Why I'm not excited about Star Wars going on forever

Well, we made it, people. We have reached the third age of Star Wars in cinema. The sci-fi cinematic juggernaut is back, and we’ll be getting more Star Wars than ever before.

And I don’t care.

To put it mildly, I could care less about the Star Wars resurgence, and before you come down on me for not being a true fan, allow me to set the groundwork. Star Wars, the OG film, is the first movie I can consciously remember watching all the way through. To give you some background as to how long ago this was, my father rented it from a video rental place specifically so I could watch it. I remember Jaws, King Kong, and the Indiana Jones movies in there too, but Star Wars was always there first, and it remains my favorite movie of all time, and I still own the VHS tape my dad bought back when I was five, the same tape my mom gave to me as a gift because she said I always watched it more anyway.

In the end, the original trilogy remains my favorite movie cycle to watch as a whole, and I’ll even go as far as to say the prequels were not that bad. They’re not the cinematic atrocities we can sometimes make them out to be, just frustrating works that made some very basic storytelling mistakes that the original three films seemed to avoid. I won’t go into what those are; that’s for another column. But at the end of the day, I was happy with the Star Wars legacy after six films, so why am I not excited about its future now?

Let’s discuss.

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Oversaturation of the product

I’m going to get into a musical example in just a moment, but first let me get the basics out of the way. I saw The Force Awakens, and I liked it. With all my complaining about long-awaited sequels, this one was a breath of fresh air. It was a well-made, fun movie that did a lot of things right. It wasn’t a masterpiece, by any means. When it came out, it’s Metacritic score was 81 which, if this were a class and I were the teacher, is about the grade I’d give it. It was better than any of the prequels, not as good as any of the originals (though I would argue it realized its potential as a sequel better than Return of the Jedi), and it even had some moments that stood up there with the series’ finest.

So what’s my problem?

You ever hear of the cliché “too much of a good thing?” This is where the musical example kicks in. For those of you who only remember what the post-death retrospectives told you, Prince was an amazing, and amazingly prolific, songwriter. When most of you think Prince, you think Purple Rain, 1999, and maybe Sign o’ the Times for some of you more nerdy music fans. What you don’t think about is how, in his entire career, Prince released a whopping thirty-nine studio albums. He released three in 2004 alone, only one of which (Musicology) was any good. (I should know, it got me through my second tour in Iraq.)

Prince was a genius, but he never learned the value of restraint. If he thought of a song, he wrote, recorded, and released it. As a result, he put out a lot of material that ranged from “meh” to “what the fuck was he thinking?” We will always have his classics, yes, but be warned, not everything he ever made was gold, and introducing newbies to Prince requires knowing what to introduce them to first, lest they get the wrong idea by listening to his lesser works.

Star Wars is going down a similar road. Disney has made it clear they’re intent on turning it into the next Marvel Cinematic Universe, and we can expect a new Star Wars every year until…


I’m a Godzilla fan. It took fifteen films released over 21 years before the Japanese public got sick of the series and it took a hiatus, which lasted nine years. (With the release of Shin Godzilla, the series is ending another hiatus, this one lasting twelve years.) So the question I have for my fellow Star Wars fans of all stripes is: How long will it be before we all get sick of Star Wars at the release pace of one film a year? Sure, there will be those who show up to every Star Wars film regardless, just like there are people out there watching every single Transformers film in the theaters, though I’ve never met one of them personally. But how much is too much of a good thing?

I’m also a Doctor Who fan. In 26 seasons of the show’s original incarnation, and nine seasons of the shows current form, the numbers are clear: there are going to be dud stories in there somewhere. How is Disney going to maintain a quality level when it’ll be constantly churning out stories?

One may say that the Marvel movies show that they can pull it off. But the Marvel movies have the advantage of being several different properties and franchises released under one banner. Not a fan of Thor? You got Captain America. The movies too family-friendly for you? You can watch Daredevil on Netflix. This allows Marvel to stretch its appeal and combine multiple audiences. While Star Wars certainly has mass appeal, it’s always been one story, one entity. Will the cinematic universe approach strengthen its storytelling and appeal, or only serve to weaken it? That’s a question not too many people have grappled with.

