I talked once before about the fact that in the original script for “Return of the Jedi,” Ewoks didn’t exist. Endor was populated not by Wicket and his adorable squad of shamanistic teddy bears but instead by Wookiees. But in the first real instance of the Star Wars story being watered down to “appeal to a broader audience,” the movie series that had done horrifying things like have Luke Skywalker see his own severed head behind the mask of a hallucination of Darth Vader, showed a wampa covered in blood as it devoured Luke’s ill-fated tauntaun (and then showed another tauntaun’s guts spill out as Han Solo eviscerated it), and culminated in a beaten-up Luke getting his hand cut off by the actual Darth Vader, suddenly decided to make a marketing play for young kids by introducing a race that seemed destined for stuffed toys and animated spinoffs. And, of course, one of them still ended up getting fried by the Empire for a few tug-at-your-heartstrings points.
I was too young at the time to really appreciate the significance of what writing out Wookiees and writing in Ewoks meant. Hell, at the time I was in the target demographic and I have a cousin about my age who carried his beloved stuffed Wicket everywhere with him until he went off to college (and I wouldn’t be surprised if he still has him). It wasn’t until many years later that a friend of mine pointed this fact out to me along with the important detail that all the Ewoks really did was serve as a distraction. The traps they set for the Empire’s AT-ST walkers either plainly failed (as in the rope trap that dragged a dozen Ewoks along behind the walker without even slowing it down) or were so obviously contrived and even slapsticky (as in the log trap) that in a universe with guys throwing magical lightning and fighting in space with laser swords it strained credibility. The believable part of the whole forest battle was that the Ewoks provided cover for Chewbacca to carjack a walker himself and that move was what really turned the tide.
I’m nerd-sperging out here but there’s a reason for it. The wrongheaded mindset that wrought the very-pardonable-compared-to-what-came-later Ewoks stuck with the Star Wars franchise when it was reawakened over a decade later, with the re-released “special editions” that altered or added content to the original trilogy. At this juncture it still seemed innocent enough and was even welcome in some places, but for one VERY controversial move–the Han Solo versus Greedo scene early in Episode IV, better known as the “Han Shot First” controversy. Fans of the series originally met Han Solo as a man living on the fringes of society, a smuggler and a pirate who dealt with gangsters and relied on nothing more complex than his blaster. Living in that world, of course he ran into shady characters like the bounty hunter Greedo, and of course he knew Greedo meant to do him harm. The only reason Han lived long enough to get a shot off at all was because Greedo had to gloat and try to extort some more money out of Han, but let’s be clear about one thing: Greedo was going to kill Han Solo and take him back to Jabba the Hutt dead. No reason not to (and if he didn’t, Jabba the Hutt obviously had even worse things in mind for Han). So Han filibustered him until he could get his own weapon free and wasted Greedo first. But we couldn’t have that. That was violent and uncalled for if Han wasn’t being shot at. How could we possibly have a “hero” in the modern, enlightened 1990s who would shoot someone…who had a gun pointed at him and explicitly said he had been “looking forward to this?” So in the worst hackup job ever released in serious cinema, Greedo the bounty hunter takes a wild shot from two feet away, misses as Han Solo shifts his entire torso like he’s a cutout in a popup book, and then Han shoots back. It took years of fan outrage before Lucas even acknowledged the goof.
These long-forgiven moves on the part of George Lucas and the Star Wars team planted the seeds of the reasons why I and millions of other fans (as evidenced by the failure of the most recent film “Soylo: A Pointless Story”)(not the actual title but it should be) have said thanks for the memories and walked away from Star Wars. The first thing they did wrong was to try to take the formula that obviously worked for Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, and for no other reason than these wildly successful movies were derided as “nerdy” they went back and messed with that formula to “appeal to a broader audience.” In other words, they told the people who made the films successful in the first place that they weren’t good enough, and so the creators were going to take out huge chunks of the stuff the fans like to replace it with mass-market pablum that no one would want if it didn’t say “Star Wars” on it. How this makes economic sense, I have no idea (and as I will get into momentarily, it only does make sense in non-economic terms). The second and ultimately more insidious thing they started doing was trying, overtly or subtly, to push an agenda. Ewoks and droids led to Gungans and battledroids, while Princess Leia and the metal bikini that helped millions of young boys realize “hey, so that’s what a woman is” led to the nonsense of a planet led by a fourteen year old girl in geisha makeup, and continued to where Star Wars is today.
