Star Wars Is Dead! Long Live Star Wars!

In May of 1977, Star Wars was released on an unsuspecting world. Star Wars captured the imaginations of a generation of children and now, with the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the saga is complete.

When George Lucas released Star Wars it was as a standalone film. The film was envisioned as a return to the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serial stories of his own youth. Star Wars, after it’s now iconic text scroll, put us in the middle of a story that was already nearly finished. With lasers blasting and immense ships filling our screen Star Wars drew us in without giving anyone a chance to think about what might have a happened to get us to this point. The story demanded your attention right now and then it sweeps you along without any regard to your possible questions. It was the immediacy of Star Wars that made it work so well. We met the characters and we believed their stories; we felt their stories.

Cinema poster from the original release of Star Wars in 1977 (c) 20th Century Fox
Cinema poster from the original release of Star Wars in 1977 © 20th Century Fox

As Star Wars progresses the plot becomes grander and grander until not simply being a tale of a humble farm boy, it expands until the fate of the entire galaxy is at stake. Once again there is far too much happening for the audience to ask the question why as the question of how was far more imminent. How will they get off Tattooine? How will they find the princess? How will they save her? With so many hows there is no room for the audience to ask why. There is only one why and the answer is because they must. Then, at the end of it all, when all the hows have been answered Star Wars ends with a flourish and grand procession. The hows have been answered and the audience is happy. In 1977 no one expected any more of Star Wars than it gave us.

Star Wars was such an unprecedented success that it was expanded and now we had Star Wars: A New Hope, followed by Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, and finally the original trilogy was concluded in 1983 with Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. That was the last film for sixteen years but in the intervening years there were comic books, novels, games, and toys to keep the interest in the Star Wars Universe and its denizens going. Now, after some 42 years the Star Wars Saga, as initially conceived by George Lucas is over. And it’s about damned time.

Star Wars has taken on a life of its own in the last four decades. In that time my interest in Star Wars has had its peaks and troughs. With the latest films made by Disney Studios my interest has been at an all time low. I have yet to see the latest film simply because the quality of the stories have been so weak. And why have they been so weak? I believe it’s because George Lucas, in the beginning, started with a simple premise and kept it simple. The problems associated with the prequel films, and now the sequel films, has come from the additional complications added to the stories to try and answer the whys of Star Wars. The original characters are so beloved because of their simplicity. Darth Vader it the bad guy, Leia the princess that needs help in her mission, Luke is the naive hero, Obi-Wan the wise mentor, Han Solo the rogue that redeems himself, and the droids are the humorous counterpoints. Simple.

George Lucas himself made some grievous blunders in trying to explain the whys in the prequels. The pointless need to explain the Force as some sort of bacterial infection makes my teeth itch. Every time Lucas, and then Disney, tries to answer a why of Star Wars it destroys some part of the original that they can never quite get back. It has become a case of the sum of the parts being far less than the whole.

Now that the story of Star Wars is over perhaps Disney can move on from that initial saga and create something new and interesting set within the framework of the Star Wars Universe. Perhaps they can return to a simpler form of storytelling that enlivens the screen the way the first film did. No bloated explanations, no needless pondering, and no trying to backtrack on points that were already logical and consistent within the story.

There is an opportunity now for Star Wars to expand and grow in new directions without relying heavily on the past. Stories that don’t rely on defeating an overpowering and malevolent government can be cast aside for stories with a more immediate and human focus. The Force can be relegated to whispers and innuendo. Lightsabres can be items of interest but not weapons of choice. There is a lot of space to tell stories within Star Wars without needing to retell the same tale but with only a slight change in angle. What Star Wars needs are innovating stories that aren’t focused on Jedis and rebellions and the baggage they entail.

Star Wars needs a shift of epic proportions to haul itself out from under the weight of its own history. By ignoring the whys of the past and looking to the future of the hows Star Wars could tell stories that would once more resonate with audiences the way that Star Wars did in 1977. Disney needs to return Star Wars to the direct and simple story it originally told. For some reason, these days, simple is considered weak or bad somehow. Simple means that it’s not complicated with extraneous pieces that, unless handled correctly, add nothing to the impact of a story. And no one can deny that Star Wars, in its initial form, had a huge impact.

I’m extremely happy that Star Wars has finally reached its laboured conclusion. We can say it ends here and move past it. Then, once we accept it’s end, we can look to the future of Star Wars with, dare I say it, a new hope. Star Wars is dead! Long live Star Wars!

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