I suspect that most of you have plans to see the next Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi, in the near future. I don’t plan to join you, mostly because I was disappointed by the previous movie in the series chronology, The Force Awakens. I may change my mind if someone I trust recommends the movie, or if I read something intriguing online, but the Star Wars name has lost its power over me. It no longer means an automatic ticket purchase. Future Star Wars movies have to earn my dollars just like any no-name film.
I’ve previously posted about how the James Bond / 007 franchise lost me as a customer, and this post explains how Star Wars did the same. I’ll give examples below, but I can sum up my disappointment with The Force Awakens in two words: lazy writing.
Like most Americans in my age group, I saw the original three Star Wars films in the theater, and they stuck in my mind. I can still remember where I saw them, the characters’ names, and the plots of each film. I don’t know if they made such an impression because they are inherently great, because I was young, or because I wasn’t exposed to as much entertainment back then. (We had a television that could tune in to two channels, and computer games that were text-based.)
I don’t think any future film will be able to cut through the clutter of modern entertainment and make the kind of impact Star Wars did back then. That may be one reason I don’t recall much about the three prequel films, or it may be that they were simply not that good.
I was a bit worried about The Force Awakens before I ever got to the theater. All of the promotion and marketing hype focused on “now, we have a female Star Wars character” and “now, we have a black Star Wars character”. This made no sense to me, because I remembered Leia and Lando. More importantly, it’s not a compelling reason for me to drive to a theater. “Hey, do you want to pay $8 to see a white girl and a black guy?” “No, I see those at work five days a week, and I get paid to go there.” What I didn’t hear about the film was “whoa, you should see that spectacular space battle” or “you won’t believe who the new emperor is” or anything other than the characters’ demographics. The legacy of the first three films was the only thing that brought me to the theater.
When I saw a black guy as a stormtrooper in the promotional clips, I was afraid the new writers had been too lazy to watch the previous films. Stormtroopers were supposed to all be Fett clones, and Fett wasn’t black. However, in the one piece of good writing for The Force Awakens, the writers explain that cloned stormtroopers cost money, so the new empire kidnapped children and conscripted them. It makes sense, and as a bonus, it’s evil.
I’d like to say the authors took that concept and ran with it, but they dropped the ball … into a black hole. They gave themselves a perfect way to portray the evil of the new empire, and they did nothing with it. The stormtrooper’s origin story could have been the first half of the film. The movie should have been full of scenes with children being stolen, and scenes of brutal military training designed to crush compassion and decency out of the stormtroopers.
How did the writers portray the new empire as evil, then? By dressing them like space nazis, and having them make angry speeches. So, they aren’t evil because they kidnap and brainwash children, they’re evil because they make questionable fashion choices and have poor public-speaking skills. Lazy writing.
The laziness continues after our favorite stormtrooper joins the rebel side. When he meets a new person, he shakes hands with them and says something like “pleased to meet you.” Does that sound like someone who was raised in the brutal military barracks of an evil empire? There are so many interesting things the character could have done after changing sides. He could have started a cantina fight because when someone walks in front of him, he shoves them out of the way, stormtrooper-style. He could have gone to a rebel training base, and berated the instructors for being so soft on the recruits.
I know the character isn’t evil, and his refusal to murder helpless people is his defining moment, but you don’t get to wear the white armor if you’re a complete softie. We didn’t get an interesting character after his moment, we got another good guy who could have come straight out of the rebels’ accounting department. Lazy writing.
In television, I expect and forgive a certain amount of lazy writing. Those guys have to pump out a show a week. There is no excuse for it in Star Wars. They had years to make this film. They had the budget to hire any writer on the face of the planet. They still came up with the laziest plot imaginable. “An imperial super-weapon can destroy planets. An orphan in the desert teams up with Han Solo and Chewbacca and uses The Force to destroy the super-weapon.”
