Star Wars Must Die

greedo1.jpgWay back in 1977, George Lucas unleashed on an unsuspecting world a movie unlike any ever seen before. For the next year, Star Wars could be seen in just about any theater in America, and the world, on its way to being the #2 movie of all time, when adjusted for inflation. Of course, with success came the temptation to ride that wave. At first, everything seemed to be going well. The Empire Strikes Back is considered by many to be the best of the original movies, even if it wasn’t quite as successful at the box office as the first movie. Then along came Return of the Jedi, and first inklings that all was not well in Lucas-land.

Then a funny thing happened. Before starting work on the prequel movies, Lucas decided to re-release the original trilogy in theaters, with ‘tweaks and edits’, ostensibly to make them more like his vision for them. But every time a major re-release occurred, more ‘tweaks and edits’ happened, so there are now several different versions of the films floating around, arousing fan ire and suspicion.

A suspicion that was confirmed with the prequel movies release: Lucas can’t write a decent plot or bit of dialogue, he was about flash and spectacle over characters and story. Even Natalie Portman couldn’t rescue the new trilogy from terrible dialogue, poor stories and wooden acting. Only Lucas could get Samuel L. Jackson to channel his inner Keanu Reeves. Legions of fans were let down, expecting more. And now with the critical savaging and box office bomb of the new Clone Wars movie, I think we can come to only one conclusion:

To save its future, Star Wars must die.


Well, not die really, more of a medically induced coma with no new TV shows or movies. It needs time to away from Lucas, to lie fallow for awhile, thus providing fertile ground for later incarnations. This time should be used to make Star Wars better than it has become, to finally live up to the hopes and dreams of millions of fans. The ancillary properties, namely books and games, should be kept going to keep Star Wars on life support while Lucas and company figure out what needs to happen (which we have a handy 3 step program to follow).

Reassess Star Wars

I’ll admit it. Both Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back aren’t Oscar worthy films in terms of story telling, both having their share of bad acting and poor dialogue, and both seemingly written for early teens, who will overlook those things if the movie is enough fun. But as the original fans matured, Lucas’ storytelling didn’t. RotJ was the first warning bell, with the prequel trilogy nailing the coffin shut on Star Wars as a great SF series. While the older fans were expecting more, Lucas is stuck on making movies for 10 year olds. Altough the prequels were financially successful, just think how big they could have been if they were better written. Unfortunately, writing is not a strong suit of George Lucas. That’s why he needs to step back and reassess the direction of the series and his role within Star Wars.

For a series that peaked, creatively, in 1980, it sure has made many people successful and rich. I’d look at what made ESB the best of the original movies: a darker tone, a harder edge and a better story. Take these ideas and apply them to future endeavours in the Star Wars universe. The original fans are ready for a more mature, grown-up version of their favorite childhood film. And why not? ESB has shown that a more mature film can be successful, and today’s fans would flock to see it. But there’s no reason to ignore the 10+ year old crowd either. I think Star Wars is big enough to encompass stories for young and older alike, why try to shoehorn all fans into one?

But the big change should be Lucas stepping aside as a creative and writing force. It’s time for him to turn control over to people who can write decent stories and dialogue. He’ll be able to find these people by looking to the books and games set in his universe that have been/are being produced. Task the best of these people with creating something for today’s audiences. If that means creating a spectrum of properties to appeal to fans of all ages, then so be it. But they all need to be good.

Evaluate Future Direction

The hard part will be deciding on how to bring Star Wars forward to appeal to not just old fans, but newcomers as well. There’s a lot of expanded universe stuff in existence, why not mine that for inspiration? Perhaps the best game of all is Knights of the Old Republic, an RPG that takes place 4000 years before the events in the original Star Wars. It has a great story and great characters, why not start there? Yes, there is an MMO that Bioware is developing set in that time period, and if fan reaction is any indication, there is going to be a big fan base for this setting ready to consume more. And being set 4000 years previous, there is plenty of opportunity to create new characters and stories that aren’t tied to the current movies. Add in some top-flight SF talent in the way of writers, and Lucas could be raking in more cigarette lighting Benjamins without even trying.

Or they could go into the future. The expanded universe has numerous novels set in the time period after RotJ, the best of which just might be Timothy Zahn‘s The Thrawn Trilogy. Some serious stuff happens during this period which would, again, add some depth and edginess to the characters we all know. This has the added bonus of dealing with known characters so people can clearly see the lineage from the original movies to this time period. And with a new Jedi Academy in play, there are plenty of opportunities to write stuff for the younger set, maybe a Young Jedi Knights Adventures?

The expanded universe is so big, the possibilities are almost limitless as far as stories go. There’s no reason why we couldn’t get a mix of stuff from all time periods. The trick is finding the right people to make it happen in an entertaining fashion.