Michael A. Novelli has a great piece on this very site about how Star Wars is going to be the new Call of Duty. It could be worse than that. Being an annual event, it would be more like the Super Bowl or the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. Each year you see a new version a little different from the last one, but still pretty much the same as the last couple, and you sit down and watch it because… of course you do, it’s a yearly thing, who doesn’t sit down and watch it?

Is that a future we want to live in?

Star Wars is less Star Wars, and more James Bond

I think I mentioned this in a previous post, but besides Star Wars and Godzilla, two of my favorite film franchises are James Bond and Indiana Jones. These two are very similar to the Godzilla films, in that the appeal is less the story and more the character at the center of the story. Not that the stories couldn’t be great or that any of these series couldn’t try overarching story elements. But their primary appeals have always been the figures at their center. In fact, all three series have a certain formula at their core for each film, with occasional variations.

Star Wars has always been different. It has always had more in common with Star Trek’s original movies, in that each film tried to be different from the last while deliberately leaving some things hanging for the next film. Each film has its own distinct story with a certain arc that needs to be explored.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel it’s only a matter of time before Star Wars gets transformed into more of a James Bond-style series, where the story will matter only so much, and the appeal will be more the universe than anything else. We’re already seeing this. The Force Awakens, story-wise, resembled the original Star Wars a bit too closely for me, and I’m saying this as someone who liked Force Awakens.

But as mentioned above, does the franchise lose something when it becomes so common it no longer feels special? I kind of gave up on the Marvel movies because they no longer feel like events. They feel like the state fair. You know what you’re getting but you go anyway to see if there’s anything new that catches your eye. That’s fine for a state fair, but with movies?


I just said above that movies can get by on character trumping the story, and I meant that. But is Star Wars one of those? The Hobbit movies come to mind. I didn’t like them much. Mostly because what made the Lord of the Rings movies so great is that the story ends. There’s something beautiful in knowing a story is over. Not that some stories can’t go on, but some stories, when they end, are at their best. So the Hobbit movies felt like unnecessary digressions in a universe I was happy to move on from. It didn’t help much that they felt like they were being indifferently made by a director contractually obligated to finish them.

Star Wars had an ending with Return of the Jedi. The Star Wars Expanded Universe (which no longer exists, cinematically speaking) had an ending. Now it doesn’t. And I don’t believe for one hot second that Disney has an ending in mind. The series will end when Disney says it will end, and that will probably be when they aren’t making any money off of it. Think of all the film franchises that never got a proper ending, at least in their original incarnations. The box office numbers dropped and the studio gave up.

We now live in a world where something as definitively over as Harry Potter was undone in the name of making more money. (A prequel and a stage play, yes, but still, it’s a continuation.) Even Godzilla and James Bond needed to take breaks before they came back revamped. Star Wars is in that category now. Best case scenario, they drill it into the ground until general audiences stop showing up, and then a decade later… they reboot it, Star Trek (2009) style.

Your welcome for that nightmare.

Some fans will ruin it for all of us

When you get a chance, watch this:

This is Red Letter Media’s newest release of the Plinkett Reviews, about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It’s a bit long, but a lot of their points are pretty spot on.

I’ve had my differences with fandom in the past. I don’t hate people for their fandoms, nor do I think being a fan of something makes you less than me. But since it’s 2016, I tend to look at fans like I look at voters. Most people who vote for a presidential candidate, regardless of party, are good, hardworking Americans, who just want what they feel is best for their country. But there is that hard fragment of supporters who just ruin the candidate for everybody else. The zealots whose devotion to the cause borders on the disturbing, and who regard anyone who disagrees with them as the worst kind of human being. (As to who I voted for this election cycle, it was a little candidate known as none of your damn business.)

Fans of entertainment franchises tend to fall into similar patterns. There are the loyalists who like the franchise, and then the true fanatics who obsess over every little detail, love it whether it has any real quality to it, and will lash out against detractors as if the detractors attacked them personally. If you’re excited for new and more Star Wars, I’m happy you’re happy. I’m worried about the quality control and audience fatigue, but hey, more power to you, and have a good time at your local cineplex.

