Like it or not, Star Wars has returned in bigger form than it ever was in the past. Once Disney bought the rights to the franchise, they were quick to announce that the series would continue with The Force Awakens in 2015. Due to that movie breaking nearly every record set at the time, it wasn't long before Disney decided that the film would be the start of a third Star Wars trilogy. On top of that, they would attempt to expand the universe by having various spin-off movies that would flesh out either a series of events or a particular character.
While many Star Wars fans are excited by this revival (and many new fans are brought as a result), there are some who would say that Disney has killed the franchise. Regardless of where you stand, it's hard to admit that Disney has been perfect with the franchise or that they've been nothing but a nightmare for the Star Wars universe as a whole. The franchise has been rejuvenated thanks to Disney, but there are still 10 ways that Disney ruined Star Wars and 10 ways they made it better than what it was back when George Lucas was carrying the torch.
20 WORSE: THE "DISNEY" HUMOR
After Marvel popularized superhero movies in the current decade, people started to notice that their products looked like they had a formula to their own success. One trait of the movies was that they had a lot of humor and were fairly light-hearted. While this did work in many movies like Thor: Ragnarok, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Iron Man, there were times where it was overdone, like in Avengers: Age of Ultron. However, considering that Disney owns Marvel and the Marvel movies are successful, it seems as if the House of Mouse is learning the wrong lessons from the MCU.
In a lot of their more recent films, Disney has started to inject the Marvel humor that takes audiences out of a movie. It wasn't so over-the-top in The Force Awakens, but it did reach some new heights in The Last Jedi. After a year of building up Rey handing the lightsaber to Luke, the movie opens with a joke as Luke just tosses his old saber away. It ruins what would be an otherwise emotionally impacting moment. This sense of humor also translates to Poe Dameron's character, who has some banter with General Hux that is painful to watch.
19 BETTER: GREAT CASTING AND ACTING
The one thing that the prequel trilogy and even parts of the original trilogy suffered from was poor acting. Almost everyone in the prequels didn't act very well, with Hayden Christensen taking the cake for awful acting ("I don't like sand. It gets everywhere"). Even a great actress like Natalie Portman could've done a better job as Padme Amidala. Likewise, Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, at least in A New Hope, could've used a lot of work and the great Harrison Ford also wasn't given great material in Return of the Jedi. Needless to say, it was important for Disney to have better acting.
That brings us to Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Adam Driver. These new actors bring a lot of weight to the Star Wars movies, with the latter of the three being quite amazing. Rey is a strong female character without ever beating the audience over the head with it. John Boyega is energetic and fun-loving in his role as Finn the former First Order Stormtrooper. Then, Adam Driver creates one of the most complex villains Star Wars has ever had in the form of Kylo Ren -- a guy who has clearly been burned by those who tried to train him in the past.
18 WORSE: POINTLESS SPIN-OFFS
Part of the move when Disney took over Star Wars was to create some spin-offs for the series. This way, they could expand the universe beyond just the main series. However, the two movies they've created under this philosophy were Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Solo: A Star Wars Story. There are many people who liked these movies and they were very enjoyable, but that's not the issue with them.
The problem with these spin-off films is that they weren't stories that were begging to be told. Thanks to the Original Trilogy, we already knew what happened to Rogue One, making the film just a means to an end. A similar thing can be said for Han Solo in his prequel movie. Considering that he was fairly young in A New Hope, it's hard to believe that there is anything so important about his story in the past few years that it necessitated a movie of its own. In the future, we'd like to see Disney stretch their creative muscles a bit and focus on a character who has several untold stories. A Boba Fett movie could work extremely well, as would something that followed Darth Vader's hunt for the Jedi.
17 BETTER: LETTING THE PAST DIE
The Star Wars movies are widely known for having an impressive hold on their continuity. Since the series was created, fans have been constantly bred into the concept of the Jedi versus the Sith and bringing balance to the Force. It's a concept that is timeless and was re-used in the prequel trilogy as well as many of the Extended Universe books, video games, and comics. This bit of storytelling has been done in both of the previous trilogies, so that's why Disney decided to take a little bit of a risk with their new trilogy.
