The Fall of Star Wars

The Covid-19 isolation is that perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in a home-made film festival or, at least, a Netflix catchup binge fest. If you haven’t noticed, the latest Star Wars instalment is among your options. My generation wasn’t alive when this intergalactic series of blockbusters took off. Still, the way that older generations talk about it, would would put in into the category of not-to-miss movie franchises. Admittedly, I started late. I remember being 12 years old when Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out. Despite being a newbie to the lore of this famed mythical world, I knew the basics from the original and prequel trilogies.

Everyone was excited about the new Star Wars trilogy. It had been 32 years since the original trilogy ended, and 10 years since the end of the prequel trilogy. While many fans strongly disliked the prequels, I thought they were pretty decent, but could have been much better if major plot points and character arcs were fixed.

While some people think that Star Wars started to fall apart in the prequel trilogy, the truth is: it was doomed as soon as George Lucas sold it to Disney.

Image result for george lucas and bob iger
George Lucas selling Star Wars to Disney CEO Bob Iger

Lucas had already started drafting ideas for the sequel trilogy all the way back in 1982, when Return of The Jedi came out. In fact, he had mapped out the fact that he wanted to make three trilogies after the unexpected success of A New Hope. He wanted to make a prequel trilogy and a sequel trilogy after he had finished making the first trilogy. The three trilogies were to tell a story about the Skywalker family, hence the “Skywalker Saga”. The original films would deal with the children of Anakin Skywalker, the prequels would tell the story of Anakin, and the sequel trilogy was to be centered around Anakin’s grandchildren.

When the Star Wars prequel films came out, people were massively disappointed. Fans were not pleased. While Revenge of The Sith, the final film in the prequel trilogy, was mostly praised by fans and critics, it still wasn’t enough to make up for The Phantom Menace and Attack of The Clones. Even Revenge of The Sith had some major flaws in it that lead to some people having mixed feelings about it.

While it’s not clear why exactly George Lucas decided to sell Star Wars to Disney, the backlash to the prequels is speculated as one of the several reasons.

When Disney started working on the sequel trilogy, they did not plan it out well. This is evident because of The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker. While these two films were really what killed Star Wars, The Force Awakens was still very poorly done.

Image result for star wars sequel trilogy
The Star Wars Sequel Trilogy

The main problem with The Force Awakens is that it was just A New Hope 2.0. The plot of the movie revolves around destroying Starkiller Base, a planet destroying weapon that can float through space. Where have we seen that before? Oh right, the Death Star in A New Hope and the Death Star II in Return of The Jedi. That’s right, this has already been done twice before. Yet, Disney decided to use it again in the first film of the sequel trilogy.

Starkiller Base isn’t the only thing that the The Force Awakens stole from A New Hope. BB-8 is just this trilogy’s R2-D2. Kylo Ren is an interesting character, but too similar to Darth Vader. Jakku is just a ripoff of Tatooine. The First Order is just the Galactic Empire, but even more powerful. The Resistance is just the Rebellion with a different title. The sequel trilogy had the potential to be so much more than just rebels fighting an empire once again, but unfortunately, that’s what we got.

Let’s move onto The Last Jedi. Episode VIII is considered the worst Star Wars film in history. It was directed by Rian Johnson, who’s vision for the film was not something that was popular with fans. He wanted to completely subvert expectations and surprise everyone. He was pretty successful in doing so, as fans were surprised at how bad the film was.

Pretty early on in the movie we learned that Rey’s parents were nobodies and irrelevant to the plot. This just kills the mystery that was set up in The Force Awakens when it’s shown that Rey’s parents abandoned her on Jakku. It was implied that Rey’s heritage was important and would be further explored in later movies. The Last Jedi just shut this down in a manner of seconds, upsetting many fans. This was just one of the many controversial decision Rian Johnson made in the film. Another criticism was how Johnson handled Luke Skywalker’s character.

Image result for rey's parents"
Rey and Luke

In The Last Jedi, Luke is portrayed as some grumpy old hermit who’s given up on everything. Luke is meant to be a symbol of hope. He wasn’t the kind of person to give up and leave his friends and the rest of the galaxy to be doomed. Yet, what we got was a Luke that abandoned his sister and best friends to go hide on an island for 14 years. Even Mark Hamill, the actor who portrays Luke Skywalker in the original films and the new sequel trilogy, didn’t like how Rian Johnson changed the fundamental aspects of Luke’s character.

In the clip below of the documentary “The Director and the Jedi”, a documentary on Rian Johnson’s process of creating The Last Jedi, you can see how Mark Hamill expresses his dissatisfaction of the handling of Luke in the film.

Mark Hamill expresses his dissatisfaction of The Last Jedi

The other major controversy in The Last Jedi was Snoke’s death. In The Force Awakens, Snoke was teased as an important and mysterious figure who’s identity was was relevant, like Rey’s parents. In The Last Jedi, before we learn just who Snoke is exactly, he’s killed by his protégé Kylo Ren. We never learned anything about Snoke’s backstory, his motive, motivation, or even anything really about him.

After the backlash The Last Jedi received, Disney was careful with who they hired as director for Episode IX (9). Originally, Collin Trevorrow was the hired as the director, but ultimately left due to creative differences. At the end, J.J. Abrams, director of The Force Awakens, ended up as the director for the final film in the Skywalker Saga.

The first trailer for Episode IX came out in April of 2019, along with the announcement of the film’s official name: The Rise of Skywalker. After watching it when it came out in December of 2019, I realized that Abrams made an attempt to fix everything that Rian Johnson had done wrong in The Last Jedi. He corrected Luke throwing his lightsaber away by making him catch Rey’s lightsaber when she does the same. He showed Rey actually training to become a Jedi, instead of being super overpowered without any training in The Last Jedi. He also gave Rey a relevant heritage by making her Palpatine’s granddaughter.

Now, into the actual film. The movie begins with Star Wars’ classic opening crawl. The first thing we see after the title of the movie is that Palpatine, the villain of the prequel and original trilogies, is alive. Not only did we learn that Palpatine somehow survived getting thrown into a nuclear reactor, but we also learn this in the OPENING CRAWL of the movie. We don’t even get a scene in the movie where Palpatine announces his return dramatically, because J.J. Abrams thought it would be a better idea to announce this extremely important event in the opening credits of the movie.

Image result for jj abrams rise of skywalker"
J.J. Abrams at The Rise of Skywalker Premiere

Even if we ignore how J.J. Abrams handled Palpatine’s return, the other big problem is Palpatine’s return itself. George Lucas has stated in the past that Palpatine was dead at the end of Return of the Jedi and that he’s not coming back in any future plans Lucas might have. The Rise of Skywalker went completely against his wishes and brought Palpatine back. The worst part about it is that it just came out of nowhere. There weren’t even any hints or foreshadowing in the previous two films. It’s obvious that bringing him back was a last minute decision and it wasn’t originally planned.

While the Sequel Trilogy of Star Wars may not have lived up to fan’s expectations, with new shows like The Mandalorian and the final season of The Clone Wars that came out in February, as well as the recent video game Jedi Fallen Order, Star Wars can still make a comeback in the entertainment industry, but perhaps not at the box office.

Author: Suren

Suren Seth is a junior, and this is his first year writing for The Eye, and his third year in SAS. He is from Plano, Texas, and has been living in Singapore for 8 years. He is interested in film, cinema, and media theory. He can be contacted at seth772140@sas.edu.sg

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s