Hey, Star Wars Grumps, You're Making It Even Worse

It's been popular for far too long to complain about Star Wars. I'm sick of it, because it all sounds to me like a bunch of old people complaining about kids these days.

Sorry, haters, but you are living in an era of wonderful Star Wars, and your childhood isn't being ruined. And I'm not even sure if things peaked with The Empire Strikes Back.

The latest Star Wars sin, if you'll believe my Twitter feed, YouTube comments or other online chatter, is that a new video game features a dancing mode that turns Cloud City into a disco and features Han Solo and Lando Calrissian dancing to pop songs that have been remixed with Star Wars-themed lyrics.

What problem can the Star Wars haters have with sarcastic Han Solo and paisely-lined-cape Lando Calrissian acting like goofs?

I guess they take Star Wars seriously.

The last time I took Star Wars completely seriously was when I was three years old, I lived in Seattle and the local shopping mall had a guy in a Darth Vader costume stride down the aisles and greet some kids. I was terrified and tried to hide behind one of my mother's leg. That was 1979. Since then, I played with Star Wars toys, I tried to process why George Lucas had Luke smooch with his sister and I saw a man do his entire set at the MTV Movie Awards dressed as previously-scary Darth Vader.

Since the last time I took Star Wars completely seriously, I've watched the cornball Star Wars: Holiday Special and played three slap-stick Lego Star Wars games. I laughed with all of them, even when Lego Star Wars showed me that I could play as Darth Maul in a scene on Dagobah that originally featured Luke Skywalker.

Must we throw out dancing Lando with steps-in-dung Jar Jar Binks? I say no.

I have no problem with Star Wars camp, but what about the haters who would have you believe that modern Star Wars retroactively ruins childhoods? Must we throw out dancing Lando with steps-in-dung Jar Jar Binks? I say no.

But the haters aren't just complaining about Star Wars comedy. They seem to complain about most new Star Wars: something about George Lucas ruining it all, which might go back to the time he said he was considering casting the members of a boy band for a cameo in one of the prequels or maybe to when the opening scroll for the first Star Wars movie in 16 years promised an epic about tax policies or when endless tinkering with movies that were good enough the first time around produced such non-minor debates such as whether a rogue protagonist should shoot the guy who is shaking him down in cold blood and whether a sometimes-evil dad who redeems himself by saving the life of his son should appear in ghost form as his younger pre-evil self or as his older redeemed-dad self.

George Lucas brought this on himself, we can agree.

Yes, modern Star Wars howlers, George screwed up, but you're making it way worse.

I understand why modern Star Wars haters are protective of their childhood. I believe they are nostalgic not just for old Star Wars but for the forgotten era of Star Wars scarcity when there was so little Star Wars content that on average, as whole works, each was pretty good. I believe their withering grumpiness is a byproduct of Star Wars proliferation. There's now so much Star Wars stuff, that many, many whole works of Star Wars content — entire movies, instead of just scenes; entire video games, instead of just levels; etc. — are now spoiling the whole batch.

Hard as it is to imagine today, there was a period when new Star Wars content was rare. Star Trek was the milked sci-fi franchise with new novels and spin-off shows incessantly beaming into existence. Star Wars was maybe too good for that.

I remember that era of Star Wars scarcity. I remember a time when there were only two Star Wars movies and I can remember, in high school, in 1991, when a novel called Heir to the Empire came out. The novel was the first major piece of new Star Wars content in eight years. It counted. It told me what happened next to Luke, Leia and Han. It mattered, and it was pretty good. Grand Admiral Thrawn was a great new bad guy. If the caretakers of Star Wars were going to be this judicious, they may have never been swatted with today's backlash.

Eventually, Star Wars sprawled. We got more than three movies and three new books and the odd comics or Splinter of the Mind's Eye that eked out. We got shelves of novels. We got piles of video games. We got some terrible stuff, including the first major comic book expansion to Star Wars lore that was so bereft of good ideas that it brought back the presumably dead Boba Fett and Emperor Palpatine.

