In four decades we’ve had two and a half Star Wars trilogies. It’s not just the nostalgia that keeps us rushing to the nearest theatre when a new Star Wars film is released; it’s the lightsaber battles, the spirituality, the humour, the tragedy and of course the often adorable flaws that make the saga special, despite often being annoying and sometimes cringe-inducing in the beginning. These flaws range from “funny in hindsight” to “borderline offensive” and we’ve got the best example of each right here.
Long-time fans can probably predict pretty accurately what some of our gripes with the Star Wars franchise are. Newcomers to the film sagas (all three of them) may be interested to see what they’re getting into… assuming they don’t mind spoilers. To them we say: don’t be discouraged. Watch the films regardless of what you read here. They’re awesome. Ask anyone. That being said, it’s probably good for you to see these now, so you’re not disappointed when you watch the films. For the majority of you who have no doubt seen most, if not all the major Star Wars films, reminiscing about its flaws is still fun. It brings back memories. Heck, you might even see flaws here you never noticed before. So let’s begin.
15. BOBA FETT’S DEATH
It took some of us years to get over the relatively mundane death Boba Fett was given in Return of the Jedi. Thankfully, the Extended Universe showed us that Boba Fett was more difficult to kill than that. He escapes from the Sarlacc Pit twice. Sure, he soon finds himself right back in its gullet but he escapes again! Unfortunately, that’s just not his story anymore.
All of that was pushed into what is known as “Star Wars Legends,” a collection of old stories that are no longer canon in the new Star Wars universe. While many elements have been reintroduced into the new canon, the comics and films have neglected to save Boba Fett once more from his underwhelming death in Return of the Jedi. With the direction the new trilogy is heading in, it seems unlikely that Fett will be saved again and that’s a shame.
14. GREAT CHARACTERS MADE NON-CANON
The old expanded universe was both expansive and complex. Minor film characters and worlds were given larger stories and it was understandably difficult for newcomers to the franchise to digest. It made sense to get rid of it all and start again. Unfortunately, that also meant getting rid of fan favorite characters that would otherwise have no place in the new canon.
Mara Jade for example, was a former Imperial assassin and the fiery wife of Luke Skywalker. Fans loved her for complexity and of course, her sarcastic wit. Then there were the original Solo children: Jacen, Jaina and Anakin solo, whose stories enthralled and excited us all. Now there is just Kylo Ren, the only child whose story of inner conflict cannot match the drama between Mara Jade, Jacen Solo and Jaina. It’s a terrible waste of a great, memorable story and its one of the reasons that the new canon isn’t sitting well with old fans.
13. MISSED OPPORTUNITIES
The prequel trilogy built on the story the original trilogy had given us. It showed us what happened during the Clone Wars and elaborated on the heart-wrenching story between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader. It’s just a shame it wasn’t always done well enough. In fact, at times, there were missed opportunities for epic moments that didn’t include drawn out lightsaber duels or large scale space battles.
Just look at Obi-Wan and Anakin. Given that a huge chunk of the story revolves around them, you’d think that their first meeting would be an incredible moment of pleasantry with a hint of tragedy due to what we know is destined to happen. But in The Phantom Menace, they’re first meeting consists of little more than a simple, “this is Obi-Wan” and “pleased to meet you” before the completely forgettable scene ends. It’s pretty much the same thing that happened to R2 and C-3PO, which should have been at least a little funny.
12. JAR JAR BINKS
The prequel trilogy had quite a few strong points, but they’re remembered more for the their flaws. The Phantom Menace introduced something no one wanted: a goofy comic relief character. The intent behind Jar Jar Binks was to appeal to kids through Jar Jar’s ridiculous antics so those children would buy toys. That’s a perfectly good intention, it’s just a shame the execution was so… horrible.
R2-D2 and C-3PO offered comic relief in the original trilogy. They were written to be funny without resorting to slapstick and over-the-top foolishness. Jar Jar Binks was not clever or even endearing, he was just plain stupid. It’s no surprise that there was huge backlash over his inclusion in the film. So George Lucas dialled it down in Attack of the Clones. For some reason though, he made Padmé give Jar Jar, of all people, the authority to propose giving Palpatine emergency powers. Thanks for that, Jar Jar. You are the worst.
