Disney Star Wars Is It Actually That Bad?


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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Definitely a dud but attack of the clones I can at least watch again. I have no desire to rewatch the Rise of Skywalker. And attack of the clones felt like a real movie, in a real world (not a great movie, but a movie), whereas Rise of Skywalker felt more like a video game or like a GM making up crazy stuff as he or she goes. It just had a glitchy feel and it never felt like the protagonists feet made contact with the ground.

Joking aside, I would say that the fascinating thing about the sequels as opposed to the prequels is that you could make the argument that, individually, the sequels have two far superior movies and even the worst movie (Rise of Skywalker) is only a little worse than the prequels' worse movie (AoC).

But viewed holistically, I don't think many (if any) people would or should argue that the sequels are better than the prequels.

The prequels, for all their problems (no chemistry in the love story, bad dialogue, etc.) told a coherent story. The sequels were just ... a mess in total. The way I look at is that they suffered the Kennedy/Abrams problem.

First, Kathleen Kennedy. If you aren't familiar with her, she is the "Feige" of Star Wars. And while it still boggles my mind ... they didn't settle on a developed plot for the sequels. Nope. It was every movie for itself. That was the first major problem.

The second was Abrams. Look, I don't want to bury the guy. I might mock his lens flares, but he's a highly competent director. He will always get credit from me for his roles in such seminal shows like Lost, Fringe, and Alias.

But he's got issues when it comes to directing franchises. He's great at remixing old properties for fan service and reboots- just look at the Kelvin Universe Star Trek movie. The problem is ... that's it. He was fine for The Force Awakens- he gave everyone a good popcorn movie that brought in a LOT of fan service from the past. If you didn't look too hard at it (wait, another planet killer? it's hitting all the same beats?) it felt good. Nostalgia remixed can be fine, in small doses.

Trouble is, you can't just keep coasting on that. It's why (for example) ST: Into Darkness was so unsatisfying. Eventually, you have to do something new.

Last Jedi was divisive, but it was also a good movie. I mean ... ESB was also DIVISIVE when it came out (and the least monetarily successful of the original trilogy). But LJ was charting some different directions.

Of course, all of that was cancelled by bringing back Abrams to do the last one. Which combined all the worst aspects of Abrams (mindlessly remixing fan service), cancelled everything that was interesting about LJ, and tried to continue a story line that no one wanted. Not only was it a terrible movie on its own, it also managed to retcon the entire sequel trilogy into being worse. Which is impressive!
 

To address the thread title, I'd say if Lucas' prequels squashed the magic out of Star Wars, the Disney films tried to put it back
Quoted for the reference to 'the magic.'
So, I have a premise, and starts with a shots-fired, but bear with me at least a few paragraphs before writing it off. Anyways, here it is: there was never any magic in Star Wars to begin with. Not Star Wars the IP, nor the setting, the iconic characters, the tropes or concepts explored, etc. Instead, there were magic moments, plus the magic that the fandom imputed into the series with their adoration, and then individual bits and pieces that worked in the IP not because it was in the IP, but because it was good in and of itself.

Star Wars (the original film, now A New Hope) came out and was magic. It was a combination of westerns, samurai movies, WWII mission films, and Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers-style space fantasy films which previously were usually treated like fluff films/Saturday matinee/'kids stuff' and it somehow worked. Well. Amazingly well. It is hard to exaggerate how much it changed things. It (and Jaws) instigated the concept of the blockbuster movie. It normalized adults openingly being fans of 'kid stuff' media, in a way that boosted/allowed things like high-budget comic book movies and star trek revivals and D&D to flourish. If Star Wars had been one and done, this would still have been magic.

Then Empire Strikes Back came out and it was a sequel (and, based on the ending, clearly an establishment of a franchise), and yet it was good. I mean, I'm a fan of the Thin Man and James Bond* and the Planet of the Apes series and some other movies which had already been franchises, but in general, having more than one movie in a setting was not a recipe additive growth. This too, was game changing. I can see why people took these two movies, plotted a trajectory, and started measuring which parts of the IP lived up to/failed to meet this plotline**.
*And the best of those had happened by 1977
**Honestly none, because that was the second best thing in the series and then the best, so by nature the next thing should have been even better, and nothing thus far has surpassed ESB, IMO.


