When I heard that JJ Abrams was rebooting Star Wars
right after the fiasco of Star Trek Into Darkness
, I was mortified, but then I thought, “Well, I dunno, the first two seasons of ‘Alias’ were good fun, and he says he likes this franchise a lot more, so maybe I should give it a chance…”, but then I heard that the original cast was coming back, and I thought, “Oh, never mind,” because it seemed to me that there was no way to bring back the cast without quickly writing them out again, and the only way to do that would be to make them victims of the new story, sacrificing old value for future value.
So was I right? Yeah, pretty much.
But first, let’s once again look at what worked:
- Abrams and company do a great job writing fun and witty dialogue for Han. They split up Han and Leia in a not-overly-depressing way and give Han and Chewie a fun new scoundrel-y life. Ford slipped back easily into the role (something he wasn’t able to do with Indiana Jones) and his line-reading of “That’s not how the force works!” stole the movie.
- Leia works great as a general, and Fisher is great as well in her small role.
- Their son Kylo Ren is an interesting new take on evil-as-son figure as opposed to evil-as-father that we’re used to, and Adam Driver does a great job showing us the evil potential of Luke’s old petulance (inspiring a great Twitter feed.)
But then this element is once again spoiled. As the always-excellent Rob Bricken writes here, Kylo Ren killing Han permanently sours
both this trilogy and the original trilogy in one fell swoop. All six movies have now inescapably become one big tragedy. Whenever a son murders his father, then his life, his dad’s life and his mom’s life are always going to be defined solely by that horrible moment, and everything else fades into insignificance. (And if he does it with training and a weapon he got from his uncle, then you can toss him in there as well.)
Why turn this wonderful love story into a horrible tragedy, JJ? What gives you the right? You didn’t create that value, so you have no right to destroy it. If you want to create a tragedy, create your own, don’t take this wonderful story other people created and ruin it for your own shock value.
Worse, this feels like a deliberate slap in the face to the idealism of Return of the Jedi
: Once again, a hero insists on confronting a family member and trying to bring him to the light when others think that’s naïve, but this time they’re all proven right. It’s another example of being embarrassed by the idealism of the source material
and defacing it while nevertheless trying to extract its value.
It’s one thing for us, who have had 32 years to enjoy the happily-ever-after before having it snatched away, but think of the kids of the future who will finish Jedi
and go straight on this this, only to instantly have the exultation of the first trilogy slapped right out of them! And Chewie watching Han get killed?? That’s something nobody ever wanted to see! It’s unbearable for me, but I can’t imagine how painful it must be for a kid. My kids (ages 4 and 1) love the originals (the whole “limited screen time” thing goes out the window with the second kid) and I’ll be keeping them away from this one for as long as humanly possible.
So what’s the solution? Just start a generation later! Let the original characters die peaceful deaths in their sleep and then create all-new
value. (Or at least let Han and Leia die peaceful deaths, and then maybe have their son turn evil years later and kill Luke, who was already a bit conflicted from the last two movies.)
This leaves one more problem for tomorrow, the biggest one…