So the work of finishing the Skywalker Saga is all done. Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker is in the theaters and killing it at the box office, much to chagrin of some loud dissenters who have been a thing going back to the prequel trilogy, and now the future of Star Wars that does not center around the Skywalker family will soon come (or not, depending on what subjects get mined for future material). And everybody has an opinion of some kind about the whole thing, including me of course. Star Wars was the first movie I ever saw, at the ripe old age of three back in 1977 and the movies have always held a special place in my heart. And while both times it looked like we weren’t going to get any more that turned out not to be the case, and now it looks like there won’t be any shortage in the forseeable future. What a difference a few years and a streaming service being launched make. So with all of this I figured this was as good a time to pause and reflect on what has spanned most of my 45 years on this earth.
Let me start off by being ever so thankful that the original trilogy was made in the 1970s and not the 2010s, because if those films were made and released in the kind of ridiculous entertainment atmosphere that has existed over the last 10 years we probably wouldn’t have gotten past three movies let alone eleven. We live in a world now where people who call themselves fans go on twitter rants because they found that JJ Abrams reused a shot of Rey from the first act of the film for the closing image at the end, or do two and three hour YouTube videos about why a movie is bad or how Disney ruined the entire franchise. A world where gossip sites take routine parts of movie production and make them into Watergate (SCRIPT RE-WRITES!!! MAJOR RESHOOTS!!!), essentially lying to us about what is never a clean or perfect process and presenting what are standard bumps in the road as evidence that THIS MOVIE IS GONNA SUCK. And I haven’t even gotten to the CineSins crowd who treat any unexplained point as a major plot hole or who go hunting for any dodgy CGI effects to dunk on.
In reality, people who create art of any kind will tell you that it is quite often the opposite of clean and easy. Things get cut out that sound great in theory but just wouldn’t have worked in execution. Sometimes your breakthrough is entirely a result of being in the right place at the right time and not your superior intellect or skill. Sometimes you’re up against the clock and it either tightens your focus or causes you to rush things. Sometimes finished products that you don’t feel good about blow up, and sometimes the ones you feel most proud of crash and burn when presented to the public. As is often said no one tries to make a bad book or movie or song or whatever. I can tell you that I never try to do a bad piece here. But sometimes things don’t go over at a level that matches your personal affinity for doing them. And it feels like not just with Star Wars but with so many other forms of art and entertainment that a lot of us fans have lost, if we ever had it at all, any recognition of the sheer randomness of things that happen when you get a bunch of people in a room together to work on something that can take years to finish.
To get a little personal what I do here isn’t by any means quick and clean either. Yes there is the occasional piece that I can sit down and fire off in a half hour then publish but lots of them have sat for weeks or even months in drafts while I tried to figure out just what the hell it is I’m trying to say. Some were dumped entirely because I realized halfway or even 90 percent of the way through that I didn’t really have anything to add to what has already been said, or because I just couldn’t bridge all the stray thoughts into something coherent, or because I realized that when starting out I felt that need to express an opinion on the subject but then realized that I really didn’t have much of an opinion after all. And the things I have finished have often been corrected or redone after publishing because I found errors or just wanted to change the way I said something in them. It’s usually isn’t that simple, be it for a blog post here that I do alone or a major motion picture with hundreds of people working on it. The idea that by focusing on and nitpicking everything to death, often things that are base level art creation 101 kinda stuff, you are somehow helping is kinda ridiculous.
But that’s where we are now. I grew up on the original trilogy, and there wasn’t any way to talk about it other than in person with other people who liked it. You might have had different opinions on lightsaber blade colors or whose suit was the coolest or which spaceship was the best but we were kids and we didn’t care about the editing process or who wrote what or whether George Lucas did what we wanted with the story. I for one would have never had Darth Vader be Luke’s father, for example. That just seemed wrong on every level to six year old me. And once Return of the Jedi was done we had nothing for 16 years other than some books. The prequels came and the bad days began. With the internet now being a fully functioning thing and the quick discovery that negative stories get way more traffic than positive one we were soon subjected to such grand takes as ‘George Lucas raped my childhood’ and putting George Lucas on trial because he had the audacity to make Jar Jar Binks. Cast members (Ahmed Best who played Binks and both Jake Loyd and Hayden Christensen who played Anakin) were shamed and harassed to the point of mental breakdowns. And Lucas himself got fed up with it all to the point where selling to Disney became the path he ultimately chose.
