When Lucasfilm was bought by Disney, and a new Star Wars trilogy was announced, a lot of people met the news with skepticism, accusing Disney of cashing in on a pop culture phenomena at the expense of the classic trilogy, a stance which gained ground in the wake of the three spin-offs being announced sometime later. However, the decision to hire J.J. Abrams, who had resurrected the Star Trek franchise and is a huge fanboy of everything geeky, gave a lot of people like me hope, especially when they announced the cast, which outside the big three, included few people I had ever heard of.
One element about the failed Star Wars prequels was that it felt like George Lucas went against the grain of casting relatively unknown talent, and trying to make them stars, opting instead to cast Natalie Portman and Ewan McGreggor, who although not huge stars, still carried some weight. Liam Neeson was a solid casting, as was Samuel L. Jackson; there is a solid argument to make, however, that in terms of established stars, those two really should have been it, with Padme, Obi-Wan, and Anakin all cast with relative unknowns; the irony being that although Portman and McGreggor were successful, albeit in the limited window Lucas could write into, Lucas’s attempts to cast relative unknowns as Anakin Skywalker, aka the most central character in Lucas’s vision, he failed completely, casting two actors whose performances were less than stellar, although Jake Lloyd gets a pass because of his age and the fact that Lucas probably couldn’t communicate with him that well. These decisions, combined with bad writing and directing, culminated in a massive creative failure.
With The Force Awakens, however, Abrams opted to bring in fresh blood, along with the experienced cast. Bringing in people who truly love their work, and have something to prove is always a good starting point, and given Abrams casting of his television series over the years, I trusted his eye. What we got was something incredible, which revitalized the franchise, and may have given a new generation their first Star Wars experience. Rogue One, the following year, took Star Wars and put a darker spin on it, whilst using a more experienced cast to provide the depth the story would need from the get-go, allowing us to see aspects of the Star Wars universe we had never seen before. It was a wonderful accomplishment that complemented The Force Awakens in terms of re-energizing the franchise for a new era.
So, where are we now? Well, it is an amazing and awesome time for the Star Wars universe, with Star Wars land being built at Disneyworld, Episode XIII coming out later this year, and constant news updates about the Han Solo film giving fans new things to chew on. I also like that there are new people tackling each film, giving a fresh perspective to each film as we move along through this new era in the franchise.
Perhaps the most surprising thing to me is that the quality of work has been great, even though Disney took possession of the franchise. Given the massive amount of money they paid to get the rights, there were legitimate and quite serious concerns that the studio would meddle with the film and ruin it (SEE: Suicide Squad if you want a good example of that). However, Disney is letting the filmmakers make their movies, something that works out well when you hire the right people. Indeed, Disney is on the road to recouping their massive investment by the time The Last Jedi completes its theatrical run, if not before.
Obviously, the passing of Carrie Fisher is a really sad element to this story, and the fact that she won’t be able to make Episode IX, which was reportedly to feature her prominently, in the same way Episode VII featured Han, and Episode VIII features Luke, but her estate has been very gracious with both Lucasfilm and the general public, and although we don’t know what changes will be made, it can be surmised that Leia will receive a proper tribute in some form or another. However, Carrie Fisher completed her role in Episode VIII, which means that we all get to see her in action one last time.
I am very intrigued about the franchise and where it is headed, since the trailer seems to hint at flashbacks, something the franchise has never done before. It also seems to hint at a broader plot point involving Luke coming to terms with the fate of the Jedi, not only his students, but the Jedi Order exterminated before he was born; has he had a realization that a dedicated order simply does not work? That, like the Order Palpatine destroyed, a set in stone Jedi Order, with a full code and bureaucracy, is doomed to become stagnant, complacent, and possibly even corrupt? That last line in the trailer is a missile that seems to have a precision target, and I look forward to learning what it all means. Perhaps Kylo Ren’s fall to the dark side awakened in Luke a realization that the Jedi had failed centuries before they fell, it just took that long for it to manifest.
Of course, there will be action and battles, but this philosophy of the Force, as shown by Luke’s books, and the dialogue allude to serious stuff I want to know answers to, but like everyone else, I’m stuck waiting until December to find out.
Thanks for reading. May the Force be with you.