Back in March, I wrote a critique on how The Force Awakens contradicts the Star Wars saga’s core mythology by bringing back the Dark Side, making the Prequels’ Chosen One revelation, which recontextualizes Return of the Jedi‘s climax, irrelevant. However, I’ve since realized that the allowing of such a big retcon stems from the most famous words in cinema:
“I am your father.”
This realization didn’t truly hit me until critic Peter T. Chattaway pointed out that “[the] best [Star Wars] movie ever [made] ruined the franchise by setting a precedent for constant retconning.”
Yes, The Empire Strikes Back is a brilliant sequel—the template for all sequels who want their threequels to fall flat. It takes the characters we fell in love with and brings them into deeper emotional territory, all the while expanding upon the universe and its spirituality, capping it off with the best lightsaber fight put to screen.
However, the “I am your father” revelation shakes up everything we thought we knew about Obi-Wan and, with him, the Jedi and the Light Side of the Force, and that’s opened up for the saga to keep contradicting itself. Obi-Wan’s “certain point of view” nonsense in Return of the Jedi is, well, nonsense; he straight-up lied to Luke about what happened to his father, and yet he’s still somehow allowed to become one with the Force despite having died in a state of using Luke as a means toward an end.
Along come the Prequels, and it turns out even Obi-Wan’s descriptions of the heroic Jedi and Anakin’s greatness are lies, with the Jedi turning out to be much more passive than described and Anakin turning out to be a whiney youth whose fall to the Dark Side was more inevitable than tragic.
As mentioned before, the Sequels are now retconning the Prequels, where the idea of finding balance in the Force appears that it’s going to be downright relativistic, if I’m interpreting The Last Jedi‘s teaser correctly, as opposed to balance in the Force being a predominance of the Light Side.
So, with all the flaws I’m realizing about Star Wars, why do I still care about writing about it? Because the franchise has always been with me. I knew Star Wars before I knew Zelda and Lord of the Rings, which are my favorite games and favorite movies. I remember the hype of the Prequels and seeing all of them in theaters. I grew up collecting and playing with Star Wars action figures and playing Star Wars video games. Its influence on my life is almost as significant as its influence on every other franchise.
I still love the sight of lightsaber fights, John Williams’s legendary musical score, the visuals of the far, far away galaxy, and the iconic sound design (which includes the sounds of lightsabers).
As a Catholic, I can object to crucial ideas about the Force, but I can still enjoy the Star Wars story. I can even appreciate how the Force turns good and evil into a spiritual reality. It’s what I’m realizing as a film critic, and hopefully eventual filmmaker, that I’m recently having a problem with.
So, realizing that Star Wars‘s continuity issues stem from its second installment, would it be easier for me to accept the path the franchise has gone down since? Well, fine, turn the Jedi into liars and bores. Turn the great Anakin Skywalker into a whiner. Let the Dark Side return after the fall of the Sith. Heck, The Last Jedi could even turn Luke Skywalker, the archetypical hero, into a supervillain. What I wouldn’t be able to accept is if The Last Jedi will argue to take good and evil out of the question.
The battle between good and evil is what the franchise’s main episodic storyline has always hinged on. Even when the good guys are misguided, they’re meant to be misguided, including the Jedi (and boy do the Knights of the Old Republic games emphasize this). The whole point of Return of the Jedi is that the Jedi are wrong about the nature of the Force—that familial love, which the Jedi frown upon, is needed in keeping the Dark Side at bay.
Perhaps it is “time for the Jedi to end”, but I’d agree with that if it were in favor of the true path towards the Light instead of in favor of what seems to be an ‘idyllic’ relativistic balance. Star Wars can be a mess of narrative contradictions, but relativism within the Force would be the most insulting contradiction of all—an insult to the core values of Star Wars, and an insult to what Star Wars was conceived to be: an antidote to cultural cynicism. It would be objectionable both spiritually and thematically.
Of course, I have to use the term ‘would be’ because I don’t know how The Last Jedi and the rest of the trilogy will play out. The Force Awakens may be narratively uninspired, but it’s still thematically Star Wars, and I like Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo. I can only hope that this trilogy won’t turn out as I fear.
I want to see more stories in the far, far away galaxy—as long as they’re in the right spirit; heck, I’d like to tell them. The main storyline we have from the franchise may be a mess, but not holding Star Wars up to a higher standard than that may help me in accepting where the saga’s gone as of now since the 1977 original. Unless the rest of the Sequels ruin it.