But for me, there are the fans who are really going to ruin it for me. You know who I’m talking about: the ones who will see the movies regardless of quality because it’s Star Wars, and they’re not going to think about it critically. And this has been going on for forever. Don’t believe me? Just watch this:

Watching that made me throw up in my mouth a little.

Now, a lot of you will call me mean for bringing this up, and say that quality is subjective, and yeah, I get all that. But as I mentioned before, the majority of film series don’t get an ending. The returns at the box office just fade and the studio loses interest. Star Wars had an ending, and now it doesn’t, and now it will be pushed out as long and as often as we are willing to put up with it.

If you’re happy for more, once again, more power to you, but I’m not. I’m already sick of seeing Star Wars everywhere, and I’ve lost track of all the films Disney says are in production. I’m in my thirties now; I don’t have the money, the time, or the inclination to keep up with so many different continuities and stories. If I’m going to sit down and watch a movie, I want there to be a good chance I’ll get something out of it. While I’m still affectionate toward some properties, I no longer blindly track down everything with the right label.

I suppose the lesson here is that even as a fan, I tend to look at works more critically in my age. I don’t want to have to see 30 movies in the theater a year just to be part of some large conversation about a franchise. But my voice has been drowned out by the rabid screams of YouTube fans squeeing over seeing the Millennium Falcon in a trailer.

So you young fans who are jazzed about more Star Wars, one day you’ll be in my shoes. I know it because when I was young, I was jazzed that new Star Wars was being made. And I thought I’d never get sick of the series either. There was a time I couldn’t get enough Star Wars; now I’d be fine if they never made another one.

Who knows, maybe the next few films will be so good I’ll eat my words. But the more films they make, the more chances they have to screw things up. We will see.

Or you will. I’ll wait until it comes to Netflix.

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  • Thomas Stockel

    Well said, man. I personally got tired of the franchise with Force Awakens, where I felt this generation deserved their own Star Wars movie and not a rehash of mine. Once I saw the Rogue One trailer I knew I was done, it was time to get off the bus and see other things. Luc Besson’s new movie looks like it’s going to be fun and at least it’s a story I haven’t seen before.

    • Nathan kerner

      I have to admit, I have taken the opposite approach. Rather than keep up with all the cinematic universes and series out now, I have gone back to watching old movies that I missed the first time around, or were before my time. I’ve been watching a lot of old hollywood and criterion collection stuff to kind of experience cinema BEFORE special effects let every little thing you could imagine on screen.

    • Nathan kerner

      By the way, love your disseminations of villains on this site, and you appear to have an affections of the very smart but technologically SCI FI I love.

  • Eric Naville

    Author clearly did not watch the latest south park episode (getting worse every season btw), otherwise he would know that star wars is now good.

  • maarvarq

    …before Star Wars gets transformed into more of a James Bond-style series, where the story will matter only so much, and the appeal will be more the universe than anything else
    I’ve always found the universe-building to be by far the weakest part of this franchise (I never read any of the EU and it doesn’t count now anyway). Even early on it was just random “Wouldn’t it to be cool if…” and now it’s just random stuff from a very short list of possibilities (desert planet, icy planet, city planet). There’s just no there there.

    • Nathan kerner

      It’s one of those things that’s sounds great, until you get it. The books, comics, and everything else; they’re okay, some are great. But everyone is excited to get more until they actually get it, and then…..depends. Some of the EU books and comics are quite awesome. A lot of it is complete garbage. I mean, yeah, I like the expansive universe of the original trilogy, but it was just detail to make the story at the center feel more real. Not every character who appeared on screen needs a full bio. They are just there to make the universe feel like a lived in place. So I heartily agree with your assessment. The universe of the story, of any story really, is just to give the story a setting. Maybe we should blame the Sims or video games for this newer Idea that the universe is the point and not the stories that take place therein.

  • Deneb T. Hall

    Yeah, I have to agree with you – there are series/characters that are more or less designed to go on forever, and then there are ones that aren’t. Star Wars is the latter.