However, even by then, there was a huge amount in the properties that was not good. The holiday special holds a special place in peoples' minds as notoriously bad, but then there were the novelizations which were not bad, but pretty much just 'fine.' Comic books set in the universe (including a rabbit-species buddy of Han's, since exactly what kind of aliens existed in this universe outside the cantina hadn't yet been finalized).

And I think, with just this*, we can see the issue. The IP is good when someone does something good with it -- good script, good premise, good hook. The universe (with indistinct ominous bad guy empire and plucky rebels) isn't inherently magical worldbuilding**. The main characters we all have come to know and love -- when divorced from the actors who portrayed them (and the cast clearly had some amazing chemistry together ) -- are relatively standard/unremarkable (or standard-subversive, in cases like 'not so in-distress princess') tropish figures. The force/Jedi are an interesting idea, but one that works best when vague and seems to have diminished each time the exact boundaries have been explored. Nothing about the IP makes it inherently a good thing that a new story is set in it. It is only when someone already has a good story to tell that putting it into the setting has ended up being a success.
*I could go on and map out the stuff in the Lucas era and the good and bad EU writing, and then proceed into Disney, but I think the point can be made just here.
**given how many divergent opinions there are on how much shades of grey the rebels have or how bad the empire really would be without the Emperor, it's safe to say even the audience doesn't all agree on exactly how this world should be built


And that's why the series has been so hit-and-miss (both in the Lucas era, and with Disney). The good stuff (Rogue One, Mandalorian) were good ideas, well written, outside of them being in the SW universe. The Mandalorian and Book of Boba Fett are a great example of this principle in action. Boba Fett the character is coded as awesome, and they took the character, figured out what story to tell with the character to make the character actually be awesome, and proceeded to tell that tale --- with a character named the Mandalorian (who is everything people wanted out of Boba Fett when he was introduced -- mysterious, bad ass, a pragmatist combatant -- just without the canonical history of the character) instead of Boba Fett. They then took the character of Boba Fett and tried to pull something awesome out of the existing canon (explaining what happened after the sarlacc, dealing with existing known relationships, figuring out what BF would do after RotJ) and it just doesn't work wonderfully. Probably mostly because the existing canon wasn't set up to facilitate something particularly great for BF after he captures Han (which is where he was last cool), so starting fresh with 'a Boba Fett-like character, minus specific backstory' works better.

First, Kathleen Kennedy. If you aren't familiar with her, she is the "Feige" of Star Wars. And while it still boggles my mind ... they didn't settle on a developed plot for the sequels. Nope. It was every movie for itself. That was the first major problem.
This is definitely the caveat/exception to my point about there being good and bad in both eras. This was just mind-blowing in the WTF-ism. Why would you do this to the main trunk of the story tree you were building a bunch of branches and developing a whole halo of side projects around?
 

Mercurius

Legend
Quoted for the reference to 'the magic.'
So, I have a premise, and starts with a shots-fired, but bear with me at least a few paragraphs before writing it off. Anyways, here it is: there was never any magic in Star Wars to begin with. Not Star Wars the IP, nor the setting, the iconic characters, the tropes or concepts explored, etc. Instead, there were magic moments, plus the magic that the fandom imputed into the series with their adoration, and then individual bits and pieces that worked in the IP not because it was in the IP, but because it was good in and of itself.

Star Wars (the original film, now A New Hope) came out and was magic. It was a combination of westerns, samurai movies, WWII mission films, and Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers-style space fantasy films which previously were usually treated like fluff films/Saturday matinee/'kids stuff' and it somehow worked. Well. Amazingly well. It is hard to exaggerate how much it changed things. It (and Jaws) instigated the concept of the blockbuster movie. It normalized adults openingly being fans of 'kid stuff' media, in a way that boosted/allowed things like high-budget comic book movies and star trek revivals and D&D to flourish. If Star Wars had been one and done, this would still have been magic.

Then Empire Strikes Back came out and it was a sequel (and, based on the ending, clearly an establishment of a franchise), and yet it was good. I mean, I'm a fan of the Thin Man and James Bond* and the Planet of the Apes series and some other movies which had already been franchises, but in general, having more than one movie in a setting was not a recipe additive growth. This too, was game changing. I can see why people took these two movies, plotted a trajectory, and started measuring which parts of the IP lived up to/failed to meet this plotline**.
*And the best of those had happened by 1977
**Honestly none, because that was the second best thing in the series and then the best, so by nature the next thing should have been even better, and nothing thus far has surpassed ESB, IMO.


