The only way I can properly analyze my response to The Last Jedi is by breaking it into smaller parts. Previous attempts to explain myself have resulted in tangents, and I become overwhelmed. I don’t yet know how many parts there will be, but certainly as many as it takes.
George Lucas had a vision and created the original Star Wars. Yes, there were many other contributors in the form of editors and artists, but Lucas spoke it into being. He is the author and keeper of the flame. In 2012, he sold Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise to The Walt Disney Company. The initial understanding was that Lucas would continue to have a presence moving forward, albeit minor. Disney then decided to split ways with him and rejected his story treatments in favor of a different vision. J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan took the reins and crafted the first story of the new trilogy, Episode 7: The Force Awakens. This new story, which is a direct sequel to the story that Lucas created, is a fiction. The author, the creator, the visionary who spoke it into being has been rejected and replaced by a corporate machine who tells stories with a Star Wars setting, but they do not tell the story of Star Wars. When it comes to the fate of the Skywalker family, only George Lucas knows the truth.
Star Wars is a fantasy story set in space, shaped by mythological archetypes as described by Joseph Campbell in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Furthermore, it was inspired by the Flash Gordon serials of the 1930’s and Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress. Anyone could have created something like Star Wars from these sources, but only George Lucas could have filtered them the way that he did. The original Star Wars was a passion project, a unique vision from a young filmmaker who struggled to convince the studios that it was a story worth telling.
Following its massive success as a cultural phenomenon, Lucas allowed other directors to shape his Star Wars trilogy, but his vision was always the guiding force. In the 90’s he began to controversially tinker with these films and released “Special Editions” with updated effects and, in some cases, altered scenes. He argued that the changes were made to align the films to his original vision. Soon after, he decided to tell the first three parts of the story: how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. In hindsight, Lucas should have allowed others to direct these films as his shortcomings were on display in the wooden performances and cheesy dialogue. Most people dismiss the prequels as bad films and some even try to forget they exist. Though they are full of faults, it is undeniable that the prequel trilogy serves the greater story by showcasing the rise of the Empire and the fall of Anakin Skywalker. The Skywalker family is at the center of both trilogies, and the fall and redemption of Anakin, who Lucas identified as the Chosen One within this universe, ties everything together. For 35 years, George Lucas told the story of the Skywalker family.
Imagine that in 5 years J.K. Rowling decides to sell the rights to Harry Potter. Then you learn that a new movie is being crafted. The movie is released and it is called Harry Potter and the Fall of Hogwarts. In this story you find that Harry seems different, perhaps jaded by the death of another beloved character. Also, a new evil wizard has risen to take the place of Voldemort and now that world is as if all the things accomplished in the first 7 parts were meaningless. Would you embrace the story as if it were written by the original author? Or, would you question its legitimacy and wonder if this is really what happened to those characters you love? Didn’t Rowling finish this story in book 7? Isn’t she the creator of that world? And not just that world, but the characters as well? Or, what if someone decided to write a sequel to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings? Would that be taken seriously? What if it was turned into a movie with a $200,000,000 production budget? Does money and the backing of a major studio add legitimacy to a story, or does it come from somewhere else?
George Lucas created a new universe that has expanded for 40 years. I am not suggesting that legitimate stories can’t be told within this world apart from him. Consider the acclaimed video game, Knights of the Old Republic. It takes place thousands of years before the time of the films and adds to the lore while introducing exciting worlds and well-developed characters. What I am suggesting is that the core story he developed over 6 films is indelibly his. Sure, if the new trilogy had been amazing I know most fans could have accepted them into the fold. But this acceptance would still require that we look past the truth of Lucas as the authority. It would have been easier to turn from this fact, but there would always be a nagging question pacing in the back of our minds like a tiger behind the bars of his enclosure; how would the creator tell the story?
Creating worlds and filling them with characters is a profound and personal experience. The characters from the first 6 Star Wars films came from the mind of one man, George Lucas. If you remove him from the equation, you erase Star Wars from existence like Marty Mcfly at the “Enchantment Under the Sea” dance. The Disney Star Wars franchise should be thought of as separate from what came before, because they have divorced the visionary from the vision. Just as Mark Hamill approached Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi as a new character, we should approach this sequel trilogy as a new entity apart from episodes 1 through 6. But that’s a problem, isn’t it? We’re supposed to accept these new films as direct sequels to the original. Certainly, this is a problem because what we have in episodes 7, 8 and 9 are counterfeits…lies. Disney is feeding us a false narrative. No matter how good or, as I’ll expand upon in the upcoming parts, bad these films are, they aren’t really true to the story. The Star Wars universe has endless stories to tell, and I hope creative people tell them for years to come, but the story of the Skywalkers as told in this saga belongs to the one who breathed life into them over 40 years ago. Even if they consult him in private or use pieces of his vision, as I’ve heard regarding the latest film, the real shapers and agenda setters control the end product. Authority has been usurped and Star Wars, the one you once knew, has been subverted.
Let me leave you with an excerpt from an interview Lucas did with Charlie Rose back in 2015.
Lucas: These are my kids.
Rose: All those Star Wars films.
Lucas: All the Star Wars films.
Rose: They were your kids?
Lucas: Well, they are. I loved them, I created them. I’m very intimately involved in them. And, obviously, to sell them off—
Rose: And you sold them.
Lucas: I sold them off to the white slavers who take these things and…[laughs]
Rose: But having said all that and having talked to you and known you for a while and admired you, I mean it must hurt. It’s your family. It’s your story. It’s you.
You can watch this portion here
Part 2 Coming Soon…