Among one of the most arguably disappointing flaws of the prequel trilogies was the inclusion of midi-chlorians as a way to explain the way living creatures communicate with the Force. It destroyed part of the mystical element of the Force, which made its concept so captivating for fans of the original trilogy.
The introduction of midi-chlorians was completely unnecessary, given how well Obi-Wan in A New Hope and Yoda in Empire Strikes Back already explained the concept of the Force. Still, we were given further explanation for a question no one who watched Star Wars had ever asked. Luckily for us, all films since The Phantom Menace seem to ignore the concept completely, satisfied with the Force as being a mystery that binds all living things. It’s still irksome though when you remember that that’s canon now.
10. ONE TOO MANY DEATH STARS
The planet-destroying superweapon of A New Hope was the perfect plot device. It was seemingly indestructible, the perfect test of Luke’s skill with and acceptance of the Force. The second Death Star in Return of the Jedi was fine because it was a show of how powerful the Empire was, that they could so easily muster up enough resources to rebuild a planet-destroying superweapon. It was also the perfect setting for a climactic finale in which the Emperor perishes.
Then The Force Awakens happened and we got Starkiller base, a planet and sun-destroying superweapon. Only this time…it was built into a whole planet and was capable of destroying multiple planets at once. Fine. It was an homage of sorts to the original saga, even if it was a little repetitive. Then Rogue One was released and it dealt with that ridiculous weak spot of the original Star Wars film. Despite its phenomenally written and executed plot, we started realizing how sick we were getting of Death Stars. We get it. They’re big and scary, but they’re repetitive. It’s time to stop.
9. THE FORCE AWAKENS AND A NEW HOPE
Let’s explore the original and the new trilogies. We get that The Force Awaken had to pay its respects to the original, that meant its story and its characters. That’s why they brought Luke, Leia and Han back for one last epic adventure. It also appeared as though they’d brought back the entire plot of A New Hope back as well.
An orphan growing up wanting more than a life in a desert, encounters a droid hunted by an evil dictatorship, ends up joining that dictatorship’s greatest enemy and picks up a few Force powers on the way. Oh yeah, then at the end, a planet-sized weapon is destroyed because several ships hit its one weak point. J.J. Abrams explained that this was done for the sake of the audience, so older fans could be eased into a new story and characters. Regardless of its success in that regard, to many, it felt as though moviegoers might have just paid to see a movie they’d already seen years ago and probably have on DVD.
8. UNNECESSARY EDITS
If there’s one thing we know about George Lucas, it’s that he’s an innovator in the technical aspects of filmmaking. His visual effects company, Industrial Light & Magic, is the go-to company in Hollywood for visual effects. Films such as Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean and Terminator all feature their work. Lucas should be praised for that. It’s just a shame he never quite seemed to know when not to use those special effects or edits.
In the remastered editions of the original Star Wars trilogy, Lucas makes some unwarranted edits such as adding a new song to Return of the Jedi in the form of “Jedi Rocks” which is just… dramatically and musically revolting. Then there’s his decision to place characters in places they don’t belong, like Boba Fett on Tatooine or young Anakin Skywalker as a ghost. Then there’s arguably the worst editing decision of them all: he made Greedo shoot first, something older Star Wars fans will never accept. Han shot first.
7. UNNECESSARY CGI
George Lucas also made it a habit to tack on more to the original trilogy with badly implemented CGI. We can forgive things like giving Jabba the Hutt a more believable form on Tatooine because there, he’s actually moving, but what about placing extra Stormtroopers on the Death Star or editing the look of Cloud City, Mos Eisley? There was also the decision to include Naboo and Coruscant through CGI at the end of Return of the Jedi, neither of which aesthetically blended with the rest of the film.
The prequels are guiltier than any other film of unnecessary CGI, but that’s obvious to most viewers from the way 90% of the locations in those films look like they were shot in front of a green screen. Sometimes it’s best to build sets and those prequels prove it.
6. UNADDRESSED PLOT HOLES
We get that, since the films’ overarching plot wasn’t written in chronological order, there are bound to be a few minor plot holes, ones that can, more often than not, be easily addressed. The problem is that none of the films in the prequel trilogy or the new one do anything to address those plot holes. In fact, the prequels create new ones.
