How “Star Wars” Lost Its Magic
Ever since the release of newer Star Wars films, it seems like the series has lost something of its magic. Some of the specialness, some of the electricity of a new Star Wars movie, has been wiped away. How did this come to be? How did a series that survived George Lucas’ disastrous, fever-dream prequels fall to the threshing machine of Walt Disney Entertainment?
Before you ask, it’s definitely not too many ladies, SJWs (whatever that means), Kathleen Kennedy, or stupid kids.
Too Many Movies…
You remember that bit from Street Fighter when Chun-Li challenges the antagonist Bison about coming to her village and killing everyone. Bison, however, didn’t find the day that memorable:
Bison: “I’m sorry. I don’t remember any of it.”
Chun-Li: “You don’t remember?”
Bison: “For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. For me, it was Tuesday.”
Now perhaps the comparison is flippant, but Star Wars has suffered something similar. In this scene, Bison emphasizes the regularity of his cruelty. It’s so mundane that he doesn’t really distinguish between events. To refer to another film, “When everyone is super, no one is.”
The more we do something, the less special it is. It’s something of a basic rule in life. Going out dancing one night is fun, but doing it every night quickly gets sad and repetitive. Familiarity is the opposite of specialness, and without changes, once exotic events become normal, predictable, and dull.
Star Wars has unfortunately suffered from this problem. For years and years, there were only three films. Many of the younger fans of the franchise were not alive for the initial release of the films, and the idea of new films was pretty much dead in the water.
Then, suddenly, there was a new Star Wars movie! Sure, Phantom Menace sucked, it was boring, but it was still special. And by the end of the third one, some of the special sparkle had worn off. But after that film, we all felt it was over for good and we wouldn’t get any more feature-length Star Wars films.
Turns out, of course, that Disney had different ideas. After purchasing the franchise, Disney has made it their stated mission to release a Star Wars movie every year. Every year! It’s a glut, it’s a monsoon, it’s a heap! Open your big fat nerd jaw and get ready to inhale more plush dolls than you can handle!
Marvel films manage to do this without losing their magic, but there are specific reasons for those films’ success. Those films pack in tons of characters, a colorful, fun universe, and a good balance of seriousness and humor. Star Wars hasn’t been able to capture that magic yet. As a result, the films are no longer unique, special or rare. And without that, there’s not as much to the films as there used to be. Now they have all the rarity of a Call of Duty sequel: totally expected, completely annual, and totally average.
… and Too Few Stories
As mentioned, Marvel does a great job with their cinematic universe. The films are common, but they’re still exciting. Each film is a little different while sharing a similar tone, so the movies remain intriguing. There are tons of new characters, fun dialogue, great acting talent, and interesting universes to explore. That’s the gold standard of a rich, on-going cinematic universe.
Star Wars, on the other hand, has artificially limited the kind of stories the franchise can tell. It’s not that the universe won’t support new or interesting stories. For proof, consider the depth of tone and event that comprised the no-longer-canon Legends books. Those books are so different that they border on wacky, with literal clones, a billion characters and thousands of years of stories.
Star Wars movies, on the other head, seem to be focused exclusively on the time period of the Rebellion against the Galactic Empire. We’ve got prequels to that conflict, the conflict itself, and then sequels to that conflict. Even the stand-alone films don’t deviate from this event. It’s as if ever movie ever made was about World War II. Sure, it’s a deep well of events with many interesting characters, but taking the same type of characters through the type of beats over and over again is bound to get dull, no matter how much you might like the setting.
Where are the films from the far past or far future of this universe? What about true antiheroes? I want to see a Darth Bane movie, or even a Darth Maul film. I want brand new characters that aren’t connected to the existing characters, either in time or relationship. I want films that take place in the same universe, but taste and feel different. That might be fun and special, instead of a rote performance common events in the Star Wars universe.
What Makes Star Wars Good?
It’s hard to pin down exactly what makes Star Wars good. Is it the iconic universe, the sci-fi technology, the black-and-white, good-versus-evil conflict? (My favorite bit is personally Harrison Ford, so you can imagine how disappointed I was in Force Awakens.) If we don’t know what makes Star Wars good, it’s hard to know how to make it happen again. After all, the original was something of lightning in a bottle. Just look at George Lucas’ notes to get a sense of just how bad the original trilogy would have been without someone to reign him in.
For me, Star Wars is good because it’s a huge science fiction universe that’s remarkable different from our own, but built out of stories that are satisfying and familiar. It’s a combination of the new and old. But right now, we’re just getting the same combination over and over again. Give me something new that will excite me, not A New Hope III.
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