A saga beginning in 1977, Star Wars has become a commercial powerhouse, singlehandedly responsible for three of the most iconic movies ever made, and three of the greatest travesties ever inflicted upon the human race.
After all, Star Wars has a universal appeal, and while certain aspects of the original trilogy may appear dated, the story will endure seemingly forever, only continuing to appreciate in value with each passing year. After all, Star Wars is a timeless concept, a boundless universe comprised of infinite possibilities in which archetypal heroes and villains collide in moments of excitement, tension and catharsis, and good always prevails over evil.
That said, the saga set in a universe far, far away from perfect - the prequels being only one of numerous problems with the franchise, problems that will doubtfully ever be addressed. Here are 10 more...
The Force Awakens was anything but original, borrowing numerous concepts from the original trilogy, including the basic structure of its own story. The film also pandered considerably to nostalgia crowds, referencing aspects of the original trilogy constantly and alluding to the most memorable moments from yesteryear.
Here’s a contentious opinion for you: The Force Awakens should have ditched the majority of the original cast, including Han Solo, Chewbacca, Admiral Leia and C-3PO, focusing instead on the newer characters.
Understandably, the filmmakers were concerned about bridging the gap between the old and new, but dedicating so much of the film to these older characters seems somewhat counterproductive, serving only to satiate audiences with nostalgic inclinations.
Star Trek ’09 made the same mistake, lingering on iconic imagery, referencing memorable lines of dialogue, and emphasising elements of the past instead of the present. As a commercial choice, it works because it gratifies audience expectations, emphasising pre-established imagery instead of constructing anything original to take its place.
From an artistic standpoint, the result is something of a disappointment, especially for those without any strong connections to the original films.
The Expanded Universe
When it comes to a coherent world, Star Wars can sometimes be lacking in terms of depth, a problem which should have been corrected somewhat by the Expanded Universe. Unfortunately, the EU is complete nonsense, actively ruining several important details of the original trilogy.
According to the book, Boba Fett somehow managed to survive his fall into the Sarlacc Pit, for instance. In fact, George Lucas himself confirmed this canonical revision, undermining one of the greatest sequences in the entire trilogy.
In fairness, Disney are attempting to rectify the problem in their attempt to construct a more comprehensive universe, but that doesn't excuse the countless novels, comics and video games that have casually toyed around with core concepts from the franchise for the past forty years.
In The Thrawn Trilogy - written by Timothy Zahn - it is actually revealed that Luke Skywalker has an evil clone, named Luuke Skywalker - an incident which occurred following the loss of his hand on Cloud City.
Besides that, it's revealed in The Glove Of Darth Vader - written by Paul and Hollace Davids - that The Emperor has two sons - both of which are triclopses - and Darth Vader's glove is actually made of magic. Yeah.
Many of these incidents may not be canon, but they do actively harm our impression of the series, tainting our memories of the original trilogy.
Filmmaking is a collaborative process, but there are so many individuals who deserve more recognition for their contributions to the actualisation of Star Wars. In fact, The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi were directed by Irvin Kershner and Richard Marquand respectively, and Lawrence Kasdan was responsible for writing the screenplay in both cases.
In fairness, George Lucas was responsible for kickstarting the first film, but its success can be attributed almost entirely to Gary Kurtz – a producer who took on several directing responsibilities, including instructing the actors in regards to their performances in the movie.
John Dykstra also deserves an immense amount of credit, helping to realise the universe with his incredible practical effects, as do a great many others.
George Lucas is often credited with being “an ideas guy”, someone to motivate a project, throwing out concepts in order to stimulate the creative process. With that being said, many of his original concept were notoriously awful. After all, this was the guy who wanted C-3PO to be a devious, conniving salesperson, and was pushing for space politics even back in the 70’s.
This might be a subjective point, but a good story should have an ending. It doesn’t have to be a satisfying ending, and it certainly doesn’t need to qualify as a happy ending, but an ending creates a much needed sense of closure and resolution.
Unfortunately, Star Wars is currently being milked into oblivion, numerous side projects lingering ominously on the horizon, such as the standalone Han Solo movie, a Boba Fett origins story, and another prequel staring Obi Wan Kenobi.
There's also Episode VIII and IX - two sequels being directed by Rian Johnson and Colin Trevorrow, respectively - which will further extend the life of the series, accentuated by the inevitability of Episodes X, XI and XII.
It seems Disney are intent on squeezing every last cent from the franchise, clasping at any potential stories in a desperate attempt to capitalise on the inherent nostalgia of the series.
Even Rogue One was desperately scrapping the bottom of the barrel. I mean, the entire film was based on a single throwaway line from the original film's crawl.
Right now, the novelty hasn’t quite worn off. In a few years, the unapologetic exploitation of the franchise will become an inescapable reality, but by then it’ll be too late.
Since 1977, Star Wars has been merchandised to death, every iconic image plastered over milk cartons and cereals, turned into everything from lunchboxes to tape dispensers. As a result, the films are genuinely difficult to distinguish from their marketing, the vast majority of characters, creatures and settings gradually cheapened, and turned into mere products themselves.
