Someone asked me the other day why I’ve been so guarded about a new Star Wars Trilogy, particularly as I’ve been so defensive of the much-maligned prequels. So I’m going to explain it again for clarity.
First of all, I’m a Star Wars fan through and through. From the moment I saw The Empire Strikes Back as a kid, through every cherished little toy as a kid, every bit of merchandise, through the excitement over the release of every one of the prequels, the Galaxy Far Far Away has been part of my life, has been in my blood. I even re-watch the 80s Droids series on a fairly regular basis. And hey, I’ve been on-board for the Star Wars: Rebels series and have broadly enjoyed it so far.
I was never disputing that we might get some entertaining, even possibly classic, movies out of this new reboot of the Star Wars franchise; nor that it might be a source of great excitement. What I maintain, however, is that, good or not, these films probably can’t ADD anything of meaningful value to the existing six-film saga – because nothing can be added by going beyond Return of the Jedi; because the story is finished, the saga complete. And I don’t see that anyone could dispute me on that point.
Admittedly, I am writer, so maybe it’s the writer in me speaking; but the Star Wars saga, in its current six-film form, is basically a finished, complete work – story-wise, it’s a completed circle, a perfect circle, with The Phantom Menace (whatever you personally think of that film) as the beginning and Return of the Jedi as a fitting end. That is the key point here – Return of the Jedi is the perfect, poignant END to the Star Wars story. Think about that ending – Luke finally confronting Vader, Anakin finally destroying Darth Sidious and being redeemed, Luke burning the Vader suit on Endor, and the appearance of Anakin in ghost form alongside smiling Yoda and Obi-Wan spirits; that’s IT. That’s the end. And it works. It works beautifully; it works how it was MEANT to.
My view, therefore, of these new films is that they are simply an add-on; something along the lines of ‘Star Wars: The Next Generation’. And that’s probably what it will be. And just like you might’ve liked Star Trek: The Next Generation without ever having watched the Original Series (and vice-versa), the same will be true of these new Star Wars films. Or another example: the current generation of JJ Abrams Star Trek films are largely divorced from the vast array of Star Trek material that came before, yet are entertaining movies in their own right and with their own fan-base and their own inner continuity – but they are broadly aimed at a newer audience and not at necessarily pleasing the existing/older Star Trek audience. That’s fine: within that framework there’s still plenty of potential for these new Star Wars films to be highly entertaining entities. I don’t – and never have – disputed the possibility that we’ll end up with some highly enjoyable movies.
An argument often made in favor of the Disney acquisition of Star Wars is the success and quality of the Marvel films. Yes, the Disney-run Marvel Cinematic Universe is broadly at present of a reasonably high standard – but wait and see, ten, twenty, years down the line when Disney are still churning that stuff out, trying to milk the franchise for every last dollar, whether you still think it’s a good thing. When the twelfth and thirteenth Star Wars films are being put out, let’s see how excited everyone still is. And Star Wars is very different from Marvel anyway; the Marvel Comics offers a plethora of classic, potentially long-lasting, pre-existing story fodder from its source material. Star Wars is a different matter. One of the most special things about Star Wars is its limited nature: it doesn’t go on and on like James Bond, but has a defined beginning and end like a great novel.
The Star Wars saga, as it currently exists, benefits from its limited quantity. Six films telling a measured, complete story. I can’t help but feel it should be left at that; that quantity will undermine quality. Of course I may be overreacting to all this and I may be proven wrong down the line. Time will tell. It’s the nature of modern mainstream cinema that reboots and re-imaginings are going on all the time, sequels and prequels being spat out at a jarring rate; for example, the Spiderman franchise was rebooted again after literally only a few years – what happened to pacing? What happened to letting things age a little while? Which, again, is not to say that these new movies won’t be good. But my fear ultimately was that from the moment Uncle George announced his handover to Disney, the situation we’re going to have is one in which new Star Wars films and whole trilogies are going to be churned out for years and years to come. I don’t know if that’s a good thing. Because each expansion of the existing canon could reduce the integrity of the existing films, diminish the legacy and diminish the ‘specialness’ of those older films.
I compare it to this: to when you enlarge or expand a digital image – every time you enlarge the picture further it loses more of its integrity and focus until eventually all you’re left with is a mess of pixels. Sometimes less is more and finite is better.
Of course I’ll be in the cinema when the next Star Wars movie is out (and I genuinely am looking forward to the experience of seeing them); and I’ll be fascinated by the trailers and teasers. I’m a Star Wars die-hard; have been since the age of about six. But Lucas‘s vision has been fulfilled already, the story told. Thematically, Return of the Jedi stands as a perfect terminus to the saga, and creatively Revenge of the Sith – a masterpiece in its own right, in my opinion – stands fittingly as the final piece of the overall puzzle in terms of the mythology we were all waiting to have tied up.
But just one more thing; if you disagree with me and the position I’ve taken, just do this one thing first – go get your Return of the Jedi DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS tape or whatever it is. Watch the final fifteen minutes. And then tell me that this should no longer be where the legendary Star Wars story ends.