Tonal Shift: My Thoughts on “Star Wars”

I love “Star Wars”. I was nine years old, when the original film, now known as “Episode 4: A New Hope” came out, and it was extremely influential on my growth into a hardcore geek, roleplayer, and gamer. If you are thinking that this article will tear down some of the later films in the series, please do not make the mistake that this is done through naked nostalgia, or from some right-wing, men’s-rights butthurt.

Seriously.

Anyway, when it comes to “Star Wars”, I only recognize only a few of the 11 official films (the nine core films, plus the two “Star Wars Stories” side-films). But my reasoning for this is simple: Most of them aren’t “Star Wars” films. They may include characters, locations, and fictional events which are shared by all “Star Wars” films, but that doesn’t make them “Star Wars”.

Look, the original trilogy – “Star Wars”, “The Empire Strikes Back”, and “Return of the Jedi” – all felt much the same. Sure, there were differences. “Star Wars” was a nice, self-contained “Hero’s Journey”-story. “The Empire Strikes Back” is a dark turn, which ends on a great cliffhanger. Finally, “Return of the Jedi” is the ‘happy film’, which ties the trilogy off with a nice bow.

But despite all that, all three of these films feel like they are a trilogy. They feel like a series. They feel like they were meant to all flow from one, to the next, to the finale… even if the first film really didn’t need a sequel at all.

Anyway, then let’s look at the prequel films. They aren’t bad films… okay, no, they are… but to a large degree because they are compared to the original trilogy. The biggest problem here, though, is that none of these three prequels feel like “Star Wars”. They have beautiful special effects. There are interesting concepts in some of the films, fun action, and some good acting. There is also some really atrocious writing and acting, too. But in no way, do any of these three prequel films fit into the feel of the original series. They just can’t measure up, despite looking vastly better on the big screen in many ways.

Now let’s look at those “Star Wars Stories”, the prequels that weren’t. “Solo” is fun as a sci-fi film, and might have even been great, if it weren’t forced to be a part of the “Star Wars” continuity. Like the core prequel films, it doesn’t feel connected in any way to the original series, and as an ‘origin story’ for my favorite character in the series, it was outright insulting.

Then there is “Rogue One”. I like “Rogue One”. It felt much like “The Mandalorian” to me, being a mostly Jedi-less look at the “Star Wars” universe, and I really enjoyed it, as a war film. But tonally, it is simply too gritty and dark, with some poor CGI choices towards the end. Good story, great sci-fi war film, which suffers by being tied to the “Star Wars” universe.

Okay, let’s get right down to it, the sequel trilogy. Personally, I enjoyed “The Force Awakens”. It was a basic return to the original series, a “getting the band back together” film, with some new characters that would have been great for branched side-series’ of their own later on. For the first time in literally decades, we got a “Star Wars” film that actually lived up to the original series, it felt like a nice return to that series without forcing more than that on the audience. It, like the original film, is effectively a self-contained unit.

That works.

Now then, I was very excited to see “The Last Jedi” when it came out, because “The Force Awakens” was so entertaining. It sucked. I mean, it sucked hard, but not for the reasons most critics of this film say. I don’t care about MRA-bullshit. I actually rather enjoyed Rey as a character, honestly. My problems with “The Last Jedi” are due to massive changes to the universe upon which “Star Wars” has always been based.

Not only is it nowhere nearly tonally similar to the core “Star Wars” films, “The Last Jedi” basically broke “Star Wars”. Yes, it’s that bad. For example, let’s look at Hyperspace. In the “Star Wars” universe, Hyperspace is a side-dimension ships can enter that allows for faster-than-light travel across the galaxy. What is important here is that large gravity wells – planets, stars, even large gathering of capital ships – force vehicles in Hyperspace to drop into RealSpace. So it would be absolutely impossible for the lead Resistance capital ship, who were being pursued by that First Order armada, to turn around and ram them by jumping into Hyperspace.

Yes, I know… This is science fiction, I get it. But when you have decades of established lore, this sort of change just doesn’t work.

Of course, then there’s Luke himself. Regardless of the shallow reasoning given in the film for his radical personality changes, that was not the Luke Skywalker we have known for decades. Luke used to be all about hope, not revenge, nihilism, and outright moping about for twenty years! Leia knew what her son did, and yet she retained her hope that he would come back from the Dark Side, right? Luke abandoned the galaxy to the First Order, when they needed him most, because he failed as a teacher.

What?

Okay, okay, so let’s move on to “The Rise of Skywalker”. After “The Last Jedi” was just so… stupid… I had high hopes for “The Rise of Skywalker”. Really, I did. J.J. Abrams took back the director’s seat for this film, and since he made “The Force Awakens”, I thought ‘how could he possibly f*ck this last film up?”

He found a way. Several, actually. As with the prequels, ‘Star Wars Stories’, and “The Last Jedi”, this last (thank Gawd!) in the series is a direct tonal shift from what made “Star Wars” great. Yes, there are some cool ideas. Yes, JJ did his best to fix many of the problems with “The Last Jedi”, which was appreciated. My biggest problem with “The Rise of Skywalker” was that they crammed way too much into one film, when it should have been more like two, extra-long films. Maybe then it would have been better, but I doubt it would have been a proper ending for such an epic series.

You know what was an epic ending? “Star Wars”. Or “Return of the Jedi”. Or, if you like, “The Force Awakens”.

In my opinion, there are four official films in the “Star Wars” series, being the original trilogy and “The Force Awakens”. The prequels can f*ck right the Hell off, as can “Solo”, “The Last Jedi”, and “The Rise of Skywalker”. I am still willing to think of “Rogue One” as some sort of ancillary film to the series, as a part of the “Star Wars” universe. But mostly because the vast majority of that film is just a great sci-fi war film, not because it’s “Star Wars”.

Author: Scormus

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