Star Wars can be argued as being one of the most recognizable movie franchises in cinema history. What started as a simple idea in the early 70's has exploded into a multi-billion dollar franchise today. One that has won the hearts and imaginations of hundreds of millions of people worldwide, myself included. When it was announced that Episodes I, II, and III were in development, I was easily as excited as every other fan on Earth. There was only one thing that-eventually-could have matched my anticipation and excitement about the new trilogy: my inevitable disappointment. There is an aspect of the Star Wars Universe that George Lucas did not acknowledge in Episodes I, II, and III; and I fear the same mistake will be made by Disney with the new franchise: extreme lack of advanced force ability. In this blog, I plan on giving a brief explanation of the evolution of Star Wars across multiple mediums; I will attempt to explain the evolution of the various force abilities created by the fans for these new mediums; I will explain what we the fans were expecting to see in Episodes I, II, and III vrs what we actually saw; I will discus how George Lucas was unable to see past his original story to appease a younger generation of fans; and in closing, I'll discuss my fears about why we should all be nervous about the upcoming instalments of the franchise and what I hope to see in The Force Awakens.
The original trilogy starts with Luke Skywalker on a desolate planet as a young man with no knowledge of The Force or his true parentage; and ends with Luke having full knowledge of who he is and what he's capable off. It was perfect because our knowledge of what the Force was as an audience grew with Luke's ability to use the Force. It was basic: lift this, move that, anticipate action, fight with the coolest weapon to have ever been conceived, become one with yourself and everything. Well, Star Wars fans instantly wanted more of the story to be told. To delve deeper into the Star Wars Universe; past, present, and future. They wanted to learn everything there could be learned about the Force; the Jedi Order; the Sith Empire; the founding of the Republic; and, most importantly, the various ways in which the Force could be manipulated. People started coming up with their own ideas, completely original and unassociated with Lucasfilm. The Star Wars Universe rapidly expanded with the publishing of multiple Star Wars based novels from a wide variety of authors, which only added fuel to the fire. Fans still wanted more. They didn't want to read about Jedi's and Sith, they didn't even want to watch the 3 movies anymore: they wanted to become a Jedi or Sith. They wanted to fully immerse themselves in every aspect of Star Wars that was possible. Ultimately, they were able to live out their fantasies thanks to the invention of video game consoles and affordable home computers. Star Wars effectively went from the big screen to the computer screen, and it's on those computer screens where the biggest transformations in the Star Wars Universe were to take place.
The Star Wars video games-for a wide number of fans-introduced us to different types of Force Users that we'd never even imagined before. With these games, all of the sudden there were force users dealing damage; healing allies; absorbing damage; crafting items; and any number of other abilities. We saw the Jedi Order in it's prime, but more importantly we learned that jumping high and moving objects was the most basic of Force Abilities. We were exposed to myriad of abilities such as Force Sight, Force Orb, Force Plague, and even Transfer Essence-to name a very small few. (Click here for a complete list of Force Abilities.) Finally, the entire Star Wars Universe was laid bare to us and we fully understood the limitations of the Force; the multitude of ways in which the Force could be manipulated; and, most importantly, the full history of the epic conflict between the Sith Empire and the Jedi Order. Yet the video games were still able to take it one step further when we developed a working knowledge of how to use those abilities in conjunction with other abilities to attain victory. The movies introduced us to the characters; the books explained the universe; and the games trained us in the use and manipulation of the Force. Over a 16 year time period that existed in between Return of the Jedi and the Phantom Menace, fans have added their mark onto the Star Wars Universe. We have taken a story created by George Lucas and made it our own. We have achieved something together that is unlike any of us have ever had the privilege to be a part of; and then we saw the new trilogy . . . . .
