Whatever your thoughts are on the previous movies from Disney, one thing is for certain, Star Wars has become a source of contention in the fan community. While the monetization of content has become somewhat of a lost idea, the argument for Star Wars has always been the previous generation of content is some of the best.
Star Wars fans have always gravitated towards the original movies and for good reason. The stories they tell have created some of the best comic book content and novels. My personal favorite is the Darth Vader comic line with Boba Fett, Bossk, and Black Karrsanton hunting down Jedi. Then of course the Thrawn series by Timothy Zhan that not only provides insight into one of the best military strategists but also shows the humanitarian side of the Empire. Thrawn shows a different side of the Empire leadership as he doesn’t rule by fear but rather he rules through empathy and submits sometimes to his inferiors.
Then we see The Clone Wars which is arguably one of the best animated series in general. The Clone Wars gave us an insight into Anakin and Obi-Wan and also introduced Ashoka which became a fan favorite and even led to her own show on Disney+. It provided context for Anakin and Obi-Wan’s relationship and added more to the storyline and gave better insight into The Revenge of the Sith. Then there was Star Wars Rebels where the Grand Inquisitor was introduced and Darth Maul’s story was expanded upon with Sam Witwer and his absolute incredible portrayal of Maul.
All of these things gave us a common addition: expanded upon a beloved franchise and gave more depth to our favorite characters.
When Disney announced they would be purchasing LucasFilm and the rights to the Star Wars name I was excited. At this point we hadn’t had a new Star Wars film in about a decade and the love for the prequels was still building to what it is now. The Star Wars universe was still ripe and the fanbase was one of the least divided fan bases. Shorty after, The Force Awakens was announced and that would change.
The Force Awakens was not only a film that was divisive, but also overlooked. Of many issues with that film, none were worse than the absolute abomination to the characters built over the last 50 years. Han Solo went from having it all and being a cynical smuggler and becoming a leader to your drunk uncle yelling at the sky at Thanksgiving; Luke Skywalker was a young farmer who turned savior of the universe and then died alone because he hated the world he helped protect; Princess Leia went from being a political actor to being a fearless warrior leading with empathy; and of course Darth Vader was one of brightest young Padawan who became one of the worst Sith Lords.
But all of this was overshadowed by the introduction of Rey. As our culture has changed to more female characters it makes sense the new heroin would be female. Rey was a young scavenger like Luke was and gave us a sense of similarity between the main protagonists of the previous generations. But Rey was always flawed. For 50 years we heard from the likes of Obi-Wan and Luke that just because you pick up a lightsaber doesn’t mean you are a Jedi. Rey immediately picked up a light saber and took on Kylo Ren, the grandson of the most powerful (at least on screen) Sith we had seen up until that point.
TFA took the universe that was built and pushed it all aside for a particular point of view. Kathleen Kennedy always told herself that she was the underdog. My personal view on Kennedy has always been one of arrogance and self-indulgence. She’s like the lady at a Restaurant who thinks she knows better than the chef and will eventually buy the place just to prove a point. Rey was an extension of how she viewed herself; passed over and better than everyone else. Not to mention the complete and utter disappointment that Captain Phasma and her story arc was. Phasma could’ve been somewhat of a bounty hunter like Boba Fett and beloved like him, but she wasn’t. She was a supporting character in a film that was doomed from the start.
Kennedy has even shrugged off the questions regarding the poor reception of the films, even one beloved as Rogue One (a film on my Mt. Rushmore of Star Wars movies). Many Star Wars fans are also a fan of the lore and have read the comics and books, myself included. To hear Kennedy completely brush off the hundreds of hours content felt like my thoughts about her were just facts not thoughts anymore. In an interview with Rolling Stone she stated:
"“Every one of these movies is a particularly hard nut to crack. There’s no source material. We don’t have comic books. We don’t have 800-page novels. We don’t have anything…”"
Her reference was to the lack of content for the direction she wanted to take the Star Wars universe. If there isn’t any content then why make it to begin with? Why give fans what they never asked for in favor of a new story when that story was never good to begin with? Fans let out a collective groan when Kennedy said this as if there wasn’t hundreds of hours and thousands of books and video game content for inspiration.
