THE TRUTH ABOUT DISNEY'S STAR WARS FILMS
THE TRUTH ABOUT DISNEY'S STAR WARS PLANS
Before I get started, let me just preface this by saying that I am in no way the biggest Star Wars fan in the world. In fact, the first time I watched the first six films was round about the time George Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney. Being someone who always shared a love for cinema and storytelling, I decided to watch all six films over one weekend. Needless to say, I became a fan of the franchise. So, when Disney bought the franchise and immediately started plans on a new trilogy like every fan in the world, I was certainly excited.
After the Last Jedi, eh, not as much. The reason for this is clear, this is no longer George Lucas’ Star Wars, we are now firmly rooted in Disney’s Star Wars.
This is something that I don’t think many have fully realised. So, while it would be easy to attack Last Jedi for its’ faults, I decided to focus my attention on Disney and their approach to all this.
· GOODBYE SPACE-OPERA, GOODBYE SKYWALKERS
Now I know that there are many fans who are happy to see the Star Wars franchise lose itself of the bondage of the Skywalkers – after all a story/universe that is as enormous as Star Wars, has a lot more to offer than just the Skywalkers. Which certainly is true, but just imagine Disney released a nine-movie box set; the Prequel Trilogy (Anakin), the Original Trilogy (Luke), the Sequel Trilogy (Luke’s Daughter & Son) and they called it The Skywalker Legends.
|The Skywalker Legends|
Oh, how sweet that would have been.
The thing is these films always had one focus, the Skywalkers and the Sequel Trilogy was supposed to bring that story to end. Instead, it seems to me that this new trilogy is nothing more than a long-winded reboot. Disney just seems to be erasing the shackles of the past in order to get into a space where they can tell any story they want completely unfettered. I for one think that the next trilogy after Episode 9 will probably be a little more focused now that Disney has some sort of clue as to what they hope to achieve. Or so I would hope.
Now you may argue that if Disney kept the sequel trilogy Skywalker centric and brought the series to end, they wouldn’t be able to make more Star Wars films. I don’t believe so, I think if they were smart about it they could have planned out the franchise similar to the MCU. Imagine something like three films, three chapters about three different characters with the fourth film bringing them together for an event. It could be set 50 years after the Skywalkers and be something entirely new.
But, with the Skywalkers no longer the focal point of the franchise, I can’t help but feel somewhat disappointed. To me, it would be like killing off all the Starks in Game of Thrones. You could still finish the story without the Starks but it just won’t be the same without them.
The drama, twists and turns with the family of the Skywalkers are where a lot of the emotionality came from in Star Wars. Imagine if Rey and Kylo Ren where siblings or cousins and actually grew up together. Somewhere along the way, he had turned to the dark side. Rey would be more emotionally invested in trying to turn Kylo towards the light and be overcome with conflicting emotions as to whether or not she can kill him or save him. It raises the stakes, enhances the drama, firmly engages the audience when family the bonds of family are being strained.
Now that the franchise has firmly moved away from the Skywalkers, it just seems as though the stakes have been lowered. It just seems like a missed opportunity to have done something great. But with Disney, so firmly wanting to play on nostalgia to keep the fans happy, while discarding what came before so that they can be free to do as they please, it just dawned on me that the Skywalker story didn’t have a sweet ending, instead it simply just faded away.
· DISCARDING GEORGE LUCAS
(THE GOOD VS THE BAD)
As most will know, when George Lucas sold Lucasfilm, he handed Disney plans for the new trilogy, something that was promptly discarded. Judging by the films that have been put out so far, it’s fairly easy to see why. Disney wants a franchise they can keep going for years and years to come. Lucas, on the other hand, saw a sequel trilogy as a definitive end.
The good thing about this is that gives Disney more leeway, allows them to expand and take the stories in new and interesting ways.
The bad thing about it though, is that Saga will never have a satisfying ending. The reason I believe this to be true, two reasons, (1) Lucas had a vision for the story, and, (2) Disney is going to milk this franchise dry.
While George Lucas might falter in terms of dialogue and characterization, he held ambition, and creativity in spades. While most lament his decision to turn the gritty feel of the original trilogy’s world into an egregious ostentatious CGI feast in the prequels. I think his intention was clear; to show the world before we knew it. A world before a galactic war. A world before the tyranny of the empire. It changed the way you saw Star Wars. It expanded on the world and its mythology. For all the talk of how much Anakin hates sand, the prequels built skyscrapers, while the original trilogy only graced its’ foundations.
