A few weeks ago a rumor was circulating that Rian “Reverse Midas” Johnson was going to be canned by Disney, no doubt in an effort to salvage the wreckage of the Star Wars franchise.
The Mouse quickly disavowed this sensible move, and I was fine with it. You see, I was once an avid fan, going all the way back to 1977. But the years since then have taught me that the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference. And I’m indifferent to Star Wars now.
Lightning Struck Three Times – That’s All
Don’t get me wrong, I still love the original cuts of the original films. They are iconic – not just of themselves, but of Hollywood in its last creative burst before it degenerated into remakes of remakes of remakes of comic book films.
The original films weren’t particularly inventive, and that was part of the charm. George Lucas and company borrowed heavily from westerns, vintage sci-fi and Akira Kurosawa. The result was something no one expected.
Actually, the first cut sucked, but Lucas’ mysterious first wife, Marcia, was there to save the day with her fellow editors. That’s why she got the Oscar and he didn’t.
I know a lot of people enjoy bashing Return of the Jedi, but it is my personal favorite of the series. The reason is simply that it doesn’t screw things up, and that’s no mean feat. Yes, The Empire Strikes Back built upon the greatness of Star Wars, but if Jedi was truly as awful as people claim it was, we wouldn’t even be talking about Star Wars 40+ years later. It would be buried with another franchise that never quite took off.
Sticking the landing is damn hard. Just ask the clowns who wrecked The Matrix. Or you could ask George R.R.R.R.R. Martin who still hasn’t finished his pervy version of Lord of the Rings.
At their best, movies take us to another place and time outside of where we are. For a couple of hours we lose ourselves in a story and truly great movies bring us back to that place every time we watch it.
The Prequel Heresies
I think that’s why I went easy on the prequels when they first came out. In retrospect, they stink. They demolished the back story for the originals and don’t even make cohesive sense. After the hype faded and I realized Phantom Menace was actually a bad movie, I set my hopes on Attack of the Clones. I then focused on Revenge of the Sith – and this time I went all-in.
Yes, I was one of those geeks with movie-grade stormtrooper armor for the local midnight show. There were some TV crews to document the occasion and when the lights came up, they clearly expected me to gush about how much I loved it. Instead, I was spitting mad. I can’t recall my exact words, but it was something to the effect of “I hate this movie and will never watch it again.”
When the DVD came out, I refused to buy it, though my wife and kids subsequently smuggled a disk into the house.
One of my pet peeves is waste. It’s no crime to be poor, but to have so much and piss it away is an outrage.
Star Wars had so much potential in its back story, and yet what did we get? CGI Yoda bouncing off the walls and Senator Jar-Jar Binks.
A large part of the problem was that Lucas made the decision to get political, without actually understanding politics.
The back story of the Galactic Civil War didn’t have to be detailed, but it did have to make some sort of sense. The character of the Emperor, for example, needed to be a dominating, interesting personality. Instead he sits around and cackles. We never learn what his movies are other than eeeevil.
(By the way, it was this failure that drove me to write the Man of Destiny series. )
I could go on, but Red Letter Media already made the definitive multi-hour takedown of these movies.
The point is that with the fullness of time, it was obvious that the prequels were objectively bad.
I dealt with this revelation by writing them off as heresies, perversions of the true vision of Star Wars. The original versions were canon. Everything else was heresy. Cue the Spanish Inquisition:
Disney Makes the Rubble Bounce
When George Lucas shocked the world by selling the rights to Disney, I still cared enough to be cautiously optimistic.
Yeah, that was a mistake.
Old habits die hard, and I went to The Force Awakens wanting it to be good. It wasn’t. The same cold rage came back to me as I watched Mary Sue Rey out-fly Han, out-fix Chewie, and outfight everyone.
Making matters worse was the insufferable injection of political correctness into the films.
One of the things that pisses you off when you get older is people claiming to have been the First Ever to do something that was commonplace in your youth. I know it’s hip and cool to pretend that actual slavery ended in 1953 and that until 1997, women had never even owned their own clothes, but please. This notion that movies have been starved of strong female characters is utter crap. You want an empowered female hero? Here you go:
I badly want to see Sigourney Weaver (who still looks great, btw) bitch-slap Daisy Ridley, Brie Larson and the rest of the wannabe Suffragettes silly. But I digress.
Rogue One looked like it wouldn’t suck, and for the most part it didn’t. Zombie Peter Cushing was an odd choice, but I could almost look past it. Some of the characters were fun and cool. As is the custom, however, they had to botch the ending by using some game play from The Force Unleashed.
That killed my interest. I could have grooved to a Star Wars retelling of The Dirty Dozen, but not this garbage.
I was also getting tired of walking out of the theater feeling angry and ripped off. I usually save that for visits to my accountant.
So when The Last Jedi came out, I took a hard pass. I even wrote an anti-review – which I define as an essay of why I wasn’t going to see the film.
Still, the allure of Star Wars was stronger for my wife and kids and they dutifully trooped off to the theater.
The interesting thing is their reactions mirrored a lot of the remaining fan base. They regarded the movie as worthwhile at the time, but after watching the DVD they came to realize that – in the words of one my kids – “Actually, it kind of sucked.”
This delayed reaction is what likely sunk Solo. No one in the family went to see it in the theater. My wife watched on streaming video and said it wasn’t terrible.
Yes, that’s where we’re at with the Star Wars franchise. The new standard is “not terrible.”
That pretty much sums up the collapse of this creative enterprise. Star Wars is now its own genre, filled with mediocrities and low expectations. It’s a lot like Star Trek. There’s good Trek and bad Trek, but all of it is graded on a curve which assumes that they won’t make any important points and are basically exercises in Onanism for the dwindling fan base.
This is why I’m hoping Star Wars dies a much-deserved death. With the passage of a few years, the modern dreck will fade from popular memory – a passing fad like those terrible ’80s sitcoms – and the true genius of the original trilogy will shine forth in undimmed glory.