How Disney’s Approach to Star Wars is Different

How Disney’s Approach to Star Wars is Different

Before we get into the actual story differences Disney’s Lucasfilm brings to the table, it is important to define what the new Star Wars saga is. It is not, as many people believe, a continuation of the previous saga, it is a retelling. But it is not a remake. A remake would mean new sets, actors and directors, trying to capture the magic of the originals. This is a reboot of the franchise. A reboot differs from a remake, in that it continues on with the same story, but changes it to fit with the times and potentially branch out into a different direction. Disney’s Star Wars is not telling us new stories.

Universe Building

We already had our beginning, middle and end. We even had a prequel trilogy to explore the times before and we had tons of books, comics and video games that spanned thousands of years of stories in a galaxy far far away. This material exists and has filled out the majority of time after Episode VI, making it next to impossible to come up with a new trilogy set during that period of time. Scrapping the old Expanded Universe, while heartbreaking for most fans, ultimately was inevitable from the day, Disney’s takeover was announced. Although one is left to wonder, if George Lucas’ scripts for the new trilogy (which were not used for the new films) had managed to preserve the old Expanded Universe. It is unlikely, though we will never know for certain until they are made public.

The story of how the death star plans were stolen in Rogue One was not new. We already had a story about Mercenary Kyle Katarn teaming up with Rebel Agent Jan Urs to steal the plans and deliver them to Leia before Episode IV. All that has changed, is that Jan Urs is now called Jyn Erso, is no longer Asian, (because Hollywood doesn’t like lead Asian actors) but has Asian side-kicks (because Hollywood does want that sweet sweet Chinese money) and has swapped places with Kyle Katarn (who now is Mexican, because he no longer is the lead character). Kyle’s father was also a Jedi who had survived Order 66, which of course leads to Kyle eventually taking up his father’s place and defending a magical place, called the Valley of the Jedi, from the Emperor’s Sith agents (now Inquisitors). This part, was of course scrapped from the new canon, because there is no point in introducing new Jedi characters, knowing they would all violently be murdered off-screen by Kylo Ren some 25 years later. And so, not having to deal with the characters showing up later (or rather explaining why they wouldn’t show up later), it was easier to kill off all the new characters.

This was a story problem the prequel trilogy had. George Lucas was faced with introducing hundreds of Jedi that eventually would have to be violently hunted down and murdered by the Empire. With little screen time to develop them as characters, the Jedi of the Galactic Republic ended up being weak characters that did not evoke a strong emotional response from the audience. With the exception of characters like Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, only Qui-Gon Jinn and Mace Windu might have had enough charme to make viewers mourn their passing, while the rest were relegated to meat in the room and cattle to be led to the slaughter.

What Lucas could have used, was the Expanded Universe. If he had given authors time to write up stories about the individual Jedi or even produced a TV series about them, he wouldn’t have needed to flesh them out in the films at all. But of course neither the technology was there at the time, nor did Lucas have a finished story waiting to be made. So instead, the Expanded Universe creators had to avoid the Clone Wars and wait for Lucas’ green light during and after the release of the prequel trilogy, at which point, no one really cared that much about all those foolish dead Jedi anyways.

Disney is approaching things differently, by establishing its Story Group. The Story Group ensures that the new canon is upheld and not contradicted, but allows authors to publish work that ties in directly with the new trilogy, as it is being created. The only problem is, they themselves don’t know where it is headed yet and the writer/director of each individual film is taking it in a different direction. Then of course, there is also meddling from Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, who seems very content to keep replacing directors and writers in the middle of production and pouring copious amounts of money into reshoots, when she realises the vision of the director does not conform to her own, whatever that is.

