Hope in the Stars

Alex M. Parker

Alex Parker is a policy writer in Washington, D.C. with 15 years of journalism experience.

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18 Responses

  1. Richard Hershberger says:

    My multi-generational reaction: I was in the sweet zone for the original Star Wars: male, SF nerd, early teen. I bit willingly enough, though I was always more of a Trek guy. I eagerly awaited the prequels. I even took the day off work for the opening day of Episode I. That proved ill-considered. I saw all three in the theater, but frankly it was something of a slog, done more out of a sense of obligation to my youthful self than because I enjoyed them. The most recent round? I’ll take my kid if she wants to see it. Otherwise I will catch it on Netflix later. Or not. I never got more than three minutes into Solo, because I can’t work myself up to caring.

    Daughters’ generation: My older daughter (fifth grade) sort of likes them, but the idea of this being an all-consuming obsessions is just absurd. My younger daughter (third grade) isn’t interested at all. My impression is that this pattern is pretty widespread in the elementary school set: Star Wars is part of the cultural conversation, but not an especially big part. Hunger Games is much bigger, at least among the girls. Harry Potter is also part of the conversation, but not nearly as big as it was twenty years ago. The real elephant in the room is an amorphous collection of YouTubers and games, especially Pokemon and Minecraft.

    I will likely treat Ep. IX the same as the earlier ones: it is up to my daughter whether I see it in the theater, but I will probably get around to it eventually, one way or another. If those Rian Johnson films ever happen, I might actively seek them out. Ep. VIII was by far the most interesting of the new batch, Rogue One being the only other with even shouting distance.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

      I think the target demographic for the new Star Wars movies and side stories are women and people of color in their teens and twenties. Older than your daughters but not typical science fiction demographics.Report

  2. Oscar Gordon says:

    I will never forgive Disney for not just getting the rights to the Thrawn Trilogy and doing that.Report

    • Seconded. What a character to develop, and for those who constantly want a more “woke” narrative in Star Wars it wouldn’t even be contrived as Timothy Zahn built that into the core of the Thrawn character – an outsider alien (he was frikkin blue) who had to overcome much discrimination and obsticals to become the big bad in the universe. He was ruthless and wicked but had logic to it and a method. Most importantly, his view on the Jedi and force was purely a practical one, and the how he sought out his own dark lord not for the mysticism of it but because the Sith’s use of the dark side apparently improved efficiency and performance of the imperial fleet. It’s all great stuff that could have held what was good and pressed into new areas. I still think at some point someone will, beyond the little bit the animated series has down with the character. It’s just too good to lay unused.Report

    • I appreciate the sentiment, even though I haven’t read them. But I think it probably was never in the cards. Disney had so much invested in this, they really had to hit a precise note with the new sequel. And basing it on a book that’s already out there would deflate it a lot–everyone would go out and read it to know what happens, there wouldn’t be as much suspense going into the theater.

      Maybe Thrawn trilogy would still have been better, but I can understand why they’d decide they couldn’t.Report

  3. I liked the prequels and I like the new films. The Force Awakens was a bit unoriginal but I liked it for the cast and for the excitement. The Last Jedi had more depth and was hinting at the directions the films *should* be going, the way they have been going since the prequel trilogy: the idea that the Jedi were too rigid, too afraid of the dark side; that the balance must be found in a kind of “gray” Jedi able to use the dark side but not be dominated it (as Luke showed in ROTJ). I don’t know if Abrams has the guts to bring it to the correct conclusion but we’ll see. I suspect IX will be a crowd-pleaser but not finish the cycle the way it should be finished.

    Rogue One was the best of the new movies, very different from what had come before. Solo was fine for what it was. Unnecessary and would have been way better if they’d cut out of the first quarter of the movie and just started with the train heist.Report

  4. Pinky says:

    “And the mind boggles at why we’d possibly need a Boba Fett movie.”

    This is a key sentence. In one sense, we don’t need any back stories. The only one who needs any of these movies is the studio. The question is whether there is a back story tale worthy of a movie. I didn’t see Rogue One or Solo, but from what I’ve heard, there was a story worth telling in the former, but not the latter. People don’t always support movies that tell stories worth telling over movies that don’t, but it’s an important characteristic nonetheless. I get the impression that the MCU’s phase three has been largely viewed as a series of movies that look good, and which you have to see all of to get the whole story. But none of them outside of Guardians 1 has been an individual story worth telling. Oddly enough, I think DC’s universe has featured more stories worth telling, even if they didn’t do a good job telling all of them.Report

    • Pinky in reply to Pinky says:

      I should add that I’m currently watching Star Trek: Enterprise, and if there ever was a series that’s workmanlike, a show that legitimately filmed their episodes and showed them…that’s about all I can compliment the show for. And as for the last Star Trek movie, the lack of direction for the franchise was an actual plot point.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Pinky says:

      Solo’s problem was that they needed to make Han too heroic and couldn’t really portray him as the scoundrel he was supposed to be before the original trilogy. Everybody likes Han Solo and even though most Star Wars fans know he started off as a cynical thief out only for himself and Chewbaca, nobody really wants to see that sort of character in a good vs. evil Star Wars movie. What Han Solo was supposed to be really conflicts with the light social justice liberalism of the new films. The movie was suppose to be about how Han Solo got cynical but they really couldn’t go that dark because of the limitations placed on it for being something parents can bring their kiddies to.Report

      • George Turner in reply to LeeEsq says:

        It was telling that they had to blame his actions on his impoverished upbringing. So not only wasn’t he really a bad boy, society was to blame for whatever flaws he may have initially possessed.

        Woody Harrelson’s character was more Han Solo than Han Solo, who was more of a gee-whiz early version of Luke Skywalker.


    • Alex Parker in reply to Pinky says:

      I still haven’t gotten over how much Attack of the Clones revealed about Fett.

      IMHO Fett’s one of the most overrated characters in pop sci-fi anyways, but to the extent he’s cool it’s because of his mystery and his pure self-interested motives.

      So George Lucas goes ahead and reveals what he looks like, AND give him a motive to hate the Republic. The prequels sucked for a lot of reasons but this is probably the biggest sin.

      Thank God the Fett backstory movie got nipped in the bud.Report

    • Jesse in reply to Pinky says:

      Solo’s bigger problem was that Disney thought Star Wars was Marvel (ie. an IP that could have multiple films a year) when it wasn’t.

      If Solo is released in December of last year instead of May, it probably doesn’t do Rogue One numbers because it wasn’t a great movie, but it also probably does better than it did this past summer.Report

  5. atomickristin says:

    Great piece Alex! I really enjoyed it and you encapsulated a lot of my feelz about the recent movies perfectly. 🙂Report

  6. George Turner says:

    I was familiar with a screenwriter who wrote a book on how to write blockbusters called “Save the Cat!”

    Screenrant article on it

    Slate article on it.

    He defines 15 key beats, and even lays out how much time should ideally be spent on each beat. I watched Star Wars episode VII with this in mind, and Disney hit all the break points within about 30 seconds of the cut-and-paste recommendations.

    So, they followed a Hollywood guide on “how to write a blockbuster!” to the letter. Talk about a lack of creativity… It’s certainly a safe call in the board room, or to investors, but so is noting that “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.”


  7. Burt Likko says:

    1. I’m bigger ups on Star Wars and Star Trek than the OP; much more down on DC and starting to become weary of MCU. With that said, of course as long as the loud, bright, and sexy spectacles continue to play in theaters, they’ll continue to be made.

    2. Star Wars itself begins its existence as a film student’s engagement with learning the archetypes in the Hero’s Journey, and embodies them so well that they become the way this concept is taught. Note that the Hero’s Journey is also easy to dovetail with a resolution of the Oedipal Complex. (The actual thing — reconciling oneself to privation and delayed gratification — not what the supertext of it describes.) So of course Star Wars is about archetypes. We oughtn’t be surprised that the new movies intentionally use them the way the old ones did — and the prequels fell flat to the extent that they failed to deploy archetypes effectively.

    3. I liked how Rian Johnson dealt with all of this in Episode VIII. And I hope that vision of a democratized Force, where anyone might happen to have ability and subtle unseen forces guide them towards their destiny, persists into the next permutation of this universe after Episode IX. I don’t want the Old Republic, I want the forces of individualism and freedom and heroism clashing with monolithic worship of strength for its own sake. In graphically compelling costumes and using visually-arresting lightsabers. With better dialogue than Lucas writes on his own.Report

    • George Turner in reply to Burt Likko says:

      The trouble with the hero’s journey is that it is quite anti-technology and anti-democratic. Only the hero matters, usually because of his blood line. Almost everyone else is a nameless spear carrier whose individual actions are largely meaningless.

      Lucas baked that in at the start by following the basic recipe that’s been used to justify countless tyrannical regimes and despotic dictatorships. The great leader is the great leader because it was his destiny. He rules by divine right because of his breeding or because of his crushing victory over the forces of evil.

      Of course sometimes a ruler turns evil, but the only ones who can overthrow him are …wait for it… his children.

      Science fiction was a new type of story where an ordinary person, through dint of ingenuity, could toss all that aside by inventing totally new ways to solve problems, or just use a nifty tool they ordered from Amazon.

      Trying to shoehorn an ancient story type into a technological future is a difficult fit.Report