However, even by then, there was a huge amount in the properties that was not good. The holiday special holds a special place in peoples' minds as notoriously bad, but then there were the novelizations which were not bad, but pretty much just 'fine.' Comic books set in the universe (including a rabbit-species buddy of Han's, since exactly what kind of aliens existed in this universe outside the cantina hadn't yet been finalized).

And I think, with just this*, we can see the issue. The IP is good when someone does something good with it -- good script, good premise, good hook. The universe (with indistinct ominous bad guy empire and plucky rebels) isn't inherently magical worldbuilding**. The main characters we all have come to know and love -- when divorced from the actors who portrayed them (and the cast clearly had some amazing chemistry together ) -- are relatively standard/unremarkable (or standard-subversive, in cases like 'not so in-distress princess') tropish figures. The force/Jedi are an interesting idea, but one that works best when vague and seems to have diminished each time the exact boundaries have been explored. Nothing about the IP makes it inherently a good thing that a new story is set in it. It is only when someone already has a good story to tell that putting it into the setting has ended up being a success.
*I could go on and map out the stuff in the Lucas era and the good and bad EU writing, and then proceed into Disney, but I think the point can be made just here.
**given how many divergent opinions there are on how much shades of grey the rebels have or how bad the empire really would be without the Emperor, it's safe to say even the audience doesn't all agree on exactly how this world should be built


And that's why the series has been so hit-and-miss (both in the Lucas era, and with Disney). The good stuff (Rogue One, Mandalorian) were good ideas, well written, outside of them being in the SW universe. The Mandalorian and Book of Boba Fett are a great example of this principle in action. Boba Fett the character is coded as awesome, and they took the character, figured out what story to tell with the character to make the character actually be awesome, and proceeded to tell that tale --- with a character named the Mandalorian (who is everything people wanted out of Boba Fett when he was introduced -- mysterious, bad ass, a pragmatist combatant -- just without the canonical history of the character) instead of Boba Fett. They then took the character of Boba Fett and tried to pull something awesome out of the existing canon (explaining what happened after the sarlacc, dealing with existing known relationships, figuring out what BF would do after RotJ) and it just doesn't work wonderfully. Probably mostly because the existing canon wasn't set up to facilitate something particularly great for BF after he captures Han (which is where he was last cool), so starting fresh with 'a Boba Fett-like character, minus specific backstory' works better.


This is definitely the caveat/exception to my point about there being good and bad in both eras. This was just mind-blowing in the WTF-ism. Why would you do this to the main trunk of the story tree you were building a bunch of branches and developing a whole halo of side projects around?
Nice post, though I think you kind of disprove your premise almost immediately in basically admitting that the first two films were pretty magical (and half of the third, thus the original trilogy as a whole).

As a slight caveat, I don't think the original trilogy as much gathered adult fans, if that's what you're saying, as the kids who grew up on it remained fans into adulthood. I think Generation X was the first generation to be a kind of puer aeternus...part of that is extending fandom into adulthood. But I don't think the films, when they came out, immediately spawned an adult fan base. Most of the adult fans of Star Wars grew up on it.

Anyhow, I still think the original trilogy holds up as rather magical film-making - and that is partially because of the distinct signature of the world-building, as expressed through--at the time--unparalleled visual film making. Star Wars is Star Wars - it is its own thing. A major element of scifi and fantasy greatness is the distinctness of the world - not necessarily the novelty of the ideas taken individually, but whether it holistically feels distinct and real unto itself. Whether we're talking Star Wars or Star Trek, Middle-earth or Dune, the greats all "feel" that way.

And you can generally only accomplish this feeling with a singular visionary - it is the feeling of a person's mind tapping deep into the well of imagination, and creating a new mythology. It isn't impossible to do it as a collective of creators, but rather difficult.

This is why the Disney films don't feel like "real" Star Wars to me. Star Wars is ultimately George Lucas' baby, and once he was gone it veered into an homage, a re-creation. The prequels were bad, but they still felt like Star Wars in a way that everything after hasn't. IMO.

