Too many fingers in the Star Wars pie

This one’s been nagging at me all month. I know it shouldn’t matter to me, but it does. The current state of the Star Wars franchise, is schizophrenia. Too may projects and products. Uneven scripting, uneven tone, uneven quality. Terrific acting talent and special effects going to utter waste. An entire literary arm of the canon all but abandoned. Is it Lucas’s fault? Kathleen Kennedy’s fault? Hell, is it our fault for continuing to invest in this stuff when it has been letting us down more often than not?

I am old enough to remember when Star Wars comprised just three motion pictures, the novelizations of same, and a tiny handful of literary add-ons such as the Brian Daley books about Han Solo, as well as the Lando Calrissian books by L. Neil Smith. At that time, the whole of the Star Wars franchise could be taken in one intellectual bite. You didn’t have to devote many hundreds of hours to pouring over games, dozens and dozens of tie-in books, several spin-off television series, prequels, sequels, etc. The original three films formed a coherent core, and what little extra franchise storytelling there was, kept fairly close to home plate.

But that was almost 40 years ago. Since then, a host of authors, producers, directors, script doctors, script fixers, and assorted other Good Idea Fairies™ have all plunged their fingers into the franchise pie. With the result being that Star Wars in 2022 is trying to go in many different directions at once, and precious little of it is what I’d call genuinely memorable. Unlike the original films at their finest, when pre-Jedi Luke bit off more than he could chew in the belly of Cloud City, not much about the current effort glues itself instantly and permanently to one’s multiversal landscape. Too much new stuff not only isn’t written very well, it’s altering or overwriting what’s been previously released — at a disturbing pace.

Such that I am not sure anything will be left of “original canon” before too long.

And so I hang my head and conclude — as I’ve concluded with the Star Trek franchise — that the best, worthiest parts of Star Wars happened long ago, and I ought to not invest any more time in what’s being currently put out.

Yes, I did try with Kenobi. Because I like Ewan in that part, and I really wanted it to be a quality miniseries. But they turned it into a Punky Brewster Leia escapade, with bumbling old Ben tagging along in dull-witted fashion, behaving nothing at all like the actual Kenobi would behave, and Darth Vader too, and it was Moses Ingram’s bad luck to get trapped in a bad script that abused her abilities to the same degree it abused others’ abilities. Such that I tuned out by the third episode, and never looked back.

Honestly, this is what happens when you allow too many people to come play in your universe, and nobody really has any singular vision for the thing, nor the control to enforce it. Even Lucas didn’t have any good ideas, beyond the first film, and relied on others to fill in the gaps. Until it gradually got to be just too much, and now we’ve got a crazyhouse property that is wretchedly inconsistent with itself, mistakes stupidity and sillyness for “fan service,” and deliberately attacks the fandom, using actors as defensive pinatas, the instant any fan dares to complain that the latest, greatest product isn’t up to par.

I don’t know how this gets fixed. And at my age, I am prepared to just let it all sail to Byzantium, assuming that the core I knew in my youth is still the core, and much else is apocrypha. Some of it well-intended. Some of it even coming close to rekindling the magic I felt when I was a kid. But still second-level compared to New Hope, Empire, and Jedi. A three-act space opera in the truest, most loving sense of the phrase. Timeless. Rather unparalleled in popular entertainment. With such a long afterglow that it is still making (diminishing) billions for its rights-holders.

41 comments

  1. The games have lost the thread too. Squadrons was fun to play, but the writing was thin at best.

    On the other hand, the original X-Wing games are up of GoG for a song, and they do run on Intel HD 500 integrated graphics.

  2. I loved the first movies, enjoyed some of the spin off novels (and abhorred a few, too). The technical manuals were pure fun. I watched the prequels mostly for the special effects and vehicles, and to say I’d watched them. *The Force Awakens,* the first “new” film, got viewed. I laughed in the wrong places, could not stand the main character, and the obvious shot-stealing* completely threw me out of the film. I walked away. I will nourish my age-faded memories of the thrill and wonder of the first three movies, and the franchise can go away. Sort of like Doctor Who.

