Film

Can 'Star Wars' Be Saved?

Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015) (IMDB)

After the vitriolic fan backlash to Star Wars: The Last Jedi and the financial failure of Solo: A Star Wars Story, Star Wars needs saving. Here are some ideas on how to do that without invoking the help of The Force.

Can the Star Wars Franchise be saved?

In the last quarter of 2012 George Lucas sold Lucasfilm LTD (including the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises) to none other than the House of Mouse itself, the Walt Disney Company for over $4 billion in cash and stock. For Lucas this was a chance to step aside and pass the saber to other filmmakers (as he originally intended) and to enrich the charitable George Lucas Educational Foundation with that same $4 billion. For Disney, the benefit was obvious. The entire Star Wars franchise had never had a flop and its theme park merchandising had already earned great rewards from featuring Star Wars and Indiana Jones rides. The sky would now be far from the limit.

For fans, this merger also showed great promise. At last we would see the long rumored Sequel Trilogy as kicked off by the much anticipated Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015) along with a veritable cornucopia of Star Wars spinoffs in multimedia including the Star Wars Anthology features, beginning with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in 2016.

By the second quarter of 2018 things were no longer so bright. Although the aforementioned Episode VII has become one of the highest grossing films of all time (whether or not you adjust for inflation), fan response to the film has cooled and it/s widely considered to be a thinly veiled remake of the original Star Wars (1977). Although Rogue One proved to be critically and commercially successful (not to mention largely acclaimed by most fans) things sent downhill from there.

The lesson learned from J.J. Abrams' The Force Awakens seemed to be to avoid sameness as much as possible and go the other way by destroying all of the potential set up from the seventh film. Thus Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) polarized fans with many loving it as something original and many deriding this eighth film as the absolute worst in the series. As fans organized to demand that Episode VIII be thrown out of continuity and remade, the next Star Wars Anthology film faced shakeups as its directors were fired and Ron Howard was brought in to finalize their film. Although this controversy surely bears some blame, the fact that Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) became Star Wars' first ever financial failure can largely be placed at the feet of its predecessor. Many fans were simply too unhappy with The Last Jedi to continue with the series so soon.

Strangely, the result is that the Star Wars Anthology films, which hinted entries about Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi, are now put on hold and Johnson has been given his own Star Wars trilogy. In that the sequel trilogy is still one film short of a trilogy at the time of this writing, there will be great pressure on the returning Abrams' Episode IX to save not only the trilogy but the franchise itself.

The question is… can Star Wars be saved? Let's hope so. But how? I have some ideas.

Respect the history of Star Wars (and the Skywalker family).

Andy Serkis as Snoke in Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) (IMDB)

The biggest crime of The Force Awakens is not that Abrams delivered yet another remake, but that in doing so he undid every single victory the original trilogy won at the end of Return of the Jedi (1983).

As Jedi (Episode VI) rounded out the original trilogy we saw the Empire destroyed, the Sith vanquished, freedom restored to the galaxy and Luke Skywalker finally making peace with his father (not to mention his sister). Although not all of this was the way Lucas originally intended, this did provide a satisfying and thorough ending to the saga, including, retroactively, the prequels.

That is until The Force Awakens came along and revealed that everything in the galaxy quickly went back to the old crapola!

Yes, although the good guys won the war and the New Republic has been reestablished as the economic and military center of the galaxy we now have "The First Order" risen from the ashes of the Empire. So with the restoration of the Republic does that make The First Order the plucky "rebels" of the galaxy? Heck no! For reasons unexplained (at least in the film itself), the New Republic isn't fighting the First Order, a ragtag "Resistance" is taking on that job with implied tacit support from the Republic. Oh, and they're doing all of that without Han Solo because, in spite of his loving embrace of Leia in Return of the Jedi he has now become a wife-abandoning smuggler… just to, you know, reboot the character.

