Cover Story Vol 63: Star Wars



With “The Last Jedi” upon us, we look at how the “Star Wars” series has revived itself after the disappointing prequels and where the “Star Wars” braintrust might take us next.

It’s sort of fitting, when you think about what “Star Wars” is all about it.

It’s fitting that the series has risen once again, fitting that it’s overcome the naysayer, fitting that when people were starting to doubt whether “Star Wars” could be good again, it come back like Luke Skywalker leaving Dagobah to save his friends.

It’s fitting because “Star Wars” has always been something of an underdog story — especially on the big screen. It’s strange to call one of the biggest movies franchises of all time an “underdog” but coming into yet another attempt to revive the series a few years ago, it had reached a point where nobody was expecting much anymore.

And now, here we are.

Only the most obtuse and highly critical fans would argue that “Star Wars” hasn’t rebounded from its previous disappointing re-invention. Only the most negative people will still dwell on the Jar-Jar Binks days.

“The Force Awakens” brought back the “Star Wars” magic. It’s undeniable. And “Rogue One” showed us a better way for the “Star Wars” universe to expand without getting too far off course.

Now, with “Ep. VIII: The Last Jedi” just days away and Ep. VII still a ray of hope (see what we did there?), it’s time to admit — “Star Wars” made us love it again. And we’re OK with that.



A story about “Star Wars” righting its wrongs needs to start in one simple place: Where it went wrong to begin with. We all know the answers, but it’s worth repeating: The prequels.

Sure, it was necessary to the story to see how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader, but boy did it become a drag after a while. The prequels had their redeeming moments, but not enough to justify three movies — and not enough to justify all the harm they did to the overall series.

They were bogged down with excess. Excess storylines. Excess characters. Excess melodrama. And all we really wanted to see was Yoda fighting and Anakin’s transformation.

Instead, the prequels sent a message from the Star Wars mothership to its devoted fans: We’re trying too hard to make you love us again. Ask any 15-year-old and they’ll tell you: Laying it on too hard never works.



It’s no secret at this point that people love what’s familiar — especially in movies, and that’s how “Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens” got things right.

Was it a groundbreaking movie? Not really.

Did it bring us back to a “Star Wars” we actually enjoyed and not one we just sort of tolerated because there were occasional light sabers and a Boba Fett backstory? Yes.

“Star Wars” did that by giving us something we wanted, something we sort of knew already, but in new, pretty wrapping paper. Some fans will tell you that Episode 7 was too much like the original trilogy. Actually, it was just the right amount like the original trilogy.

It succeeded by giving us a familiar formula that could go to new places but also tell the stories of characters we loved. Han Solo, family man? Yeah, we’re in for that. Mysterious girl with Jedi powers? Yeah, we’re in for that. Cool new droid? Heck yeah, we’re in for that.

And rather than try to pack too much into these new movies, the “Star Wars” braintrust made a wise decision to give us some one-off movies that tell other parts of the story. They fill the gaps in between the every-other-year main event of new “Star Wars” episodes and expand the universe in new and smart ways.

“Rogue One,” which came out in 2016, did well enough to give us an enjoyable movie and establish what Disney is trying to do now that it controls the “Star Wars” saga. But most importantly, it set the scene for what should be some other great films.

Most notably is the “Solo,” the Han Solo-centered film that’s due to be released next May. Following “Episode IX,” there are rumors of a Boba Fett film.

This feels like the right approach. Expand the universe, give the people what they want but don’t try too hard to create a bunch of new stuff they ultimately don’t care about. It’s worked for Marvel and it seems like it’ll work for “Star Wars.”



Star Wars: The Force Awakens
L to R: General Hux (Domnall Gleeson) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), in b/g Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie)
Ph: David James
© 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Right Reserved.

This was so important it deserves its own section! The new “Star Wars” movies succeed because they give us new characters we care about. Whether it’s Rey and her mysterious powers or Finn as a Storm Trooper who defected or scene-stealing Poe Dameron, who we’re sure to see more of in Episode 8, as he looks poised to become a bigger star of the franchise.

Then there’s new bad guy Kylo Ren — the troubled son of Han Solo and Princess Leia.

And there’s new droid BB-8, who has all of that R2-D2 lovability for a new generation.

We went from getting stuck with characters we hated (Hi, Jar-Jar) to characters who are developed and intriguing. It’s like the “Star Wars” braintrust learned from the mistakes of its ancestors.



This seems important to address: Yes, there are new “Star Wars” movies because Disney knows it can make a ton of money at the box office. And by selling new toys. And by making a “Star Wars” land inside of Disneyland.

But that’s not all this is about.

It’s about righting the universe, about filling in the gaps, about getting back the trust of “Star Wars” fans.

As Episode 7 proved, there’s a deep commitment to storytelling, to giving the loyal fans the answers that they’ve wanted for years and to telling stories that matter — not just creating fluff for the sake of fluff.

And if it’s not yet abundantly clear, we still just really hate Jar-Jar Binks.


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