Star Wars and monsters: What Disney is doing wrong!

Star Wars: The Last Jedi..L to R: Chewbacca with a Porg..Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd. ..© 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi..L to R: Chewbacca with a Porg..Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd. ..© 2017 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved. /

The creatures during the Disney Star Wars era could use some help

From the abominable Wampa to the slithering Colo Claw Fish, Star Wars has always done monsters best. But the Disney era of Star Wars has so far fallen short of this legacy, delivering only a handful of memorable creatures to date. Here’s where they went wrong.

The ‘Token Monster’ Formula  

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Disney Star Wars movies often seem formulaic in so far as they insert the familiar beats of a Star Wars movie (lightsaber fight, paternal revelation, space fight) throughout the movie to play on nostalgia and it does this with its monsters, too.

Monsters in the new Star Wars movies are only there to ensure the ‘creature feature’ box of the movie check-list is ticked. They are only there to make the audience feel like they are watching a Star Wars movie, and perhaps to sell toys, too.

This is a problem.

This mindset is completely opposed to George Lucas’ vision of creating strange new monsters to drive on the plot (look at the Sarlaac or Jabba the Hutt) and it means the monsters are not at the forefront of the action as they should be.

This is evident from the lack of memorable monster scenes in the Disney era – aside from the Rathtars in The Force Awakens and perhaps the Summa-Verminoth in Solo, few significant monster scenes spring to mind. And this is because in the sequel trilogy, monsters are just there to tick a box.

It takes all the passion out of them and means we do not get impactful creature scenes, as with the Exogorth of The Empire Strikes Back or the wonderful monsters in Attack of the Clones.

Moving forward, I hope to see more meaningful time spent with the creatures of Star Wars. Because they are there to frighten and grip the audience, not just to tick a box.

The problem with the design  

Secondly, the monsters of the Disney era Star Wars films often fall short in terms of design.

There is a marked lack of innovation and ambition to the monster design in these movies – instead of interesting creatures like the Dianoga or the Krayt Dragon such as we saw in the Star Wars films of old, we just see the same tired ‘tentacle-monster’ formula rolled out again and again.

And this is not the fault of the artists behind the movie, by any means. In concept art for The Rise of Skywalker, we saw the fantastically unique Eye of Webbish Bog design – an enormous head on which a spider would sit that would tell Kylo Ren the location of the Wayfinder in Vader’s Castle.

But this was cut from the movie, making the final installment to the Skywalker Saga void of any interesting creature designs!

This resistance to new monster designs stems in part from Disney’s desire to make Star Wars ‘cute’. We see it with the Porgs, Baby Yoda, the Vulptexes, the Happabore, and so many other creatures – cute designs are used in place of innovative ones because cute wins over the audience and sells toys.

This is not to say that ‘cute’ critters have no place in Star Wars (Baby Yoda is the pride and joy of the franchise, for instance), but when we see these creatures taking the place of innovative monster designs which have always been at the core of Star Wars, we see a problem arise.

It is a great shame to see innovative, ground-breaking designs replaced with ‘safe’ formulas, and I for one hope to see creatively ambitious designs moving to the forefront of creature design in subsequent movies.

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Threat levels  

A final point must be made concerning Disney’s failure to make Star Wars monsters threatening.

The Wampa, the Rancor, the Sando Aqua Monster, and the Acklay are all memorable because they pose a genuine threat to our heroes – we remember the Wampa because it advances on Luke in a genuinely terrifying moment, and the Rancor because Luke had to fight for his life against it.

The same is not true of the new monsters of Star Wars. The Rathtars are pitched as some of the most dangerous creatures, but when the audience sees them rolling about and burping it is hard to take this seriously; thus, they are perceived as less threatening and are less memorable as a result.

This is the case with Solo’s Summa-Verminoth, Rogue One’s Bor Gullet, and that strange space monster shown for a single shot in The Rise of Skywalker. They never pose a real threat to the characters in the movie.

These monsters are not scary, so they are not memorable.

I harbour no resentment towards Disney’s treatment of the Star Wars franchise, but I think it a real shame that they have constantly failed to wheel out new and innovative monsters to scare the audience as this is a principal tenet of Star Wars movies. Cuteness is all well and good, but a fright-factor is crucial for creating a memorable monster, and I for one hope to see more of this in future Star Wars movies.

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Which is your favourite Star Wars monster? Let us know below!