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Help Me, Benioff & Weiss. You’re My Only Hope!

Help Me, Benioff & Weiss. You’re My Only Hope!

I won’t lie (and by this point it isn’t much of a secret): I’ve been thoroughly unimpressed with every Star Wars movie (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story being the lone exception) since Return of the Jedi.

First: there was the prequel trilogy.

I was like thousands of other people back in 1999 who waited in line for the premiere of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace full of hope and excitement. I can’t tell you how many times I watched the George Lucas interview at the end of the Star Wars Special Edition VHS tapes (no need to address the problems with THOSE releases here) hanging off his every word regarding the “things I’m working on now” with regards to the prequels. This was a movie I had been waiting for literally my entire life.

And then the opening crawl and first scene happened and I immediately knew this wasn’t what I had in mind.

I liked Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn, and really enjoyed Watto. I’m in the minority of people who enjoyed the podrace, but am also part of the unanimous decision that Darth Maul was the best thing to come out of that movie. The dialogue and a lot of the acting was some of the worst things I had ever seen. Yoda looked like a complete mistake. And of course, there was the disaster that was Jar Jar Binks.

The amount of disappointment I carried with me out of that theater that night was immense. But I tried to put a positive spin on it, and hoped that the follow-up Star Wars Episode II: The Clone Wars would make up for it.

Wrong again.

It was here that I realized that The Phantom Menace was no fluke and they were truly targeting a much younger audience. Much…much younger if the still-stale dialogue was any indication.

The amount of CGI used throughout the prequels was immense, character development was slim and the acting continued to be sub-par at best. My only hope was that in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith the return of Darth Vader (perhaps my most favorite character in the history of film) would make this all worth it. Once again (and unfortunately), it was the final straw as the few scenes with Vader that we actually get to see made me EMBARRASSED to be a Star Wars fan. The biggest villain of them all, reduced to a child.

I’ve given the prequels their space, believe me. I’ve let them sit on my shelf (yes, I was still dense enough to actually spend money on these things) for YEARS until recently when I thought I’d pop them in again and see if they had gotten any better or my perspective had changed; but no. As I found myself fast forwarding and skipping entire scenes, I came to the determination that I no longer choose to acknowledge the prequels’ existence. With the exception of Darth Maul, and the lightsaber duel against Jinn and Kenobi, there is absolutely nothing I choose to take with me away from these “films”. Lucas had completely sold out at the expense of story and characters. It would seem that you really can’t go back. Star Wars to me would always be the original trilogy, and that’s that. (As far as the movies go.)

Flash forward to 2012 and Disney has bought Lucasfilm and announced their intentions to CONTINUE the stories of Han, Luke and Leia in a new trilogy, with releases of one-off Star Wars movies in between.

Holy crap.

Now thoughts of never-say-never and “you really can’t tell what the future holds” starts flying through my head. Never in a million years did I think something like this would or could happen. Is that another glimmer of hope for Star Wars I see on the horizon?

The first shoe to drop was the relegation of ALL the expanded Star Wars universe novels being re-categorized into “Legends” status as they’ve decided to forge their own continuing story. I’ll admit, this kind of bothered me, but at the same time I understood.

While it would have been amazing to see books like the Thrawn trilogy brought to life on screen, at this point it simply wasn’t possible – unless they were willing to recast nearly everyone as younger versions of the characters. That wasn’t really going to fly as I don’t think anyone was interested in seeing a different actor play Luke, Leia or Han etc. (And yet there is a stand-alone Han Solo Star Wars movie in May of 2018? More on that later…) So I see where the decision came from. It would have been impossible to have a new story while trying to make it stay consistent and fit in with the existing universe established in the novels. Nevertheless, there is something about that feeling of having all the stories you liked as a kid all of a sudden be set aside, and no longer recognized as canon.

Nevertheless, on to the new movie. Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Nice title! Han and Chewie, the Falcon, looks sweet!

I’m not going to rehash what I had to say about the film. My thoughts and comments (which were essentially all negative), can be seen here. Bare-bones, bottom line: I feel these movies are no longer meant for me or my age group. The target continues to be children, which is obviously extremely lucrative for Disney and consistent with what they stand for. In discussions with *most* of my Star Wars friends, I wasn’t alone in my feelings. I admit to having one of the most negative responses out of anyone I know, but the majority were on the fence or “didn’t mind it”. That all being said, I’m still in the minority. The movie was a smash success, both with fans and critics alike. And that’s fine. But once again, the seeds of doubt were planted in my head with where this was going.

Honestly: (for me) this is the best Star Wars movie since Return of the Jedi.