I was looking forward to seeing a different corner of the universe with this sequel trilogy, which to be honest, Lucas would have probably done, for better or worse. But that’s something I really liked about the Star Wars franchise, the universe that Lucas created. While we only have a very narrow viewpoint into the world, the potential for it is boundless. Yet, Disney just can’t see it. Opting to not drift too far away from the original trilogy, hoping that the nostalgia will compensate for any ill feeling towards their new undertaking. But going to great lengths to tread similar story beats from the original trilogy, allowing the characters to make different choices. More on that a little later.
· NO TIME JUMPS
Last Jedi began with the traditional crawl and yet, the film picked up immediately after the events of Force Awakens, it just seemed so pointless.
The time jumps between each Star Wars movie in the past was something that I always loved. Because the crawl always gave you just enough for you to have an idea of what happened in the galaxy, but when you got into the movie it was always a bit of a surprise to see where our characters were and how they changed since you last saw them. It immediately allowed you to wonder and an imagine stories about these characters in between the films.
With Last Jedi starting immediately after Force Awakens, the opening crawl was rendered useless and it just made the story feel more compact. Whereas, the original and prequel series had a breath of expansion.
The new series right now just feels very narrow with the story of Rey, Kylo and Finn feeling undirected, with no end goal in mind.
· REHASHING THE OLD
Now we all know that Force Awakens was a pseudo-remake of A New Hope, but what’s surprising to me is how much praise Rian Johnson has received for his new bold take on the Star Wars mythos. Especially when most of Rey’s story is just a rehash of Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. The only difference being, that the outcomes are different.
The similarities to Empire Strikes Back:
- Rey goes to Luke for training, but he refuses. (Yoda does train Luke).
- Rey has vision in a cave, sees herself (Luke has vision in cave, sees Vader)
- Rey leaves Luke to try to convince Kylo, (Luke leaves to save his friends)
- *Side note: Finn meets DJ who helps them then Betrays them. (Han meets Lando, who betrays them and then redeems himself) DJ doesn’t redeem himself.
- Kylo confronts Rey with her true parentage “nobody”, (Vader reveals to Luke he’s his father)
- Kylo asks Rey to join him in ruling the galaxy (Vader asks Luke to join him in ruling the galaxy)
Rey’s interaction with Snoke, in this film, is almost a complete recreation of the scene in Return of the Jedi, where Luke is confronted by the emperor who ends up being killed by his apprentice, Darth Vader (Just like Kylo killing Snoke). In fact, in an interview, Rian Johnson even alluded to such saying that there is bound to be some overlap with these films. And that’s what really grates my onions!
This film preaches for more than 2 hours about how we need to forget the past and yet they keep recreating the past. At the expense of a good fresh narrative. They so concerned with gaining favour by giving us plot elements that reminiscent of the past and upending them in order to be “bold” and exciting that they neglect their own new ideas.
I was terribly disheartened by the treatment of Finn in this film. Relegated to nothing more than a sideshow comedy act, Last Jedi failed to capitalize on one of the best and freshest ideas in Star Wars, that of a Stormtrooper who is now part of the rebellion.
· DISNEY HAS NO LONG-TERM PLANS
Let me rephrase that, the only long-term plan Disney has for Star Wars is for it to make tons of money. That is their only concern.
So much so, that I absolutely 100% believe that Disney had no plan for this trilogy of films. Now you may wonder, how one could deduce such a thing? Well, it’s simple, you just have to take a look at how this trilogy has come together.
Like I previously mentioned, George Lucas gave them him his treatment for the overview of his sequel trilogy (in his mind, the last trilogy), which was promptly discarded. From there Disney hired three directors to each direct one of the three new episode films. JJ Abrams, Rian Johnson and Colin Trevorrow (now replaced by JJ Abrams).
Now what was the most surprising thing about these films, was that each director would be writing and directing his own film. And after seeing Last Jedi and Force Awakens it’s clear to see that no coercion exists between them. Ideas that JJ has implanted in Force Awakens was promptly discarded in Last Jedi by Rian Johnson, in favour of his own.
Disney left the films in the hands of the creators, hoping they would bring feelings of nostalgia from the original trilogy. The problem with that is, they never laid down a foundation for them to work from. Instead, they just have to work with one another to make sure certain elements are added so that the next film makes sense. Both Rian and JJ have spoken about it in the past, how certain things were added at Rian’s behest. But what’s interesting is Colin Trevorrow’s situation.