The point where both of these offenses converged is the point where Star Wars truly died. I will acknowledge that I and countless other fans went to see Episode I in theaters multiple times and some of us tried very hard to convince ourselves that what we had seen was worth the fifteen year wait in between Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace. I was practically out of my seat when the title scroll ran to John Williams’ classic overture, and even now I have to say it was the right move to start with a scene featuring young Obi-Wan Kenobi and a lightsaber fight. But the movie quickly went downhill from there, and ended up with such garbage as Jar-Jar Binks, podracing, “midichlorians,” and the most stupidly pointless space battle in all of science fiction history that a nine-year-old kid won by accident. In the final analysis the only good things about Episode I were the callbacks to the original trilogy–Obi-Wan, R2-D2, C-3PO, Jabba the Hutt, and of course the four seconds of Darth Vader breathing that every true fan stayed to the end of the credits just to listen to. It did not take the true fans long to decide that okay, Episode I is terrible, but there were enough places where George Lucas was letting us know he still remembered us and still knew what we wanted to see that many of us were willing to give him another chance. Of course, many of us were not, and went into Episodes II and III expecting them to be terrible.
In fairness, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith had their low points. Pretty much the entirety of the Anakin/Padme romance was stilted and unwatchable, as was the ostentatious posturing of practically every Jedi from Mace Windu on down, with the notable exception of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Personally I thought and still think that Episodes II and III were decent, not up to the original trilogy caliber, but decent. Of course, part of that has to do with my transition later in life to believing the Empire was in the right and the Jedi really were about as worthless and borderline “evil” as the fallen Anakin Skywalker believes, and the prequels aren’t at all flattering to the Jedi. But that’s a whole other post in itself. Through both of these movies, George Lucas managed to steady the helm and keep from going down the Gungan road again, gave us more callbacks to characters like Boba Fett and explanations of how Episode IV’s setup came to be, and any underlying agendas stayed fairly low-key–yes, of course there was the requisite barely-concealed dig at George W. Bush and things like the Patriot Act, but it was every bit as much a slam at bureaucracy and democratic government in general.
When Lucas sold Star Wars to Disney, the scuttlebutt was that Lucas had offered to give them his scripts for episodes VII, VIII, and IX, and Disney said “no thanks.” Which led to the joke that Disney had paid billions of dollars to take whatever train wrecks George Lucas came up with and chuck them. We the fans thought there was nowhere to go but up. We were wrong. In the extended interim between Episode III and Episode VII, filled in mostly by animated series fleshing out the Clone Wars, Star Wars went through a change of character that fans from twenty years earlier would never have believed possible: it went mainstream. The tentpole of geek culture for decades had become so ingrained in normal society that somewhere along the line it ceased to be geek culture. Star Wars was for more than nerds and young boys. Yet somehow the marketing geniuses behind countless lines of Star Wars merchandise failed to recognize that this was not because Star Wars had been infused with some sort of artificial and incongruent “inclusiveness,” but because the themes, images, and messages (and at one time the special effects of course) of Star Wars had themselves resonated with a broad audience that just needed time to get over their prejudice towards a scifi space opera. For me, I believed Star Wars was dead the day I walked into Wal-Mart and saw as part of the early hype for Episode VII a big middle-of-the-aisle display…of Star Wars nail polish. Twenty-five years earlier, even suggesting to a woman that she ought to watch Star Wars with you could result in not getting a second date. Now it’s makeup. And what’s worse is I don’t think the marketing geniuses made a mistake at all. I’m fairly confident that what happened to Star Wars has been done on purpose.
I said that what killed Star Wars was the convergence of two things, the abandonment of the fan base plus the rise of an agenda. With Episode VII and the movies that came out around it (Rogue One, Episode VIII, and now Solo), that agenda became obvious–and not even from reading between the lines but from explicit remarks from the writers and directors themselves. I have to acknowledge that I have only seen (and I’m only going to see) one of these four movies. I watched Rogue One on the advice of a friend who told me that most of the movie was indeed crap, but there was a scene towards the end of the film that in itself was worth the price of admission. He was right on. Jyn Erso was a poorly played, poorly written male action hero cast as a woman, in a story full of nonsensical tangents and credibility-straining leaps of faith that I was no longer willing to make, in which the only parts that made it watchable at all were the callbacks to what I once held dear. As for Episode VII, I had every intention of seeing it at some point until I was told (spoiler, sort of) that Han Solo dies. I had already seen the teasers and the trailers, I knew the movie had been cast for maximum diversity (except the bad guys of course, all white, almost all male, as always) though at that point the world still didn’t know how bad MaRey Sue was going to be, and at that juncture I said to hell with this because I considered that to just be a cheap fix for bad writing. I literally had tears in my eyes when Han told Chewie in the trailer “we’re home,” and to hear that Episode VII took that kind of emotional buildup and brought back a beloved legend just to kill him off was all the evidence I needed to know the movie wasn’t worth my time.