The main problem is the arrogance of not giving fans what they want then being mad when we call them out.
The issue isn’t really the content, it’s the obnoxious attempt to force content we don’t want down our throats. After that, even if it’s objectively bad (looking at you Boba Fett), the consensus from the creative team isn’t to change how they do business but rather to blame the fans for not liking it. For months after The Force Awakens all I heard was I was a misogynist for not liking Rey despite her objective short comings. Rey was a bad Star Wars character for many reasons, the biggest one because she was too powerful for no formal training, which isn’t an unfair take considering the character development Luke went through, not because she was a woman
Even then, the story of The Force Awakens set the precedent that Rey will always win. It took 3 movies for Luke to defeat Vader and even then, he didn’t beat him, he chose not to fight his father and tap into his fathers humanity. Luke was going to make his father watch him die before he would kill his father which is incredible storytelling. Luke never wanted to hurt Vader and in fact he never wanted to harm anyone but he had to to protect himself and the ones he loved. Rey, on the other hand, defeated Kylo Ren in the first film and then Snoke was killed off in the second effectively giving the green light to Rey always winning. This took the space epic out of the way and gave way to Rey being the greatest Jedi of all time despite her lack of any training. You can’t have a space epic unless you have a fight you can’t win if you don’t have that, then there’s no stakes where there’s no stakes there’s nothing to fight for
Fans are annoyed not because of a lead female protagonist, they’re annoyed because of the lack of respect the producers and leaders at LucasFilm have for the content they are creating. Jon Faveru has even according to rumors been highly displeased with Kennedy and even threatened to quit. While this is just a rumor and Faveru has not confirmed this, I can’t imagine this being far off as Boba Fett’s best episode was one where he wasn’t in it very much. Not to mention the complete take over of Bo Katan in a show called The Mandalorian not Bo Katan.
So where does Star Wars go from here?
This is the question isn’t it? The Star Wars formula in the latest iterations has just been put everything out and see what happens. The majority of the content that has ranged from average to absolutely atrocious. Solo is probably the middle ground as the film wasn’t stellar, but it wasn’t bad, it just suffers from the lack of Harrison Ford “moxy.” Rogue One is probably the best of the latest movies as it spawned Andor and also the Obi-Wan series with Darth Vader in it as well. The ending scene with Vader is what fans want and it’s obvious to everyone but the people in charge.
Krennic was a great character and embodies what the Empire is. He ruled with an iron fist while being a lap dog for someone else. Death Troopers were fantastic and even in the tabletop game Star Wars Legion, Krennic and Death Troopers are arguably the best units in the game. Rogue One also showed the desperation the rebellion had during the start of it. The story developed out of the love for the original trilogy and the want to get more of that content rather than new content. Not to mention the story was fantastic and shows the grit and the need to defeat the Empire
There is a rich story line from the Darth Vader comic line and it’s being completely ignored in favor of new characters not many fans care about. LucasFIlm will continue to push a round peg through a square hole just to prove a point that they are smarter than every fan out there. Darth Raven would be one of the best and most beloved stories in the star wars universe but instead they’ve decided to give us Rey and Grogu, one character half the fan base doesn’t care about in the long run and Grogu who is a supporting character in a failed TV show due to politics. Not to mention the director of the new Rey movie stated she “likes to make men feel uncomfortable.” So instead of finding content fans want, the direction they will move to is making the majority of your fan base “uncomfortable.” Parents take their kids to the theaters to escape, not to be lectured on political or social issues.
Star Wars has always given us a true to form story arc that portrays characters with deep and rich decisions that do affect the outcome of the ending. The previous movies don’t seem to have that. For example, in The Last Jedi you claimed we had a last ditch effort to destroy the First Order. In The Force Awakens you sent the last of your forces to Star Killer base. If the logic is you can just send a medical frigate through what is effectively a space battleship, what was the point of any Death Star run? Why not just put a droid on an old X-Wing and light speed it through every ship the First Order has? Why not just get a bunch of droids and go to where Palpatine was and light speed everything through?