For example, if Padmé died in childbirth, how is it that Leia has vague memories of her? How is it Leia can remember her but Luke can’t? Considering everyone included in the prequels, it’s odd that Obi-Wan doesn’t seem to recognize R2-D2 in A New Hope. No one seems to recognize C-3PO either, even Owen Lars whom, as shown by the prequels, met Threepio years ago. It’s a tangled mess at this point, one that the films don’t seem to want to touch.
5. THE TIMELINE DOESN’T MAKE SENSE
The aim of the prequel trilogy was to expand on the history of the galaxy. That meant weaving a lot of characters in together into one story. Given the ages of each character and the status of the galaxy’s governing body, it’s understandably difficult to write a story that fits all that in and still makes sense. It’s the reason why there are so many flaws in the timeline.
The prequels end some 20 years before the events of A New Hope but Obi-Wan has seemingly aged 50 years, the galaxy has already forgotten the Jedi to the point that many think that they and the Force never even existed. Then there’s the fact that the Empire was seemingly able to completely wipe out the remnants of the senate, install its own oppressive regime in all corners of the galaxy and become a symbol of fear and terror all in 20 years. We’re all for suspension of disbelief but all that seems like one too many giant leaps.
There’s a generational gap here. Those who saw Return of the Jedi when they were kids may have actually liked the little bear-like natives of Endor while the older moviegoers just cringed whenever the little guys were on-screen. Newcomers to the franchise are also unlikely to enjoy the Ewoks; Lucas’ earlier attempt to appeal to his younger demographic.
In regards to the plot, the Ewoks aren’t completely useless. Even though they’re limited to rudimentary tools, they still show the stormtroopers that they can put up one hell of a fight. It’s just really silly looking when you see it. Well-equipped and well-armored soldiers and vehicles taken down by critters armed with bows and arrows, rocks and hang-gliders.
3. RACIST ALIENS
Among the Star Wars franchise’s many issues, race is unfortunately one of the worst. There are glaring diversity issues in the first six Star Wars films. Two notable people of color in the six films is disappointing, to say the least. Of course, given that things seem to be changing and those films are more than a few decades old, you could almost forgive them for simply being shaped by the attitudes of a different time.
What’s harder to forgive are the alien depictions that seem a little racist. Let’s start with the trade federation aliens in The Phantom Menace, the Neimoidians that seem to have their basis in racist stereotypes of Chinese people. Then there are the Gungans, also from The Phantom Menace, that seem to toy with racist stereotypes of Jamaican people. That’s a little more difficult to ignore. Thankfully, those racist caricatures seem to have been contained in that first entry of the prequel trilogy.
2. TOO MANY INCONSISTENCIES
We’ve already talked a little bit about the abundant plot holes and narrative consistency issues rampant throughout the Star Wars saga, but what about the characters themselves? For example, Darth Vader is built up over the course of six films to be an incredibly powerful master of evil and when we were introduced to him, it sure seemed that way. He was only matched by the Emperor.
Since then, we’ve seen several Jedi and Sith with varying levels of power, all who at first glance seem like they’d be able to take on Vader, though the story tells us they can’t. Look at Kylo Ren, who stopped blaster fire in mid-air in The Force Awakens and extracted the thoughts, dreams and emotions of two prisoners without much effort. Yet he’s not considered as powerful as Vader. Something doesn’t seem right here. Just how is one supposed to measure strength in the Force anyway if we clearly shouldn’t be doing it by ability?
1. LOST ITS SPIRIT
The original trilogy focused on the Force as source of power and a guide in a philosophical sense. The narrative of the original trilogy didn’t place too much focus on the minutiae of the galactic war between the Rebellion and the Empire, it was focusing on the concepts of good and evil and inner peace through the Force, as a narrative device. It was easier for audiences to understand these concepts and apply it to themselves.
All films that followed seemed to forget the Daoist-like concepts explored by the original trilogy and when they did, it was overshadowed by poorly written political subplots, midi-chlorians and jokes that didn’t quite hit. The complexity and wisdom of those old philosophical concepts are all but completely lost in the saga now. We can only hope that the new trilogy will bring it back to the forefront.
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