Tom Jolliffe on that fateful day when you realise Star Wars is no longer being made for you. Let go, you must…
Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi has been and gone. Rather than roaring like a hungry Wampa, it meekly wheeled itself out like an R2 unit which can no longer beep and boop like it once did. For some it worked, ticking the right boxes until the next thing comes along. For others it was as rousing as hoped. Then there’s the indifferent crowd who’ll always turn up – but almost regimentally, as if it has to be done. It’s okay, but it doesn’t carry the lustre of the Star Wars you love (which is for the most part, usually your generation’s run). Along with that, you then have a particularly vitriolic crowd.
Star Wars fans have always had a sense of expectation among many, and entitlement among a select few (but with the advent of comments sections, tweets and message boards, this has risen). The Star Wars fan at their most entitled will feel a sense of ownership to franchise characters, canon and lore. This might be the casual die hard who is just possessive and knowledgeable about the Original Trilogy. Or you might be the Star Wars uber fan who has seen/read every spinoff, comic book, video game and novelisation going. The most vocal detractors are probably the generation over 35, myself included, who are all about the Original Trilogy.
There’s no escaping the fact that the first two Star Wars films (A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back) were not just gargantuan money spinning machines, but masterpieces of cinema. The third film (Return of the Jedi) is the apologist’s wet dream. Great moments which are peppered through what is otherwise a slightly meandering, and inconsistent ‘final’ film.
Us over 35s have got into the habit of something, and for many of us since The Phantom Menace pod-raced into view – it’s persistent moaning. Many of us moaned incessantly about Phantom Menace, about Jake Lloyd (who let’s not forget, was a young kid), about Jar Jar Binks. We continued moaning in Attack of the Clones about Hayden Christensen, flat green screen-heavy filmmaking, wooden performances and dreadful dialogue. We finished our moaning session with Revenge of the Sith, with some almost getting off on a Star Wars moan by this point. We might even begrudgingly have admitted Revenge of the Sith had good moments like Ian McDiarmid, a final battle that was effective (if overlong), and a great John Williams score.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens launched a new trilogy but also kicked off a newfound Disney-led fascination with Star Wars. For some, the efficiently-made J.J. Abrams film was eye catching, exciting and dazzling enough to fool some on first viewing. For youngsters it’s great, with all the flash bang whizzes and wallops they want. For my age group at the time we’d not quite lost the salty taste of rather dull prequels and the New Hope beat-for-beat recreation was nostalgic enough to entertain on the big screen but totally hollow upon repeat.
Rian Johnson then made a film that was a little edgy, daring and blase to the lore, but equally bone headed, dull and ridiculous in Star Wars: The Last Jedi (still the most contentious Star Wars film ever made). Then Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was pure visual spectacle without a shred of structure or characterisation. A hodge-podge of big ideas and rug sweeping nonsense that was supposed to win a demographic back which honestly, the studio doesn’t really need any more. As a kid I’d watch a complete mess of a movie if it had enough bang for buck on screen. Today’s kiddos are no different and the last of that trilogy passed muster for the main demographic it needed to.
The Mandalorian pleased many and did it by not only pleasing the crowds and being as all encompassing as possible, but also by telling a compelling story (and probably resting on Baby Yoda’s cuteness a bit too). At least before the second season began to fall into the (IT’S A) TRAP of gumbo pot filmmaking without much forethought on coherence. Spin-off series Star Wars: The Book of Boba Fett was a show that was only interesting when the leading character was off screen, and even then, only half the time.
Obi-Wan was okay, ending with enough sincerity from Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen, as well as spectacle, to just about land on its feet. Sometimes though, in series world, fans would probably rather have six meandering episodes with standout moments over than four consistently great ones (or a standalone movie). It fills more time or makes for a bigger binge. I grant you, for many, Star Wars being Star Wars and showing up to bat is enough. They’ll lap it up. If so, then good news… Star Wars is still for you.
However… to the naysayers. To the perpetual moaners and bleaters, who have berated the vast majority of post OT output. Who will even pinpoint flaws in the recent fare, like illogical/dumb character choices as negatives, whilst overlooking similar moments in their beloved Original Trilogy. To myself too. Guys, come close. I have to tell you something. Closer…closer…back a bit…ready?
Star Wars isn’t for you any more.
You are not going to like Andor. Even if you begrudgingly liked The Mandalorian, you’ll probably find yourself growing weary of season 3, as inevitably, like almost everything in narrative fiction, it’ll become tired and worsen. I’m afraid you’ll just have to play the Original Trilogy on a perpetual loop. Does it matter that Harrison Ford is redundant and clearly can’t be bothered in Return of the Jedi? Of course not! Luke has a green lightsaber! Does the film break off into dull sub plots where our main interest only really lies with Luke’s battle with Vader? Does it recycle ideas from the first two? Is that what the Sequel Trilogy has been guilty of too but is a bigger problem because it’s not ‘ours’? Yes.
The prequel generation, who loved Jar Jar et. al. are now coming to the age where they’re getting beyond the kind of material Disney is making afresh. They’re bemoaning a new trilogy and shows which besmirch the good name of George Lucas’ prequels. Oddly, such has been some of the response to the new trilogy and films that the idea of the prequels suddenly being reappraised has come to being.
It’s not really true, because the OT generation still generally has an active dislike for the prequels, even if they still carried the Lucas stamp. It’s just that the kids turning up to The Phantom Menace etc. are now old as fuck. They’ve grown out of certain kinds of films, the kind they wouldn’t bother even trying to watch if it didn’t have the Star Wars tag.
The truth is, Disney’s primary focus (you know, as it’s been for 70 odd years) is young people. I’ll be generous and say under 25s (but occasionally it’s clear they’re aiming even younger). In truth, the Original Trilogy was supposed to be primarily for kids. When you were growing up, did you think the Luke Skywalker lunch box was for your dad? No, it was for you pal. “Obi Wan has become useless.” “Reva is a woke checkbox tick character.” “The film isn’t consistent with Star Wars lore/rules (no film/show has ever been consistent).” There’s an almost aggressive faction hammering away at their keyboards, making piss steaming vlogs and wasting breath on savaging a company that’s not catering to what they (think they) want.
If you haven’t liked the Star Wars for the new generation and it’s actually angered you then I’m afraid it’s time to let it go. Release the balloon and let it fly. Star Wars was never yours, you rented a feeling as a kid, a feeling you can still occasionally (and fleetingly) revisit. Kids of the world… I hope you enjoy the new shows and movies. Just be sure, that in 20 years from now, you bite your tongue when Episode XII does something that shits on Maz Kanata’s legacy. Let it go future Star Wars watching dudes… let it go.
Tom Jolliffe is an award winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has a number of films out on DVD/VOD around the world and several releases due out in 2022, including, Renegades (Lee Majors, Danny Trejo, Michael Pare, Tiny Lister, Nick Moran, Patsy Kensit, Ian Ogilvy and Billy Murray), Crackdown, When Darkness Falls and War of The Worlds: The Attack (Vincent Regan). Find more info at the best personal site you’ll ever see…https://www.instagram.com/jolliffeproductions/