For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been rewatching all the Star Wars movies. It’s been an interesting experience, since I hadn’t rewatched most of them in ages. I hadn’t watched the original trilogy since the prequels came out, and I hadn’t watched the prequels since their original release era. That meant I hadn’t really looked at the originals in terms of what was revealed in the prequels, and I hadn’t considered any of them in light of the newer films.
I have to say that while the first movie still holds up really well, the rest of the original trilogy doesn’t. Some of that is because Lucas undermined himself with some decisions he made in the prequels. For instance, all the “Luke is our last hope, no, wait, there’s another Skywalker” drama. Well, the Jedi were supposed to have been celibate. They weren’t allowed to marry and have families. There’s only a Skywalker bloodline because Anakin broke the rules and married. That means the Force-sensitive people who were Jedi candidates had to have just randomly appeared all along. If it was strictly a genetic trait, then making the people who had that trait be celibate would have led to it dying out. Where did the Jedi find their candidates all along? Wherever that was, couldn’t they have found those kinds of people again now? The galaxy should have been full of “hopes” who had just as much potential as the Skywalker kids, maybe even without so much Dark Side potential.
In fact, why were they waiting around for Anakin’s kid to grow up, with no effort to train him? They had twenty years to prepare. They didn’t find Force-sensitive people and get them to Dagobah? What would have happened if Jyn Erso and the Rogue One crew hadn’t defied orders to get the Death Star plans, which led to the droids ending up on Tatooine and bringing Luke into the fray?
I know a lot of people were really distressed by the revelation in The Last Jedi that Rey was nobody, that her parents were nobody. While I’m not sure I believe that, since Kylo Ren was trying to manipulate her at the time, where did they think the Jedi came from during the glory days? They were all nobodies. There was no noble line of Jedi families because the Jedi were celibate.
The Empire Strikes Back is often considered the best movie in the series, but I’ve never liked it that much. Some of that was because nothing could have lived up to the anticipation, some because I was so thoroughly spoiled from reading the novelization so many times before I saw it that I had the movie memorized before I saw it. But analyzing it from a story perspective, I think it’s pretty weak, mostly because the stakes are actually pretty low. After the opening battle and escape from Hoth, the Rebellion no longer matters. Everything becomes entirely personal — will Han and Leia manage to escape, will Luke be able to train as a Jedi, will Darth Vader catch Luke. Personal stakes aren’t necessarily bad, but in something that’s supposed to be epic, you need a bigger story question than “will they repair the ship?” And we have more undermining from the prequels — there, becoming a Jedi is a lifetime thing, with children taken away from their parents at an early age, then going through an extensive program of training, followed by apprenticeship. Luke can’t have been on Dagobah more than a few days, and yet he’s declared fully a Jedi. I guess the other Jedi wasted a lot of time. And how did he learn to build his own lightsaber? Did he find a YouTube video?
The Last Jedi follows a similar story arc and pattern to The Empire Strikes Back, but the stakes are much higher — the survival of the Resistance. It’s not just whether one ship can escape, but whether any of them can. Rey isn’t meant to have had a full Jedi training while with Luke. She gets a crash course in connecting with the Force, but there’s no “you’re a full Jedi now, I have nothing more to teach you.” The bit about Rey already having everything contained in the sacred Jedi texts wasn’t because she’d learned it all but because she’d already stolen the texts.
I found the newer movies a lot more engaging than everything but the first one. I have a lot more thoughts about the views of heroism and all that, but this is getting long and I need to think more.