    *[It’s not the movie-maker’s fault that I had just shown *Triumpf des Willens* in class, and so the shots were obvious. But the theft in *A New Hope* is done with a lighter touch, and works far better, IMHO]

  3. The original movie was good. After that, Lucas got delusions of grandeur. The next two weren’t bad. The prequels,,, pfftui. I gave up entirely by SW 7.
    Star Trek: the same. I’m old enough to have seen TOS when it first aired (not much of it, my dad never liked it, but I devoured it when it came back on in syndication in the early ’70s), The last movie I saw was Nemesis, and when the reboot turned Kirk into a boiled sprat, I swore off the movies. As far as the series, I’ve avoided everything past Voyager.
    Doctor Who: Hasn’t aged well at all. My favorites were Doctors 3, 4, and 5. After that, blech.

    1. Nod.

      To be fair, it would take a Good Writer to tell an enjoyable story where The Good Guys Lose.

      Lucas showed that he wasn’t a good writer in the prequels.

      What’s worse IMO is that in the first “real” movies, we see the Jedi as this Great Force For Good, but in the prequels we see the Jedi as a group that deserves to lose. 😡

      1. I remember Crystal Soldier/Crystal Dragon pulled it off, but I also recall Sharon Lee and Steve Miller saying in the foreword that they had had to make the book into a prequel because they weren’t good enough writers to do it justice when they first thought the story up.

        I recall it took them something like 15+ years to get there too.

      2. I would actually recommend skipping the Revenge of the Sith movie and reading the novelization by Matthew Stover. It portrays Anakin’s fall to the dark side – and the fall of the Republic and the Jedi along with him – as the stuff of epic tragedy – with a glimmer of hope at the end. In Luke and Leia.

    2. My brother and I lined up to see the first movie at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, just after it first premiered, and I was on leave before going out to Japan on my first overseas in the Air Force. We thought we would catch an early evening showing, but the theater was sold out for that showing and the next, and the lines for the box office, and entry to the theater went around the block in both directions. We decided – what the heck. Brother got in line for tickets, I got in line for entry, and we were there in line for hours, with a congenial group of enthusiasts for the hottest new movie ever! What an awesome movie that was, experiencing it for the first time. The second and third were almost as good – the hero saga at full strength: adventure, daring, heroism and lashings of wit.
      What a letdown the next trilogy was. There was only one mildly humorous jape in The Phantom Menace. Only one.

  4. I think of it like Robin Hood, Zorro or the Lone Ranger. No matter how often remade, extended, spoofed, misunderstood, or otherwise abused, the core remains. The original Star Wars added several examples to my internalized view of the Archetype of the Hero.

        1. Not intending to be antagonistic. I just really hate the way some adaptations glorify adultery.

          1. Semantics.

            To be more specific: bad things that are TREATED AS BAD THINGS and that have bad consequences, yes. Bad things that are being portrayed as good ala the Mists of Avalon take on the relationship, no, that should slough off.

        2. Probably never. Like King David and Bathsheba, it’s meant to serve as a horrible warning.

          1. One notes that within a century of courtly love’s advent, writers cheerfully wrote chivalric romance in which the lovers married. It did not corrupt them that far.

  5. I think the problem with recent Star Wars has been less a case of too many fingers in the pie, and more a case of too few with skill and good judgement. There have been too many elements that don’t fit well crammed in of late. For example, in Book of Boba Fett, the fastidious “mods” and their shiny Vespa-like hover scooters just don’t seem like they belong amongs the nitty-gritty grimy cities and wastes of Tatooine. The non-renewal of Gina Carano was a piece of spectacular idiocy that gave the lie to LucasFilm’s blather about the importance of strong women. Star Wars is unlikely to see much improvement in the near term thanks to the Woke writers and execs and the talentless hacks (some of which overlap).

    1. There are only so many people with the skill set and whose vision fits. You can’t manage with too many fingers.

  6. “I don’t know how this gets fixed.”

    Bankruptcy court, most likely. I foresee no Great Savior on the horizon to put a firm hand on the tiller and steer the ship away from the rocks. Marvel is showing strong signs of going the same way, now that Stan the Man has gone.

    Corporations don’t make movies, or books, or comics. People do. Individuals. They sit ass in chair, and they write. Corporations only pay for them.

    As long as the people doing the writing are taking their orders from bean-counters and marketing weenies, we will keep getting dreck like the Fantastic Four reboot, The Eternals, and the most recent Star Wars movie whose name I can’t even remember.

    But that’s okay. Bankruptcy will be along presently, of this there can be no doubt. You drive away the audience, you go broke. Pretty simple.

    1. The best thing for most franchises from Superman to Star Wars would be for them to enter the public domain.

      1. It’s what’s kept Lovecraft’s work great and relevant.

        I just wish the Old Gent from Providence could have made some money off his own work in his lifetime.