To say we had huge expectations is the understatement of the century. We knew all about how Anakin became Darth Vader, if vaguely. We knew all about Coruscant and the seat of the Jedi Order. We knew what to expect with the relationship between the Jedi Order and the Republic. We knew we'd be seeing both at the absolute pinnacle of their existence-which has lasted for thousands and thousands of years. We basically knew everything except the small and specific details. It was those details that had us excited. What could George Lucas himself come up with that will be better than everything we've come to expect in Star Wars? Finally we'd get to see the Jedi Order in their prime, using abilities that even us as fans couldn't innvision. What would we see that would expand on the games and the books? What new aliens could The Creator concoct? We wanted to see our video games and our books come to life on the big screen, bringing us back full circle to when we were kids. What did we end up getting? The exact same force ability as in the original trilogy. It was as if the books and games had never existed. George Lucas completely disregarded the universe the fans had created and stuck with his vision. Granted I can understand his choice, but by not including the history and force ability created by the fans he made us feel like we didn't matter in the grand scheme of things. As if investing our time and money into helping to create an entire Universe based on the movies was irrelevant. In our eyes, the only reason Episodes I, II, and III were even made was because we the fans demanded they be made; and yet, none of our ideas made it into the films. We were expecting to see a fight between Obi-Wan and Anakin that fully embodied everything we knew about what they were capable of doing. What did we get? A fencing match where the only force ability shown was a basic force push and some jumping around. They were surrounded by lava, and not one of them decided to use the lava as a weapon. It was as if George Lucas put more thought into the special effects than the actual abilities used in the film. The biggest mistakes George Lucas made with the new trilogy was trying to recreate the magic that made the original trilogy famous; and, disregarding the input of the fans.
George Lucas had tunnel vision. The only thing he could see was his original idea because he didn't have as big of a hand in writing the books or developing the games as he did in the creation of the original trilogy. This created a very interesting predicament that he had to try to overcome. With all of the information out there, how do you give the fans something new? How do you tell the story so it's a surprise to everyone who watches them? George Lucas decided to expand on his original story yet not include fan written books, which is the same decision that J.J. Abrams has made with The Force Awakens. For George Lucas, this idea failed miserably because he couldn't get the idea of the original trilogy out of his head. His tunnel vision didn't allow him to expand on the Force without using fan made abilities. He couldn't create anything new other than CGI effects, locations, characters, and a brief glimpse into what it means to be a Sith. So, that's what we got. 3 movies with more CGI than they needed; a couple of new planets that only gave the CGI artists something to do; we met a couple of new characters; and, we learned a little about the Sith lore. It wasn't enough. Fans were disappointed that more effort was spent on costumes and animating the sets than on what it means to truly be a Jedi or a Sith. When Darth Vader told Luke Skywalker that he couldn't disobey his master, he simply stated: "You don't know the power of the dark side. I Must obey my master." With the new trilogy, we were hoping to understand why he couldn't disobey. We got nothing. We still don't know the power of the dark side, even though we watched Anakin transition into Darth Vader. The new trilogy wasn't bad, but it was missing the evolution that we the fans were expecting. You couldn't show all of the Force Abilities in the original trilogy because Luke was only a padawan and the technology didn't exist-we get that, and have no problem at all with those limitations; and yet, when he did have the technology and the movie was populated by Jedi Masters, we still didn't get our amazing Force Abilities because he didn't want to include the Universe the fans had created. All he could see was his vision, and it was insulting. When you get into a situation like this, there is only one way to save the franchise: pass the reins onto a younger generation of filmmakers, which is exactly what Disney did when they purchased Lucasfilm.
The excitement is back! The anticipation is back! The reins have been passed, and they couldn't have been passed to a better director. J.J. Abrams is a very rare talent. One you don't often see in Hollywood. He understands the fans and why they see movies in the first place. He is extraordinary at building suspense and is a genius at figuring out new ways to accomplish specific goals. When he took the reins of Star Trek, he delivered in ways that none of the Star Trek fans were expecting. He was able to give the fans what they wanted while finding a perfect balance of old and new ideas. When Disney announced that J.J. Abrams would head the upcoming Star Wars movies, every fan on Earth breathed a heavy sigh of relief that the mistakes of the past would not be repeated, including myself. Bringing in new blood creates new ideas resulting in new magic; however, J.J. Abrams has made the same decision that George Lucas made in not basing his movies off of any fan made story or published book. This is where I get nervous. Does he mean he's writing a brand new story without any of the Force Abilities created by the fans? I applaud his decision in writing a story that won't get spoiled by a book that's already written. It's the only way the new Star Wars movies can possibly succeed without spoilers running rampant on the internet. I'm nervous not because I think J.J. Abrams will do a poor job, but because I'm afraid the only Force Abilities we're going to get will be levitating objects and fancy swordplay. In my opinion, the only way these movies will live up to the expectations of the fans is if we see our input come to life. I'm confident that J.J Abrams won't let us down, but I'm nervous at the same time. We should all be nervous, because these movies belong to all of us, and we as fans deserve to have our ideas properly represented on the big screen.