How The Force Awakens Invalidates the Original Trilogy
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is currently breaking box office records. For the most part, the movie has been embraced by fans and critics alike. The most common complaint about the new movie is that it borrows heavily from the original films. These similarities create another issue for the new movie. It’s easy to feel like the events of the first three films didn’t really matter.
**Spoiler Warning: Plot points for The Force Awakens follow
The original trilogy followed a band of heroes who faced incredible odds and toppled an evil empire. Their victory was more personal than just galactic warfare. Luke Skywalker didn’t just bring peace to his galaxy, he also helped save his father from damnation.
After the Ewok dance party on Endor that ends the original trilogy, you would like to imagine a future that is relatively upbeat for our heroes. They have earned a little happiness. Luke probably set about reestablishing the Jedi order. Maybe he trained his sister who is also strong in the Force. The leaders of the Rebellion, including Han and Leia, would have had a lot of work to do. But you would hope that they would do everything in their power to make certain nothing like the Empire could happen again.
Details of what happened in the intervening three decades are scarce in The Force Awakens. But it quickly becomes apparent that all of our heroes efforts were for naught. Thirty years after their greatest victory, everything is pretty much the way it was back when Princess Leia desperately begged Obi Wan Kenobi to help her save the galaxy. In other words, it’s all gone to shit.
I have had fans argue with me that The First Order is not The Empire. Beyond the names, I’m sure there are organizational differences. Perhaps the First Order celebrates Taco Tuesday whereas the Empire had a ban on Mexican food. I don’t know. But from what we are presented, the galaxy is once again being controlled by a highly militarized despot with an army of stormtroopers, a fleet of Tie Fighters, a space base that destroys planets and a dark Jedi with a red lightsaber. If it looks like the Empire and it quacks like The Empire, it’s The Empire.
But the villains aren’t the only ones who have regressed. Han Solo who spent the entire first series transforming from a selfish smuggler into a heroic leader has returned to “the only thing he was ever good at” because apparently things were rough at home. That’s a pretty major setback for a character I watched grow and change over the course of six years and three movies.
Leia, who does not appear to have studied the ways of The Force, is one of the leaders of a desperate resistance force that is headed by all of the leaders of the former Rebellion. The exact same group of people is sending off new pilots to blow up yet another space station with a design flaw. Nothing has changed.
The situation becomes even more depressing when you consider the origin of Kylo Ren. Beneath the helmet is Ben Organa, son of Han Solo and Leia. Massive parenting fail. Knowing that the Skywalker gene includes a propensity for tyranny, you would think Han and Leia would have made a bit more of an effort to raise their son right. The galaxy’s latest plight is largely their fault for raising an asshole.
But Han and Leia aren’t solely to blame. As it turns out, Uncle Luke was also a lousy mentor. Just like Obi Wan before him, Luke trained the next intergalactic despot. The specifics of what happened are left vague, but it turns out that Luke did make an effort to restart the Jedi. And his nephew, the one student he really should have been keeping an eye on, betrayed the new Jedi just as his grandfather had done way back when. How does Luke not see this coming? Why does he appear to shrug and go into exile at the first sign of trouble allowing everything to go to hell in a handbasket? What was the point of the original trilogy if our heroes just allow everything they accomplished to be undone?
Obviously, the new movie needed to have adversaries for our heroes to fight. If you make a Star Wars movie without bad guys, you end up with The Phantom Menace. And no one wants that. But by essentially hitting the reset button on the conflict between the Empire and the Rebellion, J.J. Abrams has diminished the accomplishments of Luke, Han and Leia from the original series. This could have been avoided if the filmmakers responsible for relaunching Star Wars had made more of an effort to come up with a new threat instead of giving the old one a new name.