Rise of the Dark Empire: A Star Wars Tragedy

Life imitates art.

It inevitably has to, because art starts off by imitating reality in an attempt to explain it in ways we humans can understand. We tell each other stories, to teach ourselves how to coexist in this strange existence, this universe. We learn from these tales all about what it means to be complex social beings.

George Lucas told such a tale, using archetypal storytelling techniques older than recorded history. It’s about heroes, villains, civil war, rebellions against an evil empire, and a golden age transforming into a dark age. So when real life ended up following the same road map as the fable, I should not have been surprised. Yet, I was saddened by it.

The Golden Age

The eighties were surely the golden age of the franchise. A perfect film paracosm; the first of its kind, and, apart from the James Bond series, the largest golden goose a corporation could own. And the good King owned it completely, free from external corporate interference. A great Kingdom came into being and its denizens were happy and satisfied fans. I may have been slightly put off by the pandering to younger audiences with those Ewoks, but this was perfectly understandable. I was a kid when I first discovered the Skywalker Saga, so I couldn’t expect anything less.

The King’s subjects, upon hearing rumours of a nine or twelve-episode saga, waited patiently, content with the spin-offs that fed the masses during this period. From books to video games, writers and artists pumped out material as good as the films. The fans had taken up jobs at Lucas Arts, and through their devotion, they came up with some brilliant works.

I remember the anticipation for The Phantom Menace, waiting hours to download the trailer, and going to see random movies just to watch the trailer. When it arrived, five minutes into the film, I knew something was amiss. As Ewan McGregor uttered “I have a bad feeling about this,” I felt a great disturbance in the force. It was the late nineties, movies had kicked up a gear, they were more visceral, kinetic and violent. Older audiences like myself felt cheated, preferring that the producers utilise the vast pool of talent in their arsenal. Yet, despite the lame direction and pedestrian performances, this trilogy of films still had a fantastic story arc, a great cast and an awesome soundtrack, oh and amazing groundbreaking special effects. But the damage was done. The foundations were laid down for the civil war that was to come, and the fallout from that would have far-reaching consequences for the Kingdom.

The decline had begun; the dark ages were coming.

Civil War

The one good aspect of this civil war, for me, was the fact that a new generation of kids had discovered Star Wars via the prequels. Even though these Prequelers were at odds with the Original loyalists, I found it a healthy debate. How else do you move forward, taking the good aspects of what worked with the two trilogies and borrowing from extended content such as Knights of the Old Republic and The Force Unleashed? But this civil war seemed to have taken a toll on the old King.

To this day, I don’t understand why the King didn’t trust his own people with the keys to the Kingdom. The creatives behind The Clone Wars and the early Battlefront games were perfectly capable and had the support of the people. I guess despair is a powerful, disenchanting force, and the dark empire, looming in the periphery, knew it was time to strike.

And they did.

The Disney Empire

Four billion US dollars later, the Kingdom had a new Emperor and it got turned into a fiefdom overseen by a ruthless overlord. Once again, I felt a disturbance in the force when I first learned that the Disney Empire had annexed the Kingdom. What can you do? One has to respect the King’s decision, right?

Once upon a time, Disney gave us Tron, The Black Hole, The Rocketeer, and even John Carter, so how bad could it be? They certainly hadn’t messed up the MCU at the time. In short, I gave it a go. I decided to invest my time, money and energy to go see this new trilogy. Hell, I took the whole family. It was going to be the new Golden Age.

It had been over a decade since the Revenge of the Sith, Lucasfilm had plenty of time (not to mention the fucking money) to develop and deliver a new Star Wars Trilogy, and all they dished out was a rehash of the original movie, a stark absence of character development, story arcs that served no purpose, defiance of science fiction logic (regardless of whether this is a fantasy film, the speed of light matters) and a film so bereft of a protagonist it caused my emotions to bounce around looking for something to cling to. You got a sense that these filmmakers didn’t understand the material. When General Leia is reunited with Han Solo, you’d expect that she would give him some grief, right, give him a piece of her mind, and probably blame him for their shared tragedy. Just because she’s battle-weary and brokenhearted doesn’t mean she’s not still that same feisty princess. Yet, in this movie, the reunion is more like a funeral get-together. It’s as if the creatives had never watched the originals, or they watched it quickly on their iPhones on their way to work.

Still, I enjoyed it just enough to be motivated to see the next instalment.

Rogue One had an exciting premise and it turned out to be quite good. Had it not been for the vanity of the CGI team showing off their Tarkin and Leia reproductions with close-ups, (they looked fake and were distracting) I would have considered it worthy as one of the best in the series. Which now begs the question, what would a director’s cut have been like?

Image result for tarkin rogue one
The Uncanny Valley effect forces the eye to pick out fake human faces. When surrounded by human actors, this is very noticeable.
This distraction could have been avoided if the editing/visual effects teams stuck with long and wide shots.

The Age of Darkness

Then came, The Last Jedi.

Apparently, all men are stupid, minor characters can hog narrative space and achieve nothing. Story arcs can make no sense. This is modern storytelling? Um, no. The film takes such a dump on an audience, and I mean the faeces kind, that not only did the denizens of the Kingdom openly revolt, but it also sealed the fate of the next instalment. I did not go and see the hastened-to-cinemas Solo movie because of this. Once I heard a rebel alliance had formed, I enlisted. What did The Disney Emperor think? This is a story about rebellion and fighting the good fight, did they expect the fans (I consider TLJ apologists not to be true fans) to accept this blatant attack on their beloved Kingdom lying down? No. Episode nine is going to be the most anticipated movie to not watch, ever.

solo; a star wars story
This is as close as I ever got to Solo.

The Rebel Alliance

This is what Star Wars insurrection looks like, and if the Disney Empire continues its attempt to subjugate and subvert the Kingdom, the Rebellion will deepen, and turn a four-point-zero-five billion dollar investment into a dud investment. They can double down and pursue a scorched earth policy by continuing to persecute the fans, but two things eventually will occur.

The first is, unlicensed fan-made films will proliferate. Already, they are of better quality than the shit the actual studio produces. The Empire will try to shut these down, and they will try to litigate against these pirate creators, but new technology and a love of Star Wars will act against them. Fighting rebels and pirates across the Outer Rim will become a costly affair.

Second, I think the Empire, when it bought the franchise, didn’t really understand how close to a religion Star Wars has become to many people. Since the eighties, many fans have stated it as their official religious denomination. When enough folk claim it as their own private spiritual cornerstone, there’s little The Empire can do, aside from registering it as a church.

So, unless the Disney Empire wants to risk writing off this investment as a total loss, or have this rebellion spread to its other domains, I think a change in strategy would be in order. I predict as the Empire suffers from its own despair, the Kingdom will be sold off in pieces, merchandise first, then the studio; Disney will probably keep the distribution rights and theme parks. This begs another question. Had the King publicly floated his Kingdom, allowing the fans and employees a chance to buy in and create a Republic, would he not have made the same amount of money and still kept a controlling share? Perhaps the King could buy it back at a cheaper rate, piece by piece, starting with merchandise rights first.

Or just maybe the King creates a new story, a new Kingdom, perhaps a Republic, for all loyal and battle-hardened rebels to migrate to.

Leave a Comment