The Force Awakens is not merely content with destroying the legacy of the original series, but the prequels as well. In the prequels we saw the majesty and elegance of the Old Republic and retroactively thrilled to its reinstatement after Return of the Jedi. Instead we get a brief glimpse of the New Republic's capital just before it is unceremoniously destroyed faster than you can say "Alderaan".

Still, the film ends on a hopeful, if mostly familiar note. The Resistance has destroyed the huge planet-killing weapon, the surviving bad guys are running scared, the New Republic is going to carry on, as Princess Leia still lives and we've even found Luke Skywalker. The music swells as the new hero Rey hands Luke his old lightsaber! Sounds good, right?

Well, no. Johnson's mandate was, it seemed to fans, to not only ruin the joy of the past trilogies but also the promise of this one as well. This becomes evident the moment Luke Skywalker takes his father's light saber from Rey and casually throws it over his shoulder like a prop in a vaudeville act and runs off to hide in his little hut.

Does the remaining galaxy come together to defeat the clearly outnumbered First Order? Nope! See, the First Order, in spite of losing so severely at the end of the previous film was actually the secret winner, ha-ha, and is pursuing literally 100 percent of the surviving good guys to their inevitable deaths… because, well, folks, they're out of gas.

Big mysteries kept us going between films, like who Rey's parents might be, why she is so in touch with the Force (and specifically that light saber) and, conversely, who The First Order's mysterious leader Snoke is and how he rose to power against all odds. And then there are the tantalizing hints about the new Dark Side cult, "the Knights of Ren". Surely we learn about all of that, right?

Wrong. Rey's parents are explained away in a throwaway line saying they sold her for booze, Snoke is offhandedly (and comically) killed by his apprentice Kylo Ren with no exploration into his history, identity or ascension and there is no mention whatsoever of the Knights of Ren. What we do find out is that Luke Skywalker, our hero, is actually a coward who put all of this in motion by trying to kill his nephew Kylo, then ran off to hide and mope, Rey is in touch with the Force "just cuz" and, most importantly, it seems to fans that Rian Johnson hates Star Wars.

In the end, the light saber passed down from Anakin to Luke to Rey is broken, Yoda appears in a cameo just long enough to set fire to The Last Jedi temple and all of the Jedi tomes that preserve his own legacy, Kylo's struggle with the dark and light sides lasts about four seconds when he thinks about whether he should shoot at his mother… and then does. And the entirety of the Resistance, the remaining good guys of the entire galaxy is not a series of planets, a government, a base, or even a ragtag fleet of ships, it's barely enough to fill up the whole Millennium Falcon.

If that's not enough, after one exciting appearance (after refusing to do anything but complain and drink blue milk for the entire film) Luke Skywalker not only vanishes -- he dies. Just like that. Poof. The man is dead alongside everything he ever loved and stood for, including his own bravery. After all of Luke's victories and courage he is now a coward who rejects everything about himself? We waited forty years for this?

Sure, I get it, things have to get darker before they get lighter (hopefully) in Abrams' Episode IX. Sure, nobody wants to see a domestic drama about Leia and Han sharing a wonderful retirement and everything is coming up "space roses". I get that. It's called Star Wars for a reason. But is "wiping the slate clean" and killing off all of our favorite characters and ruining what they stand for the right way to move the saga forward?

Absolutely not! Lucasfilm, Disney, Kathleen Kennedy need to stop this canonical blasphemy and stop undoing the victories that made Star Wars great. This is even lazier than remaking their own films. Rehashes are at least respectful. Destroying films' legacies not only ruins the films themselves but all of their predecessors. If you want to expand and grow Star Wars you have to respect what made the saga what it is.

No, we don't have to follow a new generation of Skywalkers with each new generation of moviegoers, but we also shouldn't be uncaringly throwing away those characters, their victories, their promises, their histories, their very characteristics and literally everything that made them who they are.

George Lucas is the franchise's friend, not its enemy.