    I mean, compare it to, say, Batman. Batman has been around since 1939, and he’s still cool – but that’s because the basic concept behind him is ‘man in a bat-suit fights crazy criminals’. You can expand and elaborate on that concept in near-endless ways, and it’ll still have some life in it – and people have, and it still does. Star Wars, on the other hand, has just one real driving plot aside from the ongoing issues of the Skywalker family and their friends: ‘evil empire VS motley crew of rebels’. That is a story with a built-in ending – it’s Star WARS, right? Well, at some point, the war has to end, and in order for the series to work the way it’s set up to, it can only have one ending, which the series has already reached – i.e, the good guys win. I mean, I liked Force Awakens, but there’s no denying that it’s basically taking us back to square one, and how many times can you DO that until things start feeling pointless? When the Joker and the Penguin endlessly return to fight Batman, that’s one thing – they’re supervillains, it comes with the territory – but if the Empire ALWAYS comes back from the ashes only to be inevitably defeated and then rise anew, then the series just turns into the space opera version of Whack-A-Mole.

    • Nathan kerner

      Grant Morrison, the comic book writer, actually wrote your point into one of his stories. Spoiler free version, when he was writing New X-Men for Marvel, he ended his run with a character killing a villain in the exact same manner the same character killed the same villain in the previous author’s run. He said in an interview that it was intentional, he was making a point about how evil in comic books doesn’t die, it always comes back, and how boring that is. He said it would be boring for mankind if hitler came back once a decade to menace us.

      • Deneb T. Hall

        While Morrison is certainly a good writer when he puts his mind to it, he can come off as a bit full of himself at times. Case in point, that sort of statement.

        The thing is, most comic book villains aren’t DESIGNED to die. They’re envisioned from the start as characters you’ll want to see more of, ones that will remain interesting as long as the writers keep making them so, which kind of negates his point. Sure, it’s boring if you MAKE it boring, Grant… kinda missing the point there, buddy…

        With Star Wars, though, that’s a bit different. It’s a series that is locked into just one type of story, more or less, and that robs it of the flexibility that comics enjoy. There isn’t really any way to mix things up – if the Empire wins, well, they’re winning anyway; that’s why the galaxy needs the Rebellion. Inevitably, the Rebellion HAS to win – and if the Empire comes back, well, they’ll just have to fight them again, and win again. Nothing’s changed, and that IS boring. The only real way to add variety, in my opinion, would be to either change the Empire drastically, or take them out of the picture completely, and make someone else the bad guys – and that’s probably not going to happen, because directors like blowing up the Death Star too much. (I mean, seriously, once is cool, twice is a variation on a theme, but thrice? Thrice is pushing it.)

        • Nathan kerner

          Morrison’s one of those writers who can say his strength and his weakness are the exact same thing. He packs so many ideas into his stories. When they are understandable and fully realized their great. But if he’s not on his game, it can be a bit overwhelming how much he throws at the reader.

          But yes, star wars may have missed an opportunity. I for one would have preferred a movie which showed the how the first order got organized in the first place. the backstory to the Force Awakens probably would have been a more interesting movie.

          • Deneb T. Hall

            Agreed. I read a collected edition of his ‘Batman and Robin’ run, and it came with an afterword where he went into how he’d designed such-and-such part of the story after some sort of medieval labyrinth, and how this one group of incredibly minor throwaway characters had been named and themed after demons from the Kabbala (or something like that), and how Professor Pyg’s character was based on this one song he liked from an incredibly obscure British band that virtually nobody but him has ever heard of, and all I could think of was ‘yes, yes, that’s all very interesting, but how on Earth were we supposed to know any of this outside you telling us about it?’

            What I had been hoping for was a story in which, having been soundly defeated in its original form, the remnants of the Empire were forced to reform as a sinister, ISIS-like group of fanatics, hoping to regain its former glory through underhanded deeds. In other words, now that the Rebellion had won, things would be reversed – the former rebels would be the establishment figures, and the Empire would now be the group of undermining insurgents. That could have been fascinating.

          • Nathan kerner

            in the video I linked to Red-letter media in the article. the story line they came up with is a bit similar. They had it so that the first order is a bit of a joke and powerless, and Leia, who is now president, finds herself uneasy now that it’s the republic with the super weapon, believing it is against the republic’s values, but politically, she has to go along with it. then the first order steal the super weapon, and soon, the dark side is awakened as a result of the sudden chaos. And we would get to actually see Kylo Ren get tempted and fall to the dark side. It sounded much more interesting.