Now many believe that Colin was let go as a result of the poor reception of his indie film Book of Henry that released last year. I don’t think that is the case. In recent interviews, Mark Hamill has spoken about the discussions that he and Colin had about his character in Episode 9. Mark Hamill has said that he was excited and was looking forward to working with Collin as they both had similar ideas on what they wanted to see from Luke Skywalker.
Now I can go into a fan theory that Mark Hamill had no idea that Luke was to be killed off in Last Jedi – given his reaction after the premiere – but I’ll leave that for you to investigate (He vehemently denies it, but given his honesty about the film during the press tour on the film, I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney and Rian kept this away from him). I suspect that Colin Trevorrow’s plans for Luke didn’t gel too well with Rian’s and given Rian’s favourable standing with Lucasfilm honcho, Kathleen Kennedy, I feel as though this ultimately sealed his fate.
Now with Colin out and JJ back in, JJ has a lot on his plate for Episode 9. The Last Jedi, doesn’t play all too well as a film part of a larger narrative, as Rian left very little to build on.
· KYLO REN vs REY, THE FIRST ORDER vs THE RESISTANCE,
FINN vs A GOOD STORYLINE, POE vs RELEVANCY
There’s very little to be invested in the battle between Kylo Ren vs Rey, or the First Order vs the Resistance, or Finn’s arc or Poe’s presence in the film. At this point in time, if the franchise ended here, I would be fine with it. There’s nothing for me to wonder about or be excited for in the next film.
In Force Awakens we saw Rey get the better of Kylo Ren, in Last Jedi we see Luke get the better of him as well. At this point, Kylo Ren doesn’t pose a problem for Rey. He hasn’t grown in power, in fact given his emotional state, and now has developed a relationship with Rey, Kylo is anything but threatening.
Rey, on the other hand, has a bit of a flirt with the dark side and yet ultimately nothing is done with that. How wonderful would it have been if Kylo was just about to destroy the Resistance and instead Rey tells him she will join him if he allows them to live. The last shot of the film being Luke having realised what Rey has done. This is what ultimately brings Luke back into the action for Episode 9. One little change to that story would have you foaming at the mouth to see how this story will come to a close in Episode 9. But, alas, we got an ending that felt more like an ending for the last film in the trilogy, one filled with hope for the future. It’s a nice ending, but what does that leave for Episode 9?
Hopefully, Episode 9 ends with Kylo killing the resistance and becoming completely consumed by the force, becoming the ultimate villain of a future trilogy, just like his grandfather.
The battle of the First Order and the Resistance felt to me just like that, a BATTLE, not a WAR. To better explain myself, I’ll put it like this; in Last Jedi, at some point, the Resistance sends out a message to all their allies in the galaxy asking for support, which goes completely unanswered. To me, it just felt like the rest of the galaxy is tired of this war. I certainly am. The First Orders’ numbers have been greatly reduced and there’s only a handful of Resistance fighters left. Who knows what they even fighting for at this point? It certainly isn’t peace in the galaxy. This film showed there’s plenty peace in the galaxy. We saw casino city, where people are living lavishly, nobody cares about this little skirmish. “Let them resolve it” that’s how the galaxy feels about this battle. It’s no longer a grand battle of good vs evil, they just need to talk it out at this point. Appoint some delegates and have a sit-down. I’m sure they can come to some understanding. Kylo just wants to be understood and be recognized. That’s all, they can figure it out.
It’s such shame how they failed to capitalize on Finn. Disney is so focused on the original trilogy that they can’t even realise what a unique story they can tell with Finn. Sticking to Last Jedi, just imagine if, by the end of the film, Finn gets kicked out of the resistance.
Imagine if they started the film with the Resistance realising that the First Order can track them. Many believe it’s because Finn is actually a mole and has been assisting the Order (after all he is a Stormtrooper). The Resistance decides to give him up to the First Order. Obviously, Leia and Poe are against this but they might face a mutiny. (This will also lead to the “who is good, who is bad” narrative Disney is dismally trying to push i.e. Luke almost killing Kylo, DJ’s betrayal, weapon manufacturers’ selling to both sides, etc...)
Finn is imprisoned by the First Order, who then decides to ship him off to the planet where they imprison kids and train them to be Stormtroopers. Now on this planet, the First Order has been having some troubles with little uprisings as many heard about Finn’s actions in helping destroy the Star killer Base. The First Order decides to make an example of Finn to any would be traitors. Finn soon learns about this while he’s in prison and is forced to do slave labour. But, soon he finds himself freed by Stormtroopers who decided to revolt.
