Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is about to hit theaters for everyone to see. It’s being billed as the end of the Skywalker saga. A journey that began over 40 years ago! Yet, the hype around it isn’t necessarily excitement as it is worry and bitter criticism. Let’s dive into some of that criticism and figure out why people feel such scorn towards this franchise in 2019. But to do that, we have to go back to the prequels.
The Prequels Were a Disappointment to Many
Fans desperately hoped to see a satisfying origin story for Darth Vader and a look at the Jedi Order but were alternatively greeted with sleep-inducing intergalactic politics and way too much off-putting CGI. Anakin Skywalker, the boy who would grow up to become one of the most intimidating villains in cinematic history, was nothing like his original trilogy counterpart. The prequel character was coarse, rough, irritating, and just everywhere.
It was also hard to invest in the relationship between Obi-Wan and Anakin. These two were depicted as brothers and close-friends in the original trilogy. In the prequels, their relationship was more like that “work-friend” who you’ll never hang out with outside of your job.
While most look back on the prequels lamenting on the failed opportunity to see something more complex, some people in my generation who grew up watching this trilogy found a lot to appreciate from the lightsaber duels to Obi-Wan Kenobi’s character. When that big turn happened for Anakin, and we finally saw him become this evil villain, those same fans (including myself) loved it.
Now, let’s go back to where we are at today.
The Sequel Trilogy Has Not Been Able to Escape the Past
For the most part, the Disney-led Star Wars films have played it safe. The Last Jedi took a few risks when it came to Snoke’s shocking demise and Rey’s parents. But when the time came, the film hesitated to do something radically different.
Rey and Kylo Ren sat in Snoke’s throne room, and there was a brief moment where you thought the two characters’ allegiances could swap places. This was something we have never seen before. It was a refreshing and compelling idea to explore for the Star Wars franchise. However, we instead got a typical good vs. evil matchup with both characters sticking with their original roles.
Not everyone feels this way. A lot of people, especially kids who are growing up with them, actually enjoy the sequels. They love Rey, Kylo Ren, Finn, BB-8, and the awe-inspiring visuals that have engrossed the big screen. Sound familiar?
The reason I pointed all this out to you isn’t to argue that these trilogies are awful or if they are misunderstood masterpieces. I wanted to show where some of the vitriol surrounding the Star Wars franchise comes from.
The “Truth” About Star Wars
Love what you want to love and hate what you want to hate. That’s always been my motto with entertainment, gaming, comics, etc. I’m not going to get on my soapbox and preach either way. Therefore, if you loved every Star Wars movie that ever released, awesome! And vice versa if you were someone who has despised the Disney-led films.
No matter where you land on that argument, the truth remains. There is a massive disconnect between Star Wars fans, the filmmakers, and the powers-that-be behind producing the movies. With something as old and famous as Star Wars, there’s no way you can please everyone. But that disconnect is a reason behind at least some of the resentment you see online.
As we grow older, we want to see more complex and unique stories. We look for things like good visuals, character motivations, box office numbers, and the actors’ performances. Kids don’t care about any of that. All they want is to be entertained. I’m sure they’ll be some kid talking about how The Last Jedi was underrated in a few years just like we sometimes see today with the prequels.
The older fans do care about this, to some extent. They wanted the OG characters like Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Leia to have more substantial roles and to see something different. Whether you love them or hate them, the sequels have done the opposite of that. Take The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi as examples of this. Mostly, The Force Awakens was just a reimagining of A New Hope. There are also similarities in The Last Jedi and The Empire Strikes Back.
In the first two sequel movies, the OG crew has been relegated to a supporting role, and the central premise of Star Wars remains the same. Good vs. Evil. Light vs. Dark. Most of the heroes and villains are clearly defined too. All of this is easy to sell to kids and parents. But, it’s become tedious for those who were wanting more in the ninth film of a franchise.
There’s also no sense of direction, established tone, or purpose to anything we see. Let’s look at Solo: A Star Wars Story. Who is this movie for? Is it for older-ish people like me who grew up watching the prequel and original trilogies? Or is it for kids? In addition, what purpose does an origin for Han Solo serve to the Star Wars story? As a result of everything mentioned above, they’ve alienated half the fanbase.
That’s the main problem and the harsh truth as to why these sequels haven’t connected with many people. Disney is trying to appease everyone by putting together a simple story with no sensible direction, the filmmakers are trying to leave their mark on the legendary franchise by “subverting expectations” like killing off beloved characters, and half of the fans want to see something different with the other half enjoying the ride they are currently on. If that sounds entirely confusing, don’t worry. It seems crazy to me too.
Can This Problem be Fixed?
As a movie franchise, Star Wars is just… there. It’s like we’re going through the motions of what should be a thriving cinematic universe but there’s no soul behind it. Sadly, that’s the best way to explain it. I’m not sure how or if Disney can fix this, to be honest with you. Maybe somebody like Kevin Feige, who has made a career out of expertly planning things out with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, can rectify it with his Star Wars movie. The MCU films have been able to please a wide array of audiences over the past decade. Why can’t Star Wars manage to do the same consistently?
I know with putting this article out so close to The Rise of Skywalker’s release, it would seem that I hate the sequels. You couldn’t be more wrong. I’m still excited to see how it’ll all end. Despite its numerous missteps along the way, I’m one of those absurd people who found a lot of enjoyment in the sequel trilogy. The visuals have been outstanding, most of the characters have been fun, and Kylo Ren has possibly been the most captivating Star Wars character to appear on-screen since Vader. Well, except for the awesome gift of 2019 that is Baby Yoda, who you have to mention in every Star Wars article until the end of time or Disney will find some way to get to you.
With The Rise of Skywalker’s first reviews going out now, it looks like we’re in for another heated debate over whether or not a Star Wars movie is “good.” That’s why I thought it was important to talk about where some of this hostility is coming from. Unfortunately, that all may continue until Disney can find a way to balance fan expectations from these different generations. Who knows, maybe The Rise of Skywalker is that balance? We’ll have to wait and find out.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters on December 20th.
Are you a fan of the new Star Wars movies? Do you think there is a disconnect between Disney and some of its fans? Let us know in the comments below!