Crank Up The Hype Machine

Once the future direction of the series has been decided upon, it’s time to crank up the hype machine. Star Wars is a global phenomenon, with millions of fans worldwide. Just imagine the splash the announcement of a new, different movie would make after a few years of silence. The hype would almost build itself. Lucas could lay the groundwork for the new films by having people work on comics, books and games that would tell the story leading up to the new films. The internets would have a field day hyping anything new related to Star Wars. If you thought The Dark Knight had an incredible box office opening, imagine what a new, well done Star Wars movie would do. Titanic would sink on the iceberg of Star Wars fandom.

I don’t expect any of this to happen. There’s too much money involved at this point and Lucas is more interested in doing what he wants rather than what is in the best interest of the franchise or fans. Yes, it’s his property and he can do as he will, but I will reiterate: If you thought the prequel movies were successful, just imaging how successful they would have been if they were good. Still, the 10 year old in me can dream of a time when Star Wars matures to the point where it lives up to the hopes and dreams of fans wanting more.

11 thoughts on “Star Wars Must Die”

  1. Not die!

    I just want it taken seriously.

    I think it’s wacky that as a 42 year old who saw the first films as a kid, and still get excited about the concept, have had nothing targeted at me from the series. I’m sure there’s a horde of adults 18 through their 50s who would get charged up over a serious high quality Star Wars film.

    A great idea would be an “Episode VII” where the Empire are now the rebels.

  2. An obvious parallel would be Gene Roddenberry.  How long did he hold on to the Star Trek franchise?

    The answer is – until his death.  From what I have read and heard, Roddenberry managed to maintain some level of control all the way to the end.

    Does anyone really think that Lucas will give up any degree of control?  The one time he did, which resulted in the best movie of the series (ESB), he took it right back to make what turned out to be a harbinger of the rest of the series.

    Those of us old enough to remember the original “Star Wars” recall the sheer joy of seeing all that stuff up on the screen.  It was stunning for its time.  I remember carrying my 7 year old son into the theater along with all the other geeks – of all ages.  He loved it, and it turned him into an even bigger geek than his old man.

    But, much as I too whould love to see Lucas’ universe taken up by better talents than his, I doubt we’ll ever see it.  In my lifetime, or any of yours.  As a filmmaker/writer/director, Lucas is or was a good marketer.

    Rick York

     

     

  3. >yawn< 

     

    Wake me when the disappointed bloggers are finished mewling about their beloved trilogy.

    My goodness, what a disappointed bunch we are.

    But we lined up for the originals as kids, then again as young adults, and now, well on our way to middle age we complain that current creative Star Wars endeavors don’t live up to our overwhelming sense of nostalgia. Even SFS’ own  John piles on much like a priest on a sleeping young boy. Sorry, everybody, the only 50 year olds who complain about childrens literature – like The Clone Wars – are pedophiles  and the perpetually immature.

    The Clone Wars was the best SW film since Jedi, and I only went because I don’t have cable, so I’ll never see the thing on ‘broadcast’ TV. The ‘failed opening’ the fellas persist in talking about doesn’t take into account facts. The film will be broadcast free on Cartoon Network and TBS. Fact. The economy is bone awful, and money is tight. Fact. The flick was released in the midst of a ‘nerd summer’ – Iron Man, Hulk, Dark Knight, Hellboy II, Indiana Jones, etc. – so people had other choices that wouldn’t be available again until DVD release (predicated on the notion that viewers don’t have a second run theater) much later in the year. Fact. Plus, y’know, its summer – beaches and intercourse (with other consenting adults, naturally) are free, if you know where to look.

    Clone Wars is a cartoon aimed at kids and young teens – the kind who only go to the movies when dragged by their parents unless Zac Efron is starring in something. But in that case,  there’s all the creepy priests and bloggers moaning away in the dark, scaring away any potential youth audience. Perverts.

     

    The SW franchise as a whole is a thriving one, fans new and old line up to give away their money, to check out new stuff, no overhaul needed.  That’s why store shelves are filled with all manner of related product – toy and otherwise – across all product lines. That’s why it gets blogged about,  ad nauseaum. That’s why the ‘holy trilogy’ gets rereleased every few years. Money. Spending it is just like voting. Success gets more of it. The beast gets fed.

     

    And everyone lines up for it. The franchise doesn’t need an overhaul – set aside your prejudices and pick the Dark Horse released ‘Force Unleashed’ graphic novel – it’s one of the richest and best written books to be released in years – firmly set in the SW era.

     

    And I appreciate the Lucas hate – I’m all for free expression and exchange of ideas – it’s become terribly fashionable to hate on Ol’ George. Shockingly,  the venom only gets spewed on the internet,  where geeks meet to grieve and whine endlessly. The new SW trilogy set up the geek disappointment, and their collective derisive judgement of Indy and the Crystal Skull made it fashionable to complain about the the Wizard Of Skywalker Ranch, the man whom many of us owe a great deal to for endless hours of entertainment and fun in our childhoods.