The Original Trilogy didn’t have an Expanded Universe to worry about and when the prequels arrived, we already knew where they were headed. The long-standing embargo on the Clone Wars era also ensured that all new content would follow the prequel films and nothing else. Disney has the problem of jumping blind into an established universe and trying to connect all dots. They have done an amazing job with Rogue One, which connects the prequels, the Original Trilogy and the Rebels animated TV series with one another and apparently also dropping some hints for the Sequel Trilogy. However, this approach seriously constrains the creativity of all of its productions. J. J. Abrams made things even more difficult with his decision to essentially remake Episode IV with The Force Awakens. Disney is now left with a thirty year gap between Episode VI and The Force Awakens. It cannot use any of the old Expanded Universe material, because The Force Awakens contradicts much of it, mostly because Han and Leia had twins relatively soon after their victory celebrations on Endor. At the same time, they try to draw inspiration from it. As I mentioned in my previous post, Han and Leia’s son Jacen turned to the dark side as well, killed a close family member and was ultimately defeated by his Jedi sister around the same time in the Expanded Universe. The plot is very similar to The Force Awakens, but draws on over thirty books of backstory between those characters, making it far deeper and sophisticated than the clash between Rey and Kylo Ren. This is not Abrams’ or Disney’s fault, simply a matter of having more time to play out the story. Disney’s new films needed the Expanded Universe gone to allow for greater creativity, but Abrams’ homage to the original film once more limited the amount of creativitiy that could flow into the new canon.

This is why we have so far only gotten stories that play shortly after Episode VI and not even remotely close to The Force Awakens. Because Episode VI ended on a cheery high note, with our heroes victorious and their whole (peaceful) lives to look forward to. From that point on, anything could happen, as was the case with the Expanded Universe, where the story continued forward slowly, not jumping thirty years ahead and then back again. Stories set shortly before The Force Awakens cannot currently exist, because they could contradict the next film and because they would be incredibly bleak. Everything that could have gone wrong, has gone wrong for our heroes. Han and Leia split up, their son has turned to the dark side and murdered all the Jedi. Luke has given up. The New Republic is apparently even more corrupt and horrible than its predecessor, to the point where Leia has to fear for her life if she ever set foot on the capital planet. The Empire is back and even more fascist than ever. They also bring bigger and better toys to destroy the galaxy. All those characters we knew from the Original Trilogy are probably dead, or they would have shown up by now. This is all the more clear after The Last Jedi, in which it became clear that no one was coming to save the rebels. Any story set in that time period must be utterly disheartening and can only have one conclusion: This character is not in the new films because something terrible happened to them.

A prime example for this is the new video game EA’s Battlefront II *SPOILER WARNING*. it was advertised as a game that would bridge the gap between Episode VI and The Force Awakens. But in its story campaign we are introduced to Iden Versio during the events of Episode VI and we spend the entire campaign in the first two years after Episode VI, following her and heroes of the Rebellion, like Leia and Lando. Then, after having experienced the rush of reliving that happy feeling at the end of Return of the Jedi, we are catapulted 30 years into the future, just before The Force Awakens to witness one of our main characters brutally tortured and murdered by the First Order. In the DLC campaign that followed, we continue the story during The Force Awakens and before The Last Jedi, with the entirely expected result that our main character has to die, as she would otherwise have found her way into the film. The resolution is bitter and pointless, but inevitable, due to the way the new trilogy was set up.

The TV series Rebels suffers a similar fate, as certain characters may very well have survived the coming conclusion at the end of Season 4, but the Jedi characters Kanan and Ezra certainly have to meet their end before Episode IV, or they would have met Luke Skywalker, turning the Original Trilogy on its head. The difference here, is that the crew of the Ghost plays a vital part in building the Rebellion, making their story more interesting and compelling than characters that achieve nothing and die horribly before The Force Awakens.

As such the new Disney canon cannot possibly hope to live up to the old Expanded Universe, which is why many fans are understandably upset that the new films do not deliver a story that overshadows the ones they grew up with. This is the fatal flaw of the Sequel Trilogy. As a reboot, it cannot deviate too far from its source material, making it feel flat and unoriginal (because it is), but it also cannot pave the way for more creative stories that involve previously established characters and locations. Only once the Sequel Trilogy is finished, can Rian Johnson wipe the slate clean and develop a truly original Star Wars story. By then, it may very well be too late for many fans, who grew up with this franchise. Particularly, because the exact events of the Original Trilogy don’t even matter to the new story anymore.

