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Friday, January 10, 2020

Star Wars from a Non-Fan's Perspective

People are talking about the Star Wars franchise again, for example Delta's D&D Hotspot: The Hobbit Autopsy by Lindsay Ellis. And I thought I'd share my perspective on some of the recent Star Wars material, as well as my feelings on the series as a whole.

Spoilers: I don't really care for the new movies, but I don't really think they're that bad, either. But I think there's a legitimate complaint about the films.

First off, I did not see the last several films or TV shows, but did see Rogue One, and is it called "The Force Awakens"? I'm just going to assume that's the name. Neither left a very strong impression on me, but I didn't hate them, and don't see how one is better than the other. They seemed about the same to me.

I had a roughly similar experience with the prequel films. I did not go to see most of them in the theaters, just Attack of the Clones, because some friends wanted to go see it in the opening week and asked me to come along, and I like my friends. And again, I didn't think it was as bad as advertised, although it's not something I'd pay to see again. Probably.

I have seen some or all of just about every pre-Force Awakens Star Wars film or TV show in some way: A New Hope on laserdisc(!), most of the other films on TV and DVD, some episodes of Clone Wars. And my assessment is the same: A New Hope is the best of the lot, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi are lesser quality, and everything else I've seen ties for third, but the quality differences don't seem that big to me. The one exception is the holiday special, which is laughable.

But here's the thing: I found the very first movie to be entertaining enough, but it didn't really excite me. Everything else just seems like more of the same. And that may actually be a valid criticism, which others have come close to saying, but not quite: the problem with "post-Star Wars" Star Wars is that it's constructed by formula, based on what people enjoyed before. Sometimes, the rehash works. Sometimes, it doesn't, but enough of the rest of the movie appeals to the fans, so they give it a pass. And sometimes, the rehash goes horribly wrong and there's not enough appeal in what remains, and the fans trash it. Some of the fans don't know why they don't like the new stuff, or suspect and can't admit it to themselves. Some latch on to the wrong things to criticize, based on their prejudices, and start complaining about the main character being female, or not enough characters being white. But the reprehensible nature of some of these criticisms doesn't erase the fact that there is one legit reason why they don't like the new movies: they are just tired of Star Wars and don't realize it.

It's not just the plot of the latest movies being almost identical to the original. Star Wars started repeating itself very early on. The first movie had the swoopy dogfights in space, vehicles winding in and out of each other's paths in ways that didn't always make sense... but fans seemed to love it, so the next couple films had more swoopy vehicle chases through asteroid fields or forests, and the prequels carried on the tradition with podracing. Yoda went over well, so naturally everything has Yoda in it from that point on. Big weird alien buddy Chewbacca was popular, so they kept bringing him back, but when they tried adding Jar Jar as a Chewbacca-like alien in the prequels, it didn't go over as well.

Sometimes, people love this stuff anyways. I certainly love a lot of stuff that is technically garbage, so I can't fault people for liking stuff I think is just a retread. But maybe the people who don't like the newer stuff should admit that most of it is no worse than what's already been done, and consider that maybe they're just ready to move on to something that's not Star Wars.

The only problem with the new Star Wars is the same problem mass media has had for ages.

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