By: The Cinema Cynic
Since Disney bought Lucasfilms and the rights to Star Wars, the franchise has been in crisis. With its latest lacklustre release – Solo – and its previous abomination – The Last Jedi, Disney has presided over the effective destruction of one of cinema’s most beloved franchises. Indeed, in terms of narrative and plot, the decidedly sub-par prequels of Episodes I to III are being much more favourably viewed as the mediocrity of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi become evident. While Disney did produce a fantastic film in Rogue One and an excellent television series on Disney XD – Star Wars Rebels – in the main, an arrogant and lazy approach with little by way of novelty or quality control has proved to be the bane of Disney’s Star Wars saga.
So what went wrong?
1) Disney is treating this purely as a commercial venture with special effects taking precedence over plots, acting and scripts which have been of very poor quality.
2) Narrative continuity has gone out the window with a complete disconnect between the original Star Wars universe and the current crop of crud.
3) Pandering to demographics – I’m all in favour of strong female characters but simply plopping them in is patronizing in the extreme. Rey is at best a poor shadow of Luke Skywalker but is a know-it-all already – pilot, lightsaber expert etc. she knows everything without any training. Then there was the nonsensical Vice Admiral Holdo in The Last Jedi who couldn’t even get the rank structure right much less deliver a convincing performance as somebody with the least military ability.
4) Playing it too safe. What was the difference between Episode IV and The Force Awakens? Episode IV was at the time original and fresh. What did the Force Awakens offer? Virtually the same plot with a female lead– and a poor one at that.
5) Bad character development. It says something when Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford owned their scenes but the new characters were cardboard caricatures. Even Princess Leia was catatonically portrayed by Carrie Fisher who’s deficiencies as an actress were evident in both her last two films.
How did it go wrong? Disney has nobody but itself to blame. Star Wars may have belonged to Lucasfilms but it was really owned by its legions of fans. Fans kept the franchise alive and after The Return of the Jedi, when the franchise seemed dead, the extended universe was born.
The Star Wars Extended Universe was largely brought to life in a series of novels that fleshed out the stories pre a New Hope and post Return of the Jedi. Timothy Zahn’s superlative Heir to the Empire trilogy and then its two successor novels set the trend as we saw Luke, Leia and Han grow, develop, face numerous challenges and betrayals – including Jacen Solo (Han and Leia’s son) going over to the dark side and killing Luke’s wife (Mara Jade-Skywalker). Throughout the Extended Universe, there was narrative continuity and the stories tried to remain faithful to the original vision of Star Wars.
What does Disney do? One of its first acts was to announce that the whole Extended Universe was no longer canon. In other words all those books and all the efforts that went into them were nullified to suit the bloated ego of a company who has neither respect for nor concern for the franchise or its fans.
This demonstrates a degree of laziness that is beyond belief. Instead of working with or around the Extended Universe, Disney chose to scrap the whole thing. But what did it create in its stead? It created a narrative mess and while the films are making money – with the exception of Solo – the intense affection and loyalty of Star Wars fans has been lost forever along with all the goodwill that resurrected the franchise from death.
Yet all of this might have been forgiven had Disney delivered good films. With the notable exception of Rogue One, it did not. While Rogue One was easily one of the best Star Wars films ever, Solo, The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi were at best mediocre and at worst abysmal. The extreme negative reaction to The Last Jedi rubbed off on Solo which has become the first Star Wars film to be a box office disaster.
Disney might do well to go back to the drawing board and reassess its plans to release a plethora of unnecessary stand-alone stories. Rogue One worked because it was a critical part of Star Wars lore. Few other things are and attempting to drag the series on simply to satisfy a company’s insatiable greed is not necessary. Solo was the first major flop. If Disney doesn’t make amends, it will not be the last and fans will not be forgiving towards their future efforts.
P.S. Pakistan’s ISI would do well to hire Priyanka Chopra and the team from Quantico as they beautifully played to Pakistan’s narrative. That a brand ambassador of India could betray the country as utterly and completely for 30 pieces of silver to parrot the Pakistani ISI narrative that “Hindu Nationalists” are committing terrorist acts to frame Pakistan is an abomination. Every Indian who was “proud” of PC for her role in Quantico should now reexamine that pride. Clearly the nation’s respect means nothing when the almighty dollar is up for grabs.