There is a brilliant comic out there that flips Episode IV on its head and has Luke miss the final shot that blows up the Death Star. Han and Luke have to flee the system, as the Death Star blows up Yavin IV and Princess Leia’s escape transport is captured by the Empire. She is turned to the Dark Side by Darth Vader and made to renounce the Rebellion publicly.
Meanwhile, Han and Chewie go off to clear the debt on Han’s head and Luke trains with Yoda on Dagobah. When things get too dicey for Han and Chewie, they decide to go hang out with Luke on Dagobah, where he completes his training and goes off with Yoda, Han and Chewie to Coruscant, where they confront the Emperor once and for all. Luke and Han sneak into the Imperial Palace and dispatch the Emperor’s Royal Guards (who finally get some action), only for Han to be captured by a reprogrammed C-3PO. They are brought before the Emperor and Leia duels Luke. But he reveals she is his sister and Vader is their father and she turns on the Emperor. Palpatine zaps the both of them, but Vader, who only just found out about his kids, sacrifcies himself, so the two of them can escape. Concurrently, Yoda has gotten onto the Death Star, where he mind-tricked Governor Tarkin into blowing up the entire Imperial Fleet with the Death Star. Then, he sends the Death Star on a collision course with the planet, where the Emperor is helpless to watch as Yoda rams him with his own death machine.
Leia, Han, Chewie and Luke go to Naboo, where they have their medal ceremony with the creation of the New Republic.

This story could just as well be the new canon backstory of the Sequel Trilogy. All the key players that made it to the next trilogy are there. All the corner stones are there. The Empire is no more. The New Republic is founded (but not on Coruscant) and no other characters matter. This is what a reboot is all about. The original backstory doesn’t really matter anymore and could be replaced by something entirely different, so long as the cornerstones remain the same. Of course, Disney’s tie-in comics and books change that, but looking only at the films, it remains true. In fact, I doubt they will make any film adaptations of anything that happened during or after the Original Trilogy anytime soon. It will all be placed before the Original Trilogy or after the Sequel Trilogy, simply because they don’t know what to do with the Original Trilogy story. It is essentially the same story as the new one, but older. Elements of it can be used to make money on nostalgia, but tamper too much with it and people will either complain, or it will distract from the lackluster Sequel Trilogy that Disney is trying to focus on.

The Expanded Universe established a storyline for the next generation. It was the story of kids growing up with legendary parents that had shaped the galaxy at a young age during a time of turmoil. And these kids wanted to do just as much, but lived sheltered lives in times of peace, with parents afraid of having to see their kids endure the same hardships that they had to. Until of course, conflict returned to the galaxy in a new and unexpected way. It was fresh and compelling.

Now the new canon doesn’t know what to do with those thirty years, as they only serve to explain how and why everything went to hell before the Sequel Trilogy. After the Sequel Trilogy, either the same story repeats itself yet again or they go somewhere else with it, but where they still don’t know. That is why the stand-alone films Rogue One and Solo play before Episode IV. Because it is after the prequels Disney is trying to avoid, it is before the Original Trilogy and doesn’t touch anything that could affect the Sequel Trilogy.

The Magic of Music

One major difference many people notice but can’t quite put their fingers on, is the difference in music. As George Lucas said, John Williams’ scores are 75% of the magic that make his films come to life. But despite John Williams returning to score both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, something feels off with those musical compositions. Now, when the prequels came out, lots of people (excluding myself) hated them, but I dare say the musical scores were still beloved by everyone. My biggest hope was that at the very least the same could be said with these new films. Yet, the new scores seem to be lacking. It took me a very long time and repeated listening to The Force Awakens soundtrack to be able to memorise and attribute the character themes WIlliams created for Rey and Kylo Ren. The Resistance March and The Jedi Steps were easier to remember, but even those took time. As far as I understand, John Williams was sick during production and had only a few months before the film’s release to figure out the score, which is why he chose to concentrate on four major themes or leitmotifs.

Leitmotifs are used to connect different moments over time together musically. Whenever there is a profound Force moment, the Force theme will play. Whenever Darth Vader is on screen, a variation of the Imperial March will be playing. This technique was developed by Richard Wagner and was used by Williams throughout the saga to evoke emotional responses from the audience. However, he used this technique sparingly. For example, the prequel trilogy incorporated some of the older themes, like the Force Theme and the Imperial March into its score, but WIlliams created unique new themes for each planet and situation into which these older themes would be woven. The hints and nods to past and future events are subtle and do not hold the present captive.

