And that’s hard for me to accept.
The last trailer for the final installment of what they’re calling “The Skywalker Saga” dropped this week during Monday Night Football. Have you seen it?
Yeah, me too. And I don’t really know how I feel about it.
I am very much a Star Wars over Star Trek girl. I will always choose the archetypal emotional fantasy over the big ideas political allegory. (And yes, Star Trek has great archetypes and Star Wars has its own politics, and no, I don’t want to talk about it.) The very first movie, which we knew as Star Wars, not Episode Anything, came out when I was 13 years old. I became best friends with the woman who is still my best friend because of a shared love of Star Wars. We watched it literally all day every day for weeks in the summer of 1977, the only two patrons most days at the Cinema Twin in our tiny, sci-fi resistant hometown. By the time I was a senior in high school and finding my first real nerd tribe, I could boast that I had seen it more than 100 times. The Empire Strikes Back was and is my absolute favorite of the series. Return of the Jedi was and is not, but I still loved it because it wrapped up my story, MY story, the Skywalker saga in which I was invested in a way that felt satisfying and complete. Even with the ewoks.
When The Phantom Menace came out, I was about to turn 35, an adult with a job and a home and responsibilities–I was already being paid to write fantasies of my own. I didn’t like the movie much at all, but it didn’t upset me. It hurt my feelings more that I didn’t care. The fact that I felt completely disconnected from it felt like another symptom of my mid-thirties malaise. “It’s for kids,” I thought, wincing at the pod race. “Maybe Star Wars always was.” I saw each of the second trilogy movies the week they came out, and I did more than my fair share of ranting and raving about Jarjar Binks and the infantalization of the Anakin/Padme relationship and any number of other details that pissed me right off. But it was abstract fury, lit-crit passion. They didn’t hurt my heart.
Then Disney bought Star Wars, and these new movies started coming out. I had hope going in; I really did. I was old enough by then that I had made peace with not being that nerdy teen-ager any more. I was a nerdy middle-aged woman, and I was okay with that. I owned the first six movies on DVD and watched most of them pretty regularly. (I think my copy of The Phantom Menace has been out of the box precisely once, when we showed it to my niece for the first time.) The people making the new movies had made other stuff I liked, and I was very enthused at the idea of a few more central characters who weren’t white guys.
Then I saw The Force Awakens. (It’s very telling that I just had to look up its actual title.) And while I liked a whole lot of stuff about it, the overall effect kinda made me sick to my stomach. Because the whole premise was that the first saga, the original saga, MY saga, hadn’t mattered in the slightest. These characters that I loved were right back in the same soup they had been in when Episode IV started. Some of the names had changed; the universe was a lot more complicated; archetypes had given way to angst-ridden individuals that seemed layered to me in the way that characters on night-time soapies are layered. And I was just shattered. My husband (who’s 19 years younger than me and an avid gamer, cartoon watcher, and comic book nerd) loved them and tried to explain to me that they referenced and incorporated soooo much canon that I knew nothing about. Which did NOT make me feel better. I saw Force Awakens a couple of times, but it didn’t really stick with me. My one abiding memory from it is Han Solo dying for no good reason as far as I was concerned. I’ve seen The Last Jedi once in the theater and once on Blu-Ray, and though I am usually the girl who can remember the plot to every episode of every sitcom she ever watched while doing her nails and reading a magazine, I couldn’t begin to tell you much about happens in it. I remember Luke Skywalker drinking that blue milk and a lot of interpersonal astral projection that wouldn’t make sense in an episode of Legion, much less a Star Wars movie. Mostly the new trilogy so far has left me bitter and disinterested and cold. And that’s pretty much where I am watching this new trailer.
It’s not for me.
That 13-year-old in 1977 believed that good was good and bad was bad and any notion of morality or truth being subjective was just the higher thinking of inscrutable, immaterial gurus bathed in mysterious light. Even the 13-year-olds of today know that isn’t so. (I know this to be true; my niece is 13.) Teenage me wanted a faceless villain in a mask that acted like a purely evil machine right up to his moment of redemption when being a good dad triumphed over all. I know now that neither villainy nor redemption work that way; those concepts just aren’t that clean. People younger than me, the people the new movies were made for, have known that truth all along. The world they’ve always lived in has made it impossible for them not to know it. I might not want that truth in my story, but without it, their story can’t work.