In other words, as soon as Star Wars started sprawling, we got more crap. I think Princess Leia would assess the situation thusly: the more you loosen your grip, the most junky star systems are held by your fingers.

As soon as Star Wars started sprawling, we got more crap.

What could have seemed, in the past, like the perfect airtight franchise that only had excellent movies to its name became the franchise that had some stinkers and some clunkers. In my preferred corner of entertainment, video games, we didn't even half a ratio that was that good. In video games, the bad Star Wars has been outnumbering the good Star Wars for ages, which really just makes Star Wars like anything else.

The tiresome backlash against Star Wars simply conflicts with the idea that this thing — this franchise that started with its fourth episode and was therefore always presented as being part of some continuing thing — now no longer is always good. That fall from the loftiest perch was inevitable. It doesn't make things bad; it just makes Star Wars realistic.

Perhaps modern Star Wars haters would have liked Lucas to have left it all alone. Don't tinker with the old movies. Don't' make new ones. Let it all stand still. Turn them all into museum pieces. A Carbonite-frozen Star Wars would have kept us from the great role-playing game Knights of the Old Republic. It would have blocked us from Lego Star Wars. It would have robbed us of Revenge of the Sith a movie that improves the emotional impact of A New Hope.

A petrified Star Wars would have disallowed the great ongoing Clone Wars computer-graphics cartoon as well as the lovely hand-drawn one that preceded it. We'd have been robbed of many dozens of excellent John Ostrander-written Star Wars comics from Dark Horse.

I can laugh as much as anyone at how busted the lightsaber battles of The Phantom Menace were.

But did you know the The Clone Wars show regularly showcases lightsaber balls that are more exhilarating than any ever put in even the best Star Wars films?

And that it does the same for space battles? (Sorry about the music that the person who made that compilation used!)

The Clone Wars is a series ostensibly made for children. I've seen adults turn their nose up at it for that reason. Mistake. It has the characterization and heart of the old movies, and it out-dazzles any spectacle early-Lucas ever produced. It is the progeny of his vision even though he's barely involved in it, and it's as great Star Wars content as there's ever been. It even sometimes makes Jar Jar Binks interesting.

The ideas that old Star Wars was perfect or ineligible for parody or impossible to further serialize is as flawed on the complaints from yesterday's grandpas that the music or TV or movies of today is no good. George Lucas messed up by messing with his old movies, by doing the opposite of the video game studio BioWare and changing his epic when no one was even asking him to. But his re-editing of the past doesn't prevent the future of Star Wars from being wonderful and sometimes a bit camp.

Current Star Wars is plenty good. Some of it is better than the things Star Wars old-timers like me loved when we were kids.

And Han Solo dancing in Cloud City? That's funny (it's just the rest of the game that stinks).

It's time to complain about something else. Star Wars is doing just fine.

Star Wars concert photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images; Lucas photo by David Livingston, Getty Images

Comments

    I find it interesting that nobody complains that Pokemon didn't grow up. Where is my gritty, realistic Pokemon?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHG-JO8gIGk

      There ya go.

    I found the videos of the Star Wars DDR pretty amusing actually. And when I realised that they changed the lyrics I laughed.

    I don't mind about the Star Wars universe chopping and changing and growing and such.
    However I like it when it makes sense within the universe and with the characters.

    Why is Han Solo dancing to a song about him in the style of 21st century Earth?
    It'd make much more sense for it to be some random Star Wars character with music in line with what we've previously heard.

    The dancing portions of Star Wars Kinnect are a “sin”, and I’ll tell you why.