Thandie Newton as Val, Woody Harrelson as Beckett, and Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo in Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) (Photo by Jonathan Olley - © 2018 - Lucasfilm Ltd. / IMDB)

One of the more baffling things that has come out of the evolution of Star Wars has been the demonization of the saga's very creator. While Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and the characters they have brought to the screen for decades have been treated with reverence (up until Johnson took over), Lucas has been relegated to the junk heap.

True, many fans reacted poorly to the prequels and many cheered the idea of new blood continuing the franchise without its creator at the helm. But even Lucasfilm itself treated Lucas less like the creator of the biggest science fiction franchise of all time and more like the annoying uncle who will neither leave the table nor pass the stuffing.

After Lucas sold his namesake company to Disney he did not, as you might expect, simply exit stage left on the back of a tauntaun. No, Lucas remained chief executive of his company even after the sale and would continue to be co-chair of his company along with Kennedy. This lasted until June of 2013 when Lucas stepped down, leaving Kennedy the president of Lucasfilm, answering directly to Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn. This relegated Lucas to the position of "Creative Consultant".

Well that's great, isn't it? Lucas knows his own creation better than anybody including the naysaying fan boys out there. AsLucas described his role, he was essentially the keeper of the canon, advising filmmakers on what did and did not fit within the Star Wars universe. From sound in space to floating cars, the "million little pieces" that he knew best were his job to advise upon as the next generation took his sequel concepts and shaped the future of Star Wars.

That lasted all the way up until January 2014 when Disney discarded all of his ideas.

This is after Lucas provided Disney and his own handpicked sequel writer/ director Abrams with his original outlines for the sequel trilogy (yes, as reported here, Lucas did have firmly outlined ideas for the sequels). These ideas were tossed out by Abrams and Disney after which Lucas said "OK, I will go my way, and I'll let them go their way" because "They weren't that keen to have me involved anyway" and after having sold Lucasfilm "I don't have the control to do [what I want with Star Wars] anymore, and all I would do is muck everything up".

But what was Disney's motivation for this action? According to Lucas it was because Disney wanted "to make something for the fans". So the answer was sidelining the creator of the franchise who made us all fans to begin with?

Lucas had carte blanche when he owned Lucasfilm and he made the Prequel Trilogy on his own terms, in his own sandbox and these films had a mixed reaction from fans. There's no denying that. But let's be honest with ourselves here; were the prequels nearly as polarizing to fans as The Last Jedi or even The Force Awakens have been? No. Not even close. Even 1999's Jar-Jar Binks rich The Phantom Menace hasn't achieved the pariah status that The Last Jedi is now condemned with.

The new Star Wars films are making money and having critical success but even with The Last Jedi's 91 percent approval rating, fans remain angry about the film. That is to say, The Last Jedi was most assuredly not "something for the fans".

A great movie, that still satisfied fans, could have been made had Lucas been retained. After all, this is the man who took a similar approach to the " Star Wars Expanded Universe", which is now relegated to "legend" status as the prequels went their own way. For decades Lucas approved stories that fit with the Star Wars canon without writing them all himself. He certainly could have helped make something wonderful here.

Do you know which Star Wars film the fans have been reported loving? Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018), which is the one Disney Star Wars film that Lucas did work on. The Han Solo origin film was his idea and it was Lucas who hired Empire Strikes Back scribe Lawrence Kasdan to create the plot and started the whole thing moving forward before he departed his own company. Sure, Solo is the first ever Star Wars franchise's financial failure, but again, whose fault is that? Is it Solo's fault or that of its largely reviled lead-in, The Last Jedi?

Disney doesn't have to give Lucas back creative control or the director's chair or even a producer's credit but could it hurt to listen to the creator of the very franchise it's trying desperately to save?

Ignoring Lucas now is tantamount to refusing the assistance of a skilled mechanic while stuck on the side of the road.

Take back the singular vision for Star Wars.

