With “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” opening in theaters across the country on Dec. 18, many people, including this writer, have been stuck in a “Star Wars” phase as we anxiously await the arrival of the franchise’s new movie. One of the biggest questions “Star Wars” fans have for the upcoming film is whether or not the franchise will follow the direction George Lucas set it in, or whether Disney will return the franchise to the original trilogy’s glorious direction.
Most – if not all – “Star Wars” fans are hoping that Disney and J.J. Abrams can redirect the franchise to the course it was following for most of the original trilogy: a gritty space opera unlike no other, with a litany of practical effects in order to bring the universe to life. “Star Wars: A New Hope” and “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” were cultural phenomenons back when they were released in 1977 and 1980, respectively, and garnered millions of fans all around the world.
The original trilogy was a cinematographic masterpiece despite the final movie of the trilogy, “Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi” facing much criticism for its ludicrous ending battle and resulting celebration. The movie was the first sign that George Lucas had taken his creative liberties too far. And after a much lauded prequel trilogy – and remastered versions of the original trilogy with numerous cases of editing and injecting computer-generated special effects – “Star Wars” fans have been done with George Lucas long before he declared that he was done with the franchise in an interview with Vanity Fair on Nov. 18.
From editing the “Star Wars: A New Hope” Tatooine cantina scene so Greedo shoots before Han to paint Han in a more positive light, to injecting arbitrary CGI into numerous scenes in the original trilogy, George Lucas has not only created a prequel trilogy that shook the faith of the fanbase itself, but he has muddled up his old masterpieces to the point where they are questioned themselves. Let’s not forget Lucas’ creation of “Jar Jar Binks,” one of the most hated characters in movie history – whom George Lucas still stands by.
George Lucas might be an experimental director, but his experimenting has permanently damaged the faith the fanbase has in the franchise. With the modern film industry implementing CGI – albeit much better CGI than the prequel trilogy was largely made up of – at a level higher than ever before, even hardcore fans worry that special effects will bring down the new movies like they did the rest of the franchise.
Even if the new movies can get the visual effects right, which so far looks promising as they have made a big deal about using more practical effects, there are plenty of things for Disney to learn from George Lucas’ last involvements with the franchise.
For starters, the convoluted choreographed lightsaber battles need to stop. They might look pretty and cool with the different colored lightsabers clashing and twirling, but some of the best examples of lightsaber battles in the franchise are much less spectacular and much more emotionally impactful.
Instead of all of the ridiculous spinning and clear choreography, the new movies should follow the example of the lightsaber duel between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in the final movie of the first trilogy, “Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi.” The battle encapsulated everything right about the franchise’s lightsaber battles: a great balance between tense and meaningful dialogue, and powerfully natural swordplay. Disney and J.J. Abrams have to avoid letting some of the best parts of the franchise get suffocated in meaningless spectacle, as George Lucas allowed throughout the prequel trilogies.
Secondly, the new movies absolutely must step up the dialogue. While the prequel trilogy was abolsutely littered with laughably terrible lines, the original trilogy was not particularly special dialogue-wise either. Besides just that, the acting behind the lines was lacking in almost every movie.
I love Mark Hamill, but he was never a great actor, even as he matured. Hayden Christensen was even worse, and despite the franchise’s starpower with Natalie Portman, Samuel L. Jackson and more, the overall acting in the movies was subpar. Ewan McGregor and Harrison Ford were really the only consistently good actors in their respective trilogies. With a bevy of young and little-known actors to join the franchise’s original trilogy characters, there is both hope for progression and nostaligia – hopefully the dialogue can improve as well.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, “Star Wars” absolutely needs to eliminate the wacky misadventures that distract from the central plot. Jar Jar Binks was beyond awful, not only as a character but also his involvement in the story: stumbling around and making mistakes that somehow led to victory for the good guys. George Lucas put so many wacky misadventures into the prequel trilogy that it dragged the first two movies of the trilogy down tremendously.
I would love to see a “Star Wars” movie that is focused on the incredible story of the franchise and not be distracted from that story with stupid misadventures. I want to see the grit of the original trilogy in the new movies, not George Lucas’s phenomenalized side plots.
With the new movie less than a month away, “Star Wars” fans are both excited and incredibly nervous to see the next generation of one of their favorite cinematic universes. Hopefully, Disney has learned a lesson from the fans’ responses to George Lucas’ creative decisions, and the movie succeeds.
After having to stomach a mostly awful prequel trilogy, not many fans of the franchise are exactly confident for the new movies to be done right, but we just will not know until we see it for ourselves.