And Star Wars is now their story. Not mine.
I want my sagas to end in absolute, permanent triumph. I want good to vanquish evil for all time. I want happily ever after. Not in every story, of course, but in my fantasy? Hell yes! But that kind of story doesn’t work for people who have come of age in the world we live in now even as a fantasy. For them, that kind of story is too . . . dare I say it? Disney. Hell, even Disney fairy stories don’t trust that arc any more–have you seen Maleficent? Or Brave? People my husband’s age and my niece’s age know, like Roland of Gilead (since we’re talking about sagas), that ka is a wheel. That nothing lasts forever, good or bad. That it’s the journey that’s important, not the destination. Kids these days know everything dies in a way I didn’t really learn until grad school. I hate that for them; I grieve for the innocence that was my privilege. But my grieving doesn’t bring it back, not for me and not for them.
So I will try to shut up and let people enjoy this new, inclusive, shadowy story where even the brightest light is edged in darkness. I’ll celebrate the diversity of the cast and try not to take the heavy-handed nostalgia beats too personally. I’ll cry for Leia and feel jerked around while I do it the same way I cried for Han and Luke. And the possibility is strong that I won’t love it. I might even hate it.
But that will be okay.
33 thoughts on “No One Cares What I Think About the new Star Wars”
For me the first one was the best. It had never been done before and the visuals back then and even today where great. Now all the episodes have to much CGI. And not enough substance. I sill enjoy the movies. However the iris still the best. Anyway, I feel your pain.
The only thing I really like about the new movies is the CGI. I’m not overly impressed with the story itself. Its kinda funny that everyone I talk to either like or dislike the CGI, but we can agree that the story needs work.
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Growing up killed most of my childhood favourites. Doctor Who changed sex. Yeah I know it’s Sci Fi and we should accept change, but Bah humbug. I was 9 in 77 and Star Wars changed my life. Maybe I expect adult mental satisfaction. Ho hum. Nice post. Got me rethinking childhood happy thoughts.
I feel exactly the same as you, being a year younger, the summer of 1977 changed how I interacted with my inner-nerd.
Our difference? I gave up on the saga after the first prequel film. I saw Star Wars over 30 times in theatre when people waited in line for one showing to end so they could be seated for their showing. Then last film, I was dragged to by nieces and nephews, to only sleep through 75% of the film.
I haven’t seen any if the spin-offs, save rouge one, which was well done, and don’t plan to watch any new Star Wars based films going forward.
There is just to much good scifi out there in books for me to spend good money on Disney trite.
The original trilogy was the best.
By the time the second trilogy came out I had married and had children old enough to take to the cinema. Not only did I watch the movies I also watched my children’s faces. The way they loved Jar Jar means I will never be a Binks hater. They have always been family films, don’t let the geeks dis
The new trilogy had a big plot hole.The Rebel Alliance won in Return of the Jedi, but here we were with the Alliance still rebels when they should have been the government. Plus the plot was a rewrite of StarWars, only with the Death Star inside a planet.
As far as I am concerned, what was great about Star Wars, the movie and the franchise, was its originality. The franchise has lost the originality that made it great.
Another movie? Meh.
Great article! I was underwhelmed by The Force Awakens so much that I haven’t watched The Last Jedi yet. You’re right about the way Han Solo dies too!
That was a cathartic immersion in the un-star-warry Star Wars saga. I empathise on many planes and perspectives with you. Apart from everything you have said, there is the aspect of hypocrisy, or shall I say pseudoscience of it all, that bugged me the worst. As Yoda would have put it, you must unlearn what you have learned.
I couldn’t agree more, however I’m not sure I’m entirely ready to let go of my saga. I get the why of the new sagas changes, but what I don’t get is why they didn’t just add on to an already amazing story line. All it takes is a small seperation of characters, time lines, and perspectives, and they could have had an entirely different off shoot (storyline) of Star Wars, with Ray in her own timeline. Something that doesn’t devestate the old saga, but also allows a new chapter of Star Wars to blossom alongside the new generations.