Adam Driver as Kylo Ren in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015) (IMDB)

Call it a crazy piece of trivia or call it comeuppance, but just as Lucas had his own outlines for the sequel trilogy, so did Abrams create his own sequel scripts after having scrapped all of Lucas' ideas. What happened? The Last Jedi writer/director Johnson scrapped every bit of Abram's ideas in favor of his own.

And why wouldn't Disney trust him? After all, Johnson is a good filmmaker. Yes, I said that. Although I'm not among the 91 percent of critics who approved of The Last Jedi, I am among the majority of critics who praised Brick (2005) and Looper (2012), both by Johnson. The problem is that much as Star Wars was Lucas' own sandbox for years, Brick, Looper and 2008's The Brothers Bloom were all original creations of Johnson (as writer and director), not work for hire in an existing universe. It seems the that Johnson simply does n't play well with others.

We see how that worked out for Johnson, as he has inexplicably been given his own Star Wars trilogy, but this hasn't worked out very well for fans or for Solo.

Originally this change of writer/ directors was set to happen again for an Episode IX as divergent from VII and VIII as VIII was from VII. Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow was initially announced to helm the ninth picture. However, after creative differences forced Trevorrow out, Abrams stepped right back in and now has to clean up the galactic mess left by Johnson.

How is Abrams going to rescue the saga? If I might make a suggestion, it's too late to save The Last Jedi -- so re-explain it, instead.

Now I'm not talking about some Bobby Ewing-esque revelation that everything in the 8th film was just a dream and now Luke Skywalker is not only still alive and well and living in Dallas but also married to Teneniel Djo while expecting a baby from his first love, Mara Jade. Let's not be trite. But something from Abrams' (or, preferably, Lucas') original concepts must be able to be used to reset the franchise and explain the divergence without major continuity gaps or resorting to a yet another remake.

Pick up the abandoned threads and bring them to fruition with the best ideas you can come up with. Who is Snoke? Who are Rey's parents? Was Kylo lying or was he lied to? Is the real Snoke still pulling the strings somewhere in the background? Is there something deeper to Luke and the imbalance in the Force? Tell us. But give us a singular vision.

Let's take a look at Disney's other major shared universe, which also didn't originate under the awnings of the House of Mouse. I'm talking about Marvel Comics and its Marvel Cinematic Universe. So far each of the films under that MCU banner has been a critical and commercial success, whereas Marvel properties outside of that banner have had mixed success and its rivals at DC Comics are still struggling to get its franchise off the ground.

What keeps Marvel together? Well, a lot of credit has to go to Kevin Feige, producer of all of the films and the guiding provider of a shared direction. Disney was wise enough to keep Feige on when it bought Marvel in 2009 (a year after the advent of the MCU). Did Disney do the same thing with Lucasfilm? As mentioned above, it didn't keep Lucas as that singular voice. Nor did Kennedy or Abrams step into that role, as seen with Johnson's changes.

Say what you want about the prequels or even the original trilogy (both have been derided and praised at different times), at least they had a single vision and that vision didn't include simply remaking the work of others. Lucas guided the prequel trilogy to fill in the blanks and expand upon the hints the original trilogy made. He didn't remake A New Hope with a nine-year-old in the main role. The original trilogy had many different collaborators that led to the legend we now know (no, it wasn't all Lucas) but the veto power and final decisions were always Lucas' own. Regardless of who was in the director's chair, Lucas was in the driver's seat. While the original Star Wars was indeed an amalgam of many of Lucas' influences (from Flash Gordon to The Hidden Fortress), Lucas took great pains to ensure there were no direct corollaries and each film was distinctly its own as well as being distinctly Star Wars.

Thus, in making a sequel trilogy "for the fans", the makers of the sequels have alienated fans… and they have only one film left in the sequel trilogy to make it right. After the vitriolic backlash against The Last Jedi and the box office disappointment of Solo, you can bet that Disney and Abrams aren't about to take many chances.

