Director J.J. Abrams latest film Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a claustrophobic mess of a movie that shows everything that is wrong with the film industry today. The movie rides along with training wheels through the “plot” and refuses to do anything remotely bold. The film series that once pushed the boundaries of our imaginations has turned into a giant cash grab that values fanservice and merchandising over competence and creative storytelling.
The Star Wars original trilogy was one of the greatest products of human storytelling, we know this and I don’t need to elaborate anymore on its significance. The impact of the trilogy is common cultural knowledge.
The release of the Prequel trilogy was where the story of Star Wars got interesting. The series creator George Lucas and his team took a sixteen year hiatus after the end of the original trilogy. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace released in May, 1999. The film traveled years before the events of the original trilogy and focused on the period that led to the creation of the series antagonist, The Galactic Empire and all the heroes that would rise to fight against it.
The Phantom Menace had a lot of problems. The film relied heavily on CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) and had no real central protagonist to the story. Nonetheless, the film introduced some interesting decisions and characters. It created a world for the next generation of Star Wars fans to dive into and enjoy. The second installment to the prequel trilogy, Attack of the Clones was met with a similar reception but this time revealing an apparent flaw in the construction of the trilogy. The dialogue in Attack of the Clones can only be described as unnerving and painful (aside from a handful of classic Obi-Wan quotes). This caused many fans to start turning on the prequels thus far and lose hope for the third installment.
I was six years old when the final film of the prequel trilogy arrived in theaters. I had never seen a Star Wars film before but the name of the film Revenge of the Sith struck my interest. I asked my older brother to take me and we went to the theater, I had no idea what to expect. That day was the most impactful day of my early childhood. I was mesmerized. The movie had me shaking to the bones, it was the greatest piece of entertainment I had ever witnessed at the time. I thought for days on the subject and immediately begged my family to show me all of them. I sat down and witnessed the entire saga, I watched all six films over the course of a week.
The story simply had me at a loss, the rise and fall of the chosen one, the redemption of a failed hero, the impactful teachings from the wise master, and a galactic battle for supremacy. It was all a true spectacle that went beyond what words could express. I exited that week knowing exactly what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I wanted to dive into the craft of storytelling and create the same type of impact that I had just witnessed.
This was the impact that the Star Wars series had, it was a beautiful experience that enriched the lives and imaginations of millions across the world. The series took another long hiatus after the prequels and the fans were left with television shows, video games, and comics to feed their addiction to the Star Wars universe. My love for the series never faded as I got older, year after year I would pray that another film installment would be made. October, 2012 came and Disney bought Star Wars from George Lucas, another film was announced to be released in the coming years.
The film titled The Force Awakens was slated to release in 2015 and myself and countless others were more than excited to experience the next generation of Star Wars. At last our prayers would be answered, or so we thought.
Director J.J. Abrams was announced to be in charge of the first installment in the new trilogy. I always viewed Abrams as a fairly competent but safe filmmaker but there was no way any decent director could truly mess up Star Wars right? The film production had millions of dollars in assets at its disposal and access to the most skilled professionals in the film industry. There truly was no excuse for the coming films to be bad.
The Force Awakens arrived and everyone was pretty pleased, at first. The movie was exciting and fast paced, it was an enjoyable adventure that kept the audience glued to the screen. As time went by, the excitement of the film started to fade. The film was widely criticized for a number of reasons, the main issue being that the film was widely unoriginal in its structure and blatantly copied the story of the first Star Wars film. I’m not going to discuss the minor issues, we will get to the real problem soon.
The next installment arrived and this is when people finally had enough. Complete creative control of the production was handed to Rian Johnson this time. Rian wrote and directed The Last Jedi, now he is one of the most hated people in the film industry. The movie sucked. It was a flat out failure of a movie that tried some original ideas but fell flat on its face, leaving us all utterly disappointed. I don’t even want to get into the details of why this movie was awful, just search any review on YouTube and hundreds of videos will repeat the same information, no need for me to spend time explaining this one. It was just terrible overall and most fans had seemingly given up on the new trilogy because of it.
Time passed, it was now 2019 and the last installment in the main saga was about to hit theaters. Originally, the story was to be guided by the hand of Colin Trevorrow. Colin and his associates wrote a script titled Duel of the Fates (badass right?). This was supposed to be the plan but panic began to crowd Disney’s judgment. To recap we have two films in the central saga by Disney, The Force Awakens by J.J. Abrams which was a safe and predictable movie that was average in retrospect and The Last Jedi by Rian Johnson which was an interesting pile of dogshit. So what did Disney do? They panicked, tossed out Trevorrow and his script in favor of bringing back Abrams. This would go on to potentially become the worst decision Disney ever made.
Trevorrow’s script and some pieces of concept art from it were later leaked onto the internet and my god, it was awesome. The original script was structurally sound and built upon the last movies, tying the trilogy together in an interesting and satisfying way. What we got instead was insulting.
J.J. Abrams put together one of the most mediocre films ever made. This was supposed to be the thrilling conclusion to the best series ever created (In my opinion). They failed to do anything even remotely daring and pissed upon the forty year old saga while making vivid eye contact. Star Wars embodies creativity and pushing the limits, Disney took the series and released a trilogy of films that didn’t even try to come out of its comfort zone. There is nothing wrong with a mediocre movie but this wasn’t just a movie, this was Star Wars and Disney ruined it. Money was the clear objective on their agenda, the industry took our beloved series and let it fall to the depths of mediocrity. A new generation of children were robbed of the experience that the previous generations had. They can obviously watch the past films at home but there is something powerful about seeing it in the theater for the first time. This entire fumbling of the series will hopefully shine as a future example of how filmmaking should not be handled. What happened with Trevorrow was a tragedy and I pray that the next generation of fans will one day get a Star Wars film that is handled with care and respect from its writers. May the force be with you.