By Solomon Hammerly
CatlinSpeak (Portland, Oregon)
As one of the biggest pop-culture phenomenons since its conception in 1977, “Star Wars” and its most devout followers have been building up excitement throughout 2015, as the seventh entry, “The Force Awakens,” in one of the most impactful space opera film series’, releases in theaters on Dec. 18.
Star Wars has been both a staple of what many refer to as “geek” or “nerd” culture, and an icon in science fiction and filmography throughout the 20th and 21st century, spawning numerous other mediums of entertainment based on the galaxy far, far away. From video games to animated television series to literature, Star Wars has amassed a cult following incomparable to that of any other fictional series, while continuing to expand upon its universe and mythos for consumers to enjoy.
That being said, both critics and fans alike are not above criticizing the series, and while fan response cannot be generalized fully, there appears a general consensus among a majority of consumers that the quality of the Star Wars “prequel trilogy” highlighted a decline in quality for the series from the original three films.
The release of these prequels and the harsh backlash from Star Wars fans demonstrated the start of a shift in fans’ perspectives towards the work of George Lucas, the filmmaker responsible for the iconic series, with even other actors weighing in with their vehement distaste for Lucas’ later Star Wars work.
“I don’t really have any respect for anyone who thinks those films are good. They’re not.” English actor Simon Pegg told NY Daily News regarding the prequels. “(They’re) a monumental misunderstanding of what the (original) three films are about. It’s an exercise in utter infanticide … (like) George Lucas killing his kid.”
The misunderstanding and interfering with what made a creator’s original work special often sparks a debate on whether Star Wars’ fanbase is entitled to claim what exactly the original three films are about. This frustration of fans and critics believing Lucas did not understand what defined the original trilogy was what prompted Lucas to abandon Star Wars for good.
Lucas spoke on November 18th with “CBS This Morning,” explaining that he did not want to be a part of the creation of “The Force Awakens” because “it’s not much fun.” He goes on to say that when you “go to make a movie and all you do is get criticized.”
One important piece to note is that Lucas had no intention to create more Star Wars movies after the original trilogy. Lucas initially created concepts for a sequel trilogy following the release of “Return of the Jedi,” but never had any intention to flesh out these ideas into another film. By the early 90’s, Lucas found that the popularity of Star Wars had remained strong, and the generation of kids who had grown up with the series had now grown older, so Lucas decided to build upon basic ideas from his original draft of “Star Wars” in order to create a prequel trilogy.
The turning point following the production of the sequels occurred in October of 2012, when Lucas sold his company Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise to Disney, along with rough story treatment for episodes VII-IX, which Disney soon planned to produce throughout the next decade.
This leads us to today’s degree of excitement and skepticism regarding the quality of the upcoming “The Force Awakens”. With the directing of the newest entry in the hands of J.J Abrams, best known for TV dramas such as “Lost” and “Fringe” as well as feature films, including “Armageddon,” some fans of the series have expressed positivity in how Abrams can add fresh and creative ideas, with a greater desire to produce films for the series than Lucas did in his time.
Critical response to the recently released trailers for Episode VII have been generally positive as well, with Sean O’Connel of CinemaBlend feeling that Abrams working on Episode VII as a one-off will be the best for everyone, “If you have watched this trailer as often as I have, you get the sense that Abrams did a kick a** job on The Force Awakens, so locking him up for Episode IXwould be a win for Disney, for Abrams, and for the fans.”
The fate of the series in the next film and the upcoming episodes may be unknown, but the fanbase can likely lay to rest the fear of the return of the prequel-level quality of Star Wars films for the next number of years.
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