Deconstructing Star Wars
This blog post was originally published on the old Word Foreword on December 17th, 2017. Burn the past.
The Last Jedi has been a controversial and dividing movie in a beautiful and meaningful series. It got quite a bit of love right out the gate with several media outlets calling it the best Star Wars movie of all time. Many lifelong fans are claiming to be done with the franchise with this, while others are saying it’s the definitive “best” movie. I don’t like dealing with absolutes, but I quite enjoyed the majority of Episode VIII.
Instead of reviewing Rian Johnson’s entry into the fantasy space mega opera, I’m going to use this division as a platform to talk about some other things. There are quite a few spoilers for the movie (which released just this past Friday) in here, so here’s your final warning to get out and come back later.
The new Star Wars movies are different. That's not a good or bad thing; it's just a fact that they use lots of new characters, focus on some new elements, and show a new part of the struggle of the Skywalker family. When Episode VII came out in 2015, lots of people shouted down the new trilogy because it paid to much homage to its trilogy predecessor, A New Hope. The reality is that while there are a lot of similarities, this is inherent to the blood of Star Wars, and to storytelling. James Campbell's Hero of a Thousand Faces (which George Lucas is known to use religiously) pretty rigidly defines the path of a hero, and in-depth discusses how most stories are re-hashes because they all follow a similar pattern.
The original trilogy of Star Wars films takes a very abrasive look at good vs. evil. It’s one of the things that sets it apart from other science fiction of the time. This is an element brought from fantasy, which regularly takes looks at themes of good and evil. Star Wars makes a very fine line, though, with the concept of The Force. Because of this line, Star Wars films typically don’t dive into the grey area between, or the actual concepts of War (which, ironically, is part of the series name).
Until The Last Jedi which explores some of these grey areas by showing off arms dealers that sell to both sides and an aged Luke Skywalker that struggles with mirroring some of his dark side counterparts. It's a stance that the new film takes unapologetically that makes it stand apart from the other films. Again, this doesn't make it a bad movie – it just makes it different.
Lots of fans have a sense of control or ownership of their fandoms, which is excellent. A vibrant setting, an exciting plot, realistic characters; it's a perfect storm of having this grandiose sense of getting viewers involved – especially with something as significant as Star Wars. People feel involved, especially with midnight events, games, books, etc. people are continually consuming Star Wars media which makes them feel like they're part of this vast galaxy. But at the end of the day, there needs to be a line of acknowledgment that not every piece of Star Wars is for everyone.
You don’t own Star Wars. You don’t own Marvel, DC, Lord of the Rings, etc. These stories are so much more than the singular you. They're a part of a collective, and it's okay to not like a part of that. That thing will grow with the collective – it will adapt and become something else. But you're not entitled to every bit of it.
It's something we could all remember every so often. Patrick Rothfuss doesn't owe you The Doors of Stone, the non-Frank Herbert Dune books didn't ruin your childhood, J. J. Abrams didn't shit on Gene Roddenberry, Michael Bay isn't out to get you, and The Last Jedi isn't a Star Wars bastard.