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Disney Star Wars Is Fan Fiction
By viewing what Disney pumps out as fan fiction, I can watch and enjoy their efforts without the frustration of their disconnect from what I loved about the original Star Wars films.
The Skywalker Saga constitutes the broader story arc that is the Tragedy of Darth Vader. That story ends with the redemption of a father by his son, the defeat of the Sith Lord Darth Sidious, and the restoration of balance to the Force. The Disney trilogy, and their other efforts, add little to nothing to this story and often end up taking away from it.
While definitely visually striking, Disney’s sequel trilogy provides an ultimately hollow story arc. Kylo Ren’s character comes the closest to providing a more profound connection as he seems to struggle with Darth Vader’s legacy, but this angle is mostly left unexplored.
Worse, the Disney trilogy compromises both the characters and the closure of the original storyline. The son who saved his father became a cynical old hermit hiding from the galaxy because he tried to kill his nephew. The daughter who led the rebellion and fell in love with a good-hearted smuggler walked away from her legacy in the Force only to have her son fall to the dark side anyway, alienating herself from her husband who retreated back to the life of a brash but, apparently not so good, smuggler.
The galaxy found no peace as the First Order destroyed the New Republic and ensued a new reign of terror. Palpatine did not stay dead, the Sith weren’t defeated after all, the Skywalker family was destroyed, the galaxy was wracked with destruction, and the story ends with more uncertainty in the Star Wars galaxy than ever before.
And all the questions this new story raises get buried in the sand along with Anakin’s lightsaber, a final fitting moment to the disconnect of Disney’s foray into the Star Wars galaxy (Anakin, after all, hated sand).
If taken as canon, the Disney trilogy makes us question the very nature of the prophecy that led Qui Gon Jinn to take Anakin off the desert world where he found him. It creates a massive quandary over what restoring balance to the Force is even supposed to entail. We can only assume the message of this new trilogy was that neither Luke nor Anakin actually restored balance and that, somehow, the actions taken by Rey and Ben throughout their trilogy finished the process.
But what was achieved by the characters of Disney’s trilogy? What could possibly come next in a galaxy devoid of any unifying government, ravaged by decades of all-out war, with a scant remnant of a fighting force in the Resistance and no resurgent Jedi Order to bring peace to the galaxy? Is this balance? Is this peace? At this point, could things have turned out better if Luke had joined Darth Vader in the dark side and overthrown the Emperor, ruling as father and son?
The estimation of quality in any sequel effort boils down to whether it adds or takes away from the original story. The worst failures involve unraveling previous plot conclusions and character development, ultimately hollowing out what was great about the original success in the first place.
This is why I’ve chosen to view Disney Star Wars as fan fiction. They’ve created uncertainty and ambiguity in almost every central plot point of the original storyline. They shattered the conclusions and climactic endings of both Anakin’s and Luke’s journeys. And, they did this while failing to add anything new or of worth to the broader story of the Force or the history of the Star Wars galaxy.
The original Star Wars trilogy was a modern cinematic masterpiece. The prequel trilogy, while plagued with poor acting and several awkward plot decisions, ultimately supplements and reinforces the story of the original trilogy (especially when accompanied by the Clone Wars TV show, which goes a long way in making Anakin’s character, and his eventual fall to the dark side, more meaningful and substantive).
While George Lucas’s vision sometimes had a disconnect with why fans loved his work, that vision was always clear in its ultimate direction and purpose. Much of what we’ve seen from Disney Star Wars movies, on the other hand, is narrative by committee that never seems to know where things are going. Its parts and pieces are assembled by well-intentioned fans given the wheel of creation by Disney’s purchase of the franchise.
While these parts and pieces represent genuine efforts to recreate the magic of Star Wars, we only get flashes of what made Star Wars great. The complete package has proven too difficult to assemble, absent Lucas’s genius and consistent vision. (Perhaps this is why the best things to come out of Disney’s stewardship have been the smaller projects that don’t attempt to do more than bring specific aspects of Star Wars to life. Such efforts like Rogue One or The Mandalorian don’t try to do anything but complement the broader picture already created by Lucas).
With something as culturally pivotal as Star Wars, it is often difficult to admit when an effort fails to live up to its namesake. After all, you can’t really undo something that cost millions upon millions of dollars and made millions and millions more, especially when there were so many times it seemed on the cusp of truly recreating the cultural phenomenon and cinematic mastery that was the original Star Wars experience.
But I love Star Wars too much to let Disney’s choices destroy my enjoyment of the original franchise or to rob the deeper meaning of the storyline, the depth of its narrative, or the pivotal nature of its ending.
So, I simply choose to recognize the broader reality of Disney’s cinematic efforts. These are fans who gained rights to the product they love and attempted to bring the Star Wars world back to life on the big screen for a new generation to enjoy. They’re fun, scrappy, visually striking yarns that we can enjoy for what they are when substantively separated from the base material Disney is deriving them from.
Justin Stapley received his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Utah Valley University, with emphases in Political Philosophy and Public Law, American History, and Constitutional Studies. He is the Founding and Executive Director of the Freemen Foundation as well as Editor in Chief of the Freemen News-Letter. @JustinWStapley