A HUGE reason for that is the overall tone of the movie. It was a more serious story, and the characters themselves were taking it seriously. The humor was SMART, and it fit – as opposed to feeling forced or trying to do a Marvel impression. I cared about these characters. The story was interesting and compelling. And oh yeah….Darth Vader. Complete and total redemption from the last time we saw his character on a movie screen. It didn’t bother me that we had a pretty good idea of the fate of all these characters. I for one didn’t take it as a foregone conclusion that they would all die – maybe some were taken prisoner? The fact that we were apparently not supposed to care about these characters or story as much because we “knew” the end result had no bearing on me. I enjoyed the ride. I thought Gareth Edwards did a fantastic job. After a number of swings and misses, my interest and affection for Star Wars finally returned!

*sigh*….I purposely didn’t put out a reaction post to this movie because I’m tired of being disappointed in Star Wars. I didn’t like this movie at all. Once again I thought the story was weak, there were more characters who turned me off, and Luke felt completely wasted to me. The few highlights of Yoda, Chewie taking the Falcon for a spin and the lightsaber battle with Rey and Ren weren’t nearly enough for me to think of this movie in a positive light. Once again, I’m basically bailing and disinterested in yet another trilogy in a galaxy far, far away. And what makes it worse is that the director Rian Johnson has been approved to go ahead and make his OWN trilogy!

Now…I’m sure you’re telling me to chill out, and I agree, I should. Just because I didn’t care for The Last Jedi doesn’t mean I’d dislike his own trilogy where he would have more control. For all I know he had plenty of things he wanted to do with Star Wars but was constrained by what J.J. Abrams had previously set up. Even still though, from what I’ve seen I’m not overly impressed.

I….really don’t know what to think about Solo: A Star Wars Story. 

I know I’m not a fan of recasting characters, and I don’t care if it needs to be done to see someone in their youth. Do we really need a Han Solo movie to begin with? Will Han win the Falcon off of Lando in a game of Sabacc as those of us who are fans of the original universe have been lead to believe? Are we going to see Chewie start his life-debt to Han in this film? There are things that were already established in the past that they really have no reason to change at this point, so consistency is going to be key. The fact that they had to change directors part way through isn’t exactly a great omen. I’m almost mentally preparing to possibly enjoy parts of this movie while completely disconnecting it from the Star Wars universe I’ve come to fall in love with. It shall be interesting, and once again – I’m not holding my breath.

With a wrap-up of yet another trilogy I don’t care about coming up, and another one-off story still to come, the future of one of my favorite franchises seems bleak. All the excitement and enjoyment I got from the expanded universe and MULTIPLE LucasArts PC video games I played in my youth have yet to be duplicated on the screen to the best of their ability for my tastes.

But what is this now? The showrunners of arguably one of THE most successful television series in the history of the medium are going to get their OWN Star Wars project?? Say whaaat?

Now, you have my attention. And my hope.

What makes Game of Thrones so good? Where would one start: The characters. The story. The depth and LAYERS of the world they have created. Complicated relationships. Conflict. Despite being set in a fantasy world, there are so many realities hidden within. Loyalty. Love. Heroism. Sacrifice. And yes, even among all that – humor.

Game of Thrones has been at the top of its game since it premiered and has legions of fans. Two reasons it has been so successful? David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. They have overseen the transition from George R. R. Martin’s page to the screen seamlessly.

When I watch shows like Thrones or watch movies like Blade Runner 2049, I’ve often asked myself: “man…how awesome would it be if Star Wars was treated this seriously?”

I understand a younger demographic is a HUGE reason Star Wars is so successful. The toy industry alone brings in a ridiculous amount of scratch. But, can’t we aim just a little higher with our target audience? I’m craving an adult Star Wars, and this is what I’m hoping for the most coming from Benioff & Weiss.

Now before you even go there this doesn’t mean I’m looking for nudity and cursing in the Star Wars universe. Far from it. But I am looking for a maturity to be brought back to the series. By the time these projects make it to the screen, there will be so much Star Wars out that it is entirely possible franchise fatigue will have started to set in. The magic and excitement of new Star Wars will have worn off long, long ago unless Disney is willing to mix things up.

And this is where I get excited at the prospect of Benioff & Weiss coming onto the scene. If they can produce a Star Wars universe with HALF the appeal of Thrones, they will have already succeeded. Star Wars doesn’t have to be all goofy aliens and poorly realized characters. It can take itself seriously again, and be acted with pride, and take the audience for an exciting, meaningful ride just like that first time back in 1977 when we took a trip to a galaxy far, far away…

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