I love Star Wars. I really do. I’ve seen all nine movies, and I love every one of them. I’ve spent hours and hours discussing Star Wars with my family and friends. I’ve collected too many Lego Star Wars sets to count.
But being in the Star Wars fandom has some major drawbacks, the first of which is dealing with the toxicity of the fanbase. Seriously. Star Wars fans make Bionicle fans look downright nice. You have to love the original trilogy, the Clone Wars, and The Mandalorian, and hate everything else, otherwise you’re not a true fan. And nobody ever stops trashing the prequel trilogy and the sequel trilogy for ruining the franchise.
Did they, though? I am a Star Wars fan and, whenever I’m watching a movie in the prequel trilogy or the sequel trilogy, I can honestly say I find enjoyment in it. Not that they don’t have flaws, but I’ve never had the feeling of “OMG THIS MOVIE SUX” that most Star Wars fans seem to. Not to mention, I’ve talked to plenty of people that like the prequels and/or the sequels. True, different people like different movies, but in real life, things don’t seem to be as one-sided as they are on the Internet.
Of course, not every Star Wars fan shares my view of the situation. They will never stop dissing George Lucas, or Kathleen Kennedy, or Rian Johnson, or whoever. But here’s where my thesis comes in: I think that such dissing is the reason why Star Wars has been “ruined.”
Let’s start at the beginning of all this: the prequel trilogy, which began with The Phantom Menace. After so many years, people were pumped to see Star Wars return. The trailers looked awesome, to the point that people were paying full ticket price for another movie and then leaving the theater after the Star Wars trailer played. And then the movie came out. There was so much backlash-Jake Lloyd, midichlorians, politics, overused CGI, and of course…Jar Jar Binks. People were talking about The Phantom Menace like it was the worst movie ever made when really, it had some good things going for it. Darth Maul was a memorable villain, the art direction was nice, and a good deal of the actors did good with the material they were given.
But the negative criticism greatly outweighed the praise. This got to George Lucas, to the point that he was hesitant about writing Attack of the Clones. But he did, and he listened to the fans and toned down Jar Jar. He originally had bigger plans for Jar Jar, but he scrapped them. Instead…he opted for a less-than-great love story and even more politics. Again, Attack Of The Clones had its high points-good action, creative new worlds, and plenty of fan service. Not to mention, the love story was still better than anything Twilight could throw at us. But it also wasn’t on the level of Han and Leia. And it led to immense backlash, just like before.
Revenge Of The Sith is a slightly different case, because in the years since its release, reception towards it has warmed. But when it came out, there was still disappointment. There were complaints about the handling of Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side, the overused CGI, the politics, and the way the ending played out. Really, by that point, I think people had just given up on the prequels. They were only expecting bad stuff, and with that mindset, bad stuff was all they got. So they continued to complain and yell at George Lucas. And it went on for years. Years and years and years. People never stopped making YouTube videos that explained why the prequels were poorly made movies, and things they could’ve done better. In fact, one channel made these:
To their credit, his story ideas weren’t bad. But still, the backlash that occurred so long after the last movie was unbelievable. People were saying that George Lucas should never make another Star Wars movie again. George Lucas even said in interviews that this backlash had put a seal on his desires to not do Episode VII-IX. He’d made claims years before that he’d written outlines for a sequel trilogy, but now he was denying them. It looked like Star Wars would be ruined forever.
Enter 2012, when George Lucas started to seriously think about making his own sequel trilogy. But nobody wanted to see that, so Disney came in with their own plan. They knew that, if George Lucas continued to do Star Wars his way, then the hate would never end. So they were gonna do it their own way, with a director that was actually a fan of Star Wars-J. J. Abrams. He directed Episode VII: The Force Awakens. The hype was real-really real. And when the movie came out, people LOVED it. It scored great with critics, made two billion dollars at the box office, and got several Oscar nominations. People were eagerly awaiting Episode VIII, and they were spectulating about what was gonna happen and scouring the Internet for plot leaks.
That said, there was still criticism towards The Force Awakens. The criticism was that it followed A New Hope too closely, to the point that it felt like a remake. But people were willing to forgive those flaws, because it was still a really good movie, and there were two more movies in the sequel trilogy to go; Disney had proved they could make a movie that felt like real Star Wars, and now they could go wherever they liked in the next couple movies.
While we waited for Episode VIII, we got Rogue One. And yeah…it was great as well. The production didn’t go so well, and the movie had its problems, but most people seemed to enjoy it. Of course, that doesn’t mean there were NO detractors.
