*image from www.rottentomatoes.com
Like so many Star Wars fans of old, who qualify themselves with how long they've held on to the mythos close to their hearts through the years of lull between Return of the Jedi and the Phantom Menace, I also align myself with the old SW fanbase. I didn't get to see Star Wars in a movie theater, but actually stumbled upon it in a video rental store in the early 90's without having anybody recommend it to me.
My parents and relatives weren't exactly movie buffs, but when I watched it on Betamax, I knew it was gold. The obsession over some space warfare tale between rebels and Empire storm troopers and dogfights of star fighters had already been primed, thanks to my certain fondness for Iron Eagle and the Last Starfighter. Eventually, I kept on renting the movies on VHS, until the big ass Laser Discs came along (in THX quality). I probably rented the SW Laser Discs 30+ times through my elementary school life.
I rated Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) a 2 and it wasn't out of intent to troll as Disney would like the public to believe in its attempt to do damage control. It's rare to see a movie so highly liked by critics do poorly in the eyes of movie viewers. In the case of SW: TLJ, it's as genuine as it comes and people can simply browse comments threads of pages on Facebook to see that there is a legitimate movement frustrating over the turn of events in this installment of the SW Saga, which technically outgrows the preceding mythos held true in the hearts of many fans through the decades by stomping out the old and boosting the new characters like some shocking WWE promo to push an up-and-coming rookie wrestler at the expense of old stars who instantly become jobbers. Even Admiral Ackbar wasn't spared, sadly.
As I advance in this critique of mine, I should point out that these are my opinions and it shocks me to see millennials viciously attack the dissent by asking the old fanbase to "grow up", "let the past die", and "let go". The sentiment held true by the old fanbase is a consensus opinion (seemingly similar) and these are obviously not facts but filtered interpretations of these facts, as we saw and felt ourselves when we watched TLJ. We are not that Comic Book guy who cynically detests anything mainstream and generalist in presentation. Obviously the numbers point to a chunk of the audience liking the movie. $450.8 million in the box office as of this date.
*image from http://www.relatably.com/m/img/comic-book-meme-generator/fbz_d180812f261bfb8d4cacca82dcb23558.jpg
At some point it would’ve been time to move on and the old fanbase was ready for the passing of the torch. It’s not the old fanbase clinging on for the sake of doing so, we were expecting something more glorious, ambitious, and genuinely purposeful even for the bad guys, who were meticulously built-up by JJ Abrams.
I liked The Force Awakens (TFA), if that means anything, because supporters of TLJ seemed to be convinced that those complaining about TLJ also hated The Force Awakens and will never ever concede to any new material for Star Wars to move forward. That is simply not true. And for the record, as well, while the general consensus was Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (TPM) and Episode 2: Attack of the Clones (AotC) were bad movies, I personally like Episode 2: AotC the best maybe because it built so much of the mythos regarding Jedi Knights on the movie screen. TPM, meanwhile, was ok, even Jar Jar Binks was okay and it really would've blown my mind if indeed Lucas proceeded to follow through with his plan to show that Jar Jar Binks was actually a Sith agent. It would've been so 4th wall to have the most hated character in the SW Cinematic Universe turn out to be a Sith, because it extends to whatever bad vibes on film Jar Jar elicits from the audience to real life feelings.
To me, the movie just undid the lore of Luke and discarded so much of what the old fans hoped to extend through character development. These were instead used as plot instruments to bolster the new characters, while the old fans were only beginning to enjoy the new ride
Everything seemed to be discarded so fast to push the new characters, that the old fanbase couldn't even relish the return of Luke. I have this theory that it's because Disney’s vision is to have kids and millennials get on the SW train ASAP so it can monetize the IP and its new characters at the soonest.
Graceful closure is probably what I wanted to see and feel, as an old fan, through this revived cinematic experience. What I got instead was a euthanasia with a time table. “It needed to be done to advance SW”; “let go of the past”, it’s kids telling the old fanbase to “grow up”, but it’s just as cruel as putting us in a retirement home to silence whatever opinions we also should have not because of entitlement but because we’re fans too, who are very qualified to voice out our mourning of how the world is moving on and that we can’t do anything about it.
I can only speculate that Disney pushed the discarding of everything connected to the past (but also making the movie good for millennials and kids) so they can finally fully monetize the new characters. TLJ’s pace was fast and brutal. A lot of deaths of the old guard, even Admiral Ackbar didn’t see the trap coming. We had survivors though, the young generation who would definitely connect to kids and millennials and who represent the bulk of defenders of TLJ on the Internet. Meanwhile, we have the old fanbase who have been labeled as trolls for voicing their dissent.
In my view, from how things are turning out; it's the original fanbase vs millennials. It's like the time when the Dark Jedi emerged after the First Great Schism. Unfortunately, this lore may not be canon anymore and has limited chance to get reinserted in the future. For the fascination KOTOR and KOTOR II inspired in me, everything's in the trash bin sadly.
The most obvious portrayal of this policy was the burning of those Jedi relics...sanctioned by a Jedi legend in Yoda himself, conveniently.While people point out that the texts were retrieved by Rey anyway and put in the Millennium Falcon, the message was as clear as that Force Lightning, Disney is ready to burn the past to start a profitable future and you old fans should love Rey for sparing your precious Jedi manuscripts and their (un-enumerated) contents because your history and your fandom legacy is in her hands.
I didn’t like TLJ for what it purports to continue. The storytelling was good but the impact to the entire mythos left a bitter aftertaste. Let’s be realistic though, as much as the old fanbase longed for new adventures and to see Luke probably live longer in his legend, us old fans cannot hijack the franchise from Disney. It’s theirs to continue and we’re merely tagging along for the ride. Even other materials aren’t canon anymore, which is a shame because I liked KOTOR, KOTOR II, and the old comic prints. We can only mourn and get pissed about it, but just as how they overemphasized diversity and twisted comicbook details in Spider-man Homecoming, the world we knew it is moving on and we can either decide to stick with what we held dear or just see if the next corner of this franchise brings back any magic we once genuinely felt.
The message of The Last Jedi, it seems, was to forget everything and start over. Spit on old fans’ passion to know things, whether they intended things to be canon or not, as Disney had previously said. This was the most concrete depiction of that policy. I’ve learned to accept that whatever hodge podge Lucas approved in the past deserved to be reorganized but to anticlimactically rush Luke's departure like it was some inglorious and pedestrian wave of the hand (after decades of knowing how his role was so significant) turned me off.
So it's Admiral Ackbar and his legend...with a whimper, like some pedestrian after thought. The new material was clearly meant to expand to the younger generation and profitable demographics, it’s just sad that they had to pull the rug under the old fanbase by making most novels and comics and other lores non canon. I hope Disney reinserts them soon. It’s like being stripped bare naked. Old fans have so little to cherish and remember about the Expanded Universe with this abrupt and rushed passing of the torch.
My mind would be blown if Rian Johnson has been keeping mum with Mark Hamill and JJ Abrams about their surprise plan for Luke because TLJ pretty much abruptly ended the Skywalker saga, which has caused alienation among us old fans from decades past. Were they planning this all along as a true trilogy with plot twists and revelations and is JJ going to fix it with some clever plot maneuverings?
Thanks Disney, the world's moving on for us Star Wars oldies sadly.
All compositions, statements and opinions of the author are copyright © Earl T. Malvar 2009-2017. All rights reserved. There is no honor, respect, admiration, intellectual and academic dignity garnered through plagiarism.