            And Morrison is a bit of a weirdo. A charismatic weirdo, but a weirdo nonetheless. He apparently used a lot of halluceonigens when he was young, and he believes in magic, so he tends to see a lot of things in everything, so he’s constantly putting extra layers into all his stories. It’s cool for the most part, but like you said, unless you happened to be a bit of weirdo Scottish gen-exer, you’d have no idea what any of the references were.

          • Deneb T. Hall

            Oh, dude, that sounds like it would have been awesome. I’m fine with the traditional Star Wars format, but ‘what comes after’ stories are always fascinating.

            Yeah, he has a number of similarities to Alan Moore in that regard. The main differences between them, as I se it, are A: Moore knows when to unleash the crazy and when it would be better to restrain himself, and B: all other things aside, he’s simply a better writer than Morrison (and when he does get weird, it’s not impenetrably so).

    • R.D.

      In theory, you can do a lot more in the Star wars universe than just Empire v Rebels–it’s an entire galaxy that has thousands of years of history implied. Things like Knights of the Old Republic took their own stories and takes on the whole thing, and were well-received for that. You could do anything from basically Firefly to intrigue thrillers, sort of like what the PT attempted. Hell, even Lucas at one point was considering a live-action series set in the Coruscant criminal underworld–in the right hands, that’d be something I’d really like to see.

      It all depends if Disney has the foresight to actually hash out some stories like that than just trying to milk nostalgia for the Original Trilogy.

      • Deneb T. Hall

        Well, yes, in theory, absolutely. I haven’t dipped into any of the extended universe stuff myself, but it’s made pretty clear that the world of Star Wars is far more vast and complex than we ever actually see. If you wanted to make a Star Wars tale that had nothing to do with the Jedi/Sith Rebel/Empire conflict, it would certainly be doable.

        However, that’s theory. I’m talking more about the driving plot of the series as-is – and that, so far, is inextricably linked to the ‘Wars’ part of the title. And given that the new films seem primarily devoted to giving the fans what they want, and what they want, at this point, is more of the stuff they liked from the initial trilogy, I doubt that’s going to change anytime soon.

  • Gallen Dugall

    When they gave the games license to EA I knew it was going to be bad. EA who is openly opposed to “story in games” was given the rights to the story driven Star Wars. It proves that Disney has no interest in doing anything with the franchise beyond putting out generic bland crap with the Star Wars logo plastered onto it. TFA validates this. However good things can be done. After a season of bland Filoni has ramped up Rebels about halfway to where The Clone Wars was. Notably Rebels also has a terrible two dimensional female character with no growth or arc imposed upon it. As so too does it seem Rogue One has. I’m not seeing a pattern here so much as I’m glaring at the marketing department generated non-character imposed on scripts. It descends into a discussion about the BIG LIE going around that people want “strong female characters” when what they won’t say is that they really want “power fantasy caricatures” (like James Bond) which you can’t do with a woman. Not that it can’t work but that people on both sides would explode into a poop storm. The whole idea of a PFC is that men want to be them women want to be with them. If you flip that around then it’s women want to be them and either “THAT’S OBJECTIFYING!” or Beavis and Butthead calling the character a slut. All of this letting alone the fact that you shouldn’t make power fantasy caricatures because they’re an example of bad writing.

  • Kali

    In the end, it all comes down to this: Disney will go back to the well as often as it can so long as the films make money. They don’t even have George Lucas’s original concept to work with any more. The Farce Awakens is no more part of Lucas’s original “nine films” concept (which he only invented after the original Star Wars made a mint, no matter how often he claims otherwise) than Rogue One or any of the other million spin-offs of the series. Let’s face it: The Farce Awakens exists solely as a nostalgia trip – it does nothing to advance the storyline or Lucas’s original concept, and, it seems to me, did everything it could to AVOID advancing ANY storyline.

    If you don’t have any input from the creator of the series, you have nothing except a purely profit-driven enterprise, which is, after all, what Disney does best.

    And yes, I know that brings Star Trek and James Bond into the frame. And the point is?