When I saw the original Star Wars film aged 7 I nearly wet myself in the cinema with excitement. 40 years later watching The Last Jedi I nearly wet myself again; but that was mainly due to the length of the film and a middle aged prostate. But I was still grinning like a 7 year old.
I have ridden the rollercoaster of Star Wars films. At the age of 7, Star Wars changed my life; aged 10, The Empire Strikes Back reinforced the franchise as being the most important thing in my life; by Return of the Jedi…well I was at big school then and over it…and as for the Ewoks. Pah! Kids stuff! The law of diminishing returns was a regular feature of 1970’s and 1980’s films. Although it always seemed to go Film 1; Good: Film 2; Best: Film 3; Worst. Don’t believe me? Just go back and revisit Superman, The Godfather and the Indiana Jones trilogy. (Oh, and I know two of those went in to have a 4tth outing, but the less said about “The Quest for Peace” or “The Crystal Skull” the better.)
As I entered my teens I put away any thoughts of Star Wars, although I still kept all my Palitoy toys; but secretly still loved the films, even if it was no longer cool. Then in the 90’s, we had the prequels. Let’s just draw a veil over those as a George Lucas vanity project. From the opening of episode 1, all any of us were waiting for was for Anakin to become Vader. He did in the last 5 minutes of Revenge of the Sith. Thanks George, we had to endure over 6 hours of CGI nonsense for that; but then JJ Abrams entered the Star Wars Universe.
I have always been more of a Star Wars fan than Star Trek, but I was mightily impressed by old JJ’s reboot of that series and felt confident that The Force Awakens would be good. And it was. For the first time in a long time I sat there smiling at the screen like my 7 year old self thinking “yep. This is MY Star Wars”. I did exactly the same a year later with Rogue One. With that being set around the time of the original film it was like a trip back to 1977. X Wing pilots with porn star moustaches; on-screen graphics like a 1970’s arcade game and equipment with great big clunky switches (as even George hadn’t predicted the invention of the touch screen). And the piece de resistance was when I saw how beautifully the end of Rogue One dovetailed into A New Hope. Then I grinned like an idiot.
But I did have my reservations, and they were the same the reservations that I had about Return of the Jedi. No, not the Ewoks…the plot. My biggest gripe as a pubescent teenager about Return of the Jedi was that a lot of the plot and the entire end of the film was just a rerun of the first film. Building (and destroying) a new Death Star for me was just a cop out. When I watched The Force Awakens, I had a similar “hold on….we’ve been here before haven’t we?” feeling. This extended not only to the plot points, but the settings and structure of the film. An homage perhaps? Or was it just a repeat of the same formula as it’s what the audience want. Let’s just examine elements of Star Wars and The Force Awakens.
- Both begin on a sandy planet where we meet our hero/heroine who longs to be parsecs away.
- Someone is after Han/Chewie/the Falcon.
- There is a Cantina scene in both films.
- A trash compactor is featured.
- Both have a villain with a mask (although in The Force Awakens, it’s just to make him look more menacing).
- There is light sabre battle going on when the rest of cast are trying to destroy…The Starkiller. Yep, Death Star v3.0.
It wasn’t a case of it “staying true” to the original…it was a carbon copy! Which brings us to The last Jedi.
SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE LAST JEDI AND DO NOT WANT TO KNOW THE PLOT, STOP READING NOW AND COME BACK AFTER YOU HAVE SEEN THE FILM.
Surely they wouldn’t just repeat the plot to Empire in the second episode of the third trilogy? Oh yes they have, and thrown in a few bits from Return of the Jedi as well. Let’s consider the “set pieces”.
- A battle on an “ice planet”, which we are informed is actually salt but it’s still a good excuse to dust down the AT-AT Walkers and for the storm troopers to don their “cold weather gear”.
- Our hero has to visit a far away planet and undergo training from a Jedi master. This time Luke is the master, not Yoda, but watch all the scenes on Ach-To and compare them to the ones on Dagobah; Rey facing her fears in the tree, feeling the force/empathy across the galaxy, lifting rocks. You get the idea. Luke even landed his X-Wing fighter in water again! (I know, he probably did it on purpose so as not get off the planet, but it made me laugh.)
- The Cantina/Bespin scene has been replaced with a Monte Carlo planet, but still gives the creature artists something to get their teeth into.
- Again, do a shot-by-shot analysis of the scene between Rey, Ben (I refuse to call him Kylo Ren) and Snoke with that between Luke, Vader and the Emperor in Return of the Jedi, including the conclusion. Who saw that coming? We all did!!! We saw exactly the same thing 34 years ago!
As I said at the beginning of this article though, I smiled all the way through it (even if my Starbucks filled bladder enjoyed it slightly less so). If you just accept that the whole thing is a homage fest then you are in for a treat. Snoke’s throne room and guards owe a definite nod to Ming and his guards in the 1980’s Dino De Laurtinus version of Flash Gordon; Ewoks have been replaced by Porgs; and the rebels still seem to use the 1970’s game Battleships to plot their course.
We are now all lined up for episode 9, which by rights if they are using Return of the Jedi for the source material should include:
- More cute/annoying animals.
- A return to Jakku.
- Another lightsabre battle between Rey and Ben.
- A dog fight in space
- Them destroying Death Star Version X (I reckon they will just do what Apple does and skip past all the other numbers and go straight to X).
Well the good news is that we only have to wait 2 years to find out, when hopefully I will be smiling like a 7 year old…but alas, still with the bladder of a 50 year old man. The sad thing for us 70’s kids though is that of the original main 3 characters, 2 have died on screen and one in real life. It’s just Chewie and the droids left now. Which brings me to my final question. Why does Chewie still sit in the co-pilot’s seat even though he is now flying the Falcon? I’m afraid Han ain’t coming back old mate.
Andrew Fenner is a freelance writer, TV producer…and Star Wars fan.