But now is the time to take those chances and restore the singular vision instead of allowing the venerable saga to end on a bland (and convoluted) misfire. Take note, just as The Last Jedi made The Force Awakens a worse movie by throwing all its cliffhangers over the shoulder and The Force Awakens made Return of the Jedi feel retroactively incomplete, a well-done and intelligently inclusive Episode IX could restore the glory of Return of the Jedi and make The Last Jedi a better movie while elevating the promises of The Force Awakens to fruition.

The time is right, but is Disney making the right decisions? Or are we going to end Episode IX the "safe way" with another planet-destroying weapon exploding, Kylo Ren embracing the light side of the Force and marrying Rey while Anakin, Luke, Leia, Qui-Gon, Yoda, Shmi, Tusken Raider #8, Obi-Wan, Jocasta Nu, Jek Porkins, Han and even Palpatine (for some reason) all stand around as Force Ghosts at a teddy bear picnic as the music swells and our childhoods collectively die?

Let Carrie Fisher (and Princess Leia) rest in peace.

Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) (IMDB)

Sadly, it's hard to say that Abrams and company are making the right decisions here, as Episode IX plans include resurrecting Carrie Fisher (as Princess Leia) via unused footage from The Force Awakens.

Tragically, the Fisher passed away in December of 2016, one year after the release of The Force Awakens and one year before The Last Jedi. Luckily there was enough footage shot for The Last Jedi to complete the film with her role intact. Touchingly, just two weeks before her death, Rogue One debuted, featuring a digital representation of her character offering one beautiful word to lead directly into the original trilogy: "Hope."

As a lifelong fan who has seen literally every Star Wars film in the theaters first run (including the original back in 1977) I get tears in my eyes whenever I see that fountain-of-youth Leia smiling in Rogue One and perhaps even more so when I see the dedication at the end of The Last Jedi which reads "In loving memory of our princess, Carrie Fisher."

These tributes are both beautiful and well-deserved. They should also be the end of her onscreen Star Wars career. Forcing half-a-decade old footage of a deceased actress into a new film for the sake of nostalgia is not a beautiful tribute. This is another example of how Abrams has approached the sequel trilogy from the beginning, as a fanboy trying to shove everything he can into an overwrought and overly familiar fan film.

The only way for this to work and retain respectability is if a brief scene shows up in a flashback sequence of someone lovingly missing her before her memory gives that character strength for the final battle.

But who and how and when? Sure Leia's brother, Luke, is going to miss her (and Mark Hamill is returning for the final film) but Disney and Abrams allowed Johnson to first denigrate, then humiliate, then meekly elevate, then terminate Luke Skywalker, so the most we can hope for (beyond a Bobby Ewing dream excuse) is for Luke's return as a Force Ghost. Why the hell would a Force Ghost pine away for a fellow Force Ghost? Leia's right over there, Luke. Give her a Force hug!

This leaves, who? Kylo Ren to evoke the image of his mommy to hand her a "Sorry I killed Dad" Hallmark card? Would Rey tearfully flash back to the approximately 78 seconds she shared with Leia? Can we all handle a tear-jerking scene in which Chewbacca searches his memories and thinks "Damn, my sister-in-law was cool!" Is Billy Dee Williams' return as Lando simply an excuse to allow him to pour a forty of Colt 45 over Leia's grave and quip "Works every time!"? Does C-3PO dream of electric Leias?

There's absolutely no good or respectful way to shove this footage into a movie that already has the weight of a franchise rescue on its shoulders. Give her one last dedication and please let the Princess we all grew up loving rest in peace.

No more rebranding, rehashing, remaking and re-expanding what has been done to death.

Woolly Wamba the snow monster in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) (IMDB)

Imagine this: Princess Leia and Han Solo fall in love, get married and have children. Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker creates a new Jedi Order within the New Republic to help continue the restoration of Peace and Justice to the galaxy. Sadly one of Luke's students is tempted by the Dark Side and becomes a Dark Lord of the Sith. To make matters even more shocking, the Jedi who fell to the Dark Side was none other than Luke's own nephew, the son of Han and Leia.