Anyway, the hype for Episode VIII: The Last Jedi continued. And when the movie came out…oh man. The critics loved it just as much as The Force Awakens, if not more, but the fans were a different story. The backlash was…well, it was The Phantom Menace all over again. People seemed to hate everything about The Last Jedi. They hated the portrayal of Luke Skywalker (note: I don’t fully agree with this, but that’s a discussion for another essay), they hated the character of Holdo (I do agree; she seemed to lack good reason for keeping her plan secret), they hated the way the movie tried to subvert expectations, they hated the Finn and Rose side plot. Fans were yelling at Rian Johnson and Kathleen Kennedy about the movie they had made, and that they should eliminate the movie from canon.
But here’s the thing: The Last Jedi was a very different Star Wars movie. It didn’t copy any of the previous movies’ storylines. It tried to subvert expectations while continuing the stories of the characters we’d already been introduced to. In other words, it tried to give the fans exactly what they wanted. And yet the fans still bashed it.
Solo didn’t help matters much. The movie got mixed reviews and bombed at the box office. Why this is…I think there are a number of reasons. One, people were still reeling from The Last Jedi. Two, the movie itself was far from great, with plenty of good points and plenty of bad ones. Three, the production was just as troubled as Rogue One’s, if not more. Four, now that there was a new Star Wars movie every year, it just didn’t feel special anymore. On the whole, Solo was what pushed Disney to stop with the Anthology films.
But Episode IX was still coming, with J. J. Abrams back to direct. The return of Palpatine piqued some interest, but the way I perceived it, most people were expecting the worst. And the story of John Boyega leaving the script under his bed at a hotel, and then that script leaking online, is pretty embarrassing.
Then the movie came out. And everyone agreed on one thing: it was trying its darndest to please everybody. It was as if Disney and Lucasfilm had seen the backlash towards The Last Jedi for being so different, and they just didn’t know what to do. So they loaded the movie with fan service and disregarded a good deal of plot points from The Last Jedi. That is, they toned down Rose, they changed Luke’s personality, they made Kylo Ren repair his destroyed helmet. And it was this late in the game that I realized what the real problem was: with every new movie, the studio was trying to give the fans what they wanted, and yet the fans still bashed them for it.
TLDR: After the prequels got backlash, people wanted Star Wars to keep moving forward without George Lucas. So Disney gave them a Star Wars that didn’t have George Lucas. But the Star Wars they got was too similar to the original trilogy. So Disney tried to mix up the formula, but the fans didn’t like that. So Disney tried to return to the classic formula that was “guaranteed” to please everybody. But that didn’t work, either.
Now, you could easily make the argument that the quality of the work itself played a part of this. From the details that have surfaced about the production, it seems doubtful that J. J. Abrams, Rian Johnson, and Kathleen Kennedy had the entire sequel trilogy planned from the start. But still…
Like I said, the fan backlash has always been very mean-spirited. It is perfectly normal to say you disliked a movie for this or that reason. There is nothing wrong with hating a movie, no, no, no. But Star Wars fans have taken that hate and…well, they haven’t handled it well. They bit the hand that fed them, and it directly affected the work that they were getting. As I see it, the situation is somewhat comparable to Bionicle. Anyone else remember this video?
The main point of the video is, nostalgia is a powerful thing. The original Star Wars trilogy is viewed through a lens of nostalgia for many people. And people are right to love the original trilogy-it was a major milestone in cinema. But the way people are handling their nostalgia is just ugly. They are demanding that every new Star Wars movie is exactly like that original trilogy that they watched and loved when they were younger. But that’s never gonna happen. As I mentioned above, the original trilogy still had its flaws. Sad truth: no movie is really flawless. At the same time, the original trilogy still had its great aspects. But, to quote the words of another user, from another topic entirely:
Replace every “Bionicle G1” or “G1” with “The original Star Wars trilogy” and you’ve got pretty much what my point is. Nothing will ever be the same as the original trilogy. There will be more Star Wars content in the future, that’s a given. Maybe it’ll be great, maybe it’ll be terrible. But it’ll never be the same as the original trilogy. So we need to stop demanding Lucasfilm for perfection. If we continue to spit at and insult them and pretend as if we own the franchise and we are the gods, not only will it have a negative impact on them, but it’ll also poison the community as a whole.
And if someone likes other Star Wars content besides the original trilogy, then there shouldn’t be anything wrong with that. People are…well, people. They like what they like. If they like one movie from the prequel trilogy, all of the original trilogy, two movies from the sequel trilogy, and one of the anthology films, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with that.
Above all, everyone seems to be forgetting one crucial detail. No matter what Disney or Lucasfilm does, they can’t change the past. Whatever fun experiences you had with Star Wars-Disney can’t change that. You still had fun. And everyone who’s being introduced to Star Wars now, because of the new content…they’re having fun too. So sit back, relax, and let people have their fun. Stop trying to convince everyone to take your side. Instead, just let everyone to their own. I know that’s what I’ll do. Like I said before, I am a fan of all three trilogies. I recognize the flaws, but I still have a special place in my heart for every movie. And if someone else disagrees with me, I can respect that. Because everyone is entitled to their own point of view.