I think what went wrong with the prequels is two things: One, Lucas became enamored with CGI special effects, so that they visually felt a bit "soul-less;" and two, he forgot that the world building and visual spectacle of the original trilogy was only half what made them so great; the other half were the characters, and the actors: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness, even Mark Hammill. Probably the best character in the prequels is killed in the first film (however you spell Liam Neeson's character); I also think Ewan McGregor did a pretty good job as Kenobi, but was hampered by trying to be Kenobi, so it felt like a good impression more than the "real" Obi-wan.

I don't think it would be impossible to make new, great Star Wars films. And some of the more recent offerings have been, at least, pretty good. Rogue One was a good film, if not as inspired as the OT. From what I've read, Mandalorian is pretty good (I'll watch it eventually). But new, great Star Wars films would have to take a different route from the Disney films, which felt very creatively derivative in that they seemed to try to assemble bits and pieces of the Star Wars universe, throw in a few new twists, and create a kind of simulacrum of Star Wars. They don't feel like they did what Lucas did, which was dive deep into his own mind and draw from the endless well of mythic imagination.

If I were in charge of Star Wars, I'd fast forward a few decades and start afresh. I'd probably imagine a lawless galaxy ruled by Jabba-esque warlords vying for control. Something emerges from the depths of space - a new dark evil, which embodies the Dark Side in a more profound way - perhaps even the origin of the Dark Side. Maybe an entity cast out into the void between galaxies thousands of years ago. The premise would be the Force emerging strongly through a variety of people on disparate planets who gradually are pulled together to form a new Jedi order. And, of course, one of them falls to the Dark Side.

Or something like that. You can still have archetypal Star Wars characters, but you've got to make sure to cast them well (and at least the Disney castings were better than the prequels). The point being, still classic Star Wars feel, but not simply a recapitulation of what came before.
 

Nice post, though I think you kind of disprove your premise almost immediately in basically admitting that the first two films were pretty magical (and half of the third, thus the original trilogy as a whole).
I mean, no? Maybe not communicated well? The point was that the consistent through-line of the franchise itself -- the universe, setting, characters -- aren't specifically these amazing things that engender greatness by nature of being associated with them (and were instead good because the actual films/stories/acting was good). I don't see how the first two being great/magical disproves this in any specific way.

As a slight caveat, I don't think the original trilogy as much gathered adult fans, if that's what you're saying, as the kids who grew up on it remained fans into adulthood. I think Generation X was the first generation to be a kind of puer aeternus...part of that is extending fandom into adulthood. But I don't think the films, when they came out, immediately spawned an adult fan base. Most of the adult fans of Star Wars grew up on it.
What it did, IMO, is be a big enough success that it normalized 'childish things' as a entertainment-revenue force of nature which could not be ignored. Big(ger) budget superhero movies like Reeve Superman and the Indiana Jones franchise and Star Trek motion pictures all looked like safer investments because Star Wars suggested there would be a market for these things. In a (American viewpoint here) market that still looked at the Baby Boom as the unbelievable hegemon in buying forces, focusing marketing dollars on anyone else was significant.
 

Of course, all of that was cancelled by bringing back Abrams to do the last one. Which combined all the worst aspects of Abrams (mindlessly remixing fan service), cancelled everything that was interesting about LJ, and tried to continue a story line that no one wanted. Not only was it a terrible movie on its own, it also managed to retcon the entire sequel trilogy into being worse. Which is impressive!

Another part of what I didn't like is it felt as if they were intentionally pitting fans against one another to generate buzz online. I made a point of not following any of the conversations when Last Jedi came out because I couldn't imagine watching a movie amid that and not having it impact my impression of the film (so I waited a year to see it so I could view it without that heated conversation going on around me). I'm glad I did because I didn't feel that immediate need to fit it into a box that I might have felt otherwise. And as much as I think there are valid criticisms of Last Jedi in terms of being the second movie in a trilogy, I didn't understand completely reversing course with the third one because that just makes it even more messy. They could have at least built on what was set up in last jedi (it wasnt as much of a set of for a third movie as empire but you could have followed those threads more organically into the next film). But reversing course, completely changing characters between the second and third film, it just seemed like a jumble (like JJ Abrahms and Rian Johnson were having a debate about star wars by making movies in a new trilogy, rather than working together to make something cohesive)
 

Mercurius

Legend
One thing I haven't done with the Disney trilogy yet is watch them all, back to back, to see how it all fits together.

