The legacy of films, the impact they have on generations, the way they shape our moment and the way they influence our future.
Today, we're talking about Star Wars.
Obviously, because a lot of people love Star Wars.
There are probably more people who love Star Wars than there are people who love Jesus
The stories behind the scenes of Star Wars are almost as fascinating as the stories the films tell.
Everyone's already talked about that.
I'm talking about what Star Wars is now.
Star Wars is now a cultural behemoth, and while it has been for some time, what it only recently has become is a legacy franchise, because its original creator has finally moved on from it.
Now a new generation of storytellers have their hands on the property, and they inherited possibly the hardest job any filmmaker could be given.
How do you make the next chapter of a modern mythology?
How do you create something that will satisfy multiple generations who see Star Wars not just as a movie they love, but as an intrinsic part of their identity?
Who are the new characters we are supposed to follow?
What is a new Star Wars movie even supposed to be about?
The question became the answer.
Isn't Star Wars always about Star Wars? How can Star Wars not be about Star Wars?
To that, I say that Star Wars was never about Star Wars, but now, it is.
The new Star Wars trilogy isn't over yet! Episode IX is coming out next year!
Well yes, that's the Star Wars sequel trilogy, which here means Episodes VII, VIII and IX of the Skywalker Saga.
But I'm talking about a different type of trilogy.
I'm talking about the the thematic triptych that is The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and The Last Jedi, which together tell the story of Kathleen Kennedy and Lucasfilm figuring out how to breathe new life into Star Wars.
Because fully understanding how to carry the weight of a cultural cornerstone like Star Wars can take time, and each step was essential.
We also got three incredible movies out of it, so I'm not exactly complaining.
1) The Force Awakens: Revitalized Star Wars
2) Rogue One: Recontextualized Star Wars
3) The Last Jedi: Reaffirmed Star Wars
It's time to discuss . . . .
People still looked at me like I was nuts.
What will Star Wars Episode VII even be?
The Empire was defeated.
Luke was a Jedi.
The story was over.
Who are the new characters?
How big of a time jump will there be?
How do you make Episode VII when the era after Episode VI has been thoroughly covered by the Expanded Universe?
Excitement and nostalgia.
Anticipation of the future, fueled by fond memories of the past.
And it knows you do too.
So The Force Awakens stokes the flames of excitement and nostalgia in equal measure.
1) People really need to learn the definition of remake, and
2) Retweets and YouTube likes on half-baked snark are a bit too influential
"Its energy surrounds us, and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes."
But it also has something A New Hope doesn't: reflection.
"I feel it again. The call to the light. Supreme Leader senses it. Show me again, the power of the darkness."
Kylo knows Vader's story ends in redemption.
He's lying to himself each and every day.
Luke's hiding on an island at the edge of the universe.
Han abandoned his family when his son fell to the Dark Side.
Leia's fighting the same old fight thirty years later.
It's a celebration of the Star Wars legacy, sure.
But think of what the state of the galaxy *means* for that legacy.
The Empire fell, but their successors formed the First Order.
Luke, the great Jedi Master, isn't here to save the day.
Because like so many people in our world grew up as fans of Star Wars, so too did so many people in the world of Star Wars grow up as fans *of* Star Wars.
They're not the Empire.
They're Empire *fanboys*.
Because they're coming from the depraved mindset of people who saw the Empire as kids and said "I wanna be that when I grow up!"
That's not a fault in the filmmaking; it's the logical step for villains so obsessed with legacy that they have no vision of their own.
Everyone watching The Force Awakens is thinking "when is Luke Skywalker gonna make his grand entrance?", and he doesn't bother to show up until the last minute of the film.
Until he became a part of it, and guess what? He screwed that up too, and now his son is wrecking havoc across the galaxy.
"The belonging you seek is not behind you. It is ahead."
And weirdly enough, it's the part that a lot of people willfully ignore.
(because fan theories are more important than narrative coherence, apparently)
Still, people wanted Star Wars to make a grand return, and they needed to know the movies they loved would be honoured.
But with a subversive truth underneath.
It's about getting ready for the future.
Nothing in The Force Awakens challenges what the original trilogy was.
That's what the next film would do.
One was met with applause and the other met with concern.
Take a guess which was which.
Every movie up to that point (that mattered, so don't bring up Caravan of Courage or that Clone Wars pilot they released in theatres, you dork) was an Episode.
That was about to change.
It was a new type of Star Wars movie.
It didn't have an Episode number. It didn't share the same mythic legacy. It wasn't about the Skywalkers.
It was something new.
And that's where Rogue One collided with the Star Wars legacy like the Death Star's beam collided with Alderaan.
When really, the way I see it...
Rogue One thinks the original trilogy is kind of bullshit.
"But Rogue One is full of original trilogy stuff! Didn't you see Doctor Evazan and Ponda Baba's cameo? Clearly the whole movie is just baiting on nostalgia!"
Calm. Be at peace. Let me clarify what I mean.
But at its core, what is Rogue One doing?
