I love Star Wars. But I do believe there is a strong case to be made that this new trilogy was a failure.
Not a commercial failure obviously as these movies made a ton of money and The Force Awakens still stands as the highest grossing film in terms of domestic box office. But, instead I want to try to explore 12 reasons why I feel these films were a creative failure.
I want to acknowledge that I know there are many people who love these films and view them as an overwhelming success and I respect that.
This is only my opinion.
1. No Clear Plan.
This is going to be a common theme throughout this list because I think it is the biggest and most evident problem of all. It has become clear that when Lucasfilm was bought by Disney in October 2012 and production almost immediately began on a new trilogy nobody stopped to ask, “do we have a new story to tell?” I do not believe that what we ended up with was the plan from the beginning, and I’m honestly not even sure if there was a three movie arc in mind from the beginning.
2. Limited Communication Between J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson.
This is related to the first item on this list because having a plan would probably lead to the two people in charge of making your three movies communicate and coordinate with one another. Instead, Abrams was brought on to restart this franchise with The Force Awakens which he did then Johnson came on to continue the saga with The Last Jedi and was essentially given free reign to take the existing storylines and characters and do whatever he wanted with them. Abrams and Johnson did not consult with each other about what Abrams was setting up in his film, mainly because Abrams was originally only supposed to direct one movie but was brought back after waves of fan backlash following the release of Johnson’s The Last Jedi
3. The Use of Humor Throughout.
To me, this is one of the elements of these movies that didn’t work and is not being talked about enough. These three films, which I enjoyed to varying degrees, are each littered with awful, corny, and cringe-worthy jokes throughout. Now, I understand how someone could consider this a nit-pick or make the argument that all Star Wars film each have their own level of corniness and George Lucas has even said himself that these are in fact movies made for kids. I would argue that this is more than a nit-pick though, because not only are these jokes just not good and often times feel like they’re pandering to the audience but they actually take you out of the world which hurts your enjoyment of the movies. It is hard to not to be removed from the intensity or emotion of a scene or moment when they’ve added weird prank call/your mom jokes as well as “Luke brushing the dirt off his shoulders” to The Last Jedi and #Goals jokes to Rise of Skywalker. The best way to describe it is in the previous six films these characters felt like people from, and living in, a galaxy far far away and often times in these new films the characters feel like people from our world and, our time living in a galaxy far far away.
4. The Wasted Potential of Finn’s Character
Finn was a character we had never seen before. The idea of a stormtrooper who decided to turn good was actually a really interesting idea. However, there was very little payoff with his character. In The Last Jedi he is cast aside to the brutal Canto Bight plot, which was widely disliked by fans and critics and in The Rise of Skywalker he is essentially a helpful sidekick, which is ultimately fine, but, when you think of the potential his character had to start the trilogy with, is a bummer.
5. The Sudden Return of Palpatine in Rise of Skywalker.
Palpatine’s return in Rise of Skywalker was enjoyed by some and much maligned by others. For me, his return felt so much like they were scrambling to find something to do after some fans responded negatively to the choices Johnson made in the previous film, including the death of Snoke. When the opening crawl begins with explaining to us how Palpatine is back and left a voicemail for the galaxy to let them know, we should have known it wasn’t going to work.
6. The Lack of Cohesion Between the films.
The interesting thing about this trilogy is I can envision a world where each of these films works in a different trilogy. If there was cohesion between the movies and a planned out and connected story that flowed through all films this could have worked. Instead, we were left with two films of set up that almost felt like they were part of completely different trilogies and one film to try to resolve everything, which basically ignored one the films that preceded it.
7. Listening Too Much to the Complaints of the Fans.
When you watch Rise of Skywalker it’s clear that they sat there and said “well a lot of you didn’t like the events of The Last Jedi so we’re just ignore all that and pretend it didn’t happen” which ultimately made some fans even more disappointed. At many times throughout this trilogy it felt like the filmmakers and executives behind these movies were either scared to do something to upset the fans or trying to perform damage control from something that had already upset the fans. Instead of just trying to tell whatever story they wanted to tell.
8. Playing It Safe.
Whatever you feel about The Last Jedi, you must admit that film at least had the courage to go out on the edge and make bold choices. Other times in the trilogy though it felt like they were scared to really take any risks. The Force Awakens is an enjoyable well-made film but it takes so many aspects from A New Hope it’s clear that they wanted to ease fans back in with the familiar instead of going in a bold new direction which I argue was the wrong decision based on how the rest of the series turned out.
9. Too Much Fan Service.
I go back and forth on this one. There is definitely a place for fan service and it is not inherently a bad thing. In fact, there are many fans service moments in these films I found myself enjoying. However, when we’re two movies and we’re doing things like having Lando show up just because, it starts to feel a little old. By that time in the trilogy we should be invested in these new characters and not need the aid of seeing a familiar face to help with the enjoyment of the film.
10. The Lack of Stakes in Rise of Skywalker.
This is a flaw of just one movie rather than the whole trilogy but since it was the movie that concluded the story I feel comfortable adding it to this last. This was the biggest flaw in Episode 9. It’s almost hard to count how many times a character is presumed dead just to be shown to the audience that they’re actually alive just a few moments later. C3PO’s memory loss is used for jokes and he eventually ends up getting it back later in the film anyways. It got to a point where I knew Finn would survive during the final battle so all tension that was supposed to be there in a moment like that, at the end of the trilogy, was gone, because they had shown us time and time again in this movie that there are no stakes and no consequences and everyone is pretty much going to be fine.
11. Mishandling All Romantic Plot Lines.
This is another critique that can be seen as a nit-pick but I do think it’s worth addressing. They seemingly had no idea whether they wanted certain characters to have a romantic storyline or not and where they did have a romantic storyline they had no idea what to do with it. The Kylo and Rey kiss has been talked about at length and felt strange and unnecessary in the moment. I think Finn ended this trilogy with four love interests and none of them were developed. It is just another aspect of this trilogy that felt very unplanned.
12. Too Much Time Focusing on the Previous Films.
The final critique on this list is that throughout these three movies we spent too much time with the characters and stories and conflicts of the previous films rather than constructing something new. Yes, this is the “Skywalker Saga” and many characters that were brought back for these movies are beloved amongst the fan base. But, at some point it is ok to tell a new story, and to go in a new direction. George Lucas, himself, critiqued The Force Awakens for its lack of originality and the overall lack of anything new in that film. I, too, believe this was a pivotal flaw of this new trilogy.