Say what you will about George Lucas and the Star Wars movies he both directed and created, but the one thing that ran through all six of them was a sense of direction; a sense of story; a sense that what we were watching was taking us to a place envisioned by an artist/auteur. Even watching the much maligned prequels, one gets a sense of the story that Lucas was trying to tell. The story flows naturally, even if the dialogue doesn’t, culminating in Revenge of the Sith where all the plot threads are sown up, leaving us nice and primed for A New Hope.
What we’re getting with these new episodic Star Wars films is a series that lacks that same sense of artist vision. This lack of integrity with the story of the new series of films leaves me with little excitement for what’s coming next. Not only did The Last Jedi leave me uninterested in seeing this summer’s Solo: A Star Wars Story, it’s also left me feeling particularly “meh” with regards to this trilogy’s climatic episode due in 2019.
Any good franchise will have you excited for the next instalment, particularly if that instalment is some kind of cumulative event, such as this summer’s Avengers: Infinity War. What Marvel have been able to do with their franchise movies is to build constant excitement and anticipation with regards to the next entry, which may be years in the pipeline.
Star Wars no longer has me feeling this way. I’m not particularly excited for a Star Wars movie anymore. I took my time before going to see Solo, unconcerned by spoilers, not caring that much. Clearly I wasn’t the only one as the film looks set to be the franchise’s first financial flop. If you told me back in 2012, when Disney first acquired Lucasfilm from George Lucas, that I wouldn’t really care about the release of a new Star Wars movie, I would have scoffed at you. But, these days they leave a sour taste in my mouth. I really didn’t like The Last Jedi, and I feel as though that film has done irreparable damage to the Star Wars brand.
It’s with The Last Jedi that I feel this sense of a directionless story began. Let’s rewind to 2015 and the release of The Force Awakens. Directed by J.J. Abrams to much acclaim, which has largely subsided in the years since, the movie revitalised the Star Wars franchise a decade after Revenge of the Sith, and introduced a host of new characters, story threads, and ideas.
The Last Jedi
Move forward to production on The Last Jedi, and director Rian Johnson throws out all of Abrams’ story ideas for Episode 8, as well as abandoning/ignoring many of the running threads from The Force Awakens, such as the identity of Rey’s parents, the mysterious Snoke, and the purpose of Luke’s map. Now, all of this may have been forgiven if Johnson had left the board in an intoxicating state at the end of The Last Jedi, but he didn’t. Instead, we’re left at the end of the movie to ponder over very little going into Episode 9.
Compare this situation with Avengers: Infinity War, which similar to The Last Jedi had months of speculation leading into its release; as well as after regarding Avengers 4. In contrast, all The Last Jedi conversation since the movie’s release has been about Star Wars’ toxic fandom, sexist and racist trolling of the movie’s cast, the degree to which Rian Johnson has destroyed the franchise, etc…
I haven’t read one article since the movie’s release speculating over what will happen in Episode 9, because there’s nothing to speculate about. Will Kylo Ren finally return to the light? I don’t think anyone really cares at this point. Will the Resistance defeat the First Order? Probably, that’s how these movies work. The only other dangling plot thread I can think of is the hint of love triangle between Rey/Finn/Rose. Although, let’s be honest, no one in all truthfulness cares. This is Star Wars, and romance has always been peripheral or irrelevant.
Future of the Franchise
All of this leaves Star Wars in a sorry state of affairs. There’s little to look forward to in the future. Very little to look back on from this new series of films. Where does this leave Star Wars? Will the franchise die as some have suggested? Unlikely, especially now that Disney are in control. Disney will eventually wake up to the situation and take a leaf out of their other multi-billion dollar franchise next door, the MCU. Star Wars needs a strong creative voice pulling the strings from behind the scenes. Someone needs to rope all this together in a coherent manner, that both satisfies the fans, the Star Wars mythos, while not neglecting the creative vision of the directors and writers. Sounds easy enough.