I can hear you screaming "We don't have to imagine that. That's exactly what happens in the sequel trilogy."

Au contraire. I'm not talking about Ben Solo who becomes Kylo Ren in the sequel series. I'm talking about Jacen Solo who becomes Darth Caedus in the Star Wars Expanded Universe novels. The Expanded Universe (which has now been relegated to non-canonical "Legends" status) became popular for a reason. These were all expansions on the themes George Lucas created and all had George Lucas' approval for canonization.

Within the once-official Expanded Universe we did indeed keep up with the Skywalker/ Solo clan. We also saw the remnants of the Empire hanging on and fighting with the New Republic in a brand new Star Wars trio of novels called the Thrawn Trilogy. The reduced Empire even developed its own planet destroying weapon after the second Death Star but before The Force Awakens' "Starkiller Base" and called it the "Galaxy Gun".

Am I suggesting that Disney should have simply adapted the Expanded Universe? No. That would be both limiting and devoid of surprises. But the sequels could have followed a completely new path (perhaps as outlined by Lucas) that enhanced but did not negate the universe that fans had invested in for decades.

Instead we get tiny hints that things are similar but not nearly as interesting. In the Expanded Universe, Luke continues to struggle with the Dark Side within himself, his pupils and his family and remains in character as he ages, adventures and even falls in love with a former enemy. In The Last Jedi he's a scared, tired, weak old coward who turns his back on his family, his friends, his responsibilities, his life and even the Force because neither Abrams nor Johnson respect the character in any real way. In the Expanded Universe, Leia fulfills the promise of the original trilogy and becomes one of the most powerful Jedi Knights in the galaxy. In The Force Awakens she gets a headache when her son kills her husband. In The Last Jedi she uses the Force one time to drag herself to some oxygen without ever showing any signs of Force sensitivity before or since. Why?

Again, what's done is done and what's canon is canon. This isn't about excusing the past but fixing the future. So the best advice to the Star Wars creators present and future in the world would be: STOP!

Please, stop renaming what we already have only to call it by a new name. We didn't need the remnants of the Empire renamed into something meaningless like "The First Order". We didn't need a faction of the former Rebels (who are now in control of the galaxy in the form of the New Republic) to be called "The Resistance". We sure as hell didn't need that same group to be rebranded as "Rebels" in The Last Jedi because suddenly and inexplicably their fortunes reversed. If terrorists blew up Washington DC would America suddenly cease to be? Of course not! Therefore one victory against the New Republic would not suddenly make the majority of the galaxy into Rebels no matter how much General Hux whines about it.

On that note, no more Death Star clones, please. The Death Star was terrifying not only because of its remarkable power but also its uniqueness. Lucas brought the concept back for Return of the Jedi but showed the complexity of building super weapons by demonstrating its incompleteness. We shouldn't have a new one of these popping up to stoke our nostalgia every few years. Be creative enough to invent a new and terrifying threat. You can't have it both ways.

Don't forget that when Abrams was hired to create the new Star Trek (2009) he immediately made that film about yet another planet destroying weapon, then did it again with The Force Awakens. How original.

Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) (IMDb)

At some point even the characters within these movies must come to expect this cliché by now. "Honey, I just saw on the news that another threat to the galaxy is coming. Pack your bags, we gotta move back to the Outer Rim… again!" We've seen it enough.

While we're at it, let's agree upon no more remakes. Just because creators are making the central film in a trilogy does not mean they should mine The Empire Strikes Back for their favorite moments to redo. Just because fans are nostalgic for the original Star Wars doesn't mean they want the same story retold all over again. We no more need an Episode IX that mirrors Return of the Jedi than we need a new film called "Chewbacca: A Star Wars Story" that blatantly borrows the plot from Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure (1984).

Not every single offhand mention in a Star Wars film has to become a film of its own (or even be explained). In the original Star Wars Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) makes casual references to Clone Wars and the Old Republic. Thus ,we got the prequel trilogy and several canonical cartoon shows dealing with The Clone Wars and their aftermath. It was entertaining, but now things are getting a bit excessive.