As Williams notes in this featurette, he was asked by J. J. Abrams to ensure that viewers would feel nostalgic and could relive what they knew and loved. I suspect that the score turned out the way it did for those two reasons: time constraints and specific instructions to take the audience on a nostalgic joy ride. This is exactly what the new scores feel like. The Force Awakens has a few new distinctive themes that are partially played out (the full themes and march are never featured in the film) during earlier moments of the film and reprised shortly during later segments. The majority of the score, however, is just a staccato of musical notes, with old leitmotifs thrown together in very quick succession. The chase scene on Jakku featuring the Millenium Falcon is a perfect example of this. The music is not memorable at all. What I remember most about it are the bits and pieces of the old rebellion theme. I just listened to it while writing this and really tried to remember it, but it just won’t stick in my ear. In fact, it makes me dizzy, trying to follow it. That doesn’t make it bad music, far from it. I would never ever suggest John WIlliams didn’t know what he was doing. The man is a genius. But this music is distinctly different from his earlier work in that it only tries to evoke nostalgia and provide an emotional background to the action on the screen. We are not supposed to identify new elements in the score, because apart from the few big themes he composed, there aren’t any.

The Last Jedi’s score suffers even more from this. Having listened to it constantly on every day since release day, I have only been able to identify two new themes, one is attributed to Finn and Rose, though I can’t for the life of me remember how it goes, possibly also because it is interspersed troughout the score and also constantly interrupted by other leitmotifs. The second is a new Luke Skywalker theme, which confused me for the longest time, because I am already used to hearing the old Luke theme, which we get to hear in this film as well. The only completely distinctive track is Canto Bight, which I personally dislike. The new Luke theme is first featured in Anch-To Island at the very end (during the scene when Luke is fishing) and then again in a vastly different arrangement at the end of The Spark, which features two new melodies, one at the beginning (Leia’s speech), interjected by Brother and Sister from Episode VI and then followed by Luke’s new theme.
I believe the problem if we want to refer to it as such, lies less with the Composer and more with the film editing. A composer can either adjust the score to the film’s individual scenes, or just compose a musical theme without having watched the film and throw it into the background of every scene (I am looking at you, Danny Elfmann).
On the one hand, we are dealing with Kathleen Kennedy’s overzealous need for control, resulting in tons of (sometimes last minute) reshoots and changes to the final cut of the film, before realease. This causes problems in the editing room, all the more so if the score was already made before the final cut was approved (which can happen), as it then has to be redone or re-cut at the last minute. While Rogue One we had about 40 minutes of footage replaced, The Last Jedi has another hour worth of material that was only cut, because it had gotten far too long.

On the other hand, we are simply looking at a change in pacing and editing style. These films are made for younger audiences and younger audiences are now increasingly dealing with learning disabilities and concentration issues. The rule in the film industry is now: if a scene goes on for longer than 20 seconds, you have already lost half your audience’s attention. Meaning, no one under the age of 20 is ever going to read this far. Therefore, instead of addressing said dangerous attention span issues, we now cater to them. New films are jam-packed with action and lots and lots of explosions. Long expository dialogue scenes cannot happen. People point out the similarities between The Force Awakens and Episode IV, While I agree the plot points and some scenes are straight up lifted from the original, I also notice the stark difference in pacing. Take the expository scene in Ben’s home on Tatooine. It takes a lot of time for them to sit down and talk about Jedi, the Clone Wars, the Force and Anakin. Only after Ben essentially concluded his monologue, we get to Leia’s message and the next scene. The Han Solo version works very differently. It is messy and people keep walking around, changing positions and fidgeting with things in between. The actual expository part is brief and doesn’t really explain anything at all to new viewers. Han walks through the star map, explains he knew Luke and that he disappeared after an apprentice turned on him and stops only to say the Jedi and the Force are real, before being interrupted by a warning signal. This is actually one of the slowest scenes in the entire film and it is still far too fast if we compare it to the original. This has an adverse effect on the music, especially when working with familiar leitmotifs, as there is only so much time you can play a certain theme if the scene keeps jumping away. That is why the score for both films feels strange, yet familar and almost unbalanced, but certainly not as original as the previous iterations.