This movie could have done so many other things. It could have followed the defeated remnants of the Empire as they rebuilt and prepared for a surprise attack, while most of the rebels didn’t take the threat seriously. It could have followed one of the rebel leaders, who wasn’t as altruistic as he seemed, when he sees an opportunity to seize power. Dozens of Star Wars novels have been written, and presumably many of them have plots and/or characters. Those could have been used, and it wouldn’t have been that much work. Instead, they copied the plot of the original film. Lazy writing.
Star Wars fans, please deposit your hate mail in the comments section below.
They think we are imbeciles. And, well, many of us must be if the success and praise of the movie are anything to go by. It’s really easy to brainstorm a better story in a few minutes with a few friends, but they didn’t bother. The laziness is obviously by design, not accident. The best example is this part about the remnants of the Empire:
“It could have followed the defeated remnants of the Empire as they rebuilt and prepared for a surprise attack, while most of the rebels didn’t take the threat seriously.”
This would have been good but then the ‘rebels’ would not have looked like rebels (they’d be a galaxy-spanning republic) and the “Empire” wouldn’t look like the Empire (i.e. Superweapon, massive ships, top-notch equipment, etc.). But at its core, it’s lazy writing and a reboot disguised as a sequel, so they had to repeat every beat from the old movie (even when it now makes no sense) and then make up some convoluted reason to explain the silliness (the new “Empire” manages to build the biggest-supper weapon ever and blows up half the galaxy or something.)
Good point that some of my scenarios might have reversed the underdog dynamic, but like you said, a few minutes of thought could have come up with something better than what they delivered.
If they wanted to do a reboot, they should have gone full Ghostbusters, and made it the adventures of Lucesca Skywalker, Hanita Solo, and Prince Leo. Chewbacca would have been an Ewok, of course.
Okay so first I am not a Star Wars fan. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the original trilogy when me best friend was aghast that I had never seen them. But all of the subsequent films that I saw just seemed more of the same with less plot and more special effects. I saw two movies out of the Jar Jar trilogy. The middle one’s plot was told to me in the 15 minute car ride and was sufficient. Some beautiful imagery in stills but the films were boring. Then onto TWA. It was a piece of true Disney fluff. I am not anti-Disney. But ye got an enjoyable film with some great one liners and some tidbits for the true fans. But it was not memorable. I don’t remember character names and the plot was rather silly. I would have liked ANY of the other plots ye gave above. The reason I liked the original trilogy was that while there was action, it still seemed character driven. I watched because I enjoyed the interactions between the characters. The plot was fun too. The other movies just seem to be about spectacle and selling merchandise. Now mind ye, this is just me opinion. Me best friend and her husband and lots of the other Star Wars fanatics that I know continue to be auto-ticket buyers and merchandise collectors. I just know that I would be okay never seeing another Star Wars movie in the future unless something drastically changes. Like ye, me ticket purchase would have to be earned.
x The Captain
My wife has also never seen the original films. I’ve recorded the first one for her, and we might watch it this weekend. I’m also curious what I’ll think of it after so many years.
Will ye be doing a post about yer thoughts upon rewatching and yer wife’s about the first time seeing it? Cause that would be cool.
x The Captain
It depends on whether either of us have an unusual reaction to the film.
x The Captain
No hate mail here. I’m going this weekend, because I enjoy the spectacle. I think the whole franchise went downhill after The Empire Strikes Back, but they can still be fun. I agree with your assessment.
If I end up watching this one someday, maybe I’ll just try to enjoy the special effects and any sci-fi weirdness, and ignore whether the writing is lazy.
I find myself doing that a lot. If I gripe about poor writing my wife gets mad. Thought we were going to blows over Valerian. I try to look at all the sparkly things they have to offer now.
That is a fair criticism of how they handled the stormtrooper issue, though on the other hand I appreciate them letting us fill in the blanks and not getting the story bogged down in that (especially since it appears Finn will not be the main character). But they could have had more in support of that–subtle stuff–without adding to the runtime.
My real criticism of TFA is that it is too derivative (I say “too,” because all SF is derivative). I didn’t talk about this in yesterday’s TFA post, because I think I did in my original TFA review. After the utter disaster of the Prequels, I first and foremost wanted to see that the makers could actually make a Star Wars movie. They did that, and in spades. But it won’t cut it for The Last Jedi. They need to show me something new.
