It has been said that all good things must come to an end and those words throughout the ages have always been proven true. The best one can hope for is when something “good” approaches its end, it gets the chance to go out in a blaze of glory. The hope that it will be allowed to go out on top, to exit the stage in its finest form and to leave us all wanting more and lamenting its finish.
Sometimes things work out that way, but other times they don’t. Often something “good” slowly starts to degrade. It erodes upon itself, still clinging to past visions of greater glory in a deluded self perception of continued relevance. It leaves the rest of us with no other recourse other than to stand around its proverbial death bed and watch its flame finally extinguish as nothing but a shell of its former self.
These sad events can often be seen as a company existing long past its usefulness (can you believe Friendster is still around?), professional athletes that play long past their prime… and for me, worst of all and the most tragic of all the examples… when a beloved movie franchise turns itself into a laughing stock, loses all touch with its true fan base and finally becomes so bad that even the most die hard and loyal supporters of the franchise are forced to look in the mirror and acknowledge that the glory is gone, and accept the beloved object of their fandom is dead.
As a life long Star Wars fanatic I had to face the facts and finally say the words. STAR WARS IS DEAD, AND MY OBSESSION HAS DIED WITH IT.
And I’m not alone. Around the world the great masses of former Star Wars legions spoke loudly with their silence this weekend. A new Star Wars movie opened (granted, it was animated which accounts for a little bit) this past weekend and pulled in numbers so low I had to pinch myself. A Star Wars movie… had an opening weekend of UNDER $15 million.
To all those who would try to rush to defend those number with excuses ranging from “this was a kids movie”, or “it’s only because it was an animated film” or worst of all “You just don’t get it”… I ask this question: If this EXACT movie had been released 10 years ago… do you think it’s even possible that it would have made a dollar less than $50 million opening weekend? Not a chance!
So what happened?
Return of the Jedi ended the original trilogy in magnificent fashion. The most dramatically brilliant lightsaber duel between Luke and Vader in the Emperor’s throne room set to a musical score that will live forever, the single greatest space battle scene in the history of film or television and the perfect completion of Darth Vader. It was brilliant, it was awe inspiring, it was legendary, it was a trilogy of near perfection. It left us satisfied, it left us cheering and the only sadness that came from it was the knowledge that it was over. Film would never be the same again.
The downfall of the franchise has been discussed, debated and argued extensively, but some points warrant some repeating.
The Phantom Menace started right… and everything was going fine until… until that moment… that pivotal moment that changed everything and forever shook the fans faith in George Lucas forever. JAR… JAR… BINKS!
It signaled the beginning of the end, and that Lucas had lost both his way and his touch with reality. His idea was to make something that little kids would love. Here’s the problem that has resonated throughout the Star Wars franchise ever since… there is a huge difference between making a character that kids will ALSO like, and making a character SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED JUST FOR LITTLE KIDS. When you take a character designed just for little kids and drop his into the middle of a franchise that was NOT meant exclusively for little kids, you spoil the soup and ruin the taste of all the other ingredients. And that’s what Jar Jar, and George did.
But being the faithful Star Wars fan that I was, I continually held out hope that the next one would be better. Somehow, Lucas would right the ship and get the Star Wars universe back on track and revive the former glory of the franchise. Yes, Phantom, Attack of the Clone and Revenge of the Sith all had elements that were good, certain scenes that stood out… but as a whole the essence of the franchise had been irreparably changed and damaged.
Star Wars had always been something that all ages could enjoy. Both kids and adults could adore R2-D2, we could all be scared of the Rancor, we all dropped our jaw at the size of the Death Star and kids and adults alike could agree that Darth Vader was the greatest character in all of fiction! But with Phantom and Jar Jar, that all changed. Now children were the target demographic. Fart jokes “Pee-UU-Sa” and cultural puns “Esqqueeeze Me” were now the norm.
Even as we got to Revenge of the Sith, the scenes that could have been really poignant and dramatically stirring were sanitized and dumbed down.
After Revenge of the Sith, although my favorite of the new prequels, something died in me. The naive optimism that still existed in me was extinguished… but I didn’t know it, and it took me a couple of years and the release of the new Clone Wars to discover it (as I sort of posted about the day I was heading to the premiere of Clone Wars). It was true, my Star Wars obsession, and fandom, had died. It died a slow, painful, humiliating death.
Seeing Clone Wars was the last nail in the coffin. Yes the action was great… but it was empty action whose enjoyment had nothing to do with the fact that it was a Star Wars movie. Clone Wars was the last gasp of life in the franchise as it gave itself over totally to the dark side (becoming nothing but a little kids franchise dropped into the continuity of an all ages franchise).
Ahsoka Tano, the annoying little orange Jedi Padawn who replaced Jar Jar’s “Pee-UU-sa” with calling Anakin Skywalker (her Jedi Master) “Sky-Guy” and R2 “R2 Two-ie” is the true heir the the mantel of franchise killer once held by Jar Jar. Yes, Ahsoka is the new Jar Jar, only worse… because there is no tiny grey area with her… she is 100% and unapologetically a WB kids show character aimed directly at children.
It was the final nail in the coffin, the nuking of the fridge and the jumping of the shark all rolled into one and confirmed the already existing truth. Star Wars was dead, and actually had been for a few years already and now there’s really nothing left to do but start the grieving process and begin to accept it.
So good bye Star Wars universe. You were a critical part of my life for almost as long as I’ve been alive. You helped shape my imagination, you made me fall in love with movies, you influenced the movie industry like very few other movies had and above all you entertained me more than any other property in the entertainment industry. It breaks my heart to see what you have become, and I’ve tried to be a faithful fan… but you’ve been unfaithful to me and the rest of us. Good bye, fare thee well and may the force be with you.