In case you are wondering, how I feel about Michael Giacchino’s work on Rogue One, let me tell you this. He is no John Williams, but he is very close. Considering he was brought in as a last resort after the original composer was fired and had only three weeks (ridiculous!) to compose the entire soundtrack, having to work with John William’s established themes and style and having to adjust his own to it, he did an amazing job. The alternate Imperial Theme is great and memorable, as are Jyn’s Theme and the theme for Guardians of the Whills. I only wish he would have had more time to fully work his magic. Perhaps then, people wouldn’t complain so much about it.

Storytelling

Another big difference is the approach to storytelling. Lucas’ first three films were focused on characters. The characters were well made and developed and the background story was very simplistic and fit well around the characters. The Prequel Trilogy, on the other hand, was focused more on visual storytelling and the world around it. The characters were less important (mainly for the reasons I have stated above). Despite being desperate to avoid anything to do with the prequels, Disney’s approach to story is the same. Kathleen Kennedy once explained as much, stating that the Story Group / film writers first think of a story, then see if and what kind of characters fit well into the story. That is probably why character development in the new films feels weak and sometimes forced.

Rogue One’s biggest flaw is its lack of character development and strange character motivations. The Force Awakens gives us a set of new main characters, but doesn’t develop them at all. Poe is just there to blow things up. Finn is primarily there for comedic-relief. His betrayal of the First Order is hard to believe and not well executed. But he actually has the biggest character development as he turns from a coward into someone willing to fight for what he believes to be right. Rey unfortunately falls into the fan fiction trope of the Mary Sure. She has the same character development as Finn, but none of his flaws. Overall, she is the most flawed character of all, as she simply has no flaws. Nothing ever harms her, she impresses everyone both good and evil she meets and the only problem she has is her abadonment issue, which in this film doesn’t even come into play. For those that still deny Rey is a classic use of the Mary Sue trope, I suggest you test it by inserting her into Luke’s position in Episode IV. This video has done so splendidly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PE2at2Wo9sU

To be fair, Anakin Skywalker also was a Mary Sue (or Gary Stu if you want) in Episode I. He was completely selfless, overpowered and well liked by all other characters. To top it of he aparently was also conceived by the Force, making him Jesus. All of this makes him an unbelievable and uninteresting character, for which poor late Jake Lloyd was harrassed endlessly. In Anakin’s case, there are some redeeming factors, however. His force powers are explained by his high midichlorian count and his force conception (which is a poor explanation, but an explanation nonetheless) and his inherent goodness can simply be explained by his very young age. Personally, when I was a child, I liked and identified with young Anakin, but of course he is not compelling for adult viewers.
Another factor that redeems the character’s portrayal in Episode I was that he was not a newly introduced character from the audience’s point of view. It was an origin story of the galaxy’s biggest villain. Showing him as a young gifted and selfless boy, who just cares about helping people, humanises the character. His further development in Episodes II and III detracted from this and did not really do the character justice, but it also overcame the Mary Sue trope established in Episode I. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Rey in The Last Jedi.

Now in the Last Jedi character development is actually much better, but still lacking. Poe has the biggest character development arc, with his turn from brash reckless pilot, to leader of the Rebellion (although he never seems to be reprimanded for his mutiny or the part he played in getting almost four hundred Resistance fighters killed). Finn unexplicably hits the reset button and goes through the exact same storyline he already went through in The Force Awakens, starting out as a coward, who only cares about Rey and turns into a hero willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good (if only that pesky Rose wouldn’t interfere). Rey actually doesn’t develop one bit as a character in The Last Jedi. She is more likeable, but doesn’t go through any changes. Her only character change is that she goes from hating Kylo Ren to wanting to save him after she has seen him shirtless and touched his hand. As for her abandonment issues, it is still not quite clear if she has actually accepted and overcome this, or if it will keep holding her back in the next film. Her decisions and actions did not have any consequences for her and she did not learn anything or face any real challenges, making us wonder if she actually is a hero in this story, as she does not follow the hero’s journey, but has not turned into a villain (like Anakin) yet either.

