Published on November 6th, 2019 | by Richard Boom0
Given to Me; Thoughts on Star Wars
We’re coming to the end of a cinematic era. It’s one we thought we might not ever see. A closing chapter on a saga that spans four decades. I was fifteen years old and a huge comic book and science fiction fan and there had literally never been anything like this in the history of film. I loved this movie and saw it every week in its theatrical run in my hometown. No one thought that this film would amount to anything. George Lucas struggled to find a distributor. He poured his own money into the project. The money he made off American Graffiti. Lucas himself was unsure if his epic would make back the money that he poured into it. That’s why he commissioned Alan Dean Foster to write the novel Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. It would have been cheap to film as a sequel.
But, of course, we all know what happened the film broke box office records and became the biggest money-making film of all time, a record it held for five years until the release of E.T. The Extraterrestrial. I often pondered what would have happened if Lucas had sold his script to the Hollywood machine instead of making it himself. My feeling is that the biggest films are ones that have the filmmaker’s vision all over it. When the filmmaker puts together his thoughts, his passion, his sweat, it shines forth and his love of the craft draws us into his world. That’s why filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino see the success they do; the studios wouldn’t dare interfere.
The Hollywood machine would have demanded that the film be re-written to match their view of how a script should go. They would have applied different step processes. They would have demanded a love story, probably between Luke and Leia. It would have hit different beats every few pages. Things that George Lucas didn’t follow. He simply put his thoughts down on paper and made the greatest and most successful space opera ever! Now, if Lucas hadn’t poured his soul into it, but let someone else make it, it probably would have been successful, but I don’t think it would have been anywhere near as successful as it has become.
Splinter of the Mind’s Eye is an excellent book and would have made a great movie. But George Lucas had money now and could make his vision the way he wanted too. The movie Lucas made; The Empire Strikes Back is widely considered to be the best of all the Star Wars movies. It’s my personal favorite because of how the characters develop. The fact that Luke has discovered that the dark lord of the sith, whom he had been fighting, whom he hated, was his own father. The emotional connection we feel with him and the other characters are deepest here than in any of the other films. We see Luke coming to grips with his past and his fate, he must grow up. We also see the love develop between Han and Lea. Two characters that are constantly bickering. This shows us that they believe in each other and are trying to bring out the best in each other. You might, at first, think that they hate each other. But if they hated each other, then they wouldn’t even bother to find a redeemable soul within each other. This is good writing; this is character arcs. Growth and development that makes us really care about these characters. Also, what makes them iconic.
Then came Return of the Jedi. A film that is somewhat disappointing after Empire Strikes Back. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it. It concluded the original trilogy in a satisfactory way. Even the little teddy bears (Ewoks, if I must tell you) didn’t ruin it for me. After they stuck Han in the carbonite in the previous film I was worried that he would only come back in a cameo at the end (which is what Ford had originally wanted as he was getting tired of playing the character) but I was so glad to see him back in full force (pun intended, lol) and fighting alongside his friends. We’d already seen Luke grow into the Jedi we knew he would become in Empire and we saw the relationship between Han and Lea blossom, so we didn’t need to go there as much. But one area they should have gone in was to develop Lando Calrissian’s character and his relationship to Han. Which would have made us care about him more. I always felt that Lando was underused and I was so disappointed that he wasn’t in Force Awakens (more on that later.)
Now we come to the much-maligned prequels. I didn’t dislike them as much as a lot of people. For one thing, we didn’t have any other type of space opera quite like Star Wars since the original film and I was glad to see some awesome new characters in this universe. Yes, Jar Jar Binks made me groan along with everyone else and the space pod race seemed out of place also, Jake Lloyd as Anakin Skywalker didn’t even seem to be flying the ship, he just seemed to be sitting there while the ship was on remote control or something. But the positives outweighed the negatives for me. Liam Neeson is always enjoyable no matter what he’s in and Qui-Gon is just as strong a character as Alec Guinness Obi-Wan Kenobi. Speaking of Obi-Wan, Ewan McGregor is brilliant as the young apprentice and we watch him grow in this series and see his struggles with the force and becoming a Jedi. Perhaps seeing him grow was not as strong as what we saw in Luke, but the stakes were higher for Luke in the original series than they are for Obi-Wan here. And, of course, the highlight of this film is the lightsaber duel between the Jedi and Darth Maul. The drawback, of course, is that we don’t really know enough about Maul to really care that much about what happens to him. Is he on par with Darth Vader in Star Wars? Is he an apprentice himself? Who exactly is he and what is his function in the empire? None of that is answered. But overall, this is an awesome scene in a great, entertaining film.
Now we come to Attack of the Clones. This is definitely the low point in the series for me. I find this to be the worse of the pre-Disney Star Wars films and I agree with Ebert and Maltin,
From Wikipedia: Roger Ebert, who had praised the previous Star Wars films, gave Episode II only two out of four stars, noting “[As] someone who admired the freshness and energy of the earlier films, I was amazed, at the end of Episode II, to realize that I had not heard one line of quotable, memorable dialogue.” About Anakin and Padme’s relationship, Ebert stated: “There is not a romantic word they exchange that has not long since been reduced to cliché.” Leonard Maltin, who also liked all the previous installments, also awarded two stars out of four to this endeavor as well, as seen in his Movie and Video Guide from the 2002 edition onward. Maltin cited an “overlong story” as a reason for his dissatisfaction and added, “Wooden characterizations and dialogue don’t help.”
