Thanks For The Memories
This was originally going to be a small snippet of news about Star Wars Episode IX: Rise Of Skywalker. But then I sat down and started to write and my brief intro just grew and grew and grew. Like a bullied child who comes home from school, breaks down and finally tells his parents what is happening, it all just started to flow. Like a long time sinner in confession, it just all came out. So I apologize as this has turned into something very different.
You see, I am currently trapped in a cycle of abuse with Star Wars. I love Star Wars dearly. It was my all-consuming childhood passion right up until the point I started to notice girls and suddenly thought I was too cool to own a Kenner Y-Wing. I was wrong.
I had almost every toy. Every letter to Santa, and then begging to my parents, revolved around the acquisition of more. Every bit of allowance was spent on it. Chores were done to get more. My parent’s lawn was so manicured and the car was so clean in an effort to earn more. All so I could consume and make the Kenner or Palitoy shareholders richer.
Star Wars toys dominated the toy store. They were Star Wars City. Three, sometimes four entire aisles of excellence from a galaxy far, far away. Floor to ceiling wonderlands of figures and vehicles and playsets. I spent as long browsing there as a woman spends in a shoe shop.
A white sheet on the floor became Hoth, every sandpit Tatooine, the back yard was the forests of Endor. At night we would turn off our Star Wars lamp, nestled beneath our Star Wars bedspread and have strange dreams about Princess Leia in a gold bikini.
Then it all started to change. In those pre-internet days, we waited breathlessly for the announcement of a sequel to Return Of The Jedi. Then it was 1984. Then 1986. The news never came. Keith said his Uncle, who lived overseas and we had never met, was working on the new movie and he knew all about it. Keith also said that the movie Convoy was about his uncle and that he had a full-sized X-Wing model in the garage but it was too valuable to let us go and see it. Keith was full of shit.
The aisles began to contract. Suddenly it was only one aisle in the toy store. Then half an aisle. Then just the end of an aisle. Finally, with a whimper, it was the discount bin for all the leftover Nien Numb figures. And just like that, my childhood was over.
Light In The Darkness
The toys were sold to raise money for either a Commodore Amiga or a CD player, for a pittance.
For a while we languished in the dark, but then there was news. After Jurassic Park blew us away by showing us the sheer possibilities of new technology it was announced Lucas was to harness this tech and finally make more Star Wars.
So we fired up our 56k dial-up modems, stopped looking for Erika Eleniak’s Playboy spread online and searched out the news. We found each other.
It was the Prequels that drove huge swathes of us into the fledgling online movie community. In those heady days, we ravenously devoured every tidbit. How the movies would be called Balance Of The Force. SuperShadow reported live from the Ranch about Grando Calrissian and his black lightsaber. I think SuperShadow may have been Keith.
We convinced ourselves that the man behind Howard The Duck and Ewoks: Caravan Of Courage wouldn’t let us down. How wrong we were. But like the abused spouse we kept returning. Star Wars promised us it would never happen again. It was sorry, it just gets angry sometimes, but it still loved us and didn’t want us to take its kids away from it. But then it did happen again. Again and again, it let us down.
Then, once more, it was over. Maybe a decade from discovery to the conclusion, the Prequel experience was done.
A New Hope?
We didn’t learn. Completely out of nowhere came the news that Lucas was selling up. Disney had all the money, and they were going to bring us more. The whole machine started again. The speculation, the hopes, and dreams, the caution. They wouldn’t let us down again, would they? They couldn’t? This wasn’t tired old Lucas with his cadre of “Yes” men. This was a modern studio!
So we bought our tickets and we waited.
Cards on the table. I like The Force Awakens. I know it’s a thinly veiled soft-remake, but it had to be. It was like a warm hug, a soothing voice in your ear saying “Here you go, it’s all familiar and comforting, isn’t it! Everything is going to be OK.”
To me, it did exactly what it needed to do. It reintroduced the Star Wars universe, it left us wanting to know more with intriguing plot threads dangling and set-up. Questions were asked that needed answers.
And then, two years later, we sat in the theatre and watched the horror unfold. The comedy electrical stylings of BB-8. Yo Momma jokes in space. Inexplicably slow bombers with gravity bombs. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse we had a cranky lightsaber throw and Porg based comic relief while every single thing we had been waiting for turned to shit before our eyes in the name of “subverting expectations”.