Recontextualizing what the original trilogy means.
Rebels who are painted as deranged murderers.
An Imperial who is positioned as a tragic figure.
A statue of a Jedi... on its side, collapsed, covered in dust.
And that's just the obvious stuff.
Honestly. Take a step back and consider:
What is the main narrative thread of A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi?
That's it. That's the story of Star Wars.
We follow our main character on a personal journey, and it takes three films to do so.
The war is part of it, certainly, but it's a backdrop to a more character-driven story; specifically, the story of Luke Skywalker and the people most closely associated with him. Vader, Leia, Han, Obi-Wan, Yoda, you know the drill.
At least half the runtime (if not more) of the three films is only tangentially related to the galactic conflict.
The original films are classics and no one's disputing that fact.
But Rogue One asks a question that the original trilogy doesn't have an answer for: why does the story of the most important war in history shows so little of what that war meant?
Jyn Erso? She's lived with the war since she was a child.
Not rage, but resignation.
"It's not a problem if you don't look up."
Sure, she changes later ("Rebellions are built on hope!") but those are the words of someone who's only known the war.
Stormtroopers are scary, mortal peril is standard, and an Imperial truly believes he's creating a better galaxy.
Jyn was a child soldier, not for the Empire, but for the *Rebellion*. Saw Gerrera and Cassian Andor are portrayed as people willing to slaughter innocents and comrades to achieve their objectives.
Rogue One jettisons that idea out the airlock.
Here, we see the Empire's subjugation first hand on Jedha.
And the consequences when it's challenged.
We're focused wholly on Leia's response, and the Death Star as visual spectacle.
Billions of people across the galaxy suffering and fighting and dying for a cause that is neither started or ended within the context of the films.
Because that's not the story.
"We don't all have the luxury of deciding when and where we want to care about something. Suddenly the Rebellion is real for you. Some of us live it. I've been in this fight since I was six years old!"
It wasn't just "rebel spies" that delivered the Death Star plans.
We have names. We saw the battle that cost the Rebel Alliance most of their soldiers and resources to get those plans before a random on Tattooine stumbled upon them.
The Death Star was built by an enslaved family man and an Imperial who thought he was saving the galaxy.
And there wasn't a Jedi in sight to save the day.
Dead heroes. No leaders.
They showed a willingness to break Star Wars.
Its heroes are dead.
And it was time for Star Wars not just to break, but to evolve.
By learning to love itself again.
"The Last Jedi is good because it's finally dropping Star Wars nostalgia!"
"The Last Jedi is bad because it destroyed everything I loved about Star Wars!"
The Last Jedi isn't the first Disney Star Wars movie to move things beyond nostalgia (that's part of the point I was making talking about the previous films), and it also doesn't burn it all down.
AKA: the villain of the movie
But the movie also ends with him defeated, and his worldview refuted.
The Last Jedi reframes this moment as tangible.
(getting a lot of mileage out of these words)
Well, at the end of TFA, we had zero clue what Luke Skywalker's perspective was. He was simply an objective; an echo of the past that Rey finally reached. The end of her quest.
A legend she saw with her own eyes.
The answer is the toss.
The myth dispelled, we only have the man.
What did it accomplish?
In his eyes?
After all, the grand myth of Luke Skywalker didn't stop the First Order from rising to power.
It didn't help his students.
It didn't save his nephew.
You're supposed to.
Because Luke isn't the protagonist.
Especially because it places Luke in a role he's never been in before, at least in the films.
The role of an antagonist.
Villains are characters who purposefully do evil things and tend to be the main threat of a narrative. But an antagonist? Someone who opposes the protagonist (Rey) in a physical or psychological way, who impedes them from obtaining their objective?
But it does think he's wrong.
Not just about the war.
But about the legacy that he has left behind, and the value that the story of Luke Skywalker has had to the galaxy.
You know, because Luke has never been a rash, emotional person who nearly gave into his darker impulses before.
Only for his own master to tell him that while the old ways may need to fade away, their greater purpose of bringing hope to the galaxy will not.
Except he showed up at their hour of greatest need, and saved them all not with violence, but with the most incredible pacifist use of the Force we've ever seen.
"A Jedi uses the force for knowledge and defense. Never for attack."
Let the past die? That was only ever a path to the Dark Side.
Not even necessarily because he believes in what he says, but because of what this moment means for the galaxy.
AKA: the heart of the movie
But what it means to the wider world is in how it affects not the people Luke is connected to, but the people he's never known.
With the power of the Force.
Playing with his Luke Skywalker action figure.
Staring at the stars.
Because the stories of his adventures, his own grand myth, it didn't just save the people he cared for.
It inspired and brought hope to countless people across the galaxy.
People like you.
But it still thinks his story is worth telling, his actions worth remembering, his legacy worth cherishing.
And that loving Star Wars is a *good* thing.
It's honouring the past, without allowing it to dictate your future.
A balance of the Force.
Because The Last Jedi loves Star Wars as much as you do.
It was always about saving what we love.