Yes, I’m trying to burn through my filler video build-up. I can’t even touch the Saturday Night Showcase stuff until January because of Christmas Spotlight, so I’m going to spend this week going through shorts and longer essay videos in the hopes of cutting at least one of the backlogs in my life down a peg or 8000. With that…
Obi-Wan once told Luke that a lot depends on our point of view, and I think when it comes to modern licensed and continuing story discussion that is very much true. The fans came into these franchises for a reason, and it’s for that reason that they surpassed being good movies to being cultural iconography. However, actors just want to play good roles, writers just want to tell the story they want, directors want to make a certain kind of movie, and when that all comes together correctly you get something amazing if the studio doesn’t @#$!%#$ it all up sideways for cheap marketing purposes. However, when you’re continuing a series there’s another factor involved and by ignoring it you may have a good movie but a terrible addition to the series. This is also true for other genres but of course we’re talking Star Wars again. And this video has been sitting in the backlog since possibly last year. Occasionally YouTube doesn’t show me the actual posting date but comments are dating back a year, including the one I posted to this video.
Said video comes from The Closer Look, a YouTube channel I’ve gone to for content more than once because his essays are really quite thorough. While fans have certain expectation viewers who weren’t fans of the original fail to understand why fans are upset because the casual viewers themselves are not as invested. Some of them may not even get invested in a franchise and will never care if something is screwed up and that’s fine. It’s the lack of understanding why these issues bother more die hard fans, if not a complete dismissal from the uninvested and of course the “everything for meeeeeeeeeeee” crowd who is happy when something popular shifts from something they don’t like to something made for them (with the hypocritical response to longtime fans that “this wasn’t made for you” as if that wasn’t the actual problem). Wow that was a long sentence but I can’t see a proper place to break that up. Sorry, readers.
In this rather long video Henry goes over why the Disney-produced sequels, whether they’re good or not, failed as a continuation as part of the Star Wars franchise. He also comes up with a way to fix them, but you’ll have to decide if you agree with his take or not. Naturally I have comments of my own, and maybe even a critique of his idea. Note that heavy intellectual thought and the occasional swear follows.
Catch more episode of The Closer Look on YouTube.
As far as respecting Han, I saw a commentary that made a good point I hadn’t though of, and I’m not sure Henry is right on that level of respect Abrams had. He basically suffered the problem of convincing fans that this would be classic Star Wars, not the politically motivated backstory (in that politics itself played a role in the fall of the Old Republic, not that there was modern political preaching like has been claimed about the sequels in Rey’s instant Jedi transformation). So he stayed too close to the previous movies. He didn’t write Han as he would have been this far ahead, ignoring his character evolution from scoundrel smuggler to victorious general. He basically devolved back to the Han of the first movie, just older. There is some truth to that frankly, though apparently Han is rusty as heck. I’ve never been bothered by his death because Harrison Ford has been wanting to kill him since Empire Strikes Back, but it’s a heck of a way to go reversing course on his whole character arc because his son turned evil and that somehow caused Han and Leia to break up. So I don’t think Abrams respected Han’s character journey as much as the original description of Han and how he was when the movie began. That’s not really the same thing, and the same goes with his relationship with Leia. Abrams wanted to play it safe and win fans back but outside of the tone of Star Wars he really didn’t succeed.
I think both Abrams and Johnson needed to go back to the same influences Lucas had. Those influences were missing in the prequels. The Kurosawa movies that inspired the characters and old sci-fi movie serials that inspired the style are not as present in the prequels nor in the sequels. Abrams wanted to make fans assured this was classic Star Wars while Johnson was all about subversion, which worked in his own movie, which Henry talked about in a previous video that showed up here in the Spotlight, but not so much in an ongoing series he was given stewardship of.
Fun fact: when Henry is talking about worldbuilding I was eating spaghetti while rewatching the video. A funny coincidence but to build on his analogy I have rather sensitive taste buds. Most sauce is actually a bit too much flavor for me. So for someone out there the blander world of the sequel trilogy is probably just fine…but that’s not a sequel. That’s a brand new production since you’re building out of nothing. Star Wars is building off of the original six movies and the Clone Wars cartoon. The rest of the expanded universe was ignored because they considered that hard to keep up with as far as the new movies and just stuck to those movies and the one show, ignoring the previous cartoons and the Ewok TV movies as well as the comics, novels, and video games that could even contradict each other at times because there was nobody serving as a continuity director, which would have been hard to do all this time among all three formats.
