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How The Force Awakens Invalidates the Original Trilogy

Star Wars - Kylo Ren

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.

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Posted on December 22, 2015, in Movies, Star Wars. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Some very good points there.

    While I’ve noted some similarities with the old Star Wars Expanded Universe at least there there are obvious successes the good guys achieved. Luke trained a new generation of Jedi, many of whom, including his own son Ben – yes in the EU Luke’s kid got that name – and his niece Jaina became great heroes. Leia was head of the Republic for a long time and still managed to end up a Jedi Master in her own right. Han got to outlive his onscreen counterpart (though Chewie did not.) The remnants of the Empire, freed from the influence of the Sith, eventually liberalised somewhat rather than becoming even more Nazi like the way they did in The Force Awakens – they even joined with the good guys to fight off an alien invasion.

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    • I used to read the EU almost religiously back in the 90’s. For a time I read all the novels, all the Dark Horse comics (I was particularly a fan of the Old Republic line of comics back then). I found them enjoyable, I would say the Thrawn trilogy from the early 90’s and the Jedi Search trilogy by Kevin J. Anderson from the mid 90’s were my two favorites among the novels. For a few years they were only releasing maybe one or two novels a year so I was easily able to keep up with them. After a few years I I was seeing practically a new novel every few weeks; I couldn’t possibly keep up with the output and they weren’t a special event anymore so I lost interest.

      I do remember Ben being the son of Luke in the novels; it was fitting considering how much Obi-Wan meant to Luke and I got a kick out of seeing the name regurgitated as Han and Leia’s son in the Force Awakens. Here’s a fun trivia bit: in real life one of Harrison Ford’s sons is named Ben.

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    • Re: How The Force Awakens Invalidates the Original Trilogy

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2488496/board/flat/251928423?d=251931536#251931536

      The galaxy slipping back into turmoil after the Rebel’s victory in ROTJ isn’t that far fetched. It has happened in the real world before.

      In 1918 Germany surrendered to the Allies, marking the end World War I. It had been dubbed “the war to end all wars”, and was a hard and painful victory. But 20 years later, it was all for nothing because Germany came back stronger – and this time morally evil under the Nazis — and so there had to be ANOTHER world war.

      You could argue the same thing happened in the U.S. after the Civil War. At first it seemed good — the slaves had been freed, and under Reconstruction they were voting and getting elected to office. But then Reconstruction ended, the old South’s racism came back with a vengeance, and oppression of black people continued for another century until the civil rights movement.

      So yes, sometimes you can win a big victory; but things can easily go downhill after that. So the state of affairs in TFA is entirely plausible.

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  2. Very good points in your article. I just saw this yesterday and thought the same thing. Although the acting is much better and it looks spectacular (no more all CGI all the time and it “looks like” a Star Wars movie), the plot is a huge fail. It is basically a safe remake of the first one (episode 4). Anyone who does not see who Rey really is was asleep, and the next movie in 18 months will have the “Luke, I am your father” moment, I bet 100 bucks. Abrams ripped off the first movie. Its almost a shot by shot remake of the original, including new cute robot and wise little alien.

    How Han and Leia’s son could go to the dark side is just a huge plot hole for me. Like the article says, out of everyone, how could they not stop that? Also, why would he worship his dead grandfather? Wouldn’t Luke have told him of his redemption and killing the emperor? Its not like Vader is some unknown dead bad ass in this universe. It would be like worshiping a nazi who killed Hitler, and still thinking the assassin was a great nazi role model. Plus, since we can assume Luke would know all about his father’s story by now 35 years in the future (the whole speaking to the dead thing they established in the previous movies as cannon), he would have surely told Ren that his grandfather was lied to and manipulated into evil by the emperor. It would have made much MORE sense for the new Sith to be a stranger who would not know any of that and would believe Vader was a traitor who killed his mentor.

    Based upon this movie, I would think the Star Wars galaxy would be glad to get rid of the Jedi at this point. If the lone Jedi (Luke), who is good, cannot get his own nephew (with I assume good parents) to not become a megalomaniac evil Sith, who could be trusted with that kind of power anymore? At least Anakin was a messed up dude, a former slave and his mother was brutally killed..that is a lot of sources for hate to take him. How exactly is Ren, with great parents and under the tutelage of the last good Jedi, just go evil for no reason. The Jedi in this universe have an absolutely rotten batting average with Jedi going bad. If I were the republic, I would ban them and want Luke to stay away. lol

    Good review and article!

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  3. Bob Ross, it’s a link from imdb that you’re responding to, and incompletely at that.
    The Jedi don’t have a rotten batting average, they are up against rotten odds.

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  4. It was very gratifying to read this article in The Guardian echoing my sentiments about why The Force Awakens is a major bummer:

    Star Wars: The Force Awakens may be one of the highest-grossing films ever released, but it is also one of the most depressing. However delighted our heroes are to destroy the Death Star – sorry, Starkiller Base – the overriding message is that such triumphs are meaningless; specifically, the triumph that rounded off the previous Star Wars episode, The Return of the Jedi. When we saw it in 1983, we couldn’t have envisaged a sweeter or more total victory. There were parties on every planet in the galaxy, Leia was cosying up with Han next to a bonfire, and Darth Vader had redeemed himself by chucking someone down one of those 100-storey maintenance ducts that the Empire’s health-and-safety-defying architects are so fond of. Everything was awesome.

    But The Force Awakens renders all that null and void. The galaxy it presents is one where the planet-smashing conflict is still rolling along and where the bad guys are as powerful as ever. In other words, Luke Skywalker and his pals achieved precisely nothing. Thanks to JJ Abrams, the happy ending of The Return of the Jedi is now neither happy nor an ending.

    The article is actually addressing the trend to keep extending movies to the point where no character ever has an ending to their story any more. Ain’t that the truth!

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    • Here’s another good quote:

      Say what you like about George Lucas’s mismanagement of the Star Wars films, but at least he wouldn’t make a new one unless he really wanted to. Under his stewardship, the gang’s further adventures remained the stuff of fan fiction and spin-off novels. That was what made the films themselves so special. (Well, the original trilogy, anyway.) Now that the franchise is owned by Disney, it is no longer an option for the saga to come to a satisfying conclusion. The company’s shareholders would revolt if Iger didn’t declare Star Wars to be a never-ending story.

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