Riker Rants: Is Disney Ruining Star Wars?

Hey guys! It’s been just over five years since Disney bought the Star Wars franchise, and it’s safe to say that ol’ Mickey Mouse has transformed the galaxy far, far away. It is also well known that the new direction has been highly controversial, with some longtime fans alienating themselves from the sequel trilogy. Today, I’ll give my thoughts on whether Disney is ruining Star Wars.

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Here’s a quick backstory on where Star Wars stands today. In 1977, George Lucas and Lucasfilm came out with the first Star Wars movie, followed by sequels Empire Strikes Back in 1980 and Return of the Jedi in 1983. The original trilogy was groundbreaking and tremendously popular, and has since garnered the love of millions of fans across the globe. When Lucas decided to return to the series in 1999 for a prequel trilogy explaining Darth Vader’s origins, many fans saw the prequels as a disappointment and not up to par with the originals. Though Lucasfilm continued making Star Wars content after the 2005 release Revenge of the Sith, the no plan was in sight for significant expansion to the Star Wars saga.

That changed when Disney bought Star Wars, and in the years since Star Wars has been one of Disney’s greatest money-making properties. In 2015, Disney released The Force Awakens to theaters to great commercial and critical success, signaling to some that Star Wars was back. Evidently, one sequel trilogy movie every two years was not enough for Disney, as two spinoff “stories” were released in 2016 and 2018 as well as the TV show Rebels. The conveyor belt of movies raised the eyebrows of some Star Wars fanatics, but it was eighth episode to the Star Wars saga, The Last Jedi, that has split the fanbase right down the middle. Directed by Rian Johnson, The Last Jedi was loved by some fans and hated by others, as its unorthodox approach and various quirks struck fans in different ways. Even Mark Hamill, the actor for Luke Skywalker, disagreed with how the movie portrayed his character. As a result, previously loyal legions of fans are labeling the franchise as a cash cow, some even going as far as describing Disney as “ruining the franchise.”

On a scale of 1-10 for Star Wars fandom, I am an 11, so this subject is dear to my heart. I grew up with the series, watching each of the episodes countless times, owning more lightsabers than General Grievous, and wearing Darth Vader costumes every single year for Halloween. And while I love both the original and prequel trilogies, I was apprehensive once Disney bought Star Wars. Five years later, do I think Disney is ruining the Star Wars galaxy? No, and it’s not even close.

First off, the new Star Wars movies are enjoyable to watch. Now, this point is quite subjective, but the collective anticipation and atmosphere around Episodes VII and VIII backs this up. While the plot debate can go on forever, the action in all four of the Disney-Star Wars movies is really, really enjoyable to watch and the technical aspects are near flawless. There hasn’t been one Disney Star Wars movie where I’ve gone into the theater and found the movie to be unwatchable- each one has redeeming qualities and high entertainment value. It may not be enjoyable in the way that the original movies were or the prequels for that matter, but these new films hit the mark.

Second, the new movies enhance original and sequel movies instead of being stale or redundant. The sequel trilogy has a fine line to walk between bringing in the new versus keeping the old and manages to do a pretty solid job. The series introduces compelling new characters like Rey and Kylo Ren while paying fan service through cameos and reprised roles, allowing the trilogy to feel more refresh than retread. With classic characters such as Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, the movies give them unconventional but fitting story arcs that give them a new dimension without trashing the characters’ legacies. The best example is Luke’s story arc during Last Jedi, which was unexpected, redemptive, and had stunning moments that I believe add to his character. Yes, the movies can be cringe-worthy at times, but in those climactic “money” scenes, they are nothing short of brilliance.

I can also see where Star Wars fans who are concerned with the Disney merger are coming from. The constant release of movies has saturated the prestige of saga. The excitement around The Force Awakens, the third-highest grossing movie of all-time, has dropped off significantly with some of the more recent movies, such as Solo. It’s also concerning to see announcements about whole “spinoff trilogies” that I fear could take the fun and heart out of Star Wars. Similarly, the idea that Disney could be looking at a Marvel Universe-like concept for Star Wars is something that I’m sure would fall flat on its face. And the Disney-only streaming service that will house the reboot of the much-awaited Clone Wars reboot? That is a lot of significant issues that I have, none of which were present before the merger, and sadly, each one is rooted in money.

Disney had a difficult task in bringing Star Wars back to the big screen. There’s no way to put a bold, brilliant product on the big screen without striking a portion of fans the wrong way. And some of those fans simply can’t be pleased by any Star Wars movie released after 1983. For me, it comes back to one thing. In spite of all of these problems, Star Wars has not yet lost its essence- the action, the innovative thinking, the meaningful stories. These stories are engaging, and as long as they are engaging, I believe that Star Wars isn’t ruined. And that, I believe, should give Star Wars fans hope.

I hope you liked today’s rant about the direction of Star Wars! I’d love to hear your comments down in the comment section below. I hope to be making more content soon, but I’d also recommend that you check out my blog, johnriker.com, which has added some really amazing content over this summer. Also, check out this video by my man Swite about our Youth Group’s recent trip all the way to Romania. Subscribe, click the notification button, drop a like, and I’ll see you round.

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