The last shot of the film would be Finn in a cave filled with kids, families and thousands of a Stormtroopers, who, as Finn passes them, take off their helmets revealing themselves to be ordinary people (a rich mix of diverse ethnicities, races, genders, even a couple of alien species).
Episode 9 then sees Finn as the leader of a Stormtrooper rebellion. Using Spartacus and maybe even a Tale of Two Cities as a template for his story. Having him one of three leaders, each with differing views on how to move forward but all agreeing to stop the First Order. This wouldn’t be the clone wars, it would be the Stormtroopers Battle for Freedom.
Now doesn’t that sound exciting, different, new, fresh? I could certainly flesh this out more for your enjoyment, but I just wanted to give you a small little dosage of what can be done with Finn’s character. There’s so much you can do and yet he is an afterthought. It’s a damn shame.
Poe? I don’t even know what to make of Poe. The most interesting thing about him is that he’s played by Oscar Isaac, who I’m a big fan of. But, unfortunately so far, he’s just been a loose appendage left dangling at the end of a short rope made up of uninspired ideas. How would I make him more interesting? Reveal that secretly he has been working for Jar Jar.
· THERE’S NO SAGA. THERE’S NO EPIC.
The last film in a trilogy is supposed to be the culmination of what came before marking an end to the hero’s journey that we have been welcomed on. With each director making his own film, there’s no way for Episode 9 to do that. The Last Jedi wrapped up its story on a high note.
Episode 9 will have the task to rebuild a foundation to begin its story and then bring it to a close.
The villain we have seen on multiple occasions to be fallible, Hux has been an overzealous “evil” man, incapable of being competent and Snoke the all-powerful is dead. The First Order is only left with a small squadron, so what’s so the threat?
Rey has been shown to be completely in-tune with the force, often showing great control over the force. Many times, we hear that her abilities equal that of Kylo Ren, but we constantly showed her power eclipsing his.
The Anakin/Luke’s lightsabre that called out to Rey, in Force Awakens, has been destroyed so that renders that a moot point. How was it found? Why did it call out to her if it did nothing to help her? Will Episode 9 be fresh and new and not copy any past Star Wars films? So many questions.
The resistance is comfortably snug on the Millennium Falcon and even that didn’t leave us with anything exciting. Finn apparently got himself a love interest who sacrificed herself so that he wouldn’t have to sacrifice himself because “that's how we're gonna win. Not fighting what we hate, but by saving what we love.” So, you saying he didn’t love the Resistance? He was trying to save them. I don’t know anymore it’s just silly.
After two films, I’m still not sure what this sequel trilogy is about. Is this the rise of Kylo? Or the rise of Rey? Or the rise of enslaved kids on a casino planet Finn and Rose failed to save, but freed the alien horses only to get recaptured like immediately?
Again, what is this trilogy really about?
TO THE FUTURE
Disney has no idea what they want from Star Wars in terms of the story they want to tell. They want to make money but fail to capitalise on new ideas. Remember when the rumoured Seven Samurai stand-alone directed by Zack Snyder’s was a thing? Even though most would hate the idea of Zack Snyder directing a Star Wars film, everyone loved the idea of a Seven Samurai-inspired film.
Disney ops for spinoff films that they can keep close to the original trilogy. Rogue One was a perfect example of going a little outside the box with the franchise, but ultimately the film connects directly to the first scene in A New Hope. Nostalgia!
The Han Solo film is a story that doesn’t need to exist but does because Disney loves nostalgia, they just don’t know exactly what they want to do with it. This is why they have had “creative differences” with most of the directors that they’ve brought on to do these films.
Disney just need these films to keep coming out, because they have theme parks to build, toys to create, apparel to make, video games to produce. The future of Star Wars is in the hands of a corporation who doesn’t really want to take the story into uncharted territory in the fear of being rejected.
Last Jedi has shown us how beautiful and mesmerising the world of Star Wars can truly be, yet we find ourselves swimming in a diluted pool of uninspired storytelling.
One day I would hope to see a Star Wars story unfettered by the restraints of the studio or any sort of agendas. One that would be free to tell an adventure story that harkens back to the adventures of old, where our hero, wither they be male or female, would look up at the stars in wonder, dreaming of all life’s possibilities, before being whisked away on an incredible adventure by fate’s call.
PS. Just for fun here’s how I would list the Star Wars films from best to worst
Empire Strikes Back
A New Hope
A Force Awakens
Revenge of the Sith
Return of the Jedi
The Last Jedi
Attack of the Clones