Who really killed Star Wars?

Stumbling blindly through the alleys and darkened streets of the Internet, I came across The Caffeinated Symposium, a site full of analysis and opinion on certain aspects of nerd culture, written by David Cesarano.

The tone is a bit more strident than I would prefer, but I found several of the articles quite thought-provoking and well worth the reading – not least among which is “On the Devolution of the STAR WARS Franchise“.  I also found his analysis of why he didn’t like D&D 4th Edition to be useful, if not nearly as polished or sophisticated as the above.

Take a look.

Regarding Star Wars:   I’ve heard many, many people complain about how the prequels (and elements of the original movies, such as the Ewoks) reduced the quality of the series and fell away from what they expected.  The point that they represent Lucas attempting to re-establish his original vision – one that the series moved away from starting with The Empire Strikes Back – is one I’ve come across before. Many people have noted that TESB is dramatically more sophisticated than the first film, and that this was in large degree due to Lucas getting other people to work on the screenplay.  But the link with the “secret history” establishes just what massive fame – and the resulting creative control – caused to go so terribly wrong, rather as happened with Steven Spielburg and his attempts to extend past franchises and even alter the existing versions of past successes.

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6 Responses to “Who really killed Star Wars?”

  1. A number of people, including the “Red Letter Media” guy, have made the point that Lucas’ need to rely on others in the original trilogy made them better than the prequels. Left to his own devices he screwed them up. I don’t know enough about “auteur theory” to say if that counts as a blow against it.

    I’m reminded of the Terminator franchise. I’m somewhat atypical in my dislike for the second film. I think it unimaginatively repeats so much of the original, while simultaneously degrading things plotwise (T3’s attempt to repair the damage earns it points in my book). But it’s not simply a lazy attempt to cash in, it’s Cameron doing what he wanted to do in the first movie.

  2. I don’t know about the plot, but T2 did a real job on the previous film’s theme of unavoidable fate. The entire first film was an Ouroboros Paradox, and the second went out of its way to avert such a temporal loop.

    I can’t help but wonder if the lawsuit with Harlan Ellison had something to do with that.

    • I think in the original movie he wanted the idea that “There’s no fate but what we make”, and there’s a deleted scene where Sarah argues with Kyle that they should destroy Cyberdyne. I really like the Ouroboros version, since it wraps things up neatly and as a bonus is consistent with modern physics (at least from what I recall of “From Eternity to Here”). Cameron sees things differently from me though.

      Someone else recently pointed out M. Night Shyamalan as another example of someone whose work suffered as a result of having too much control over his own movies. Evidently this is his reaction to a previous movie he felt was compromised by interference.

      • It’s surprising there aren’t more “one-hit wonders” in film. Perhaps, considering the investment required to create a film that gets a wide exposure, most crazy experiments get priced out. Sure, there are exceptions – I’m particularly thinking of Primer – but they’re rare. Musical bands are a dime a dozen, and even considering the factors involved in creating a ‘hit’, the hurdles are somewhat lower.

  3. Patrick Boyle Says:

    There is a bit too much weighty analysis here. The issue is quite simple and well understood. It is simply ‘regression to the mean’. Indeed the poor quality of most movie sequels is now the major illustration of this mathematical phenomenon.

    In Hollywood at any one time there are a plethora ( a word made famous by ‘The Three Amigos’) of screenplays. Most of them never get made. Of the few that are made, most are flops. Much of the success of any one film is luck. The right star got cast, the screenplay made some sense, the show sounded some themes that resonated with the public. Everyone always tries to do those things and occasionally they succeed. Luck – or error term – is a large part of any hit. But when you try to make a sequel even with all the same creative resources you are unlikely to benefit from the same happy accidents – your good luck doesn’t recur.

    ‘The Matrix’ was a great movie but its sequels were dreck. This is the most common result. ‘Tremors’ was also a great little movie with dreadful sequels.

    In many cases the producers of the sequel fail because they don’t understand what made the original film a hit. This is particularly true in the case of ‘Tremors’. They should have brought back Bacon and Ward for a whole series of adventures like the Hope and Crosby ‘Road’ pictures. But they foolishly thought the big worms were the main attractions.

    Similarly the original ‘Matrix’ often didn’t make much sense – instilling a sense of mystery from all the loose ends alluded to but not explained. The sequels tried to explain everything and the audience fell asleep.

    Much the same sort of thing happened to ‘Star Wars’. The concept of the ‘Jedi Knights” was cool when it was just a reference in the original. But the appearance of Hayden Christensen in the flesh drained all the magic away. It would have been so even if they had had a good actor cast.

    • Except with Star Wars, we have a scenario where the (initial) sequels were better than the original film. And the dodgy elements of RotJ and the prequels all stem directly from Lucas exerting control.
      I can’t avoid the conclusion that we had a rare example of non-reversion to the mean being foiled by Lucas trying to exert his original vision of what SW was supposed to be about, even though the movies had grown beyond that vision and actually improved.
      Your points are worthy, though, and I will consider them further.

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