Another touchy point for me is that honestly it’s like they just copied, pasted and mad libbed the damn thing [Star Wars VII] from the original Star Wars saga. I mean come on Disney, not only did you decide to make these changes, and forgo your biggest fan base, but you couldn’t even do it originally.
It seems like definitive endings are becoming unfashionable. I can certainly understand why from a business perspective: all these Extended Universes and films being treated as bigger-budget Netflix serials and the like. It’s rife in books too.
But I miss endings. So much.
An ending I dearly wish had been *The End, Do Not Pass*: the original “Alien”. The message behind that film was so delicious and humbling and inspiring – “the universe is an unimaginably vast and frequently terrifying place and we meatbags have no, nooooooo idea of the wonders and horrors out there”. A bunch of space-truckers veer off the “road” to investigate an unmapped and mysterious part of the route, and it turns out to be a glimpse of something frightening and terrible that they can never understand, and they should run, and they DO run, but it’s too late – and partly through sheer dumb luck (and partly ingenuity), one of them lives to tell the tale.
I never wanted to understand more than that. I wanted those mysteries to keep haunting me. The End. That was my perfect ending.
With the new Star Wars, as much as I loved The Force Awakens for all its heartfelt, remixy, fan-pleasing glory and the bright colours and the unambiguous Good Guys Are Good and Bad Guys Are Bad feel to it, everything feels like a road to something else. The Last Jedi felt like a lot of muddying of…everything: character motiovations, implied direction to the story, all of it. And worst of all for me, it felt like they got nowhere. Placeholder for the big conclusive finale (that probably won’t be that conclusive, because they’re making more Star Wars films).
This is my thing about reading Marvel comics too. I got the app recently and worked my way through about ten years of stories. It was great and I loved it! Happy geek. But thjen the story rebooted. And eventually the reboot rebooted. Again and again. The reboots got better, more clever – but still, nothing ended and nothing felt resolved.
Stories are better than life because they have those resolutions, those stuck pins. They’re also usually better than when they’re retrofitted to be the first part of a series. Pirates of the Caribbean was supposed to be a standalone movie. The Matrix would have been perfect as one movie.
As someone said elsewhere about scifi books, “I miss the days when everything was strong enough to stand by itself.”
Your last para there is a good point. We shouldn’t have to read tie-in novels and study “Art of…” & “Mythology of…” manuals to understand a movie. I love these things (I’m even a sucker for Top Trump cards) but only to explore further what we have been given, not to understand the story in the film.
Many of the TV shows I have liked, either ended early or I came to them after they were cancelled and I watched them on DVD knowing that I was approaching the end more than the people who originally watched them did.
Sometimes, the things I liked were brought back. Sadly, they weren’t the same or the new medium didn’t fit them.
As for movies, my friend is the ultimate Star Wars fan. Having him around, in an odd way, meant that I didn’t have to like it as much. I know that doesn’t make sense to some of you, but it probably does for some others.
The point being, I like all the movies but for different reasons. Okay, not the Phantom Menace so much, but I like all the movies for some parts at least–and I am not up on the canon to really know all that is being referenced.
Lastly, what you think does matter because you took time to write about it. Thank you.
Wow. I feel like you’ve told my secret – I felt like a traitor to my younger self because I liked but didn’t LOVE the second trilogy – the way I had fallen in love with the first one when I saw it. We’re about the same age. I agree with your analysis that the stories changed because the target audience has a different world view than our generation did. Although the latest trilogy has some great things going for it and I’m looking forward to seeing the end of it. Great article.
Speaking also as someone who is old enough to remember seeing the OG films in the theater, the Force Awakens was indeed a bitter pill. Doubly so, once I realized that Disney really isn’t covering new ground with the SW universe, just dusting off the storyline from the first three films. At any rate, thanks for writing this, Lucy.
It’s not okay. Getting the Hollywood Ending, the Happily Ever After, is what helped make our generation innocent. (A 1967 baby, here.) We believed that Cinderella could marry Prince Charming and that story was written several hundreds of years ago. Why is it suddenly not PC? This miserable phase that the US is going through is going to last as long as the tankini or wearing bobby socks with stilettos. When escapist fiction isn’t allowed to be heartwarming or emotionally satisfying, of course the world seems like a dark place. I say let’s have escapism that feels good!