In the Original Trilogy, on the other hand, our heroes do nothing but develop over the course of the first two films (in the third there is no character development, they just show off how great everyone has become). Episode IV: Luke goes from whiny lonely farmboy to Jedi in training and one of the best pilots in the galaxy, although still in need of saving by the hero’s hero, Han. Leia quickly turns from damsel in distress to a strong leader. Han turns from a self-centred smuggler to a rebel hero, who goes back to help his friends. Even Obi-Wan turns from Hermit to Jedi-Knight to all-powerful Force Ghost.
Episode V: This film focuses mainly on Luke’s journey to become a Jedi Knight and of course the big reveal about his true parentage. But Han and Leia have their own unique romantic B-Story that does more for their characters than the previous film ever could. Come to think of it, where is the romance in the Disney Star Wars (That business with that weird out of nowhere Rose kiss… That… That doesn’t count)? Well, it probably tested negatively with market research.

Money & Politics

The marketing department is becoming increasingly powerful within Lucasfilm. Forces of Destiny is a series of animated short stories (really just short clips) centered around the female protagonists of Star Wars. Personally, I like the idea. I think girls should feel empowered by Star Wars and thanks to characters like Leia and Padmé they always have been. But these clips are not there to tell us a story. Short stories usually have a point to make, or at least a morale at the end. These clips are just there to promote these characters to young girls on YouTube, so that they will ask their parents to buy them the new Forces of Destiny (Barbie-ish) dolls. Most of the clips involve one or two female protagonists in some fight with no real reason for anything. In some cases, other (male) characters need to be saved, tricked or scolded by the women to show how great they are. This is why, Star Wars is becoming increasingly the subject of political debate. Because it is leaning more and more into political territory.

Hux’ speech and his troopers hail salute in The Force Awakens exposed the First Order as an allegory for Nazi Germany. This was further fueled by the WWII bomber scene in The Last Jedi. The fight on Jeddha in Rogue One between stormtroopers and the extremist fighters of Saw Guererra were portrayed almost like a skirmish between Middle-Eastern terrorists and American soldiers. Canto Bight may or may not have been an attempt at critique of Capitalism, but certainly of real world issues like animal curelty and weapon proliferation. Forces of Destiny, much like Rey’s perfection in contrast to Finn’s clumsiness in The Force Awakens try to to tell us that women can only be great when they are better than men. An extreme message I personally cannot approve of, as I believe people should be treated equally, regardless of gender and reinforcing gender differences only increases problems. And here I go, already getting political, simply by attempting to discuss the new Star Wars.

Kathleen Kennedy, President of Lucasfilm at Archer Film Festival.

It is a strange notion that Star Wars is now supposedly feminist, when in reality, not a single female director was so far entrusted to take the reigns of one of the new films. If Kathleen Kennedy really was all about empowering women, why are only men asked to write and direct her new films? And why are those men fired that disagree with her and replaced by more obedient writers and directors? Why does every lead need to be a white female brunette, extras need to be men and women of colour, and white men need to be the dumb villains (Phasma doesn’t count, because you never see her without her helmet)?

Politics not only has a big influence on casting decisions, but also on the character writing in the new films. General Hux, Snoke, Kylo Ren and Director Krennic are all idiotic characters. They don’t have to be menacing or frightening to be effective, but at least make them smarter or slightly more dignified. The female leads need a lot more characterisation. Jyn Erso was a far better character than Rey, but she still was relatively flat and dull. This is not to discredit either Felicity Jones or Daisy Ridley, who are both wonderful actors with great talent, but the characters they were given to play just weren’t. Tell us why we should care about them; how we can identify with them. We don’t want our heroes to be emotionless robots that were born perfect and impose their wills on the galaxy. That’s Darth Vader and even he is very emotional, despite being half droid.

Side characters need character development too. Don’t just stick a couple of diverse actors onto a ship and call it a movie. Make them interact with each other, give them reasons and motivations, build relationships between your characters. This was sorely lacking in Rogue One and to a great extent also is lacking in the Sequel Trilogy. How can Poe and Rey only introduce themselves for the first time at the end of the second film? This is not an ensamble, just a bunch of random characters thrown together for no good reason.

