05 March 2023

Star Wars: A Universe Best Left Alone

Star Wars was once the greatest trilogy of movies to ever come out of Hollywood. It was created by a man who drew inspiration from science fiction and fantasy serials of the 1930's and 40's, Frank Herbert's Dune, and World War II films. He collaborated with some of the best crafts folk to ever work in film, and together they truly made movie magic.

Those movies took us on the hero's journey across a galaxy of different peoples, worlds, environments, monsters, and technologies. They gave us space wizards in the Jedi, fantastical weapons like the lightsaber, fast and memorable spaceships, lovable robots, and aliens both endearing and horrifying. They gave us heroes to adore and idolize for the rest of our lives, and they taught us that hard work, perseverance, hope, and redemption are priceless and powerful.
In the decade and half after the release of that trilogy there was a period in which the fans were able to buy toys so that they could, in a way, own pieces of that universe. They were also given one of the greatest tabletop roleplaying games to ever exist, and from that roleplaying game came the Expanded Universe which gave the fans novels, comic books, and computer games that would grow Star Wars into an even grander mythology. No matter how much of this material was created, it all belonged to the fans and allowed them to create their own adventures in the universe or to follow a chosen path through whichever product they wished to collect. It was a nebula of joy and endless exploration, and Lucasfilm was content to let the fans celebrate the core movies and go about their way with the various products they licensed and had produced.
Then came the rerelease of the trilogy, with slight modifications. This was used as a way to gauge interest in Lucasfilm's possible return to making Star Wars movies, though at the time many, including myself, didn't realize it. There were rumors and hopes, but no one could have anticipated how much the reality of such things would forever alter the Star Wars universe that we loved.
When the Special Edition Trilogy was released it was all hype and spectacle. Old cut scenes were reworked or updated and added to the films, computer generated embellishments were littered across the screen, and unfortunate changes were made to the beloved foundational trilogy. It all seemed great at first, especially to younger fans, but then a feeling crept over people that all of the changes were unnecessary and excessive. What seemed cool and new came to be regarded as garish and shallow. Little did we know that these new offerings from Lucasfilm were to be the beginning of one of the ultimate betrayals in science fiction and fantasy culture.
Shortly after the Special Edition it was announced that George Lucas was getting ready to finally make a prequel trilogy, films which would complete the six-film plan he had previously discussed and would flesh out the history of the trilogy we had all loved and with which we had grown. This seemed exciting, and there was an intense swell of hope. Why wouldn't the fans want more Star Wars, right?
Then the prequels were released. With each film the hope shriveled and the joy waned. These were not good movies, and it was clear that George Lucas had made some terrible mistakes. He surrounded himself with, "Yes men"; he became obsessed with his special effects toys to the point where they failed to serve the story but completely took over chunks of the film; he demonstrated that he was not a good director; he cast poorly; and he seemed intent to not-so-subtly inform the fans that the heroes they grew up loving were not the important central characters after all. Apparently everything was about a whiny, pissy kid who would go on to become the bad guy we all had believed to be the best film villain ever created. It was a massive mess, and what's worse, it was a heartbreaking disappointment.
The once healthy and happy relationship between Lucasfilm and Star Wars fans was in ruins. Trust was broken, Star Wars felt tainted, and apparently the original trilogy we all cherished was lost to us forever. That underwhelming Special Edition we believed to be a fun little bonus instead became Lucasfilm's replacement for the original trilogy. They were also further altered to reinforce their connection to the new, terrible Prequel Trilogy.
Star Wars was in flames, and it was clear that the happy days prior to the meddling of mad George were gone. Every product or production following that period felt cynical and spiteful to those of us who were happier before and without the new material. For many, this period was a wakeup call and a reason to abandon the thing they loved. It destroyed fan culture and made way for the shallow fad nerd wave which began swelling in the early 2000's.
Then, as if things couldn't get any worse, George Lucas sold everything off to Disney, and the remaining original fans were treated to an even bolder display of corporate contempt, inept creation, general betrayal, and confirmation that not only was Star Wars no longer what they loved it was no longer meant for them. The Expanded Universe, created by and for fans, was delegitimized and thrown away. They were told to either like the garbage, skin-suit that Star Wars had become or to take a hike. Worse, some of them were even attacked personally by people within Disney who decided that Star Wars was no longer a beloved space fantasy but a social and political platform for fringe cultures and ideologies trying to control everything for their own satisfaction.
And now we come to today. Disney continues to own Star Wars, and their output continues to be substandard, shoddy, and ineptly crafted. The old days are long gone, and hope no longer exists in modern Star Wars for those who loved it as it was.
However, there is a fact that many have realized, and people have been trying to point it out since the Prequel Trilogy began disappointing fans. It cuts through George Lucas' indifference and Disney's authoritarian attempt to warp and politicize a space fantasy franchise. It is simply this, everything that made Star Wars great and allowed for the wonderful times before George began his meddling still exists. There are ways to get copies of the original, unaltered movies. The original roleplaying game, the books, comics, toys, and video games still exist. It is possible to live the saying, "Ignorance is bliss" and only indulge in what came before. It is also possible to continue to create fan material and ways to enjoy the old stuff without ever having to acknowledge anything created for or after the prequels.
Star Wars made movie history and it changed the world. It gave so many people so much joy, and it provided a way for its fans to celebrate it by exploring and creating with the endless possibilities it offered. It deserved better treatment from its creator. It didn't deserve to get sold off to a massive and revolting corporation. It deserves to be preserved and maintained by people who actually care about it, and thankfully there are ways for them to do so without ever having to support or acknowledge the dark days.
Star Wars, true Star Wars, lives on.

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