In a perfect franchise, there is that one person who is in total control. They have a vision, and they know exactly where all story lines are headed in the long run. Kevin Feige for Marvel Studios showed us this year with how masterfully he wrapped up his universe with the captivating “Avengers: Endgame.” The whole franchise would ideally be filmed at the same time, like they did for “Lord of the Rings,” but that’s hardly practical. The reality is that over the years, fans often have to deal with changes in tone, inconsistent character development, and even reversed or abandoned storylines. Unfortunately, the Star Wars franchise is among the most inconsistent film series; going through various ups and downs with both fans and critics alike.
When “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” was released in 1977, no one could foresee that this was the start of a billion dollar empire. The series found its culmination this December with “Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.” The way was rocky, and no film outside the original trilogy found the same wide acceptance that episodes IV to VI had; with 2017’s “The Last Jedi” being the most controversial one.
Director Rian Johnson made the most progressive film of the series. He wasn’t interested in the various fan theories, so what he came up with wasn’t well accepted by fans. Some said it was including too much humor, others didn’t like the fact it was more racially diverse with female characters in charge, all while the bad guys were white men. Overall, there was just too much progress on the contrary to what the fans were hoping for: the good old feeling, which the original trilogy invokes.
Sure enough, after mostly favorable reviews by critics, fans overwhelmingly dismissed the new ideas that Johnson integrated in the story. Now with “The Rise of Skywalker,” director JJ Abrams reversed some of those controversial decisions. As expected, the admiration of the fans was restored, but critics mostly gave the film a thumbs down.
The movie itself is a satisfying finish to the saga, with the first half of it delivering fan service of the highest order. This was also one of the biggest criticisms, that the movie wasted too much time with the main characters chasing different McGuffins, while running into old and new friends without really progressing in the story.
But the movie also gave the audience plenty of opportunities to say goodbye to beloved characters. Additionally, the many fight scenes– one-on-one light saber action as well as epic space battles– were spectacular. And finally, with this film being the ninth episode of the series, Abrams was able to tie the three different trilogies together in a satisfying way, at least for most fans.
If a series goes on for too long, it can become the most important part in some people’s lives. When you’re so invested, expectations and wishes go through the roof, and filmmakers are unable to meet the high demands of super fans. Perhaps instead of stretching out the main story as much as possible, it’s a better idea to shift the focus more often, as Star Wars did with “Rogue: One”, or comic giant DC with “Joker.” That way, the audience can focus their attention more on the actual movie, and less on the build-up of multiple movie-long story lines.
Nevertheless, “The Last Jedi” was super successful, as will be “The Rise of Skywalker”. As long as the cash registers at Disney are ringing, they will continue to balance fan-service with creative filmmaking.
Star Wars is over, long live Star Wars.