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“The Same Eyes in Different People”:  The Heroic Cycle, the Sequel Trilogy, and the Star Wars Saga

Thirty-six years ago, a movie cut from the image of its protagonists—together again, alive, smiling, and dancing—under the wavering torchlight of hundreds of bonfires and surrounded by the celebratory revel of a hundred sentient bear-creatures to a shout of familiar end credits music and blue lettering.

And, with that, the Star Wars movies were over.

Done.

There was never going to be another Star Wars movie again. The heroes had suffered but had triumphed. It seemed that good had conquered and even converted evil. Two characters were in love and another had found his place in the universe. Nobody was dead except the bad guys, and even then, one of them had redeemed himself in the process. The audience was satisfied and dissatisfied in equal measure. Everything was as it should be.

We had attained as close to a happily-ever-after as we, and the characters, could hope for.

Thirty-six years and five more saga films later, that’s not the case.

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The Scale of a Sequel – What The Last Jedi Can Learn from The Empire Strikes Back

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There is a conversation that has existed since the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens regarding the narrative direction of The Last Jedi and the possibility of it paralleling certain story elements of The Empire Strikes Back. The Force Awakens was a wonderful successor to the original trilogy – it captured the saga’s serialized thrill and introduced us to new characters who were so well developed that they were adopted immediately and are praised among fans (with the exception of a few vocal minorities). However, one of its biggest criticisms, and one I hold myself, is its narrative parallels with A New Hope.

I love The Force Awakens as a whole and this subject has been talked about endlessly. Suffice it to say that, with characters as good as Rey, Poe, Finn, and Kylo Ren, I would have liked to see them take more chances with the story; although I understand the apprehension involved that drove them to play it about as safe as safe can be. My hope is that The Last Jedi sets itself apart from its original trilogy counterpart by having a different overall direction and narrative beat. However, there are plenty of elements from Empire that The Last Jedi should strive to emulate and they have nothing to do with the plot of the film, but rather how the film itself is told.

Empire is unlike many sequels. It doesn’t seek to top A New Hope in terms of effects or spectacle. It never feels like the unnecessary continuation of a story; or a reactionary effort greenlit in the wake of monetary success. There’s no greater threat to top the Death Star, no McGuffin, no prolonged action sequences that try to distract the audience from a lack of story. Empire is a much smaller film than A New Hope and that may be its greatest asset. It recognizes that the best sequels don’t artificially increase their scale in lieu of story, but expand upon the characterization and emotional scope of their predecessors. It understands that great sequels allow their characters to change. Irrevocably. Read More

“For a Thousand Generations…” – Evolving Jedi Philosophy from Star Wars to The Last Jedi

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On April 15th, 2017, the first teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi was released to the thunderous roar of a thousand live attendees at Celebration Orlando and the individual cheers of viewers at home. The trailer closed with a line from Luke Skywalker, uttered in a gravelly voice and tinged with foreboding, “I only know one truth. It’s time for the Jedi to end.” Cue the launching of a thousand speculations as people wondered what exactly those words meant for the Jedi and the overall philosophy of the Force in the Star Wars universe.

When Star Wars came out in 1977 the concept of the Jedi, as explained by Ben Kenobi, was relatively simple – the Jedi were space-age knights, chivalrous and inherently good, wielding a mystical energy field that was ever-present but relatively unexamined and mysterious. Juxtaposed against the evil of the fallen Jedi Knight Darth Vader in a space-fantasy play, it seemed their position as the relative “good guys” was pretty much sealed.

Over the course of the original trilogy we got to explore aspects of the Jedi and their relationship with the Force. I’ve always felt that Star Wars was conceived as an adventurous morality play with the dynamic of the light side versus the dark side as the center theme of the classic films. Although it can be argued that Jedi believe in the yin and the yang of the Force where the light and dark comprise a whole that ties the galaxy together, they are firm believers that the “yang” or “light” side of the Force is morally right. Their actions and philosophies reflect this attitude and are not challenged within the original trilogy itself. Read More