Whilst I would say that many of the older tales were quite grisly and grim in their original form, I agree that we have taken a turn into the darkness and it is getting a bit too dark in here! I’m sick of seeing throats cut on TV shows, as one example. I do think though that there is a pendulum at work, or we move in cycles, and there is something of a reaction to all this negative outlook. I believe people will start to yearn for more hopeful stories & films. I’m a Marvel fan and feel they are pretty uplifting (albeit not very original).
You have articulated what I have felt since the prequels began, especially the wooden Anakin/Padme romance. I still love sci-fi, but perhaps not these sci-fi stories as much as the original three. Hard to beat the Jungian archetypes of the first triad. Thanks for your post! -Rebecca
I never got into Star Wars all that much. MIne was Star Trek.
I wasn’t born during the first trilogy, didn’t understand the second trilogy. But now, when I am in my 20s, started watching the current trilogy. And you are right, Star wars is our story now. And it either works or not, the saga will continue for the next generation.
I’ve enjoyed the new ones, just not in the same way. And I think that’s because I’m an adult now, with too many cares and responsibilities. Nostalgia is built on a longing for a simpler time and that will always be centred on the originals because I was a child when I first lost myself in them. That’s no longer the case. I’m just thankful that they’re better than the prequels.
There is so much I relate to. Yes, Force Awakens was a good movie in terms of entertainment but it did somewhat trash the struggle of Ep4-6. The Emperor is dead, the Empire is finished… Long Live the revamped Empire! Let’s do it all again. Woo-hoo…
Last Jedi struck me as the director being smug & clever.
And Rise of Skywalker I reckon will be JJ trying to ret-con certain stuff and basically mopping up the mess of RJ’s efforts.
But would any of ever be satisfied? Possibly, as there were better stories in there. But I doubt we could ever recapture that magical feeling we had as children. I can get a smidgen of it when I see one of those old school posters, like the one with a buff Luke holding aloft his lightsaber and Leia at his feet. Misleading & sexist, but damn! It still sparks some deep flame of emotion within.
We do live in a world now where good vs evil doesn’t seem to cut it. Grey is en vogue and heroes can be evil, whilst villains can save the day. Maybe not so much a reflection of how the world is now, but more a reflection of how we see it. We look more deeply but also more cynically perhaps??
I do feel adult fans should keep their mouths shut around new, young fans though. Imagine your father moaning about ROTJ on the way home from the theatre. “No way those stupid little bears could have taken down armoured troops with blasters!” That would have killed me when I was 8 yrs old. I am guilty as charged of this (way home from Last Jedi… I regret that)
I haven’t seen it yet but The Mandalorian has fans nodding their heads. Perhaps TV is the place for SW to make its home.
May the Force be with us all!
Absolutely loved this post! I’m 21, growing up my dad would put Star Wars on every Sunday afternoon and I fell in love with everything from the first trilogy- those films bought out my slightly nerdy side! The second trilogy was ok, but nothing like the first. I don’t understand how anyone could like Jar Jar?! Since Disney has taken over, my love for it is definitely not the same. The magic from the first trilogy is lost. I have still enjoyed a couple of them but not the way I hoped I would. These newer films should bring me joy as a younger girl, like the originals did for you. However unfortunately that’s not the case and I will never love these new films like I do the old!
Me gusta star wars
Here Iam at forty and still a hardcore star wars fan. Theres something magical in it. Its a world of fantasy that I absolutely adore
I’ve never considered the differences in story arc/structure in the series until now. That’s a great perspective. I happen to appreciate the finality of movies from decades past but also fully embrace the build-your-own-ending style we see in more contemporary films. That said, I’m notoriously easy to please when it comes to movies.
“It’s the journey that matters most, not the destination.” I agree with this quote a hundred percent. It’s not that I don’t care about what you think about the last of the saga, it’s more of respect. I respect what you think of it. I, myself, and my whole family are huge Star Wars fans. We’ve watched the six episodes for marathons every single New Year’s Eve for as long as I can remember, and now, reading this, I realize that I never really gave the movies such thought. 🙂 And you did just that. Thank you! It was a good read.