Star Wars, The EU, and The Force Awakens

Before I start into this, I already know that I’m not going to be gaining a whole lot of fans by writing this. I’ve actually had this article sitting in my draft box for months now as I debated on even voicing my opinion on Abrams take on the Star Wars universe. There seems to be so many people who really loved the movie and are happy with the direction Disney is taking the franchise.

I do not share the sentiment.

I realize I’m probably a sliver of the 1% of the general population who didn’t actually care for the latest Star Wars movie. I’m also not happy with Disney destroying the Expanded Universe canon. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before I dive into the ‘why’, I have to explain what Star Wars has meant for me over the years.

Being born in 1979, I grew up with Star Wars. Not just Star Wars, but The Goonies, The Neverending Story, and Thundercats. I’m from that generation. You know, the generation that didn’t have asinine cartoons depicting yellow sponges in square pants to keep us entertained. The generation that didn’t rely on a blitzkrieg of special effects in our movies to keep our attention. The generation that appreciated story over flash-in-the-pan hi jinks.

Even though I was exposed to Star Wars early on in life, when my parents would show me the original movies and purchase me the old Star Wars toys – the ones that came with the silver collector coins in the packaging, my true love for Star Wars didn’t really start until my senior year of high school. It was around that time that Lucas came out with the special editions of the original Star Wars movies. I saw them each multiple times on the big screen, and they managed to spark in me a new interest in the Star Wars universe.

I started checking out Star Wars books from the school library. I blew through the Heir to the Empire trilogy. I beat Shadows of the Empire to death on my N64. I would sit and watch – every single morning before school – the lightsaber duel between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi, and the scene in The Empire Strikes Back when Boba Fett apprehends Han Solo and flies off in Slave 1.

More importantly to my own personal story, when I graduated high school I picked up the Han Solo trilogy and ate the books up – almost literally. The story of an orphan boy who has to try to fight and claw and find his way in the universe resonated with me on a very deep, very personal level. I read the books around the same time my parents were divorcing. The same time I was fighting to find my own way in this world. The series has become my absolute favorite book series of all time for this reason, and for the simple fact that it was such a well-written series that gave the back story to one of my favorite fictional characters.

Star Wars runs in my blood.

That being said, I wasn’t all that excited when Disney took over the franchise. More specifically, I wasn’t all that excited when Disney decided to shut down the Expanded Universe canon. One of the main things I adored about the Star Wars universe was the continuity. George Lucas was brilliant to make it a rule that everything had to fit within the canon of everything else. It lent a genuine legitimacy to the fictional universe. You knew when you read one book about a specific character that you weren’t wasting your time reading a ‘What If’. You were reading an actual bonafide piece of canon. This was something I always dreamed of emulating in my own fiction series – and something I will definitely continue to implement as my fiction series continues to grow.

So when the new movie was announced, my skepticism meter went through the roof. They place the movie about thirty years out from the end of Return of the Jedi. Han Solo is like a million years old, stormtroopers have free will, and the Rebel Alliance is back to where it was at the very beginning of A New Hope.

I eventually caved into the mass marketing and decided I would go see the movie the day after opening night. I went in with low expectations, high fanboyism, and even higher critical nature. Deep inside though, I wanted to love it. I really did. I wanted to be proven wrong about my assumption that Disney couldn’t do the Star Wars universe justice. Sure, back in my day, those who loved Star Wars were the nerds. We were in our own little club. Now it’s become a brand that Disney is milking like a cow with eighteen udders. But that didn’t necessarily mean that the movie would be bad.

In the end, I don’t think the movie was just bad in terms of it being a movie. It was bad all around. It didn’t feel like the Star Wars I’ve grown to love and adore. In fact, it felt like a sleight against the Star Wars franchise. Before you tell me that the movie selling billions worldwide is proof that this is a good movie, let me tell you that you are wrong. Just because something is popular, doesn’t make it art. It doesn’t make it edifying. And it doesn’t make it true to its roots.

