Toxic Fandom

A casual reply to a tweet by Mark Hamill, sees me stepping on egg shells. I admit I don't like the new Star Wars movies, but for rather mundane 'writerly' reasons.

Yesterday, actor Mark Hamill dropped a photo on Twitter of himself embracing fellow Star War alumni, Harrison Ford, tweeting:

What a Han/Luke reunion might have been like...

Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford
Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford

It’s a touching photo, no doubt, and one I discovered that’s got fans in quite a heated debated.

When I replied to the tweet, innocently enough, I opined that I didn’t really like the new Star Wars movies, and felt Disney missed an opportunity.

Well, did I step into a minefield!

Apparently, my casual, drive-by Tweet to Mark Hamill earned me an odious membership to #ToxicFandom i.e. part of the vocal old guard of Star Wars fans hating on the new movies. It’s certainly not the first time I’ve blundered into a heated discussion, and doubtless it won’t be the last.

As it stands, I don’t hate the new films. They weren’t terrible as films go. Certainly, they had their merits. Of the ones I’ve seen, I thought Rogue One was very good, I liked The Force Awakens (it had promise at least as a first part of the new trilogy), but I thought The Last Jedi was a poor clone of The Empire Strikes Back. I haven’t seen Solo, and I don’t think I will bother with anything else — I don’t watch much TV after all, and going to the cinemas isn’t easy for my wife and I.

In my opinion, Exec Producer JJ Abrams (of Lost and the rebooted Star Trek fame) has tried to simultaneously reboot the franchise and provide the long awaited continuation of the original trilogy with the original cast.

As is usually the case, by attempting to please everyone, I think he’s failed both camps.

Of course the old guard weren’t going to be happy with the handling of the original characters. But then, pandering to fans of the original films failed to properly reboot the series for a new generation. Honestly, they would have been better off starting from scratch and remaking episodes 1 to 6 in the new style and then continuing the story. Leave the originals as they were (something George Lucas should have done too), and recreate the series for a younger audience, more sensitive to issues of diversity and equality. It’s not like Disney lack the cash!

So why didn’t I like The Last Jedi? After all, some have claimed it is the best Star Wars film ever made.

I’ve already noted it felt to me like a poor clone of Empire, which was always going to be perilous because Empire was the best of the original series.

Maybe poor clone is harsh, there were certainly strong points to the film, but as writer, I found too many gaping holes.

So, things I didn’t like:

  • The escape plot feels like a rip off the reimagined BSG season 1 episode, Water — but without actually creating any tension.
  • The Casino subplot was terrible and should have been cut.
  • Benicio Del Toro’s character was a waste of a good character actor.
  • Snoke is still a nothing character, serving as a plot device, mind you, so was Boba Fett.
  • Leia’s convenient summoning of the Force, after presumably a lifetime of not using it.
  • We still know nothing about Rey, Finn and Poe — at least nothing I care about. Finn and Poe don’t really matter, but Rey is the central protagonist. She has no past, and nothing resembling a core narrative goal.
  • The ‘everyone’s a hero/potential Jedi’ ending was nauseating.

But in fairness there were things I liked:

  • Diversity. It’s almost cliche now, but I liked seeing a diverse cast of characters and actors.
  • The bond, interplay and sexual tension between Kylo Ren and Rey. This was a fine piece of characterisation.
  • Adam Driver as Ren. It helps his character is more interesting than Rey, because 1. he has a past, and 2. he has strong goals.
  • Mark Hamill’s depiction of the older, suffering Luke Skywalker. Hamill made no secret he disliked what Rian Johnson did to Luke’s character, but he played it very well.
  • Carry Fisher adding some much needed gravitas when dealing with the younger actors. Honestly, I think JJ Abrams (as series Executive Producer) was counting on her to carry the flag, alas that’s not to be.
  • The film’s climax, and yes even Skywalker’s end.
  • Master Yoda…say no more.

Anyway, that’s my 2c, as my American friends would say. Feel free to agree or disagree. I’m no fanboy, either way, Lucas was very hit and miss as a film maker1. There’s good and bad in any series, I just would have preferred if they properly rebooted it.

But on a final note, I can honestly say, I’ve had my fill of all the big Hollywood franchises: Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel etc, etc…I’d sooner sit down and read a good book.

Credits


  1. There’s no way you can redeem The Phantom Menace and Jar Jar Binks, sorry. 

Comments

Avatar

Dixie

I hated the new movies. I felt they were rather poor and unimaginative recreations of the old ones. Yes there was a lot of CGI but they were so reminiscent of sayings from the old movies but I found them boring. Didn't like the new characters at all. I was sorry that older characters or not more involved so we could actually see how the hit changed. At one point I had read all the books commissary and I found a deviation in the storyline very confusing and annoying. The characters have been well developed for me in the novels and to have the majority of that just talked out the window was disruptive. So I'm done with Star wars I own the original three in an extended format. I have the next three as well and that's where I stopped. I will not bother to buy any of the ones that are out now and probably will not read any more books.


Avatar

Chris Rosser

Hate's a strong word, but I certainly agree with your points, Dixie. I never really read much (well, anything) of novelisations in canon or the expanded universe. But I understand there's a lot of untapped gold there Disney elected not to use. Perhaps more worryingly, they also ditched all of George Lucas' material for the sequels. But...he sold it to them.

Either we have to admit Lucas made mistakes: first in execution, then in giving the franchise to the Mickey Mouse and Marvel company.

Avatar

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

"There’s no way you can redeem The Phantom Menace and Jar Jar Binks, sorry. "

And you can keep the Ewoks and that utterly ridiculous chase scene through the trees on a glorified scooter and...

I was there when the first movie came out. That will never be improved, that newness. The second one was good - and then things went south. At least for me. We've seen what is now called 1-6 - and the first three were ridiculous. We saw the 7th? and stopped watching.

It's okay - not my circus, not my monkeys. If it sells, it was still groundbreaking when I was halfway through graduate school, and they own the franchise - I don't have any skin in the game any more.

It was cool while it lasted.


Avatar

Chris Rosser

Indeed, a lot the gimmicks in Return of the Jedi were motivated by a desire to sell more merchandise to kids. Still, it had its moments too, but I agree the first two films (IV and V) were best. The gushing praise for The Last Jedi, is just silly; sure it satisfies the modern Zeitgeist for #diversity (a good thing), but there's too many narrative and character weaknesses.

I think with Star Wars, everything that came after Empire is best summed up as 'great idea, questionable execution.'

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