My history with Star Wars is fairly straightforward and well-documented, but I’ll give a quick recap for those who have missed it. I saw Star Wars for the first time just before my 8th birthday. My uncle was a big fan and he let me borrow his 1995 VHS release (dubbed in the nerdiest circles as the “Faces” box set) thinking that I’d like it just as much as he did.
Turns out, my love of the films far surpassed his. To this day, if he has a weird Star Wars question, he’ll come to me about it. That should be enough back-story for now.
So, it’s easy to say I’m a huge fan. I didn’t have the up and down fanship I’ve had with Batman over the years (which is a story I have yet to tell. Someday soon, perhaps.), so I was there for everything that Lucas threw at the fans.
I remember being excited for the 1997 theatrical re-release of the trilogy, but when I saw the films, they weren’t the movies I loved. Things were changed. My biggest concern at the time (remember, I was 9) was that Jabba the Hutt was in A New Hope and he looked absolutely terrible. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew even at that age that he didn’t look right.
Don’t even get me started on the Han Solo and Greedo ordeal in Chalmun’s Cantina. We’ll be here for days talking about that one.
After that round of releases came the news that Episodes I, II, and III were finally going to happen, and as the naive child that I was, I assumed the best. Then, Jar Jar Binks happened.
Yes, I’m still complaining about him. Deal with it.
Jar Jar was more than just an annoying/slightly racist character. He cemented the fact that people a generation before learned in the early 1980’s, somewhere between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi: George Lucas stopped being a visionary filmmaker and started caring about taking money from children. How else can we explain the Ewoks, hmm?
Yes, they are cute and fuzzy. Yes, they sell toys. Yes, George rewrote the end of Return of the Jedi from a sobering, almost depressing look at a galaxy in shambles at the end of a galactic civil war to the derisively referred to “Teddy Bear Luau” that we all know now.
And Jar Jar was, and always will be, an extension of that. George needed a character to make poop jokes for the kids, something completely absent in the original trilogy that garnered the love and adoration of generations. You’d think that kids could relate to Anakin Skywalker since he is a child, but he has no funny sayings and no apparent abilities (in Episode I when he’s still a child) other than piloting pod racers, rightfully talking down to Jar Jar, and completely negating any thoughtful or serious dialogue he could have had by shrugging and saying “I guess” at the end of every sentence.
Now, I will say that as the movies progressed, they got better. Anakin didn’t, but what can you expect from such a wooden actor.
But soon after, The Clone Wars came along. I watched the first season, and with some of the cheesy voice acting aside, I thought it was pretty good. No big complaints there, other than Ahsoka Tano, who is another one of those characters that George likes to throw in to simultaneously trick kids into buying toys and annoy the hell out of any adult fan trying to enjoy the show. She’s just another in a long list, I’m afraid.
Add to that the Blu-Ray releases of the entire saga (EWOKS WITH EYELIDS!) and the 3-D releases. Now, we’re up to date. I know that took a while, but bear with me.
In short, George Lucas made 2.8 good films, and with a few bad judgment calls early on (I’m looking at you, Star Wars Holiday Special), he did ok by everyone. The whole thing was an international smash that has become so ingrained in our national identity that I knew Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father before I really knew who Luke and Vader were. And at that point, George should have written a book about the 7+ years of filming and sat back on fat stacks of cash for the rest of his days.
But, he didn’t. Instead, he worked to undo everything that made Star Wars amazing. He turned Han Solo soft, painted over puppets with wire frames, turned the ultimate evil of the galaxy into the biggest sob story of all time and well… Jar Jar.
In a way, it’s almost for the best that George Lucas isn’t making Star Wars any more. I didn’t see it that way at first. Hell, I didn’t see it that way when I started writing this post, but if processing years of disappointment upon disappointment in the past hour has taught me anything, it’s that I want the disappointment to end. Star Wars deserves to be in the hands of people who care dearly for it, people who want the greatness of the original trilogy to shine as it once did a long time ago, not an egomaniacal madman who wants to take a razor to the reels that enchanted and enthralled us as child and adults alike.
It simply wouldn’t be right for George to have a hand in Star Wars anymore. Whether or not Disney is the best choice is something that we will find in time. To their credit, they have done a lot with Pixar and Marvel, so maybe they will take the time and the resources necessary to get the right people in there, the ones that understand that CGI is really nice but only when kept in check, the ones that realize that Star Wars is not what it once was but that it can be returned to former greatness, the ones that remember life before Jar Jar and little Ani, when Han Solo was free to shoot whomever and whenever he pleased!
At this point, the thought is almost liberating! The franchise finally has fresh blood that flows and crackles with the Force, not veins filled with stuffy science talk of Midichlorians. Perhaps we’ll finally see a proper re-release of the original (READ AS: unbastardized) trilogy on DVD and Blu-Ray? I’ve been saying that that’ll be the quickest way for Disney to gain trust of fans and shut fat, angry fanboys like me up for good.
It’s like finally divorcing after 35 years! I mean, the first 20 years were really great, George. Don’t get me wrong. I do sincerely want to thank you for what you gave us so many years ago. But, you’ve changed, and you put us through the meat grinder when we didn’t deserve it.
We love you for what you did, but hate you for what you’ve done…
So goodbye, Georgie boy. It’s been a hell of a ride, but the best thing for you to do now is flip the bartender Wuher an Imperial credit and casually apologize for the mess before exiting. That’s what Han Solo would do.
And George, you know how awesome Han Solo is. You wrote him that way, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…