I didn’t know how right I was until Episode VIII came out and the few valiant faithful still watching Star Wars movies made their discontent known. I watched Sargon of Akkad’s brilliant synopsis of the movie and its defenders and learned that I, as one of Star Wars’ old diehard fans, had not merely been forgotten about, but rather I had been deliberately cast aside. Seriously, the writers and directors of the new Star Wars universe don’t want fans like me around and fussing about how they’ve taken our toys and broken them and now they’re laughing at us for being upset. Reading the reviews, watching the summaries, and stomaching the full-throated defenses of this garbage didn’t convey the message half as clearly as two important things. First, Mark Hamill (who is an SJW piece of trash himself) voiced his own extreme displeasure at what Episode VIII did to the character of Luke Skywalker, and I agree if for no other reason than the death they wrote for Luke in Episode VIII is not how a legend like Luke Skywalker goes out. Second, a line from supreme evil white guy Kylo Ren (who let’s be clear, should have walked out of Episode VII carrying Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber in one hand and MaRey Sue’s head in the other) summarizes what seems to be the attitude of the powers behind Star Wars now, and since I haven’t seen it I’m going to have to paraphrase: “Leave the past behind, kill it if you have to.” This is not merely reading between the lines, either–numerous people behind the scenes from executives to writers to directors from the head of Lucasfilm on down have said in as many words that they are not making these movies for the old fans anymore. They’re not making any secret of it and in fact they are quite proud of themselves for giving the fans that made Star Wars a multibillion dollar franchise the finger for the crime of not being “diverse” enough.
I’m not going to get into all the ways MaRey Sue is both unbelievable and unbelievably stupid. Sargon of Akkad and countless others on YouTube have done that at length already. I’m just going to say that if you have to make a character like her in order to have a feminist heroine, then it’s no wonder feminists are pathetic whiners. I’m also not going to delve into the stupidity of the “rebels”‘ leadership and how painfully brazen the “girl power” nonsense was in Episode VIII, right down to Vice Admiral Genderstudies’ (h/t Sargon) purple hair. Not because it’s insignificant or unimportant, but because it’s so bald-faced that it really speaks for itself.
But then, that does lead us into the train wreck that is “Solo.” Another movie I have not seen and do not wish to see, where the bulk of the hype has been on the detail that Lando Calrissian is revealed to be somewhere on the LGBTZ4QQQBatmanSymbol spectrum and is apparently dating a droid built by Antifa. I hear said droid gets wasted somewhere in this movie and that’d be about the only reason I’d go see it. All accounts point to Solo suffering from a contrived plot, a weak and emasculated Han Solo (hence the moniker “Soylo”) instead of the swashbuckling space pirate we all knew and admired, and overwrought female or quasi-female characters being awesome for no apparent reason at all. At last count, “Solo” is expected to wind up a money-losing flop, and people are blaming Star Wars fatigue and/or the concept that “white male leads are no longer box office draws.” I’m not sure which of those is more absurd. The reason Solo has bombed is that the fans no longer have that last little hook to tell them the writers still care about them. The Star Wars universe is not someplace we recognize anymore and in fact we are getting the loud and clear message that we’re not welcome there any longer. Making such a big media deal out of futzing with the long beloved Lando Calrissian sent a powerful signal, telling us that these people will retcon and rewrite everything we ever thought we knew and believed, not to tell a good story, but because they can, and moreso, because they know it’ll piss us off. The diehard fans are finally getting the message I got when I saw that nail polish display: the people who laughed at us for what we loved for all this time have now taken it over, and will laugh at us some more while they destroy it.
And of course, old-school Star Wars fans being who they are, we’ll just sigh and move along, because that’s what geeks and guys do. But feel free to call us snowflakes because we dare to complain about it, it’s always kind of cute when lefties try to do that.
When the prequels came out, George Lucas gave an interview in which he said “when you put the whole series together it becomes clear, the story is not about Luke Skywalker, it’s about Darth Vader.” Personally, I believed long ago that the story of Star Wars should have ended with the death of Darth Vader. From that viewpoint, Star Wars is a tragic epic of loss, betrayal, lies, and ultimately redemption. Obi-Wan’s mealy-mouthed “what I told you was true from a certain point of view” rings as self-serving as his earlier/later infamous line “only a Sith deals in absolutes,” while Luke’s stubborn and misguided determination to suppress his anger like a good Jedi just ends up meaning Vader has to take the Emperor out the hard way and die in the process. But who needs to see things in black and white when you can pick up a lightsaber for the first time and win a fight against a trained assassin who learned everything he knows from Luke Skywalker himself? Who needs tragic and painful character development when you can just fly the Millennium Falcon because, I don’t know, reasons? Star Wars no longer has heroes, just a bunch of walking MacGuffin women boosted with cheap doses of emotional angst derived from killing off old champions that the new order doesn’t want around anymore anyway. In the immortal words of Master Yoda, “that is why you fail.”