     

    Still, we continue to line up, cash in hand, or snicker behind our keyboards, pecking away in derision, bitterly complaining to our friends or audience how disappointed we are, and how dare Lucas piss on our childhoods. And Star Wars will survive, despite the disappointed manchildren. Why? Because it’s entertainment for kids, a new generation of fans grows while we –  the old and tired – complain bitterly. nIgnore it and it’ll go away. Promise. Take it for what it is, and it’s enjoyable. Pinkie swear. But the worst thing haters do is draw attention it, and by extension themselves, wagging a finger at a pop cult icon, drawing attention to themselves so they can show the world how smart they really are. And that’s really the point behind the impassioned opinions, right JF and John?

     

    Here’s hoping the franchise never goes away or gets one of those oh-so-fasionable reboots that are crafted strictly to keep the bitter vocal nerds happy. It’s not broken, so don’t fix it. Feel free to grow up, though. That’s a wonderful thing.

  4. i never watched the last film and don’t know much or care about the clone wars cartoon.

    you are right to say let it die but we should just leave it at that.

     

    Let some other young buck come up with something else new and completely different. Star Wars to me is already dead.

  5. I know it’s a shame what Lucas has done. Apparently his creation of Star Wars was a happy accident, and the elements that made it successful he understood not at all. The prequels were progressively more cruel with each episode. He cares nothing for stories, dialogue, acting. He only cares about special effects and toys.

    The Star Wars universe is better handled by more able hands than Lucas, and this includes a thousand monkeys typing on a thousand typewriters. At least there’d be a script!

    I love Star Wars, but Lucas definitely doused the flame of romance with the prequels. I’ll enjoy my fond memories and the first 2 movies of the original trilogy and that’s about it.

    P.S. Han Solo shoots first! Not Greedo.

  6.  

    @Will,

     

    >we complain that current creative Star Wars endeavors don’t live up to our overwhelming sense of nostalgia

    No, we complain because the current ‘creative STAR WARS endeavors’ don’t live up to even a basic standard of ‘goodness’. Nostalgia doesn’t enter in to it.

     

    >Sorry, everybody, the only 50 year olds who complain about childrens literature – like The Clone Wars – are pedophiles  and the perpetually immature.

    First, nice generalization there. Second, you’re equating STAR WARS and its anciallry properties as ‘childrens literature’, so noted. I’m saying, as fans grow older, there is enough room in the SW universe to satisfy the older folk too. Lucas just needs to let the reins go.

     

    >The Clone Wars was the best SW film since Jedi

    Let’s not set the bar too high…

     

    >The ‘failed opening’ the fellas persist in talking about doesn’t take into account facts. The film will be broadcast free on Cartoon Network and TBS. Fact. The economy is bone awful, and money is tight. Fact. The flick was released in the midst of a ‘nerd summer’ – Iron Man, Hulk, Dark Knight, Hellboy II, Indiana Jones, etc. – so people had other choices that wouldn’t be available again until DVD release…

    Yes, CLONE WARS is basically the first few episodes of the animated TV show. How many people actually knew this? Not many. How many equated it with the Tartakovsky version? I don’t know, but I’d wager quite a few. Given that, I don’t think people stayed away thinking, “I’m gonna catch this on Cartoon Network.’

    It’s funny, you say the economy is bad, which it is, but that didn’t seem to affect the very films you mentioned, all of which made more then CLONE WARS, in most cases much more. Money must not be that tight, just ask Batman.

    >Clone Wars is a cartoon aimed at kids and young teens – the kind who only go to the movies when dragged by their parents

    Again, the implied assumption here is that a ‘cartoon’ aimed at ‘kids and young teens’ can be excused for being terrible because of who it’s aimed at. I disagree. Movies aimed at the younger set can be good, just ask WALL-E. Why can’t STARS WARS movies be the same?

    >The SW franchise as a whole is a thriving one

    Agreed here, that’s why I’d like for the Expanded Universe to keep on pumping out the books and games. With so much stuff going on, Lucas simply can’t muck up everything. That’s when you get great games like KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC. When he does meddle in a game, you get STAR WARS GALAXIES.

    >The franchise doesn’t need an overhaul

    Maybe we’re talking at cross purposed here. My beef is with the major releases of STAR WARS: the movies and the TV shows. These need to be put on hiatus long enough to get Lucas out of the way and people who actually know how to write to be hired to work on new ‘tentpole’ properties. The face of STAR WARS is the movies, not the ancillary products. So in that sense, I think it does need an overhaul. Or at least a ‘de-Lucasing’.