The entirety of Rogue One was based on the opening crawl of the first Star Wars movie. Good movie, but necessary? I loved Solo as much as the next guy but Han's offhand comment about The Kessel Run and how many "parsecs" it took way back in 1977 didn't need to be explained to me with CGI.

I really don't want an entire film or three detailing the life story of the woolly wampa, the white snow monster from The Empire Strikes Back who tried to eat popsicle Luke. I cringe at the thought of a sitcom detailing the forlorn family life of Grand Moff Tarkin. I'm not aching to buy a ticket for a tell-all expose about the secret twilek fetishes and dub step DJ career of Lobot.

There's something to be said for giving the people what they want, but I guarantee what fans want is not something they already have. If Abrams is so adamant to end the Skywalker saga why is he also so determined to rip it off and repeat it just slightly differently?

Of course some repetition is expected. Lucas put in "echoes" within his two trilogies so that moments would " rhyme" with repeated motifs as in an opera. For example, in every Star Wars movie we hear some variation on "I got a bad feeling about this" and in every Star Wars movie somebody simply has to lose a hand. But these are echoed elements in different acts of an epic saga, not an actual repeated plot line from a prior act.

And for Yavin's sake, folks, connect the dots, give us a little character development here and make sure things make sense instead of being lazy. Don't introduce a potentially fascinating character like Max Von Sydow's Lor San Tekka and have him immediately killed (and forgotten by everyone) to prove that this great actor was merely a MacGuffin.

Don't establish Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) as fiercely driven to the point of risking everything to find and recover his droid BB-8 only to have him show up later to say he just decided to give up and leave the planet some other way instead of doing the one thing he was there for and erstwhile determined to do. Poe was originally killed off, but Abrams liked the character and decided to keep him alive. He still has to connect the dots in ways that make sense. Is Poe Dameron a high-flying James Bond or the lazy guy in the office who figures "somebody else will do the job"? One setback and he's done. Some hero.

You can't give us a possibly intriguing character like Captain Phasma (Gwendolyn Christie) then instead of building her legend, make her an inconsistent patsy. Is Phasma the fearless leader of all Stormtrooper legions? or is she the shrinking violet who betrays her entire military the very second Han Solo points a gun at her? Why should we even care that she was (apparently) killed during The Last Jedi? She didn't do anything and she had no bearing on the story. Yes, it's great to see a female Stormtrooper captain and it's cool to see chrome armor. What else does Abrams have to offer? I'm all for mysterious characters if they have some reason to be interesting. Does he think people would be demanding a Boba Fett film if his primary character traits were officiousness and surrender?

Please, Johnson, don't take an already contrived plot point and then make "convenience" the surprise twist. In The Last Jedi Finn and Rose simply have to find one specific code breaker in a mean, mean underworld casino but when they get thrown in jail (for a parking violation, no less) they just happen to meet Benicio Del Toro right there in their own cell who can do the job just as good as the other guy we all quickly forget about. He proves his ability by casually letting himself out of the jail cell and stealing a better ship for them to all leave on. So… why was he in there in the first place, why hadn't he already left and how is it that he had the exact skills they required by happenstance? This isn't a twist in the plot! This is just lazy writing.

Star Wars isn't Shakespeare, it's merely space opera, but we have come to expect a lot better than this.

Disney, needs to protect its investment. There's still time to fix everything and maintain Star Wars as the (profitable) cultural phenomenon that it has been, not to mention the gold standard of science fiction. But it will take an excellent final chapter to retroactively bring up the prior films in the trilogy. Otherwise future Star Wars marathons will forever end on a simplistic, underwhelming, inconsequential, lackluster and predictable final episode. Not only do the fans deserve better, the saga itself deserves better.

Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca in Star Wars (1977) (© LucasFilm.Ltd) (IMDB)

See you in the Next Reel.

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