The Force Awakens largely went under the same formula as the previous entries in the series, so that's nothing new. Where Disney really started to stand out was with The Last Jedi. Kylo Ren has an entire arc with Rey about letting the past die. He, like the current state of the Star Wars franchise, wants to get rid of the ideas of Jedi and Sith, considering both groups were wrong in their own ways. Being willing to adjust the universe so heavily in this way bodes well for the future of the series. Going forward, we would like to see this concept fully delivered on as well as the introduction of the Gray Jedi.
16 WORSE: INJECTING POLITICAL VIEWS
Star Wars movies are great summer blockbusters with a lot of action, flashy effects, and cool characters to hold an audience for a few hours. It worked for the original trilogy and it worked for the prequel trilogy (when those movies came out anyway). Now that a third trilogy is currently taking place, it wouldn't be hard to assume that it would be more of the same, right? Not necessarily. Because Star Wars now exists in a time where political views are everywhere, the franchise too has taken its own liberties to showcase its stances on certain issues, whether you believe in them or not.
We're not saying that it's wrong to inject political views, but it's a move that's extremely obvious and takes many viewers out of the movie. It also stirs up unnecessary arguments in the fanbase (something that Star Wars fans could certainly use less of) that never go anywhere. If Disney is going to continue this series for the foreseeable future, it's important that they learn not to throw in politics at all. Keep the movies about wars and space, throw around some lightsabers and remarks about the Force, and everyone will be happy. Don't try to send a controversial message.
15 BETTER: PRACTICAL EFFECTS
One of the biggest criticisms of the Star Wars prequels is that they were extremely reliant on CGI to deliver their big scenes. If you want proof of just how much CG they used in those films, just go back and watch Attack of the Clones -- every single one of the Clone Troopers was created using CG rather than having plenty of people wearing the armor. What made this worse was the fact that the CG wasn't even that good, meaning that the prequels have aged worse than the original trilogy -- and there's quite a difference between them of a few decades.
Going into The Force Awakens, it was then impressive to see a lot more practical effects be used. Most impressive was the droid, BB-8. It could've easily been created with digital effects, but J.J. Abrams was insistent that it be created with practical moving parts. All of the Stormtroopers were also put in the movie with actual people wearing actual armor. Because of the use of practical effects, the new trilogy looks extremely good and will age fantastically and even the spin-offs like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story had some great effects with characters like K2SO. Let's hope that these effects are used with the future films.
14 WORSE: UNCLEAR EXPLANATION OF THE FORCE
One of the greatest challenges in any fictional story is to keep the rules consistent throughout all the parts. Considering that Star Wars has the Jedi, Sith, lightsabers, futuristic space ships, and the Force, it is extremely important that the guidelines of the universe are defined from the very start so that the audience knows what can and cannot happen. Since the inception of the franchise, we've felt like there was a solid depiction of how the Force worked and what its limits were.
When The Force Awakens came out, a lot of these ideas were perpetuated. The Force was used to move people around and stop blaster bolts in mid-air. It could be used to extract thoughts, which was a new ability, but it was something that was fairly believable. Moving on to The Last Jedi, that's where things get much trickier. There was the idea that the Force could be used for "Skype" calls as well as astral projection. Then there was Leia suddenly being a user of the Force to pull herself back to safety. While these abilities are canon in the books, they've never been hinted at in the movies and come across as plot conveniences.
13 BETTER: PROPER HOMAGE TO THE OT
When the prequel trilogy was created, many people were excited to see how the galaxy slowly got into the conquered state that they knew from the Original Trilogy. However, when watching the prequel trilogy, many people grew tired of seeing gratuitous reference to the original three movies without any real payoff to come at the end. The introduction of Chewbacca in Revenge of the Sith seemed like such an obvious reference that it was quite annoying. It was like George Lucas was capitalizing on the brand rather than his own storytelling. It was a mistake that would permeate throughout The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones as well.
