Where’s that Star Wars originality gone?
The Star Wars franchise is one of the most successful and well known entities out there. The original movies were ground-breaking and captured the hearts and minds of millions of people. This has spawned TV series, novels, video games, a merchandise empire, all sorts of odd fan clubs, burgers (who doesn’t want a Dark Vador burger made with black buns?), musicals, burlesque shows (no, really) and, of course, more movies.
It took a long time for the second movie trilogy to come out – 16 years exactly after the last movie of the original trilogy was released. It then took another 10 long years before the third trilogy started just over a year ago, finally giving me an excuse to wear my Sith bath robe in public again.
Hey there Disney…
With Disney running the show now, the days of long waits for new Star Wars movies are over. In fact, we’re going to be oversaturated with Star Wars as Disney ambitiously aims to release a new film every year for at least the next few years.
Disney’s takeover of the franchise was met with a mixed response. Some fans were thrilled to have George Lucas’ beloved universe taken out of his hands, especially as the second trilogy had all sorts of issues with it (why Jar Jar? Why?!?). Others were worried that Disney would commercialise the franchise and make it too family friendly, avoiding the darker tones that have given Star Wars some of its best moments.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
From what we’ve seen so far, there is much to be optimistic about. Episode 7 brought back the feel of the original series and introduced a new generation of compelling heroes and villains. Rey and Finn are an epic leading duo. Both characters have fresh backstories, great onscreen chemistry and enough likability to become this generation’s fan favourites. The BB-8 droid may well be the coolest fucking thing I’ve ever seen (of course I bought one, didn’t you?) and was more or less the star of the show.
The villains are also quite captivating. Captain Phasma is a total badass and Kylo Ren’s inner battle and demons make him a fascinating bad guy. I don’t know what to make of Supreme Leader Snoke but I’m definitely intrigued enough that I want to find out more. (Of course, everthing Andy Serkis touches turns to fucking gold.)
Despite all the fresh new characters that were introduced, the movie was not without its faults. Whilst the first hour or so of the movie was quite captivating, there came a moment when I started to have quite the feeling of déjà vu. I’d seen this story play out before. And this was perhaps its most disappointing aspect.
Rather then blazing through fresh new ground, the film followed the storyline of the original Star Wars movie. Rather than taking risks, they played it safe, ensuring that the movie had no chance of emulating the all-time greatness of the originals.
Some fans are hoping that this movie played it safe so that they could break new ground in its sequels, which is a pretty poor excuse if you ask me. Let’s hope that this is the case and we don’t just see more of the same shit in Episode 8.
Star Wars: Rogue One
Rogue One, the first ever standalone Star Wars movie, also has a lot of good things going for it. To Disney’s credit, it is one of the darker Star Wars movies we’ve seen. The Rebel Alliance is given shades of grey (50?). No longer just a pure force for good, we see them painted closer to the line between freedom fighters and terrorist organisations. Some of its members are willing to resort to assassination, guerrilla tactics and even torture to achieve their aims.
Our heroes, though ultimately resorting to doing the right thing, are all morally compromised. Jyn and Cassian, our main heroes, both have doubts and shady situations to overcome before committing to do the right thing for their cause. Saw Gerrera is a fascinating character that leads an extremist off-shoot of the alliance. And even though his time in the film is short, he is probably its best character.Who’s your daddy? Source: space.com
Our main villain is another great new character: Orson Krennic. Cold and calculating (and maybe just a little whiny), he has some of the best dialogue of the movie as he tries to climb the ranks of the emperor and get the credit he feels he deserves for the creation of the Death Star.
The other villains of the movie is where some of the problems start. It’s hard for me to get my head around why the fuck they felt the need to use CGI to bring back Grand Moff Tarkin. There’s something really uncomfortable about seeing him on the screen when we know the original actor passed away over 20 years ago. The CGI doesn’t quite hold up and is, honestly, quite distracting. Would it really have been so hard to create a new character to fulfil this role?
And as cool as it is to see Darth Vader on the screen again and as badass as his combat scenes are, I again have to question why it was necessary to bring him back for this film. We don’t learn a single new thing about him and of course he’s going to steal the show and diminish the relevance of all the new characters they’ve worked so hard to establish. Why the need to depend on old characters and storylines?
Just like in The Force Awakens, the first half of this movie feels like a brand new universe that drew me in and had me genuinely excited for what was to come. The second half however left me in a place that was all too familiar (which, to be fair, is still better than dealing with Jar Jar).Look a little familiar? Source – space.com
It might just come down to the premise of the film itself. As the first stand-alone Star Wars movie, there was all sorts of potential to create new and exciting content. Instead, they went with a story that occurs right before Episode 4 began. This means that we all knew where things were going to end up before the movie began. The next stand-alone movie is apparently going to be centred on Han Solo which (sigh) again, limits the amount of originality and freshness available.
So what’s the solution?
One of the best original Star Wars stories that came after the original movies was from the video game, Knights of the Old Republic. It featured an entire new set of characters and a completely new conflict and story unrelated to the original series. It still retained all of the elements of what makes Star Wars what it is: Jedis, Sith, light saber battles, interspace battles, exploration of various planets, awkward dialogue and weird aliens.
I would love to see some of the new Star Wars movies explore this sort of new territory and take some risks with where the storylines go. It’s going to be a massive commercial success no matter what path they take. But if they want to make anything close to the greatness of the original movies, they are going to have to get out of their and our comfort zones.
But maybe that’s just me. What do you think? Do you want to see new and fresh content or are you happy with learning more about the characters we’ve known for years and getting more backstory related to the main movies? Are you satisfied with what Disney has given us with their first two movies or were you hoping for something more? Maybe you just want to bitch some more about Jar Jar? (I sure do). Comments are welcome below!