of story and production to be the visionary of the franchise and tell us where we are going, how we’ll get there, and why we should care. We need somebody to pick up the George Lucas role stat, they don’t need to be as hands on as George was, they can serve more as a general guide to creators so that we don’t have do massive re-shoots and bring in different directors to cut and/or finish other people’s films all the time. Take a look at how Marvel content controls and promotes the MCU and apply it to Star Wars. Communication with creators and fans is key, and that is something this franchise is sorely lacking. The franchise needs a major creative figure at the helm that the public has access to and trusts and we need it now! If Kathleen Kennedy wants to get the pressure off her she needs to figure out if she can do this herself or if she needs to bring someone else to do it for her. J.J. Abrams is the most obvious answer, but who knows if he would be up for that level of commitment.
Once you got the right person to guide the ship, the other big step is to come to the realization that every Star Wars movie isn’t going to cater to the fanbase in its entirety and start making movies in tone with the story they are telling and its actual target audience. Trying to pander to everyone is starting to make the franchise feel like eating a bucket of very stale popcorn. Sure it’s filling, but it isn’t what anyone would call satisfying. We need respectable movies with respectable expectations for both the execs and the fans and respectable budgets for what they are setting out to accomplish. As much as it pains me to say it as Han Solo is my favorite character in all of Star Wars, there are a whole bunch of of fans who due to lack of exposure or just not liking the guy, don’t want to see a movie about him. Lean into the fact that fans of Han Solo skew older and know he has a shady past and give us a darker and more complex story that gets inside Solo’s head and maybe even question how much we like him by having him do some really bad things at the expense of others to survive. I like Solo for what it is, but the need to try and cater the movie for everyone and stick to a set formula takes what could have been a great film and makes it serviceable at best.
The main movies should keep their general mass market feel, but all these side movies should be much more daring and experimental. Take real risks, go different ways it is possible to this without such levels of backlash as long as everyone understands what each film is going for. Make like Doctor Who, a franchise that is very formulaic, but knows how to play within those confines to keep things fresh. Another thing to try to implement is some sort of reoccurring background characters or even go as far as to flesh a character or thing from the new movies in the main series more fully. Nothing that goes as far as to be required viewing for understanding the main series or outright derails the side movie, but something that can enhance the overall experience of both series making each movie seem all the more relevant.
One last thing, could this franchise please stop trying to make something into a thing in every movie or at least learn to be more clever about it? Merchandising has always been part of Star Wars, I mean all those jokes Mel Brooks made about this when he lampooned the series in Spaceballs didn’t come from out of nowhere, but ever since Return Of The Jedi and the goddamn Ewoks this franchise has had a bad habit of shoving some cute and/or “funny” thing in our faces and screaming “buy this!”. It isn’t that this can never work, fans love BB-8 but that’s because the little droid adds something of value to the stories he appears in and doesn’t overstay his welcome. Porgs on the other hand do not.
I wouldn’t be so annoyed by the porgs in The Last Jedi if they stayed in the background where they belong, but the movie screeches to a halt several times just so we can put the porgs up front so kids will ask their parents to buy them. I wasn’t annoyed that the movie was marketing so hard to kids, I was annoyed at how lazily it was done as I appear to have more respect for kids today then Lucasfilm does. The porgs and things like them would’ve gotten over without the hard sell anyways because they are in fact cute/funny in limited bursts, but for some reason that’s not good enough for Lucasfilm so they have to jam these things down our throats. If they have to do this would it kill them to please make sure the thing they’re adding adds something to the film and doesn’t become an unnecessary distraction?
Whatever Lucasfilm does, they need to do it fast because every day they wait people’s faith and interest in Star Wars gets weaker and no one wants to see the light of this franchise be snuffed out.
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