That brings us to the new trilogy. Many fans were relieved when The Force Awakens wasn't packed to the brim with references to previous Star Wars movies that went nowhere. Of course there were references in the form of Luke's lightsaber as well as voice cameo from Ewan McGregor, but they never overtook the movie that was happening on screen. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was a few steps back on this point, but The Last Jedi almost perfectly homages the OT without ever coming across as painfully forced by the studio.
12 WORSE: PLOT DEVELOPMENTS THAT GO NOWHERE
In The Force Awakens, Disney was insistent on launching a new chapter in the Star Wars saga that would both make longtime fans of the series happy while making sure to bring in plenty of new people for the ride. For the most part, they succeeded. Not only were their stellar appearances from Han Solo, Chewbacca, and R2D2, but there were also plenty of new cast members who got a chance to show what they could do as leads in Star Wars.
The problem is that there were a few plot developments introduced in The Force Awakens that never went anywhere. For starters, there was the fact of Rey's parentage. J.J. Abrams was setting it up to be some sort of massive reveal, which only turned out to be nothing. Then there was the introduction of Supreme Leader Snoke. He seemed to be the next warlord that was going to take over the galaxy, but he was taken out pretty quickly by Kylo Ren's Force pull on a lightsaber. While those developments help move the main characters along, it doesn't make sense to build up these reveals only for them to go absolutely nowhere. Why did Snoke have to be included?
11 BETTER: DIFFERENT TONES
Before you start to say that we're going back on what we we're saying in the article, we're not referring to how The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi are tonally different from one another. At their core, those two movies feel like Star Wars movies from start to finish (particularly the former if we're being honest). They fit in well with the rest of the franchise in terms of having elements that people would expect to see in a space opera. That said, this is where the introduction of the spin-offs actually benefits the series more than harms it.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Solo: A Star Wars Story both feel like different stories that exist within the Star Wars universe. They don't necessarily feel like Star Wars movies. The former is more of a tale about a war-torn society rather than having grandiose battles between Jedi and Sith. The latter is a much rougher look at what can occur within the Star Wars universe. Going forward, we would like to see Disney really capitalize on how the spin-offs can be disconnected from the main series. The regular series can't deviate too much from the tone of what's come before.
10 WORSE: CONTRIVED SIDE PLOTS
The flow of a story is imperative to captivating and holding the attention of an audience. If the people watching the film can't follow how the movie is jumping from setting to setting, then it's not long before they're lost in the wind. When telling a movie in space as big as Star Wars, it's important that the directors keep the pace moving well enough that it always feels like there's something going on that is crucial to the story and entertaining to watch. While we won't say that George Lucas had this down to a science, Disney doesn't seem to have it down either.
The Force Awakens kept the pace moving pretty well. It was quick and something was always happening. However, the side plot with the tentacle monster and the thugs fighting Han Solo was just there and didn't add anything to the story. The same can be said of the Canto Bight (that whole casino thing) sequence in The Last Jedi. It totally broke the pace of the movie only to have Finn and Rose become prisoners of Captain Phasma. Rogue One also had some moments that weren't all that interesting as well as some character arcs that didn't feel all that earned.
9 BETTER: TAKING RISKS
There are a lot of people who hate the prequels. There are some people who find Star Wars as an entirety fairly overrated. One of the reasons for this is that it feels largely formulaic. Anyone can look at a Star Wars movie and essentially know what to expect. There's going to be discussion of the Force, a Jedi who learns from a disgruntled master, and a villain who is actually an apprentice for a higher power. There is some talk about bringing balance to the Force, some entertaining space battles, and a lot of great music.