There are some genuinely wonderful moments in the original trilogy, the films themselves meaning a great deal to a good many people. As such, the excessive merchandising of the franchise is almost insulting, the films gradually devalued by Tauntaun sleeping bags, lightsaber chopsticks, severed Wampa arms, magic Yoda eight balls, and whatever this thing is meant to be.
It’s funny really, in a tragic sort of way – like watching an elderly person slip on a patch of ice. Tragic but with undertones of hilarity. As someone who cares a great deal about the films however, it’s mainly just depressing.
The laws of cause-and-effect are vital components in the construction of a story, every aspects of a narrative needing to be established, as well as justified. In Star Wars, the Force functions as a supreme deus ex machina, solving virtually any problems in the script instantaneously, and with relative ease.
If a character needs to be made aware of something, the Force can give them a vision; if a character is trapped, the force can present them with a means of escape; and if a character is oblivious to something, the Force can be blamed for clouding his judgement.
It’s a simple means of fixing even the most impossible of situations, but it’s also incredibly cheap, and remarkably overplayed.
In fact, the presence of the Force as it had now evolved inhibits the tension inherent in the story, because our heroes are shown to be capable of anything. In The Phantom Menace for instance, Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi Wan Kenobi are trapped by Droideka – a heavily armoured droid complete with twin blasters and deflector shields – yet, the Jedi are able to escape the situation by… running away, super-fast.
It’s this kind of cheap, lazy writing that’s facilitated by the Force, and it undermines any semblance of danger or dramatic tension.
Undergoing some serious cosmetic changes over the years, the original trilogy is now virtually unrecognisable, the numerous “improvements” tarnishing the overall impression of the trilogy.
In most cases, the changes have been largely pointless, but others have actively contradicted the larger themes of the movie – for instance, Greedo firing first actively opposes the characterisation of Han Solo, who previously required little justification for murdering a adversary in cold blood.
Many of the changes have been unquestionably terrible (*cough* Jedi Rocks *cough*), but absolutely none of them are even remotely justifiable. In fact, altering something as culturally significant as Star Wars could be considered downright criminal, as should refusing to release the original versions of the films to paying consumers. It’s also hypocritical, especially considering how opposed George Lucas was to the colourisation of films, believing they should be preserved in their original condition.
As a result, some of us have likely never seen the original versions of the films, our impression of history manipulated by a creator with little regard for his own creation. Return Of The Jedi has been butc the most – going from disappointing to downright unwatchable – but all three films have suffered tremendously at the hands of George Lucas.
Return Of The Jedi was a disappointing conclusion, and was easily the weakest entry in the original trilogy. Following an extended opening sequence in Jabba’s Palace, the film quickly descends into tedium, the final confrontation between The Empire and The Rebellion reduced to an elongated skirmish in the woods, starring small, furry monkeys armed with nothing but rocks, spears and sheer determination.
Instead of inventing a new threat, Return Of The Jedi made the mistake of resurrecting the Death Star out of sheer convenience, failing to justify its own existence with anything original.
It does manage to get several things right – the final confrontation between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader is a highlight, for instance – but the positives are buried by the negatives, turning what should have been a triumphant climax into miscellaneous assortment of ups and downs.
Re-Treading Old Ground
Released last year, The Force Awakens was a critical and commercial success, and one of the highest grossing films ever made.
Directed by J. J. Abrams, the film got a great many things right – including the tone, which the prequels had completely squandered – introducing a handful of new characters, and seamlessly blending everything together. It was primarily an adventure film that did away with the space politics in favour of genuine thrills and excitement.
With that being said, The Force Awakens borrowed extensively from the original trilogy, so much so that the film is essentially just a remake of the first film. In both cases, an inexperienced, wide-eyed youth – abandoned on a desert planet, and forced to remain out of obligation – is forced to enter the galactic picture, transporting a droid containing vital information to the rebellion, and combating a sinister organisation with villainous intentions.
There are numerous alterations, but the basic structure is exactly the same.
It’s been said before, but the film really did bring comparatively little to the table, recycling everything from iconic imagery to story moments instead of creating anything new. In all likelihood, Episodes VIII & IX will make the same mistake, repurposing everything from The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi in a desperate attempt to recapture the magic of the originals.
The Enduring Legacy of the Prequels
The prequels really have ruined absolutely everything about the franchise, from iconic imagery and core concepts to character backstories. At this point it’s difficult to appreciate the original trilogy without making certain connections with the prequels, the two no longer mutually exclusive.
In 1999, The Phantom Menace made the mistake of rationalising the Force, demystifying the otherwise supernatural energy into a quantifiable scientific measurement. It also turned the Jedi into a religious cult, introduced the world to Jar Jar Binks, and even made the suggestion that Darth Vader had actually created C-3PO as a child, using scraps.
Not to be outdone, Attack Of The Clones somehow managed to ruin Stormtroopers and Boba Fett, suggesting that both were clones of the same bounty-hunter, Jango. It also featured some of the worst dialogue ever uttered aloud, as well as some of the most awkward romancing ever captured on film, and even managed to ruin Yoda by turning the once sagacious master into an acrobatic ninja with superhuman speed and agility.
Finally, Revenge Of The Sith – perhaps the most deserving of blame – obliterated the origin story of the most iconic supervillain in cinematic history, turning Darth Vader himself into a gullible chump.