I’ll be watching for your review, to see if they managed to bring something new this time.
I’m in with you guys. After the origins, I couldn’t give a damn. All pretty sucky, in my opinion. Empire being the best, of course (which I believe our on-base theatre is playing for free tomorrow, so I’ll likely go see it. And pray it isn’t the “remastered/re-edited” version.)
But anyway, yes. They had their big chance with TFA and what did they do? Completely remade the first movie, took no chances, did nothing new or creative. Literally copied the movie. The only innovative thing about it was the defecting stormtrooper, which, as you say, was a good idea that didn’t really develop beyond the concept.
I may go see the new one, just because cheap movies (3 bucks usually on-base) is about the only entertainment i get, but i go in with no expectations for anything past flashy special effects and disappointing lack of originality. (I mean, the commercials even show AT-ATs — just like movie #2 the first time around!)
Yeah, I think I’d go see it too, if the theater was close by and it was only $3.
Yep, I”m with you.
I bought TFA when it came out on bluray, but this time around, I don’t expect to. I’ll wait until the library gets a copy and watch it then…
I’m still sort of hoping that I’ll see a bunch of blog posts tonight, saying “Wow, they really got it right this time. This is nothing like TFA”, and then I might go see it in the theater.
Realistically, I’ll probably grab it for a dollar from a redbox on my way home from work some day, or wait for it to come on TV for free.
Free. Ha! This is Disney you are talking about. That just ain’t going to happen…
I’m not going to see it in theaters either. My sons had to drag me to Rogue One last year, and I hated it. Will not be talked into throwing away the money to watch what appears to be a huge disappointment. (Well, at least, the Youtube reviewers I follow have been letdown by it.)
Rogue One didn’t bother me the way this one did.
I’m disappointed, but not surprised, that the latest movie got some bad reviews. I was kind of hoping I’d have to eat my words on this one.
Me too. It would be nice to have great Star Wars movies to go see again. Not that I’m saying the Prequels were great, but I definitely enjoyed Episode III.
I hated Rogue One as well. Much more than I could ever hate this movie. The storytelling was utter and complete trash. The Last Jedi just repeats RO’s mistakes.
A lot of the time, I feel like I’m the only one who was let down by the new Star Wars. As far as I’m concerned, the Extended Universe is still canon, and Disney is making very high budget fan fiction.
I haven’t read any extended universe, but I’ve considered it a few times, and may try it in the future.
I think these movies could be the most expensive fan fiction in history. Well, maybe not, because that assumes they were written by fans.
You haven’t read any of the Expanded Universe novels?!?!? For shame!!!! ;P The ones by Zahn are great, along with all the stories up to the Yuuzhan Vong War (which, I think, was almost as bad as the new Star Wars films – almost). I think Abrams did his best with what he felt he could get away with, but yeah; his Star Trek films were better than these.
You know, I heard that Lucas actually wrote scripts for the next three films before he sold his company to Disney. They said, “Thanks” and then tossed them aside; Lucas may have messed up the sequels as badly as the prequels, I admit, but I would still take his bad storytelling over this mess.
I’ve heard some good things about Zahn’s writing, so maybe I should check out some of those.
It’s hard to imagine throwing away a resource like those scripts. OK, unfortunately, it’s not hard to imagine at all, it’s just ridiculously stupid.
Other good stories by Zahn are his Quadrail and Cobra series. Especially his Cobra series. I might be wrong about the scripts, but that’s what I remember reading about Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm. I can believe they would do it, too, even if that’s not the real story.
The Grand Admiral Thrawn trilogy is definitely worth a look.
Well, my online friends are mostly talking about how they like the new movie. But I also don’t feel like it’s that important I go see it now, or … really, at all. I don’t know if it’s just that my fandom of things is changing (I barely have the time to like the stuff I like anymore) or if it’s just hard to get enthusiastic about stuff what with 2017 and all that.
I’ve been avoiding most reviews because of spoilers, in case I decide to see the film later.