However, that's where Disney does have a leg up on the previous entries in the franchise. There are a lot of people that hated The Last Jedi, but that's not to say the movie is terrible. At the very least, we have to give credit to Disney for taking risks with the Star Wars franchise. Never before in the series did we see the hero and the villain fighting side by side. On top of that, we've never seen a Jedi fully depicted in a morally grey light as Luke Skywalker was. There were so many risks that were taken that it makes us somewhat excited.
8 WORSE: NEW YET POINTLESS CHARACTERS
With the development of a new Star Wars trilogy, we all knew that there were going to use the original characters as a way of passing the torch from one generation down to the next. As such, there are several new characters who are meant to headline the new series. That's not to say that all of the new cast members are winners, just that there are some who could easily carry the franchise straight through Episode IX.
While we have characters like Rey, Poe Dameron, and Finn who are all useful in their own ways, the same can't be said of some of the other characters. Supreme Leader Snoke only existed to die in The Last Jedi and General Hux was just there to be a mustache-twisting villain. On top of that, there was the introduction of Captain Phasma who was hyped up to be this amazing villain but only went out like a punk in both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. That's even without mentioning Maz Kanata, who only served as an exposition dump for the heroes in Episode VII and the worst of the offenders, DJ, who could've been cut out of The Last Jedi entirely.
7 BETTER: BETTER ACTION SEQUENCES
When it comes to Star Wars, the action hasn't ever been lauded as the best ever put on the big screen. The Original Trilogy was limited by what was available at the time and the prequel trilogy was mostly awful. The former had some exciting moments, but it doesn't wow crowds anymore (see the Obi-Wan and Darth Vader fight to know what we mean). The prequel trilogy is full of awful action sequences, with Jar Jar's fight against the droid army, Anakin's fight against Obi Wan, and the Clone Wars being entirely ridiculous and hard to believe.
That's another area where Disney has a leg up on the rest of the series. The Force Awakens does a lot of impressive stuff with their ship battles and has a lot of exciting and innovative angles to the action, but that's not all. The Last Jedi contains easily the best action sequence put in a Star Wars movie and one of the best in an action movie period, with Darth Vader's scene in Rogue One coming in at a close second, and definitely becoming one of his best ever. Combine that with a lot of the practical effects and shots used in the movies, and that makes the whole thing look even better.
6 WORSE: REPEATING THE SAME MISTAKES
When creating this new trilogy, there was one serious hurdle that Disney had to overcome: the prequels. The last cinematic entry in the Star Wars universe that fans had seen was Revenge of the Sith. While it was, to many, the best of the prequel trilogy, that's not saying a whole lot when looking at the big picture. Numerous people agree that the prequels were lacking in a lot of areas. Disney's main goal was to then revitalize the franchise and wash the bad taste out of the fans' mouths.
While they started out on the right foot, Disney has since repeated some of the same mistakes of past Star Wars movies. Not only are there wild numbers of conveniences (explained away by the Force putting pieces together), but there are still moments of less-than-great CGI. The Force Awakens looked great until you remember that tentacle beast that tried to eat Han Solo, Rey, and Finn. Some of the newer Star Wars movies also don't do a good job of making us care about any of these new characters (i.e. most of the Rogue One members), similar to how the prequel characters like Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala were particularly uninteresting. Disney needs to learn.
5 BETTER: IMPRESSIVE USE OF THE FORCE
The Force has always been the driving force of the Star Wars universe as a whole. It exists in both a Light Side and a Dark Side and can only be sensed by certain people. Those who can sense it can then manipulate it into doing what they want. As far as the previous uses of the Force go, we've seen it be used to pick up objects from a far distance as well as sense the presences of others. Those who were extremely adept could use it to choke others and even shoot lightning and it could also be used to jump really high and even levitate.
Disney has, since then, upped the ante when it comes to their new Star Wars movies. Not only were they determined to improve on what came before, but they were determined to further explore what the Force could do. In The Force Awakens, we see Kylo Ren stopping a blaster bolt in mid-air and holding it in place, and he can also extract thoughts with the Force. While the astral projection hasn't been shown in a Star Wars movie before, it's still quite a cool addition to the franchise that goes to explore the abilities of the Force.