I saw TFA when it came out, and then again before TLJ came out, and then the TLJ again before ROS. So I've viewed them twice, twice, and once - but never all together, or all three within a short span of time.

I imagine it will still feel disjointed, but you never know.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
One thing I haven't done with the Disney trilogy yet is watch them all, back to back, to see how it all fits together.

I saw TFA when it came out, and then again before TLJ came out, and then the TLJ again before ROS. So I've viewed them twice, twice, and once - but never all together, or all three within a short span of time.

I imagine it will still feel disjointed, but you never know.

While I appreciate your self-sacrifice (or masochism), I feel like this is akin to someone saying ...

You know, I watched the entire original run of Dexter when it aired, and boy ... those last seasons were bad. But you know what? Maybe if I binged the whole thing together, that Lumberjack finale would be awesome?!!??!!
 

Mercurius

Legend
While I appreciate your self-sacrifice (or masochism), I feel like this is akin to someone saying ...

You know, I watched the entire original run of Dexter when it aired, and boy ... those last seasons were bad. But you know what? Maybe if I binged the whole thing together, that Lumberjack finale would be awesome?!!??!!
Ha. Never watched Dexter, but I take your meaning.

I guess I'm just curious if they're as disjointed if watched all together as they seem having only seen them spread out over a few years.

But I'm not sure I can put myself through Rise of Skywalker again, in particular. I don't even really remember much of the film, except for a few parts.
 

Gradine

The Elephant in the Room (she/they)
I think the biggest problem that I have when the complaints re: The Last Jedi is that a good chunk of them... completely miss the point.

Like, one of the biggest complaints is about Luke, and how Luke's arc is trashing Star Wars and Star Wars fans, which is, like... the opposite conclusion the film actually comes to. Luke sneering about "standing alone in front of an entire army with a laser sword" gets a lot of flak that I've seen, which completely ignores the part of the movie where he does exactly that (though with a neat twist to it), and it saves the day, and his story and legacy as a hero live on in the universe. Rey is 100% absolutely a OG Trilogy and Luke Skywalker fangirl, and the movie ultimately 100% vindicates her.

The point, ultimately, is that Star Wars is for everyone, and more importantly that anybody can be a hero. That's an awesome point, and to watch a bunch of babies whine about Luke throwing a lightsaber away so much they miss that point has always chapped my hide.

Luke's arc is, quite frankly, the best part of the movie. I think the people who insisted he should've been some big shining hero to swoop in and save everyone have forgotten the part about how this is Star Wars, a film franchise about father figures screwing things up and leaving the mess for their next generation to clean up. That's Star Wars. There's a reason that the big scary thing in the cave that frightens the hell out of Luke is a mirror. That's not exactly subtle storytelling. AND THEN HE STILL SWOOPS IN TO SAVE EVERYONE BECAUSE OF COURSE HE DOES HE'S LUKE MF-ING SKYWALKER HOW IS THIS NOT ABSOLUTELY OBVIOUS?

Sure, there are significant problems with the pacing of the film (but I mean, welcome to Star Wars right?), and the part where people act rashly and decide not to trust each other is infuriating (which it's supposed to be because the character's are supposed to learn their frakking lesson after experiencing loss and failure this is storytelling 101 what is wrong with you) -ahem, and the basically every part of Canto Bight is more way more important thematically and in terms of character development than it is to the plot, which isn't great but the theme is super frakking important anyway (also that part where Benicio Del Toro says "selling weapons to the bad guys... oh, and the good guys!" is actual moment of grey in a frakking numbered episodic Skywalker Saga movie and holy crap was it awesome). And while Rian Johnson knew better how to best utilize Finn than Abrams did, that's still not saying much. They did you dirty, Boyega. They did you dirty.

And I guess you could give or take the Reylo stuff. Me, yes please sir may I have another.

What I'm saying is The Last Jedi is the best Star Wars movie and all of you were horrifically wrong and The Rise of Skywalker was the punishment you all objectively deserved.


IMHO
 

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