The cast members of the Original Trilogy were not cast for their individual characters, but because they had chemistry together. For continuity, it would have made sense to keep them together in the first installment of the new trilogy, while introducing the new main characters and have the old cast slowly take a backseat as generals and Jedi masters, who give the new cast advice and bark orders at them. Instead, they were separated and deconstructed, so we can forget about them and move on to love the new characters. Assuming this would be acceptable to the audience is outrageous. It unmasks the world view of the writers and producers of the new Star Wars. It is a deeply nihilistic and almost sociopathic approach to writing. The stories are devoid of all morale, except for one: Nothing matters and everything eventually returns to the dust it sprung from.
Han and Leia’s marriage had to fall apart, because that’s just what happens. There are no happy endings. Luke had to fail, because he was always a failure and his final test in Episode VI did not make him great, it just gave everyone else the idea of his greatness, but this idea destroyed him as it destroys every great man. Because there are no great men, just men who wither and die like all life must. Choosing a side in a conflict is foolish. Fighting for what you believe is foolish. There is no good or bad, just people who kill each other and other people who profit from this. History doesn’t matter. Let the past die, kill it if you have to. Emotional attachment is wrong, initiative is wrong. Be apathetic, detatched, deconstruct all of reality, accept there is no meaning in life and finally die.

Where Star Wars used to be fantastic escapism to help you forget about the woes of life and kindle a childish fire of adventure, hope and goodness in the viewer, it now forces you to confront the realities of war, politics, inequalities and tells you to suck it up and accept neither you nor anything else you care about matters. At the same time, it offers you a powerful light show to keep you coming back and brainwash yourself with the subliminal messages Lucasfilm is so desperate to feed you. All so that you surrender your meaningless existence to the all-powerful god of Star Wars, who will make you feel excited and alive for a few hours every year, while reinforcing your belief that there is nothing else out there for you. You are alone, miserable and destined to die; but with Star Wars you can feel good and connected to others like you; just so long as you keep paying your church to entertain you in perpetuity.

Conclusion

Ironically, the best Star Wars production under Disney’s ownership so far, in my humble opinion, is its only non-canonical story, namely Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures. I am not kidding. Obviously, as it is Lego, the show doesn’t take itself too seriously and is still rather fast-paced (it has to be, it is only twenty minutes an episode), it still delivers a Star Wars experience devoid of the very flaws of the new Star Wars I described in painful details above. The music by Michael Kramer and Jesi Nelson is superb. Eerily similar to John WIlliams’ approach, they weave together new character and location themes with Williams’ old leitmotifs to create one masterpiece after another. Despite its childish undertones and dialogue, the characterisation is quite deep and well developed, making us care about our protagonists and antagonists alike. The story of the Freemakers is separate from that of the Original Trilogy (in which it is set), but overlaps from time to time in fun and unexpected ways. There are stakes, there are consequences to the characters’ actions and most of all, there is a message embedded in the story: Be a builder. Use your creativity. Don’t hate and destroy. Creating is always better than trying to destroy what others have built.
It is simple, yet effective and ties in well into the established canon, yet doesn’t officially exist in it, because at the end of the day it is Lego and it is silly. Then again, the Last Jedi is at least as silly, but not nearly as fun or creative as The Freemaker Adventures.

It’s follow-up Lego Star Wars: All-Stars, retains this very charm and shows off Star Wars’ potential, by connecting the characters from the Freemaker Adventures with every film and television series, from Episode I to The Last Jedi, with Rogue One, Solo, The Clone Wars and Rebels in the mix. On top of that, the series introduces and develops new characters splendidly and weaves their stories seamlessly into the exiting universe. It does what the whole Sequel Trilogy was incapable of in only 100 minutes of run time.

I heartily recommend anyone who has not seen both the series yet to go and watch them. To me, they represent the slumbering potential that lives in Star Wars and in all of us, that can only be unleashed when we let go of our need for control and allow creativity to flow freely, without any concern for marketing, political correctness or the amount of money we are going to make off of it.

At the end of the day, Disney’s Star Wars canon is not about telling us a story about good and bad, and the morale of being selfless rather than selfish, but about maximising profit margins. The new Star Wars displays nihilist tendencies, whether knowingly or not, as the reason for the story makes way for a visual treat, full of amazing effects and nostalgic throwbacks that tested well with focus groups. Sadly, it works. This is the direction that all films are headed now and will continue to head, because people want these kind of experiences more than anything else and they are willing to pay for it. But unfortunately, in doing so, big studios are sacrificing the craft of storytelling, which at the end of the day, is and always will be a film’s soul.

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