Why ‘Star Wars’ Lost Me After the First Trilogy
I was a big ‘Star Wars’ fan when I was a kid. But after the first trilogy ended, my love of the franchise quickly waned and has never really returned.
The original Star Wars film premiered on May 25, 1977. I was 7 years old.
My parents had been fans of the original Star Trek and I never got that interested in it. Even at that young an age, I recognized that the “futuristic” feel of that series, from just a decade earlier, felt extraordinarily dated. (I couldn’t have explained it quite that way at that young an age, but I knew it felt old to me.)
But when Star Wars premiered, it was different enough that I got into it.
By the time its sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, made its debut on May 21, 1980, I was 10. I started collecting Kenner action figures. I owned an X-Wing fighter. I had Darth Vader’s Tie Fighter. I even had a Landspeeder the action figures could fit into.
A cousin of mine owned the Millenium Falcon and the Death Star playset complete with an elevator. I never managed to get either of those, but I spent many an hour playing with the action figures.
I remember that Empire Strikes Back’s ending seemed incomplete. Somehow, it was as if it just stopped right before something big was supposed to happen.
That “something big” turned out to be The Return of the Jedi, which arrived in movie theaters on May 25, 1983.
By the time I was 13, I had seen all three movies. I hoped there’d be more.
The first movie wasn’t the first movie.
Some people noticed right away in the strange tilted narration text that preceded the first film that it was subtitled “Chapter IV: A New Hope.”
I guess I, along with many, didn’t pay much attention to that.
But yes, we began the story in the fourth chapter of what had (apparently) always been envisioned to be nine chapters.
But I have to tell you this: I hate prequels. Once I have committed to a group of characters, I care about them, not their predecessors. I want to know what happens next, not what happened before.
I realize that such an opinion is not shared by everyone and that some fans will take whatever they can get as long as the franchise stays alive.
But I look at it like this: while the backstory of a character like Obi Wan Kenobi might be interesting, I know he’s not going to die in “Episode II” because I’ve seen him as an old man in “Episode IV.” So there’s a level of suspense that’s totally lost when you go backward.
In science fiction, I assume the latest film is somewhat the “current” timeline. I go in understanding, therefore, I’m seeing the “current” technology available to the characters. A prequel goes back in time and technology, too. It’s like trading your iPhone for a 1994 flip phone.
Seriously, who wants to do that?
They waited far too long after the first three films.
The first three Star Wars movies were released between 1977 and 1983. That’s a span of just six years. That’s a respectable amount of time for movies requiring those elaborate special effects.
But when 1986 rolled around, there was no new film hitting theaters. Nothing in 1987. Or 1988.
In 1989, I’m in college and Star Wars was that legendary series of three wildly-popular films we grew up with and still watched on VHS.
I graduated from college and there was still no new film to enjoy. Those action figures were long-since boxed up and packed away somewhere.
By then, of course, the trilogy had been promoted from VHS to DVD and then a curious thing started happening: the original versions were slowly replaced with “updated” versions that cleaned up the charming little technical imperfections and added new characters and details that weren’t even in the original film.
Suddenly, the original trilogy was like the Winchester Mystery House, the famous mansion in San Jose, California, that, according to urban legend, was always being tinkered with during its owner’s lifetime.
At one point, I’m pretty sure it was impossible — and may still be — to purchase a Blu-Ray copy of the original films as they were released.
Maybe some of us didn’t want a sterilized, perfected trilogy. Maybe some of us were perfectly content to enjoy the films we grew up with the way they were. But the tinkering made them feel like they were becoming less than that somehow.
They finally released a new Star Wars film in 1999. I was happy when I heard a new one was being made. I thought we’d finally get to find out what happened to Luke Skywalker, Princess Lea and Han Solo. Then, of course, I learned about the whole prequel thing.
After almost 16 years, producers intended to set the next film so far back in the past that those three characters won’t even have existed yet.
Still, I went like a dutiful fan to see The Phantom Menace, Chapter I of nine. The main thing I remember about that movie, aside from Jar Jar Binks, one of the most annoying characters to ever hit the science fiction universe, was being so bored that I actually dozed off in the theater.
I haven’t seen another Star Wars film since. Not even one of the more recent ones.
They waited too long for the second time.
Look at it this way: Mark Hamill, the actor who played Luke Skywalker, the main hero of the original trilogy, was 26 years old in 1977. If the 1999 film had been the next chapter in his character’s story, he’d have been almost 50 by the time we visited him again.
But by the time The Force Awakens hit theaters on December 18, 2015, Skywalker was almost at retirement age. That meant one of two options: either following the now elderly cast or introducing new characters we’d never heard of and for whom we had zero loyalty and having them live in a world in which the original characters were merely the stuff of legend.
At the risk of spoiling things, I’ll tell you a little of what I know about the final trilogy without having actually seen the movies in their entirety.
Han Solo is killed in Chapter VII. Luke Skywalker dies at the end of Chapter VIII. And, unfortunately, Carrie Fisher, the actress who played Lea, died before filming began for Chapter IX.
Skywalker will appear in some form in the last film, of course. When one dies and become part of “the Force,” they don’t exactly die. But Lea, the only one technically alive, will appear only through unreleased footage from earlier films.
So we’ll be forced to follow the new characters on their adventures.
And to be honest, I’m just not that into them.
If you’re still a diehard Star Wars fan from the very beginning, or if you started your love of the franchise since then, more power to you.
I wish I could still muster the same enthusiasm.