    Star Wars, the entirety of Star Wars, is speculative fiction. It takes place “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”. To enjoy any Star Wars product requires significant suspension of disbelief, and suspension of disbelief requires effort. Even if it’s not a conscious thought, a mind still says “I know there’s not a space station the size of a small moon with a laser powerful enough to destroy planets, but the story is good, so I’ll ignore the impossibility of the situation and enjoy the show.” If the story is poor, or has inconsistencies, then either the show is ruined or it requires even greater effort to keep suspending belief.

    On top of this requirement, Star Wars has another trait common to ALL fiction: it asks for an emotional investment from the consumer. In releasing a product, George Lucas and his entire team are saying “we have a story worth listening to. Listen and you will gain something,” whether that be laughter, sadness or excitement. They offer to make us feel something, but to do so we need to “connect” with the characters and plot.

    The next requirement of Star Wars, one which it shares with nearly everything in the modern world, is monetary cost. Lucasfilm is not a charity, Star Wars is not free. Each movie, game, book, comic, toy and trinket has a price tag. Each time someone buys a Star Wars product, he or she is giving up buying something else.

    The final requirement of Star Wars, and the requirement of everything in existence, is time. On a grand scale each person only has a few decades to live. On smaller scale, each day only has so many hours. Those hours need to be spent eating, sleeping, working and connecting with other people. Time spent engaged with a Star Wars product is time not spent having a meal, sleeping or spending time with a loved one – time that can never be gotten back.

    Star Wars has been around for 35 years. It’s massively popular. Millions of people have invested mental and emotional effort, time and money, into the universe. They have believed in the world enough to give George Lucas and Lucasfilm their effort, time and money.
    I believe this investment creates an obligation on the creators of Star Wars. That obligation is to respect the investment – nothing more, and nothing less. This means producing content that respects the investment.

    Star Wars Kinnect does not respect the investment. It repays the effort, money and time fans have paid with illusion-shattering banality. The images of Han Solo, Princess Leia and Boba Fett have been irreparably damaged. Characters that fans have invested in have been made unrecognisable by changes made without our consent.

    Personally, as a Star Wars fan, I am disappointed. I spent hours pretending to be Han Solo as a kid. I spent hours re-watching the original trilogy as an adult. I bought the VHS tapes, then the DVDs, then the Blu-Ray discs. I’ve spent considerable money and time on Star Wars. The return on that investment has been Han Solo dancing like a pop star in the location of his greatest betrayal and potential death.

    Two final points – parodies and ownership. I enjoy the Robot Chicken and Family Guy versions of Star Wars. It could be argued these are just as bad, if not worse, than Star Wars Kinnect. I would say anyone who has watched them would appreciate they have been made by people with a sincere love of Star Wars – fans who have invested effort, money and time. In any event, they are not official. They are made by outsiders, and can be treated as such. Star Wars Kinnect has the Lucasfilm seal of approval. It happened because George Lucas wanted it to happen.

    As for claims that they are George Lucas’ movies and he can do what he likes with them – that is wrong. Just wrong. There would not be a Star Wars universe – wouldn’t even be anything after the first movie – if people had not invested effort and money and time in A New Hope. George Lucas’ ability to make the sequels, and the prequels, and all the spin-offs, has been funded by money from fans.
    If he had funded the movies from his own pocket, with funds not sourced from previous Star Wars offerings, then he could make changes. If he wants to refund my money, he can make changes. He did neither. Until he does, Star Wars belongs as much to the fans as it does to him, and fans have a right to be angry when changes are made.

    The dancing portions of Star Wars Kinnect are disrespectful to the canon and the fans. They are a selfish grab for money at the expense of people whose effort, money and time has made Star Wars possible. They are a “sin”.

      I'm probably going to make a few enemies by saying this, but...

      THIS +1B

      I didn't read the whole thing, but your second last paragraph is ridiculous. You paid money to see a movie, not to buy a controlling interest in what is done with the franchise. Star Wars doesn't belong to you, or any other fans. Get over yourself.