I’m planning to re-watch the original Star Wars with my wife, who’s never seen it, partially because I want to see if I still think the film is great.
Interesting take on TFA. Maybe I missed it but since you refer to Finn not by his name, did you manage to see the film? Just curious. This comment may contain spoilers!
You make an interesting point on how they could have handled the First Order. First, I agree that much like with the Empire in Rogue One, they failed to illustrate how evil the First Order should be. We do see them wipe out the New Republic but in hindsight, we meet the New Republic planets as they are being destroyed. It’s still a sad scene, but I think they could have spent a bit of time setting up the conflict between the First Order and everbody else. We know the FO is militaristic, but how are the non-FO entities different? Consequently, we understand enough that the FO is evil to root for the Resistance in TFA but that is not enough for the second film of a trilogy.
It’s in TLJ that I think we lost the conflict, and the writers are relying on us associating black, red, uniforms, and super-powerful weapons as “evil” so they get lazy on developing who the First Order IS. In the OT, it was enough that we knew Darth Vader was serving the Emperor who wanted control above all else, but that’s just assumed with the FO and Snoke, and also not enough for a second go. So, watching TLJ I wasn’t quite sure why the FO was chasing the Resistance so doggedly as the opening scroll said that the FO was basically winning anyway. Also, the FO learned nothing from the Empire and chooses to build bigger, less-manueverable ships when they know that the Rebels/Resistance have small quick ships. Poor judgement. I wanted to see a smaller, lighter FO in TLJ.
As for how they defined the stormtroopers in TFA, I can see your point in that Finn was too polite to be a stormtrooper despite establishing that he was only a janitor and got battle-fright in his first experience with death and killing. He would still have learned behaviour. For me personally knowing that Finn was kidnapped was enough, and I think they needed the time to focus on Rey and who she is (which is apparently going nowhere) and Kylo Ren’s origin and crossing-the-line with Han. The problem is that the OT had Darth Vader already established as the big scary Dragon (whereas Kylo is still green and not at Vader’s level) and then we have the Emperor. Between TFA and TLJ, Kylo is neither super experienced nor super evil (he smashes walls, not people) and then becomes the Big Bad himself without having earned it, so it’s kind of confusing to me as a writer.
Yes, I did see TFA. I didn’t use any character names from it because, until I saw some recent blog posts, I didn’t remember the names. The characters made that little of an impact. So, I decided to leave them nameless in my post, rather than looking them up.
Your comments about the First Order gave me yet another idea the filmmakers could have run with: they could have had the bad guys not even bother with a navy. They could have been a shadowy organization, achieving their goals with terrorism, death squads, assassins, and thugs. That might have been an interesting way to go, and could have tied into issues many countries are facing today.
I remember even less about Ren and Kylo than I do about Finn. I remember Ren was an orphan and desert scavenger, she learned she had tons of force powers, then she fought a light-saber battle near the end of the film. If it was Kylo she was fighting, then that means she didn’t kill him, so I don’t know why the fight ended.
All I remember about Kylo was him smashing some stuff in a temper-tantrum, and killing his Father.
Like I said, none of these characters or events made much of an impression on me.
I think Kylo Ren lied to Rey about her parents.
The editor over at Cirsova had a theory that she was the bastard child of Emperor Palpatine.
I’m so relieved to find someone else who thinks the newest Star Wars reboot is a crushing disappointment to the original. Everyone is raving about these movies and it’s making me crazy. I have no emotional engagement in any of the characters and Kylo Ren is an absolute punch face without any of the presence of Darth Vader. And it seems like they can’t think of anything more interesting to do with the space opera than dredge out another superweapon. Then there’s the way they made Han into such a chump. Well, I could go on and on…
Yeah, I suppose there was some marketing strategy that I don’t understand. They had so much raw material to work with, presumably had an unlimited budget, and they gave us … this?
They just marketed the brand and then flung some half-baked, barely coherent storyline at us because it’s Star Wars and we’re supposed to like it on principal. Pff, if that were the case, I’d still be going to the Transformer movies.