    >[THE CRYSTAL SKULL] made it fashionable to complain about the the Wizard Of Skywalker Ranch, the man whom many of us owe a great deal to for endless hours of entertainment and fun in our childhoods

    Proabably because he did there what he’s been doing to STAR WARS, producing an inferior product that doesn’t satisfy the older fans. The ones who want to pass their love and appreciation for STAR WARS and Indy on to their kids, but have misgivings now. As I stated, imagine a world where the prequels actully lived up to expectations. Lucas would be king among kings. And all it would have taken would be to have hired someone(s) who could actually write a story and script.

    >And Star Wars will survive, despite the disappointed manchildren. Why? Because it’s entertainment for kids, a new generation of fans grows while we –  the old and tired – complain bitterly.

    Again, you’re assuming that STAR WARS should only ever be for ‘kids’. I disagree completely. The Expanded Universe stuff is a case in point. Hell, the novelization of REVENGE OF THE SITH is another example. The movies can, no, should, be no different. Which reminds me, ESB was much less of a ‘kids’ movie than the others, and that one turned out pretty well, no? So it IS possible to make a more adult oriented movie in the STAR WARS universe. All it takes is for George to take a back seat in the writing.

    >and by extension themselves, wagging a finger at a pop cult icon, drawing attention to themselves so they can show the world how smart they really are. And that’s really the point behind the impassioned opinions, right JF and John?

    <sarcasm>Yes, Will, you are absolutely right. I’m all about showing how smart I really am.</sarcasm> Maybe that was the point of your comment, but my post was intended to generate some discussion, not flash my brialliance for all to see. And why pick on John? He had nothing to do with the post. There are plenty of other things to pick on him for, this isn’t one of them…

    >It’s not broken, so don’t fix it. Feel free to grow up, though. That’s a wonderful thing.

    We have. STAR WARS hasn’t. You think that’s fine, good for you. I don’t. You’re okay with inferior movies, as long as they’re aimed at kids. I’m not. STAR WARS could so much more. It’s a shame it isn’t.

  7. I was never a massive Star Wars fan like some people, but I certainly enjoyed the first three films well enough. Even as a very young teen, I was enough of a hardcore SF nerd that the somewhat anti-science nature of the plots and the complete lack of even a nod to science reality in the special effects (sound in space, spaceships that fly aerodynamically like airplanes, ships that can fly faster than light even when their hyperdrives are broken) really rubbed me the wrong way.

    Nevertheless, I agree that Empire Strikes Back was by far the best Star Wars film, and I enjoyed it immensely. Do you know why it was such a good film and shines so much brighter than the rest of them? It’s because Lucas wisely recruited the great pulp science fiction writer Leigh Brackett (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leigh_Brackett) to write the screenplay. She wrote literally dozens or even hundreds of high-adventure space opera stories for magazines like Planet Stories in the 40’s and 50’s, and so was perfectly suited to the job. She understood how to tell a high-adventure science fantasy story while still keeping the focus on the characters. Sadly, she was very ill with cancer at the time and passed in 1978 away not long after she finished the screenplay. If she had written the subsequent Star Wars films, which she almost certainly would have if she’d have lived, the whole series would have been much better. Frankly, without Brackett’s influence, I think the other Star Wars movies had a cruel aspect to them that only got more prominent with every film. I mean, yes, war is hell, blah blah blah, but there’s also the notion that the heroes are supposed to try to be better than the bad guys, which is not much in evidence in any of the Star Wars movies.

    That said, I think Lucas’ biggest error was going backwards in time. I firmly believe that it’s almost always a mistake to do prequels. As a prequel writer you’re locked into a fatalistic universe where the characters must dance like puppets to reach an end-point we already know about. You can’t really surprise the audience with character or plot revelations, so there’s an almost inescapable tendency to just go big and loud.

    My 2 cents!

  8. I agree with JP. Good storytelling works for people of all ages, and lately, the gang at the Ranch has been sorely lacking in ability to tell a good story.

    Time to take a break (the royalties from all the previous installments will continue to roll in, so money ain’t a problem). Time to give the future of the franchise a lot of serious thought – do they want to develop a life-long fanbase like the original trilogy did, or just go with forgettable money grabs? Time to send George into honoured retirement, or maybe a creative consultant position where he can come up with ideas and pass them along to others who can filter them for the ones with merit. In the meantime, it’s time to take a look at the best of what the expanded universe has to offer and figure out if that’s enough to recharge the series or if it should gracefully step aside.

    If the reality is that it’s time to listen to the old artist’s maxim about knowing when to put down the paintbrush (and maybe it is, maybe it isn’t), then so be it. Everyone involved can then turn their considerable talents to other projects with new ideas to reawaken the passion of audiences.

     

  9. And Star Wars will survive, despite the disappointed manchildren.

     

    The Clone Wars was the best SW film since Jedi.

     

    Will Emero II,  you said it all. Lol pedos.

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