I was actually bored sitting through this movie, and it is the only Star Wars movie in the eight films released in the series so far that didn’t become the number one film in the year it was released. It finished third behind Spiderman and the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
Now we come up to the Disney Star Wars. Remember what I said at the beginning of this article about the filmmaker’s vision and what happens when someone else makes the movie. This is what we have here. First, the series gets off to a good start.
I was so thrilled when I found out that Star Wars was coming back in the Force Awakens. Han, Luke, and Lea were all in it. I didn’t think I’d ever see my heroes again and Star Wars fans were apparently as ecstatic as I was for their return because the film is the number one money-making film domestically, not even Avengers: End Game could beat it (though it did beat it internationally) The film was action-packed and gave Han Solo a terrific death scene. Though I didn’t want him to die. I also wanted him to be back in action alongside Luke, which we didn’t see. In fact, we didn’t see much of Luke Skywalker at all in this film. But I was still thrilled and gave the movie a good review. I couldn’t get into the Rey character and Poe Dameron seemed to be Han Solo lite. But of the new characters, I thought Finn was the best. Here was this stormtrooper, the first one we ever get to know, who looks at what the Empire is doing and doesn’t like what he sees. He goes against his training to join the rebels. We see some growth with this character and it’s exciting to see him on his journey. But on second viewing, I realized that they were pretty much remaking the original movie. I still enjoyed watching it, but it didn’t take any real chances and played it safe. I also couldn’t believe how stupid Kylo Ren was. It is impossible for a character to be this stupid and rise to prominence within the empire. For some reason, white males had to be stupid just because they’re white males. Kylo Ren is arrogant, self-serving and leaps into frays without thinking. Darth Vader, on the other hand, was savvy, calculating and always stayed one step ahead of his opponents. A villain that we could get into. Rey is, by the producer’s own admission, a Mary-Sue. Which means she can do nothing wrong. She climbs aboard the millennium falcon and knows how to fly it. She can grab a light saber and take on the leader of the empire. Where did she get her training? How does she know how to do all the things that she does? We don’t know, it’s a mystery. What we know of her past tells us that she shouldn’t be able to do any of this stuff. A scavenger who was abandoned as a child on the desert planet Jakku and awaits her family’s return. A caricature more than a character. We barely know anything about her.
And now, we come to The Last Jedi. A film I also gave a good review to. Technically it is one of the best action/sci-fi films ever made. The pacing, the effects, and the overall visuals are fantastic. But for some reason, Rain Johnson decided to completely crap on the iconic characters. I know that those characters are getting older and we need to make way for new ones to keep the series fresh. I already discussed the new character I liked the best in Force Awakens, which was Finn. But look at what they do to him here. He seems indecisive and his presence is almost not needed at all, the relationship between him and Rose Tico falls flat. These scenes are not necessary to tell the story overall. Then we see another stupid white male in General Hux. No one who behaves the way Hux and Ren do in these movies could ever make their respective ranks in any type of military, let alone the strongest military might in the galaxy. They are cringeworthy. We now see an embittered Luke Skywalker, a hermit drinking some kind of strange green milk and not caring about anyone anymore. I can accept him becoming disillusioned with the ways of the Jedi. But he didn’t seem interested in the fate of his own sister. He’s become a whiney cry-baby, a former shell of the Jedi us original fans have come to know and love. If he had only redeemed himself by the end of this film, If he had done something which would have restored our faith in him. But, sadly, this wasn’t to be. By crapping on the iconic characters, Disney has divided the fan base. New fans may be excited about the Rise of Skywalker, but those of us who were there from the beginning had the wind knocked out of our sails. Couldn’t you have made a movie which would please both original fans and the new fan base? Looking at how much difference there was in box office between Force Awakens and Last Jedi, it is apparent that Disney made a divisive film as Jedi made $700 million less, worldwide than Awakens. Which brings us to…
The Rise of Skywalker. I recently discussed the coming film on a podcast with the hosts of the show. While talking about it I realized I am not enthused about this film at all. I saw the official trailer and I don’t even know what direction the film is going in. Nothing about the plot is revealed in this trailer. I was glad to see that Billy Dee Williams will be back as Lando Calrissian. But I wonder if this is an act of desperation, as I’ve stated before he should have been in Force Awakens. The original idea of these movies was to have the iconic characters die in the three movies, Han in Force Awakens, Luke in Last Jedi and Lea in Rise of Skywalker, but, tragically, Carrie Fisher passed on too soon, before she could have filmed scenes for the latest film. They have put some scenes of Lea in this film taking unused footage from the previous films and I wonder if putting Lando in there was simply because Carrie Fisher wasn’t around to appear in it? Anyway, since The Last Jedi, we’ve seen the first Star Wars film flop (Solo: a Star Wars Story) and internet trolls were blamed. Will episode nine flop? Probably not, but I don’t think it will perform anywhere near as well as the studio wants it to. George Lucas was tired of working on his vision, so he sold it to Disney, but gave them his notes on how he wanted the films to go. They ignored them (13) As we discussed before when the filmmaker makes his vision, the love is reflected on the silver screen. When someone else takes his vision and re-works it, the love is gone.
I think fan backlash, or more accurately, fan indifference after what they did to Last Jedi, caused Solo to flop. I don’t think episode nine will do anything to restore our faith. Oh, well, it’s been a great ride overall and we’ll find out in December.