Safe vs Original Storytelling – Star Wars: The Sequel Trilogy

Star Wars is one of the greatest film franchises in cinema. The iconography of Star Wars speaks for itself, everyone knows it and most feel strongly connected to the characters and story. Between passionate fans who are first in line to every premiere, and entitled fans who need to see things play out in their image, there is not denying how deeply Star Wars is rooted in fandom. The Original Trilogy changed the game for how films were made and how blockbusters were perceived, the Prequel Trilogy, while divisive, were a hallmark of what special effects could be at the time. Finally, the Sequel Trilogy brought a host of new characters and moments. In this piece, the focus will be on the Sequel trilogy, the things it has gotten right and wrong, and the potential to finish its on a high note. The Force Awakens is one of my favorite movies of all time. The Last Jedi was a surprising, but great film and followup to The Force Awakens. The hate the sequel trilogy on a fanned level does not make much sense but that doesn’t mean the sequels have been perfect, One of the big problems that surrounds this new trilogy is the layout.

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The Original Trilogy gave us the Empire and the Rebellion, two sides of a war, with the Rebellion being smaller, but determined, and the Empire being massive and oppressive. That’s the layout for the entire trilogy. We also know that there were a lot of Jedi, and one of the last remaining ones was an old Jedi master. The problem with the Sequel Trilogy is that it’s the same exact formula.

The Force Awakens, while not being a complete rehash of A New Hope, borrows heavily from it. From a droid being given a message that holds a key to a planet-destroying base to the stormtroopers and TIE Fighters and X-Wings, the movie relies on nostalgia a little too much. It’s only been 30 years canonically, but in the 19 years between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, the technology changed a lot. There isn’t a whole lot of new concepts used during this era—it’s nonetheless history repeating itself, pushing the story forward, but not the galaxy as a whole. The similarities between Starkiller Base and the Death Star especially stick out like a sore thumb and makes any Star Wars fan go, “Really, this again?”

The Last Jedi definitely doesn’t have as big as a problem as this, even receiving major fan backlash for original ideas. I love a lot of the new additions here like force projecting, and a new message about corruption and greed, but there are still things that just seem so unoriginal, like Supreme Leader Snoke just being Emperor Palpatine 2.0, or a big point of the plot being the destruction of the Rebels’ base, just like Empire Strikes Back. There’s even a raid on the Rebels using walkers on a new plane. Still, it isn’t as much an Empire repeat as The Force Awakens was to A New Hope.

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I have to stress again, I love these movies. They’re some of the best blockbusters of this decade, but they don’t really explore the galaxy and tell a different story. It’s very safe when it comes to storytelling of the grander scale, down to even the Starkiller Base plot from The Force Awakens, something that other forms of current Star Wars media do a better job of. I think one of the reasons the concept of the sequels plays it so safe is because of the reception of the prequels, which feel like different movies than the originals, but enough to fit in Star Wars.

The prequels, when looking at the general concept, are pretty messy. The entire trilogy isn’t just about the Republic and the Separatists, but also about the Jedi and the Sith, and a lot of focus just being on Anakin overall. We also got many new concepts like midichlorians and podracing. It’s a lot different than the originals, but the movies didn’t do well critically and are generally despised by fans. Now, does that mean that changing things up is bad? Of course not. You can change up formulas and still make successful movies. It’s worked before, such as with The Clone Wars took place during the prequels, and the show is received well because the direction behind the show handles it well.

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Before Disney acquired Lucasfilm, and the Star Wars movies were thought to be over, the fans of the movies stuck with the originals, and once The Force Awakens came about, the thing that would please most fans and the general audience would be familiarity, and that’s exactly what we were given with it. While the movie was good and pleased the majority, it makes you wish that there was something a little bit fresher being served.

There’s no difference between the Rebellion and the Resistance. There’s no difference between the Empire and the First Order. Without the original cast coming back for this trilogy, the movies could be passed off as a hard reboot with minor differences. This problem doesn’t just relate to the Sequel Trilogy either.

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Now that Episode IX has begun filming, one can’t help but wonder, what will this movie be about? With J.J. Abrams returning, the worst case scenario would be a Return of the Jedi rehash. I believe J.J. Abrams is going to make a great, satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. With the help of writers like Chris Terrio and a great cast that has honed in their characters, the potential for a final film to be original, bold, epic and not dependent on nostalgia is palpable. Hopefully, when it is all said and done, we can look back at the sequel trilogy as truly worthwhile entry into the Star Wars saga, I firmly believe it will be.