  7. Could it be just as simple as nobody is willing to take responsibility?

    Seriously, it could just be as simple as that. Everybody wants the rewards of success, but nobody wants to suffer if there’s a failure.

  8. A good story can have political/cultural overtones, but when the story is entirely subservient to a political narrative it will utterly fail both as entertainment and commentary.

    Similarly, a good story can have dark elements and tragedy, but if no sacrifices are honored by the author and darkness triumphs, then what’s the point? Go get drunk and read obituaries and fatal accident reports.

    Star Wars was originally a classic tale of the hero coming of age. I thought the prequels were ok, but the spiral of Anakin into Vader was clumsily unbelievable. I’ve also thought the rule of two for the sith was absolutely unbelievable.

    I went with my oldest son to see Force Awakens: he was raised on Star Wars. Told him afterwards I was done, it would only get worse until it was totally worthless.

    I haven’t seen anything that dissuades me from this.

    1. This needs a reboot, a la Galaxy Quest. In the first 1/3, acknowledging the cheesiness of the original, admiring the ‘realness’ of the simulation, and – the horror! – it’s REAL, and the not-prepared group has to summon reserves to pull off the win! But, with a light touch.
      Something that could replace the mess that the Star Wars follow-ups have taken.

  9. Star Wars has had this problem before, though. The Expanded Universe got to be such a mess, what with all the superweapons of the week and OOC behavior, that they finally had to bring in Timothy Zahn again to try and fix things, which he did.

    Unfortunately, a key difference is that, back then, the bad writing and the complaints had less of a culture war aspect to them, which meant it was a little less difficult for fandom to reach consensus that the franchise had gone off the rails and for the suits in charge to engage in course correction. Nowadays, Star Wars has become another front in the culture war, and it’s not doing good things for the franchise.

  10. It is not too many fingers. If random eight year olds were running Star Wars, it would be better.

    It is fingers that hate Star Wars, hate adventure, and want fans to suffer. And they cooperate very well, those fingers, to rip everything into little pieces, and smear the remains with snot and feces.

    Make no mistake. This is less good than boys pulling the heads off your Barbies. At least Barbie would die gloriously.

  11. Lucas made honest mistakes with the prequels. Jackson’s wife and her writing partner got too fanficky with their LOTR adaptation.

    But what happens now is deliberate malice, which makes the honest mistakes and well-meanng fanfic look good in retrospect.

  12. I enjoyed the Mandalorian because, while it touched on events in the 7 Star Wars movies, it wasn’t characters we know and love acting like someone else entirely.

    And I will die on the hill of “There were only 7 Star Wars movies” – the original trilogy, the prequels (because OMG the costumes!) and Rogue One. I’ve heard rumors that someone tried to make another trilogy, but rumors are scurrilous things, and should be eradicated like fire ants.

    1. Alas, they followed Mandalorian up with Book of Boba Fett, which was problematic at best. The only really good episodes were essentially the ones that were mostly Mando.

  13. Yeah, we cancelled our Disney subscription last week. Star Wars was the only reason we were keeping it. The Mandalorian was excellent, some of the other stuff was good, the Princess Leia thing brought nothing new to the character…

    That was it for us. We’re out.

  14. All things considered, it might have been best to have had the Filoni cartoon series remain the final StarWars project: at least he genuinely loves the series and the canon. KK’s LucasFilm “braintrust” don’t even have any prior experience in writing serial fiction…which explains a LOT about their output and their “High Republic” pet project.

    1. :waggles hands:
      Thrawn was awesome.
      …he also made Lucas jealous, which is why we got the nonsense of the prequels.

      As I frequently point out– and can find interviews of Lucas publicly stating the same– the prequels is when they murdered the EU.

      Thankfully, the fans determine canon, so I can ignore all the stupid.

      1. I liked Barbara Hambley’s books and I thought Callista was awesome.

        I said it.

        Mara Jade grew on me.

      2. I even kind of like McIntyre’s Crystal Star.

        And the Yuuzhan Vong war was both the logical next step after defeating the Empire, and the issues around it were extremely relevant.

  15. I recall John C Wright’s StarQuest project seemed promising, but I think it’s stalled.

  16. The Galaxy’s Edge novels by Nick Cole and a second guy who’s harder to spell while inebriated 😉 did a good job at creating an equivalent Star Wars with the serial numbers filed off. I heard that it may have stalled as well, but there were some darn good novels written.

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