This is why I don’t blame them for not sticking with that expanded universe, despite elements that fans had ties to. They followed Han and Leia’s twins, Luke’s search for his mother’s past and eventually winning over the Emperor’s former right hand woman whom he later married. They saw what the remnants of the Empire were up to, the Black Sun organization, and the attack by Grand Admiral Thrawn, all of which were attempted to be brought into the new continuity of DisneyFilm but were pale imitations of already beloved stories. Gone were other characters tied to those stories like Xizor and Guri, Mara Jade, Jacen and Jaina Solo and their brother Anakin, and their cousin Ben Skywalker. However, they really weren’t replaced with anything.
Do you know how many Transformers fanfics and fan comics feature none of the toy characters? The original cartoon and comics (aka G1, long story I’ve already gotten into for you non-Transformers fans, who probably only cared when the crossover toys came out) each built a universe that could be expanded upon. There were other Transformers and hints of other Autobots and Decepticons that we didn’t see in the media at least being out there. That was helped with show and comic only characters like Devcon or Scrounge that hinted at Cybertronians not on the store shelves. There was a larger universe besides Optimus Prime and Megatron’s forces, and stories could be made in that universe. Beast Wars, which took place in the G1 cartoon continuity, had this as well. You heard about areas of Cybertron, former Autobots and Decepticons still in high regard or even still active, and the Japanese series gave us at least two other groups of Maximals and Predacons (under the Japanese faction names), thus also hinting that the more subdued conflict was still continuing beyond prehistoric Earth as there was still unrest between the two groups. Stories can be built out of these subtle hints. It’s why I wish there were more Doctor Who fan films beyond the creator’s coming up with their own reincarnation of the Doctor, like Professor What, and why there are Star Trek fan shows like Intrepid and Starship Faraggut.
Disney Star Wars doesn’t give us any hint that there is a separate Resistance group out there besides Leia’s team. Sure there are more planets but we don’t see that many places outside of that one casino in The Last Jedi. No Mos Eisley, no Jabba’s Palace, no podracing crowds, none of the various planets and aliens we see in prequels and tie-in media, none of that. Of course the characters we see aren’t the only ones who still exist in the universe but it feels like they don’t exist because there’s no hint as to what’s out there. That’s fine in a story set in our real world because we know what New York City is and plenty of fictional stories are set there, plus what we see on the news. In a fictional universe, a larger world leads to other things you can play with. It’s why the toys sold so well, so kids could play the unaired adventures across the universe with characters they know, while later writers official or otherwise could play around in the further universe without affecting whatever the movies had planned. It’s not just the lack of imagination on the screenwriters’ parts but not instilling that imagination into their audience, thus not drawing them into this world as well as the other movies.
I have nothing against the “rule of cool”. It’s one of the pillars of kid logic in storytelling. However, if it makes no sense beyond that and is a downgrade, like the treadspeeders, maybe rethink your design. See also Starkiller Base, aka “what if the Death Star couldn’t move around”. Unicron may or may not be able to beat the Death Star but Starkiller Base wouldn’t stand a chance.
As for Henry’s concept? I think he goes a bit too far. I don’t believe you have to toss out everything to make the sequels work, since either way whatever we fans come up with won’t replace the sequels, and thanks to Carrie Fisher passing away you really can’t replace the sequel trilogy. It’s not a bad story mind you, but a bit too far. I’d dissect it but frankly this has gone on long enough on both our parts.
When you take on a franchise you take on the official stories that came before it as well as its fans. The novels, comics, and even most of the video games weren’t necessarily canon, but they do still serve as a reason the franchise continued on and evidence that you could please the fans and continue a franchise. A sequel is the continuation of the story, which Abrams didn’t do to convince fans that this wasn’t the prequels. I also don’t think Johnson knows what a trilogy is, since he basically left so few plot threads open by the end of his movie. Instead Abrams is redoing the original trilogy, Johnson is creating an original property, and then Abrams comes back attempting to put things back on course but also ignoring even usable ideas Johnson put forth…because they basically ignored each other’s ideas rather than working together to continue a series. This along with not having enough faith in continuing the story despite proof that it can be done courtesy of the expanded universe is why the sequel trilogy fails as both a sequel and to a lesser extent as a trilogy. So it’s not really a proper definition, is it? You can bring in casual viewers and new fans without losing the existing fanbase. They may be good movies, but once again the failure is in the adaptation, or in this case the poor continuation.