Well, I expected a competent Star Wars movie, so you really fucking subverted my expectations! Thanks a lot, Rian.
We reeled from Admiral Gender Studies womansplaining everything but her super secret plan. Wondered why we had never heard of hyper fuel before? Tried to figure out exactly what the point of Rose Tico was? Asked each other why a droid couldn’t have piloted the Rebel cruiser, or if it was that simple to destroy that many ships why we didn’t see hyperspace drone weapons before? What is this floaty space Mary Poppins bullshit?
Carrie Fisher died for THIS?
Throughout this was threaded the complete failure to develop one of the childhood heroes, Luke Skywalker, into a fully functioning character. The exposition was driven by lazily executed and brand new Force FaceTime capabilities and people just hopped around the galaxy effortlessly because the script just required them to be in a certain location but couldn’t work out how to get them there.
And when we asked questions we were attacked. We were blamed for the failures. We were bitter fanboys. Misogynist for pointing out Rey really hadn’t earned her journey. Racist for wondering why Finn had completely failed to grow as a character. How dare we ask what exactly Rose added to the movie in any way?
Or we were Russian Bots! Quite why the FSB would have a department dedicated to the destruction of Star Wars was never fully explained. It was racist, sexist, bitter Russian fanboy bots and if you didn’t like The Last Jedi you were too white and had one too many penises, Comrade.
They were effectively rubbing shit in our eyes and then yelling at us that it was all our fault that we weren’t enjoying having shit rubbed in our eyes.
Star Wars had come home from the bar drunk and angry again, and as loving, devoted spouses we were right in the firing line.
But this time we had enough. We packed our shit up and we went to our mothers.
The Last Jedi suffered a massive drop-off with a clear lack of repeat viewings. We saw it once and we never went back. It left a huge $700m on the table compared to The Force Awakens. It snuck out on home rental with barely a whimper and was dumped on Netflix in what felt like a matter of weeks after it limped out of movie theatres. To this day it is still the only Star Wars movie that many lifelong fans don’t even own on a home format.
Colin Trevorrow, then Director of Episode IX, thought “Fuck me, I can’t work with this shit!” and became the latest in a long line of Disney Lucasfilm Star Wars directors to vanish like a Soviet dissident.
The Prequel Nobody Wanted
This was nothing compared to what was about to come. Solo happened and it was not pretty.
Technically a better film in every way than The Last Jedi. It had a clearer story, a better plot, better cast, bigger set-pieces and was largely inoffensive fun. But the unthinkable happened. We stayed at home.
There was a Star Wars movie out in theatres and huge numbers of us didn’t even bother to go and see it. A Star Wars movie flopped at the box office and made a loss. Inconceivable!
Did Lucasfilm learn anything from this? Did they, fuck???
The same tired old attacks came out. Bitter fanboys wrecked it. Rotten Tomatoes was review-bombed. The movie would have succeeded if it didn’t have a white and male lead. Doubling down on the insulting rhetoric. Not so much biting the hand that feeds them as ripping our arm off and spitting it back in our faces.
Rose Tico figures gather dust in discount bins and Kessel Run Falcon Lego sets are shipped back, unsold, to the factory. Solo DVDs are given away at gas stations if you spend over $60 on fuel. And still, they did not appear to be learning.
Iger cropped up and said, “Maybe people are tired of Star Wars?” No, you fucking imbeciles. People will never be tired of Star Wars. It’s fucking Star Wars! People are tired of sub-standard and insulting Star Wars efforts made by people who don’t seem to understand the franchise or their audience.
We Are Where We Are
So normally I would be rubbing my hands with glee. Treated like this by a Corporate entity I would be positively giddy at its failures. And yet I just can’t. Star Wars is too special to me. Too integral to all my fondest childhood memories.
Last month, like many of you, I went to the movies as early as possible to see Avengers: Endgame. They played the Rise Of Skywalker trailer before the main event. I remember a theatre exploding with spontaneous applause on first viewing of The Phantom Menace trailer. This time? Absolute silence.
And then, from the darkness, a single “Tut!”.
It broke my heart. This is what they have done to my first, greatest love. And even though it keeps hurting me, it keeps letting me down, I just can’t stop loving Star Wars.