When I heard about all of that I wondered what the hell was wrong with these people. Lucas himself said that Star Wars movies were for 12 year olds, that they were morality tales for adolescents who were starting to figure out the world. And yet some of us who in their mid to late 20s when those films came out lost sight of it and refused to accept it once we were reminded of it. A lot of so called fans wanted a movie more for adults because we were adults, as if 12 year old kids in the early 2000s didn’t deserve their own version of Lucas vision and he should have updated his future work to coincide with the sensibilities of people who were never the intended audience. As far as I know it was the first major case of a vocal section of a big fanbase refusing to accept something for what it is and not what they envision it should be to them as adults. And it’s only gotten worse since then across many forms be it comic books, video games, other movies, or my favorite topic on this site good old pro wrasslin. The truth of the matter is that if you’re going to stick with any of these things past a certain age then you’re going to have to take them as they are and have always been or you run the risk of being one of those miserable ‘fans’ out there.
Be it the original trilogy or the prequels Star Wars was always a series of films made by a white male USC film school student from California who grew up on Kurosawa samurai films and spaghetti westerns and wanted to do his own version as a morality tale for kids. And that runs through every characterization, every narrative choice, every line of dialogue. It was never meant to be viewed through the same lens as Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad. He told us that again and again and some of us refused to listen. If you fall into that category then that’s your fault and not his. He never promised anything he didn’t give us. And harassing the actors because the guy who came up with the story made some choices that didn’t land well with your selfish wants as a 30 year old is shameful on all counts. If you haven’t grown up since then, do it already or at least go away and leave the rest of us alone. If you need your entertainment to have certain levels of highbrow dialogue or intrigue or what not then you have plenty of options out there and there’s no need to hang around the rest of us who have accepted this for what is and are fine with it.
Now we are at the end of the sequel trilogy, at a time where the internet spawned social media which has taken the lunacy of the prequel bashing to a whole new level. Now that the cast was more diverse with the two male leads being men of color instead of two white guys and the central figure being a woman instead of a dude, the racists and sexists have joined the fray to air their grievances. Cast members (this time Daisy Ridley and Kelly Marie Tran) have been harassed, again, to the point of having to go off the social media grid altogether. And again there are complaints about characterizations and narrative choices, although in this case there are plenty of perfectly sane requests and disagreements that can be found along with the usual stupidity. But a few things hold true yet again: one, that the movies are for 12 year olds and two, that they are the products of the storytelling vision of people who aren’t you. In 2019 fantasy booking runs through all of pop culture and when the people doing the actual booking don’t deliver what some folks have conjured up their heads sometimes out of whole cloth there can be some unhappiness. If that’s you I don’t what to tell you other than to write your own stories where you can make all the decisions. Maybe they’ll turn into something lucrative or maybe they’ll just be for your own personal enjoyment but they’ll be yours as you want them to be.
As for me with this particular series of films, I am grateful to have been alive to enjoy them. Luke Skywalker is one of my favorite characters ever and to see his full journey enacted on film has been a great ride. And at 45 years old, having gone through my ‘I’m too old for this kids stuff’ phase, I’m happy to enjoy simpler ways of entertaining myself. Having seen Rise of Skywalker once and getting ready for round two, I can say I was happy with the way they landed the plane. As for suspicions and reports about various forms of clunkiness in the process well, that’s kinda how these things go. Life and art imitate each other, you know. Neither get made as easy as you may have been led to believe. As to what comes next, well I’m curious to see it. I know a lot of people want to get as far away from the world of the Skywalker Saga as possible going forward but I’m perfectly fine with exploring other parts of it. I like the world that Lucas created and JJ Abrams & Rian Johnson moved forward so if the next batch of storytellers want to live there that works for me. Whatever happens it’s been a great time for me and I hope it continues to be for those of you willing to let it be for you.