Some would say it’s an unreasonable thing to point out and it’s in space already. Fine, I’m willing to hear that argument, but I’m also pointing out that continuity and in that instance you rewrote all the Star Wars films and changed the physics of them as well. Again, changing older movies in favor of what you wanted to do. Not to mention the “Space Vegas” issue that showed war profiteering in space. For the entire universe of Star Wars the idea was the Empire was so evil that they would do anything to take over and the motivation was through fear, not money. We get it, war is bad.
The movies were not good and it’s time for LucasFilm and the production team to admit that.
Star Wars fans want content that is quality over quantity.
As one of the biggest Star Wars fans out there, I’m asking for LucasFilm, no, begging, to take a break. Take a year or two off and really find out what fans want. Even in the gaming sphere EA has monetized the Star Wars franchise and effectively for a decade produced a monopoly because they didn’t care to create content worth playing. Battlefront was a complete flop and Battlefront II was full of microtransactions and a pay to win model. Rogue Squadrons was too short, and the only games worth playing were the Jedi games which were made by Titanfall 2 legendary game developer, Respawn led by Vince Zampella.
This isn’t to say that the new films didn’t do good things. They introduced new characters that brought new life to the younger generation. They also gave us new Star Wars content regardless of what you think about it. The Mandolorian is one of the best new shows out there and it also gave us Rogue One and then Obi-Wan and Darth Vader fought again. We also got Chewy, R2D2, and C3PO again as well as a great villain with Kylo Ren. This all being said, the flaws far outweigh the good things.
If LucasFilm wants to get their fans back they need to produce good movies over the course of a decade, not three average movies over 3 years. Not to mention the ups and downs of the Disney+ model shows which have seen various forms of quality. Obi-Wan for all the great things it did for Darth Vader and Anakin, it was marketed as a story about Luke and Obi-Wan and the inquisitors. It ended up being Luke 2.0 in The Last Jedi: reluctant Jedi is forced into helping because of his need to feel useful. I also found Reva a great addition to the story, but the majority of the marketing was on the Grand Inquisitor which we saw for only a few hours. The show was a mess and gave us a look into Obi-Wan’s life and gave us fans what we wanted before A New Hope, but it had major flaws that I feel were ignored due to nostalgia.
If you want some creative help, I’ll help you out. Give me a Darth Vader show with Hayden Christianson reprising his role and then give me The Punisher style show rated TV-MA. Along the way, give me Boba Fett, Bossk, and Black Karrsanton hunting down the Jedi with the Grand Inquisitors. Also give me Krennic, Death Troopers, and Thrawn as they enforce the rule of the Empire amongst the galaxy. Included in that give me Obi-Wan and Ashoka along with a few other Jedi as they start the rebellion and we go into Rogue One. We get Bounty Hunters, we get violent Darth Vader, and we also get characters we want to see on screen.
In the end, Star Wars has become just another corporate death of a once great franchise at this point and it’s not just LucasFilm. You can’t tell me that The Last Jedi and Empire Strikes Back are on the same level of quality. Marvel films have been struggling as well after the success of Avengers: Endgame and the shows on Disney+ have been failing as well, which tells me the issue is with the leadership in general not with the specific directors. Disney at this point is bleeding money from its once great franchises and yet has no intention of changing. Fans have pointed out clear issues with their films, mainly political and social issues, but instead of changing, they’ll just fire half their workforce to subsidize their political stances. Indiana Jones is a complete flop at this point, Elemental is another flop, Avatar 2 barely made it out alive, the Star Wars movies have progressively gotten worse, the Marvel shows including She Hulk and Mrs. Marvel have had atrocious viewership, and then don’t get me going on the latest Ant Man film.
Disney has done with Star Wars what all our fears have been: controlled creative talent and forced certain political viewpoints to the detriment of the franchise. Until that changes, Star Wars will just be another failed franchise. And don’t get me wrong, Star Wars has always been political, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith are overtly political, but the story makes sense in them
As a fan and person who loves Star Wars, it’s finally time for LucasFilm to redirect it’s course. Whether that’s to fire Kathleen Kennedy or just scrap all current projects after Ashoka, something needs to change to motivate fans to go to the box office and that can’t be a woman who likes making men uncomfortable. Star Wars has always been about story and character development first, not a political statement followed by the story and characters.
If Disney wants to save Star Wars, quality over quantity is the way to go.