      The dancing bit is just a minigame, and doesn't actually fit within the Star Wars universe. Get over it, and just go watch Return of the Jedi.

      i must inquire mat, can you still have any fun?

    thank you for that article. if something doesn't make you happy anymore, then why would you use it to create even further misery? a great lyric from an old dead song sums it up best: "believe it if you need it, if you don't just pass it on..."

    For a while there, the only versions of the Original Trilogy that you could buy were the cursed Special Editions. For me personally, I dreaded to think that this would be the only way future generations would be able to view these classic films: altered. Thankfully, those double-DVD editions were released with theatrical cuts of Episodes IV-VI. Lucasfilm/Lucasarts can do whatever they want for creating new games/films/cereals, I just won't watch/play/eat them, but the original films should be left as they were. That's the only time I rage.

    While I am the first to say I wish George would have done things differently, the writer of this piece is right, Star Wars fans make it 10x worse.

    Take the release of the Star Wars Blu Rays. Fans are up in arms about Vader yelling "Nooooooo!" We get it, George shouldn't have made the change. But the fans overlook the fact that it's a BEAUTIFUL transfer of the movies. It's possibly one of the best Blu Ray transfers of an older movie out there, but all they do is whine about a new rock in front of R2D2 and Ewoks that blink.

    I've heard more Star Wars fans complain about the new Clone Wars cartoons without ever watching them. This is a show that has gotten better with each passing season! It's a great part of the Star Wars lore. I actually find them much better than the prequel movies.

    I love playing all of the Star Wars video games, but this is one area I have a small complaint about. I don't care about the new dancing with Star Wars characters level in the Kinect game. That's fine. What I do care about is the fact that the last few games have been mediocre and made for kids. Star Wars games used to be awesome. The Trilogy for the Super Nintendo, all the great PC games, Star Wars Battlefronts I + II. The Rogue Squadron games. Knights Of The Old Republic. Lately it's all been terrible Clone Wars games, Lego games.... which are good but once you play one you've played them all... The Force Unleashed sequel I beat in about 5 hours... So they need to work on getting some better games out to us.

    The only big complaints I've had in the last 15 years were replacing Old Anakin with Hayden at the end of ROTJ, and the new Phantom 3D release was awful. I love 3D, but the transfer was muddy and dark. The Blu Ray at home looked crisper and even more 3D than what we saw in the theaters.

    Star Wars is still the greatest. I'm a fan until death!

    I think it's great that Totilo mentions the cornball Holiday Special, because that's a great example of what happened to Star Wars and why fans of the original films/fiction are so put-off to all this new crap.

    The Holiday Special was put together by someone other than Lucas, and he disowned it and still won't talk about it to this day because he felt that it was a farce and too campy/disrespectful/etc. (In hindsight I'd wager that had more to do with his own pride than with any kind of artistic integrity)...Well years passed and George changed from the "Special Effects should be second to Story" guy into the guy who makes toy commercials with loosely written plots and characters and then tries to call them a prequel trilogy... followed by many more years of this sort of thing. :-P

    The point is that the Holiday Special and how it was viewed back then, when placed in direct contrast/comparison with how Lucas has been doing things for about 10-12 years now, is a perfect illustration of what has changed and why the fans that actually enjoyed it the way it was are now so alienated and offended.

    Being so dismissive and antagonistic towards people who voice that they dislike being alienated and dismissed isn't helping... one might say that doing so 'makes it even worse'...

      Looking at these videos - they're pretty darn close in tone to the Holiday special (If Bea Arther is an unlockable character then it's an instant purchase!) but I agree with Totilo - I liked the Thrawn trilogy but most of the EU is boring to me.

      I can't say I watch the Clone Wars much but my son does - and when he's old enough to see Revenge of the Sith it's gonna have an even greater impact because of the development of those characters in this TV series.

      As for Star Wars Kinect - I thought the dancing game would be idiotic - but it actually looks funny and exactly the sort of thing that should be coming out at parties!

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