A Star Wars synopsis:

The Rebel Alliance stands up to the oppressive Empire with the help of the minority Jedi. They destroy the first Death Star. The Empire is stupid enough to make another. The Rebel Alliance destroy that one too. They destroy the hands of power in the Empire – Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader. Then the Rebel Alliance rebuilds the galaxy. Lo and behold, at the start of The Force Awakens, we’re back where we were years ago: The New Republic is in hiding, working on special plans to destroy the oppressive First Order (Empire/Nazi Regime). A lone ‘slave’ girl is stuck on a desert planet ala Anakin Skywalker. She bumps into a lonely droid with vital information ala Princess Leia and R2D2. Then she crosses paths with a stormtrooper with a conscience– because apparently stormtroopers aren’t all clones now, some of them are people taken from their homes as children and turned into brainwashed slaves.

The girl and the guy grab the Falcon and fly off for adventures in space.

I’m just kidding. There’s more to it than that, but I don’t have the energy to write it all out. The movie’s plot drained me of the desire to talk about it. It’s overused, overhyped, and underwhelming. I could see cloned chunks of Episodes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 throughout the whole mess.

And then the worst? Han Solo dies. Yeah. Felt like I got kicked in the nuts when that happened. Then, when I was trying to get off the floor, they kicked me in the ribs. Then they rolled me off an embankment and sent me down into a ravine filled with boiling acid.

Han_Solo_2That’s how I took Solo’s death. Don’t get me wrong – I was upset that he died. But I think I was moreso upset in how he died and why. One of the most iconic characters in the whole Star Wars universe, and they kill him by making him stupid. Look, I understand that Han was trying to save his son – the badass Kylo Ren. I’m actually from the camp that doesn’t think Kylo was a whiny baby. You have to understand the effects of the Force in order to understand that he was struggling with the dark side, which in turn heightened his anger and frustration and rage – hence, his temper tantrums.

Anyway, Han walks across a catwalk – ala Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back – and faces his son with no weapon in hand, gullible as can be. Yeah, I get that he was trying to reach his son’s heart and save him by giving himself as a sacrifice. But that was dumb. Solo isn’t dumb. If any of you have read any of the books that have Solo in them, you would know that Solo wasn’t dumb. And that was dumb.

So then we have to wait through five minutes of Kylo Ren hesitating on killing his father. Then he gives in, stabs his father, and then sends him down into the bottomless pit of an exploding Death Star planet. Solo is dead. By someone he hasn’t had any on-screen interaction with until three minutes before he dies? Sorry, the feels I do not have, aside from watching a beloved character take one in the chest and then fall into a bottomless exploding pit.

I won’t even go into the reasons why it makes no sense at all why Han and Leia are separated, why Han is now back to smuggling, and why Han would allow the Millennium Falcon to get stolen. I really don’t know who that character Harrison Ford was playing throughout the movie was, but it surely wasn’t the Han Solo that I grew up with.

Of course, many critics will argue that Han had to die to setup the new Star Wars series. In fact, many argue that the whole movie was just setup. There are a million other ways they could have set up the new iteration of the Star Wars franchise, but they picked a handful of things that just made no sense if you know the Star Wars universe and canon.

Another gripe I had with the movie was the Force. In the prequels (Episodes 1, 2, and 3), the Force is the obvious force that propels the characters into the situations they find themselves in. When Anakin destroyed the deflector shield generator through a haphazard calamity of ‘random’ events, I could tell it was the Force propelling him into those actions. He was the Chosen One, he was attuned to the Force, even if he didn’t know how to use it yet. I felt the same when Luke and Leia crossed paths – it wasn’t coincidence, it was the Force pulling them together for its own means.

But in The Force Awakens, when the planet is cracking in half and it just happens to crack in half when Rey and Kylo Ren are lightsaber dueling, allowing Kylo Ren to escape for another movie? What the crappers? That’s a little too deus ex machina for me. That didn’t feel like the Force. That felt like the writers wrote themselves into a corner and couldn’t find another way out.

Speaking of which, when did Rey learn how to use the force so quickly? One second she knows almost nothing about the Force, and the next she’s almost more adept at lightsaber dueling than Luke was when he ran into Obi Wan Kenobi? Please. Regardless if she really is Luke’s daughter – which many are speculating – and is strong in the Force, it doesn’t mean she knows how to use it. She receives almost no training at all during the movie, so I have no idea where she all of a sudden was able to Force persuade Stormtroopers and go toe-to-toe with a Sith.