4 WORSE: INCONSISTENT DIRECTION
When Disney began their new Star Wars trilogy, they started off with The Force Awakens -- a movie with a very familiar feel to it. It was clear that they were aiming for something that was reminiscent of the Original Trilogy while still providing enough new content to bring fans back. However, there were some criticisms that the movie was much too similar to A New Hope, so they needed to do something much more original when it came to The Last Jedi.
However, there was such a drastic change in focus with The Last Jedi that it was jarring at times. Because of the second movie in this new trilogy, it's extremely difficult to pinpoint where the series is going to go next. Will they go for something more energetic like The Force Awakens considering that J.J. Abrams is returning to direct? Or will they try to capitalize on the plot threads set up in The Last Jedi for a more satisfying finale? The two movies are so drastically different in tone that it will be difficult to pull them together in a final film that does them both justice while standing on its own. Abrams certainly has his work cut out for him, and we wouldn't want to be in his place.
3 BETTER: EXPANDING THE UNIVERSE
There is a lot to the Star Wars movies out in the ether but, for the most part, they felt extremely contained within the confines of the Jedi and Sith. The Original Trilogy was an epic tale, but it didn't explore much of the world outside of Luke, Leia, Han, and their conflict with the Galactic Empire. The prequel trilogy didn't do much to expand the universe either -- it only added more to the story that had already been told. It's a shame considering how deep the universe is when you bring in the Expanded Universe for added content.
While Disney has quite a way to go if they want to fully expand the Star Wars universe, they've been doing quite an excellent job. With mentions of the Jedi Texts as well as introducing several new creatures to the franchise, there's a lot more being added day by day. While the Canto Bight sequence wasn't very good, it at least showed us a newer side of the Star Wars universe. On top of that, it's also the strongest asset of the spin-off movies -- they can show aspects of the universe the main series wouldn't be able to do within their own limitations.
2 WORSE: DESTROYED THE SITH, BUT NOT REALLY
One of the more interesting aspects about Disney's new Star Wars trilogy has to do with the villains. Kylo Ren is a complex character with many different ideas and motivations that make him different from any villain that has ever come before him. What makes him even more interesting is how he was trained by Supreme Leader Snoke, who is not a Sith Lord like Palpatine was to Vader. He sees that the Sith were flawed in their thinking and, instead, wants to perfect how they tried to take over the galaxy. This ideology was passed down to Kylo Ren.
While there was a lot of emphasis put on those characters not actually being Sith Lords, they act surprisingly like the Sith. Snoke had a serious hubris when it came to his pride and he was killed by his apprentice. In terms of how they seek to rule the galaxy, both Snoke and Kylo Ren both had a similar strategy to the Sith of the past. The Knights of Ren were mentioned, but they've never been shown. Only Snoke and Kylo have been seen, meaning that they also behave as if they follow the fabled, ancient Sith Rule of Two.
1 BETTER: EXCELLENT CINEMATOGRAPHY
The Original Trilogy had some great cinematic shots -- the angle of Luke looking up at the two suns of Tatooine remains one of the most iconic scenes in all of movie history. However, there aren't many shots that are memorable outside of it in the Original Trilogy. Furthermore, the prequel trilogy doesn't really have any great shots -- the camera just seems like it's there to show what's going on rather than it being used for some visually interesting and impressive techniques.
That's where Disney came to steal the show. The Force Awakens had excellent cinematography. There were impressive tracking shots and angles that were genuinely impressive to see. The Last Jedi didn't focus so much on angles, but instead placed an emphasis on the composition of shots. Everything looked to intentional in the way it was colored, placed, and executed. There was also that brilliant tracking battle between the Rebels and Darth Vader in Rogue One. If there's one thing where Disney is vastly superior to the previous Star Wars films, it's in how they shoot their movies. Even haters of The Last Jedi admit that it had some visually attractive shots that show how much detail Rian Johnson put into the movie.