It doesn’t make sense. As a movie. As a story. Regardless if this was Star Wars or some other science fiction film, things just don’t add up. I don’t know if it’s all the flashy lights and the multi-colored laser bolts flying across the screen, but everyone who gave this movie the highest form of praise I have seen in a very long time need to check their credentials at the door. Even if you’re not a Star Wars fan, even if you weren’t all that interested in the EU, you have got to admit that this story falls apart when placed under any kind of speculation. Some of that is probably because Abrams went out of his way to make sure almost nothing was explained in the movie, leading to mystery and intrigue setups for the later movies – but instant disappointment for true fans.

I’ll go back to my original point. Disney did away with the EU and instituted their own version of canon. A new reality, if you will. But they also claim that they can use some of it as inspiration for the upcoming films and franchise. So…you claim it is not canon but may treat some of it like it is? Where does the credit go then? Disney? Or the authors who wrote the EU books and filled the EU universe with the lifeblood of the Star Wars franchise? Not to mention that it’s confusing as all poo – how then do we determine what books, games, and so forth are canon or part canon or –

Geez.

Look, I know some – many – are using the argument that Disney took the EU and locked it in a room and threw the key away because it was too much of a restraint to the direction Disney wanted to go with the franchise they acquired.

Wut?

You have nearly 40 years of world-building, character-building, plot-building to pull from for your story ideas and you have to throw it all in the trash, pretend it doesn’t exist, just so you can have creative control over the franchise? But you’ll still reuse parts of it that are convenient to your entertainment agenda and pretend you’re the one that came up with those parts?

20160129_191942Needless to say, I will not be one of those looking forward to seeing what Disney does with this franchise. My mission now? I’m scouring the used bookstores, Ebay, and yard sales to find every Star Wars book I can get my hands on that doesn’t have that horrid LEGENDS yellow stripe at the top of the cover, and read every single one of them – some of them for a second time in my life.

The Star Wars that came before will be the Star Wars I respect and acknowledge now.

Currently, I’m in the middle of Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void.

End of rant.


2 thoughts on “Star Wars, The EU, and The Force Awakens

  1. Ok. Two points. One, Rey has already recieved training. She was sent to that planet to hide. That’s why she starts to remember how to use the Force.

    Two: the death of Han isn’t dumb. The dialog leading up to his death is key. Above them the battle is on. The planet is sucking all the energy from the star. One of the The Resistance X-wing pilots says something like “Keep going. ***As long as we have THE LIGHT there’s hope. ” Then the star goes DARK. That’s when Kylo kills Han.

    It’s actually a pivotal moment in the film.

    Han and all the others would die anyway. So, and Harrison Ford wanted this, give Han a death that means something.

    Old age and, especially, having children open our eyes to things like the value of love and tenderness. Han, a man’s man, looked at his son with a father’s eyes and showed him kindness and love.

    He knew his son would kill him. He hoped he could save him. So, being the gambler that he was, antied up his life and laid his cards on the table.

    At that moment all of The Light left Kylo and he made his final step toward the Darkness.

    I understand your emotional attachment completely, and I think you’re letting it get in the way of you enjoying a great story.

    Like

    1. Andy, we can agree to disagree. I’m not all that upset that Han died necessarily, I do think it was executed poorly. I don’t believe for a second that that was the only way that Han could have possibly saved his son – by walking out onto a catwalk over a ‘bottomless’ pit to approach his Sith child. After all of Han’s life throughout the Star Wars movies and novels and games, he is definitely aware of how powerful a Sith is and he wouldn’t put himself in harms way like that – regardless if it was his own child. The whole essence of Solo’s role in that movie did not match up in any way, shape or form to the character of Han that has been crafted over the last 30+ years.

      And I don’t think it was a great story – with or without Han’s death. That was really the point of me bringing the movie up. Han’s death sucked, but what was more devastating was the recycled plot lines that were used to hold up the structure of the movie. It was more flash and glitter than it was deep story.

      It’s cool that you and many other fans enjoyed the movie. I didn’t, and I won’t be continuing on this journey with Disney.

      Like

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